Why I Gave it: Fiona Krüger Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity
Ah, gift giving! If there’s another ostensibly positive activity so burdened with the risk of a negative outcome, I’ve yet to find it.
Some of the biggest risks, not limited to but certainly relevant in the context of a long-term relationship:
- Giving an item that the giver would obviously love to receive but that the recipient doesn’t particularly connect with (with me here so far, watch enthusiasts?)
- Going “utilitarian” when the expectation is “romantic”
- Going “romantic” when the expectation is “utilitarian”
- Failing to surprise
- And especially in the case of giving to MrsGaryG, buying something that is not on the “approved list”: witness a perfectly nice bracelet that our jeweler assured me years ago “she would love” that gets a bit of grudging wear just so that my feelings won’t be too hurt
For me, navigating the tension inherent in those last two points requires the application of a three-step process:
- Over the course of a year – or even longer – pointing out a number of items that might be to MrsG’s taste or mentioning in passing items she has admired on her own
- Affecting a studied nonchalance when greeted with an enthusiastic response, especially when the item in question has resurfaced more than once
- Desperately trying to remember the items on the list and buying one, trying to add a small twist or two, and then presenting it when it is least expected
With a big birthday for MrsG and our fifteenth wedding anniversary both coming up in early 2019, it was time for something special.
A watch that looks like a skull?
Okay, so perhaps not a conventional choice – and for a watch guy, seemingly at serious peril of buying for one’s own rather than for one’s loved one’s preferences – but I had no doubt that this particular gift would receive an enthusiastic reception.
From the moment that MrsG saw a photo of Fiona Krüger’s striking creations, she hadn’t stopped bringing them up. The Petit Skull was already a strong candidate for the “approved list” when I met with Fiona and husband Michael at Baselworld 2018.
And when I returned home with photos of a variety of variants of the Petit Skull interspersed among images of other watches, it became apparent that this watch was very much an object of desire for MrsG and that “the one” would have to be the Celebration Eternity version with colorful lacquer decorations and bezel-mounted gemstones.
I’ll confess that I wasn’t too surprised by her choice: in addition to a love of dramatic colors in clothing and accessories, my bride has also long been fascinated by the colorful, macabre artworks associated with Día de los Muertos, the “day of the dead” observed in Mexican culture.
Among her favorite possessions is a tea set with skull and skeleton motifs made by artist (and former sister-in-law) Susie Ketchum; and in our travels across the American Southwest, we’ve accumulated other items consistent with the theme.
As a child Fiona Krüger lived with her family in Mexico, and it was the art associated with the Día de los Muertos that inspired the design of her series of skull watches in addition to a much longer tradition of memento mori – reminders of mortality – in watchmaking.
While over the past several years (and, I’d argue, driven to a significant extent by Krüger’s initiative) the skull motif has appeared in a considerable number of watches from various brands (including these five from 2016), its use for timekeepers goes back many generations.
As Krüger noted in a recent online post, “In the 16th century skull watches were ‘the’ accessory for high-society women.” She goes on to mention her personal favorite, the watch associated with Mary Queen of Scots depicted in the image below.
In the colorful Celebration versions of Krüger’s skull watches, each color represents a trait or experience associated with life and its passing as shown below on the large Celebration Skull watch.
Within the line of smaller Petit Skull watches, the Celebration Eternity is further decorated with small gemstones in seven colors in an unbroken line around the perimeter of the dial. Each of the seven colors represents a day of the week, the concept was inspired by an eternity ring owned by Krüger’s grandmother that to her served as “a reminder of infinite time, everlasting love, and everything it can endure.”
Over and above the symbolic appeal of the Petit Skull (Celebration), it’s a very well-made watch indeed! Krüger is diligent about shining the spotlight on the craftspeople who are responsible for various elements of production, including:
- AB Product, responsible for the fabrication of the complex case, including the multi-faceted, easily gripped crown
- Kari Voutilainen’s Comblémine operation, where case polishing, gem-setting, and final watch assembly take place
- Comblémine is also heavily involved in the creation of the multi-layer dial, in collaboration with Mme. Benoit of MLV who oversees the hand-painting of the dial’s lacquer and Super-LumiNova details
- Les Artisans Selliers and Jean Rousseau, who create the custom straps for each watch
The dial isn’t just colorful, it’s complex: it consists of a black-coated base layer with lacquer-filled inserts; a frosted rhodium mid layer with lacquered inserts that incorporates the eyes, nose, and temples as well as the rim at the perimeter of the watch; and a top layer consisting of a pair of bridges for the mouth and forehead.
When the watch is wound and running, the skull’s eyes reveal unexpected life in the form of the rapidly oscillating balance wheel visible through the figure’s left eye and the slowly releasing mainspring seen through the right eye – two additional reminders of the passage of precious time. And while you’re checking that out in the photo below, be sure to take a few of those precious seconds to appreciate the beautiful blued hands!
When the wearer goes from bright light into darkness, the Petit Skull continues to delight with an eerie display provided courtesy of the filled Super-LumiNova elements I mentioned earlier. When you first look at the watch in daylight there is so much going on visually that the presence of these luminous elements isn’t obvious; it was a treat for me to hear MrsG ooh and aah when she took her first look at this piece in a darkened room.
A quick flip of the watch to the other side provides an unobstructed view of the balance along with much of the remainder of the open Soprod M100 skeletonized movement through a cleverly shaped sapphire crystal window. This window evokes the shape of the skull and also gives us a clear view of the carved and lacquered weight driving the automatic winding system.
The element of surprise
MrsG was of course not entirely oblivious to the fact that a Petit Skull might find its way onto her wrist at some point; in addition to waiting for a suitable moment to present the piece, thanks to Fiona and Michael Krüger I also had the opportunity to provide a bit of a surprise with an assortment of beautiful, colored, quick-change straps.
But how to choose the colors? The source of inspiration was right in front of me: it struck me to take and send photos of some of the colorful clothes in MrsG’s closet and some of her favorite Native American jewelry pieces. The Krügers handled the rest.
Do I have any criticisms of this watch? Doesn’t matter – it’s not mine! As far as MrsG goes, I don’t think she’d mind a bit of that luminous treatment somewhere on the watch’s hands, but the bottom line is that she loves wearing the watch, checking it out while it’s on her wrist, and showing it off to friends.
Is it for you – or for someone you love?
I’ve voted with my wallet, but would I recommend it for you? I’d say yes if:
- The potential owner has a love of color and a flair for style
- The idea of mindfulness of time has deep meaning to her or him
- The quality craftmanship speaks to you
Perhaps better to put your gift money elsewhere, though, if:
- The presentation of a watch as a gift will be greeted with a cold stare
- The prospective owner places more importance on movement pedigree and traditional finishing than on decorative features such as lacquering
- The person in question is much more “Rolex” than “indie” in personality and tastes
I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on this one in the comments section!
For more information, please visit www.fionakrugertimepieces.com/products/petit-skull-celebration-eternity.
Quick Facts Fiona Krüger Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity
Case: stainless steel, 48 x 35 mm; lower lugs behind case back to accommodate smaller wrists; jeweled bezel with 7 colors of precious stones and diamonds; shaped rear sapphire crystal display window
Dial and hands: hand-decorated three-layer dial finished with hand polishing, PVD coating, and perlage, hand-painted lacquer and Super-LumiNova details; blued-steel hands
Movement: automatic Soprod M100 fully skeletonized and with custom components including the rotor, which has the same color treatment as the dial
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 18 pieces
Retail price: CHF 22,500
Production years: 2017-present