Rolls-Royce and cryptography come together in both art and bespoke luxury for its limited-edition Wraith Kryptos collection.

Cryptography plays a prominent role in our modern society, shaping the foundations of information security to enable secure communication throughout. Messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp are just some of the examples of how cryptography can keep your chat logs secure with end-to-end encryption. But now, it’s playing a much bigger role in a very different industry.

The Wraith Kryptos is one of Rolls-Royce’s most unique collections to date, offering a glimpse into the world of cryptography as you’ve never seen before. But what makes it special and unique is the design element behind it; Rolls-Royce turns cryptography into a bespoke luxury design that becomes a puzzle only a select few can solve.

Being a Rolls-Royce, one can expect the car to be overly luxuriant in all the right places — the Wraith Kryptos takes it a step further than just that. It features cryptic codes throughout the car; from its bodywork to its interior cabin, it’s a detailed maze of puzzles that will give any enthusiast a run for their money.

Rolls-Royce Kryptos
The Wraith Kryptos features various levels of encrypted messages for you to uncover.

And at the helm of the Wraith Kryptos collection is its design team out of the Goodwood design studio, which is where the headquarters for Rolls-Royce is as well. We got the chance to speak with Gavin Hartley, Head of Bespoke Design and Katrin Lehmann, the bespoke designer who specialises in both colour & trim for the Wraith Kryptos. We got to pick their brains on how the entire idea of the car came out, whether we could get any clues to solving the intricate puzzles found on the car, and much more.

How did the inspiration for the design of the Rolls-Royce Wraith Kryptos come out?

Katrin Lehmann (KL): In general, collection cars always are a great possibility to tell intriguing stories and for us, it’s almost like a blank canvas where we can take the customer on a journey. Some of the key things we wanted to achieve with this were, “How can we get a deeper interaction with the customer and how we can incorporate another dimension into what we do so far.” The world of cryptography is something that really plays nicely with it because we have surfaces that are not just beautiful in itself and done with exquisite craftsmanship and precision. We’re opening up another dimension of telling secrets, of hiding stories; that whole combination was something we found really intriguing and fascinating.

Did you face any design challenges when you were putting the puzzle together?

KL: I wouldn’t say it was a challenge but it was more of hiding a different dimension within a surface is something we have yet to do. With this collection, the whole material application has to fulfil two purposes. On one side, it’s always the very intriguing luxury fine materials and craftsmanship that gets you but the challenge with this was that we had to hide something additional into it. I think this is where the greatest challenge came from because we have to fulfil different purposes now with our application.

Rolls-Royce Kryptos
An early design sketch of the Wraith Kryptos.

Gavin Hartley (GH): What we try to do each time we do a collection car is to bring the techniques, the craft skills, and the application of those to another level. In this case, we have a sort of precision metal fascia, which is quite unusual for some Rolls-Royce clients to be used to because they’re used to seeing wood. But in this case, we develop that technique to a point where it delivers a level of intrigue because you can only see the pattern and the design from certain angles. It’s been very cleverly done to not just be a simple application of a pattern but something that you have to be looking at a certain direction as well.

And how did you go about designing the entire puzzle to ensure it provides a real challenge to people?

KL: That starts off with defining what Kryptos means as it stands for something unseen and hidden, something very intriguing and mysterious. This car itself was designed for the client’s pleasure and amusement while also capturing the client’s imagination. We’re leading a journey of discovery and intrigue, something that we call a ‘cryptographic journey’, making it something that can be discovered gradually on more than one dimension as we provide puzzles and secrets with different difficulty levels. When you look at the car directly, there are some things that you can see straight away and there are others where you have to spend more time with the car to really uncover and experience. For example, the data wave movement on the headliner is something you need to spend a bit of time with to really understand. That’s why we say it’s a journey that leads you from one application to another. It’s something that really captures the imagination and combines it with a modern look alongside a surprise reveal of colours and illumination.

So it’s like a journey between man and machine and I’m sure it applies to Rolls-Royce as well, seeing as it’s more than just owning a car; it’s about the heritage and the history behind it as well.

GH: Absolutely. This is one of the key things as with a collection car we’ve got an opportunity to take a blank canvas and create something new and perhaps show something that nobody has asked of us before. But also, it’s an opportunity for us to move things forward; we’re very mindful of the long and rich heritage of Rolls-Royce but we also want to be contemporary and create things that are appropriate for our most modern of clients. In this case, we did something that’s appropriate by way of the quality and craftsmanship, but it uses new materials and techniques and a whole new story that brings a different developed picture of Rolls-Royce forward.

Wraith Kryptos
Cryptic codes and messages can be found throughout the car.

Every Rolls-Royce is unique and different. Does this apply to the Wraith Kryptos as well, seeing as there are only 50 in the world?

KL: The Wraith Kryptos is essentially a collection car so the content is the same for all 50 but there are different areas that you can experience from different views so that’s what makes it unique. But the journey itself is the same for all 50 cars.

GH: That’s what makes a collection car slightly different from a car that a customer might commission for themselves. It’s almost like they’re joining an exclusive club and you can potentially share the challenge with other people if you choose. There is something appealing to certain clients about being part of this small group who can share something that is never to be repeated as well.

Touching back on cryptography, it’s slowly being seen as an art form these days. Will we ever see more cryptography themes in the near future?

KL: We will see how our clients react to it but normally, we tell a story from the beginning to the end in a collection car and with this one, I agree that there’s something that captures people over a long period of time. This also stems from the Kryptos statue at the CIA headquarters at Langley where there is still the ongoing fascination about part of it being deciphered and just one part not. It’s like an ongoing intrigue for cryptologists so this is something that we hope will keep on growing but the cryptography topic itself is only exclusive for this collection.

For us, it’s really where the fascination comes from when artistry meets cryptography. When it has a very visual and artistic spin on it, that’s when it gets interesting for us.

There are only two people who know the exact answers to the code, correct?

GH: That is the case, yes. (laughs)

Wraith Kryptos
It is the interior where the magic truly happens.

Hypothetically speaking, if someone were to solve the entire puzzle, will they receive a reward from Rolls-Royce?

GH: Nothing has been announced at the moment. It’s considered to be almost like a personal challenge, which we believe is fitting with the Wraith itself in terms of the type of client this appeals to. In this sense, it’s the pride and success is what we’re looking for but who knows, there may be more revealed over time.

KL: Actually, we’ll be delighted either way if a customer cracks the code or just enjoys the cerebral challenge of deciphering it.

How many puzzles are there in the Wraith Kryptos altogether?

KL: Isn’t there always something nice, romantic, and intriguing about keeping some things up to mystery? We won’t tell too much but the only thing we can say is that there are different levels of difficulty. There will be a feeling of success by solving part of it but how many are there and where they’re hidden, that’s something we leave up to the imagination at the moment.

GH: It’s similar to the puzzle that we created for everyone to try where there are different difficulty levels as you progress. But there are also some areas in the car that are a little bit of a trick because they look like codes, but they’re not. It’s a little bit like throwing people off but there’s no pride in the success of a challenge unless it’s a difficult one.

Speaking of difficulty, will it be as hard as cracking the Da Vinci Code?

GH: I think this is one of those things with coding where certain things can be a complete mystery to one person but to another, it can be a flash of inspiration and they can see it clearly. We’re genuinely not sure about how hard this will be for people to crack because it depends how people apply their minds and how quickly they can latch on to patterns and similarities so, in this sense, only time will tell.

It’s like having a knack for it. Some are naturally gifted while others will take more time to solve it.

GH: Yeah, definitely. It’s like any inspiration — it comes to your mind with no warnings. There are certain things that you can learn through tricks and techniques that are repeated through all manner of different codes and cryptographic elements but it still needs an idea on how you can solve this.

KL: What might be worth mentioning is that all the coding inside and outside of the car is unique to Rolls-Royce. There were definitely some inspirations drawn from famous types of codes like the morse code for example.

Wraith Kryptos
The Spirit of Ecstasy.

How did Rolls-Royce get into cryptography in the first place?

KL: I have to say that it’s less of a hobby and more of a fascination, really. It started for me in elementary school where I was drawing hieroglyphs because I loved the pictures and the story behind it. That has been deep in my mind since then and it’s just something very nice about art meeting hidden meanings and also something very romantic about thinking that cyphers can be traced through millennia and even capturing the imagination of some of the world’s greatest minds. Hollywood has already picked it up in so many ways already so there is the general fascination that comes from it and that captures me as well.

And this falls down to the bespoke element that Rolls-Royce is well-known for.

GH: I think that’s something we’re used to because this is how Rolls-Royce is set-up to have bespoke as part of the dialogue. It’s more than just a set of choices; we’d like to think that we can curate every individual’s perfect Rolls-Royce, which is obviously going to be different from person to person. The key to our creation of cars is the dialogue, which can be done personally face-to-face or even remotely so we’re used to working the way that we are, given the current challenges and difficult situations we’re facing today. At the heart of it, it’s creating something that fits and works to our specific customer and how he will use that car and what his personal preferences are.

Lastly, we’d like to know from each of you, which is your favourite feature of the Wraith Kryptos?

KL: That’s really hard to say because there’s so many that I like! One is the Kryptos Green that was created specifically for this collection and it has a really nice sheen on it and it’s the combination of the small things as well. But my favourite feature… that’s actually a really good question.

GH: While Katrin’s thinking, I’ll say the illumination because it allows me to mention the doors, which I’m really pleased with. It features a light transition from top to bottom, which is quite a simple feature but something that’s hard to execute in a beautiful way. There’s also the illumination of the headliner, which is pushing the boundaries of our Starlight Headliner with the movement of light and different colours in there. It’s something that really is an intriguing thing that you can enjoy much more when you’re sitting in the car and starting it up as there’s a sequence of movements that adds another layer of fascination that you can’t gather from just pictures.

KL: And for me, it’s the fascia, which very much comes alive because it really depends on how you look at it. It’s a great way to indirectly underline the driver’s position as the Wraith is a driver-oriented car and I like that one surface can have so many meanings as it comes to life.

All images courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Kuala Lumpur.

Wi-Liam Teh
Senior Writer
Wi-Liam is a geek at heart with a penchant for tattoos. Never without a drink in hand (preferably whisky, gin, or Guinness), he is also a writer by day and a keyboard warrior by night. On his day off, he masquerades as a streetwear and sneakerhead enthusiast while his bank account says otherwise.