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SIHH 2017 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie - Geneva, 16-20 January 2017

SIHH 2017 - Fantastic beasts

SIHH 2017 Fantastic beasts

So long cows, pigs and all your farmyard friends. The horological bestiary of the SIHH 2017 has abandoned the more run-of-the-mill animals in favour of fairies, fabulous beasts and fluttering butterflies.

The great advantage of dials with an animal theme is that they lend themselves to any number of interpretations. A monkey may be a figure of fun, but he is also clever. The pig, while associated with dirt in Europe, has other connotations in Asia. Animals are symbols, totems. And if they belong to a certain brand then that brand also, in a way, starts to belong to them. This is how some creatures, whether fierce or furtive, have become indissociably linked with the world of watches. Perhaps the most famous of these symbiotic relationships is the one that binds Cartier to its panther. It should therefore come as no surprise that the jeweller should have chosen the panther as its theme of the year. The panther may be astral, playful or Arctic, but it always retains its inscrutable demeanour: silent, mysterious and serene.

Les animaux fantastiques

Les animaux fantastiques

Cvstos is venturing into the domain of women’s watches. The Re-Belle Papillon Diamond features a sculpted butterfly delicately alighting on a white mother-of-pearl background, with three more butterflies scattered around the dial.

Les animaux fantastiques


Van Cleef & Arpels also give pride of place to the butterfly. In the Lady Arpels Papillon Automate, an animated butterfly takes the starring role. The same creature also features in a second piece that is much more than a simple scene on a dial.

Les animaux fantastiques

The Automate Fée Ondine is a composition that takes the concept of animated figures on a watch dial, a feature of watchmaking since the 19th century, to a new level. A ladybird indicates the hour, and a butterfly sips nectar from a lotus flower, watched by a large fairy made of gold and precious stones, which wakes up and moves. This fantastical creature required an equally fantastical amount of work behind the scenes. Its fluid movements are governed by the kind of cutting-edge mechanical techniques that have long been a feature of artistic crafts watches.

Les animaux fantastiques
But if there is one theme that continues to fascinate watchmakers, it’s the zodiac. The Chinese zodiac, with its rich symbolism, holds a mirror to Chinese culture. In this year of the Rooster, Ulysse Nardin has unveiled a cockerel in engraved cloisonné enamel, in a Classico case. Ulysse Nardin’s rooster is by no means alone in the watchmaking farmyard, and more than one cock fight can be expected.

Les animaux fantastiques

The zodiac of western astrology is equally popular, although astrology carries far less weight in this part of the world. In a purely horological context, however, it represents an amazing complication. In astronomical watches – and there are plenty to choose from this year – the challenge of depicting the night sky is an invitation to any number of artistic representations of the zodiac. Vacheron Constantin has tackled the challenge with aplomb. The Métiers d’Art Copernic Sphères Célestes uses an engraved sapphire disc coated with a luminescent substance to represent the twelve signs in the form of fantastical animals. These large translucent figures – crab, scorpion, lion, centaur, etc. – fill almost the entire dial.

Metiers d'Arts Copernic

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