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Fruit salad
Connoisseur of watches

Fruit salad

Wednesday, 28 December 2016
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Yannick Nardin
Freelance writer and journalist

“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

“A watch is a window on human genius!”

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4 min read

No other style sets the mouth watering quite like “tutti frutti”. Made famous by Cartier, a delight to behold, these jewellery compositions capture the splendours of India.

A tutti frutti gem is not for the fainthearted. The authentic recipe, strikingly Art Deco, combines (red) rubies with (green) emeralds and (blue) sapphires. Like real fruit, each stone is chosen for its succulent colour, then carved in the characteristic style of the India of the maharajahs: ribbed or sculpted rubies and emeralds, briolette or rose-cut diamonds. Thus cut and “naturalistically” engraved, they adopt the forms of fruit, flowers and leaves which are artfully arranged. However frivolous it may appear, a tutti frutti gem nonetheless conforms to a rigorous geometric construction. Art Deco was inspired by Cubism, after all. In an original tutti frutti composition, precious berries sit in diamond caps, with more diamonds interspersed throughout. The finished ensemble is invisibly set in a platinum or white gold mount, sometimes in the company of a small mechanical movement.

Tutti Frutti bracelet watch, Cartier Paris, 1929. Photo Nick Welsh, Cartier Collection. © Cartier
Cartier paves the way

When it comes to tutti frutti, Cartier sits at the head of the table. In 1910, Jacques Cartier embarked on a journey to India, where he intended to develop subsidiaries for the firm. He fell in love with the continent’s flamboyant culture and with its characteristic stones, such as emeralds carved into leaf shapes. In 1913, Cartier New York mounted an exhibition of twenty jewels “in the Mughal style”. Just as western clients were enamoured of this “Hindu” fashion, the maharajahs of India were won over by the Parisian way, and commissioned the city’s jewellers to remodel their treasures in this fashionable style… when they weren’t buying timepieces and jewellery directly from Place Vendôme. The Maharajah of Kapurthala is said to have owned 250 clocks, mostly by Cartier. One of his servants was engaged solely to keep the mechanisms wound.

The three young princes of Dhrangadhra with their brother-in-law, His Highness the Maharawal Chandraveer of Banswara. Circa 1920. Cartier London Archives. © Cartier

In the 1920s, as the article on Precious Watches at hautehorlogerie.org reminds us, “jewellers took inspiration from Indian and Oriental ornamentation, which they adapted to brooch watches, pendant watches and pocket watches. One such style, known as “tutti frutti”, combined influences from Islamic religious architecture and the so-called Hindu or Indian styles.” The 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes set the seal on the Art Deco trend, which encompassed the “Hindu” style. Cartier produced some of the defining pieces of this period, such as the magnificent necklace made for elegant socialite Daisy Fellowes. Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Arnold Ostertag and Henri Picqu – who also supplied the great jewellery firms – excelled in these colourful compositions too. In 1927, Audemars Piguet, in collaboration with the Parisian jeweller Egouvillon Lafon & Cie, presented a high jewellery tutti frutti watch. The movement inside this unique piece was the smallest then made by the Manufacture, not even the size of a postage stamp!

Tutti Frutti High Jewellery watch (1927) with Calibre 5/7 SB, the smallest watch mechanism at that time (15.9 x 5.8 x 3.3 mm). © Audemars Piguet
What's in a name?

The “Hindu” style became “tutti frutti” in the 1970s, a name that no doubt came from Italy to describe a highly colourful style, notes Cartier’s Heritage Department. Originally, a “tutti frutti” was a frozen cream topped with small pieces of various fruit, and certainly an established delicacy as Catherine de’ Medici is reputed to have brought the recipe with her from Florence to France, in 1533. “Tutti frutti” took on an entirely different meaning in mid-century culture, when in 1955 Little Richard blasted out a future rock n’ roll classic that went on to inspire countless covers, including one by Elvis. Since 1989, Cartier has owned the rights to the “Tutti Frutti” name in watchmaking and jewellery.

Jacob & Co Arlequino Tutti Frutti
Jacob and Co Tutti Frutti Arlequino

Certain contemporary jewellery watches have borrowed the Tutti Frutti name and the characteristically colourful nature of the original style which they revisit. The Tutti Frutti Arlequino by Jacob and Co associates bold colours, but with stones that are cut in regular shapes. Hublot’s Big Bang Tutti Frutti watches prefer a monochrome style and a set bezel, leaving the future owner to choose among a rainbow of shades. Since the 1920s right up to today, the tutti frutti style has lost none of its flavour!

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