Skeleton, Engraving, Grand Feu Enamel…
Third up in the Vacheron Constantin 2014 collection are these Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées, featuring not only openwork (ajourees), but also in-house Grand Feu enameling. An enamel ring sits on top of the calibre — in either blue, grey or black (black being a particularly challenging color for enamel artists).
Above the Grand Feu enamelled ring are skeleton Roman numerals which Vacheron points out “evoke those of the central clocks in the large railway stations of late 19th century Europe, thereby forming a visible connection with the architectural motifs engraved on the calibre.”
Vacheron explains more of these pieces:
Openworking a movement is a demanding art, since it involves hollowing out the mechanical parts as much as possible, while being careful not to impair the smooth running of the watch. Watchmakers generally start with a solid existing calibre on which they undertake a lengthy process involving conceptualisation, design and modelling, in order to weave the magic of openworking. The new Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Ajourées is no exception to this rule, since it features the first openworked version of an iconic in-house movement: hand-wound Calibre 4400. It took several hundreds of hours to achieve the perfect balance between airy aesthetic appeal and optimal functionality. The watchmakers and artisans of the Manufacture compounded the already impressive feat of removing almost half the material compared with the solid Calibre 4400 by addressing another challenge: that of transforming the new movement into an authentic three-dimensional architectural work expressing striking light and shadow effects. To achieve this, they have laid new milestones in the age-old art of hand engraving. Rather than using a bocfil or tiny handsaw to cut out the smooth surface of the mainplate and bridges before drawing them out with a file and chamfering them, the engraving artisans have carefully chased the parts around their entire circumference so as to create a true sculpture with its own volume and depth. Inspired by the ribbed vaults of late 19th century railway stations, they have meticulously applied their burins to creating delicate arches on the calibre in a fascinating architecture built around curves. These rounded shapes are a complete change from the straight lines of classic openworked movements, and imply an even more complex process of chamfering and hand-drawing. Amid a clever interlacing pattern of interior angles that only the human hand is capable of creating, the polished zones catch the light, while the matt finish of the hand-drawn surfaces further heighten the contrast with the radiance of the polished areas. The subtle alchemist’s blend of these hand-crafted finishes is further exalted by the relief effect of the engraved vaults in a process involving over three days of work for a single calibre and endowing it with unique character.
There is even a high-jewellery version: 42 baguette-cut diamonds light in the bezel, echoed by the 12 baguette-cut diamonds set on the clasp of the saddle-stitched hand-sewn alligator leather strap. The entire piece is set with 54 baguette-cut diamonds of approximately 2.80 carats.