Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the most widely travelled ‘head of state’ in history. Since 1947, when she left for her honeymoon with a set of Globe-Trotter suitcases, that original set has travelled with her throughout the world.
Her Majesty, The Queen is not alone to put trust in this quintessential British luggage firm as famous figures like Winston Churchill who used an 18-inch attaché case as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, Scott of the Antartic, Sir Edmund Hilary who used suitcases up to the first base camp for his climb of Mount Everest in 1951, and in modern times: Kate Moss, Sofia Coppola, Kylie Minogue, and even James Bond 007 in the movie, SPECTRE have been users.
The surprising thing is that Englishman, David Nelken, founded Globe-Trotter in Germany in 1897 and moved it to the UK in 1932. All luggage collections are hand made in Hertfordshire, England on Victorian machinery, in a unique material, “Vulcan Fibre” or vulcanised fibreboard. This was invented in the UK in the 1850s. It is 14 layers of paper bonded together and coloured with a secret patented process. Nelken patented the process used for for his trunk-style luggage in 1901, and “Vulcan Fibre”has been a core material in all Globe-Trotter suitcases since.
Vulcan Fibre is as light as aluminium but as hardwearing as fine leather. It is so tough that Globe-Trotter keeps track of suitcases that are a 100 years old, which have been returned for re-lining. The frame is constructed from ash wood, while the lining is in fabric, and the trim is leather. The cases are riveted, lined and leather trimmed by hand.
Tested by Elephant
The image of an elephant standing on a case was not just a graphic for advertising. A test was actually performed at the Hamburg Zoological Gardens, when an elephant stood on a Globe-Trotter cabin trunk without ill effect to both.
Colour Me Purple
Apart from innovation with performance materials, Globe-Trotter was also avant garde with its colour range. At the dawn of “globe trotting”, luggage was either brown or black. Globe-Trotter introduced new colours like Blue to represent travel by sea and air. Then, there were the various original print designs.
Today, their standard colours of navy, black, green, ivory and colonial brown, have been joined by snazzy shades such as Centenary Red, Jewel Pink, Cruise Blue, and Orange/Tan. There are no complicated interior pockets with Globe-Trotter as it prefers absolute simplicity for the maximum space possible.
With such a long and storied history, there have been a number of “sold-out” celebratory special editions.
“Onehundred&ten” for the 110th anniversary (2007) was designed by futuristic Welsh designer, Ross Lovegrove, and hand-made in Japan from 3X fibre (Toray Corporation and Dupont collaboration), comprising woven carbon fibre and tri-axial woven Kevlar. These two materials are layered and bonded to create the next-generation Globe-Trotter hard case, weighing just 1.4 kg. There was a global carbon fibre shortage so only 1000 pieces were planned.
QEST 21″ Trolley Case special edition launched in 2016 to mark the 90th birthday of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and to celebrate Globe-Trotter’s partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST).
‘120’ Carbon Fibre 20” Trolley Case (£3,500) for the 120th anniversary (2017) was made in partnership with Hypetex®, Formula 1 engineers who developed the world’s first coloured carbon fibre brand.
Globe-Trotter produced a limited edition of 120 silver cases in their classic Centenary design. Each trolley case features the revolutionary Hypetex® material, accompanied by leather corners and straps in a rich burgundy shade or classic black, complete with a plush quilted microfibre lining.
You can blame the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for reducing the traditional 21-inch size by one inch to comply with new regulations for cabin luggage.
“We were really impressed with the durability of the Hypetex material,” says Globe-Trotter designer Charlotte Seddon on the collaboration. “It was easy to integrate into our existing design and offers our customers the option to have the highest standard of protection for a suitcase in our much-loved classic style. We’re certain our founder would have chosen this cutting-edge carbon fibre material if he were alive today.”
“Original” series, with the signature leather straps and a limited range of classic colours. This range has remained the same since 1897. A classic Original 30″ suitcase, similar to the Queen’s, costs £970.
The Original 20″ Trolley Case is £825.
Centenary 20″ Trolley Case – Morning Blue/Natural £1,200
This best selling size is perfect for a weekend break and qualifies as carry-on cabin luggage.
Rose Gold 20″ Trolley Case £1,920
A new deluxe suitcase collection featuring a high-gloss, metallic finish and plush lining.
The Globe-Trotter flagship store (54-55 Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, London W1J 0LB) is a refined experience. The 1st and 2nd levels are for ordinary customers but on the 3rd level a.k.a. the Second Floor, clients discover a totally different atmosphere whilst relaxing in plush furniture and a range of artefacts from Globe-Trotter’s long and glittering history.
The “sold-out” special editions are more than desirable icons of luggage today. Those ‘in-the-know’ just know when they see a genuine Globe-Trotter special.
On the said Second Floor of the Globe-Trotter flagship store, bespoke cases can be ordered, unique selections with regards to colour, linings, leather corners, and personalised initials. Paradoxically, the ultimate bespoke feature available is a case without wheels because today’s Globe-Trotter cases are made with wheels as standard!
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).