After Geneva, Paris and New York, it is the turn of Beijing (Beijing) to be flying overnight by enamel Grand Fire champlevé and precious stone powders. Vacheron Constantin has just unveiled the latest creation of its collection Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières which is this time dedicated to the Chinese capital. In English, Villes Lumières loosely translates to ‘city lights’, which gives you some idea of what you can expect from this stunning series. The watch dial gives the fabulous impression of flying Beijing over night in clear weather and … pollution free.
The lights of the city, seen from above, let guess its multiple splendors. The more intense halos of monuments, emblematic places and particularly busy streets surround the vast Forbidden City – less enlightened, more mysterious. The Porte de la Paix Céleste, the Porte du Midi or the Place Tian’anmen are thus recognized in this meticulous mapping of enamel Grand Fire and precious powders.
The technique of laying precious powders requires in essence an extreme skill. Their application to the surface of a dial imposes an additional constraint: to define an ideal altitude for each city, in order to be able to transcribe realistically, all the emotion of urban traces.
The master enameller must first study the possibilities of champlevé, in order to highlight the contours of the streets, gardens and bodies of water. After having dug the gold dial by hand in accordance with the chosen patterns, it then applies successive layers of colored translucent enamels. Between each application, the part is baked at a very high temperature of 850 °. These crucial and delicate steps allow the powdered glass mixed with oxides for the colors, to merge, transform and then vitrify with cooling, with the risk that the dial will split or imperfections will form.
To do this, VC invited the Japanese artist Yoko Imai. Formed with great Japanese masters, she developed her own artistic technique: calligraphic painting on canvas, enhanced with precious powders. For the first time, she adapted this process to the enamel of a watch dial, in a striking game of chiaroscuro.
Using a fine stylus, the powders are fixed one by one thanks to a technique kept secret. The luminous magic of the final picture can only arise from this extreme rigor: each burst is deposited in its proper place – no place is left to the random and the superfluous.
Each of the particles is thus chosen according to its size and its reflections, then worked at several angles and with different types of light, for more brilliance and realism. First of all golden grains form the luminous background. Then diamond and platinum powders are superimposed, for the sparkling and the dark, punctuated with powders of pearls. Their scintillations allow to modulate luminescent axes and places, in order to give life and warmth to the dial. On the bottom of enamel, between the golden projections, tens of thousands of powders shine under the effect of light.
The particles of precious powders, of different tints and luminosities, interact as much with each other as with the enameled Grand Fire, deep shades. The brilliance of the composition, more intense in the center of the dial, gradually softens towards the extremities. Handmade for more than three months, each dial is unique. A magnifying glass, provided in the case of the timepiece, allows to admire the work in detail.
The timepieces of the Métiers d’Art Cities Lumières collection are certified by the Poinçon de Genève. The automatic caliber manufactures 2460 SC is visible through the transparent bottom; The oscillating weight of 22 carat gold features a finely executed decoration inspired by the Maltese cross, symbol of the house. Each of the components, apparent or concealed, is decorated with finishes realized with the greatest respect for watchmaking know-how – angling, beading or polishing. The caliber is protected by a precious white gold case of 40 mm in white gold at 30 meters.