At the occasion of SIHH 2019, Vacheron Constantin is enriching the exclusive range of “Mécaniques Sauvages”, one-of-a-kind models crafted by its Les Cabinotiers department and unveiled in November 2018. Setting the stage for tigers and pandas, the new creations forcefully portray the majesty of these wild animals, thanks to the Maison’s two-fold mastery of watchmaking techniques and artistic crafts.
Les Cabinotiers department: a passion inherited from the Age of Enlightenment
In 18th century Geneva, the various crafts related to watchmaking were exercised by prestigious craftsmen plying their trade in light-filled workshops known as cabinets and located on the top floors of houses. Known as Les Cabinotiers and nurtured by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, they were distinguished by their erudition as well as by the technical and aesthetic complexity of their timepieces, pieces inspired by science and the art.
Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers department perpetuates this tradition through one-of-a-kind watches which the Maison proposes to its clients, or creations specially commissioned by the latter. Master watchmakers, engineers, designers and artisans explore the most advanced technologies associated with artistic crafts, while respecting fine workmanship and traditional skills that are faithfully passed on within the Manufacture.
The new Mécaniques Sauvages models are the latest illustration of this approach. The off-centred time and date displays driven by the 2460 G4 calibre leave ample space in the dial centre for tigers and pandas to spring into action through pounced ornament engraving and wood marquetry.
Two techniques highlighted
Whether singly or combined, engraving and wood marquetry give life to these timepieces through a play on contrasts, colours and volumes that reproduce the stances and character of wild animals, the atmosphere pervading their surroundings, as well as the luxuriance of nature. These ancestral artisanal techniques call for patience and meticulous care, as well as several years of experience.
Les Cabinotiers Imperial Tiger and Majestic Tiger models highlight the association between bas-relief engraving (for the tigers and rocks) and wood marquetry (the background landscape and foliage).
Les Cabinotiers Wild Panda watches are crafted in wood marquetry.
Pounced ornament or “bas-relief” engraving
Engraving intensifies the rendering by highlighting the relief, the finishes and the matt surfaces. The pounced ornament or bas-relief technique consists in sculpting gold to create a three-dimensional impression. A kind of “trompe l’oeil” effect makes it seem as if the tigers are on the move, striding through the jungle or ready to leap from high rocks. With extreme precision, the master engraver plays with various surface finishes, subtly alternating between matt, polished, satin-brushed and chased techniques to create contrasts that will bring the animals to life, or else using black oxidation as a means of accentuating the tigers’ stripes. This extreme attention lavished on finishing is a Vacheron Constantin signature. Recreating the tigers involves no less than 60 hours.
The marquetry (inlay) technique serves to compose the motif using a multitude of tiny, individually hand-cut wood veneers in various shades and shapes. More than 200 pieces have been assembled to form the rocky backdrop of the ‘imperial’ tigers; about 130 pieces for the foliage surrounding the ‘majestic tigers’; and more than 300 for the pandas. Five to twenty types of wood were used for each of the dials, depending on the complexity of the decorations. The richness of this chromatic range accentuates the realism of the scene that takes shape under the expert hand of the master artisan, who crafts each of these unique pieces with delicacy and sensitivity. In well-defined and accurate touches that are almost intuitive thanks to his wealth of experience, he cuts each piece, carefully nesting them, directing the grain of the wood and aligning the fibres.
Another vision of time
Calibre 2460 G4 has chosen to tame time by driving displays of the hours, minutes, day and date through four apertures arranged around the dial circumference, thereby giving pride of place to the freely interpreted tigers and pandas.
One of the challenges facing the master-watchmakers was to incorporate a reading of time that is both technically and aesthetically compatible with the dial design. The self-winding 2460 G4 calibre, entirely developed and crafted by the Maison, thus leaves room for a singular and optimalstage-setting for decorative arts, allowing the central dial motif to play a starring role. The hand-free displays appear through four apertures: hours between 11 and 12 o’clock, minutes between 1 and 2 o’clock, days between 7 and 8 o’clock and the date between 4 and 5 o’clock. These indications are provided by a quartet of four discs: the first two of the dragging type and the latter two of the jumping variety. Endowed with a 40-hour power reserve, the 2460 G4 calibre is housed in a 41 mm-diameter gold case. Decorated in keeping with the highest standards of watchmaking finishing, it is generously revealed through the transparent caseback.