“Are you sure?” he asked.
He wasn’t so much doubting his artistic ability, as he was the fit between him and Chopard. You see, the Swiss watch and jewellery brand has been around for over 150 years and counts royalty as some of its returning customers. Defined by an almost unbelievable attention to detail and craftsmanship, Chopard is the definition of luxury, with one of its timepieces fetching nearly $3 million at auction in 2015. Shal, on the other hand is an artist who is covered almost head-to-toe in tattoos and spends his free time as the vocalist in a hardcore punk band. You can forgive him the trepidation.
“When they asked, I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of crazy’,” laughs Shal. “And as I read more about it, I was like, ‘This is really crazy.”
It wasn’t long before Shal saw the vision. After doing some initial paintings to “get a vibe” of the partnership, he started to learn more about Chopard. Digging deeper beyond the luxury facade, he realised they are in essence a “small family company”, having been acquired by the Scheufele family in 1963.
“They’re not trying to follow trends,” he explains. “The family thing is great; I love that the most. But I think they’re just like, ‘We do this thing really well and we don’t try to do all this other stuff’… They’re trying to keep their integrity and not be anything they’re not.”
Shal explains that the collaboration is born from a desire to create something meaningful, not simply increase sales. The result is a partnership where each party is empowered to do what they do best: Shal the artist and Chopard the watchmaker. When he realised the blank slate in front of him, Shal at first opted for a simple approach. Used to working on huge canvases, he believed the relatively small space of a watch dial would mean he would have to pare back the detail for which he’s renowned. Wrong again.
“They were like, No! Load it full of texture,” says Shal.
In the end, Shal came up with four designs that they narrowed down to one in a “sunburnt red” colour reminiscent of the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil. For the first time ever on a Chopard watch, the dial features a colour gradient, with the shades becoming darker around the edges, mirroring the gradients of the soil when light catches it during the day. We arrive at a watch dial that feels distinctly, and proudly, Australian. For Shal, who is wearing one of the models himself when we speak, is still taken aback by the creation.
“You can see the brush strokes on it,” he says. “It’s actually insane when you look close.”
For Shal, there’s another reason to love the timepiece and support the collab, beyond the stunning design. A portion of proceeds of each watch sold will go toward the charitable organisation of his choice, Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation. During the recent floods, he was back home on Bundjalung country and realised the extent of the work they do for the community.
“Ngunya Jarjum work to support families to nurture their children, raise them on country, and preserve our culture and strength into the future,” explains Shal. “I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”
Exclusively available from Chopard boutiques in Australia.