For those in the know in the jewelry world, Turkish-born Sevan Bicakci is famed for the incredible jewels he creates– each a work of art and sculpture. Inspired by his Armenian roots, Bicakci is renowned for his Byzantine and Ottoman styles. He has won multiple awards for his work, which is typically mystical or magical in appeal. Recently, though, Bicakci took a departure from jewelry and, at the Watches & Wonders Miami show this past weekend, unveiled his first-ever watch collection.
The introspective and creative Bicakci spent nearly a decade designing and developing the series, which consists of 85 unique watches – each conceived of and created entirely by hand by Bicakci. While all of the watches house ETA quartz and mechanical movements made in Switzerland, the collection is more about a sense of timelessness, art and beauty than it is about being timepieces. Each piece is a work of art, of sculpture, and of history that almost inspires one to believe that time can stand still.
It is not unusual for Sevan Bicakci to spend months, sometimes a year, working on a single ring or necklace. However, the collection of one-of-a-kind watches may well be his biggest project. It was more than a decade ago, in 2007, that Bicakci visited an exhibition of 18th and 19th century Ottoman clocks, created by clockmakers who worked for years on a single timepiece. That concept — that Ottomans would spend their entire lives working on one project if need be — was his inspiration for the new collection.
“They didn’t rush in the process,” says Bicakci. “That’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my timepieces. Let the beholders’ minds drift from time consciousness to a fresh way of enjoying the moment.”
A few years later, Bicakci set to work creating a series of watches inspired by his past that he hopes helps people to better understand the rich culture crafts of the Ottoman history, reinterpreted today. In the creation of the watches, Bicakci preserved all of the signature elements present in his jewelry — reverse gemstone carvings, miniature sculptures, engraving and more — and combined them beautifully in his watches.
The designs range from Byzantine daisies, water lilies and other flowers, to winged dragonflies and birds captured in flight, and sensational geometrical stories that somehow boggle the mind with their detail — each a boldly beautiful statement of individuality.
The watches are crafted in precious metals such as platinum, 18-karat rose gold, 24-karat yellow gold and sterling silver. They are set with gemstones such as diamonds, pearls and more. Each watch features a sapphire crystal, many of which are faceted or feature reverse carved engravings on them that offer incredible depth and dimension. Each and every creation is a rendition from Bicakci’s mind and soul – woven, etched, finely worked, uniquely finished and magnificently crafted to tell a very special story on the wrist.
Even the leather used for the straps is carved or gemset in his workshops in Istanbul. Every watch, like every piece of jewelry or object of art that Sevan Bicakci creates bears his symbol: the beautifully decorated dagger. His great grandfathers were sword makers for the Topkapi Palace, and Bicakci took that part of his Armenian history to heart — placing a dagger on everything he designs. Even the handles of the doors of his boutique are finely finished replicas of the dagger. In fact, the USB key that he created to launch his new watch collection is also one of the most unique in the watch world: a finely carved sword.
The 85 watches in the collection each retails for a different price, ranging from about $180,000 to $2 million. Along with the launch of the watch collection, a second book on Sevan Bicakci by Assouline also makes its debut. Authored by Vivienne Becker, jewelry historian, the book is entitled Sevan Bicakci: The Timekeeper.