SIHH 2015…first look…
After several years of serious effort taking its watch status from “expensive fashion brand” to “serious watchmaker”, there is no longer a question as to Cartier’s horological ambitions and talents. In 2015, luxury powerhouse Cartier will unveil the latest iteration of its Astrotourbillon, this time in the the Rotonde de Cartier case. The Astrotourbillon was first introduced at SIHH 2011 (in non-skeleton form & “Calibre de Cartier” case) followed by the Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal in 2012.
No doubt, this is the best Astrotourbillon yet! What an incredible looking watch.
With this month marking the 100 year anniversary of an Italian automotive icon Maserati, a celebratory watch was naturally in order to mark the occasion. And thanks to Maserati’s collaboration with Bulgari this special piece is now offered. The two brands have officially been partners since 2012, though early efforts — like this one — were more brash than impressive. However today’s Bulgari Octo Maserati is a nicely styled, attractive chronograph that should appeal to Maserati and Bulgari enthusiasts alike, with tasteful elements of co-branding throughout the watch.
And lest you think this watch is all about fashion, take note of the movement as well: there is a 36,000 vph high-beat movement with silicon escape wheel, sourced from none-other than Zenith (maker of the highly respected El Primero calibers). Oh, and also don’t forget — the design of the Octo traces its roots back to watch industry legend Gérald Genta (Genta’s namesake brand was acquired by Bulgari in 2009/2010). In other words, there’s quite a lot to like here, if you ask me.
You see the terms referred to regularly here at Perpétuelle: “grand feu”, “champlevé”, and “cloisonné”. And what are they? Enamel techniques, of course! Very often used to create some of the most beautiful watch dials the world has ever seen. But what exactly do these terms mean? How are these enamel techniques different? What distinguishes each of these enamel types from the others? And what about those other rare occasions where we see the art of “flinque”, & “grisaille” — enamel techniques as well — on display. I explore these questions and more in this overview of the art of enamel in watchmaking.
In many articles related to fine watchmaking, it is easy to brush past big, fancy (and typically French) words used to describe watchmaking techniques — enamel-related or otherwise. But given that enamel dials are often the most unique and beautiful of all dials in fine watchmaking, with basically all of the most prestigious haute horlogerie brand producing such pieces (some more frequently than others), the time has never been better to deepen our understanding of what these terms mean.
Because of the organic nature of the material and manner in which it is produced — almost always by the skilled hand of an experienced artisan — I believe that it can be fairly stated that every watch with an enamel dial is a unique piece as well. But for most, the difference between a cloissoné dial (such as that found on a Patek 5131G) and a champlevé dial (as seen on a Vacheron Metiers d’Art) is but another trivial watchmaking detail. This naivete, I confess, was somewhat the case for me as well — at least for a while. But then I became more and more intrigued by the art of enamel and decided to expand my knowledge base, which I share with you now.
This is an article I’ve had in my head for quite some time now, and an admittedly one that only the nerdiest of watch-nerds might appreciate. But I’m glad to have finally finished it and I enjoyed writing it. So follow along as I take you through the finer points of enamel and enameling techniques used in fine watchmaking. And please note — this is not an exhaustive study of the very broad ranging “art of enamel”, but as I say will review the most commonly used techniques fine watchmaking, and a few less commonly used techniques as well.
SIHH 2015 Sneak Peek…
For 2015 Audemars Piguet is again introducing a “concept watch”, this one focused around acoustic technology, as the name simply indicates. By my quick count this is the sixth such “concept watch” AP has introduced — last year it was the Concept GMT Tourbillon in white ceramic (the first Royal Oak Concept Watch debuted in 2002, for the 30th anniversary of the Royal Oak). Audemars Piguet has again opted for a somewhat radical-looking design for the watch (the view through the dial, mainly), though this is not the least bit surprising for a “concept” product (the car industry takes similar approach with concept vehicles) as it is meant to convey the envelope-pushing nature of the watch.