It’s a truly wonderful little world. Animal-inspired dials provide scope for expressing both poetry and gentleness. In the capable hands of dial makers, enamellers and gem-setters, even the fiercest animals are tamed. It must be said that the range of techniques employed is constantly expanding.
Cartier in particular has become a specialist in unknown, little known or revived professions. After a granulated Panthère in 2013, it introduces a magnificently lifelike parrot in floral marquetry. Instead of wood, mother-of-pearl or stone, this blue and yellow macaw is composed of natural flower-petal fragments. No photograph, with its tendency to flatten volumes, could ever do it justice, since when viewed at close hand the bird even displays delightfully ruffled feathers beneath the domed glass of the Ballon Bleu watch.
While the panther, tiger and crocodile are Cartier’s favourites, the brand does not confine itself to these animals. Even the flamingo is entitled to its own watch – in this instance, a model belonging to its Indomptable (untamable) line. The graceful bird is a separate part of the watch that may be either perched on top of the watch, majestically clad in pink gold and diamonds, or removed and worn as a brooch, with the watch thus also becoming autonomous.
A more recent newcomer to the circle of brands that engage in artistic crafts, Piaget depicts various indigenous animals in the countries traversed by the Silk Route. Its Mythical Journey collection winds through this legendary route and has immortalised cranes, elephants, peacocks and this horse. Engraved using the bullino technique on a gold base, it adorns a series of 18 Altiplano watches.
Chaumet’s Attrape-moi… si tu m’aimes models flutter among microscopic fauna and flora. Its favourite animals are adult Lepidoptera, better known as butterflies. This one has already left its chrysalis and appears on a burl myrtlewood dial. It gradually grows as it inches forward on a blade of grass before flying away. Its wings are made of blackened gold, carnelian and white painted wood… none of which weighs it down.
High up in the sky, way beyond measurable time and space, an eagle soared over the SIHH. Made of champlevé enamel on a black onyx base, the king of raptors from Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight Constellation Aquila represents the constellation that bears its name. The nobility of the predator is magnificently highlighted in this creation, just as certain models display the delicacy of other creatures or transform their apparent triviality into pure poetry.