Alexander Shorokhoff is profoundly Russian, and is proud to proclaim it, like those countrymen who have greatly inspired him and to whom he has dedicated some of his collections: Peter Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alexander Pushkin, and Leo Tolstoy. His “Russianness” is also seen in his deep artistic sensibility, whether in his choice of shapes, materials, and colours or in his love of artisanal crafts—quite the opposite of today’s dominant industrial coldness.
Like those from whom he draws inspiration, Shorokhoff is Russian by his cosmopolitan vision. Established for more than twenty years in Germany in the small town of Alzenau, not far from Frankfurt, he runs a watchmaking atelier employing some fifteen people. His brand’s reputation has been built upon the noble artisanal specialty of engraving the movement. This hand-engraving is often pushed to the extreme and features various shapes, curves, and contrasting materials, all of which give his pieces a unique and very recognizable “Russian” allure. “We must, at all costs, differentiate ourselves from the others,” he explains, “because offering something different—unique in all senses of the term since each watch is truly exclusive—is really one of the only ways we can counter the ruthless competition of the large global luxury brands. This manual and decorative approach is also found in the very special and clearly affirmed design of our timepieces. I might also mention that we use colour on the dials as well as in the movements. I can assure you that it took a lot of courage to dare to propose polychrome watches such as our provocative Miss Avantgarde.”
The courage of colour
Garnering a lot of attention at the last Basel-World show, Shorokhoff’s Miss Avantgarde is emblematic of the particular style of the Russian watchmaker. Unlike any other timepiece, the Miss Avangarde line (reference AS.AVG02) features a dial divided into time sections, each with a different colour and motif: black, blue, green, red, yellow, white, and silver; with designs such as chessboard, stripes, geometric forms, circles, and spirals in provocative styles while still allowing for easy reading of the time.
Crafted with the cold enamel technique, the dial has indices made of brilliants surmounted by a very large and symbolic number “60” that is found in all the pieces of the Avantgarde collection. Equipped with an automatic ETA 2824 movement, its rotor is also, as we would expect, hand-engraved. Available in a limited series of 500, selling for € 990, this talking piece is, in the words of its designer Alexander Shorokhoff, “not for everyone.” It is rather a demonstration of creative freedom in the form of “an alternative to what is being proposed by the large dominant brands.”
On the masculine side, this demonstration of creative liberty takes the name of Watch Dandy (reference AS.AVG01), available in a limited series of 168 watches featuring a 43.5-mm steel case, water-resistance to 5 ATM, automatic ETA 2824 movement, and engraved rotor. The black dial is engraved with the Clou de Paris motif and is partially covered with a strange design of lines that makes the viewer wonder if these forms represent “space or the lightning movements of a Ninja, and if they are traditional or high-tech,” says Alexander Shorokhoff with a smile.
But he also presents his Avantgarde collection, launched in 2011, as an expression of the “German portion” of his Russian soul. Here, we find an entire series of manual or automatic chronographs on a Dubois Dépraz modfied ETA base as well as a chronograph with a Valjoux base made in Russia whose display has been transformed into a regulator. There is also a more classic model—the New Portuguese—whose dial is engraved with braided motifs, which is available in four colours. Also surmounted by the number “60,” this Avantgarde line is more tempered and more classic in appearance than the Heritage line. As its name indicates, the latter is based on the very Russian ideas of its creator.
Launched in 2003, the Heritage collection is made up of the artisanal lines named Peter Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alexander Pushkin, and Leo Tolstoy. For this collection, each timekeeper is entrusted entirely to the care of a master watchmaker who must see the piece to its completion. (Thus, each piece comes with a certificate signed by one of the head watchmakers.)
One of the most richly engraved timepieces comes from the Leo Tolstoy line. Each movement—in this case the Russian 3133, which is identical to a Valjoux calibre—is completely dismantled, hand-engraved right down to the smallest details, then patiently reassembled, adjusted, and checked. Each movement is therefore totally unique and some even more exclusive models are completely skeletonised and inserted into cases that are also richly engraved.
One of the most recent examples of this highly skilled artisanal work is the alarm watch in the Peter Tchaikovsky line. It is equipped with a Schild movement, also made in Russia, of which Alexander Shorokhoff purchased all the remaining calibres. The particularity of this watch is that it can be placed in a vertical position to become a veritable mechanical alarm clock. Distributed in thirty countries—including Germany, Great Britain, and the USA—this niche brand is especially appreciated in Asian countries. The markets of Japan, Hong Kong (in twelve stores in this city alone), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines are becoming increasingly fond of this elegant and artisanal alternative timepiece that combines German watchmaking rigour with the complex Russian soul.
Source: Europa Star October - November 2012 Magazine Issue