By Nirja Dutt
While the world of watches tides through change and an immersive change of pace in terms of creativity, outlook and style, we caught up with Aurélie Picaud who has been leading the watch division for the house of Fabergé for almost a decade.
Nirja Dutt: There is a very distinct aesthetic for Fabergé watches, how do you think that has been developed over the years and what led to their current appearance?
Aurélie Picaud: Fabergé watches express our key design attributes, which are common to both our jewelry and watches. This involves proportions, colors, layering of materials and, of course, an element of surprise. It is extremely important to us to include the Fabergé characteristic of ingenuity through all our new watches, particularly our complications. We develop exclusive Fabergé movements in order to create emotion and unexpected ways to display the time, as Peter Carl Fabergé himself was doing with Fabergé clock objects.
ND: The peacock seems to be very special to the brand, can you tell us why?
AP: We always take inspiration from Fabergé’s heritage; for example, the Compliquée Peacock design is directly inspired by the ‘Peacock Egg’ from 1908. For this special piece, we decided to work on a new and intriguing way to display the hours and minutes on the dial, whilst embracing the element of surprise. The minutes are indicated by the feathers of the peacock opening over the course of 60 minutes and closing by coming back to zero every hour. This creation won the GPHG Award in Geneva in 2015 and was made in partnership with our Workmaster, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Agenhor. Together with the team, we developed a new and unique mechanical movement which is exclusive to Fabergé.
ND: Whilst the Altruist and Flirt have a very classic approach, the others are more poetic, was this intentional?
AP: Our Flirt and Altruist collections are more classic in the way they display the time, however they still have all the refined details and surprising elements which make them signature Fabergé watches. For example, look closely at the Altruist collection and you will spot the little egg on the hands; and the design of the 22kt oscillating weight is inspired by the guilloché on pre-1917 Fabergé cigarettes cases. The Flirt collection encompasses ‘A Life in Colour’ with its vibrant array of designs, with some models including the art of guilloché enameling on the faces. Even if it is not immediately obvious, there are stories behind every design that we create.
ND: The high jewelry creations appear to be an extension of Fabergé’s decadent past, has that always been the inspiration for these pieces or is there more?
AP: Our Dalliance Libertine Watch collection has been predominantly inspired by the landscape and environment around the Gemfields mines; Libertine I and II display rough emeralds from the Gemfields’ Kagem mine in Zambia. It is quite rare to find rough emeralds featured in watchmaking, and this is why these watches are particularly special and unique. Since we enjoy surprising our clients and delivering the ‘unexpected’, this is what drove the desire to choose these materials for the design. The Dalliance GemAddict Watch collection represents a bold and non-traditional approach to creating a high-jewelry watch. We employed new and unexpected ways to incorporate traditional techniques inherent to Fabergé – such as enameling, guilloché and stone setting – while the unique mechanical movement also allows a 1 carat diamond to be displayed in the center of the dial.
ND: You complete 10 years with Fabergé next year, what has been your most memorable contribution to the brand?
AP: It is wonderful and unique to be given so much freedom in terms of creativity since we started developing the new collections, when I first joined at the end of 2013. Whilst all our creations are unique and memorable, I think that the Compliquée Peacock watch may always remain special to me: the development of the Compliquée Peacock watch took 18 months; the hard work of everyone involved; the anxiety before the presentation to the world at Basel 2015; the excitement of the external reactions to it, and the icing on the cake – winning the GPHG Award win in 2015. It was such an honor for all of us and I was so glad that the hard work of the team (not only our own internal team but also our external partners) was recognised and celebrated.
ND: Your career has been largely focussed on the world of horology which for the lack of better words has often been referred to as ‘a man’s world’ would you say this has had any impact on your journey? How do you feel about being a woman leading a brand in this industry?
AP: At Fabergé, we are fortunate to have many women in management and senior roles throughout the business including our Designer, Liisa Tallgren and Head of Global Sales, Josina von dem Bussche-Kessell; Fabergé recognises and encourages all employees, regardless of gender identity. Peter Carl Fabergé was very ahead of his time and praised the talents of women. An example can be seen with Alma Pihl, a young female designer who designed the ‘Winter Egg’ and ‘Mosaic Egg’ as well as other jewelry. Her talent was celebrated and championed. The watchmaking journey can at times feel quite lonely as a woman, and I think women still feel the need to prove that they are ‘capable’ before being considered. But, I feel that this is slowly starting to change, and more and more women are starting to make an impact in the industry. Being a woman within the world of watchmaking requires patience, strength and tenacity!
ND: What was your initial thought for the Visionnaire series? It is truly a conversation piece but again, pushes the boundaries whilst still staying true to the brand’s style, tell us your idea behind the collection?
AP: The Visionnaire DTZ incorporates an element of surprise at the centre of the watch, inspired by the surprise at the heart of a Fabergé egg. The surprise is a GMT only visible to the wearer. We launched the Visionnaire DTZ collection back in 2016 and the rose gold model won the GPHG the same year, which was a great achievement for Fabergé and amazing recognition. Since ingenuity plays such an important part in our story through Fabergé automata and objects, we decided to use unique mechanical movements which would allow us to demonstrate the Fabergé tale. There is an extraordinary world hidden behind every one of our watches.
ND: What can we expect from Fabergé next?
AP: There are so many stories behind each of our watch developments, and we’re looking forward to continuing the great work with our partners. Stay tuned for more surprises coming soon…
ND: Do you have any plans for India, there are a few points of sale for the brand, are there any plans to diversify those?
AP: Through our partner, Dia Color, we’re delighted to bring Fabergé watches to India. We have a shared passion for exquisite gemstones, timepieces and first-class customer service and care. We are in discussions with Dia Color to introduce our jewelry and objets d’art as part of a phased expansion over the next few years. The next five years will be a busy and exciting period of time for Fabergé in India, and we are delighted to partner with Dia Color on this next step.