Musings on Haute Horlogerie

Hi all.  People often ask me why timepieces and, by extension, horlogerie interest me so much so I thought I would share those thoughts here in the lounge as well.  Enjoy, and please pardon the self-indulgent length!
(All images courtesy of Vacheron Constantin)
For me, timepieces are the manifestation of man’s potential into a single artifact.  I know this sounds like hyprbole, but think about this for a moment.  They are the union of man’s ingenuity, art, craft and sense of tradition – or man’s brain, eye, hands, and heart, if you will.
The brain.
The ingenuity of man is always something of a wonder to me.  The idea of Newton devising concepts like gravity and geometry from observation and logic and experimentation are simply awe-inspiring.  It is no less incredible to me that someone figured out how to use a system of gears, levers, springs and pinions to create a machine that can track time, date, calendar, multiple times, etc – and fit it onto a wrist!
Musings on Haute Horlogerie

The eye.
As much as great timepieces are works of science, they are also works of art.  Man’s capacity to create beauty is a wonderful thing.  Whether it is Beethoven’s music, Monet’s paintings, or Rodin’s sculptures, at his best man can create timeless beauty.  I think that timeless beauty is just as present in the steel bracelet of the current Overseas, or the many faces of the Metiers d'Art pieces, or the sound of the Repeaters, or the countless other details of so many pieces.
Musings on Haute Horlogerie

The hands.
Neither the creations of the mind nor the inspirations of the eye would mean anything if man had not the hands and the craft to execute them into artifact.  Throughout history, man has shown his ability to make things – indeed it was the use of the hands with opposable thumbs that differentiates us in evolution.  When I think of examples of this in haute horlogerie, while there are so many, I always think of the skeletons.  With all of the skeleton pieces, the celebration of the purest for of the craft of watchmaking is clear.  The artful execution of the science and the art of watchmaking.
Musings on Haute Horlogerie
The heart.
Finally, the heart – this is how I think of the conviction of the great houses to staying true to their traditions.  It is easy to chase trends to gain money or renown.  This is known as “cashing in” or “selling out”.  To not do this, first one needs a historical heritage from which to draw.  This cannot be created from whole cloth, nor can it be purchased.  This is why there are so few houses that have the esteem of VC – this is the natural precursor to the rarity and purity that collectors love.  In the most beloved pieces of any manufacture, there is something “instantly recognizable” about the piece that makes its provenance  obvious to the educated observer.
Musings on Haute Horlogerie

Pièce de résistance 
This is why pieces like the Tour d’Ille are so dramatic and inspirational.  They embody all of these virtues in one piece – much of man’s ingenuity, artfully executed by hand in manner true to the heritage of the house.  Amazing.
Musings on Haute Horlogerie
I hope you enjoyed my little “flight of fancy” and hearing a story I have told in some form or another to so many people who wonder why a piece that is unassuming and not “in your face” is so much more interesting (and often expensive) than the more “bling-y” options out there today.
I would love to hear the story you tell.
Re: Musings on Haute Horlogerie
04/28/2014 - 18:45
Great story. Well written.
a great post and I agree with everything but would also
04/28/2014 - 20:02
add creativity and a dash of folly to go ahead and make these mechanical marvels we love so much!
A week ago I would have agreed completely...
04/28/2014 - 22:23
... But found myself having an odd conversation with my self on a similar topic. What, really, is man's most astonishing act? I came to the conclusion that I thought it was leaving the atmosphere of the planet that gave birth to our species. Here then I would have inserted a photo of a rocket. But with one's feet firmly on terra firma, I completely agree with you! So maybe the VC Sputnik!? Best G
The big question Gary is did the homo erectus wear
04/28/2014 - 23:36
a hat?
You're right! That is the big question!
04/29/2014 - 00:21
And we may never know. One of the world's great mysteries... If only we would all embrace this question at each and every present opportunity. The truth will out.... G
Re: You're right! That is the big question!
04/29/2014 - 01:26
If not a hat, maybe those cool Maltese Cross shoes?