Robb Read: The Next Dimension

For pioneering furniture designers, 3-D printing is a portal to the future.

By Helena Madden 19/10/2021

Audrey Large was never too keen on making things by hand. As a master’s candidate at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 2017, she and the other students were pushed into metal or wood workshops, but her preferred method was to create designs on a computer. The catch was how to turn these digital drawings into physical objects; 3-D printing bridged the gap. Instead of meticulously tufting a rug or moulding a porcelain jar as she’d tried to do in the past, Large found she could simply hit “print” for her virtual object to become reality. But the technology didn’t impress her much at first. “I felt it was kind of ugly,” she says of the outcomes. “Not as seducing as the shapes I had in my computer.”

Even so, the promise of circumventing the artisanal aspect of the creation process was too great, so she kept at it. Trial and error became an important part of her work: Large would intentionally run designs through the printer that were structurally unsound to test the device’s limits. When she got stuck, she consulted YouTube and online forums. The final bowls and vases she developed look like they’ve been ripped straight from the colourful digital realms
of Tron or Ready Player One.

“There’s no painting, there’s no coating on the object,” she says. “I like that it’s coming out of the computer, out of the machine. I take it out and I don’t touch it so that it’s closest to the file.”

In recent years, 3-D printing, perhaps dismissed as just a method for creating prototypes or a way for college kids to make plastic bric-à-brac for their friends, has been adopted by a slew of serious designers. They’ve used the machines to produce chairs, tables, vases and even whole wall panels, cementing their spot in a niche-but-growing manufacturing space that shipped 2.1 million printers globally in 2020. It’s a quantum leap forward from when 3-D printers were invented in the mid-’80s, yet the technology is still raw. Despite that, the industry was celebrated last year during the early days of the pandemic, when a group of architects from all over the world used their printers to churn out thousands of face shields for front-line healthcare workers.

The most interesting work, though, is happening at the opposite end of the spectrum from such mass production, by designers who value the machine as a tool that’s capable of forging incredibly complex designs, some that would be otherwise impossible to realise. The apex of this movement is in Europe, particularly Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, where a rich history of furniture design relied heavily on the handmade. A 3-D printer offers a fresh take on these practices,
or, for some, a way to rebel against them.

Spanish firm Nagami makes a point of only creating furniture that takes full advantage of 3-D printing’s unique capabilities. Like Large, cofounder Manuel Jiménez García began experimenting with digital fabrication while studying for his master’s degree at the Architectural Association in London, before moving on to large-scale 3-D printing. But this was 2009, and there was much less research on the subject. “We were trying to get the concept of 3-D printing that you’re probably used to, which is encapsulated into a desktop-sized box, and take it out of that box and build larger pieces,” he says. Eventually, he bought a bigger machine: a 2.4-metre-tall robotic arm that’s often used in automotive manufacturing. The new tech allowed Nagami to make complex furniture on a grander scale, including the Voxel chair—a seat with an intricate structure that, at first glance, resembles the chaos of tangled computer wires. It was a proof of concept, demonstrating that a design sketched on a computer and manufactured by robots can be even more remarkable than one patiently drawn by human hand.

It’s a much faster process too. Voxel can be 3-D-printed in a few days using one continuous line of plastic filament that’s about 2.4 kilometres long. “It’s literally depositing material particle by particle,” says Jiménez. “That’s something that by hand you couldn’t do, or else you would need to be the most special person on the planet.” Nagami’s ambitions have attracted big-name collaborators like Zaha Hadid Architects. The late architect’s namesake firm drew upon Jiménez’s expertise and hardware to create the Rise chair. The piece features a seamless blue-to-light-green colour gradient, which, like the inner workings of Voxel, is easy to input into a computer but difficult to execute manually.

That’s not to say printing designers want to do away with made-by-hand craftsmanship entirely. Many, like Mathias Bengtsson, consider the tech to be just the first step in a long, fastidious process. “I don’t want to do 3-D printing for the sake of it,” says the Dane, best known for the Spun chaise lounge, which resembles a giant Slinky and is in the Museum of Modern Art New York’s permanent collection. “I want to take it far away from the 3-D printing, and I need to know there’s always hands on it before and after the process, stuff being cast or hand-polished or sanded by craftsmen, artisans. Maybe it’s a reflection that I’m of the generation that was born just before computers came out, so I’m trained to do everything by hand.”

He’s not kidding. Bengtsson couldn’t afford a 3-D printer when he was a student in the late ’90s. Instead, he made a tracing tool to outline shapes on pieces of cardboard, cut them out and stacked them in homage to the S-shaped Panton chair, an iconic modernist design. His DIY construction emulated 3-D printers’ method of adding one layer of filament—usually plastic—on top of the other. Nowadays Bengtsson’s process is a bit more sophisticated. His Cellular chair is 3-D-printed as one big piece of porous epoxy resin; one version is then cast in bronze. Like many of his designs, Cellular, which resembles a metallic hunk of volcanic rock, is one that’s possible only by marrying new technology with old philosophies and techniques: the printer creates the complex pattern, and the artisan gives it a carefully applied finish. Bengtsson’s Growth series takes a similar approach. The twisty, vine-like silhouettes of each chair and table are based on an artificial-intelligence computer program that simulates a seed taking root and growing into a mature plant. The stem’s digitised pattern is then 3-D-printed and cast in different metals, giving the finished product a distinctly organic look; one could easily be forgiven for mistaking the shiny seat for a sculpture. “When there’s a dialogue with the machine, the machine also leaves a little bit of a fingerprint,” he says. “I’m not looking for perfection.”

Bengtsson isn’t the only one combining 3-D printing with AI systems. Synthesis, a design firm in New York, created a program that can generate tens of thousands of different wall-panel patterns, from rigidly geometric versions to ones that look like sound waves. Clients can choose their favourite iterations from a video of the wide-ranging selection. “Each exploration is lifetimes of a designer’s time. That’s not an exaggeration,” says John Meyer, Synthesis’s founder. “I mean, we spent years on the first patterns of these panels. Every vacation I went on, every street I walked down, I did pattern study and exploration. It took me years to come up with 10 to 15 really nice patterns that people tend to like.” Almost all of Synthesis’s wall panels are 3-D-printed in plastic. The firm’s expertise with the technology extends to furnishings, including the cantilevered Karv table and the spherical Santorini fire pit, which can also be made in concrete. All can be customised and cast in various colours.

These sorts of tweaks are easy with 3-D printing, but one aspect that remains difficult—and to some degree unexplored—is the use of different materials. Many still associate the medium with plastic, but a handful of artisans are slowly chipping away at that mould. “I was a bit disappointed because I came from an art school, from design school,” says Dutch designer Olivier van Herpt of his first impressions of 3-D printing. “The physical value of what came out, you were just waiting hours and hours and still ending up with a plastic piece.” Instead, he wanted to print with clay. It took van Herpt about eight years to build his own custom printer that could produce ceramic vessels. His invention can even be paused in the middle of printing, allowing him to shape aspects of the clay by hand before it’s complete. An interesting confluence of man and machine, sure, but why not just throw some vessels on a pottery wheel as ceramists have done for millennia?

As with Jiménez, for van Herpt it has to do with 3-D printing’s specialised capabilities. The technology is very precise, so it can perfectly render extremely detailed patterns, such as the tiny ridges of his new limited-edition white porcelain vase. He also used the printer to put a fresh spin on delftware, the traditional Dutch school of ceramics with a striking blue-and-white colour palette. Van Herpt added cobalt oxide to white clay and then loaded it into the printer; the resulting vases have a gradient that’s achievable only via the combination of bespoke machinery and hands-on craftsmanship.

A more common (and perhaps less time-consuming) medium of experimentation is wood, which has recently been championed by Yves Béhar, a versatile designer whose extensive résumé includes the ever-popular Sayl office chair and PayPal’s no-frills logo. His Vine series of a bowl, a basket, a tray and a vase is manufactured with a composite made of cast-off lumber. Béhar completed the digital sketches and started producing the pieces in about four weeks, a testament to the breakneck speed at which digital manufacturing can operate. But one of the biggest perks of Vine is environmental. “Every particle that I’ve used or that falls off the printer can be built with again,” he says. “So there’s literally no waste.”

In fact, 3-D printing has long been heralded as a cleaner, greener means of production. It’s sometimes referred to as “additive manufacturing” because it adds material in order to create a final product, so you pretty much use what you need. In theory, it’s a less wasteful alternative to traditional, more subtractive methods, which instead take one big piece of wood, say, and cut away the excess. But 3-D printing isn’t quite as pure as has been made out. Polylactic acid (PLA) is the industry’s bioplastic of choice and is considered an eco-friendlier alternative because it’s usually made of corn starch rather than petroleum. But “eco-friendlier” is a relative term. “There are some real concerns about PLA,” says Sherry Handel, executive director of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association. “It’s great in a lot of ways, because it’s plant-based and because it biodegrades. But it has to be decomposed under high temperatures—not in a landfill, but in an industrial compost situation.”

There’s also an issue of supply chain. PLA will contaminate other plastics during the recycling process, so it can’t just be thrown into the trash with water bottles and yogurt cups. Instead, it has to be sent separately to specialised waste-management facilities, which are in much shorter supply. In summary, better than a single-use plastic, but not great.

Issues with waste are compounded by the fact that 3-D-printed furniture can be perfected only by ongoing experimentation. Failed builds are a necessary part of the development process, as they allow designers to test the limits of what the machine can achieve. “It was years of it not coming out the way we were hoping,” says Meyer. “It’s trial and error, mostly error. That’s what got us here.” Synthesis uses PLA and is careful to separate the castoffs from run-of-the-mill plastics so they can be recycled properly, as do others, but not everyone is so conscientious. Another solution is to break down plastic waste on-site and incorporate it into new designs, a process that’s time-consuming.

“People have to buy an additional machine, and then you have to do the quality control because you’ve got to know if you’re going to be able to use the materials,” says Handel. “It’s another extra step. A lot of companies just want to focus on what they’re doing. You want someone else to deal with that part.” In 2019, Filamentive, a PLA manufacturer based in the UK, estimated that 10 per cent of 3-D prints made in the UK end up in the rubbish heap. Considering the number of machines and their output, about 279,000 kilograms of plastic were wasted. And that’s in just one small corner of the world.

These issues stand a good chance of being solved as artisans continue to experiment with the burgeoning technology. And 3-D printing also has the potential to help achieve another environmental goal: reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-haul shipping. Proponents hope that, as more printing labs pop up around the world, designers will simply email files to faraway facilities to be manufactured. That way, oversized chairs and sofas could be created locally, not shipped on freighters overseas or driven distances cross-country.

Such ambitions, like many problems and limitations in the 3-D-printing space, depend entirely on research and innovation. It’s an imperfect system, at least for now, but for its devotees, there’s little alternative—3-D printing is the future. “Design has to be mind-blowing,” says Jiménez. “Otherwise it’s not worth it.”

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Escape from the Ordinary

Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean.

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

Not all cruises are created equally. Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean. From the stunning Amalfi Coast to the pristine Greek Islands, the narrow Corinth Canal to the picturesque Dalmatian coast, historic Istanbul and beguiling Malaga, each destination is a unique adventure waiting to be unravelled. With Ponant, these aren’t just locations on a map; they’re experiences that come alive with the intimate knowledge and insight that their expert guides provide.

Ponant’s luxury cruises are renowned for their individuality, with no two journeys the same. This is not by chance. Itineraries are scrupulously designed to ensure that each passenger is left with a feeling of having embarked on a journey unlike any other.

Athens-Venise. Photograph by N.Matheus. ©PONANT

In 2025, their fleet will set sail for a combined 56 departures from March to October, exploring the dreamy locales of Greece and the Greek Islands, Malta, Italy (including Venice and Sicily), Croatia, France, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These European Journeys offer an intimate encounter with the Mediterranean, its people and culture. As you cruise in luxury, you’ll dive deep into the heart of each destination, exploring historic sites, engaging with locals, sampling scrumptious cuisine and soaking in the vibrant atmospheres.

The company’s small, sustainable ships, which can accommodate from as few as 32 to 264 guests, have the exclusive ability to sail into ports inaccessible to larger cruise liners, affording privileged entry into some of the world’s most treasured alcoves. Picture sailing under London’s iconic Tower Bridge, crossing the Corinth Canal, or disembarking directly onto the sidewalk during ports of call in culturally rich cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Nice and Venice, among others.

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

This singular closeness is further enriched by destination experts who unravel the tapestry of each locale’s history and traditions.

Onboard their luxurious ships, every guest is a VIP and treated to refined service and amenities akin to sailing on a private yacht. Whether at sea or ashore, their destination experts guarantee a fascinating experience, immersing you in the rich cultural and historical diversity of each region.

Indulge in the finest gastronomy at sea, inspired by none other than gastronomic virtuoso and Ponant partner, Alain Ducasse. Each voyage offers an expertly crafted dining experience, from a-la-carte meals with perfectly matched wines by the onboard Sommelier at dinner and lunch, to a French-inspired buffet breakfast, featuring all the favourite pastries, fresh bread and quality produce.

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

For a more intimate discovery, consider Le Ponant, with its 16 high-class staterooms and suites—perfect for private charter—sailing eight exclusive routes between Greece and Croatia, offering guests unparalleled experiences both onboard and ashore. Ponant’s commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences extends beyond itineraries. Aboard their ships, the luxury is in every detail. Unwind in opulent cabins and suites, each offering private balconies and breathtaking views of the azure water and destinations beyond.

Ponant’s upcoming European Journeys are more than just cruises—they’re your passport to a world of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and unrivalled luxury. Don’t miss this opportunity to embark on the voyage of a lifetime: the Mediterranean is calling.

To book European 2025 sailings visit au.ponant.com; call 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or contact your preferred travel agent.

 

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Saint Laurent Just Opened a New Bookstore in Paris. Here’s a Look Inside.

The chic new outpost is located on the city’s arty Left Bank.

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

The French fashion house, which only just opened an epic new flagship on Champs-Élysées, has launched a chic new bookstore on the Left Bank. Located in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Laurent Babylone is a mecca of art, music, literature, and, of course, fashion.

The new outpost is a tribute to the connection that Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé had to the Rue Babylone, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (In 1970, the pair moved to a 6,500-square-foot duplex on the street.) It is also inspired by the house’s original ready-to-wear boutique, Saint Laurent Rive Guache, which opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1966.

The exposed concrete in contrasted by sleek marble accents. SAINT LAURENT

With a minimalist, art gallery-like aesthetic, the space is anchored by a hefty marble bench and large black shelves. The raw, textured concrete on the walls is juxtaposed by a soft blue and white rug, a wooden Pierre Jeanneret desk, and sleek Donald Judd stools.

The wares within Saint Laurent Babylone are the most important part, of course. Curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the collection includes everything from photos by British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey to books published by Saint Laurent itself. Some tomes on offer are so rare that white gloves are required for handling.

The store also offers an enviable selection of records that are no longer being pressed. Highlights include Sade’s Promise, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, and the debut studio album of electronic band Kraftwerk.

Other notable items on the shelves include Leica cameras, chocolates made in collaboration with pastry chef François Daubinet, prints by Juergen Teller, and brass skull sculptures. You’ll also find an assortment of YSL merch, including pens, lighters, and cups.

To top it off, Saint Laurent Babylone will double as an event space, hosting live music sessions, DJ sets, book readings, and author signings over the coming months.

Saint Laurent’s latest endeavor isn’t exactly surprising. With Vaccarello at the helm, the Kering-owned fashion house has entered new cultural realms. Only last year, the label established a film production company and debuted its first movie at Cannes.

The space is fitted with a Pierre Jeanneret desk and Donald Judd stools.
SAINT LAURENT

Perhaps Saint Laurent film reels and movie posters will soon be available at Babylone, too.

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The Best Watches at the Grammys, From Maluma’s Jacob & Co. to Jon Batiste’s Vacheron Constantin

Music’s biggest names sported some outstanding watches on Sunday evening.

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

The woman of the moment, Taylor Swift, who made history by winning Album of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time, wore an unconventional Lorraine Schwartz choker watch to the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. That was just the tip of the horological iceberg, though.

Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma elevated a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds, while American musician Jon Batiste topped off a stylish Versace ensemble with a sleek Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon. Not to be outdone, rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for the occasion.

There was more understated wrist candy on display, too, such as Jack Antonoff’s Cartier Tank LC and Noah Kahan’s Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo.

For the rest of the best watches we saw on the Grammys 2024 red carpet, read on.

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

Maluma busted out some truly spectacular bling for this year’s Grammys. The Colombian singer-songwriter paired a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds. The sculptural wrist candy sees a four-arm movement floating in front of a breathtaking dial adorned with no less than 257 rubies. For added pizzaz, the lugs of the 18-karat rose-gold case are invisibly set with 80 baguette-cut white diamonds. Limited to just nine examples, the rarity is priced at $1.5 million.

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake may not have won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance for “Amapiano,” but did wear a winning Hublot Big Bang at Sunday’s proceedings. Released in 2023, the Essential Grey model is made purely of titanium for a sleek, uniform feel. The 42 mm timepiece was limited to just 100 pieces and cost $37,000 a pop.

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

Multihyphenate John Legend wore a legendary Audemars Piguet with silky Saint Laurent on Sunday evening. The self-winding Royal Oak in question features a 34 mm black ceramic case, a black grande tapisserie dial, and striking pink gold accents. The watchmaker’s signature is also displayed in gold under the sapphire crystal. The piece will set you back $81,000.

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

American musician Jon Batiste received four nominations but no wins at this year’s Grammys. The “Butterfly” singer can take solace in the fact that he looked ultra-sharp in Versace and Vacheron Constantin. A tribute to the spirit of travel, the Overseas Tourbillon features a 42.5 mm white-gold case, a bezel set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds, and a blue dial featuring a dazzling tourbillon cage inspired by the Maltese cross. Price upon request, naturally.

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

Fireboy DML’s outfit was straight fire on Sunday night. The Nigerian singer paired an MCM wool jacket with a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, several iced-out rings, and a sleek Cartier Santos. The timepiece features a steel case, a graduated blue dial with steel sword-shaped hands, and a seven-sided crown with synthetic faceted blue spinel.

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

Best New Artist nominee Noah Kahan wore one of Panerai’s best new watches to Sunday’s festivities. The Luminor Quaranta BiTempo features a 40 mm polished steel case and a black dial with luminous numerals and hour markers, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The timepiece can be yours for $14,000.

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a chic Audemars Piguet for this year’s Grammys. The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in question is distinguished by a 42 mm rose-gold case and a matching pink méga tapisserie dial with an outer flange for the tachymeter scale. The face is fitted with three black subdials, large black numerals, and a black date display at 3 o’clock. You can expect to pay around $61,200 for the chronograph on the secondary market.

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

Producer of the year Jack Antonoff took to the red carpet with a stylish Cartier on his wrist. The Tank Louis Cartier in question appears to be a large 33.7 mm example that features an 18-carat rose-gold case, a silvered dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and a brown alligator strap. It’ll set you back $19,900.

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This 44-Foot Carbon-Fiber Speedboat Can Rocket to 177 KMPH

The new Mayla GT is available with a range of different powertrains, too.

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

We knew the Mayla GT would be one of the most exciting boats at Boot Düsseldorf, but a deep dive into the specs shows it could be downright revolutionary.

The brainchild of German start-up Mayla, the 44-footer brings you the blistering performance of a speedboat and the luxe amenities of a motor yacht in one neat carbon-fiber package.

Inspired by the go-fast boats of the 1970s and ‘80s, the GT sports an angular, retro-futuristic body and the sleek lines of a rocket ship. Tipping the scales at just 4500 kilograms, the lightweight design features a deep-V hull with twin transversal steps and patented Petestep deflectors that help it slice through the waves with ease. In fact, Mayla says the deflectors decrease energy usage by up to 35 percent while ensuring a more efficient planing.

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

The GT is also capable of soaring at breakneck speeds, with the option of a gas, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrain. The range-topping GTR-R model packs dual gas-powered engines that can churn out 3,100 hp for a top speed of more than 100 knots (185 kph). At the other, more sustainable end of the spectrum, the E-GT is fitted with an electric powertrain that can produce 2,200 horses for a max speed of 50 knots. The hybrid E-GTR pairs that same electric powertrain with a 294 kilowatt diesel engine for a top speed of 60 knots (111 km/h/69 mph). (The GT in the water at Boot sported two entry-level V8s good for 650 hp and a top speed of over 70 knots.)

The GT is suitable for more than just high-speed jaunts, of course. The multipurpose cockpit, which can accommodate up to eight passengers, features a sundeck with sliding loungers, a wet bar and BBQ, and a foldaway dining table for alfresco entertaining. Further toward the stern, a beach club sits atop a garage with an electric transom door.

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

The GT is even fit for overnight stays. Below deck lies a cabin with a double bed, sofa, wardrobe, vanity, and en suite. You can also expect a high-tech entertainment system with TVs and premium audio.

As for price, the GT with the entry-level powertrain will cost between $2.7 million and $2.9, depending on the final configuration. (You can fine-tune the layout, hull color, and interiors, naturally.) Interested buyers can set up a sea trial with Mayla, with test-drives set to begin this spring in Europe.

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Red Centre

First Nations artist Shaun Daniel Allen joins forces with Chopard to create a timepiece inspired by the Australian landscape.

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

Shaun Daniel Allen does not look like your typical collaborator on a prestige watch. For one, Shal, as he prefers to be known (“There are many Shauns but only one Shal,” he explains), is more heavily tattooed than your average roadie. His youthful appearance, bad-boy ink and all, belies his 38 years and leads to a disconnect. 

He recounts being recognised on the street recently by a journalist, who, unable to remember his name, shouted out, “Chopard!” “I was with a friend,” Shal says, holding court in his apartment in Sydney’s inner city, “and he’s, like, ‘What the hell? Does that happen to you often?’”

Perhaps because of his body art, he reasons, “People don’t put me and Chopard together.” It’s not hard to understand the confusion, Shal adds; even he was taken aback when Chopard reached out to him about a potential collaboration a little more than a year ago. “When I first went in to see them, I was, like, I don’t know if I’m your guy. I’m not used to being in those rooms and having those conversations.”

He’ll have to adapt quickly to his new reality. Last month Chopard released Shal’s interpretation of the Swiss brand’s storied Alpine Eagle model, which in itself was a redo of the St. Moritz, the first watch creation by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (now Co-President of Chopard) in the late 1970s. 

Previewed at Sydney’s About Time watch fair in September, to not insignificant interest, and officially known as the Alpine Eagle Sunburnt, the exclusive timepiece—issued in a limited edition of 20—arrives as a stainless steel 41 mm with a 60-hour power reserve and a burnt red dial that brings to mind the searing Outback sun. Its see-through caseback features one of Shal’s artworks painted on sapphire glass.

When the reputable Swiss luxury brand approached Shal, they already had the red dial—a nod to the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil at different times of the day and gradated so that the shades become darker around the edges—locked in as a lure for Australian customers.

Shal was charged with designing an artful caseback and collectible hand-painted sustainable wooden case. After presenting a handful of paintings, each with his signature abstract motifs that pertain to indigenous emblems, tattoos and music, both parties landed on a serpentine image that evoked the coursing of rivers. “I have been painting a lot of water in this last body of work and the image we chose refers to the rivers at home,” he says, alluding to formative years spent at his grandfather’s, just outside of Casino.

It says a lot about Chopard, Shal points out, that they wanted to donate to a charity of his choosing. “Like everything else on this project,” he explains, “they were open to listening and taking new ideas on board and it actually felt like a collaboration, like they weren’t steering me into any corner.”

In another nice touch, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the watch will go to funding programs of the Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation—an organisation, established in 1995 by Bundjalung elders, whose work Shal saw firsthand after the 2022 eastern Australia flood disasters ravaged their area. “Seeing Ngunya Jarjum suffer from the floods,” he says, “and knowing how much they do for the community on Bundjalung Country was heartbreaking. I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”

So what’s it been like for this booster of Australian waterways to be swimming in the luxury end of the pool? “I’ve done a few things with brands,” he offers, referring to the Louis Vuitton project earlier this year at an art gallery in Brisbane, “but nothing on this scale. It’s definitely fancier than I’m used to but I’m not complaining.” Neither are watch aficionados.

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