Vacheron Constantin, the world's oldest manufacturer of fine watches, unveiled its stunning Metiers d'Arts Fabuleux Ornements line, consisting of four new ladies' models, at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, an annual watch fair held earlier this year in Geneva.
Inspired by dreams of faraway places, the new collection celebrates the decorative arts of four different cultures — China's ancient embroidery, India's colourfully illustrated manuscripts, the Ottoman Empire's architecture and France's famed lacework. Putting these intricate, precious and technically complicated timepieces together was a team of artisans, including masters in the arts of guillochage, "grand feu" enamelling, engraving and gemstone cloisonné work. The four exquisite feminine timepieces that were the fruit of all this labour were then equipped with a hand-engraved calibre (internal mechanism) to complement the dial's elaborate ornamentation.
China's ancient embroidery was represented through the cloisonné technique showcased on the watch's dial, which is carpeted with flowers made from rubies, cuprites and garnets. Like the silk thread used in Chinese embroidery, which was typically embellished with other precious fabrics, the graceful elegance of the gemstones, cut and sculpted according to the glyptic art, are adorned with finely engraved gold leaves and pistils. The impressive intricacy accomplished by master lapidaries and engravers pays a vibrant tribute to the traditional art of embroidery exercised for millennia in China.
To represent the richness of India's colourfully illustrated manuscripts, a master enameller used 10 vibrant colours to create Oriental-inspired flowers blooming against the background of a blue dial "sky". The foliage, which is meticulously hand-engraved after enamelling, heightens the radiance of the watch and echoes the engraving of the open-worked calibre. This is one of the most delicate stages, since even the slightest slip of the hand can jeopardise the entire creation.
Vacheron Constantin's artisans paid tribute to the architecture of the Ottoman Empire by creating a gold grid studded with half-pearl beads that echoes the scrolling pattern seen in Middle Eastern buildings. Arabesques were also engraved on the calibre. The meticulously executed decoration on the rings, featuring strings of tiny bead shapes coined along the edges, add to the magic of the workmanship.
The art of guillochage, "grand feu" enamelling and gem-setting were used to create luminous, white-gold French lacework. This artfully polished spun-lace pattern is reminiscent of the grand tradition of French-style embroidery. The base of the gold dial is clad in a guilloche motif lending subtle depth to the transparent enamel.
The watches in the Metiers d'Art Fabuleux Ornements collection also bear the prestigious hallmark of Geneva, a guarantee of provenance, durability and expertise. The certification no longer applies to the calibre alone, but to the timepiece as a whole, a major evolution for this token of fine craftsmanship that enjoys the long-standing support of Vacheron Constantin.
Metiers d’Arts Fabuleux Ornements, Indian Manuscript.
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- Writer: Pamela Tan