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Goh Chok Tong, a previous prime minister of Singapore, threw down a challenge for his nation in 1996, saying it could "measure its graciousness" by its bathrooms. Clean toilets indicate a prosperous country -- that was the gist of his take on national pride.
These days, it may take more than just a simple, clean water closet to prove one's worth. You need to do better than that. And so, if it seems as though your investments have been flushed away in recent months, why not simply invest in the toilet itself?
Enter the $5,000-plus john.
The $5,500 Neorest toilet has so many features, it comes with a remote-control gadget (shown on the wall).
, a subsidiary of its Japanese parent company, has crafted two of the world's most expensive toilets. The Neorest 600 has a retail price of $5,460, while the Neorest 550 is slightly cheaper, but no less lavish, at $5,250.
The units are on display at Toto's high-end showrooms throughout the U.S. You won't find them at
, but you will see them if you visit New York City's W Hotel, presidential suites at the Four Seasons or the Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa in Las Vegas.
So what's the appeal? Why shell out the equivalent of a used car or a trip to Hawaii on
most famous invention?
Lenora Campos, manager of media relations for Toto, makes the case for the luxury toilet in the context of a growing social trend.
"There is a dominant trend today among homeowners," she says. "It is the idea of the spa bathroom. People really are creating a personal enclave where they can close the door, disengage from the 24-7 wired world, relax and reclaim themselves."
This particular porcelain god is nearly omniscient.
"The Neorest is an auto-aware unit," Campos says, evoking thoughts of the
. "It responds to you. When you walk up to the unit, it automatically opens and then, post-use, it will automatically close and flush. For a gentleman, if he touches a button on the wireless remote, he may automatically raise the seat. Once he walks away, the seat and lid will close and it will automatically flush. We call it the 'marriage saver.' You are going to have to find something else to fight about. Courtesy in the bathroom will no longer be an issue because the unit takes care of it."
Other features contain terminology one might expect from the R&D boys at
: "It has a built-in fuzzy logic. So as you use it, it starts to learn your patterns and when you are away, it powers down and goes into sleep mode."
Incredibly, a "lab on a chip" checks waste for cholesterol levels and scans for signs of illness. The results can be e-mailed to medical technicians.
Sensors in the bowl detect the amount and type of waste and adjust water volume for each person and every flush.
There is a built-in air purifier and deodorizer. There is even a variety of sounds to mask those made by the user. We can now add the "courtesy flush" to the list of things made obsolete by high-tech.
One feature that may have
rethinking its Cottonelle line is the Neorest's "personal cleansing system." Post-use, a wand extends that delivers a warm, aerated stream of water, followed by air drying. In effect, it makes toilet paper obsolete.
"Paper was never designed for this purpose and does not do the job; it just distributes the problem," Campos says. "With the combination of the warm-water cleanse and air dry, there is no need for any kind of paper product."
But it isn't quite time to throw away those bottles of Lysol.
"The model is consistently cleansing itself," Campos says. "We don't use the word self-cleaning. The funny thing is that people think 'self-cleaning' means they never have to touch it and they have this raised expectation that it would operate without any kind of maintenance."
For that feature, we anxiously await the arrival of the $10,000 toilet.