Pleasure Pursuits: Stephen Webster on road trips

Words by
Sphere Life

7th December 2017

When he’s not creating beautiful accessories, British jewellery designer Stephen Webster enjoys taking to the road in his restored 1959 Ford Thunderbird

One of the world’s most acclaimed luxury jewellers, Stephen Webster MBE began as an apprentice in London’s Hatton Garden at the age of 16 and founded his eponymous company in 1998. He has been creating exquisitely crafted pieces for the past 35 years, combining classic elegance with a contemporary twist. Recently Stephen collaborated with streetwear brand Thames — of  skating legend Blondey McCoy — on a new capsule jewellery collection, which launches in September.


Stephen Webster
How did you first get into road trips?

In 2000, my wife Assia and I came across a 1959 Ford Thunderbird for sale beside the road near Newport Harbour in California. Because 1959 is the year of my birth, we stopped and peered in and my wife said: “Buy it”. After six years and $60,000 of restoration, my friend Jeff Feero, who lives in New York and loves old stuff, called me to say the car was ready for a drive. I wanted my first journey to be a road trip across America. Ten days, 35 litres of oil and numerous breakdowns later, we limped in to a welcoming party at Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood.

To what kind of places do you like to travel?

All over the US and east and west Canada. We love big cities, but also the great outdoors. America literally has it all; the extremes are what make it. At a truck stop in Virginia, I ordered sparkling water and the waitress asked if that was a Coke product because that’s all they sold. Another time, we had a Michelin-star lunch among the vines at the Opus One winery, Napa Valley.

How many road trips have you taken?

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first road trip. One year we decided on a European vacation across France and Switzerland, including the iconic route of the 1969 film The Italian Job. I drove with my brother in his 1959 Ford Zephyr, while my friend drove his 1973 Ferrari Dino. We ended on that friend’s yacht, sailing from Antibes to Monaco to watch the first Monaco ePrix — it’s like a regular GP, without the noise or high speed.

What must-haves do you pack before each trip?

Almost anything that is possible to break or wear out on an old car, which means the boot is full before we even get to the luggage. Light clothing, as it almost always runs hot in old cars. A variety of shades and plenty of liquids…

Ford thunderbird

Stephen Webster's 1959 Ford Thunderbird

What sort of music do you listen to while driving?

Road trip soundtracks need to be carefully thought about, with a mix of almost all musical genres. You may laugh, but if your road takes you through Nashville, Asheville and Memphis, you’ll want the lot! The Clash, The Cure, Bowie and Joy Division feature heavily and, lately, Drake and the xx. 

Tell us about one of your most memorable journeys.

They have all been memorable. We try to make the last stop a place where car keys can be hung up and we can let our hair down. This year, our route took us from New York to Miami. Other final destinations have included LA, New Orleans, Vancouver, Montreal and Monaco. If I had to pick one, nothing can be more memorable than the first time, as they say.

Do you collect souvenirs on your travels?

I tend to give out souvenirs rather than collect them: printed tees for that year’s route, pins I made of the car… . 

Where do you like to stay along the way?

Hotels, motels, park lodges, occasionally with friends — or in the case of 
New York or Miami, our own homes. We have standards, which come with old age, so every motel night has to be followed by something five-star: The Peabody Memphis, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, Le Pavillon in New Orleans…

What is it you like most about road trips?

The total escapism. It’s just me, my friends and the open road, with no family (except my brother) to worry about. The sole purpose is to enjoy the drive.

1959 Thunderbrid

Stephen Webster's restored 1959 Ford Thunderbird