Today we are taking a closer look at the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection – and one model in particular – which once again sees Vacheron Constantin flexing its creative muscles. Available exclusively from Vacheron Constantin boutiques, the collection is comprised of four references, three of which are dedicated to Paris, Geneva and New York respectively, while the fourth is the newly announced Beijing model that is the focus of our article today.
In English, Villes Lumières loosely translates to ‘city lights’, which gives you some idea of what you can expect from this stunning series. On the face of things, the concept seems simple enough: create a bird’s eye view of some of the world’s most famous cities by night and then recreate this image in miniature form on the dial of a watch. For many other brands, it would be just that simple. However, this is the Métiers d’Art from Vacheron Constantin we are talking about here, a collection known for its stunning creations and painstaking attention to detail. For the artisans working on this project, the word simple has been surgically removed from their vocabularies.
Although you may not be hugely familiar with the city of Beijing’s geography, a quick glance at the dial is all it takes to know that you are looking at an impressive city with a proud heritage. Vacheron Constantin has exercised its creative license to highlight particularly important monuments and landmarks of the Imperial City, such as the Meridian Gate, the Gate of Heavenly Peace and Tian’anmen Square, which are all framed in gold. Conversely, the Forbidden City, at the center of the dial has been purposefully subdued, giving it an added air of mystery. The surrounding streets meanwhile feature smatterings of light, giving the impression of a city that is constantly illumined.
As breath-taking as the dial is however, it’s nothing compared to the amount of work that has gone into creating it. As a first step, the Vacheron Constantin master enameller examined the possibilities afforded by champlevé, outlining the shapes of the streets, gardens and stretches of water. After hollowing out the gold dial by hand according to the chosen outlines, successive layers of translucent coloured enamels were then applied. Between each coating, the dial was fired at the extremely high temperature of 850°C, allowing the powdered glass mixed with colouring oxides to be melted, transformed and then vitrified by cooling.
Next, Vacheron Constantin invited Japanese artist Yoko Imai to bring light to the enamel dial. Trained by the great Japanese masters, she has developed her own artistic technique: calligraphy-inspired painting on canvas, inspired by precious powder. This is the first time she has adapted this process to the enamel of a watch dial, creating a stunning chiaroscuro effect. Using a thin stylus, the powder particles are individually affixed using a technique that remains a jealously guarded secret. Each fragment is perfectly positioned in its rightful place and there is no room for anything random or superfluous. Each of the powder specks is thus chosen according to its size and its shimmer, then worked on from several angles and with various types of light, to ensure enhanced radiance and realism.
Tiny gold grains form the luminous backdrop before diamond and platinum powders are successively applied to create shiny and dark effects, punctuated by pearl spangles. These particles come in varying shades and degrees of luminosity, contrasting spectacularly against the Grand Feu enamelled background. If you look closely you will notice that the radiance of the composition is more intense in the dial centre and gradually softens towards the outer edges of the dial. Taking more than 3 months to hand-craft, each dial in the four-part collection is unique. Not surprisingly, Vacheron Constantin has also chosen to include a magnifying glass in the presentation box, allowing the new owner to admire the workmanship in all its glorious detail.
Although it will undoubtedly be difficult to tear your eyes away from the dial, if you turn the watch over you will discover the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin mechanical self-winding Caliber 2460 SC, visible through a sapphire caseback. The first thing to catch your eye is the 22K gold oscillating weight, which features a finely executed decoration inspired by the Maltese cross, the Vacheron Constantin signature emblem. Each of the components, whether visible or hidden, is adorned with finishes crafted in accordance with the finest watchmaking skills exemplified by bevelling, circular-graining and polishing. As a final mark of quality, all timepieces in the Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières collection are certified by the Hallmark of Geneva, testament to their precision and reliability.
Presented in an 18K white gold case measuring 40mm in diameter and 8.9mm thick, the Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières Beijing Edition is a remarkable work of art. Paired with a black Mississippiensis alligator leather strap with large square scales and an alligator inner shell, this is a timepiece for highly discerning collectors. As a final touch, the name of the city, in this case Beijing, is engraved on the caseback.
Technical specifications – Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Arts Villes Lumières Beijing Edition
- Case: 40 mm diameter x 8.9 mm height – 18k white gold – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back
- Dial: 18K gold – Grand Feu champlevé & translucent enamel – powder of precious stones (diamonds, pearl) & precious metal (gold, platinum) – filled by hand
- Movement: Calibre 2460 SC – automatic winding – 40h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – 27 jewels – hours, minutes, small seconds.
- Strap: alligator leather strap, white gold folding buckle
- Reference: 86222/000G-B107 – Beijing
- Hallmark of Geneva certified timepieces
- Only available in Vacheron Constantin Boutiques