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12th ART - Horology in the art of time

12th ART Horology in the art of time

Up to now, it was described as a noble craft, but its most passionate followers have now elevated watchmaking to art status.

A 12th art with such a wide range of activities, that with discreet little touches or sometimes in a highly eloquent manner, it sums up the 11 preceding disciplines to have earned this rank. Continuing the series initiated by GMT in April, let's look at the close links that watchmaking has with the world of art, particularly through the first five as defined by the philosopher, Hegel.



The connection between art and architecture is often disconcertingly obvious. How many timepieces use the same aesthetic language as illustrious architectural monuments? The resemblance is sometimes striking, like Harry Winston's Opus 12 whose iconic arches are a reminder of the neo-classical arch which dominates the famous façade of the Harry Winston Salon in New York and whose open-worked hands are a nod to the Manhattan skyscrapers. Or De Bethune's DB28 ST watch, featuring an architecture – that would be hard to describe in any other way – is strangely reminiscent of a Gothic ribbed vault. One also naturally thinks of Urwerk watches with their highly technical dial construction – and indeed of all the watches that share identical vocabulary with architecture. Do not both these arts share a variety of terms including bridges, hinges, pinions, pillars, studs and fluting?


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Take a good look at Chopard's L.U.C XP Skeletec. Gaze attentively at the Jackie Chan model by Richard Mille and its dragon carved in gold. Do you not see true miniature sculptures here ? Engraved, chased, guilloché, or simply sculpted, Fine Watchmaking timepieces borrow their aesthetics from the second art, as well as its technique. Entirely in tune with our times in which the beauty and the precision of human gestures supersede all other considerations relating to watch production, today's timepieces, like those of yesteryear, proudly showcase their reliefs, their volumes and their harmonious curves.


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Worn around the neck, on the collar of women's dresses, in the waistband of a belt or at the end of a chain hung over a waistcoat: for a long time, other than its main function of providing the time, the watch was also designed as a fashion accessory. Decoration, and by extension painting on cases or dials, was also a lastingly important element in watchmaking.

Brands continue to present models that derive their splendour from painting. As rich as that of a painter, the colour palette of DeLaneau's Cerisier collection consists of miniature paintings with highly poetic notes. Another example that emphasises the strong links with the 3rd and 4th arts is that of Vacheron Constantin, which in 2011 presented a beautiful Métiers d'Art piece entitled “Chagall & l'Opera de Paris” inspired by the monumental fresco adorning the ceiling of the Opèra Garnier.


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The music of the passing of time is a commonly evoked theme. One need only recall the incessant ticking by of the seconds. Time is inseparably entwined with music, and in fact governs it. With each note bearing a different value, even the smallest tune is subject to time. Conversely, the passing of time is also expressed in a musical manner. One naturally thinks of the incredible complication represented by the minute repeater, interpreted through models such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau or the new Manufacture Royale Opera model which is none other than the first tourbillon minute repeater with a more than 100-hour power reserve. An instrument as original as Le-DIX Furtif by Celsius also comes to mind, featuring a mechanical sound achieved in collaboration with Parisian artist, Le Tone.


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“Oh ! the joy of childhood days, Backward turn oh time in your flight”… Time, its flight, its race, that which passes and is lost, is a theme that is ever present in the world of the poets. Lamartine, Ronsard and Apollinaire … From fascination to questioning and torment, the greatest have shown an interest in it. Conversely, some brands express a poetic note on the wrist that is highly appreciated, particularly by women. Naturally, Van Cleef & Arpels have made a signature of it with poetic complications and today, their Poetic Wish watches. Cartier also explores the 5th art with its magnificent dreamlike Tourbillon and bird timepiece. Not to mention Piaget, which sets the hours magically whirling and twirling with its new Limelight Dancing Light Collection.


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GMT no 28 - Summer 2012

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