Graff GyroGraff Series: Master Jeweler Mastering High Complications With Serious Flair
When it comes to the world of high-end jewelry, the sky really is the limit: so many possibilities come from the wide variety of metals, stones, and finishing techniques. And not to forget the shapes, settings, and intricate details imagined and realized by individual craftspeople.
Jewelry houses may appear to make many similar designs to some, but that is largely because popular styles are replicated by many brands as trends come and go. But if you were to delve into the entirety of what one brand creates every year, you would see that creativity knows no bounds.
Aside from the quasi-obligatory solitaire engagement rings and matching pendants and earrings, brands come up with astounding versions of every possible shape and size, looking to nature, architecture, and even the cosmos for inspiration. High-end watch brands also do custom designs on request as well as collaborations with corporate entities, designers, artists, and other jewelers.
Some brands focus on stones – or a specific stone – while others like to explore the possibilities of a certain metal, a specific shape or pattern, or even a narrow subject matter. Whatever the inspiration for a brand, the one thing that connects them all is a desire to create something utterly beautiful and emotional, an object serving no purpose other than making a person stand in awe of rarity and perfection (or celebrate imperfection).
This is something that goes deeper, perhaps, than our primate brain, something deep down in our reptilian brain that seeks out the shiny rock in the ground or is transfixed by the sparkling night sky.
It’s built in, and even if jewelry isn’t your thing, almost everyone can and will appreciate a stunning creation when it pops up in the right setting. What first made me sit up and take notice of haute joaillerie were watches that used stones and precious metals to not (only) bedazzle the viewer but to tell a story.
One of the leading brands in that arena is Graff, which over the years has created some truly marvelous pieces. Some bordering on the insane even.
But for a watch guy that loves mechanics, there has been a standout: the GyroGraff, which not only is a very respectable mechanical marvel, but also a canvas upon which Graff creates gemstone magic.
Different versions of the GyroGraff have stretched the skills of the brand’s craftspeople, but first let’s look at what the GyroGraff is before taking a closer look at the creativity included in its spectacular high jewelry.
Multi-axis GyroGraff with spherical moon phase
The first thing you notice when you see the GyroGraff is the large double-axis tourbillon rotating in a window at 6:30 or 5:00 (depending on the version). The tourbillon rotates around the balance axis and also along a plane perpendicular to that rotation.
When combined with the natural motion of your wrist, the twin axes ensure the tourbillon is always changing position and averaging out positional errors on the balance. I’ll always mention that while these mechanisms are intricate and very difficult to construct, Greubel Forsey aside the benefits to chronometric performance are often overstated.
Somewhat refreshingly, since Graff is first and foremost a jeweler, this brand’s designers actually let the mechanics speak for themselves, preferring to focus on the complexity of the stone setting, engravings, artistry, and related points of interest, which I appreciate.
The next thing that captivates the eye on the GyroGraff is the large, spherical, hand-engraved moon phase at 10:00 (or 7:30, depending on the version). The moon rests in a window, cocked at an angle nearly pointing toward the center of the movement with a black, half-spherical dome making one full rotation every 29.5 days (the standard 2.5-year accuracy).
The moon phase disk rotates twice a day, providing a visually impressive indication of the current moon phase.
If you look at the placement and angle of the crown and compare it to the rotation angle of both the moon phase and the double-axis tourbillon, you’ll notice that the movement isn’t exactly centered. The winding stem doesn’t angle directly through the center of the movement, and with no indications rotating in the dead center of the dial it makes sense.
The display of hours and minutes is itself off-center with a power reserve across the dial from the double-axis tourbillon. All combine to make a movement with no standard placement for nearly anything – a very unique assembly for a jewelry brand.
The movement is finished beautifully and looks very technical from the rear, though some models have a decorative rear dial covering most of the movement. That is because, in truth, the movement isn’t supposed to be the star of this show.
But for me the movement is the star: in all honesty the awesome movement is what made me take notice of the GyroGraff models in the first place. Once I did, I realized there is a lot more to Graff and its artistry than “just” some stones.
Artistic crafts abound at Graff
Most of the GyroGraff pieces are canvases for the exquisite craftsmanship residing within Graff’s walls. The different GyroGraff versions feature everything from avant-garde stone setting, hand-engraving, miniature painting, cloisonné and oven-fired enamel, and stone marquetry to the more typical fully-paved dials.
The best part is that most of the versions feature multiple crafts depending on the theme, all of them stunning displays of the skills at play. In one series – GyroGraff World – the dials feature either a combination of laser- and hand-engraved continents and oven-fired enamel for the “By Day” versions or oven-fired and cloisonné enamel with gold specks for the “By Night” pieces.
Moving on to the GyroGraff Universe, a delicate aventurine dial features a miniature painting of spiraling galaxies with the universe as a backdrop. The galaxies are painted using a single-hair brush for ultra-fine detail. Applied to the aventurine, the painting appears to glow with brilliance.
The miniature painting is also seen on a set of pieces called GyroGraff Drive, which illustrates a stylized view from the cockpit of various classic sport cars zooming along.
Another series combining a variety of disciplines is GyroGraff China, which features different landmarks using a multitude of crafts beginning with a base dial made of aventurine, which supports a hand-engraving in gold of the dial’s main attraction.
Then the engraving is patinated and miniature painted to give depth and realism to the material. In some models, additional hand-hammered and miniature-painted gold is added to create natural-looking tree blossoms or forest.
Finally, gemstones are set to mimic architectural details on the landmarks. The combination of all of these artistic skills makes the series a contender for the most impressive of the GyroGraff artistic series.
But for me the winner is the GyroGraff Endangered Species series, which features four different endangered animal depictions in magnificently unique gemstone and metal marquetry.
The animals – tiger, panda, elephant, and gorilla – each take up at least two-thirds of the dial. A variety of metal plaquettes (tiny geometric plates) were either polished or matte rhodium-plated white gold or micro-blasted black combined with custom-cut diamonds (and cognac sapphires for the tiger) forming the shapes of different animal heads.
The entire design, which takes the form of a cubist portrait, is supported by a base of aventurine (an obviously favored material for these GyroGraffs).
The designs are very bold, and with the masterful application of shapes and stones each animal comes alive in the geometry. Between 112 and 139 components make up each dial (depending on the animal), requiring the patience of a puzzle enthusiast to assemble.
Each tiny plaquette carries a microscopic number that corresponds to its mating stone or gold insert, and all must be matched exactly for the design to work.
These GyroGraff Endangered Species models represent a most unique application of Graff’s skills and that of its craftspeople, as well as an extremely daring choice for any watch enthusiast.
I personally love the wide variation found within the GyroGraff line, which shows off the know-how of the brand and gives the well-heeled collector a chance to own something truly unique, because all of the GyroGraff métiers d’art watches are unique pieces.
These are simply creative ways of bridging the gap between Graff’s haute joaillerie expertise and its rapidly growing haute horlogerie savoir-faire. I think the GyroGraff pieces wear the mantle well and show that the brand means business.
And if Graff keeps going with releases like these, I imagine I will always look forward to seeing what the brand has to offer!
Now let’s (gently) break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.97 If the double-axis tourbillon and spherical moon phase don’t get you, the extraordinary dials and métiers d’art will!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 99.7» 977.723m/s2 The sheer variety of the designs combined with that awesome double-axis tourbillon and spherical moon phase would keep anyone up till the wee hours of the morning!
- M.G.R. * 68.7 Spherical moon phases will get me every time, but combine that with a double-axis tourbillon and a movement architecture that is fairly unique in the world of watches and you get one sweet movement!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate It comes with a power reserve (super useful for manual-winding watches) and a moon phase, just enough to make things serious. I would recommend extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the variety and faces that the functions will inhabit!
- Ouch Outline * 11.8 Biting your lip nine times in one day! We’ve all been there, you accidentally bite your lip once and then you just keep doing it because it’s a bit swollen now. Well, I would suggest avoiding chewing gum all day to minimize the chances of multiple gnashes. Though if it meant getting one of these GyroGraffs on the wrist I would gladly take the hit!
- Mermaid Moment * Love is found in every direction! Whether it is from the tourbillon, the moon phase, or the incredible métiers d’art, the passion is powerful! I’m pretty much ready to say those two magic words today . . . I want!
- Awesome Total * 1,040 First take the diameter of the watch in millimeters (48) and multiply by the hours of power reserve (65), then divide the total by its water resistance in atmospheres (3) for a truly remarkable awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.graff.com/watches/mens/mastergraff/gyrograff.
Quick Facts Graff GyroGraff
Case: 48 x 17.25 mm, white or pink gold, with or without stone settings
Movement: hand-winding double-axis tourbillon movement with spherical moon phase
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase, power reserve
Limitation: unique pieces
Price: $1,000,000 for the Endangered Species and $925,000 for the China variations