In 2018, the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report tragically revealed a 60 per cent decline in mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians over the preceding 40 years. And, although the damage obviously stretches far beyond the fate of elephants, pandas, gorillas, tigers and rhinos, these still remain the poster children of the cause to halt extinction.
As such, this party of five are the faces of a new collection of watches by Graff, designed to highlight the plight of some of the rarest creatures on the planet – as well as the incredible skills of the brand’s artisans.
Released as a quintet of pièces uniques, four of which are being unveiled this week during the Baselworld watch fair, the GyroGraff Endangered Species collection features protected animals brought to life with metal marquetry and precious stones.
Each – with the exception of the tiger, which is highlighted with cognac stripes – has been recreated in a striking monochrome colour palette.
Some of the most complex watch dials that the brand has ever made, each one consists of up to 139 individual pieces created and assembled by a team of extraordinary craftspeople, following the blueprint of detailed drawings constructed by Graff engineers.
One of the biggest challenges was taking these two-dimensional designs and making them a three-dimensional reality, a feat that has resulted in a melting pot of métiers d’art, only achievable thanks to the skills of the best diamond cutters and setters who came together to pioneer this new technique.
Speaking of the achievement and delicate nature of the work, Nicolas Sestito, CEO of Graff Luxury Watches told The Telegraph: “All of the animals depicted are majestic, powerful and elegant – qualities that can equally be applied to Graff’s GyroGraff watches.
“These iconic, yet sadly threatened creatures were chosen because their instantly recognisable features were particularly well-suited to being recreated in diamonds and gemstones.
“In terms of métiers d’art, we are proud to introduce a technique we have pioneered in-house at Graff called ‘diamond-marquetry’, which involves custom cutting stones, each of which is unique in size, weight and cut, to fit the design. There is absolutely no room for error – the tiniest of tweaks to the size or cut of a stone would completely change the look of the animal.”
Ornate dials always pose problems for the watchmaker, whose main job is to ensure legibility and accuracy in time-telling and this proved the main challenge in creating the 3D form of the Endangered Species. Careful, detailed planning and a 17.25mm case depth, however, did allow enough room to deliver these five mini sculptures.
Each dial began with a gold block, overlaid with a layer of sparkling aventurine. The basic shapes of the animals were then built up, piece by piece, using mounts, plaquettes and finally the decorative elements, including the custom-cut diamonds and gemstones.
All the elements, each of which was numbered and stored in its own miniature bag prior to assembly, had to be custom cut to fit the design, involving many painstaking hours of work.
The dials are further enhanced by a spherical, white-gold moon at 10 o’clock which shimmers against the midnight-blue aventurine sky. Hand-engraved by an artist, it features a true-to-life map of the craters on the moon and completes a full rotation every 29.5 days, mirroring the lunar calendar.
A power reserve at 1 o’clock, serves as a subtle reminder of the passage of time which is slowly running out for these endangered species. Sestito concurs that “the overall effect is beautifully poetic”.
The dial layout is balanced by an aperture at 6.30 featuring Graff’s double-axis tourbillon, as well as the signature diamond set at 12 o’clock.
A hand-wound calibre beats within each of the 48mm white-gold cases that are decorated with invisibly-set baguette-cut diamonds. The watches are presented on a black alligator-leather strap with diamond-set deployant buckle.
As Sestito says, as well as being a reminder of the need to reverse man’s destruction of the planet, “each timepiece is a beautiful fusion of savoir faire”.
Graff GyroGraff Endangered Species collection, POA; graff.com
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