When I saw Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon at the Jewelers of America show in July, he was, as always, eager to show me his latest work: the Dangerous Flowers collection was new, as were several skull styles. But it was the oxidized silver framework of a wristwatch—a half complete commission for a pair of collectors who found the artist a year and a half ago in his Manhattan shop—that he was most excited to talk about.
A Saudi Arabian couple that traveled to the States during last year’s Ramadan season to escape the oppressive heat of their homeland have now purchased multiple pieces from the Turkish-born designer. The wife’s English language skills aren’t perfect, though, and she’s struggled to communicate with Sagnak, who has grown accustomed to talking primarily with the husband. But in January, Sagnak understood enough of her broken English to know it was going to be a fun one: “Watch… bat… big.”
With just that vague idea in mind and a request for a Rolex mechanism—plus a sense of other pieces, including crocodile and piranha motifs, the woman already had in her collection—Sagnak went to work on the design, which took three weeks to formulate. Then he took one week to make the rendering, specially appointed with details like arches, vaults, and buttressed effects commonly found in medieval churches, but on a microscopic scale, to appeal to the architect husband.
“I put on architectural details so he might buy a second one for himself,” says Sagnak. A second sale did not occur, but the couple was keen to order the original for the wife.
The finished model is a mind-boggling sight: hard to look away from, and inspiring an instantaneous desire to know how the heck it came into being. Two vampire bats in 18k yellow gold embrace a silver dial with a design that mimics the pergola above that is crowned with a rose-cut diamond, while a silver fruit bat perches on the winder. The buyers also wanted to take the Rolex idea a step further by having Sagnak feature an interpretation of the brand’s logo on the watch—a move that many in the industry would undoubtedly shy away from for trademark purposes—but a challenge that the wily Ankaran transplant took up with gusto, turning out an über discrete impression: the spindly fingers of the fruit bat clutch the watch sides in a manner that hints at the silhouette of the crown. “It’s my humor, my joke, ” says Sagnak wryly.
The final retail price of $32,000 is no joke, and the new owner received the piece two weeks ago during the couple’s most recent trip to the States.
Bats are such a specific look that one might wonder, why a bat watch? Why not a flower, or something more feminine? Sagnak says he has no idea, but that the client knows what she likes when she sees it, including the “detail we make in the living objects we emulate,” he says.
High praise from the woman came in both Arabic and in English: “She told me mashallah, which means that she admired it a lot,” says Sagnak. “She also told me ‘you are genius.’
The Bat Watch in silver and 18k gold with diamonds from Atelier Minyon
Closeup of Atelier Minyon’s Bat Watch features an artistic nod to the Rolex logo in the spindly fingers of a fruit bat.