Faceless Watches

By

Published November 9, 2009

How can a fake Rolex become desirable in itself? Natalia Brilli has the answer. She covers a Nolex watch in subtle, high-quality glove-makers’ leather and transforms it into a genuine item of understated intellectual elegance. The men’s and women’s versions of her “Nolex watch bracelet” are named for the faux bling brand so budget-priced that it hasn’t bothered to invent a snappy original name like those used by Designer Impostors’ Perfums de Coeur (remember: “If you like ‘Calvin Klein® Obsession®’ you’ll love ‘Confess'”) and instead simply hopes marks won’t notice the difference between an “R” and an “N.” Brilli covers the Nolex in black, cherry red, or cracked silver leather that tightly hugs the watch’s features, allowing only the bulges on the braided band and the raised dial to create sculptural texture identifying the object underneath.

Brilli’s sensitivity to the statements that accessories make about their wearers’ character and status comes from her work in theatre design and Olivier Theyskens’s atelier, where she designed accessories while he headed Rochas. Brilli launched her own art and design label in 2004 by encasing drum-sets, skateboards, domino boards, medical alert bracelets, dog-tags, and bows in skin-soft leather. While most of her objects are black or silver, she has also used bright electric hues, naturals, and pastels to further scramble the associations between the original objects, her luxurious materials, and the artistic end-result.

Following fellow Belgian designer Martin Margiela’s preference for signature anonymity, Brilli has created a sly logo based on subversive understatement. By encasing recognizable status-declaring items like the fake Rolex watches in leather, Brilli cloaks the clock’s affectation, transforming them into genuinely desirable elegant objects which speak of their wearers’ intelligence and good taste.