Watchmaking within the last decade has quite notably experienced a shift in development, from highly technical developments that demand big, voluminous watch cases, to more discreet and personalized time-telling in smaller, more compact watches. The result has been a shift in the type of complications we see, as well as the crafts that are used in their production.
On the artistic side of watch creation, enameling is enjoying a massive resurgence. Not only are new and younger enamel artists emerging, the various styles of enameling are also being developed and transmitted to a new generation of enamelers.
Unsurprisingly, the Geneva-based watchmakers are the ones that have truly embraced the revival of these arts, as Geneva was the traditional grounds where they flourished. This year, the oldest watchmaker with a continuous history is presenting a collection of unique pieces, featuring four songbirds as part of the “La Musique du Temps” theme that the Les Cabinotiers division has developed.
You may recall that late last year, the brand presented a small collection of unique pieces under the same theme, and we spoke with Christian Selmoni on the watches as well.
The Songbirds of Vacheron Constantin
While most enamel dials face the same challenges of real estate as any complication, fighting with the display of time for attention, Vacheron Constantin found a solution with its caliber 1120 AT dragging hours, or what’s better known to URWERK lovers as a satellite display.
Essentially the hour indication serves as the minute hand as well, running through the hand-guilloché arc on the right of the dial, with the applied minute markers. That leaves the larger half of the dial free for artistic decoration, in this case with grand feu champlevé enamel. You might recall an older series of watches in a similar style, the Métiers d’Art Savoirs Enluminés (translation: Illuminated Knowledge) in a cushion case.
The four songbirds that Vacheron Constantin has chosen to honor are the blue jay, hummingbird, blue tit and robin. In champlevé, the dial is carefully hollowed out to create outlines where the enamel material is painted into, before firing repeatedly to affix the colors. In order to achieve the broad and colorful presences of these birds, the master enameller uses 10 colors or more on the dials, which means hours and hours of work to achieve each dial.
Each watch is a unique piece, with three models in pink gold and the robin in white gold to bring out its colorful burgundy hues. Thanks to the ultra-thin caliber 1120, despite the satellite display, the watches are still relatively thin at 12.37mm. Prices are on request.
Self-winding caliber 1120AT; hours and minutes; satellite display; 40-hour power reserve
40mm case in 18K; three models in pink gold, one model in white gold; 12.37mm thick; two-level 18K gold dial with champlevé enamel; hand-guilloché dial
Green Mississippiensis alligator leather strap