Robert Lee Morris is an acclaimed jewelry designer who also has an eye for watches (he has even designed a few in his day). Here, in his own words, are his perspectives on watches, art, and design during his 45 years in the business.
ON HIS CAREER
The late 1960s, when I graduated Beloit College, were the days when crafts and art were often seen battling it out over whose work was more artistic.
Using bold African glass beads and bold shapes of shiny brass or silver, I created a new kind of
fun look that got all the editors and stylists to suddenly pay close attention to my unique and high fashion style.
In 1974, I was the new jewelry maker in town, and I suddenly found all the high fashion editors and clothing designers were watching what I
was doing …
I ended up being at the right place at the right time with the right product for a market that was bored with the traditional status symbol of diamonds and was excited to jump into the fun fashion circus of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.
I feel my greatest accomplishment happened a long time ago, in 1975, when I designed the Knuckle ring, and I saw a universe of potential. This one single ring became the “brand driver.” I see the discovery of a strong message in one iconic piece of jewelry that became the definition of my design philosophy for the remainder of my career.
In 1977 I opened my own artist jewelry gallery, ARTWEAR, representing over 50 of the most artistic jewelry designers that I knew around the world. In 1983 I was asked by Donna Karan to collaborate with her and Louis Dell’Olio at Anne Klein. In 1985 I was asked by Donna again to follow her to her new company called Donna Karan Collection. This began a historically important collaboration between us that influenced the joint worlds of fashion and jewelry.
Each and every collaboration has strengthened me and challenged me to move into new areas. Hanging onto my signature style while creating something new is something that only collaboration with a true design partner would allow.
My first Robert Lee Morris watch from 1996 had a slightly “Moon Crater” round, matte concave face and no logo. It had a minimal number system,
with raised dots, and was manufactured in sterling silver and leather by Swiss Watch Company in Switzerland.
I can say that some of the watches I got were mistakes, but love was the power behind the gifts. One of my favorites is the Hermés square face with the double wrap leather strap. After all the glorious watches I have been given or have purchased, my own moon watch with a square face on an all silver band is the favorite of all my watches.
Ultimately, it’s a boy’s game, the love of gadgets and functional machines that are to be worn; Jewelry, watches, buckles and hardware, chains and insignias, and the various ways it can be much like solving a puzzle.
—As Told to Hyla Bauer