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The London timepiece house Backes and Strauss, founded in 1789, continues to set a mark for spectacular watches. Its mastery of assembling, then shaping precious gemstone creations into exclusive one-of-a-kind creations lies at the brand’s historical heart.
The team recently presented spectacular pieces made of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.
Blurring the lines between horology and jewellery, Backes & Strauss’ new Green African Elephant features a slim diamond-set case attached to a tactile bracelet set with two rows of carefully selected ideal cut diamonds and a third, middle row of emeralds from Gemfields’ Kagem mine in Zambia. The natural green mother-of-pearl dial of this time- telling jewel features a meticulously hand-painted elephant, the emblem of “Walk for Giants”.
With the African elephant at the heart of this jewellery timepiece, we are saying that “time” is literally of the essence here. In a meeting between the world’s oldest diamond company, Backes & Strauss, and the world leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, Gemfields, the Green African Elephant has been created in support of the international conservation organisation Space for Giants to help shed light on the importance of protecting and maintaining a harmonious co-existence between Africa’s landscapes, its wildlife and its people. Whilst the elephant sits at the core of the watch, the responsibly sourced gemstones, natural green mother-of-pearl dial and the white gold case represent the fruit of the earth. Finally, the watch as a whole represents man’s inimitable skills to create such a work of art.
Long watchmaking history
With over 230 years of diamond expertise, Backes & Strauss has built its reputation among the most prestigious clients worldwide as the experts in polishing and cutting of high-quality diamonds.
In 2006, Backes & Strauss formed a partnership with Franck Muller, easily the most creative and innovative horologist of his generation.
Backes & Strauss and Franck Muller are masters of the art and science of their respective crafts; one of diamonds, the other of complications. Whilst Backes & Strauss is occupied with light and Franck Muller is concerned with time, both share a devotion to mathematical precision.
What is the ‘Ideal Cut’?
Backes & Strauss’ signature Ideal Cut embodies optimal proportions and symmetry, guaranteeing a balance of brilliance and fire. A diamond cut that is not ideal and has misaligned, missing or off-centre facets will allow light to spill from the sides or bottom. Thus, the diamond will appear far less brilliant and scintillating.
Ideal cut diamonds show the ‘Hearts & Arrows’ pattern when viewed through a Hearts & Arrows Viewer. This formation of hearts and arrows justifies the perfect symmetry and proportion of the diamond.
Crafting a bespoke
Backes & Strauss follows a concept of luxury in its original state as in times when it first appeared. In the bygone era, luxury was coveted by kings and queens. Royalty would seek the best craftsmen within their respective fields to commission a desired object of luxury; whether it be furniture to adorn their private apartments or a clock for their Great Hall.
For the chosen craftsman, creating a unique piece for His or Her Majesty was seen as a mark of unrivalled recognition. This royal seal of approval would elevate the craftsman to the status of master, that would, in turn, grant him commissions and demand abound from the nobility and aristocracy. After all, if the object and artistry in question was fit for a king or queen, it received unquestioned unanimity.
This concept of traditional luxury resounds throughout Backes & Strauss today. “For us, creating a unique timepiece is to draw upon our expertise and historic know-how in horology and in diamonds to capture the discerning taste and individuality of our clients. We consider this to be a true honour and privilege,” says the spokesperson.
“It is a combination of private commissions and us challenging our craftsmen to create masterpieces combining the skills of the masters of horology, jewellery and diamond polishing. Franck Muller is easily the most creative horologist of his generation – the master of complications and we use the master diamond polisher and jeweller to create these masterpieces – the meeting of the masters!” he adds.
Each bespoke piece can be named personally or have a unique serial denomination. It will also have a full report of its crafting recorded in a personalised booklet which acts as a guarantee for the unique timepiece.
Time frame for a bespoke watch
The discerning client has to be sure they want to take this journey! There is no template that applies – each experience is unique. The client is involved from beginning to the end to create that special timepiece that will embody their dreams. It can be centred on the diamonds and or/gemstones or a horological complication or a combination of both. “Our philosophy on luxury is based on the client commissioning us to create for them something unique, using the best materials and challenging our most skilled craftsmen,” says the spokesperson.
Selecting the gemstones
The starting point is always the gemstones; Backes & Strauss then design the timepiece around it.
The Piccadilly Princess Royal Colours is the perfect example where 276 diamonds – with 66 different natural colour diamond hues and 10 different diamond cuts of varying sizes were set on a beautiful jewellery bracelet, bezel and dial of the watch.
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