SIHH 2015 first look…
So simple, yet so impressive — this is what I love about Piaget. Look at this new beauty from the King of Thin watchmaking. Last year it was the world’s thinnest mechanical watch (the jaw-dropping Piaget 900P), and this year — actually 2015 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (or ‘SIHH’ as it is known to us non-French speakers) — Piaget will unveil this new ultra-thin hand-wound chronograph in its iconic Altiplano collection.
And what a watch it is. A real beauty and a fine demonstration of Piaget’s mechanical watchmaking prowess. Not only is this a beautifully designed ultra-thin watch (4.65mm caliber, 8.24mm case), but it is also the first time that the Altiplano collection will feature a complication other than time and date. Seriously! I suspect this may surprise some of you — even I had to do a double check to see that until now, the only “complications” (features) to grace the Altiplano collection aside from hours and minutes have been small seconds and a date window. The new Altiplano Chronograph has a manual-wind flyback chronograph (now the world’s thinnest watch in this category) and, interestingly, a dual-time indicator on the 9 o’clock subdial.
So let’s take a closer look, shall we?
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.
It’s no secret that I am fan of Piaget’s Altiplano Skeleton with Caliber 1200 — I blogged about this watch on numerous occasions last year, including my detailed reflections on the watch. As such, I was happy to see the Altiplano Skeleton recently introduced in a black “enamel-skeleton” dial. To my knowledge, the ultra-thin automatic Calibre 1200E is the first ever “enamel-skeleton” movement. It is the same as the Piaget Caliber 1200S (“S” as in skeleton), but of course with enamel, hence the modified identifier (“E”) on the caliber name (perhaps “ES” would have been more appropriate). Nomenclature aside, to see an openworked dial embellished with enamel on what little is left of its surface area is an intriguing look; I find it to be an attractive addition to the overall aesthetic of the contemporary Altiplano Skeleton.
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Perpetuelle presents THE highlight of the 2014 Piaget collection, the the record-setting (world’s thinnest mechanical watch) Piaget Altiplano 900P. Please click below for our detailed reports on this SPECTACULAR watch.
In addition to the 900P watch, Piaget also introduced a delightful and animated ladies’ watch, the Limelight Blooming Rose, and a diamond-set automatic skeleton version of the Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon.