What do art and horology have in common? A lot, as Swiss watchmaker, Vacheron Constantin and The Louvre, France’s national art museum, will tell you following their newest collaboration.
‘A Masterpiece on the Wrist’: a Vacheron Constantin x The Louvre collaboration years in the making
Per Vacheron Constantin, this collaboration with The Louvre is titled A Masterpiece on the Wrist and will give interested clients a unique chance to work with Les Cabinotiers – the bespoke arm of Vacheron Constantin – to replicate their preferred art on the dial of their selected timepiece.
But this is not the first time the Swiss brand will be working with the French museum to create one-off artistic pieces. In fact, the idea started way back in 2016, after VC supported The Louvre in its restoration efforts of an 18th-century precision clock that belonged to King Louis XV. This project helped both brands to see how they could work together, and in 2019, they both entered into a formal partnership that gave birth to the Bid for the Louvre sale in 2020.
This first sale, the precursor to A Masterpiece on the Wrist project, was an auction that gave the winning bidder unique access to not only tour The Louvre but also the Cabinet des Dessins, a by-reservation only part of the museum which houses carefully curated artworks. It was here that the bidder chose a drawing – La lutte pour l’étendard de la Bataille d’Anghiari, by Pierre Paul Rubens – to be replicated on the dial of his timepiece, another benefit of the special sale.
Two years after, a special edition of four timepieces inspired by the museum’s antique collections: Métiers d’Art – Tribute to Great Civilisations, launched. This year, both establishments are going back to how it all started: one-off pieces featuring a historical artwork selected by the clients.
Making an Homage to Pierre Paul Rubens, La lutte pour l’étendard de la Bataille d’Anghiari
One would think that replicating art on the enamel of a dial would simply be a case of transferring a computer-generated miniature image of said art onto it or some other equally uncomplicated process. But this is far from the reality.
“Transcribing a drawing composed of ink and pen strokes onto a dial measuring 3.3 cm in diameter is a real challenge. You have to get inside the work and make it your own in order to find the level of detail while preserving the strength of the graphics”, explains Vacheron Constantin’s master enameller.
In order to achieve this feat, the master enameller chose to combine the Geneva miniature painting technique with the blanc de Limoges style generally used in grisaille enamel, a technique that allows only black, white and shades of grey to be used. The entire process involved the use of exact tools like brushes with 3-4 bristles and cactus spines; about 20 shades of brown, grey-brown, sepia brown and cream brown to replicate an image that looks just like the original drawing, and, alternate firings that preserved the first shades in the first layers of the dial.
The result is an artistic 18K 5N pink gold timepiece driven by in-house Calibre 2460 SC with a case back engraved with 17th century ‘Cerca Trova’ (he who seeks finds) calligraphy. “Engraving gives an extra-special touch to Haute Horlogerie watches”, says Vacheron Constantin’s master engraver.
The new Vacheron Constantin x The Louvre offer
A Masterpiece on Your Wrist is offering clients the possibility of experiencing a behind-the-scenes look at the Louvre Museum and its workshops, as enjoyed by the purchaser of the Les Cabinotiers – Homage to Pierre Paul Rubens, La lutte pour l’étendard de la Bataille d’Anghiari watch.
It will also involve the creation of a bespoke single-piece edition timepiece with a dial featuring an enamel reproduction of an artwork, selected by the purchaser from a collection of works, most of which are not on display in the Louvre Museum. The experience will be accompanied by a private tour of the Louvre in the company of its experts as well as another tour of the Vacheron Constantin factory to meet its master watchmakers and master artisans.
As for how much this experience will cost you? That is a question left for Vacheron Constantin: visit the website for further enquiries.