Discussion and debate about watchmaking all too frequently limit themselves to conversations, blogposts and tweets about materials, movements, technology, complexity and engineering. All that is important, of course, and forms the heart of Swiss watchmaking. But the industry is also a haven, and sometimes one of the last ones, for a whole host of diverse arts and crafts.
From intricate gem setting to all but lost forms of enamelling and straw marquetry, many brands incorporate superb craftsmanship of the nonhorological variety into their timepieces. These works of art are even more unique than some of the choicest mechanical calibres. It takes hours upon hours of painstaking handiwork to yield objects that are nothing less than portable treasures.
This is Indulge’s selection of some of the finest works of art from SIH 2012.
PROMENADE D’UNE PANTHÈRE
The oscillating weight of the watch is inverted, to the front of the dial, and formed out of a three-dimensional panther set with diamonds. When the watch is moved, the panther prowls around the inky mother-of-pearl dial. The panther is constructed out of plated white gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds and black lacquer spots. In total the watch is crafted out of 629 jewels weighing 6.9 carats. The strap is made of black semi-matte alligator skin with an ardillon buckle in 18-carat rhodium-plated white gold set with brilliant diamonds.
Van Cleef and Arpels
MIDNIGHT POETIC WISH AND THE LADY ARPELS POETIC WISH
Gold engraving, miniature painting, mother-of-pearl sculpting and stone setting
These are the fourth and fifth timepieces in the brand’s Poetic Wish collection of complicated watches with automatons. Both watches house a Poetic Wish movement that indicates the hour and minutes with an animation, and has 5-minute repeater mechanism. The central hammers and gongs are visible through the transparent caseback. Both dials start as solid pieces of gold that are then engraved and painted. While sculpted mother of pearl is used for clouds, the shooting star in the Midnight watch is crowned with a superb Van Cleef and Arpels diamond. Each piece is presented in a cabinet made of precious wood and mother-of-pearl inlay.
Four hundred tesserae, or mosaic pieces, made of Earth jasper, Kalahari jasper, grey Madagascar jasper, chocolate obsidian and pink opal are carefully affixed to create the horse motif. The artist uses two mosaic techniques here: miniature squares for the base of the dial and irregular pieces for the horse. The design is edged with metal piping and finished with hand-engraved gold and red paint. Each piece required 120 hours of work—50 hours to create the horse and 70 to affix the background. The watch is issued in a limited edition of 40 without stones and 10 set with baguettecut diamonds.
ROTONDE DE CARTIER 35MM
Seven different tones of high-calibre straw are used to create the koala motif. Each blade is split individually, hammered flat, and then cut and assembled. It takes 40 hours to complete each dial. Once complete, the dial is left in the natural state, without varnish or protection. Limited edition of 20 pieces.
LES UNIVERS INFINIS - FISH, DOVE AND SHELL WATCHES
Enamelling, engraving, gem setting and guilloché
The designs, inspired by the
works of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, merge ancient enamel techniques with elements of modern graphic design. Inside beats the in-house calibre 2460 mechanical self-winding movement. The fish dial is created by a combination of hand-guilloché and cloisonné enamelling. Here, the outline is created with gold wire, then filled with enamel colours and fired in an oven. Engraving and the champlevé style of enamelling is used to create the shell/starfish dial.
In champlevé, cavities are engraved into the metal, which are then filled in with enamel colours. The dove watch incorporates engraving, champlevé, guilloché and gem setting. Each piece is available in a limited edition of 20 pieces.