Vacheron Constantin – Les Métiers d’Art for Infinite Horizons – Trends and style

Some journeys are defined by the number of kilometers traveled, while others are stationary, taking place over an area as small as the diameter of a coin. In the workshops of Vacheron Constantin, where experienced craftsmen – engravers, guillocheurs, enamellers and gem-setters – rub shoulders with each other, the culture of travel does not force the traveler to cross wide open spaces. Historical journeys, human and artistic odysseys, fascinating escapades through the world and its cultures, sublimate the art of watchmaking on the dials and cases of the brand’s Métiers d’Art collections.

The Manufacture has cultivated these ancestral know-how throughout its history. “From the 18th century, Vacheron Constantin followed two parallel paths, accompanying the art of watchmaking with a strong artistic expression“, observes Christian Selmoni, Style and Heritage Director of Vacheron Constantin. “Crafts such as guilloche, enamelling, setting and engraving developed considerably in the first half of the 19th century. Although interest in these watches waned in the 1970s and were almost entirely forgotten in the decade that followed.

It was only with the revival of traditional watchmaking in the early 1990s that we witnessed a gradual return of Métiers d’Art timepieces to the forefront of the watchmaking scene. This interest increased from the 2000s and over the past thirty years, we have seen the most impressive creations that have marked the artistic heritage of the House.

Mercator © Vacheron Constantin

1994-1996: from Mercator to Audubon

“In the 1990s, we were producing a few pocket watches with miniature enamel dials, mainly to bring these crafts to life, but the production of these parts was very limited,” says Selmoni. In 1994, the Métiers d’Art began to gain ground. on the wrist, as illustrated by the Mercator watch, whose enamel dial presents a miniaturized version of the maps of the different hemispheres drawn by the famous Flemish mathematician and geographer of the 16th century.In 1996, a limited series with champlevé enamel dials presented drawings by naturalists Jean-Jacques Audubon As beautiful as it is, this classic contribution to the renaissance of craftsmanship in contemporary watchmaking does not yet represent the singularity of the aesthetic vocabulary that characterizes Vacheron Constantin today.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Audubon © Vacheron Constantin

2007: Métiers d’Art Les Masques

In 2007, the collection of unique Métiers d’Art Les Masques pieces marked a turning point. “Until that time, the Crafts illustrated a more traditional mode of expression,” recalls Selmoni. “They echoed the settings and ideas of the past, which was a good response to the demand of collectors. With Les Masques, however, we gave ourselves a new space of creative freedom where we were able to break existing codes. In collaboration with the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, which has a fabulous collection of ancient and tribal art, Vacheron Constantin has reproduced a different tribal mask on the dial of each watch with a gold engraving associated with multiple surface treatments, such as oxidations, patinas, and even miniature painting. These strikingly realistic miniature masks were each adorned with texts by the poet Michel Butor, who was contacted by the brand to collaborate on the project.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Crafts Masks © Vacheron Constantin

2010: Métiers d’Art Chagall and the Paris Opera

After the success of the Masks, Vacheron Constantin continued to assert its style in 2010 with the Métiers d’Art Chagall and the Paris Opera watches. The centerpiece of a series of 15 unique pieces, it presented an enamelled reproduction by Anita Porchet of the ceiling of the Opéra Garnier painted by Marc Chagall in 1964. It was a masterpiece of 200 m2 miniaturized on a dial of 31.5 mm! “When we discovered the piece, the work was so incredible that we decided to keep it for our private collection,” recalls Selmoni.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Métiers d’Art Chagall and the Paris Opera © Vacheron Constantin

2012: Métiers d’Art Les Univers Infinis

Inspired by the work of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, the designers at Vacheron Constantin have created the Métiers d’Art Les Univers Infinis series, which combines all the know-how they mastered in-house. “This watch is particularly surprising,” explains Selmoni. “One motif creates another and is repeated endlessly, between the angels, we see demons. This model shows incredible creativity and is a tour de force of craftsmanship. The engraver first worked the demons on the back of the gold dial, then the enameller applied a layer of translucent champlevé enamel. The angels were then made by the guilloche artist who removed the equivalent of a human hair using his pink motor machine to create these figurative designs. Here, this very ancient know-how is expressed in a particularly contemporary way.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Crafts The Infinite Universes © Vacheron Constantin

2016: Crafts, Cities of Lights

Grand feu champlevé enamel is a know-how transmitted within the Manufacture since its founding in 1755. In 2016, Vacheron Constantin explored a new path by inviting the Japanese artist Yoko Imai to combine his art with that of enameller craftsman. “Yoko deposited up to 50,000 grains of gold, platinum and diamond shavings, one by one, on the dials to represent the night sky of cities like Paris or New York. The result of these two combined techniques offers a striking play of chiaroscuro. “This series is also a testament to our commitment to continue working with independent artists and artisans,” adds Selmoni. “It’s a way to support them and keep their skills alive. ”

Crafts for infinite horizons

Crafts Cities Lights © Vacheron Constantin

2018: Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers

In 2018, Vacheron Constantin continued its journey to the heart of the Crafts. This time, it is aboard five hot-air balloons in engraved and micro-sculpted gold on a translucent plique-à-jour enamel background that the Manufacture takes collectors to new horizons. This faithful miniature reproduction of the historical drawings of five flights made in France between 1783 and 1785 is a real feat of precision. “The volume effect is incredible,” enthuses Selmoni.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers © Vacheron Constantin

2021: Métiers d’Art Tribute to the Great Explorers

“In 2004, and again in 2008, we produced two first series that celebrated the adventurous spirit of Magellan, Zheng He, Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo,” recalls Selmoni. In 2021, the adventure continued with three limited editions of 10 pieces that paid tribute to Portuguese sailors Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco de Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral. Crafted from Grand Feu enamel, each of the three dials depicted parts of a 1519 map found in the Atlas Miller.

Crafts for infinite horizons

Métiers d’Art Tribute to the Great Explorers © Vacheron Constantin

2022: Les Cabinotiers Grande Complication – Bacchus

Vacheron Constantin starts 2022 with an evocation of mythology, as illustrated by the new unique piece Les Cabinotiers Grande Complication – Bacchus. In addition to the 16 complications on either side of its gold case, the caseband is hand carved in bas-relief and delicately set with rubies resembling bunches of grapes, in homage to the god of the vine and wine. A true symbol of abundance to inaugurate this new year which already promises to be adorned with new exceptional pieces of the Crafts. The journey continues …

Crafts for infinite horizons

Les Cabinotiers Grande Complication – Bacchus © Vacheron Constantin

Christopher S. Washington