SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

Press release

Métiers d’Art “Les Masques” collection

Two years ago, in 2005, Vacheron Constantin celebrated 250 years of uninterrupted history. This jubilee event, unique in the annals of watchmaking history, was a perfect opportunity for the Geneva-based manufacture to demonstrate its mastery of horological art with exploits that redefined the limits of what is possible. Having proudly turned to its past, Vacheron Constantin continued its steady march towards the future, in an ongoing quest for the extraordinary. To create, astound and enchant, these are the challenges for the years to come.

Watchmaking is an art requiring fresh starts and continual improvement. How else can one go on creating surprises? Thanks in particular to one of its founders, François Constantin, the manufacture’s name and reputation are synonymous with distant horizons. An accomplished ambassador and tireless traveller, he crisscrossed the world in the hazardous conditions of the times to spread the company’s watchmaking expertise on other continents. By 1820, he was already exploring opportunities in China and, in 1833, the first Vacheron & Constantin watches were crossing the Atlantic. The company had realised very early on the necessity of gaining a foothold in the New World and opened a subsidiary in New York before going on to open other markets: in Brazil in 1840, and India ten years later.

Can a timepiece serve as a cultural bridge between nations? Both the company’s founders believed so. In 2007, the manufacture felt the need to go back to basics, paying homage to man when he verges on the sublime. It was a long journey, taking its watchmakers through time and space in search of man’s roots and focussing on one of the most beautiful expressions of his soul.

Three years, twelve masks, twenty-five pieces each

What would be the best subject to subtly evoke the human experience? The manufacture’s master watchmakers and designers considered several possibilities. As it turned out, the choice of masks was an obvious one, for Geneva is extremely fortunate in having one of the world’s finest museums of primitive art, the Barbier-Mueller Museum. Its proximity guided Vacheron Constantin in its final choice. The Métiers d’Art « Les Masques » collection, therefore, grew out of a reflection on the near and far, the past, present and future, and the process of constant renewal.

But one obstacle remained: to win over the museum. Would it be willing to lend its treasures for months on end so that they could be reproduced on the dial of a collector’s watch? In the end, three things convinced Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller of the project’s beauty and significance: a preliminary drawing, a lunch during which he and the Vacheron Constantin team were able to share their common passion for beautiful objects, and the manufacture’s philosophy.

The rest was a matter of horological magic and the commitment of a team to surpass the limits of possibility. Twelve masks were selected from the Barbier-Mueller collection for small-scale reproduction in gold. They will repose majestically at the centre of each timepiece in a collection that will span three thousand years and four continents, reflecting the brand’s long history and its spirit of openness to the world.
Because Vacheron Constantin understands the value of time, it respected the time needed to create such exceptional pieces. Long months were required first of all to perfect the movement, and then the techniques with which the master craftsmen could reproduce these works of art in miniature. There had to be plenty of time for questioning, reflection and invention.

A collection cannot be hurried. That is why the Métiers d’Art « Les Masques » collection is a story that will take time to unfurl. Every year, for three years, a boxed set of four different masks will be presented in a limited series of 25. By the end, the complete collection will comprise 12 masks, for a total of 300 watches. The first set of four is presented in April at the 2007 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva.

A mysterious movement and a show-case for a work of art in miniature

Each timepiece is equipped with the automatic Calibre 2460G4 movement. Made by the manufacture and bearing the Poinçon de Genève, it was developed in 2005 for the Métiers d’Art, “Les 4 saisons” collection. Thanks to this very special movement, the time can be read without any hands: by means of a set of wheels and gears, four discs indicate the hours, minutes, days and date in windows, leaving the centre of the dial empty for the masks to be placed there and for the craftsmen to give free rein to their creativity. The movement has been completely redesigned to receive the masks; even though time is the raison d’être here, the masks are the focus of attention and must be put in the spotlight. To ensure that they are, the team of designers decided to virtually conceal the movement. A clever technique using transparency and specially-treated glass creates the impression that the masks are floating. Each sapphire crystal has a different tint, obtained by a unique metallisation process, so that it sets off the colour of the mask. The effect is breathtaking: the miniature sculpture seems within reach, freed from its show-case, like a motionless automaton, a silent guardian of ancestral secrets. The case is fashioned in white gold for the Alaskan mask, pink gold for the Indonesian mask, yellow gold for the Chinese mask, and platinum for the Congolese mask.

It required all Michel Butor’s talent to give voice, if not life, to the masks. His magnificent words, short poems in prose dedicated to each mask, circle the sapphire dial in letters of gold. The writer’s lines follow each other in a spiral that seems to have no beginning and no end, a mysterious message that can only be read when the light strikes it from a certain angle. This effect is achieved by vacuum metallisation, a sophisticated technological process in which the gold letters are sprayed onto a sapphire crystal. Thanks to the multiple play of light and transparency, the watch has secrets that it will only ever share with its owner.

SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection

Re: SIHH 2007: Métiers dArt Les Masques collection
04/16/2007 - 17:41

Hi Alex,

What a stunning, revolutionary idea!

It really raises the level of watch design to another more exalted plateau.

They are really incredible pieces, part timepiece, part decorative art.

Congratulations to Vaceron and its talented staff!

Joseph

The writing on each dial
04/16/2007 - 21:26
First of all - just fantastic! Can you tell us what is written on each dial (english translation would be easier - my french is horrid). Thanks
Its a poem from a femous Swiss poet inspired by the original masks. I
04/17/2007 - 19:27

will post a translation as soon as I get back home.

cheers fom Geneva

Translation of the poems on the dials...and some "in the flesh" photos
04/19/2007 - 15:50

The poems are from Michel Butor. In fact each poem was inspired by the exact mask it refers to.

The Chinese funeral mask

The light is concentrated in the gold where I close my eyes

Throuhj my eyelids I see the sleep of my descendants

I slip into their dreams to give them my news

And light up the impasses where adversity lies in wait

The Alaska Mask

If I stick out my tongue, it is to show the trust I have in you

Following your movements on the sea between storms and in forste between vas conifers

On which your genealocical myths will be inscribed

The Congo Mask

The wanted to deepen the shadow where you will set your eyes

so that the flashes of sun and flames will penetrate further

with their arrows to tattoo

not only your face and skin of your whole body

but the secrets of your night

The Ineonesia mask

Bewitcher I observe the shapes of girls who pass

my eyebrows are like a bird ready to take wing and circle its prey

my moustache like a serpent ready to strike at the least sign of weakness or assent

Re: Translation of the poems on the dials...and some "in the flesh" photos
04/19/2007 - 23:41

"Bewitcher I observe the shapes of girls who pass my eyebrows are like a bird ready to take wing and circle its prey my moustache like a serpent ready to strike at the least sign of weakness or assent"

Thats my kind of poetry - Keep it pimp-stylee *lol*. Picture yourself in a bar and a striking blonde comes up and asks you about you watch...and later on what that french poems is about - With "bedroom-eyes" and soft voice you wisper the poem into her ear - you cant fail that one ;-)

///lloyd

Do let us know how that turns out...
04/20/2007 - 01:27
hope you have a good dentist ;) LOL
If someone is willing to give me the watch...
04/20/2007 - 11:23

...Il will make a try - ok? :-)

/rgds

/llloyd

Thank you Alex
04/20/2007 - 01:26
.
That's how i like VC....
04/16/2007 - 23:18

with some bold and original designs.

My two favorite are the Chinese and Indonesian versions.

jérôme

I am blown away!
04/17/2007 - 01:51

Absolutely stunning!  What artistry & originality!  To combine the craftmanship and ingenuity of the movement with the concept & execution of the mask theme is pure genius.  The technology of the writing upon the crystal is amazing.  Arriving on the heels of all the Jubilee watches these new ones demonstrate that VC is hitting its stride as an important innovator of haute horology.  I can't wait to see the next 2 releases of these masks.

Nicholas

Fantastic!
04/17/2007 - 03:00

Okey, I admit it: I did not think that VC would impress me much this year. I Thought we could expect a "Patrimony dual-time" or something like that - With the mournful fealing of something of great history that fumbles in the dark.

* SMACK * ...right in my face - maybe the most beautiful watch i ever set my eyes on!!! That "Congo Montre" ...dont have words for it. I hope - one day - that I can hold it in my hand. Dont need to own it...just hold it. WOW!

A lovely "comeback" from the house of VC - hope this will be the standard of releases in the future. Much much respect to the people of VC!

So, this year VC made the homerun. Nothing will be close to this. Just one other brand (at this point) impressed me and thats Girard Perregauxs with its Vintage 1945 Jackpot Tourbillon hehe. So cool! But this is no GP-forum so I "wrap it up".

/Rgds

llloyd

Eh...where are the hands ?? . ;=-)
04/17/2007 - 12:07

hehe..I think VC is getting bolder by the year :)

cheers

joe

Re: Eh...where are the hands ?? . ;=-)
04/17/2007 - 15:05

What for the hands ?.  “Les Masques” collection without this is also fantastic :-).

Regards

Mariusz

Thanks Alex
04/19/2007 - 02:04

I saw them yesterday and they are beautiful. What an outstanding work !

Fr.Xavier

Hi FX, I hope VC's new watches will make you want to
04/19/2007 - 12:09

discover the brand :-)