Watchmaking no doubt requires the mechanical skills needed to produce a highly functioning timepiece, but since the earliest days of watchmaking, aesthetics, too, have played an important role. Finely enameled dials, gem-set ladies timepieces and meticulously engraved watchcases are evidence of a rich past in creating functional art. Today’s craftsmen pay this sensibility forward with a modern take on such time-honored skills as enameling, gem setting, stone cutting, engraving and more. They are limited only by their imaginations and are indeed challenged to expand the boundaries of artistry. Stay tuned because each Tuesday we will be showcasing a feature from our Holiday issue about the art of watchmaking.
While scarab beetle elytra marquetry may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of designing a watch dial, this Dior VIII Grand Bal wears it well. Elytra are the hardened forewings of certain insects, and their use in this case is a decorative detour from their original intent as a protective covering for the beetle’s flight wings. The dazzling dial display also includes white and yellow gold, diamonds and mother-of-pearl. The 36mm white gold watch is powered by an automatic movement, the Dior Inversé 11 1/2 caliber with its dial-side openwork oscillating weight.
Jaquet Droz annually honors the Chinese New Year with a new watch model that celebrates a rare technique or new craft skill practiced in its Ateliers d’Art. This year’s Year of the Goat features a tableau of three goats in detailed three-dimensional relief nestled amidst champlevé enamel plum blossoms against white mother-of-pearl on the white gold model or black onyx on the red gold version. In champlevé enameling, the metal is hollowed out in the desired design and the hollows are then filled with enamel, fired and hand-polished. This Petite Heure Minute timepiece is a limited edition of 28 pieces.
The limited edition Master of Maps collection features three cartographic designs, each rendered in exquisite detail on the dial of the pink gold 1966 watches: the Pearl of Wonders, the Terrestrial Map, and the New World. Shown here is the Pearl of Wonders, based on a configuration drawn during the first half of the fifteenth century by historian Ibn al-Wardi. First, a 0.70 mm-thick sodalite stone disk is cut from a solid block, then polished, carved and engraved by hand. It takes 28 hours to reproduce the contours of the ancient map using miniature painting, and about 50 hours to complete each dial.
The magnificent Cartier panther comes alive in 22-karat yellow gold and platinum filigree. The pair of iconic cats face one another in an enchanting display that features emeralds, black lacquer and brilliant-cut diamonds against a backdrop of a gold-flecked, deep-blue lacquer. The panther motif engagingly spills onto the bezel, which is also set with brilliant-cut diamonds. The Cartier d’Art collection explores the jewelry-making techniques of the famed House, which was founded by Louis-François Cartier in 1847. This manual-wind yellow gold watch is part of a limited edition of just 20 numbered pieces.