When it comes to watchmaking, the skill and expertise required to put together a timepiece makes it nothing less than an art. However, apart from the unique talents that master watchmakers possess, some timepieces from the most esteemed manufacturers of the world have epitomised art in a more conventional sense, with various art forms going into the design of the watches. From the most basic guilloche work on metallic components, to absolutely intricate carving or painting in certain models, watchmaking can incorporate several techniques that warrant the timepieces as visual pieces of art. Here are a few art techniques and corresponding watches and collections that make quite the mark in the world of watchmaking.
Miniature painting is an art form admired for its intricacy, and when you consider the dial of a watch, that’s about as small as it can get. A widely used medium of paintings on watch dials is enamel. Several Swiss watch manufacturers follow the Geneva technique that uses grand feu enamel, which reaches its point of fusion at an extremely high temperature, rendering it exceptional. A particularly intriguing enamel dial watch is the Chagall & l’Opéra de Paris watch from Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’Art collection. This timepiece features a miniature reproduction of a Marc Chagall painting, which is on the ceiling of the Garnier Opera House in Paris.
Gem-setting in watches is as intricate as it is in high jewellery, if not more. One manufacturer that has mastered the art of gem-setting in watches is Piaget. At Piaget, the gem-setters choose a grain, claw or prong setting, based on the design of the watch, and using a combination of the three settings, and various cuts of precious stones, craft the most exquisite jewelled watches. However, the craftsmanship of gem-setting can be seen in Piaget’s other watches as well, like the Altiplano skeleton watch. The skeleton framework, which reveals the minimal automatic movement, and the bezel of this timepiece feature mainly round- and baguette-cut diamonds.
When it comes to metal, you can get pretty much anything engraved these days. Of course, engraving has been a part of watchmaking for more than that—used in the making of the components, as well as on the dial for the hour markers and so on. However, engraving to create a piece of visual brilliance to decorate a component, especially the face of the watch, requires serious skill. The Cartier d’Art Tortue Jaguar watch is one such marvel. This gold dial and bezel of this timepiece is hand engraved, and coloured using the grand feu enamelling technique. The hypnotic gaze of the animal depicted makes the watch an unforgettable piece of horology.
Lacquer is the substance made from the sap of the lacquer or Urushi tree from Japan. The harvested sap or resin is set aside for a few years and then treated to make a honey-texture lacquer. This is dissolved with pigments or dusted with metal powder. The finished product is used to decorate dials of watches like those in the Chopard L.U.C Urushi collection. The lacquer used in Urushi watches contain gold dust, and has been used to create various stunning designs since 2009, mostly representing legends from East Asian cultures. This year, Chopard has come out with a breath-taking edition that represents the Chinese astrological sign of the horse, to mark 2014, which is the year of the horse according to the Chinese zodiac.
Written By : Ranvijaysinh Jhala