Transcribing the true emotion of the urban layouts in a nocturnal depiction, the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection is an invitation to catch the bird’s-eye view of your favourite cities. Having a watch on the wrist depicting a place that you are connected to and have a strong affection for is an amazing realisation. On dial faces, an amalgam of powders adorned on an enamelled base in deep shades creates an aerial view of the contemporary artistic subjects, the sprawling urban expanses. The novel Haute Horlogerie technique leveraged to create this distinctive aesthetics combines traditional grand feu champlevé enamelling with the hand application of precious powder. The scintillatingly sophisticated charm of these timepieces expands the artistic and creative horizons so easily recognised with the traditional horlogerie crafts and Vacheron Constantin provides a platform for augmenting the same with contemporary artistic influences.
A Merger of Crafts Dominant in Every Millimetre of The Dial
A vivid encounter of the masterful crafts is realized by the Maison: traditional grand feu champlevé enamelling, an haute horlogerie craft inherited by the artisans at Vacheron Constantin from over three centuries; and hand-applied precious powder, a skill mastered by the fabulous Japanese visual artist Yoko Imai. This distinct technique bestows the timepiece’s dial with an exceptional radiance resulting from the enchanting play of light created from individual particles of gold, pearl, platinum and diamond powder. The luminant dots of light, applied with unrivalled precision, compose a portrait of these broad and majestic urban landscapes.
Tracing the urban details of roads, avenues, rivers and prominent landmarks, the light effects replicate the nocturnal charm of the cities. The Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières watches offer a striking balance of artistical excellence with mechanical genius as the timepieces beat to the rhythm of an in-house Manufacture calibre graced with refined finishing, worthy of the highest traditions in Haute Horlogerie. In the latest rendition which follows the models dedicated to the nocturnal magic of Geneva, Paris, New York, Beijing, Tokyo, the night-flight takes you across the animated and electrifying metropolis: Sydney.
Keeping The Art Alive – Like the Nightscapes, Watchmaking Tradition Shines Bright!
For the Maison at Vacheron Constantin, the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection glorifies and sustains its traditional artistic crafts. It was as early as 1755 that the torch of a wonderful watchmaking tradition was lit at Vacheron Constantin with the first creation of the Maison’s founder, Jean-Marc Vacheron. As an undying devotion towards heritage artisanal crafts, the gemsetters, enamellers, guillocheurs and engravers at the Maison have been cultivating and passing on myriad forms of expertise that are becoming rarefied with each passing day.
The successive creations right from the maiden inception of the Maison which featured delicate engraved arabesque motifs, inherit the authentic watchmaking art. Complementing and accentuating each other, the decorative skills with an amalgam of prominent techniques often showcased on watch dials, adopt the spirit of extraordinarily inimitable arts such as illumination, Japanese lacquer, glyptics or gemstone cloisonné effects. Perpetuating the tradition, the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection propels Vacheron Constantin to scout the off-beat and outstanding paths of unhindered artisanal exploration and creative expression.
City Scenes Come to Life with a Unique Play of Light
The attention to detail emulated by the faithful reproduction of the Light Cartography, an aerial mapping of cities at night performed by Yoko Imai effortlessly captures the nocturnal spirit and visual allure of the cities tracing even the details like roads, avenues, bridges, monuments and even traffic density! This incredibly intricate work on the map of each city spawns from several weeks of research and trials on various base materials.
The Delicate Process – Exquisite Grand Feu Champlevé and Translucent Enamelling
Examining the possibilities offered by champlevé to trace a highlight of the myriad cartography patterns for each of the dials is an endeavour of the Master Enameller at Vacheron Constantin. Prior to the application of successive translucent coloured enamel layers, the artisan carves the gold dial by hand according to the defined outlines. Between successive coatings, the dial is repeatedly fired at an extremely high temperature of 850°C. It is only through masterfully guided intuition that success is realized in these crucial and delicate stages which enable the powdered glass mixed with colouring oxides to be melted, transformed and then vitrified by cooling, thus overcoming the inevitable vulnerabilities of the dial cracking. Aiming to replicate the singular night-time urban aesthetic, the Master Enameller takes up the challenge of orchestrating the process for Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection to yield a subtly translucent and dark shade.
Collaborating with the Japanese visual artist Yoko Imai, Vacheron Constantin affiliated art with that of the enamelling artisan. Trained by the great Japanese masters, Yoko has developed her signature artistic technique: calligraphy-inspired painting on canvas, inspired by precious powder. For the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection at Vacheron Constantin, she has adapted this process to the enamel of a watch dial aiming to create a fascinating chiaroscuro effect. To ensure an honest and irresistibly captivating transcription of the city lights, her skilled hands are guided by absolute mastery, unfaltering concentration and special sensitivity.
The quest for balance and purity which determine the true prominence of calligraphy inspires the technique for the application of precious powders. Using a thin stylus, the precious metal and stone powder particles are individually affixed by hand using a technique that remains a jealously guarded secret of Yoko. The luminous magic of the dial results from these dots of gold and platinum power along with diamond sparkle which number anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000. Despite the undeniable complication of the dial art, there is no room for anything random or superfluous.
What’s So Special About This Technique?
For achieving a faithful radiance and realistic night-time shimmer, each of the powder specks is chosen according to its size, then carefully inspected from several angles and with various lighting conditions. First of all, tiny gold grains form the luminous backdrop. This is followed by the successive application of diamond and platinum powder to create shiny and dark effects, punctuated by pearl spangles. Their varying brightness makes it possible to adjust the direction and size of the luminescent areas, in order to infuse the dial with life and warmth. Over the enamel base, between the raised gold ridges, tens of thousands of spangles shine in the light. The particles of precious powder and diamond sparkle, all of the varying hues and luminous intensities, interact both amongst themselves and with the dark shades of the grand feu-enamelled background. A graduating intensity of luminosity occurs radially to serve the dial a rich dynamic appeal.
Tracing the immaculate decorative effect born from an endeavour of more than three months of hand-crafting involving a mingling of artistic crafts, each dial is truly unique.
A Flyover of The Watchmaking District of Geneva
The backdrop for the initial creation in this collection is set with a flight over Geneva, the cradle of technical and precious watchmaking, prominent for nurturing the rare art of miniature painting on enamel. Vacheron Constantin was born in the heart of this town, in the St-Gervais district, where the cabinotiers had their workshops.
A Nocturnal Journey Above The ‘City of Love’, Paris
The “City of Light”, Paris as a truly decadent destination for the romantics and purists, a true favourite among artists, philosophers and writers, renowned for the inimitable elegance of its style follows in this pursuit of tracing the urban nocturnal allure. The rendition retraces the night-time bird’s-eye view of the City of Love with its iconic landmarks such as the Place de l’Étoile and the Champs-Elysées, the Seine, as well as the Eiffel Tower portrayed in all its radiant glory, viewed from above and engraved in gold.
The Urban Expanses of the ‘City That Never Sleeps’, New York
Passing the torch to the city that never sleeps, the journey continues with New York, a symbol of culture and dreams, where nothing is impossible. Replicating its iconic stretches, innumerable specks sprinkled across the grand feu enamel of the precious metal and stone powder create a stardust effect to illustrate the luminous outlines of Manhattan Island with Central Park, the Hudson River and Brooklyn.
A Mystical Voyage to The East, Beijing
Embarking on a fabled journey to the Imperial City, the Maison steps into the world of classical glamour by encapsulating the twinkling magic of Beijing. The shimmering glow and urban expanses of the city viewed from the night sky adorn the centre stage on the dial and testify to a proud history. The more intense halos of certain monuments, landmarks and particularly animated streets surround the vast Forbidden City, which remains less brightly lit and more mysterious. The enamel and precious powder-composed cartography clearly depict the Meridian Gate, the Gate of Heavenly Peace and Tian’anmen Square.
Wear The Emotion of The Japanese Urban Layouts, The Tokyo Edition
Continuing the artistic aerial exploration of the East, the lights of Tokyo make their stage entrance, lending a vivid sparkling accent to the translucent grand feu enamel dial base, featuring a darker shade for the city and a bluish hue to perfectly mimic the Tokyo Bay. The symbolic locations across the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’: the Ginza luxury shopping district, the iconic Tokyo Tower, the Kasumiga-seki and Nagatcho political centre, the Rainbow Bridge, as well as the super-trendy Roppongi hotspot get a highlight with specks of gold. The vibrant nocturnal cartography expresses the harmonious energy characterising the capital of Japan. Water and earth, technology and history: striking inspirational contrasts merge to create a perfectly balanced alchemist’s blend.
Dwell Into the Landscape and Architecture of the ‘Emerald City’, Sydney
Finally, the latest rendition serves a delectable glimpse of Sydney as the city scenes come alive with the play of light shining through the blue-tinted night. The golden gleam of grand feu champlevé enamel reveals the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, rimming emerald green parks and gardens. Its handcrafted brilliance outlines the contours of the city, distinctly highlighting its hallmark sites such as the Opera House, the historic port of Walsh Bay and Harbour Bridge. Artisanal attention to detail can be observed at a superlative level in the timepiece as the dial even showcases the gold dust boats gliding across enamelled water, the streets and the centres of activity testifying to the nightlife of the glorious Australian metropolis.
A Harmony of True Mechanical Precision and Reliability with the In-House Caliber 2460
Although the watch in its artisanal glory overpowers the mechanical prowess that is on function inside this 40 mm white gold case, the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin mechanical self-winding Caliber 2460 SC is certified by the Hallmark of Geneva, a sure token of precision and reliability. It is a caliber we know well from previous incarnations of the Metiers d’Art range and drives a display of the hours, minutes and seconds. Visible for appreciation through the transparent case-back, the 22 carats gold oscillating weight imparting the watch a self-winding competence features a finely executed decoration inspired by the Maltese cross, the Vacheron Constantin signature emblem. Each of the components, whether visible or hidden, is adorned with pinnacle standards of finishing executed by hand to level at par with the finest watchmaking skills exemplified by bevelling, circular-graining and polishing.
Realised in exquisite Grand Feu champlevé and translucent enamel, the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection is a horological and artistic creation portraying the Vacheron Constantin traditions in striking glory.