Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the greatest of American artistic visionaries. Much more than just an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was a designer of the first order, who incorporated elements of the natural world into his structures, and considered every detail of what would be placed inside of them, from the light fixtures to the furniture, to every bit of decor. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, exists to preserve Wright’s legacy through education and influencing the growth of the architecture and design disciplines. This year, to celebrate the big 80th anniversary, the foundation has partnered with Bulova to create a series of watches that honor Frank Lloyd Wright’s life by subtly incorporating his work and design philosophy into these new timepieces.
We had a chance to chat with the Bulova design team about the current Frank Lloyd Collection. Here are some highlights from that conversation.
How did the relationship between the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Bulova begin, and why is it important for Bulova as a brand?
Our relationship began back in the mid-1990s when licensed products and collectables were very popular. Bulova had several licenses at that time, such as Royal Dalton and Pfaltzgraff, both of whom did ceramics along with the miniatures. Only Frank Lloyd Wright remains from that grouping on the home décor side. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Bulova collaboration has survived as the two brands complement each other both in quality, design distinctiveness and history. The partnership helps set Bulova apart from other brands. The Wright’s history and his influence bring another level of design elements to Bulova watches which make the products unique. This collaboration exposes our brand to unique channels, such as museums and Wright sites, environments where you just won’t find other watch brands.
What initiatives supported by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are important to Bulova?
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, not simply for the architecture for which he is most known. As design and innovation has always been important to the Bulova brand it is an honor to be associated with the Wright legacy, as the great architect was always ahead of his time and is arguably more relevant today than even in his own lifetime. Bulova is proud to partner with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in its mission to inspire people to discover and embrace an architecture for better living through meaningful connections to nature, the arts, and each other.
We’re also excited to learn that the Foundation has announced it is reopening Taliesin West for tours after closing in March due to the pandemic. They will be introducing a new self-guided audio tour, along with their popular Insights Tour, all in adherence with CDC guidelines for the safety of visitors and staff. In addition to getting an intimate and inspiring experience of Wright’s home and studio in Arizona, visitors can all stop in the Frank Lloyd Wright Store to shop our watches and other Wright inspired products in person.
What are some of the design challenges in creating a watch that’s inspired by the work of an architect?
The biggest challenge in designing a watch inspired by the work of an architect is finding the elements of that work that will translate well to an object, but in a much smaller scale. A designer has to key in on these elements and make the necessary changes (either emphasizing or deemphasizing them) so they strike the correct balance with the overall watch. That said, designing a watch based on Wright’s work is a unique challenge in that his career spanned a variety of disciplines. His graphic work for example, often includes basic geometric forms layered to create a dimensional piece. In designing a watch around these works, it’s important to find the most interesting elements and either represent them graphically on the dial. Or deconstruct them to create forms for other parts.
“December Gifts” is a somewhat obscure Wright design – why was it chosen as the inspiration for a watch in this collection?
Not only was Wright an architect, but a graphic designer as well, and we wanted to show that element of his work. He designed 12 monthly magazine covers for Liberty Magazine back in 1927. Each cover celebrated the season or a holiday of a particular month. These covers were never published as they were thought to be too avantgarde for the time. The designs are an important expression of Wright’s fundamental geometric forms that became foundational to all of his work. But the artwork has lent itself to be interpreted into many other concepts and product categories. There are so many interesting elements within the design that December Gifts, like all of Wright’s work, is timeless. On the 80thAnnniversary watch (97A157), we keyed in on a corner of this graphic design and used it as the foundation for the dial. We highlighted the geometric elements with an architectural 3D caging of which part encircles the Bulova logo.
How does Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Organic Commandment” relate to watch design?
Organic architecture was the primary principle that guided all of Wright’s life and work. He believed that human work should be inspired by how all elements of the natural world work in harmony with each other. Frank Lloyd Wright from Bulova watches are similarly guided by creating cohesive and beautiful designs that incorporate all watch components.
The Organic Commandment is represented on the back of a unique case for the piece, expressing the importance Wright ascribed to geometry and how he continues to have a significant impact on the fields of architecture and design. Please note when you look at the full December gifts artwork you can see each of these elements within it. The basic geometry of circle, square, triangle and the continuum of the lines. Wright represented one of his famous philosophies in the geometric designs as follows:
The Circle= Love is the virtue of the Heart
The Square= Sincerity the virtue of the Mind
The Triangle= Courage the virtue of the Spirit
The Lines= Decision the virtue of the Will
What role does the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation play in supporting and developing the design of these watches?
The Foundation has been a great partner in letting us visit and work in their Collections at Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home and the Foundation’s headquarters, along with viewing their Archives digitally. In addition, we have collaborative meetings to discuss designs and how they can work on a watch dial. The Foundation has the desire to show the breadth of Wright’s work and allow talented designers the liberty to interpret them for new products. Wright was always translating his design principles into different applications and it is important for the licensing program to continue that tradition.
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