This partnership was bound happened – I am just surprised it took this long. The Vanitas L’Epée 1839 by Fiona Krüger is a match made in wall clock heaven (or hell considering all the skulls and deaths involved). Fiona’s design expertise comes from two areas – Fine Arts and Product Design. Her fixation with the skull has more to do with real life experience than studies. She spent part of her childhood in Mexico City, its colorful Day of the Dead festival left a lasting impression on her. The result of all this is Fiona starting her own watch brand Fiona Krüger Timepieces and her iconic SKULL Collection. For Vanitas, Fiona did things the way as she would on a wristwatch, but on a larger scale.
For L’Epée doing things on a larger scale are their bread and butter. Like me, if you thought working with large components is easier than small components, we thought wrong. L’Epée CEO Arnaud Nicolas explains: “It’s not just a case of double the size of the components, double the time it takes to finish them. The complexity increases exponentially. For polishing, you need to apply the same pressure as you would finishing a watch movement, but on a bigger surface, and that’s more challenging. It’s thanks to the experience and dexterity of our clockmakers that the Vanitas clock can feature such superlative fine-finishing.”
Making high-end clocks is something L’Epée has mastered for a long time, they’ve been doing this since 1839. For the project, L’Epée contributed with engineering and manufacturing know-how including providing the in-house manual winding movement. It is not just the case that is shaped like a skull, the movement inside comes in the same shape as well – a rarity even in high-end watch making. Each multi-layered bridge has its own finishing and decorations which are visible through the skeletonized frame. Over 400 component make up this complicated movement, which they designed specifically for Vanitas. The clock also comes with an Incabloc shock protection system to minimize damage while on the move.
The 35-day “yawning” power reserve indicator fused into the mouth of the skull has a funny way of operating. When the mouth is closed it means the clock is fully powered. As it loses a little bit of power every day, the mouth starts to open like it is yawing – this is the indication to feed it with more power. The clock dial features many high-tech and low-tech highlights. It has a hand-polished hour and minute hands fixed on the nose – they hide and reveal eyes as they move around clock. Other highlights include the escapement on the forehead (at 12 o’clock), 2 barrel arbors acting as “pupils” and the philtra ( the area between the nose and upper lip) as power reserve differential.
This is a timepiece made to remind the owner on a daily basis of death and decay. The name Vanitas comes from a popular genre of painting in the 1600’s in Europe that include symbols like extinguished candles, decaying fruits, nd skulls. In Latin it means “vanity”, the skulls remind us of the deterioration and emptiness of our existence. That is why while adding life to Vanitas once every 35 days, L’Epée suggests that you contemplate the meaning of life and what’s left of it.
The Vanitas L’Epée 1839 by Fiona Krüger is available in two versions – multicolored and a “dark” version. One look at the multicolored version will tell you it is all Fiona’s work, with a color scheme borrowed from the Day of the Dead festival. The black and white “dark” version features black PVD-coated brass with a white silkscreen design. Both versions are limited editions of 50 pieces each and priced the same at CHF30, 000 (about $33,700). To purchase or to get more information visit L’Epée 1839 or Fiona Krüger.