Fashions come and go, but the less sensational classics always end up outlasting the siren song of fleeting trends. 260 years after Jean-Marc Vacheron opened his workshop, the Genevan fine watchmaking manufacturer continues to make its way across the generations with disconcerting constancy. Time has long since given up any attempt to establish a hold on its timepieces and one of Vacheron Constantin’s key strengths doubtless lies in this paradoxical ability to make a timeless imprint while remaining attuned to the times.
The pervasive acanthus leaf
Vacheron Constantin provides another remarkable illustration of this philosophy by enriching its Métiers d’Art collection with two new Mécaniques Gravées watches. Delicately celebrating the nobility of artisanal skills, the two models highlight the art of engraving, in keeping with the finest traditions of traditional horological ornamentation. This delicate form of craftsmanship characterised by its subtle refinement is devoted to exalting the mechanical expertise of the Maison. Artistic crafts and mechanical art are inextricably interwoven in these two creations distinguished by hand-engraved floral motifs inspired by ancient jewellery and adorning two iconic movements from the Manufacture: Calibres 2260 and 4400.
The acanthus leaf is a recurrent theme in classical Greek architecture and the first depictions date back to the fifth century B.C. It is widely found in artistic creations from the Renaissance and the Baroque period, expressed through a wide variety of techniques including engraving, marquetry, embroidery and painting. The elegance and refinement of this motif graces numerous Vacheron Constantin pocket-watch movements, in accordance with a longstanding tradition of adorning calibres. The 18th century was all about a floral patterns, followed by scrolling décors in the mid-19th century, angels and arabesques in the 1920s, “milfoil” foliage patterns in the 1940, and arabesques again in the 1980s.
Vacheron Constantin is thus returning to the very roots of its expertise by offering a transcendent expression of mechanical horology. The extreme slenderness of the parts to be engraved – some of them less than one millimetre thick – calls for peerless dexterity exercised by the most talented engravers. Vacheron Constantin has indeed chosen to maintain the exact composition of the 2260 and 4400 calibres. No part has been thickened to accommodate an engraving, a fact that doubtless represented the greatest challenge faced by the artisans who decorated these calibres. Successfully engraving the functional parts of a calibre, however small and slim, without impeding their smooth operation, is an impressive feat indeed. This superlative workmanship implies devoting no less than 10 days to engraving one single calibre. A subtle play on light and shade, volume and relief, enables the acanthus to reveal its timeless seductive appeal. To set off the exceptional engraving work performed on the two calibres to its best advantage, Vacheron Constantin has chosen to stage them in a deliberately understated setting.
The hand-wound 14-day tourbillon is framed by a 41 mm-diameter round case in 950 platinum. The same manual-winding Calibre 4400/1 also comes in an elegant 39 mm-diameter round case made of the same precious metal. The contrast is perfect, pervaded by a remarkably controlled sense of aesthetic and technical harmony. Revisiting the past with unmistakable style and panache, the Métiers d’Art Mécaniques Gravées are a forceful means of marking the 260th anniversary of the House, evoking Vacheron Constantin’s outstanding ability to assert classicism as a beacon that shines across the ages.