Why Benetti Superyachts Are Favored by Everyone From Jay-Z To James Bond

From timeless “motopanfilo” superyachts to 350-foot “gigayachts,” every Benetti is a certified dream boat.

(Jeff Brown/Breed Media/Benetti Shipyard)

It’s safe to say that when it comes to chartering a superyacht, Beyoncé and Jay-Z can literally choose any vessel in the world. Price is obviously no object—their combined net worth is said to be about $3 billion—and even an owner who doesn’t normally rent out his yacht could hardly resist an offer from the superstar duo.

(Benetti Shipyard)

So it’s telling that on an epic trip to Croatia in 2020, they decided to set sail on the 350-ft. Benetti-built Lana, one of the most luxurious and expensive yachts in the world.

Lana, which reportedly cost around $2 million per week to charter at the time, houses 12 guests along with 34 crew in an array of sybaritic staterooms. It features a spa with multiple treatment rooms, a cinema, beach club, helipad and more, helping it win numerous design awards, including “Yacht of the Year” (270 ft.-plus LOA) during the 2019 edition of the World Yachts Trophies in Cannes.

(Benetti Shipyard)

It has since reportedly been acquired by a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, who joins a long list of illustrious Benetti owners, from Prince Rainier of Monaco to David Bowie and Donald Trump; a Benetti superyacht belonging to the infamous Adnan Khashoggi was even featured in the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again.

The iconic Italian shipyard, now part of Azimut|Benetti Group, has been in the business for 150 years, and to help celebrate the milestone, Assouline has brought out a suitably stylish, oversized book titled simply Benetti from the French luxury publisher’s Legends Collection.


“This new volume is a celebration of the heritage and dedication of all the people—founders, designers and the entire workforce—who have made Benetti a touchstone in the global luxury yachting world,” as Assouline put it in a promo for the book written by Kevin Koenig, one of the world’s most authoritative yachting journalists.

Once completed by the iconic Italian shipyard, Benetti’s yachts are built to remain a thing of joy forever. “Designed and engineered to remain untouched by time, every Benetti superyacht is built to exceed the expectations of every shipowner it will encounter, today and tomorrow,” as the brand itself declares.

Founded in Viareggio, Italy, in 1873, Benetti obviously had a rich archive of imagery and other unpublished material for the book, which is designed to “capture the brand’s essence [and] bear witness to the passion and hard work that have contributed to making Benetti one of the world’s leading luxury brands.”

(Jeff Brown/Breed Media/Benetti Shipyard)

The book “accompanies readers through the decades of challenges, successes and innovations of the shipyard, from its founding through to the 1960s, when Benetti invented the concept of the modern megayacht, [when it] launched the iconic and timeless ‘motopanfilo’ yachts… and from the technological revolution of the 1990s and 2000s, which saw the introduction of diesel-electric engines [for the first time] on the Ambrosia III,”—through to the even more spectacular invention of the “gigayacht,” and what Benetti now refers to as its “giga season,” a period of just 100 days in 2020 that saw the launch of the Lana (as favored by Beyoncé and Jay-Z), Luminosity, and IJE, all over 100 meters (328 ft). long, and including the largest hybrid yacht in the world.

An astonishing feat perhaps, but a perfectly natural evolution for a company that embodies “150 years of values, handed down from father to son, with a passion for excellence, design and technological innovation,” as Benetti puts it. Theirs is a shipyard that “over the years has been able to create real works of art, the only one that can boast an example kept at the same home with Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, at the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan: the ‘Brigantino San Giorgio,’ launched in 1921,” one of the most beautiful luxury yachts ever built.

((Benetti Shipyard Archive)

In the 1960s, aka the “Dolce Vita” era in Italy, under the helm of Lorenzo Benetti, the shipyard “revolutionized the yachting world by switching construction from wood to steel,” allowing an exponential increase in the size of yachts that could be built; and leading to Benetti’s Delfino, Gabbiano and Mediterraneo series of yachts, which instantly became industry legends. Owners of these awe-inspiring vessels included Prince Rainier of Monaco; David Bowie, who used to spend his holidays on his yacht ‘El Caran’ with Mick Jagger; and Michael Caine. The Beatles were often guests of their manager on board another one of Benetti’s Delfino builds.

As Benetti’s reputation kept growing, in 1980 Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi commissioned one of the most famous and luxurious yachts of all time. The gold and marble-fitted Nabila cost around $100 million—about $355 million today—to build, and was later renamed the “Trump Princess” by its subsequent owner, Donald Trump. “The Nabila became such an icon that it was featured in the James Bond’s film Never Say Never Again,” the shipyard notes, while the band Queen also immortalized the yacht in the song “Kashoggi’s Ship.”

(Benetti Shipyard)

Then in 1985, Benetti was acquired by Paolo Vitelli, “the young owner of the Azimut yacht brand, who held great admiration for the Livorno shipyard’s excellence in the luxury yacht industry,” the Benetti’s official history recounts. “Under the new name, Cantiere Benetti, Vitelli implemented a financial restructuring plan to restore the brand to its former splendor,” they note.

“His intuition to use composite material in the new Classic 115-ft. line of 1988 led to the sale of a 100 examples in just 10 years, still an absolute record in the nautical world. With a pioneering approach and anticipating what would later become [an industry standard], more than two decades ago, Vitelli built the world’s first diesel-electric yacht, the Ambrosia, in 2006. He also established an in-house R&D center, focusing on reducing consumption and increasing the use of sustainable materials.”

The 354-ft. Benetti “IJE” launched in 2019 is one of the largest and most expensive superyachts in the world (Tom Van O0ssanen)

One of Benetti’s most recent creations best embodies the brand’s longstanding dedication to scientific approaches and innovation: At 350 feet, Luminosity launched in 2020, is the largest megayacht in the world with a hybrid propulsion engine. And in 2022, the 121-ft. B.Yond was awarded as the greenest yacht in its class, for its even more innovative hybrid propulsion system. In the same year, the shipyard “revolutionized the concept of on-board lifestyle with the Oasis Deck” series of yachts with deployable sidewing sterns that open level with the water, “creating yet another new trend in the yachting industry.”

As with every Benetti build over the past 150 years, be it a wooden yacht or modern marvel of technology, as Vitelli says in the book, the crowning moment is a crescendo of worldclass craftsmanship, starting from the moment of commission: “The exterior line is chosen. The accommodation areas are designed for maximum comfort and convenience. A myriad of technologies are evolved, tested and applied to improve the product on a technical level. A thousand details and a thousand decisions—finally culminating in the most glorious moment of the launching.”

(Breed Media Company/Benetti Shipyard)

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Maxim magazine.