Pictures in an Exhibition: 6 recommendations for the best métier d’art watches

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Having just returned from the amazing Vacheron Constantin Tribute to Great Civilisations, we thought it might be interesting to list our top 6 recommendations of métier d’art dials on watches.

Pictures in an Exhibition: 6 recommendations for the best métier d’art watches

To say that last week that was extraordinarily amazing is to understate matters. Grossly. VC pulled all the stops for this incredible event to celebrate and pay Tribute to the Great Civilizations with 4 watches featuring masterpiece works of art. The watches were inspired by artefacts from the Lourve Museum viz, Lion de Darius, Grand Sphynx de Tanis, Victorie de Samothrace and Buste D’Auguste. Here are our photographs taken at Le Crillon Hotel, where we were grandly housed.

But more about these watches and the artistry to create them later. And on to using them as a starting point for our inspiration for this article. watches with métiers d’art dials. And without further ado, in no particular order, here is our list:

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers – La Caravelle 1950

We start the list with a VC. And the maison is clearly the lead manufacture to exploit the magnificence of the métiers d’art in their watches. As we look through our archives, VC is the one with the most posts in this category.

Our pick is the Les Cabinotiers Caravelle 1950, a one of-a-kind creation featuring a cloisonné enamel dial crafted by the Anita Porchet. This masterpiece of miniaturisation is framed by a 39 mm 4N pink gold case, equipped with the Manufacture 4400 movement. The model is inspired by a 1950 watch belonging to the Vacheron Constantin heritage. Anita is the grandmaster of the enamel paintings, and in this watch dial, her expertise is clearly evident. From the detailed painting to the highly technical methods to achieve the graduated colours within the cloisonné wires. The dial captures of the grand sailing vessel. The ship looks like an apparition in motion, sailing towards the viewer.

Chopard L.U.C XP Urushi Year of the Rat

Chopard is also a maison who excel in the art of miniature paintings. And here, our pick is from their Chinese Zodiac series – in particular, the Year of the Rat is out choice for its masterful depiction of the hardworking rat depicted in the Japanese art of urushi taka-maki-e. Except for a pair of gilded dauphine hands to indicate the hours and minutes, there is nothing else on the dial. Not even the company marquee, which it printed on the underside of the glare-proofed crystal. 

The movement is the Calibre L.U.C 96.17-L, developed, produced, and assembled in Chopard’s workshops, with excellent finnissage worthy of its haute horlogerie status.

Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Minute Repeater

Jaquet Droz is a watchmaking house based almost totally in creating works of art. Of the 8 Core values they expressly espouse, no less than 3 are in the realm of the métiers d’art. From their vast array of offerings, we select one which is the marriage of several of these core values. It features an engraved case, hand painted scenery and 3 dimensional automata elements. Here is a video of the ensemble.

The movement is a a robust one, with 86 jewels and running at 21,600 bph, with a power reserve of 60 hours. The Jaquet Droz RMA89 hand-wound minute repeater movement.

The watch is truly special, and will appeal to those who have the deep pockets who want a nice minute repeater, with automata, with artistic scenery depicted on the dial. The traditional minute repeater aspects are nicely addressed. The sonics are excellent. The automata is highly technical, and the scenery is rather beautiful.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Alfons Mucha

Another one of pioneers in the art of enamel painting is JLC who set about to revive the lost arts in the early 1990s. They have many pieces which shoe the métiers d’art and métiers rare to great effect. Our pick is a later rendition of Alfons Mucha Seasons, from 2018, a set of three watches, each is a limited edition of only 8.

The JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel Mucha is a seminal work by the enamel specialists at Jaeger-LeCoultre. It seals their claim for mastery of this very special art. While almost all other maisons use contract specialists like Anita Porchet for these works, JLC has done this within the manufacture. And this is indeed a superb and significant achievement. The work that started in the early 1990s with Miclos who began his miniature enamel painting works being totally self taught. And now this has transpired and inspired a new generation of enamel artists in the manufacture. This set of watches is proof. The works presented is sublime, and magnificently beautiful. 

The movement is the standard Reverso time only manually wound JLC Caliber 822A/2.

Hermès Arceau Wild Singapore

As a maison, Hèrmes prides herself with refined aesthetics. An indeed, the use of very specific métiers d’art is one of the principal tenets of the house. From works on the dial with marquetry and leather work, to this selection of watches created to pay tribute to Singapore’s wildlife. Modelled after a scarf series, the scene depicts Singapore’s wildlife. Here with a picturesque dial woven with gold thread and adorned with miniature painting on the dial of the Arceau watch revealing a majestic lion in the heart of a lush setting. 

The work is like an embroidery, each taking the artisan a week to complete. Gold thread is welded to depict the feline and its equatorial environment on the dial. The base begins as a gold plate. A varnish is applied and the motif transferred. The meticulous painting of the elements that will appear under and around the gold threads is executed next. Shapes and colours come to life through a multitude of layers of micro-painting, successively applied with a brush and dried in a hot kiln to create the effect. and the dial is then fitted inside the 41mm white gold case. The movement is the Manufacture Hermès H1837 self-winding movement, made in Fleurier by the maison’s joint venture with Vaucher.

Cartier Panther

Cartier is perhaps as well known as a jeweller as a watchmaker. And the panther motif is iconic of the maison- delicately storied and visually thrilling. The Maison has a entire collection devoted to the panther theme, but what took our breath away is the fabulous Cartier Révélation d’une Panthère. An outstandingly innovative watch with a special animation which is spectacular.

The black laquer dial houses a panther motif which is only flittingly revealed with gold beads as the case is moved. The beads is kept in a liquid between two sapphire glass panes. On the wrist, with the 12 o’clock down, it settles down, by force of gravity to the top of the dial. Turning the wrist to see the time, it flows from 12 to 6 o’clock position, and as it makes its way, reveals a panther motif which disappears as the beads settle down at the bottom of the dial merely seconds after. Breathtaking. And brilliant!

Concluding thoughts

Here is our list. We will be discussing the details on the VC Tribute to Great Civilisations in detailed articles later as it was the starter to us thinking of doing this list. And we are pretty happy with the selection. it features diverse maisons, many art forms, from enamel painting to engraving, to jewellery work, and even a form of embroidery! Which are your favourites? what would you add to this list?


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