In 2010 Vacheron launched a set of 3 watches (20 sets) in its Les Metiers d'Art collection, dedicated to Maki-e the ancient Japanese art of laquering. La Symbolique des Laques comes back in set n°2 of 3 watches (2 in light pink gold and 1 in white gold).
These new models followed the amazingy evocative Masks series and it was quite difficukt to do something as avant garde. Unfortunately as much as I could appreciate the workmanship the design left me cold. I find that some audacity has been infused into this second set with bolder and colorful elements.
excerpt from the press release:
This year the theme is “Kame Kaeru Koi”, dedicated to the aquatic realm, present animals selected from the vast symbolic legacy of Far Eastern artistic traditions. Incarnations of longevity, luck and strength, the turtle, frog and carp disclose their attributes in stylised waters on the enamelled dials. No fewer than four months were required to make each one. Each animal lends a powerfully symbolic face to the passing of time orchestrated by the skeletonised version of the ultra-thin Calibre 1003 calibre.
Here made in 18-carat gold, which is harder to work, this legendary movement is treated with ruthenium to match the dials and humbly allow the superlative excellence of the art of maki-e to shine through. Bearing the Geneva hallmark, a guarantee of quality manufacture in the purest Geneva watchmaking tradition, Calibre 1003 remains one of the standards of reference in Fine Watchmaking history. It is the world’s thinnest hand-wound mechanical movement, at only 1.64 mm thick. It was designed, developed and manufactured entirely within Vacheron Constantin’s workshops. The sapphire crystals on both sides of the watches reveal exceptional finishes, including chamfering, drawing and engraving, all done by hand.
Turtle (Kame) and Lotus Watch
“A crane lives a hundred years, a turtle lives ten thousand years.” In the imaginary realm, for Japanese, the turtle embodies longevity. The way it moves rightly symbolises patience and authority, and the pattern on its shell is also a sign of good luck, as is the octagonal shape of its carapace. Here associated with the lotus flower, it celebrates purity.
In the purest maki-e tradition, the animal’s shell is brought out by a light momidasi polishing done using oil stones, in such a way that the light reflects on its patterns, setting off their geometric precision. Its eye is incrusted with shell using the raden technique, while the taka maki-e technique lends a relief effect to the leaves floating on the shimmering waves.
Frog (Kaeru) and Hydrangea Watch
Venerated since the dawn of time in Asia, the frog is the symbol of returning. Its name, kaeru, also means “return.” The frog is known for its faithfulness; legend says that it always returns to its starting point, no matter how great the distance. Living along rivers and rice paddies, the frog has always been very close to Man. It is naturally associated with prosperity in an essentially agricultural, rice-growing economy. Its croaking is often heard in spring, the season of renewal. And if it decides to live in someone’s garden, it protects that person from danger and bad luck.
Paired with the hydrangea, the frog is one of the most glorified animals in Far-Eastern mythical traditions. This association symbolises patience—the same patience that has enabled Zohiko’s craftsmen to depict the frog on the watch dial. Its glistening eye is made using the hirame technique, which consists of spreading hirame powder before applying a lacquer that is to be darkened; its body captures the light thanks to momidashi polishing done with oil stones. The kakiwari technique, which reveals the underlying layer of lacquer, is used to depict the detailed veining in the plants’ leaves. The regular round pools, which seem to ripple away to infinity on the dial, reflect the calm and serenity that emanate from this watch.
Carp (Koi) and Waterfall Watch
Originally representing perseverance, the carp is also famous for its courage and determination. Many Chinese and Japanese legends praise its ability to swim upstream to negotiate rivers and waterfalls, despite currents that often are very strong. Even though carp usually live in calm waters in Japan, they are often represented as moving, bursting powerfully from the water. A symbol of success and good fortune, the carp is behind the May 5 Japanese holiday known as tanngo no sekku or “kodomo no hi,” the Children’s Day festival.
Its association with waterfalls symbolises strength and willpower. On the watch dial, the carp moves gracefully through the tumultuous water. The coloured lacquers, applied to the maki-e powder using the iro-katame technique and then polished, contrast with the black background. On the back, the waterfalls flow gracefully. They were created with the maki bokashi technique, which uses gold powder dispersed on the lacquer to blur the pattern.
TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS Métiers d’Art – La Symbolique des Laques
Limited series of 20 sets per year, each containing three watches
References 33222/000G-9550 – Carp and Waterfall
33222/000R-9546 – Frog and Hydrangea
33222/000R-9548 – Turtle and Lotus
Calibre 1003 SQ, openworked, 18K gold, ruthenium coated
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
Stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva
Energy Mechanical hand-wound
Movement thickness 1.64 mm
Movement diameter 21.10 mm
Jewelling 18 jewels
Frequency 2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour)
Indications Hours, minutes
Power reserve approx. 30 hours
Cases 18K white gold
18K 4N pink gold
Diameter 40 mm
Water resistance Tested at a pressure of 3 BAR (equivalent to 30 meters)
Dials Double dials: 18K gold lacquered using the Japanese maki-e technique
Strap Black Mississipiensis alligator leather, large square scales
Buckle Pin buckle in 18K white gold or 18K 4N pink gold
Polished half Maltese cross