A short dive into the Art-Déco era
Even though the era we now call "Art-Déco" already lies a century behind us, its impact on a wide range of subjects ranging from fashion to architecture can be felt to this day. By bringing a sense of new found order and craft into a world marked by war and disease, the time period stands out as an oasis of peace and prosperity between savage bellicosity and economic ruin by bringing a sense of democratization into the field of art, by not only restricting the geometric forms and rich decoration to the classical concepts of art like sculptures and literature, but to fully embrace the newly embedded aesthetics in all fields of everyday life, turning previously simple objects like furniture and of course watches into works of art.
Art Déco is characterized by its emphasis on simplicity and geometrical shapes. It was a reaction to the excesses of the Art Nouveau movement that preceded it, which emphasized organic forms and elaborate decorations. Art Déco, on the other hand, celebrated the machine age and industrial progress by incorporating modern materials such as steel, aluminum, and plastics. It featured clean lines, streamlined shapes, and a bold use of color, combining the industrialized machinery refined in years of war and prior decades of tense struggle for growth among nations with the seemingly limitless strive to distinguish themselves from the sins of the forefathers. These characteristics, transforming societies in storm as the once rigid world order seemed to give way, found their way in the design of watches, which became more angular, with rectangular or hexagonal shapes, and less ornate, hitting the narrow balance between rampant embellishment and and downright stultifying simplicism, thereby reuniting the so opposite adversaries of streamlined mass production and shier infinite attention to detail.
Noteworthy personalities played a significant role in shaping the Art Deco era. Raymond Templier, for example, was a renowned French jewelry designer who embraced the Art Deco style in his work. He was known for his use of geometric forms and innovative techniques such as setting gemstones flush with the surface of the metal, forming metal that seems so rigid into wavelike artworks which seemingly flow around every possible obstacle, yet again merging two concepts that seem so so contradictionary and thereby standing as a symbol of this era full of seemingly irreconcilable opposites like nothing else.The Italian watchmaker Carlo Ferrara was another influential figure, who used Art Deco designs to create elegant and refined timepieces.
The Italian watchmaker Carlo Ferrara was another influential figure, who used Art Déco designs decades later to create elegant and refined timepieces by using an initially for the observer incomprehensible separation on the dial which appears like a break with the underlying theme of reconciliation between conspiratorial enemies, war thorn enemies in ruins and embellishing simplicity alike. But on second notice the striving the striving to distance oneself from the past, to question the old and entrenched and to highlight the role and puropose of everyone in society, thereby giving an artistic touch to the ever more efficient manufacturing methods in the booming factories and emphasising what ones prosperous live is built on.
Famous Art Déco artworks include the Chrysler Building in New York City, which features a striking steel spire that was inspired by the radiator grilles of luxury cars in an attempt to capture the momentum of the steadily advancing industrialisation. By grafting the top of the building with elaborate ornamentations and thereby setting it apart from the sleek facades, the skyscraper seems to reach for unprecedented heights as a spearhead for progress. Another example is the iconic Coca-Cola logo, which was redesigned in 1929 using Art Déco principles, embedding the brands name in a debauched design and captivating the viewer in its intertwined lines.
In the world of watches, no timepiece gets brought into connection with the early 1920s as much as the Cartier Tank, a piece of history that remained popular to this day. It features a simple rectangular shape and clean lines, borrowing its simple structure from the tanks that industrialized warfare brought forth while featuring basically no unnecessary decoration, a symbolic distinction from most other works of art from this era which can be interpreted as silent criticism of a system built on the shallow hope of endless growth, thereby racing unstoppably into the next abyss while coming from the worst bloodbath in human history. The ugly face of industrialised war has been revealed, and Louis Cartier did not want to transfigure this reality with distracting embellishment.
And just as prophesied by louis cartier a decade prior, the Art Déco era came to a sudden end in the 1930s, partly due to the economic depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The the machinery of indulgent luxury and growth believed to be endless swallowed everyone and left behind a burnt out society on the verge of collapse as the cost of producing luxurious items such as complicated Art Déco watches became unsustainable for many manufacturers, and simpler designs became more popular. The straightforward designs like the Cartier Tank prevailed and as tensions in Europe rose again and the outbreak of the Second World War came ever closer, people turned their focus towards more practical concerns as the whole world was yet again engulfed in bloody butchery between industries backed by entire state budgets.
But those aesthetics weren't lost in the histroy books forever, as watch brands have begun to revive the Art Déco style in recent decades. Some have reissued classic designs, some like the Cartier Tank always kept themselves in the spotlight, while others have created entirely new watches that pay homage to the "Roaring Twenties". These timepieces often feature rectangular or hexagonal cases, clean lines, and bold use of color, once again inducing a spirit of optimism in a market that began avoiding risks ever more frequently. We can only hope that a retrospection of the past allows us to find our way back to innovative designs that outlast centuries.
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