With Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection, Vacheron Constantin embarks on a nocturnal journey above the world’s most iconic cities. Traditional Grand Feu champlevé enamelling unites with hand-applied precious powder, an art never yet used in Haute Horlogerie. The realistic beauty of these timepieces opens up whole new dimension of horology.
An unusual mix
Vacheron Constantin has joined two exceptional arts: Grand Feu champlevé enamelling, a skill passed on for almost three centuries by the Vacheron Constantin artisans; and hand-applied precious powder, a technique mastered by Japanese guest artist Yoko Imai. This technique has been used on a watch dial to which particles of gold, pearl, platinum and diamond powder are meticulously distilled one by one. The bright dots of light, placed with precision, compose a portrait of the urban landscapes. The light effects play across these strikingly realistic roads, rivers and famous landmarks. The Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières watches run on a mechanical Manufacture movement graced with refined finishing, in accordance with traditional Haute Horlogerie techniques. After the first models dedicated to the nocturnal magic of Geneva, Paris, New York, Beijing, this night-flight across time continues over Tokyo.
View from above
Vacheron Constantin has depicted these major cities through their nocturnal panorama. The miniature tableaus that Yoko Imai has composed faithfully reproduce the real ‘light cartography’ of the cities, with their various sorts of light, such as variously animated districts and even traffic density! This incredibly meticulous work on the map of each city called for several weeks of research and trials on various base materials.
Grand Feu enamelling
For each of the dials, the enameller first examines the possibilities afforded by champlevé in order to highlight the shapes of the streets, gardens and stretches of water. After hollowing out the gold dial by hand according to the chosen outlines, successive layers of translucent coloured enamel are applied. Between each coating, the dial is fired at the extreme temperature of 850°C. These crucial and delicate stages enable the powdered glass mixed with colouring oxides to be melted, transformed and then vitrified by cooling. The process bears the inevitable risk of the dial cracking or flaws forming.
Vacheron Constantin invited the Japanese artist Yoko Imai to associate her art with that of the enamelling artisan. Yoko Imai has developed her own artistic technique: calligraphy-inspired painting on canvas, inspired by precious powder. The technique of applying precious powders borrows a fundamental principle from calligraphy. Using a thin stylus, the powder particles are individually affixed using a secret technique. Each fragment is perfectly positioned in its rightful place. There is simply no room for error.
Firstly, tiny gold grains form the luminous backdrop. Then diamond and platinum powder are successively applied to create shiny and dark effects, punctuated by pearl spangles. Their varying brightness makes it possible adjust the direction and size of the luminescent areas. On the enamel base, between the raised gold ridges, tens of thousands of spangles shine in the light. The radiance of the composition is more intense in the dial centre and gradually softens towards the outer edges of the dial. Each dial is unique and takes more than three months to complete.
Finally, the timepieces of the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection are certified by the Hallmark of Geneva. Manufacture Vacheron Constantin mechanical self-winding Caliber 2460 SC drives a display of the hours, minutes and seconds. Visible through the transparent case-back, the 22 carats gold oscillating weight features a decoration inspired by the Maltese cross, the Vacheron Constantin signature emblem. Each of the components, whether visible or hidden, is adorned with finishes crafted by bevelling, circular-graining and polishing. The movement is protected by a precious white gold case.
2460 SC Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin Mechanical, self-winding 26.2 mm (111⁄4’’’) diameter, 3.6 mm thick Approximately 40 hours of power reserve 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations per hour) 182 components 27 jewels Hallmark of Geneva certified timepieces
Hours, minutes and center seconds
18K white gold 40 mm diameter, 8.9 mm thick Transparent sapphire crystal caseback Water-resistance tested at a pressure of 3 bar (approximately 30 meters)
18K gold dial with Grand Feu champlevé & translucent enamel and powder of precious stones (diamonds, pearl) & precious metal (gold, platinum) filled by hand
Black Mississippiensis alligator leather with alligator inner shell, large square scales
18K white gold buckle Polished half Maltese cross-shaped