A Momento Mori Is Making Fiona Kruger A Name To Remember
If you’ve seen the spectacular opening sequence of the last Bond outing Spectre then you’ll be familiar with Mexico’s Dia de Muertos festival. Taking place on November 2, it is a time for the living to celebrate those who have died. People head to cemeteries en masse to eat the deceased’s favourite food, tells stories about them and, hopefully, be visited by their souls. The most famous symbol of these celebrations has become the calacas. These elaborate skeletons have distinctive wide cheekbones and large round eyes, sometimes adorned with floral or religious motifs. Models of them feature in parades – 007 himself wearing a skull mask amidst the thronging crowds of Mexico City.
For Fiona Kruger, a bubbly Scotswoman whose childhood included a stint living there, the skulls had even more potential: the ideal design for a watch, conflating the notions of time passing and its inevitable end.
Unsurprisingly, given her completely unique designs, Fiona Kruger does not fit the usual template for a watchmaker. She’s cool, young, female and, until 2011, didn’t know the difference between a quartz and mechanical movement.
Her horological journey started thanks to Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe – not bad places to start if you want a decent education in how to make exceptionally good watches.
She went to Audemars Piguet’s manufacture as part of her master of advanced studies degree in craftsmanship and design for the luxury industry at ECAL in Switzerland; the brand were course sponsors and had set up a competition for students to design a watch. Her course also included a visit to Patek Philippe’s Geneva museum.
While Audemars Piguet served as an impetus to dip her toe in the waters of watch design, Patek Philippe gave her an insight into the sheer scope of what can be done with a timepiece.
For her degree project, Fiona worked on creating a watch actually shaped like a skull – an early indicator of her literal mould-breaking, for although there are plenty of watches with skeleton adornments, watchmakers have shied from rendering the case itself in that shape because it’s just too difficult to get the mechanics to fit.
For two years she set about pooling a small, specialist band of artisan watchmakers who could accommodate the unusual technical challenges thrown up by the strange case construct, not to mention the flamboyantly complex dial, skeletonised (pun intended) to reveal the Swiss mechanics ticking within.
That was 2013. And even now these designs retain the ability to surprise and delight. They are vibrant, bombastic riots of colour; a Mexican fiesta distilled in watch form. There is also a sense of humour to them – on some, the mouths open to reveal a power reserve, while others feature the balance pulsing away in place of an eyeball.
Unsurprisingly, given Fiona’s talent for pushing the boundaries of watchmaking and art, she has been welcomed by other industry iconoclasts. Max Busser of MB&F fame has been a mentor while renowned independent watchmaker (and fellow SKOLORR classmate) Kari Voutilainen invited her to share his stand at 2016’s Baselworld, which, when it comes to these vaunted circles, is more than a ringing endorsement. It is also in Voutilainen’s workshop that the beautiful guilloche engraving is applied to her recently launched Petit Skull designs.
In a matter of just five years, Fiona has gone from neophyte artist to fully formed watchmaker extraordinaire, lauded by industry greats and even with a pop-up in London’s temple to luxury, Harrods under her belt. Edgy, unconventional, while embodying the ultimate finesse of watch craftsmanship for those who find very few watches out there memorable, Fiona’s Skulls are just dead cool.