Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

Hello to you all, as promised a debriefing on my visit to the Vacheron Constantin set at the Journée Européenne des Métiers d'Art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris on the Bank of the Seine river, quai Malaquais.
Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

The Vacheron and Constantin area was in a nice wooden area

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)
First we went to the gem setting area where we were greeted by Gerard Paquelet and his apprentice Klybers Antigua-Acévédo
 
Klybers Antigua-Acévédo Klybers, who has four months of apprentice, explained the traditional gem setting techniques and the special necessary tools for inserting, cutting and finishing.
Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

for a closer look of the gem setting process

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)


The effect can be breath-taking: look at this dove flying over the dial!

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)


Then Gerard Paquelet explained the special technique behind the invisible setting used for of the range pieces like this Malte Tourbillon.
 
Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

To achieve this, every single diamond has a groove in wich the metal holding the diamond will slide in. This way, there is no metal visible to the naked eye.

Each diamond is set individually with almost zero tolerance. In the course of setting such a model, the gem setter might go back 4 to 5 times to the diamond cutter to make microscopic adjustments.

The only way to be certain that a diamond has been properly set is to listen to a clear “click” when the metal sets into the diamond groove. If there no “click” and the diamond appears to be set, it means that the metal was bent instead of setting into the groove, it is only a matter of time before the diamond falls loose. If there is more than one “click”, it is likely that the diamond edge around the grove is broken… and another diamond needs to be cut.

Finally, when all is done, the watch goes back to the gemmologist for yet another grading of the diamonds. It is not enough that the diamond were graded to quality before the setting, they need to be checked again by the expert gemmologist to ensure that the setting has not impacted any of its attributes.


We then moved on to the guillochage area with Christian Moniez and Suppachai Wattanakanoktham. We were greeted by Suppachai Wattanakanoktham:

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

The magnifying video allowed appreciating his work.

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

Then it was our turn to sit at the wooden bench, the machine at the manufacture has a pig iron table for more stability.
The machine dates from the 1920’s, the only thing added to the original are the binoculars.

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

The machine is simple to operate, the left hand make the tool go up and down and the right hand applies the pressure. 

One of the many things to master is stop right at the edge without damaging the champ levé of the neighbouring enamelled area. The guillochage is the last process and has to be extra careful not to damage the gems, the enamel or anything else.

The doves are very difficult and so beautiful

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

But the fishes are even more difficult

Visit to Les Metiers d Art (Gem Setting and Guillochage)

Voilà! I hope that you got a feeling of what extraordinary experience we have been through.

As usual, the whole Vacheron et Constantin team was not only expert but very caring and willing to share its knowledge.

A big thank you for this show, and we hope that it will travel around the world so that some of you can enjoy it first-hand.

Regards to you all,

Guillaume
 
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