With so much focus on super accurate chronometers, waterproof capabilities and creating the best diving watches in the yachting world, it can be easy to forget that sometimes a timepiece is just a beautiful object in its own right. Traditional Métiers d’Art techniques, including engraving, enamelling and Damascening, have been used for centuries to create intricate and precious timepieces that put pure aesthetics before gadgetry and high-tech functionality. Here are some of the best...
Mini masterpieces: Incredible Metiers d’Art watches
Known equally for its highly complicated movements and its artistic savoir faire, Ulysse Nardin has turned its technical expertise to the world of Metiers d'Art for its new Freak Vision Coral Bay timepiece. Introduced at SIHH 2018, the latest addition to the Freak Vision collection is inspired by the famous reef in Western Australia and is available in two versions, each displaying a different artistic technique. The first sees the dial coloured blue via a chemical vapour disposition process before tiny threads of 24 karat gold are bonded to it in an intricate coral reef motif. The second uses the same colouring technique and is finished with a painstaking miniature painting of a coral reef in white and red acrylic.
Freak Vision Coral Bay, from CHF102,000, Ulysse Nardin
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Poetic Wish
The feminine counterpart to Van Cleef & Arpel's Midnight Palais de la Chance Paon Décor watch (see below), the stunning Lady Arpels Poetic Wish is part of the house's iconic Poetic Complications collection which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2016. Surrounded by a white diamond bezel, the mother-of-pearl dial features sculpted and engraved clouds, an engraved white gold river and Eiffel Tower and hand-painted miniature sky and cityscape complete with translucent champlevé enamel and varnished red kite for good luck.
Lady Arpels Poetic Wish, $445,000, Van Cleef & Arpels
Blancpain Ganesh Shakudō
Along with the traditional applications of engraving and Damascening, fine Swiss watchmaker Blancpain has utilised the ancient Japanese art of shakudō to create this stunning Ganesh watch. Shakudō involves applying a copper acetate solution to a copper and gold alloy to create a deep black surface which can then be engraved to reveal the bronze colour beneath. Featuring the Hindu god of wisdom Ganesh on the dial, along with hand hammered and engraved Damascene ornaments, each piece is completely unique and reflects the style and skill of the craftsman who engraved it.
Ganesh Shakudō watch, POA, Blancpain
Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Palais de la Chance Paon Décor
With a history as one of the finest high jewellers in the world it perhaps comes as no surprise that Van Cleef & Arpels has one of the most extensive and colourful Métiers d’Art watch ranges. Broadly named the Extraordinary Dials collection, it does exactly what it says on the tin – each piece features a unique, carefully crafted and timeless dial. Incorporating pink gold, lapis lazuli and translucent and camplevé enamel, this peacock timepiece is available as a limited edition of just 22 so get yours quick.
Midnight Palais de la Chance Paon Décor watch, £67,700, Van Cleef & Arpels
Breguet Reine de Naples 8958
As well as mastering complicated enamelling and painting techniques, working with unusual but beautiful materials another way many watch houses have expanded their Métiers d'Art offering. Breguet showcases the perfect example of this with its Reine de Naples timepiece which boasts a dial featuring a floral cameo crafted from sculpted seashells and framed by a white gold case set with white diamonds. If this weren't enough the timepiece is powered by a calibre 537/1 self-winding movement with water resistance to 30 metres.
Reine de Naples 8958, POA, Breguet