More than time
“Then watches were only chronometers – measurers of time, which one got constantly caught out by,” said Torun. “I wanted to free people form the slavery of time, I wanted to make a watch which reminded one that life is here and now.”
She added: “The relentlessness of time is what I abhor, so I designed a watch with no numbers. It was intended to be an ornament, not a chronometer. At first it only had a seconds hand, but when Georg Jensen began producing the watch in 1967, we added both the hour and minute hands. The bracelet did not completely encircle the wrist but was left open at the outside so as not to feel oneself a prisoner of time.”
In 1968 Torun moved to Wolfsburg, Germany, and then in 1975 to Wendhausen to live closer to a Subud community. The relationship with Georg Jensen had allowed her to stop worrying about making a living and concentrate on her art. Those years in Germany were extremely productive, seeing her branching out from jewellery and designing handbags and crockery.
In 1978 she moved to Indonesia, to be closer still to the spiritual centre of Subud. There she continued her work, setting up a workshop and helping underprivileged local people to create and sell their own jewellery. She also drew artistic inspiration from her new home, being exposed to a different set of natural materials. In 1989, she designed a gold necklace for Georg Jensen, made from Indonesian gold.
The relationship with Georg Jensen continued right up until Torun’s death in 2004. And beyond, in fact, with the company now offering an expanded range of Vivianna Bangle watches available in materials including black PVD, rose gold, and silver with a diamond-studded dial.
That is not a bad legacy for someone who didn’t really like the idea of watches.
“The fact that she didn’t like to be trapped, to be a prisoner of time, means she would never have wanted to design a watch,” said Meeling Wong, Head of Jewellery at Georg Jensen. “It is quite a paradox that she did design one – someone who was so adamant, as she always used to say, that ‘the time is now, now, now’.”
But maybe she had a lesson for us all about watches. When she reflected back on her Vivianna Bangle design she said: “A watch should not make us prisoners of time – but liberate us. Perhaps it is possible to make a timepiece which more intensely perceives the Here and Now. The watch is open-ended to symbolise that time should not bind us, and the dial like a mirror reminds us that life is now.”
That is something everyone would do well to think about – even those that are less prone to behaving recklessly.