There are some combinations that can only result in greatness, and one example will be that of Vacheron Constantin with Edgar Degas and Grand Feu Grisaille enamel. It definitely resulted in something magical. Most people are familiar with Degas’ paintings about Ballerinas, where his soft but deliberate brushstrokes captured the essence of ballet in a mystical way, with a perfect balance between light and shadows. Degas’ distinct way of painting is very difficult to imitate, yet Vacheron Constantin decided to do it, and to make matters even more complicated, they decided to do so in Grand Feu Grisaille enamel!
Experience is often the deciding factor in whethher the piece can live up to its expectations, and in this case, whether it can live up to the works by Degas himself. For these watches, three masterpieces by Degas were selected: Dancers Practicing at the Barre, painted in 1877 and currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA); Backstage of a Dress Rehearsal with Dancers near a Set, from 1888 and belonging to a private collection; and Two Dancers Entering the Stage, painted around 1877-1878 and can be found at the Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, USA).
In order to re-create the masterpieces by Degas to the smallest detail, Vacheron Constantin’s house artisan decided to not go for a black enamel base, as is custom with grisaille enameling, but instead opt for a translucent brown enamel base. Painted upon this base coating is Limoges white enamel. This type of enamel is created from a extremely rare powder, mixed with oils, and very difficult to work with. Part of this difficulty can be found in the Grand Feu firing of each layer, where there is only a second difference between total perfection and utter disaster. Hence, the enamel artisan works and relies heavily on instinct and experience.
Even when you master the art of Grand Feu grisaille enamel you still not only need to paint in the spirit of Degas, you also need to reduce the painting so that it fits on the dial. Complete concentration is necessary when handling the extremely fine brushes, needles and even cactus thorns to achieve this: not only re-creating the highly detailed ballerinas and their surroundings, but also mastering the play of light that holds an immensely important role in Degas’ work.
Vacheron Constantin wraps these pieces of art in a 40mm white gold case, which allows for a beautiful display of the dial without succumbing to being too large of a watch. The movement inside is Vacheron Constantin’s caliber 2460 SC, an automatic caliber that proudly carries the Geneva Seal. The watch has a display back but Vacheron Constantin decided to fit this with an officer-type cover, which has to be opened to experience the full beauty of the movement. Is there any down side on this watch? Yes, there is. All three watches are downright unique, and that is somewhat of an anti-climax with there only being three of such beautiful watches.
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics