Now a recurrent theme in the Piaget world, the Yves Piaget rose once again unfurls its countless blooming petals on the dials of three Altiplano models discreetly unveiled at the SIHH. Their launch took place without any fanfare in that Piaget is ‘simply’ enriching its Art & Excellence collection dedicated to the artistic crafts. In doing so, Piaget is pursuing the efforts undertaken in recent years to safeguard these exceptional skills. Placed in the expert hands of artisans at the height of their powers, the three roses shine with timeless beauty enhanced by handcrafted techniques that are as intriguing as they are fascinating.
Grand Feu enamel, the best known and nonetheless one of the most demanding techniques, is associated here with the art of engraving. The dial base is first relief-engraved with the Yves Piaget motif. The different heights of the engraving, whose surface is coated with enamel applied in successive layers, make it possible to achieve pink shades of variable intensity. After several firings, representing magical and highly perilous operations whose success depends on the exemplary precision of the enameller, the final polishing stage serves to perfect the shimmering colours of the rose petals.
"My craft requires a certain dose of craziness and open-mindedness."
Far less well known, particularly in the watchmaking world where it is in fact making its first appearance, the micro-pointillism technique enhanced by a silver ‘filet’ thread outlining the petals is showcased on the dial of one of the three new Altiplano models. This type of embroidery is an age-old art whose origins doubtless date back to the Byzantine age and is currently perpetuated by the French embroiderer Sylvie Deschamps. She has thrown herself into this art with almost religious fervour, driven by a blend of passion and determination. “Nothing stops me and everything encourages me,” she enthuses. “My daily motivation to pick up my pilgrim’s staff is provided by the boundless possibilities afforded by my craft, which requires a certain dose of craziness and open-mindedness.”
She did indeed need to call upon this kind of gentle madness that supplies the energy to take on the most improbable challenges involved in embroidering the dial of the Altiplano. And above all, upon a perfect mastery of her art. Rarely have the expressions “nimble fingers” or “magic hands” seemed so appropriate…
Creating such a piece of embroidery takes countless hours of work. Each stage must be meticulously executed. After tracing the motif on the white silk base, Sylvie Deschamps accentuates the contours of each petal with a silver ‘filet’ thread, a process that will subsequently contribute to the depth effect of the design. She then continues inside the petals, always working from the outside in. Five silk threads ranging from fuchsia to pale pink and a whole host of knotted stitches serve to create the sought-after subtly graded effect. The result evokes the style of pointillist painters. Accurate, stunningly masterful… A watchmaking masterpiece that Piaget offers in a limited edition of just eight watches.
The third Altiplano Rose model highlights another artistic craft, that of hard-stone marquetry – a skill now mastered only by a rare breed of artisans, especially when applied to such a small areas as a watch dial. Undeniably both artist and artisan, the lapidary sculptor Hervé Obligi has performed outstanding work in taming the mineral material and then, like a delicate puzzle, individually assembling the petals of Mexican imperial jasper composing the Yves Piaget rose. This hard stone, featuring a range of subtle colours ranging from purple pink to soft pink, offers an astonishing wealth of hues that create a striking contrast with the pure white of the cachalong composing the dial base. Four weeks of work are required to make such a dial.
" The incredible task of the hard-stone cutters working on the Taj Mahal, transposed to the scale of a watch dial."
Everything begins with the rough stone of which the blocks are cut into extremely thin strips using a tiny bow saw with an abrasive-coated steel wire in order to be assembled, stuck together with a resin, and then finally polished. “The greatest difficulty lies in creating finely graded hues on such a small shape,” says Hervé Obligi. “Each stage brings new perils and I had to start over several times before achieving this result.” To grasp the degree of difficulty involved, one need only think of the incredible task of the hard-stone cutters working on the Taj Mahal, transposed to the scale of a watch dial. A sheer miracle of elegance and harmony, crafted in a limited edition of eight.
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