With all the love for complex mechanics, one should not forget that the exterior of the watch sometimes takes as much effort to produce while its overall emotional impact can be even higher.
The watch industry is one of the last places where old crafts not only successfully survive in their original form, but are constantly evolving and perfected. Despite all the possibilities of the XXI century, manufactures with centenary traditions and expertise like Vacheron Constantin as well as relatively small independent brands like Kerbedanz don’t seem to abandon the services of artists, engravers or carvers on stone. The thing is that the hand of the real artisan always wins in compari-son with the machine.
Let’s start with a color. Look closely at the depth, shades and semitones of any enamel dial. Look at how it behaves in natural light. It seems almost alive, even in the absence of any drawings. As a re-sult of high-temperature firing, it is also very resistant to aging and retains its brightness for dec-ades. It is quite logical that any miniature picture created with the help of such technology causes a stunning effect. And when specialists are engaged in the production of cloisonné or champlevé enamel, and the paint does not just lie down on top, but becomes part of the relief or fills the out-lines marked with the finest golden thread, original works of art are born.
The industry willingly welcomes and stars from the outside. One of the most prominent European stone carvers, Hervé Obligi, who among other things once restored the masterpieces of the Louvre and Versailles, recently created dials for the Piaget Altiplano Malachite Marquetry Tourbillon and Altiplano High Jewelery Lapis Lazuli Tourbillon. Single pieces of malachite and lapis lazuli were cut into fragments of millimeter thick, and then polished to the desired shade. Producing each piece took from two to three weeks, and it was impossible to make any mistakes - in case of inaccuracy, the dial would have been thrown away.
A bird in the hand
The same meticulousness reigned at Bvlgari ateliers when creating a Diva Finissima minute repeater. Its dial was produced by adding a dozen layers of shimmering varnish of vegetable origin. After each treatment the canvas dried for two days, it was polished and sent for another round. Simulta-neously with the spraying of the final layer, the dial was sprinkled with gold sparkles, so that the materials clung together. After a month of work it was handed over to the jewelers to install dia-mond watch indexes, and only then to the watchmakers themselves. Of course, this technique, along with micro-sculptures or, say, bas-reliefs can be found only in the most exclusive products. The amount of manual labor and expended time simply excludes mass production. But sometimes all the above crafts suddenly converge at one point.
Celebrating the 280th anniversary, Jaquet Droz released a one-of-a-kind pocket watch – the Parrot Repeater. Even the moving automaton-birds and their hatching children, can’t distract the viewers attention from the most complicated jewelry ornament on the front cover, a large enamel parrot on the case back and the depth of the pastoral landscape brought to life by engravers and artists. The enthusiasm of the press and Baselworld visitors who had a chance to see the novelty in the metal was overwhelming. Let’s hope we see something like that soon enough. After all anniversaries of big brands who have their own metier d'art ateliers happen almost every year.
Nov. 19, 2018