At the HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, visitors have a chance to view a dazzling watch from the house of Vacheron Constantin. The watch has 186 emerald-cut diamonds weighing about 160 karats and it is HK$70 million (about $8,981,000) worth. This adorable timepiece from the new Métiers d’Art collection – La symbolique des laques comes in a limited series of only 20 sets per year and each of them incorporates three distinctive watches.
Since 1755, Vacheron Constantin has always been devoting itself to inheriting and developing artistic watchmaking crafts. The Swiss manufacturer of prestige watches joins to Japanese maki-e to improve its masterpieces of functional art. Maki-e actually means a “sprinkled picture” and it is the most sophisticated lacquer technique. It includes a decorative operation in which the design is created by delicately sprinkling gold or silver dust over the usual black lacquer, while it is still wet.
The latest collection includes three differently styled masterpieces, dedicated to natural creations with great spiritual or symbolic importance in Japanese culture.
Also known as “The Three Friends of Winter”, they feature the themes of pine tree, bamboo, and plum tree. Each of them is paired with a proper bird: the crane, the sparrow and the nightingale. The main design of the tree on the front of the watch is sported by the bird design on the back.
These watches from the Metiers d’art collection are crafted in 18 karats rose or white gold. Each of them measures 40 mm in diameter. They all have double faces, lacquered with the maki-e techniques. Beyond these admirable dials lies Vacheron Constantin Caliber 1003, built on 18 jewels. The hand-winding mechanical movement is created in 14-karat white gold, treated in ruthenium and finally stamped with a Geneva Hallmark. It is visible through a cutout on the central section on the dial. The cutout reveals the artistry of a superbly skeletonized movement that can be ranked among the thinnest in the world (only 1.64 mm thick). The movement is developed and crafted in-house and provides the power reserve of over 30 hours. The case construction is crafted to resist water pressure up to 30 meters (99 feet). Each dial in this collection is hand crafted by maki-e master, Mr. Yamamoto.
“The Three Friends of Winter”
The first watch from this collection is Metiers d’art – La symbolique des laques – Pine Tree & Crane (referent number 33222/000R-9506). In Japanese tradition and art, pine tree has always been prized for the beauty of its twisted shapes and they considered it to be one of the main symbols of long life and even immortality. The second element that took place in the creation of this watch is crane. This bird, alongside phoenix, is one of the most wreathed in the legend of Far Eastern traditions, and has also always been a symbol of longevity, as well as of noble elegance. They were reserved rigorously for the Emperor’s pleasure, and hunting them was forbidden until 1868.
The second masterpiece is Metiers d’art – La symbolique des laques – Bamboo & Sparrow (referent number 33222/000G-9521). Though the bamboo does not live as long as the pine, it also represents longevity. Beside, the tree is associated with emptiness, or space, which in Japanese culture embodies the simplicity of tolerance and open mindedness. On the other side, the sparrows are considered to be the symbols of honor, duty and loyalty.
Finally, the third part of this collection is Metiers d’art – La symbolique des laques – Plum Tree & Nightingale watch (referent number 33222/000R-9517). The pink-tinged white flowers of the plum tree are open in mid-winter and they spread their subtle and fresh perfume through the coldest month. This tree represents a metaphor for inside beauty and modesty. The nightingale is the first messenger of spring, as well as the plum tree. The pairing of these two comes naturally because they have always been together in Japanese art and poetry. Also, both of them celebrate the arrival of spring, one with its early flowers and the other with its song.
Each of the “Three Friends of Winter” is attached to an alligator Mississippiensis strap, joined to ardillon buckles in white or pink gold, shaped to resemble the half of a Maltese cross.