Introducing the 3rd and last set of The Masks

In 2007 Vacheron Constantin became the talk of the town with the launch of the amazingly audacious Metiers d'Art The Masks celebrating human history and culture.

Merging traditional techniques such as engraving with cutting edge methods such as vacuum metalisation these pieces were more than horology but works of art.

For more detail you can read my article on the geneisis of this series: click here to read the article

This year sees the launch of the third and final set (limited like the others to a 4 piece set of 25)





OCEANIA - INDONESIA

Facial Mask
Island of Lombok, Sasak people
Hard wood, traces of white pigments
Height: 21.5 cm
Former collection of Mathias Komor
Inv. 3320-A 

poem inscribed on the dial:

I dance the duration the wait
patience the resistance
to suffering and to evil
the slowness of the days and nights
stammerings recognition
resignation but vigilance
the hasty passage of the months
and the devouring of the months

Michel Butor

With its air of bewilderment, this mask has both realistic and geometrical features and is dominated by the large eyes. It clearly represents an old man with its sunken cheeks, dark rings under the eyebrows, and especially the wrinkles that furrow its brow and the folds between the nose and mouth. These wrinkles animate the face and help give dramatic expression to the character, which seems to raise its eyebrows and half-open its mouth in amazement. The old man was a regular character in Balinese Wayang Topeng theatre. The masked actors did not speak because they had to hold their masks between their teeth with a leather thong. It was therefore left to the narrators and singers to describe the intrigue and recount the heroes’ adventures. 











ASIA - CHINA

Zangs-‘Bag facial Mask
Tibet region, Tantric Buddhism. 16th–17th century
Partially-gilt copper, pigments
Height: 22.2 cm
Inv. 2504-168

With my ornaments I surround
the emptiness opening in your eyes
and in your mouth a third
eye appearing on the forehead
to guide you in your labours
in the labyrinth of your lives
and those of your children
who continue your adventures 
Michel Butor

A mystery, even a profound sacredness, seems to emanate from this half-empty mask. And yet the highly naturalistic nose reminds us that this figure with its frozen expression has a human side. The divine is expressed by the strange mandorla, positioned like a jewel on the forehead of the mask and enclosing a painted eye. A beautifully designed frieze of gold-covered arabesques and scrolls frames the empty spaces. This type of zangs-’bag mask was worn by certain monks from the dGe-lugs-pa yellow hat sect. The masks were used in dances linked to the cult of Kâlacakra (the Wheel of Time). 








AMERICAS - MEXICO

Pendant Mask
State of Guerrero
Mezcala culture (300 – 100 BC)
Basalt
Height: 12.8 cm
Inv. 505-26

At regular intervals
during the dance I come and strike
the heart whose pulse
races at the screams
reverberating off the walls
that protect us from the ghosts
of felines and enemies
who venture onto our land 
Michel Butor


Blending the influences of several cultures in a singular style, this pendant mask conveys all the artist’s virtuosity. Its powerful and austere profile comprises both abstract and naturalistic features. The upper part of the face and the diagonal of the cheek are treated in a minimalist fashion; by contrast, the aquiline nose and down-turned mouth seem far more realistic. This mask belongs to the Mezcala culture. During the classical period, it was the custom of these people to bury their dead under the mud floors of their dwellings. In accordance with a ritual related to the ancestral worship of the dead, the tombs were full of small hard-stone sculptures of asexual human figures, heads, plaques decorated with faces, masks, and animal effigies. 













AFRICA - GABON 



Ngontang Mask
Western Gabon, Fang people
Soft wood covered with white kaolin, specks of crystallisation
Height: 31 cm
Inv. 1019-76

The line of my nose extending
between the eyebrows on my forehead
and on the other side to
my chin across my mouth
is like an arrow fired
by a bow towards the celestial heights
beyond the clouds
or naturally the bird
into which your soul changes 
Michel Butor


The sobriety of this white mask, with its melancholic air and o-shaped mouth, shows the sculptor’s remarkable sensitivity. It is covered with white kaolin, a colour that for the Fang, as for many other African tribes, referred to the spirit of the dead. The expressive power of the face is produced by the vertical line suggesting the nose as well as the scarifications from the chin to the forehead and from which two welldefined, curved eyebrows branch out. This mask was used in a ritual dance linked to the Byeri’s cult of ancestor worship. Although its use did not have any particularly religious significance, the initiated dancer had to respect certain ritual gestures and taboos. These dances were intended to protect the village from witchcraft and evil influences.













Technical Data

Reference numbers

China Mask 86070/000J-9400 for the 18K yellow gold version
Indonesia Mask 86070/000G-9399 for the 18K white gold version
Mexico Mask 86070/000P-9401 for the 950 Platinum version
Gabon Mask 86070/000R-9402 for the 5N 18K pink gold version

Calibre VC 2460 G4, self-winding mechanical
Stamped Poinçon de Genève

Thickness of movement 3.60 mm; 6.05 mm with additional plate

Diameter of movement 25.60 mm, or 11½ lignes

Jewelling 27 rubies

Frequency 28,800 vibrations/hour

Power reserve Approx. 40 hours

Indications and functions Displayed in 4 windows on the case rim:
- hours with dragging disc
- minutes with dragging disc
- day with semi-jumping disc
- date with semi-jumping disc

Case

China Mask 18K yellow gold
Indonesia Mask 18K white gold
Mexico Mask 950 Platinum
Gabon Mask 5N 18K pink gold

Diameter 40 mm with sapphire crystal back

Water-resistance 3 bar, equivalent to 30 metres

Dial Anti-reflective sapphire crystal

Strap Mississipiensis alligator, hand-stitched
High shiny finish, dark brown

Clasp 18K gold or 950 platinum folding clasp
Half Maltese Cross
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Sorry, but this set does not talk to me, The result is far far
06/03/2009 - 12:52
away from the first one (I am still astonish by the funeral chinese mask). Compare to the current chinese mask of the new set, it looks like coming from an X-Men movie... One question : the team was it the same to decide whish mask will be retains to constitue the set?
yes its the same team (nt)
06/03/2009 - 16:15
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I'm with you, I think the only one that spoke to me,
06/03/2009 - 19:41
was the chinese funeral mask, of all. Of course it's a marvellous work to do these, but I can't say I get excited,sorry... Doc
Out of the set I like the Indonesia Mask model most but I need to...
06/03/2009 - 16:59
double Lin - this is the weakest set/combination of the Masks' series IMO.  Alex, I love your pictures... They really show the depth and immpecability of design and finish. What's amazing is the different colors of dials you get when shot from various angles. Other than that, VC is very consistent in coming up with fresh and amazing novelties. Gotta love the brand and people behind it!
Alex; maybe it's just me.............
06/04/2009 - 03:32
but for a brand that is so lovely, romantic and elegant these leave me cold and wondering what the attraction is. Best regards, Tom
I like the Tibetan mask the best out of this series
06/04/2009 - 06:52
Maybe it's because I've been to Tibet and am interested in Tibetan culture.  (It does almost look like a Transformer, but its a good thing I like them as well ).  I appreciate the beauty and design of the entire Masks Series from an artistic point of view, with my all time favorites being the Liao (Chinese) Funeral Mask and the Tibetan Mask.  But when it comes a watch, I just can't see myself wearing one. I don't like this alternative method of telling time with 4 apertures and the writing on a transparent dial, similar to the QDI series, looks convoluted to me - very messy (particularly in the Americas-Mexico Mask). Even as a piece of art, I would only want to buy 1 or 2 at most, but not the entire collection of 4 per series. (I recall that the Masks are only sold as a collection of 4, if this is not correct, then please ignore the sentence above). BR, Dan
I agree with the majority
06/04/2009 - 07:23
I think this last set is the weakest (impact-wise) of the series.  The craftsmanship is of course outstanding but the choice of masks is probably the weak link here. The first set had a more universal appeal (impact) whereas this set is rather "bland" in comparison and, unless you have a special interest in the particular mask or culture, they do not "speak out" to most of us (IMHO). Of course I am sure they will appeal to some and since they are very limited, it is probably just as well. While I appreciate the effort and audacity behind the concept, I would prefer a "Tribute to the Great Explorers" or a mercator in terms of alternative time displays.  Of course that's just me. Thanks for the write up Alex. Best regards, Kazumi
Like the art involved, dislike the poem
06/04/2009 - 08:11
make the dial messy esp it is written in French which do not blend well with the original culture. oIf it is written in original ancient language to that particular culture, that may be different
The magical arts of VC
06/04/2009 - 12:13
Thank you Alex for sharing these new masks! Since Vacheron Constantin launched the masks series I've found this idea excellent, poetic and humanitarian. I'm not deceived by the final choices! I particularly like the African mask, but the Indonesian and American options are nearly as touching. I'm less appealed by the Chinese mask but must admit it seems representative of the Chinese cultutre, at least seen from here in Europe. I'm sure these masks series will leave a strong impression in the watchmaking history! Cheers Dje
You phrased it well, 'poetic and humanitarian'...
06/10/2009 - 18:16
are the words that come to mind. I personally think that VC made an ingeniuos decision with the 'Metiers d'Art The Masks' series. It certainly substantiates their stance as a manufacture interested in and cultivating actively not only the business and production aspects of the industry, but putting emphasis also on the cultural side. Furthermore, with each new series VC does not simply offer another 'dial variation', but an entirely new artifact, a new interpretation of ancient culture and therefore puts some substantial food for thought to our attention. Thanks a lot for this! Best regards, Magnus P.S.: Alex, fantastic pics & report!
Re: Introducing the 3rd and last set of The Masks
06/04/2009 - 12:23
I have to agree! This is the less powerfull set of the collection, but nevertheless, they are as usual outstanding pieces. Carlos Torres
Re: Introducing the 3rd and last set of The Masks
06/04/2009 - 13:46
I think the masks look nice.  I guess it is not easy integrating ancient masks, coupled with poetry, onto a watch.  This is the third time VC has had to do it.   What would be nice is to see pictures of the three sets (4 watches each) together side-by side. Why are they sold in sets of 4 and not individually?
WOW, love the last one...
06/04/2009 - 17:26
...from Africa.  Probably one of my two favorites in the whole 3 sets (the other one being the golden funerary mask in the first one). Too bad they are not sold individually... (not that I could afford one anyway right now... sigh...). Cheers, Alberto
I love them all
06/04/2009 - 22:47
All theses mask series are really special in the nowadays watch production, a touch of pure art inside a watch, it is quite unique. The first serie Congo mask and this 3rd series white from Gabon are those I prefer. By the way, I do not understand why so many find them quite worse as the other series ??? Best regards. François
My favorite of the set is Americas/Mexico
06/05/2009 - 00:25
I prefer this set compared to the second one. The first one is my favourite.
The Africa/Gabon mask has to be my favorite for several reasons.
06/06/2009 - 01:58
The mask itself looks more expressive to me and the poem attached has the greatest meaning to me at this stage of my life. I feel this is the true meaning of this series of timepieces when seen in their unique light, how do they reflect your spirit. There is also something slightly amusing, drawing me even closer to this mask--it looks very similar to the expression on my accountants face right after the US stock market took its big drop! Thank you for all of the above and having the courage to produce such art forms. Best to all, Tim
US Masks
06/10/2009 - 20:06
Personally I am disappointed that they did not represtent any US masks in this collection...