Fendi's Standout Watch Collection: Delfina Delettrez Keeps It in the Family

Photo by Freeimages.com/Paul Vrieling

by Avril Groom, The Daily Telegraph, June 17, 2016

Delfina Delettrez is so super-cool she isn’t even aware of it. Tiny and neat, her hair pulled back and lightly braided, she could be a ballet dancer, except that her sculptural jumpsuit (in black, her usual shade), slashed to reveal honeyed skin and with leather lacing, and her defining eyeliner, both have considerable edge.

The daughter of the last Fendi still working in the LVMH-owned family firm (Silvia, who designed the famous Baguette “It” bag) and a jewellery designer, she leads a group of young women who have made “real” jewellery a desirable and attainable self-purchase for their peers.

Her punky yet elegant cross-finger rings and front-and-back, up-and-down ear jewellery, with a hint of surrealism and gem-set face-parts, have set a new, rebellious tone for wearable, high-end pieces. But today she is talking about something very different – the first watch collection she has designed, as Fendi upgrades its timepiece offering to compete with the likes of Chanel and Dior. If she is on less sure ground with the intricacies of watchmaking than with jewellery design, it certainly doesn’t show. Her opinions are considered, assured and intelligent.

Fendi already has some unusual watch designs, such as the “monster eyes” Bugs watches and the Crazy Carats, which reveal different coloured gemstone hour markers at the twist of a crown. But the involvement of Delettrez, who has already designed two jewellery capsule collections for the house, lends its watches a new level of sophistication and quality.

The Policromia collection has been conceived with a confident jeweller’s eye and worked to show off a highly crafted combination of different coloured materials. It is a harmonious, Art Deco-inspired, geometric patchwork of diamonds, metals and hardstones, but it also features a layered construction of circles and segments that leads the eye towards the central hands and gives a sense of dynamism, although nothing moves.

This observation seems to please Delettrez: “I wanted the layers to give the illusion of movement, the idea of a portal to another dimension, that possibility which time opens up.”

Never having designed a watch, she approached it like a bracelet, and placed no restrictions on herself in design terms. “I was brought up to experiment and Fendi gave me complete freedom on this,” she says.

The nods to Art Deco hark back to Fendi’s foundation in 1925, but there’s much more to the story – as many layers as there are to the watch. “I started playing with colours like a kid,” she recalls, “particularly with malachite, as part of my design code – I love its deep green and patterns.” The malachite version remains her personal favourite of Policromia’s 20 iterations.

“That evolved into a mini landscape because deep green is the colour of forest and sea,” she explains. “Then I added lapis lazuli for the night sky and tiger’s eye for an animal influence, while pink mother-of-pearl suggests a sunset.” Hardstones are experiencing something of a moment in jewellery and watches, but Delettrez has long favoured them. “I started using Carrara marble which is pure white, cold and heavy, and a challenge to work, as all hardstones are,” she says. “They remind me of old mosaic floors in medieval palazzi.”

The main architectural influence on Policromia, however, is 20th century: the serried arches of Fendi’s new Roman HQ, the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, which was designed in 1937. “I love the play of light and shade in its empty and filled spaces, and I needed those pauses in the watch,” says Delettrez; hence the inserts of plain metal or diamond pavé between the colour, or blackened gold outlines with tiny diamond “studs” between the layers.

Despite her thoroughly modern approach, the influences are all retrospective. “I like nostalgia but not too obviously, more of a feeling,” she explains. “The craftwork in creating this – both the hand-set dials and the watch interior – is timeless, yet a watch is highly technical and functional. It’s a cool nostalgia.”

The Swiss movement is quartz because, as Delettrez points out, the Policromia is not an everyday watch, even in its least decorated form. The most embellished is high jewellery and, as production is limited and handmade, there is the possibility for clients to choose their own hardstone colours.

Policromia launched at Baselworld 2016 to rave reviews for its distinctive, slightly otherworldly beauty. The question remains – given Delettrez’s burgeoning reputation and her Fendi DNA – why did she not work for the house before 2014?

“It didn’t really occur to me,” she replies. “Yes, I understand the heritage and the brand, and I’m sure that’s why they asked me, but only once they had seen how I was evolving as a designer. And I wanted to be removed from it, to work for Fendi once I had a healthy distance from it,” she adds. “Now I have that perspective, and respect for their craftsmen’s attention to detail, from the Swiss jewellers, specialist stone-cutters and watchmakers to the alligator straps handmade in Rome.

“This project without limits was a big gift from them, to expand my creativity. I love mixing levels of preciousness, so we have hardstone and diamond, steel and gold. It’s a privilege that this brand let me do that.” Fendi must be very glad it did.

Fendi Policromia collection ranges from £2,500 to £67,000. 



This article was written by Avril Groom from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.