The human skull, once a medieval symbol of the transient nature of earthly goods, has traversed the ages to conquer the world of luxury goods, as seen in the latest watch collection from De Grisogono. “Crazy Skull” is a bejeweled creation in praise of fleeting earthly riches, boldly defying any attachment to asceticism and frugality.
“This collection toys with the idea of the fleeting nature of life, but embodies change, courage, non-conformity and free thinking,” said Fawaz Gruosi, founder of the brand. “That is the spirit of De Grisogono.”
Produced in an edition of nine, the amusing Crazy Skull watches boast 890 black diamonds, rubies or white diamonds, depending on the version, each totaling 23 carats snow-set on a sculpted cranium with a wide toothy smile made of white baguette diamonds, an articulated ruby-red tongue and a heart-shaped diamond nose.
“Others have used skulls in fashion and art but ours is unique in watchmaking,” Mr. Gruosi said. “The Crazy Skull is a collector’s piece.”
In his charming, self-deprecating way, the Lebanese-Italian Mr. Gruosi attributes much of his accomplishments to what he calls “accidents,” downplaying the vision and intention with which he has charted his professional path.
What in your background destined you to become a jewelry designer?
There were no jewelers or watchmakers in my family. It was entirely by accident that, at the age of 18, I took a job in a jewelry shop in Florence. That is where I first became interested in the business of jewelry and watches.
From there, I moved to London and at 30, became a general manager for Harry Winston in Saudi Arabia. Later, I joined Bulgari in charge of VIP clients. After Gianni Bulgari’s departure, I decided to strike out on my own.
With two partners, I opened a shop in 1993 to buy and sell jewelry but within two years, bought out my partners and began designing on my own. That is how De Grisogono was born
"I owe much of the initial success of my business to black diamonds"
The first De Grisogono boutique opened in 1996 on the Rue du Rhône, in Geneva. Immediately, I made a small revolution in the industry. While everyone else on Madison Avenue and Place Vendôme was making discreet, minimalist jewelry, I started designing bold, colorful, visible pieces.
While looking for new materials, I stumbled onto black diamonds, a rare and difficult stone to cut that I found fascinating. I introduced black diamonds to the world of high jewelry. I understood that women of character would wear black diamonds and that the public was ready for something new.
I owe much of the initial success of my business to black diamonds. They are one reason I am sitting here today.
How did you become interested in watchmaking?
I realized within the first few years that I needed to increase foot traffic in my boutiques. There were days when no client would come in, in part because our price points were high. Between, 1993 and 2006, prices for De Grisogono jewelry ranged between 40,000 and 300,000 Swiss francs.
I had never designed watches before but I thought they would attract new clients, including men.
In 2000, I launched a watch business both to increase our inventory and to diversify our client base. Our first model was the Instrumento No. Uno which I adorned with a galuchat (stingray) strap. We bought the cases, movement and dials from different companies and assembled the pieces in Geneva. At Baselworld that first year, we were hoping to sell 30, instead we had orders for 830.
In 2005, we made our first minute repeater complication, the Occhio. In 2009, we won the “prix du public” at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for the Meccanico dG no. 3, inspired by the ticker tape up above Times Square in New York.
Today, De Grisogono has about fifteen watch collections and I still have plenty of ideas. My approach was bold from the beginning. I got into watchmaking without anticipating the challenges. That is the way I am in life.
How do you preserve the brand identity and exclusivity of De Grisogono?
We produce on average 300 unique pieces of jewelry per year without ever repeating ourselves. My designs may seem unusual and modern, but they are classic at the core. I keep in mind today’s modern woman whose lifestyle may take her from blue jeans to ball gowns, but she will always want to wear a beautiful piece of jewelry.
"We have an 'anti-commercial' attitude.”
The business of luxury has changed since the 1980s. Today, many of the top brands are held by large conglomerates that must produce results to satisfy shareholders. To make money, they cut production costs and spend on marketing. That is not how we function.
We have an “anti-commercial attitude.” We do not cut corners. Every small piece is treated like a piece of haute couture. That is why we continue to have an impact in the industry.