A clock is the most fascinating invention of man where science, mechanism and art come together with utmost precision. A batch of intricate parts is immaculately constructed to measure time in a phenomenal display of creativity. It is this precision and creativity that designer Abhishek Basak strives to infuse into Absynthe Design, the label under which he creates the most exquisite and unique accessories made of old watch parts.
Every piece is one-of-a-kind, crafted to mesmerise the onlooker while he tries to mentally deconstruct the layers of painstaking mastery put into each bijouterie. For instance, if you look into the scorpion brooch, there are 48-minute parts forming only the eight foldable (so they hug the contours of the body when worn) legs of the insect. The rest is pieced together with tiny parts collated from antique timepieces. A microscopic vision would even show the engravings done by watch smiths in the 1820s. Basak dismantled them carefully so that the chassis was retained, and restructured them to form the body of the jewel. Beetle wings add the psychedelic sheen while a watch bracelet lines the tail. The claws are from real crayfish.
“I have them as pets at home and collect their moulted shells for my work,” the designer explains. He makes neckpieces, earrings and earmuffs as well as men’s accessories and even pens from old watches and clocks. If the watch is still ticking, he tries to fix it into a functional condition, if not, the parts go into making jewellery. Silver is used to bring it all together, finished with antiquated gold coating.
Absynthe, the name derived from the potent Victorian drink, was set up in 2013 when Basak decided to take his hobby seriously. “The response to my first exhibition in Mumbai was like a shot in the arm. Often designers create keeping the demography of the audience in mind. In that exhibition I saw children as young as seven and women of 65 excited by what they saw. I decided to quit my job and launch Absynthe. Like the Victorian drink, I wanted my designs to drive people crazy,” he quips, pointing out that the spiders, florals and insect shapes that are inherent to his designs are derived from his belief that man and nature should strike a happy balance.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, the designer recalls that a love for the arts was always a quality he was encouraged to develop. “My parents were into telecommunications but loved the arts. When I visited their office in Dalhousie, I would be transported to a different era what with all the colonial buildings around me. The furniture, clocks and everything influenced my mind. My mother kept saying—‘don’t be scared to do new things’. The thought triggered my enrolment in a fashion course at NIFT in Hyderabad. I had no clue about design, but I was willing to give my creativity a dedicated chance,” recalls Basak, who has always been a natural storyteller as a student and storytelling is what he peppers his creations with.
“The presentation is of paramount importance. Every piece should hook the onlooker with an engrossing story. There were many stories behind watches and clocks. It’s like turning one leaf of a book at a time,” says the designer. Besides jewellery, he also restores old radios and stereos—he retains the outer design or shell, but digitises them from inside. There are table accessories such as old typewriters made to function as lamps, and curios crafted out of leftovers of clocks and watch parts that he has already used in making jewellery.
Sourcing antique watches, clocks and sundry other collectibles from all over the world, Basak ensures that no two designs are the same. “Every piece should be precious to the owner. I am not bothered by duplication because if anyone can dare to create these beauties, they deserve to. Creativity cannot be restricted. It’s a flowing stream.”