Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées

At the occasion of its 260th anniversary celebrations, the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin is making a remarkable return to its roots by enriching its Métiers d’Art collection with two timepieces distinguished by movements that are entirely hand-engraved in keeping with classic ornamental watchmaking traditions. The plates and bridges of the hand-wound 2260 and 4400 calibers are adorned with delicate floral motifs, reminiscent of the engravings gracing the first pocket Brewitling replica watches online created by Vacheron Constantin from 1755 onwards. Housed in a precious platinum case, these two iconic movements from the Manufacture feature traditional tone-on-tone decors expressing a desire to achieve a pure, understated design. The scrolling motifs and arabesques pay tribute to the acanthus leaf, an exceptional source of inspiration consistently celebrated since Antiquity across all forms of artistic expression. Engraving, which has been used in watchmaking right from its very origins, is a demanding art requiring extreme expertise and dexterity on the part of the master artisan who sculpts tiny parts without ever compromising their perfect aesthetic and functionality. The skilfully engraved parts endow these timepieces with a distinctive stature, confirmed by the Hallmark of Geneva.

After recently providing an airily graceful interpretation of the art of openworking in its most contemporary and architectural expression, the Métiers d’Art collection by Vacheron Constantin pays an elegant tribute to the traditional engraving of Haute Horlogerie movements. To exalt the beauty of the two iconic in-house movements, Calibers 2260 and 4400 have been adorned with floral motifs inspired by ancient jewellery. Reflecting the finest ornamental traditions, these scrolling motifs and arabesques are hand-engraved on functional parts so as to magnify their exceptional mechanics and unique aesthetic appeal. Epitomising these traditional decors, the acanthus leaf appearing on these two movements is a characteristic ornamental element in classic Greek architecture. Its earliest representations date back to the fifth century BC, when it adorned the capitals of Corinthian columns. Thanks to its stylised shape affording inexhaustible interpretive freedom, the acanthus leaf is depicted on countless artistic creations dotted across the history of Western civilisation, especially during the Renaissance and the Baroque period. A symbol of eternity, victory and glory, this refined plant-life motif has found its way through the centuries, expressed in a rich variety of fields including engraving, marquetry, embroidery and painting. Its distinctive curves thus adorn a number of pocket-Montblanc replica watches sale movements at the heart of the Vacheron Constantin heritage. Subsequently a number of calibers developed by the Manufacture have been graced with some remarkable hand-crafted decorations: 18th century floral motifs; mid-19th century scrolling patterns; cherubs and arabesques in the 1920s; “mille feuilles” (“thousand-leaf swirls”) in the 1940s, and arabesques once more in the 1980s. To honour this ancestral art that has consistently exalted its horological expertise since its early years, the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin has chosen the Métiers d’Art collection to house two timepieces equipped with calibers entirely hand-engraved in keeping with the tenets of traditional decorative work.

The art of engraving on an infinitely small scale

While the extremely malleable acanthus leaf motif gives artists from all horizons almost boundless scope for expression, engraving the functional parts of an Haute Horlogerie movement is an astoundingly delicate task. A miniaturised work of art such that only the most virtuoso master- engravers can even begin to envisage, since the extreme slenderness of the parts to be engraved calls for impressive dexterity and expertise in order to reveal a motif without ever damaging the functionality of complex mechanisms. Eager to magnify two benchmark calibers and to demonstrate the talent of its gifted Artisans, the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin made the demanding choice of maintaining the movement composition exactly as usual. This means that no part to be engraved has been made any thicker to facilitate the task of the engraver, who must therefore sculpt surfaces that are less than one millimetre thick. In addition to the supreme challenge of miniaturisation, this infinitely delicate work consists in engraving motifs on parts that have been previously bevelled, straight-grained, circular-grained and polished by the decorative artisans of the Manufacture – since, like all movements developed by Vacheron Constantin, Calibers 2260 and 4400 feature superlative Haute Horlogerie finishes. Performing the last stage in a remarkable ornamental process, the master engraver works with no safety net, intensely focused and driven by a constant concern to avoid any scratching of the perfectly finished surfaces. Using a tool known as a chisel, he first marks out a line engraving to define the contours of the motif. He then conscientiously removes a certain amount of material using the champlevé technique. This operation that involves hollowing to a depth of 2/10 of a millimetre serves to create a volume effect and brings out the raised motif. With parts sometimes measuring less than 0.35 mm thick, there is a considerable risk of piercing or distorting the metal. Working around the chamfers, the inside of the bridges and plates as well as the jewel holes – which cannot be altered in any way – is a particularly meticulous task. This painstakingly intricate labour of love, entailing more than ten days spent engraving a single caliber, reveals an admirable contrast between the brilliance of the polished motifs and the matt appearance of the other surfaces. A subtly patinated anthracite colour is finely wrought with a tiny pointed tip, enhancing the volumes and relief effects. In a clever play on light and shade, the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées models provide an original interpretation of the grand ornamental tradition, imbued with a powerful sense of understated elegance.

Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées – 14-day tourbillon, Caliber 2260/1

Set off to perfection within a 41 mm-diameter round case in 950 platinum featuring a concave bezel that intensifies its finesse, the engraved 2660/1 caliber is a mechanical hand-wound tourbillon movement with an exceptional 14-day power reserve. Its slightly off-centred hour and minute functions highlight the tourbillon carriage, coupled with a small seconds display. The power reserve is read off with a “dragging” or “trailing” hand that displays the remaining energy on a 280° sector. This larger surface than on traditional indicators enables a precise division into 14 days, themselves split into two 12-hour portions, thus enhancing the readability of the power reserve.

The architecture of the 231-part movement features two large bridges, delicately hand-engraved with floral motifs and acanthus leaves, and visible through the sapphire crystal back of the case which is water-resistant to 30 metres. On the display side, the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées – 14-day tourbillon by Vacheron Constantin provides a stunning view of the tourbillon carriage shaped like a Maltese Cross and adorned with the most refined finishes. Swept over by anthracite-toned white gold hands and composed of two distinct parts, the sapphire crystal dial features frosted zones ensuring perfect readability of the engraved and inked small seconds and power-reserve graduations, while a slate grey ring bears the minute circle and a white gold Maltese cross. Revealed through the transparency of the dial, the stunning scrolling motifs and arabesques exalt the extreme beauty and rare elegance of an entirely hand-engraved work of art requiring more than a week’s work for a single movement.

Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées, Caliber 4400/1

One of the most iconic base movements from the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin, hand-wound Caliber 4400 finds supremely delicate expression in the Métiers d’Art collection. Hosted in a precious 950 platinum, 39 mm-diameter round case with a concave bezel accentuating its elegance and slenderness, this entirely hand-engraved caliber drives hour and minute functions. Comprising 127 parts whose carefully preserved original thinness entails impressive feats of precision on the part of the master-engraver who decorates them, this movement has a generous almost 3-day power reserve. Free of any dial so as to enable an unobstructed view of the remarkable engravings adorning its mainplate and bridges, the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées model features graceful white gold hands whose deep grey shade makes a perfect match with the slate grey tone of the minute circle enhanced by a white gold Maltese cross. The transparency of the sapphire crystal fitted both on the display side and on the back of the 30-metre water-resistant case, reveal the subtle floral motifs. This fine and delicate workmanship involves more than 10 days to engrave a single 4400/1 caliber.

Harking back to the origins of traditional Breitling replica watchmaking ornamentation, the new Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées models embody an ideal alliance between watchmaking techniques and the artistic crafts passionately perpetuated by Vacheron Constantin for 260 years. Rare by their very nature, these two exceptional timepieces are available exclusively in Vacheron Constantin boutiques.

SIHH: time eschews excess

The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in January is the launchpad for the trends that will define the horological year. The latest and 25th edition marked the return of classicism and sobriety as brands extolled the virtues of moderation and self-restraint.

In a tense context to say the least, following the Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision to no longer peg national currency against the euro – a major handicap for the country’s exports – trends emerging in Breitling replica watches for sale the coming year, for which the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is always a bellwether, became a reflection of the market overall. Exhibitors put on a show of restraint, favouring trusted designs, such as the Portugieser at IWC, classic styles in the vein of the Classima at Baume & Mercier, or references such as the Tonda 1950 at Parmigiani.

Except at the very high end of their ranges, brands were clearly concerned with trimming off any excess, preferring to channel their creativity into suitably sober designs that are far removed from the extravagant forms and functions that dominated the previous decade. While women were firmly in the spotlight, the creations they inspired, not least at Van Cleef & Arpels and at Audemars Piguet, were infinitely more subdued.

Continuity of style

Globally speaking, indications so far suggest that 2015 is following on from 2014, which let it be remembered ended on a 2% rise in Swiss replica watches exports. Trends in metals reveal that yellow gold has lost points in favour of white gold, rose gold and platinum, while intriguing new alloys are thin on the ground, Panerai’s Carbotech being the exception. Round cases sweep the board with the one noticeable distinction of cushion shapes, which Vacheron chose for its new Harmony collection. Launched to mark the company’s 260th anniversary, it makes its debut with seven chronographs.

Another departure from the rule, La Clé de Cartier sits a round dial inside an unusual short tonneau case. Feminine in design, it targets men. Masculine in mechanics, with its 1847 NC calibre, it appeals to women with a rectangular crown that operates much like a handbag clasp. Downsizing proved to be another overarching theme. The pizza-sized cheap Breitling replica watches of the past have given way to more wearable dimensions, with diameters slimming down to 42mm for men, and sometimes less: the Saxonia Dual Time from A. Lange & Söhne measures 38.5mm while Jaeger-LeCoultre‘s Master Calendar is only marginally larger at 39mm.

Just as watches shed vital millimetres, they also kept a low profile in terms of case and movement height, with ultra-thin now calling the shots. Piaget has consistently defended its status as the master of slim, considered a synonym of elegance in replica Breitling watchmaking. This year it introduced a chronograph to its Altiplano range which sets a double world record for thinness. The Grande Complication de Cartier and the Harmony Grande Complication from Vacheron Constantin pursue similar goals. Skeletonwork is another trend that began in 2014 and is making even more of an impact this year. Skeleton movements are becoming an art in themselves, and a wonderful example of sobriety achieved through a technical tour de force. Recognisable for their long, straight lines, with blackened star shapes sometimes replacing the traditional arabesques, skeletons have become a favourite means of expression, evidenced at Cartier (Crash), Parmigiani (Tonda 1950), Piaget (Emperador Cushion), Ralph Lauren (Automotive Skeleton), Richard Mille (RM51-02) and Roger Dubuis (Excalibur).

Reaching for the stars

Turning to the year’s complications, there was a new flurry of astronomical functions which once again matched cosmic poetry with mechanical complexity. Celestial indications were the theme for Jaeger-LeCoultre this year, as well as for Montblanc whose Heritage Chronométrie collection pays tribute to the navigator Vasco da Gama. Minute repeaters also chimed in, with noteworthy offerings from A. Lange & Söhne (Zeitwerk Minute Repeater), Audemars Piguet (Royal Oak RD#1, a concept new Breitling replica watches that was eight years in development) and Jaeger-LeCoultre (Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication). The latter two demonstrate a rarely achieved quality of sound, and have several patents to their name. The Lange also boasts patents for the innovative pusher system that triggers the striking mechanism, with the additional safety guard that the chimes cannot be operated if the remaining power reserve is insufficient.

The métiers d’art proved as exquisite and in some cases spectacular as ever. Carter revived the art of filigree; Vacheron Constantin dazzled with entirely hand-engraved movements in its Métiers d’Art Mécanique Gravée collection while Van Cleef & Arpels delighted with its Charms Extraordinaire. Special mention must also go to the Radiomir Firenze whose case is hand-engraved using the traditional bulino technique, and to the Excalibur Spider at Roger Dubuis, the first watch ever to set diamonds in rubber, on the bezel. Even so, the more subdued mood that prevailed at this year’s SIHH could be felt in the tendency to “hold back” on artistic embellishments, a trend echoed in the distinct efforts made by brands such as Montblanc and Baume & Mercier to propose more accessible entry-level ranges.

Lastly, two watches at opposite ends of the horological spectrum: the Time Walker e-Strap from Montblanc, an automatic watch on a connected strap, making it the first smartwatch to show at SIHH, and the RM 19-02 by Richard Mille, the brand’s first automata best Breitling replica watches in the form of petals that open to reveal the tourbillon every five minutes or on demand. Between these two extremes lies a world in itself: that of fine watchmaking.

SIHH: women and diamonds first in line

In French, the terms “grande complication”, “technical prowess”, “ambition”, “excellence” and the “new watchmaking year” are all feminine. And as the SIHH comes to a close, it is clear that 2015 will be all about women.

Is it not a sign of great progress for a woman to be able to give a man the time while extracting a jaw-dropping “wow!!” from him as he marvels at the mechanical beauty on her wrist? Or to have a conversation with him, as equals, about the mainspring, the barrel, or even the sinks—no, not the kitchen kind—equipping the movement of her Breitling replica watches sale? Such progress is being driven by watchmakers who are ready to swap the usual equation of “quartz + mother-of-pearl + diamonds = woman’s watch” for chic, high-tech alternatives. And as is customary, Richard Mille is leading the pack with a strong and bold timepiece: the barrel-shaped RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur. Five hand-crafted, hand-painted petals of a magnolia blossom delicately enclose a flying tourbillon developed by Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi. An automaton ushers the flower guarding the tourbillon carriage to open and close every five minutes, and can be manually activated on demand by a push-piece at 9 o’Clock. The coordination between the five levers linked to the tourbillon is one of the most striking features to blossom thus far in 2015. At Roger Dubuis, meanwhile, the forest of Brocéliande is the underlying theme of a poetic trilogy showcasing ivy leaves. Offering a feminine version of the skeleton  fake Breitling watches, the Excalibur Brocéliande required close collaboration between two very different professions: watchmaking and jewelry. Released in a limited edition of 28 timepieces and set with approximately 3.44 carats, it combines a world dedicated entirely to precious stones with expertise that demands precision to 1/100th of a micron. You might think of it as a real mix of genres. You’d be wrong. The temptation to marry diamonds with beautiful mechanics is an essential part of these new codes. Of course women want to wear jewelry creations. But they also prefer models that men wouldn’t refuse—or rather, models that put them on a par with their male counterparts.

The impact of women on turnover

Ever the good students, watchmakers have figured it out: factoring in women means increasing market share. Jaeger-LeCoultre places women on a pedestal with its Rendez-Vous Moon watch equipped with a moon-phase complication. The poetic charm of the moon is heightened by a dial that depicts the night sky calibrated to remain accurate for 972 years! Vacheron Constantin is celebrating its 260th anniversary in style with an elegant and feminine interpretation of a watchmaking complication: a new dual push-piece chronograph in its Harmony collection powered by the manually wound 1142 caliber. Released as a limited edition of 260 numbered timepieces, the best Breitling replica watches uk features a graceful gem-set bezel offering 1.20 carats of splendor. The icing on the cake is the prestigious Geneva Seal stamped on the chronograph’s movement. At Audemars Piguet, women take center stage with the Millenary watch and its inverted movement; even if this model is somewhat eclipsed by its sister, the Diamond Punk, with its scintillating diamond-studded cuff bracelet.

And this list would not be complete without a mention of Cartier and its “vibrant” Ballon Bleu. Three patents and five years of development were required to perfect this revolutionary new gem-set model whose diamonds seem to shimmer and glow. It was one of the greatest sensations at this year’s SIHH. Each of its 123 stones is mounted on a microscopic spring, which moves at the slightest tremble. The Breitling replica watches for uk sale is equipped with an ultra-thin 430 MC movement, a best-kept secret amongst women in the know who recognize fine craftsmanship when they see it. So welcome to the club, as it were.