Baselworld 2013 preview…
This new pocket watch from Hermes, with a 48mm white gold case, combines the craft of gold marquetry and hand engraving. The pattern on the lid requires upwards of 150 hours to create. The “volutes” reference in the name refers to the watch’s swirling pattern, a pattern which is inspired by a design of Hermès artist Henri d’Origny 1972. The effect is created with separate white gold and rose gold discs are first crafted separately, before being assembled and welded together by firing in a furnace. We’ll take a closer look below.
Here is how Hermes describes the process:
The finely chased superimposed rose gold plate reveals the first curves of the scrolling motif in a two-tone nested pattern. The delicate workmanship with a scorper – using the pounced ornament technique known as ramolayage in French goldsmiths’ terminology – can thus begin. The artisan engraves the subdivisions of the individual scrolls or curls so as to refine them and define their initial volume. He models the material, cutting down the right angles of the cut metal and curving the surfaces so that they reflect the light. This complex quest for the perfect curve free of any unattractive glinting, is followed by hammering of the surface to be blackened. Performed with a chasing-tool, this delicate operation serving to prepare the metal for colouring heightens the contrast between the polished white gold and the more matt-looking blackened white gold areas. The part is then coated with a protective varnish and then immersed in a ruthenium colour bath; once the varnish is removed, it reveals the gold parts in three different colours: rosy pink, light grey and dark grey.
The manual wind caliber has a 55 hour power reserve, with hand-bevelled and polished bridges and mechanisms, sprinkling of “Hs”, and gold oscillating weight; it is created exclusively by Manufacture Vaucher (Hermes has a controlling ownership stake in the movement manufacture). The dial is a translucent chocolate brown enamel on white gold base. The piece comes on a cord-strap and with pouch in matte Havana alligator leather.
I really like how Hermes uses techniques such as this and others such as straw marquetry (Marqueterie de Paille) in their pieces — engaging in these crafts are rare skills these days, and it is nice to see them being perpetuated.