“We wanted to preserve history.” Eduard Kurayev was talking about Berd Vay’e, the business that he and Albert Akbashev, a friend from their high school days in New York City, founded in 2014. “We wanted to show to the world the beauty of each watch.”
The company suspends vintage watch parts in Lucite, creating limited-edition sculptures that sell for $3,500 to $49,000 in 50 stores in locations including the United States, Dubai and Hong Kong — and on the forthcoming e-commerce section of the company’s website when it launches later this fall. (At Sotheby’s Important Watches auction in June in New York, “Sign Of The Times,” which had as many as 2,500 watch parts in a Lucite skull, sold for $17,640.)
Any one sculpture might have more than a thousand watch parts floating in it. But not just any old part qualifies.
Sitting recently at an outdoor cafe in Manhattan, where Berd Vay’e (pronounced BIRD VAI-yay) is headquartered, Mr. Kurayev pulled two watch barrels out of a wooden case. One barrel was plain stainless steel, drab and unremarkable. “It has no character,” he said dismissively.
The other was gold and detailed with tiny ridges. “This one has a great finish,” he said. “This one I keep.”
Creating a sculpture begins with such parts. “First, there’s getting the watch,” Mr. Kurayev, 42, said, “then disassembling it, sorting through the parts and coming up with a sketch and designing, which can take a good month.”
Mr. Kurayev said they found the parts online and in person — at watch forums, on eBay and through watch dealers, watchmakers and watch service centers from Ohio to Ukraine. “These are parts that used to be melted down for their gold,” he said. “Now, instead, we preserve them.”
While the company won’t share revenue figures, it said it had sold about 400 sculptures in the first eight months of 2021.
Berd Vay’e has 20 employees and, for production, it works with an atelier in Quebec where artisans encase chosen parts in up to 10 layers of Lucite. The uncured Lucite goes into a custom made autoclave set at approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) and 120 pounds per square inch. The temperature starts the polymerization process while the pressure removes air bubbles. Each piece takes 24 to 48 hours to fabricate and, Mr. Kurayev said, can weigh as much as 70 pounds.
The company also creates custom pieces, like the 30-piece limited edition sculpture it made for Danny Goldsmith to sell at his Goldsmith & Complications watch boutique in Delray Beach, Fla. Titled “America’s PasTIME,” the design is a 17-inch Lucite baseball bat featuring vintage watch parts and slivers from wood bats formerly owned by the Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ.
For another customer, the company customized one of its “Time Squared” sculptures, a cube poised on one point, with pieces of his grandfather’s pocket watch from the early 1900s.
Mr. Kurayev said he had a connection to a family timepiece, too. “I loved my father’s pocket watch,” by the Russian brand Molnija — so much that, at age 10, he took it apart to discover what made it tick. He destroyed the watch, he said, but it did fuel his interest in horology.
Years later, in 2013, he created a company called Swiss Made Corporation, which sells vintage and pre-owned Swiss watches (he is still the company president).
He was trying to come up with a novel way to decorate the Manhattan office when he decided to have some old watch parts suspended in Lucite and hung the result on the wall.
Several visitors liked it and wanted similar works for themselves. And Berd Vay’e — a combination of letters from the two founders’ names — was born.
And Mr. Kurayev’s mission was accomplished: “I didn’t want these old watch parts to be lost.”
Leave a Reply