He describes himself as an artist, storyteller, and wanderer. Rightfully so as he breathes life into precious timepieces and recreates magic! A fashion designer turned watchmaker, Abhishek Basak, Founder at Absynthe Design, Delhi recreates, recrafts, and restores movements from timepieces and turns them into works of art.
The Hour Markers caught up in an exclusive interview with the artist himself! It all started as a hobby! When asked about his journey he said, “I missed creating with my own hands when I was working a job. I wanted a hobby that would help me destress. I came across a watch that my grandfather had gifted my mother that had unfortunately stopped working. When visiting home one of the months, I told my mom to hand over the watch to me with the promise that I would create something out of it that she could still use. It was then that I created a pendant timepiece necklace that brought tears to her eyes. Three generations came together in that one piece that I created!”
As a creator, you want to connect with the audience and timepieces often hold an emotional connection with the person. When you have a story to tell, it’s an expression of self. He started collecting pieces of history, stories, and mechanical watches with a historic background and started rescuing them from scrap dealers. Thereafter he started reinventing these works of art in a way that would form an heirloom for the person. This led to the birth of Absynthe Design!
Wait, Absynthe Design? How did this name come about? “The genre that I work with is called Steampunk where we are inspired by Victorian futurism. We imagine a world that has not yet been digitised and runs on the power of steam and mechanical engineering. Absynthe was the drink during the Victorian era so that’s how I found a historical connection. Also, I hope my work too creates a similar noise amongst the people. Lastly, we share the same initials “AB” so that’s a personal connection with the name”, he explained.
Moving on, we dived straight into the process of making these interesting works of art. He said, “There are two main processes. The first is the rescue and restoration process where I find different watch parts from across the world which have been scrapped. Some are very intricate and beautiful while some are simple. As I start collecting these parts, I envision what they can become like a bike, owl, hummingbird, rings, cuff links and more. These accessories can also be personalised with initials, sun signs or a slogan. When someone comes to me with a watch, the first goal is always to restore it so it can work. But quite often, the watch has undergone so much damage that it cannot be restored. In that case, I convert it into something that is wearable.”
What kind of movements can be restored at this artist’s studio? “I work with all kinds of luxury brands but mainly mechanical movements. From HMTs to Omegas, I’ve worked with timepieces that capture the history of watches in totality” he shared.
Talking about watches, did you know Abhishek also came out with a collection of timepieces called Kalpachitra. Sharing the story behind this shift he said, “It was a natural progression from making jewellery to watchmaking. In my journey of rescuing movements, I often found some which could be restored into a watch. But often they would be those without a case. I started making cases for these scrapped movements in silver and gold and each case is handcrafted. While watchmaking has been the ethos at Absynthe Design, I have a personal drive to work with an Indian handicraft every year. It’s my endevaour to give something back to the craft. Since my area of expertise is restricted, I connected with artists and started creating dials, staying true to the craft as much as possible. We used a resin-like material that mimics ivory. Miniature art is famous for the finest figures and if you see the dials we have created, they are extremely detailed and museum-quality. It has taken us 2 years to create this collection. The entire dial is painted with a single hair brush and takes about 3-4 weeks for one dial to complete. We created silver cases for these timepieces and powered them with a Swiss-ETA Quartz movement. I chose quartz because I want people to use them with ease and attract the non-collectors.”
Now, you may be wondering if these works of art may come at an expensive price point. But, the rings start at Rs. 1800, jewellery starts at Rs. 3500 and goes in lakhs. It all depends on what you want and the level of personalisation. Each piece is one-of-a-kind. “The aim is to get more people to enter this world of watchmaking. The price point defines what sells more but is not necessarily an indicator of what people like more”, he said.
It takes a team to make your dream work! Abhishek shared, “My journey started on a lonely note but a fulfilling one. Over the past few years, I’ve started training a team of craftsmen who help me in creating these works of art. The creative vision is individual to me but my team are like co-passengers who have joined me on this creative journey. It’s been a great journey as people have shown their love for almost everything I’ve created.”
Lastly, sharing his future plan for the brand he said, “I want everyone to own an Absynthe Design piece and make everything once before I die. I want this to become a part of a culture where people think ecologically and recycle things. I want to take my brand to every city of India and beyond India.”
Beyond a watch collector or a hobbyist, you wouldn’t see anyone who would want to set time, wind a watch or restore them. But with Absynthe Design’s works of art, a new saga for Indian art has begun! At a time when watchmaking as an art is dying, Absynthe Design continues to keep it alive.