Traditionally and for the past five or so years, WorldTempus has been devoting a bestiary to each major watch show, listing the numerous watches featuring animals of all kinds. It must be said however that the SIHH 2015 was singularly lacking in the kind of creatures that generally thrill devotees of the artistic crafts. Given this marked absence of furry or feathered friends, we will instead take a look at the plant life liberally sprinkled across the models on show. Join us in leafing through a herbarium catalogue filled with vibrantly colourful specimens.
Let’s begin with the most (literally) animated of them all, the magnolia by Richard Mille. While the Tourbillon Fleur RM 19-20 is bursting with diamond buds and its dial is adorned with foliage, the real star of the show is a flower. Its broad petals automatically open and chose every five minutes. When the flower is thus revealed to the admiring gaze, its ruby-set stamens rise by a full centimetre, and with them the entire flying tourbillon, reaching to caress the domed sapphire crystal. The bloom then closes and resumes its slumber.
The vibrant and equally animated Hortensia Creative Complication sets the stage for Chaumet’s favourite flower, the hydrangea, performing a gracefully pageant. Set with pink sapphires, one of the four central petals points to the hours, while another hydrangea blossom dressed in pink mother-of-pearl glides around the outermost contours of the flower. The floral motif is also reflected in the engravings adorning the case middle of this entirely decorated model.
Despite being captured in enamel and miniature painting, flowers are the living heart of the 2015 message from Van Cleef & Arpels. The Charms Extraordinaire Langage des Fleurs watches reprise the subtly allusive codes invented by the 18th century French florist Madame Prévost who used flowers to compose intimate messages. The three models evocatively named “Désir” “Espérance” and “Amour” each feature a specific arrangement created in the exquisitely delicate manner of the brand.
The Cartier d’Art collection has become a classic repository of watches with precious dials, joyfully mingling themes, techniques and decors. An engraved mother-of-pearl orchid with red enamel pistils grows on a bed of golden beads assembled using the Etruscan granulation technique introduced by Cartier in 2014. The Ballon Bleu case serves as a flowerpot for this composition, albeit a diamond-studded one...
After a year 2014 distinguished by a flurry of “artistic craft” models, the year 2015 looks set to produce a more modest crop. Nonetheless, Roger Dubuis has chosen this time to make its own entry into this field by exploring the Arthurian legend in a delightfully poetic manner. Excalibur was planted there; Genevieve and Lancelot took refuge there, Merlin lived there… Brocéliande was just as important as Camelot and ivy reigned supreme in this magical forest of Brittany. Its luxuriant foliage has invaded this skeleton tourbillon movement and its fine stone leaves grow on diamond-set vines interlaced with the bridges of the calibre.
One of the world’s most ancient plant life patterns, the acanthus leaf has been a recurrent decorative theme since Antiquity and remains an inescapable neoclassical motif that Vacheron Constantin has adopted. As their name implies, the two Mécaniques Gravées models highlight the elaborate ornamentation on the movement itself. The mainplate serves as a dial and is hand-engraved with meticulous care in a process requiring a full month’s work for the tourbillon version and more than 10 days for Calibre 4400. Likewise, the entire visible surface on the back of the watch is also blackened and embellished with the same ornate pattern. Like a bed of flowers…