This year’s edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is introducing some changes when it comes to the categories in which the prizes will be awarded. One of these novelties is that the previously unified award for the Best Jewelry and Artistic Crafts watch has now been split in two separate categories. The newly established Best Artistic Crafts (or the Métiers d’Arts) Award takes into consideration timepieces that show exceptional mastery of one (or several) artistic techniques such as engraving, lacquering, enameling, guilloche, open-working, etc. The list of seven best watches in this competition for, according to the jury of the most prestigious annual award ceremony in the world, is: Boucheron Epure Je Pense à Toi, Bovet 1822 Amadeo Fleurier Tourbillon Amadéo, Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé, Chaumet Hortensia Tourbillon Watch, De Bethune DB25 Imperial Fountain, Hermès Arceau H Cube and Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papilon Extraordinaire.
Boucheron Epure Je Pense à Toi – Open-Worked Diamonds
The first watch in the Metiers d’Art selection is a Boucheron timekeeper inspired by the founder of the renowned French luxury goods manufacturer, Frederic Boucheron. As the story goes, before each of his numerous voyages around the world, Boucheron would send his wife Gabrielle a bouquet of pansies and a note which stated “Je Pense a Toi” (meaning “I am thinking of you”). For these reasons, the French brand has made an intricately decorated watch that features a pansy shaped open-work decoration as its central motif.
It is a part of the Epure d’Art collection which uses nature as inspiration. In regard to the used decoration, Je Pense a Toi watch is fairly similar to Epure Tourbillon Vitis, another timepiece by Boucheron which is on the shortlist for the Best Ladies’ Complication award at this year’s Watchmaking Grand Prix of Geneva. The central motif made with by the skilled artisans of the brand is comprised of lovely open-worked diamonds. More than 250 gems are set on a contrasting black hematite background for a more spectacular effect. They are arranged and fixed to the face in two different setting techniques. While the petals are created from snow-set stones, the pistils are from close-set diamonds surrounded by an extremely delicate gold beading. Moreover, the use of a compact powder mirror technique and the three-dimensionality of the decorations are also contributors to the overall artistic value of the watch.
Boucheron Epure Je Pense a Toi timepiece is made in a limited series restricted to 26 pieces. Since the decorations are quite demanding, each of the copies is a bit different which further contributes to the charm of the model.
The timekeeper from the Epure d’Art series is also strong in the horological sense, since it includes a Swiss-made automatic-wound mechanical movement which works at the frequency of 28,800 vph and offers a power reserve of 40 hours. Otherwise, it is likewise important to say that the watch with the reference number WA021401 has a round white gold housing which features the width of 1 mm, the thickness of 11.9 mm and water resistance to 50 meters. Je Pense a Toi pansy-themed timekeeper is made with a black leather strap and has the price of around $98,275.
Bovet 1822 Amadeo Fleurier Tourbillon Amadéo – A Skeletonized Movement with Double Fleurisanne Engraving and a Miniature Painting on Mother-of-Pearl
The pre-selected watch by Bovet is exceptional in many aspects. Firstly, it is one of only two watches on the list that includes a tourbillon. The timepiece from the Grandes Complication collection is also made in just a single copy and it is by far the most expensive of all seven chosen watches with the hefty price of $333,000. Moreover, it can pride itself with an amazing power reserve that lasts for an entire week. Since we are now talking about the candidates for the GPHG award in the Metiers d’Art category, we shall not focus on the technical aspect of this amazing watch, but on the magnificently executed artistic crafts used in the creation of the piece, namely the use of Fleurisanne engraving on its open-worked movement.
At the start, we should note that the watch has the patented Amadeo case and therefore has two different faces, as well as an ability to be converted to a pocket watch or a clock (previously, we have covered two other Amadeo-cased timepieces by Bovet: Dragon & Phoenix piece for the Only Watch 2011 event and Virtuoso Tourbillon). Unlike these two models, Amadeo Fleurier Tourbillon Amadéo features a completely skeletonized movement which was produced by Dimier 1738. The movement rests on three-quarter plates, which allows an excellent view of its tourbillon carriage and simultaneously raises the level of mechanical density in the upper part of the movement which is supplied with two traditional barrels which stand behind the amazing power reserve that lasts for seven days. Even though the entire movement is skeletonized which makes it susceptible to potential problems (especially its escapement), Pascal Raffy and his team made sure not to compromise the technical precision of the watch. A crucial step in this direction was the inclusion of watchmakers into the design of the ornaments: the watchmakers made sure to come up with necessary restrictions and only then the engraving artisans started beautifying the plates and bridges with the Fleurisanne engravings. By the way, this technique is in a way reversed to the usual one, since it includes hollowing out of the material around the desired motif. The task of engravers was even more challenging because the watch has two faces and because Bovet decided to therefore engrave the plates and bridges from both sides. By overcoming these challenges, the watchmaker was able to create another one of its distinctive three-dimensional movements that can be considered as a true sculpture and work of art. Undoubtedly, its difficulty and the level of skill required to make such decorations is the reason why Bovet Amadeo Fleurier Tourbillon Amadeo timepiece made the shortlist.
Apart from displaying the intricate engravings, the second face of the Bovet timekeeper likewise includes a lovely miniature painting of a “Madarin Duck” on white mother-of-pearl background that serves as an off-center dial with hours and minutes. These basic timekeeping indications are on the front side at the central position. The one-minute tourbillon feature, visible from both sides, is on the front side coupled with a seconds hand, while the list of complications is completed with a power reserve display which is at the same side. Otherwise, it is noteworthy to say that the watch by Bovet has its Amadeo case made from white gold and with the diameter of 45 mm and the thickness of 11.4 mm. Its waterproofness is to 30 meters, while the wristlet of choice is a leather strap with a pin buckle.
Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé – Embroidery and Stone-Setting
The next contender is a truly unusual watch by Chanel. Interestingly, it has a dial that features an unusual artistic craft of embroidery. It is showing the often used camellia flower motif which is widely present in various Chanel products. However, it is the first time that the motif is made with the help of embroidery.
This limited edition timekeeper which is launched in a series that consists of 18 pieces was made in the collaboration with the famous Parisian studio La Maison Lasage. Previously, Chanel has worked with the artistic atelier several times. However, this is the first time its savoir-faire was used in order to create a dial of a watch. It was made in a technique known as peinture à l’aiguille (needlework painting), which utilizes silk threads of different colors that were combined on a black background to create the charming camellia design. The face of the watch is completed with hour and minute hands which were crafted from 18K white gold. Apart from the embroidered dial, the watch includes several diamond ornaments. Its white gold case (37.5 mm wide and 9.84 mm high) is sprinkled with the plethora of 562 brilliant-cut diamonds which are set on the bezel in three rows (the total weight of around 3.07 carats). More of the same gems are visible on its ardillon buckle (80 stones with the weight of 0.48), whereas the crown shows off an onyx cabochon.
The Chanel watch with the reference number is naturally equipped with a mechanical movement. It operates at the rate of 28,800 vph and it features an automatic-winding system paired with a power reserve of 42 hours. The only supported functions are hours and minutes. Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé is made with a satin attachment and has the price of around $95,370.
Chaumet Hortensia Tourbillon Watch – Grand Feu Enamel, Engraving and Stone-Setting
Another floral-themed timekeeper in the competition for the Artistic Crafts prize is made by Chaumet. It has a lovely executed blue dial which depicts hortensia flowers in various shades with the use of Grand Feu enameling and engraving techniques. The hydrangea motif is likewise visible on the lovely looking tourbillon cage of the timekeeper. Apart from these decorations, the Chaumet product with the reference number W20190-01A and a blue alligator leather strap is ornamented with diamonds which completely cover its bezel and lugs.
The lovely blue-faced timekeeper by Chaumet is made with hand-wound CP12V-IX caliber with hand-winding and a respectable power reserve of 120 hours. It is likewise noteworthy to state that the caliber in question has the frequency of 21,600 vph. The tourbillon movement is placed inside a round white gold housing with the diameter of 39.9 mm and the thickness of 13.76 mm. It is issued in a restricted edition of a dozen pieces and it is the second highest valued watch on the shortlist with the steep price of around $263,850.
De Bethune DB25 Imperial Fountain – Bas-Relief Engraving and Grand Feu Enameling
The De Bethune timekeeper in the competition for the Metiers d’Art accolade is modeled after the famous Imperial Fountain which was once the attraction of the Summer Palace in the Yuan Ming Yuan garden at the outskirts of the Chinese capital, Beijing. The fountain in question was actually a water clock (or a clepsydra) with sculptures of twelve Chinese zodiac symbols arranged in a semi-circle. This cultural treasure was later demolished, but the legend of it has remained strong which is why De Bethune decided to make homage to it by creating a special set of watches which will replicate its motifs and it was done in a spectacular way. The dial of De Bethune DB25 Imperial Fountain timepiece is made from solid gold which is afterwards hand-engraved. At the center is a bas-relief featuring one of the twelve animal heads (mythological) which further represent a Zodiac sign, so there are in fact twelve different unique watches. For even spectacular result, the central motif is further enriched with a Grand Feu enameling which all together made the jury of the GPHG 2013 select the timepiece by De Bethune as a contender for the prize.
The watch features an atypical representation of time with two fame-blued steel hands at the periphery of the dial, which was done in order to liberate the center of the watch’s face for the impressive engravings. Moreover, this required an innovative type of movement, which is why De Bethune developed a technically impressive DB 2145 caliber with several patents and the rate of 28800 vph. One of these innovations is a self-regulating barrel included in its hand-winding system that allows the watch the extended power reserve of 5 days.
Furthermore, it should be said that DB 25 Imperial Fountain has a drum-shaped white gold casing with the diameter of 44 mm, a transparent case-back and the basic water resistance to 30 meters. Joined to the case with the use of hollowed lugs, the watch is made with an extra-supple alligator leather strap. Each of twelve unique watches by De Bethune has the value of around $165,675.
Hermès Arceau H Cube – Straw Marquetry
The next pre-selected timepiece in the Artistic Crafts category is a timekeeper by Hermes which shows off the straw marquetry technique. It is one of the crafts that requires a lot of skill and patience and everything starts with growing the right type of rye whose straws are long and smooth and therefore suitable for the task. The stems of the plants that are all cultivated at a single plantation are scythed by a hand of a skilled craftsman and subsequently dyed. What comes next are successive baths and drying which are both necessary for the creation of specific colors. Once this is done, an artisan combines the different colored straws into an impressive composition while taking into account not just the shades, but also the direction of the fibers on the plants.
In this case, Arceau opted to combine the straws in order to form its iconic H Cube geometrical motif that plays with illusions of perspective, which was envisioned by the brand’s legend – the designer, Henri d’Origny. The H Cube motif made with the upmost precision on a very small space was executed in warm red, yellow and orange colors.
The AR8.790.320/ZBA timepiece by Hermes from the Arceu collection is fitted in a white gold case, just like many of the other contenders for the prize. It is 41 mm wide, 9.6 mm thick and with the guaranteed waterprofness of 30 meters. Inside the circular casing there is H1837 manufacture automatic mechanical movement which can be observed through a see-though case-back. It has the rate of 28,800, involves hours and minutes as functions and provides a power storage of 50 hours. The eight-piece limited edition watch by Hermes is the cheapest one on the shortlist with the approximate value of about $55,000.
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papilon Extraordinaire – Hard Stone Marquetry, Plique-À-Jour Enamelling, Engraving and Diamond-Setting
The last watch that made the shortlist for the Metiers d’Art category combines four different artistic crafts in the creation of its mesmerisizing dial which is featured with a butterfly motif. Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papilon Extraordinaire displays hard stone marquetry which was used in the parts in lapis lazuli, plique-à-jour enameling for the butterfly wings, sculpture on gold and mother-of-pearl for the background for its butterfly ornament and finally, diamond setting whose work is displayed on the watch’s bezel. The end result of the joined use of different techniques is a lovely pink and blue depiction of a butterfly placed on a flower.
The name of the plique-à-jour procedure which is used in the decoration of the Van Cleef & Arpels watch means “letting in daylight”. It is similar to cloisonné enameling where layers of enameled are applied in individual cells. Unlike the cloisonné, it is executed with a use of a temporary backing which is later destroyed so it is completely translucent thus allowing light to pass through it, hence the name.
This watch with the reference number VCARO4FM00 originates from the Cadranes Extraoridnaires collection and utilizes the butterfly motif which the brand has been using ever since the 1920s. More recently, Van Cleef and Arpels launched Lady Arpels Butterfly Symphony timepiece which was crowned with the Public and the Best Lady’s watch prizes at the GPHG 2011.
The latest butterfly-themed watch by the legendary French brand is placed into a circular white gold housing with the diameter of 38.4 mm and the height of 10.5 mm. Inside the housing there is a hand-wound mechanical movement, running at the rate of 21,600 vph and offering a power storage of 60 hours. The watch includes only hours and minutes among its functions and has the price of around $104,550.