SIHH 2015 – Hands-on with the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées (live photos & specs)
The Swiss maison of Vacheron Constatin celebrates its 260th anniversary, and already brought us the all-new Harmony Collection. Bearing the hallmarks of their Métiers d’Art collections, the Mécaniques Gravées 14 day Tourbillon and a hand wound non-tourbillon model feature fully hand-engraved movements inside classically styled cases, harking back to the very beginning of the brand, originally founded in 1755.
The inspirations of the hand-engraved patterns on the Caliber 2260 and 4400 movements can be traced back to the 5th century. Originating from Greek pillars and columns, the decorations portray acanthus leafs and arabesque swirls. These recognizable shapes are painstakingly carved into the movement by skilled craftsmen. The depiction of acanthus leaves saw a surge during the Renaissance and the Baroque period, as it evolved into a symbol of victory and glory. Hand engraving calibers have always been a strong focus for Vacheron Constatin, including the acanthus leaves.
The complexity of the engraving lies in the fact that all the functional parts of the movement may not be affected by the removed material. A simple solution would be to thicken the necessary parts to allow the engraver to decorate the movement without the risk of interfering with the rigidity and accuracy of the movement. Vacheron however, opted not to do this so each and every part of these movements is made to the exact same specifications as non-engraved versions. As a result, the depth of the engraving often measures less than a millimetre.
Amazingly, the decoration is engraved free handed. No pre-set design or markings have been applied to outline the pattern. The applied motif is achieved using champlevé engraving. Hollowing out parts to a depth of 2/10ths of a millimetre creates a deep look to the engraving. The risk of destroying parts is evident, as some of them are only 0.35mm thick by itself. Every single movement takes ten days to engrave, a painstakingly slow process, but is still within the standards of the Hallmark of Geneva.
The Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées 14 days Tourbillon, quite a mouthful, is equipped with Vacheron’s in-house developed Caliber 2260/1. The movement’s plates and bridges are fully engraved with the floral pattern, reminiscent of the brands earliest pocket watches adorned with comparable designs. The monochromatic steel and grey colorscheme gives off a serene vibe, aided by a slate-grey metal minute track. Additional indications are engraved and inked on sapphire glass rings, to ensure the cleanest possible view onto the movement.
The tourbillon cage in the shape of a Maltese cross rotates once every 60 seconds and displays the small seconds. A power reserve indicator at 12 shows the exceptional 14 days of power on a 280 degree sapphire ring. The 14 day Tourbillon is housed in a 41mm wide, 12.35mm thick platinum case.
The second new model in the Métiers d’Art collection is equipped with the basic, if you can call it that, 4400/1 hand wound movement. The movement can also be found in the Vacheron Constatin Malte Patrimony Contemporaine Pocket Watch. Even though the base movement is the same, the execution couldn’t be more different. Again, the plates and bridges received a full hand engraved pattern in a very classical style. Measuring 39mm wide and 8.5mm thick, this is slightly more classical in terms of dimensions. The case is 950 platinum.
Both Mécaniques Gravées timepieces come on a dark blue alligator strap and a platinum buckle adorned with a half Maltese cross. A nice touch is the complementary magnifying glass that comes with either model. No prices have been giving as of yet, but we’ll update it later on.