In 2010 Vacheron Constantin created a unique timepiece The Chagall et l’Opera de Paris - Tribute to the Great Composers whose enamel dial is a reproduction of the Paris Opera Garnier ceiling painted by Chagall in 1964. Vacheron Constantin decided to keep this watch in its private collection but to create 11 unique pieces each representing one of the composers depicted in Chagall's original painting.
The Tribute to Claude Bebussy is the latest model to leave the VC ateliers
Claude Debussy - Pelleas and Mélisande
A major early 20th century opera, Pelleas and Mélisande ushered the musical genre firmly into the vibrant modern age. Its musical aesthetic is beautifully echoed in the painting by Chagall, infused with the energy radiating from a fascinating dialogue between colours: under the painter’s brush, yellow and blue play out their never-ending love story. The enamelled miniature dial of the Métiers d’Art watch in turn confirms that this work presented by Debussy in 1902 is a timeless fable that transcends passing eras and enshrines a kind of floating eternity, at the heart of which the tragic love affair is expressed in all its fanciful and contradictory beauty.
This dial is based on the grand feu Geneva enamel technique. The grand feu enamels used in the Geneva technique reach their point of fusion at an extremely high temperature, between 800°C and 900°C, resulting in exceptional purity and longevity.
The Geneva technique of miniature enamelling with a protective flux coating is undoubtedly that which requires the greatest expertise from the master enameller. On a dial measuring 1 mm thick and 31.50 mm in diameter, a white base enamel - that is extremely hard because of its high fusion point - is applied on the dial. This dial undergoes a first firing at a temperature of around 900°C in order to be able to withstand the many subsequent firings in the furnace.
On this white enamel base serving as a “background canvas”, the artist starts by tracing the outlines of the various motifs with a brush consisting of two or three marten’s hairs. Using a strong binocular magnifying instrument, she recreated the atmosphere and the emotional vibrations of the work to be reproduced in miniature. This involved a few touches of colour on the chosen shade, placed in successive points in an extremely precise order, moving throughout the entire process from the softer shades to the purer, brighter ones. The extremely fine powders and pigments used for miniature enamel paintings are blended with oils such as lily flower oil, to make them easier to apply.
When the miniature enamelled painting has been completed and fired for the last time, it is generally coated with two or three layers of a finishing flux consisting of a transparent enamel serving to protect the work from the potential effects of ageing. Following the final firing of this flux (at 800°C), a fine polish with an abrasive stone is performed, followed by the final polishing operation after the last vitrification in order to achieve the full radiance and pictorial splendour of the work.