W&W 2014: Introducing Eloge de la Nature

A series of unique pieces in the Metiers d'Art collection paying tibute to naturalism and using different crafts.

Each watch is made in one unique piece in rose gold and platinum

WILD GOLDEN-COATED MUSTANGS The power of nature and wide-open spaces is intensely present and the fiery mettle of these three thoroughbreds is clearly perceptible. Each of the details expresses a sense of meticulous realism, including some that are visible only under a magnifying glass. Through the meticulous precision of his deftly applied skills, the engraver has succeeded in conveying the vivacity of these wild creatures in a pink gold miniature that took three weeks to create and measures less than one millimetre thick in certain parts!

A wood marquetry mountain scene forms the backdrop. A snow-capped peak made of whitened wood lace-work is carved out like a single block, while smaller parts made from a more densely grained type of wood fill in the openworked surfaces, with their greyish veins forming the outlines of the rocky scree slope. This delicate technique involves putting pieces together like puzzle parts and features 90 tiny pieces of wood meticulously cut out by hand and then fitted together to form the landscape.

In marquetry, the colour palette is composed of various types of rough, stained or lightly burned wood. The fibres and the curves of the material influence the tones of the motif. Walnut, tulip and chestnut wood are some of the types chosen for the quality of their texture. Once the parts are assembled, the resulting decor is polished and varnished before being placed on a gold disc serving as the dial base.

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CHAMOIS AMID AN ALPINE SETTING

Leaping and bounding down a steep slope, two chamois skip merrily between rocks and residual slabs of snow. Their swiftness and agility enables them to handle their downward path with ease. These tiny engraved sculptures are covered of dense fur coat, accentuated by a well-defined backbone. The engraving of the animals, fully on the alert with ears up and horns bent, radiates a truly captivating aura of realism.

Once again, the marquetry background lends an exquisitely poetic touch. Arrayed in pastel shades mingled with immaculate white, as well as slightly flame-singed beige tints to create subtle shading effects, 130 wooden parts are arranged so as to reveal this delightful Alpine scene imbued with supremely luminous delicacy.

The whole art of marquetry lies not only in the choice of wood types, but also in the artist’s sensitivity in directing the veins of the wood so that they follow the décor he is steadily creating. The steepness of the mountain slope is thus underscored by descending veins. Each part is cleanly and accurately cut using a tiny hand-held veneer saw, and no nicks or flaws of any kind are tolerated. The slightest error could mean starting all over again. The décor must be smoothly fitted and embedded and the fibres perfectly aligned. Moreover, as in all artistic crafts, each creation is unique and intrinsically bound up with the hand of the master artisan who shapes it. 

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A FLIGHT OF CRANES FROM THE EAST

The engraver, the guillocheur and the enameller have taken turns in crafting this airy motif. Two elegant cranes are engraved on a pink gold plate as they fly over a vast expanse of water on which the guilloché ripples are accentuated by translucent Grand Feu enamel. The crane is a staple fixture in Asian iconography. The patriarch of all winged creatures, this wading bird symbolises longevity and wisdom.

The feathers, slender stilt-like legs, long graceful necks, and that inimitable backward look… each and every detail is so accurate that one can almost feel the flutter of the two birds’ wings. Here too, the engraver has performed impressive feats in terms of volume, light effects, texture, as well as polished and matt finishes. The 3-dimensional animals are deeply etched into the wood and took a full two weeks to create.

The pair of birds is flying over a backdrop composed of an expanse of water on which the rippling motion of the waves is regularly guilloché-worked in a pattern that is both linear and circular. This apparently simple motif called for sophisticated prior calculations, and most of all for perfectly executed craftsmanship. This dial involved two major difficulties for the burin: a champlevé rather than a smoothly level surface; as well as openworked apertures that had to be neatly worked around. The guillochage itself is coated with a peacock-blue translucent Grand Feu enamel. As ever, this famous Geneva technique remains the exclusive preserve of a handful of artisans regarded as true alchemists. Hand-applying the colourful pigments, melting (fusing) them at temperatures ranging between 800 to 900° Celsius, followed by glazing to create a translucent brilliance: each of these stages in production comprises a number of unpredictable elements. The final result is never a foregone conclusion before the final phase, and the appearance of any flaws could mean scrapping the piece and starting again from scratch.

These watches all house Cal 2460-G4