Continuing on the three part series of watches by Dutch master engraver Kees Engelbarths, we are now able to present the final two in the collection.
We covered the first of the three earlier in this release in June 2020.
Kees Engelbarts Dragon Gate Series – the complete set of 3
Retail price of the Pièce Unique set of three watches is CHF 244,000 before taxes.
This series is based on Chinese mythology where a carp, swimming upstream and leaping the falls of the Yellow River at Dragon Gate (Longmen). The carp transforms into a dragon, a motif which is used to symbolize success in the civil service examinations. Depicting this legend, these three pieces somewhat mimicks the carp’s own transformation by the shift in artistic expression. The first piece being entirely engraved, and the last one being entirely enamelled, with the second piece being a combination of both techniques. The Dragon Gate legend tells of a legendary waterfall, which turns carps who succeed in scaling it into dragons. This myth reflects China’s meritocratic views: those who work and aim high will be rewarded.
The first watch depicts the carp fighting against the current as it begins its journey. The dial is hand engraved in bas-relief technique, and also uses Japanese Mokume Gane making the fish and water look more lively. Engraving Mokume Gane exposes different layers of metal, giving it a wood-like pattern.
The second watch shows us the carp as it starts transforming into a dragon. While it retains some elements of the carp, such as fins and a fish tail, we can see some dragon-like elements, such as its head, and its front fins turning into claws. This half and half creature is complemented by the dial being half engraved and half enamelled.
The third and final watch portrays the transformed dragon in all its glory. The carp has finally completed its trial and has therefore ascended to a mythical and immortal creature. This evolution is again mirrored in the dial, the enamel having completely taken over the engraving.
The movement of each watch is also hand-engraved to complement the dial’s design, featuring stylized, hand engraved and chemically coloured motifs : an Asian wave pattern for the first piece, waves and clouds for the second, and just clouds for the final one.
These three pieces are displayed in a lacquered wooden case. Its design depicts the scenery of the legend, with three windows to show the dials in their respective place. We can see a lake, with a river leading up to the mountain with the rapids and finally the Dragon Gate. The making of this presentation box took no less than 140 hours of work.
The artists who worked on this project
The first and second piece were hand-engraved by Geneva based Dutch engraver Kees Engelbarts. He was the one who conceptualized this trilogy of watches. Only making a very limited number of watches per year, he puts great care and attention in the making of these pieces, using only the best materials and movements available. He is also one of the only engravers who uses mokume gane, an ancient Japanese technique translating to “wood grain metal”, on his dials.
The second and third dials were enamelled by Gael Colon. This French artist who mastered glassblowing at a young age discovered the world of enamel and watchmaking in his twenties. After working for Lalique crystal glassworks, he starts working for Roger Dubuis and hones his enamelling and miniature glass painting technique. Since then, he has been working with other artists to preserve traditional craftsmanship, which have elevated Swiss watchmaking to what it is today.
The box was made by Carré d’ébène, a French Company founded by Pascal Vachet in 2007. Pascal Vachet obtained his degree from the Boulle school in Paris, recognised as one of the greatest art and design schools in Europe. Carré d’ébène specialises in luxury display cases and jewellery boxes.
Every product is carefully constructed and their expertise in cabinetmaking and art tabletterie is self-evident in the finished product.
This box was then lacquered by Catherine Nicolas, who was awarded the title of MOF, Meilleur ouvrier de France, for her outstanding lacquer work. She specialises in traditional Chinese, Japanese and European lacquer techniques, but she works on projects of all sizes, from small jewellery to monumental murals. She was the only European at a lacquer exposition in Beijing in 1999, but her work garnered much attention despite this. That same year, she is given the special award of the Ishikawa International Design Competition.
Kees Engelbarths Dragon Gate Pièce Unique Set of 3 watches Technical Data
Case : 925 Argentium ® (Silver alloy with germanium)
Signed : KEES ENGELBARTS / Pièce Unique / Logo of Gael Colon
Diameter : 39.5 mm
Height : 10 mm Sapphire crystal, transparent sapphire case back
Crown : 18 Kt yellow gold
Dial 1, The Carp: Mokume Gane of Silver and White Gold, Hand-engraved in bas-relief technique,
etched and chemically coloured, Dauphine hands made of white gold and silver Mokume Gane,
Dial 2, The Transformation: Solid pure silver Hand-engraved : Transformation of carp to dragon,
oxidized. Painted enamel background, Dauphine hands made of white gold and silver Mokume
Dial 3, The Dragon: Painted enamel, white on blue, on ceramic base. Dauphine hands made of
white gold and silver Mokume Gane, etched.
Movement : Peseux 330 / hand-wound / new old stock movement from the 1960’s
Diameter : 25,60 mm or 11,5 lignes Height : 3,10 mm
Frequency : 18’000 Alt/H
Jewels : 17
Power reserve : 43 Hours
Decoration : Hand-engraved, silver plated and chemically coloured.
Bracelets : Hand stitched, Nile Perch, Shark and Crocoldile leather 925 Argentium pin buckle
Presentation Box : Wooden Box for three watches Hand lacquered, depicting the scenery of the Dragon Gate Legend. Over 140 hours of work