Uninterrupted views of Lion's Head and Signal Hill, and the magnificent Company’s Garden on my doorstep, contributed significantly to my mental well-being last year. For reasons I chose not to question, the Company’s Garden was also the only park that remained open. I always felt less anxious after a stroll or a run up Government Avenue, with a detour through the rose and herb gardens. I’d also plot the longest route to the Gardens Shopping Centre for supplies, meandering via De Waal Park and the reservoir, taking in the sights, hushed sounds, and heady scents of my nature-enveloped city, rebooted as things came to a standstill.
Scent and emotion have strong ties. Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system — the most primitive part of the brain, believed to be the centre of basic emotions. I was driving back to the city from the southern suburbs recently after collecting a well-maintained, ’70s “Calypso orange” Kenwood Chef A901, which I’d sourced for a friend who’d decided to try their hand at baking. There was a pleasantly familiar “new” smell in the car that instantly brought back memories of my granny’s kitchen. Granny was very proper and would rather die than be without something sweet and savoury to present to guests — even if they dropped in unannounced.
I recall all the machines whizzing and whirling, followed by Operation Clean-Up: finger-licking the sickly sweet remnants until the bowls were spotless. The smell in the car, however, wasn’t freshly whipped meringue, or guavas and mulberries just plucked from the overladen trees outside, but rather the metallic tang of electric motors and lubricating grease, which I now know to be integral to those memories. Our sense of smell is powerful, but most often taken for granted — as so many people discovered through their unfortunate Covid-related loss of taste and smell in the past 18 months.
As a break from the oppression of winter and government restrictions, hopefully this spring brings the change and rebirth we need. And with it, some healing rays of warmth and the opportunity to indulge all of our senses by connecting with nature in the wilds or in a beautifully considered garden. Human intervention in most things has landed us in a mess, but gardens reveal our ability to co-exist symbiotically. The wild spontaneity of nature has inspired human creativity for centuries, in art, design, music, and science.
While painters, composers, and gardeners have tried to interpret or “control” aspects of nature, watchmakers have navigated its seasonal cycles and worked with its valuable materials. Gardens are a living form of art that condense time and space. From public to private, from traditional to contemporary, from rooftops to follies, gardens such as those at Babylonstoren in the Western Cape, Giardino Giusti in Verona, and the High Line in New York are some of the most inspiring spaces in the world. They offer us some respite from noise pollution and troubles, a place to dream, and a change of tempo as we reset our body clocks.
The success of Rado’s partnership with Grandi Giardini Italiani, an association of major gardens in Italy and Malta, in 2017 was the seed of its True Thinline Nature collection. Four years on, Rado is “celebrating exceptional design, eternal nature, and futuristic materials, in equal measure” with three new models that continue the partnership and extend it to include celebratory gardens around the world. A source of inspiration for a new generation of garden lovers and designers, Great Gardens of the World is a global network of international gardens, garden designers, and landscape architects.
Our featured piece is “Chapter 1” in the new collection. Its polished turquoise, high-tech ceramic case is made from a monobloc construction and frames an exquisite tonal mother-of-pearl dial. The dial decorations are executed in filigree and cloisonné with nature-inspired motifs and jasmine flowers, unobstructed behind rose gold hands. At each index, a Top Wesselton diamond adds a delicate note of brilliance. The titanium case back has a smoked sapphire crystal window for a full view of the Rado calibre R763 automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve. The collection is water-resistant to 50m, just in case you get caught in a summer afternoon downpour or have a skinny dip on a nature trail.
R42 900-R46 900, rado.com or Treger Group 011 089 6000
• From the October edition of Wanted, 2021.