Death and Taxes
“The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords.”
Chose Death…..it only costs CHF 30,000 or US$31,000 before taxes.
I was given a sneak preview of this spooky wall clock at the ‘Baselworld 2017 Watch & Jewellery Show’, under pain of Death not to reveal it until now. I’m so glad that I’ve bared my soul because, quite frankly, I’ve been haunted by the L’Epee Fiona Krüger VANITAS Clock for 9 weeks!
[All photos by author MTF unless otherwise stated]
The Skull is the ultimate symbol of life, death and human experience; it has played a key role in both Horological History and Art History. Watch collectors have seen the motif from many brands like Hublot, Richard Mille, Speake-Marin, Bell & Ross, Hajime Asaoka and Romain Jerome.
But in recent years, the skull expression has been in the purview of the Queen of Skulls – Fiona Krüger.
With Fiona Krüger’s artistic approach to Haute Horlogerie and L’Epée’s mechanical expertise, the Skull has been re-interpreted into a mechanical Vanitas painting for the 21st Century.
A ‘Vanitas’ is a still life artwork which includes various symbolic objects to remind the viewer of the transience of life. This was an important and popular genre of painting in the 1600s that included symbols like skulls and extinguished candles.
The Vanitas Clock is engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839, Switzerland’s specialised high-end clock manufacturer, founded (spookliy) in 1839.
Fiona produces her own SKULL line of watches at Fiona Krüger Timepieces but obviously, they are for the wrist.
Having spent part of her childhood in Mexico City, Fiona’s vivid memories of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival have influenced her own skull watch collection and this latest collaboration with L’Epée.
The Vanitas Clock Yawns
This Vanitas implores you to celebrate life. The hours and minutes are shown by the clock’s hands, and its power reserve is indicated by the mouth of the skull.
As Vanitas loses power it starts to yawn, encouraging you to wind it up. Although playful, this endearing monthly ritual is determined by the 35-day power reserve.
This new wall clock features the movement on the front and two mainspring barrel arbors as “pupils” in the eys sockets, designed around a mechanical skull’s face. Vanitas shows the time with two hands that are centrally mounted on the nose. As the hands turn, they intermittently hide and reveal the skull’s eyes as if playing hide-and-seek. When the mouth is completely opened (18.5mm gap between the teeth) the clock looks like it is “yawning” to warn its owner that it will go to sleep if energy is not provided.
Height 306 mm
Width 220 mm
Thickness 86 mm
Clock Weight Approx. 5 kg. with 2.2 kg just for the hand-wind movement
50 pieces of ‘Dark’ version: Matt Housing in Black Anodized Aluminum with mineral glass
50 pieces of Coloured Version: Matt Housing in Black Anodized Aluminum with mineral glass
About L’Epee 1839
For over 175 years, L’Epée has been at the forefront of watch and clock making. Today, it is the only specialised manufacture in Switzerland dedicated to making high-end clocks. L’Epée was founded in 1839, initially to make music box and watch components, by Auguste L’Epée who set up the business near Besançon, France.
From 1850 onwards, the manufacture became a leading light in the production of ‘platform’ escapements, creating regulators especially for alarm clocks, table clocks and musical watches.
By 1877, it was making 24,000 platform escapements annually and the chief supplier of escapements to several celebrated watchmakers of the day. L’Epée has won a number of gold awards at International Exhibitions.
During the 20th century, L’Epée owed its reputation to its superlative carriage clocks and was the clock of the influential and powerful; it was the gift of choice by French government officials to elite guests.
In 1976 when the Concorde supersonic aircraft entered commercial service, L’Epée wall clocks were chosen to furnish the cabins.
In 1994, L’Epée built the world’s biggest clock with compensated pendulum, the Giant Regulator. At 2.2m high, it weighs 1.2 tons – the mechanical movement alone weighs 120kg – and required 2,800 man-hours of work.
L’Epée is now based in Delémont in the Swiss Jura Mountains. L’Epée 1839 has developed an exceptional table clock collection, encompassing a range of sophisticated classic Carriage Clocks, Contemporary Design Clocks (Le Duel, La Tour,…) and avant-garde horological sculptures (Sherman, Starfleet Machine, Arachnophobia, Balthazar…).
This last collection, named the “Art line” collection, was launched for its 175th Anniversary, is intended to shock, evoke and inspire people, not to toe the line. L’Epée clocks feature complications including retrograde seconds, power reserve indicators, perpetual calendars, tourbillons and striking mechanisms – all designed and manufactured in-house. Ultra-long power reserves have become a signature of the brand as well as superlative fine finishing.
FIONA KRÜGER – an Artistic Approach to Haute Horlogerie
Fiona’s unique design process has been called a “New Metier D’Art” in itself, as she transforms mechanical watches into emotive timepieces. Her creative interpretation of mechanical watchmaking stems from her artistic sensibility and multicultural influences. Fiona pulls inspiration from her international background, Fine Art and Design training, and her fascination with the history of horology, to create pieces which evoke wonder.
The synonymous themes of “time” and “mortality”, which have played an important role in watchmaking since the 1400s, inspired Fiona to develop her iconic SKULL collection. The skull itself is an internationally recognised symbol, engrained in the history of watchmaking. Drawing inspiration from the 17th century skull watch of Mary – Queen of Scots, the Mexican celebration of Dia de Los Muertos and beautifully decorated skeleton movements found in today’s luxury watches, Fiona’s artistic re-interpretation of the skull symbol has resulted in a unique timepiece collection which transcends cultural divides.
The partnership with L’Epée furthers Fiona’s history of working closely with luxury brands, with a design commission from Fabergé for their 2017 Lady Libertine III, an exclusive event for Harrods to launch her Skull collection, and a partnership with luxury whisky brand The Macallan for an evening of whisky and watches in New York.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was also CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).