Making waves: J Craft

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and the rareness and exquisite craftsmanship behind every J Craft means that their owners are part of a very exclusive club

Motoring 21 Nov 2023

J Craft’s signature model, the Torpedo, makes up 22 of the 29 bespoke J Craft boats in existence, each one made entirely by hand

J Craft’s signature model, the Torpedo, makes up 22 of the 29 bespoke J Craft boats in existence, each one made entirely by hand

What makes an object priceless? The item in question could be a treasured drawing by your child. Or perhaps a Rolex Daytona once owned by Paul Newman. Both are “valuable”, but only the latter would be worth serious money.

That’s not to say that a luxury item can’t have sentimental value. Very few people start and nurture collections without an underlying passion; whether stamps, sneakers or single malt whisky.

Scarcity can take an item from desirable to priceless. The aforementioned Daytona will set you back a pretty penny on its own, but the 1968 model literally owned by Paul Newman set a world record when it sold at auction for $15.5 million.

What unites collectors and those passionate about luxury items is the desire to own something beautiful, sentimental and valuable – things that can be passed down the generations.

Swedish boatmaker J Craft was founded nearly a quarter of a century ago but, to date, there are only 29 of its vessels in the world, making owners part of a small and exclusive club. Hailing from the ancient island of Gotland, where it is still based, the company was founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Björn Janson. Since the start, handyman and boatbuilder extraordinaire Johan Hallén has been nurturing Björn’s vision and brand. Janson had a dream to create the finest boats in the country, and J Craft launched on its debut commission for King Carl XVI Gustaf, who is still the proud owner of a J Craft, Polaris.

Janson was inspired by the glamour and romance of 1950s wood-veneer speedboats, but J Crafts also possess unrivalled technical prowess. Sadly, after suffering from ill health for a number of years, Janson needed to pass along his vision. This is where Radenko Milakovic comes in. It was love at first sight for the former hedge fund manager, who first spotted a J Craft from his Monaco balcony. After renting one for a summer, he needed to own one, but with a few adjustments befitting someone without a sailing background. Janson passed away in 2011 and by this point Milakovic had taken the reins. But he insists that he has always been a ‘custodian’ of Janson’s founding vision. This has meant keeping the original staff – a small team of skilled artisans – and company location in Gotland.

J Craft boats are bespoke passion projects, taking almost a year to make by hand. With each vessel, craftsmanship is paramount, requiring around 8,000 hours of construction. The mahogany veneer alone is sanded by hand and lacquered 18 times to achieve the perfect finish. This kind of painstaking detail is a key part of what makes a J Craft a J Craft.

The Torpedo is J Craft’s signature model (making up 22 of the 29 boats), which employs an elegant, streamline framework, but every element is customisable – right down to the clock in the dashboard and the materials to kit out the cabin and cockpit, be that Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, Dior or Gucci. And with clients including billionaires and the Swedish royal family, only the finest will do. Milakovic, after all, started out as a customer. And although he initially fell for J Craft’s beauty, he was also intent on making it one of the most technically advanced seafaring vessels in its segment, and effortless to drive. Every J Craft is Type B or Open Sea certified and has proven its capabilities with many trips across large sections of open sea, including trips across the South China Sea, the Mediterranean or indeed the Atlantic.

Such a beautiful specimen deserves to be known the world over. And while there are plans to increase production to up to four boats per year, Milakovic has been busy spreading the word, from the Hamptons to the Monaco Yacht Show. Word of mouth is how the J Craft story has always spread – right from the first regal commission. But as big as the company may get, J Craft owners can be safe in the knowledge that they are part of something truly special.