It took some doing, and a somewhat circuitous route from India through Geneva to New York City. In 1955, Harry Winston met Ambaji Shinde, at that time working in India for an Indian jeweller named Nanubhai Jhaveri, designing jewellery for the maharajas and international clients. In 1959, Winston convinced Shinde to come to the Western world and work exclusively for the House that Winston built.
It was a momentous decision when it came; Shinde started working in Harry Winston’s Geneva office, and eventually arrived in the Big Apple in 1962. Shinde would, at various times over his career in New York, design pieces for such patrons as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, among countless others. He would make masterful hand-drawn renderings of the jewellery he was going to create, and many of the designs he made while working for the brand are still in place, at Harry Winston’s archives in New York City. To sit and listen to him, sitting in his modest office, all four walls covered with shelved folders of his work over the decades, was an education of the highest order (and one that this writer experienced in 2001). The icon died in 2003.
Last year marked six decades since Shinde’s first meeting with Winston. Now, in tribute to Shinde, Harry Winston has designed and released, in the context of The Premier Collection, a set of three Shinde watches, each with one of the master’s iconic designs hand-etched on the face. Only 50 of each watch were made, for a grand total of just 150 in the world.
Two of his necklace designs, and one tiara design, account for the three watches. Each dial is 100 per cent relief-engraved, using 24-karat gold thread, that itself measures a scant four-tenths of a millimetre. The watch dials are made of Grand Feu enamel flecked with gold, to give it a three-dimensional look; gold engraving provides a multi-layered effect that reveals great depth of colour. The Grand Feu enamelling technique is notoriously difficult, since it involves a kind of melding of the enamel, select oxides, and the gold under extremely high heat. The face is not actually painted on, and is all the more vivid for the process. Each watch has, as is appropriate to Harry Winston, 57 brilliant-cut diamonds, as well.
Shinde himself, a quiet-spoken and modest person with a sprightly sense of humour, but who really knew how to create not just great, timeless jewellery but also a consensus with his clients as to what would be best for them, would doubtless be pleased with these fine pieces.
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