This first Vacheron Constantin SIHH 2014 post is perhaps a follow up to this post from SIHH 2013. The latest addition to Vacheron’s Métiers d’Art, this year’s collection of four watches again illustrates how how this line produces some really quite exquisite timepieces.
One thing I have discovered about the Métiers d’Art pieces over the years is that even if you’re not someone who would wear these pieces, it is impossible not to appreciate the skills and artistry that goes into them. However, they aren’t just about watches being merely vehicles to show off artisans’ skills, they are also dead serious watches as well.
The Métiers d’Art – Fabuleux Ornements collection for women is a boutique-only limited edition of 20 pieces each. At their heart they are interpretations of age-old crafts from China, India, France and the Ottoman Empire, but at their horological heart they are a classic Vacheron ultra-thin (1.64mm) manual wind calibre 1003 (power reserve 31 hours) being shown off in a hand engraved 37mm (and 8mm thick) openwork watch. Engraved wheel trains, hand-drawn bridges – even without the additional thematic notes to the dials of each piece these would be beautiful watches in and of themselves.
Firstly, my favourite of the four – Indian Manuscript.
In 18K 5N pink gold, the decoration in this pieces is Grand Feu champlevé enamelling and hand engraving, with 64 diamonds around the bezel (0.89 carats). There are ten colours used in the enamelling, and when you remind yourself that each colour involves a different temperature in its creation, you begin to understand how much work has gone into it. The colours in this watch are vibrant, and what drew me to this watch over the other three was the palette used, the pale blue background and the stronger colours used as decorative contrast. It’s a very arresting piece, perhaps in some ways less delicate than the other three, but it is this which engages with me.
The second piece (above) is inspired by Ottoman architecture, with the key decorative crafts being chamfering, and the use of mother-of-pearl for the dial, and applied half pearls of varying sizes. The latticework on the dial is hand-bevelled and reflects the scrollwork of the Ottoman architecture that inspired this design. Each edge is hand-bevelled. The decoration is called ‘milgrain’ (meaning a thousand grains and referring to decoration on the edges of the surface of a piece of jewellery), and the craftsmanship is extended to the engraved calibre, visible through an open case back (as is the case with all models). The Ottoman also has 64 diamonds on the bezel.
Thirdly we have ‘French Lace’, which uses hand guillochage, Grand Feu enamelling and gem-setting.
The eponymous lacework is white gold and highlighted with pink and blue sapphires and diamonds in its floral elements. Soft colours to reflect the softness of lace. The dial itself is not just hand guilloched but also a translucent Grand Feu enamel, to reflect lace’s transparency.
The fourth piece in this series is the Chinese embroidery influenced timepiece, known as the ‘Chinese Embroidery Glyptics’, with gemstone cloisonné, traditionally associated with China, and engraving.
The dial is a rose-coloured opal plate, with ruby, cuprite and garnet flower, which have engraved gold leaves. If you look at it under a loupe, you can see the plant veins and lines engraved into the rubies. The pink opals were individually cut and lapped to form a tapestry of stones on the dial’s base, with 0.5mm white gold separation lines.
During the press presentation we were told that the objective of these pieces was to have a feminine open-worked creation. Although I acknowledge that I’d have probably preferred the bezels to be simple and unadorned to let the beauty of the dials stand on their own, the open working, the craftsmanship that went into the dials, and the designs chosen for each of the themes, are really quite remarkable ‘in the metal’. These are exquisite pieces, almost dreamlike. Unfortunately, as they are in a limited edition of twenty pieces each, the chances are that most of you won’t be able to see one, but should the opportunity arise, grab it.