Most watchmakers consider the measuring of time from a mechanical perspective. Philosophical considerations are rarely part of the mix. For Fiona Krüger, it’s the exact opposite. Speaking at Dubai Watch Week, the Scottish designer explained her belief that “how” and “why” are of equal value in watchmaking. “Of course it’s hugely important to consider the materials we use and the techniques we apply; the choice of movement and its specifications. But asking why is just as essential, if not more so as it brings us to the very essence of horology. When you’re collaborating with the finest artisans, as I’m fortunate enough to do, you can’t present them with a design that’s devoid of meaning. I realised early on that watches lend themselves to almost anything you could imagine, but they only take on a tangible reality when they translate the reasoning behind their existence. Design is a Trojan horse. It attracts attention but it’s the layers of meaning beneath the surface that set the watch apart.”
A timely reminder
Fiona Krüger’s watches indeed appeal to the senses as much as to the intellect – as though the idea of watchmaking simply as a means to count hours, minutes and seconds were alien to her creative world. After studying fine art and design in Edinburgh, Johannesburg and Switzerland, Fiona Krüger began working as a teaching assistant at Lausanne University of Art and Design (ECAL), while completing a design internship with Philippe Stark in Paris. It was during this time that she began to lay the foundations for her own watch brand, which launched in 2013 with the Skull collection, inspired by memories of Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, where she lived as a child. A modern-day memento mori, it is already a reference.
Throughout the ages, art has been a favourite medium to reflect on our mortal condition and the vanity of our earthly life, frequently through representations of danses macabres and skulls. When Fiona Krüger launched her first Skull line, now in Black, Celebration and Petit versions, the watch world took note. Beyond the existential significance of these vanitases for the wrist, the carefully planned symbiosis of dial and movement makes these mechanical timepieces a forceful expression of passing time.
From Skull to Chaos
Unsurprisingly, given this attention to marrying design language with mechanical concepts, Fiona Krüger works with some of the industry’s leading specialists. They include AB Product for cases and Comblémine, Kari Voutilainen’s dial workshop, for the guillochage engraving on the skulls. In addition to her own brand, Fiona has designed for the likes of Speake-Marin and Ulysse Nardin. She is behind the latter’s Executive Skeleton Tourbillon, a watch that draws on depth and negative space to create transparency and structure. She also imagined the Lady Libertine III for Fabergé. For this, she worked alongside the brand’s Timepieces Director, Aurélie Picaud, and superstar enameller Anita Porchet. Back to her own brand’s products, and specifically the movements, Fiona Krüger enlisted the services of Agenhor – the Geneva-based firm whose work includes the Pont des Amoureux for Van Cleef & Arpels and a chronograph with central hands that is used, among others, by Fabergé – to develop the proprietary movement that equips the Chaos collection. Launched in June 2018, it too represents a philosophical idea.
I love the contradiction between the desire to measure time with absolute precision and time itself which engenders chaos and disorder.
“We all have an intuitive understanding that time moves forwards,” the designer declared. “Science also tells us that over the course of time, material systems will always go from a state of order to a state of disorder and chaos. Never the reverse. In physics, it’s what’s known as entropy. I love this contradiction between Haute Horlogerie, with its focus on precision, order and perfection in the measurement of time, and time itself which engenders chaos and disorder.” Fiona Krüger has captured this principle in the Chaos collection, which comes as the Entropy I and Mechanical Entropy. The result, inspired by Dada, Pop Art and the installations of artist Cornelia Parker, resembles a mechanical explosion, made possible by the bespoke movement whose shattered geartrain stretches the entire length of the elongated case. Certain components can be seen in motion under the partly skeletonised dial, adding to the destructured appearance of the whole. As though a bomb had gone off inside the case. For Fiona Krüger, time is clearly a matter for creativity.