Paul O’Neil, editor-in-chief, WorldTempus
Judging the artistic crafts category involves balancing your personal preferences as far as the aesthetics of the different pieces are concerned with your appreciation of the techniques that have been used to produce them. With the variety on offer this year including porcelain dials with miniature painting from Japan, exquisite engravings and jewellery settings, the competition is fierce. Two pieces grabbed my attention, however, by establishing a personal connection. Thanks to my father my DNA includes some kind of code that has me fascinated by maps of any kind, so the Altiplano Scrimshaw by Piaget and the Chamber of Wonders models by Girard-Perregaux immediately caught my attention. Both offer historical views of the world that differ from the Mercator projection that most of us are familiar with. The Girard-Perregaux Chamber of Wonders has a slight edge in this respect with its three different views of the world from three different eras and the New World showcased in the Artistic Crafts category of the GPHG 2015 is my favourite. The faithful reproduction of the period map, with its strange arrangement of countries and oversized yacht pictogrammes is a wonderful marquetry of semi-precious stones, each painstakingly cut down to a height of just 0.5mm and polished by hand.
In this category, it is primarily the mastery of the artistic crafts used that should be judged. The six finalists present a wide choice of materials and techniques: engraving, damascene, painting, enamel and marquetry are used with materials as varied as porcelain, ivory, stones or even butterfly wings. It’s difficult for me to imagine the amount of knowledge and expertise, of meticulousness and artistic feeling that have been invested by the craftsmen and craftswomen who produced the dial in butterfly wing powder for the Premier Precious Butterfly by Harry Winston, the splendid engraving of Ganesh on the Villeret Shakudo by Blancpain and the miniature painting on other pieces.
So I will let aesthetics guide me and choose the Logical One Secret Kakau Höfke by Romain Gauthier. Its main attractions? Its sober dial with a modern, graphic design with vaporous colours. Designed by the Brazilian artist Kakau Höfke, the city of Rio de Janeiro has been produced on the dial in micro-marquetry. The 352 miniscule fragments of lavender-coloured jade and blue agate are almost indistinguishable. Mirror polished, the reflect light and form a contemporary three-dimensional painting.
Each of the six watches preselected by the jury in the Artistic Crafts category is an example of a unique and exceptional expertise, totally mastered by the craftsmen; so the choice was not easy. Upon reflection I would choose the Premier Butterfly Automatic 36mm by Harry Winston, the only ladies’ watch in this category. The brand uses a totally new technique with the iridescent powder found on butterfly wings. Magnetic and luminous, the dial thus offers a miniature painting based around the delicately extracted pigments. The Premier Butterfly watch is also interesting from a technical point of view: it has a self-winding movement with a silicon hairspring that gives it excellent precision.