Feminine and playful

As a leading fashion brand, Dior wasted little time in entering the watchmaking scene, establishing itself with bold colours and precious materials, including opals, jades and even feathers.

Laurence Nicolas, president of Dior watches, describes the company as her "toy box". "What is really fun about Dior is that you are in a toy box, and you can play with all the toys," she says.

It was exactly this free environment that allowed her to put forward the Dior VIII Grand Bal collection with feathers last year, which was well-received by customers.

This year, a Plume model was added to the line. The timepiece is made in pink gold and ceramic with baguette-cut diamonds.

"Feathers are the lightest materials, and watch materials are supposed to be heavy," Nicolas says. "A classical jewellery brand would have been prejudiced to do this, but in Dior, yes we can."

The 38mm novelty watch is powered by the Dior Inverse calibre - its functional oscillating weight, when placed on the dial, reproduces the swirl of a petticoat.

It is decorated with coloured feathers set with diamonds, a design patented to Dior. The dial comes in either black or white mother-of-pearl, and both versions are limited to 88 pieces.

Strong femininity is an unmistakable signature of Dior watches, which, according to Nicolas, is the brand's heritage. "I'm not going to lie with that. We are feminine before everything, which is not the case for a lot of brands in the watchmaking industry."

But she says Dior does also cater to the men's market, as evidenced by its Chiffre Rouge collection.

The Chiffre Rouge C03 is equipped with the Elite 691 movement by Zenith, catering to men's preference for the mechanical. A moon-phase indicator and a small second counter are featured with a big date displayed in red, contrasting with a black dial and strap. The C03 is a limited production of only 100 pieces, with the numbers engraved on the translucent black sapphire crystal caseback.

Before taking up Dior watches in 2008, Nicolas was overseeing its fine jewellery. Now taking care of both, she says it is natural to inject precious stones into timepieces - but it is not as straightforward as one may perceive.

"Fine jewellery is 100 per cent manual in workshops. "Timepieces are different, for you have to combine industrialisation with craftsmanship," she explains.

After overcoming the differences between the two crafts, Nicolas came up with popular timepieces that swept the Asian market.

"People in Asia are more willing to take a risk as long as they are convinced that the craftsmanship and the expertise are there," she says. "The market is very stone-oriented. It has a strong culture of stones and passion for jade and diamonds. Hong Kong is the only place where the customers come with their own gemologist."

But Nicolas reiterates that she does not give in to market demands. "We don't want to compromise with being trendy and marketed. We don't want to target any specific group of customers. If we put jade on a dial, it's because the colour is stunning. If we put opal, it's not because we are targeting the Australian market, but because the quality is amazing," she says.

"This is our direction - to never compromise against creativity and quality. We'd rather stay small than give in to market forces."

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