The best travel stories are those that take the reader along on the journey.
That is what Vacheron Constantin promised to do with its new collection of specialty watches: Have the wearer experience the art and architecture of some memorable places that have influenced the Swiss watchmaker.
Founded in 1755, the brand began exploring Europe, Asia and the Americas in the early 1800s — long before other prominent Swiss brands such as Patek Philippe (1839) and Rolex (1905) were established — in search of financial opportunities as well as new markets and inspiration.
Some of its destinations, such as Paris, New York and Beijing, were showcased in Récits de Voyages (in English, Travel Stories), a collection of nine timepieces introduced in November (price on application). All nine watches were produced by Vacheron Constantin’s specialty workshop, Les Cabinotiers, which has created watches in collaboration with the Louvre and developed some of the brand’s most complicated timepieces.
Les Cabinotiers Grisaille High Jewelry Dragon, for example, evoked imperial China, where the company first traded in 1845. It included 146 baguette-cut diamonds, a brilliant-cut diamond on its crown and a five-claw dragon on the dial that was rendered in green grisaille, a first for Vacheron’s artisans. One of the house’s master enamelers said the dragon was created in classic grisaille, by layering white enamel on a black base and then adding eight layers of translucent and white enamel to achieve the final shade of green as well as the desired contrast and depth.
“Our goal is the transmission of artistic knowledge and that is why we value craftsmanship and are committed to experimenting to preserve artistic techniques that are in peril,” such as special enamel work, said Christian Selmoni, the company’s style and heritage director.
Les Cabinotiers Malte Tourbillon Tribute to Haussmannian Style was a nod to Paris, where Vacheron opened an office in 1810. The piece had an openwork caliber inspired by the Eiffel Tower and a barrel-shape pink gold case, engraved with friezes and a lion’s head. The designs were influenced by the architectural style Baron Haussmann used in the urban renewal of Paris from 1853 to 1870.
Vacheron Constantin appointed a representative in New York in 1932, and two timepieces paid tribute to the style of the time: Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco Style and the Les Cabinotiers Minute Repeater Tourbillon Tribute to Art Deco Style, both inspired by the Chrysler Building.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi influenced the Minute Repeater Tourbillon Tribute to Arabesque. And locations such as the Angkor Thom temple in Cambodia and the Tour de L’Île building in Geneva, where Vacheron was headquartered from 1843 to 1875, were included in a four-piece grouping called Les Cabinotiers Memorable Places.
A master engraver said the work on the collection was both precise and accurate, noting that one dial shows a man walking a dog, and that a viewer would be able to identify the dog as a Bernese Hound.