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Baume & Mercier - What Happens when you Mix Art with Watchmaking?

Baume & Mercier What Happens when you Mix Art with Watchmaking?

Baume & Mercier pays tribute to French artist Pierre Soulages and his unique abstract style

Born in 1919 in Rodez, France, Pierre Soulages is recognized as one of the greatest masters of modern art. He is also known as “the painter of black” for his canvases that he coats with black acrylic paint and then works with tools and brushes to create an interplay of textures. Glossy or matte, streaked or flat, polished or salient, the magic is in how the light bounces off the different motifs as the viewer moves around the work of art. Soulages once explained, “My instrument is not black, but the light reflected from the black.”

The artist unveiled his first black creations in January 1979 at his Parisian workshop. Initially calling his paintings “Noir-Lumière”, he would later rename the series to “Outrenoir”, or “Beyond Black” in English, in 1989. His work has been displayed in exhibitions all over the world and he now has a museum dedicated to his work in his hometown. 

Que se passe-t-il quand on mélange art et horlogerie ?

Pierre Soulages in his studio Paris, 1999 © Baume & Mercier

Making a Connection

It was thanks to the Musée Soulages and the Association of Friends of the Museum that Baume & Mercier was able to reach out to the artist to discuss the idea of creating a limited-edition watch collection paying homage to his work, to which he agreed. 

Que se passe-t-il quand on mélange art et horlogerie ?

Outrenoir painting 390 x 130 cm, 17 March 2019 © Baume & Mercier

The project was to liberally take inspiration from the Outrenoir painting entitled Peinture 390 x 130 cm 17 mars 2019, a work that was donated by the artist to the Musée Soulages in 2020 and was created in celebration of his 100th birthday. 

Que se passe-t-il quand on mélange art et horlogerie ?

Soulages Museum, Rodez © RCR

Action Painting comes to the Watch Dial

The action painting technique that Soulages uses is particularly challenging to reproduce on a watch dial. The large-scale painting needed to be miniaturized, shrinking metres down to millimetres, in an astounding transformation. Baume & Mercier’s artisans started with a brass dial and machined it with a laser. Candia stone was then employed to create the matt effect, which was followed by an electroplating process that applied a black coating to the surface, just 0.2 microns thick. A final coat of sheer, semi-matte protective lacquer (10 microns) provided the finishing touch to the dial. 

Baume & Mercier’s designers set out to reflect the spirit and content of Soulages’ work, by bringing out contrasts in the way light reflected off of the dial, but also the watch’s other components. The stainless-steel case is sand-blasted then coated with hydrogenated amorphous carbon ions through plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD), again with a view to capture and sculpt the light. Baume & Mercier chose the Hampton model for this artistic project because to its rectangular form that evokes the proportions of a canvas and whose clean, curved lines are in keeping with the design. 

The hands are faceted, diamond-ground, sand-blasted, and coated with black PVD. There is also a touch of gold on each tip, a detail that came as a suggestion from the artist himself to highlight the passage of time. 

Que se passe-t-il quand on mélange art et horlogerie ?

Hampton Tribute to Pierre Soulages © Baume & Mercier

The timepiece is powered by the self-winding ETA 2892 movement that features a black oscillating weight adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif that can be admired through a sapphire crystal case back. 

More than a timepiece

The “Hampton Hommage à Pierre Soulages” will be produced on demand in a limited edition of 102 pieces (reflecting the age of the artist), and is available exclusively by pre-order on www.baume-et-mercier.com. Each purchase will be accompanied by a leaflet detailing the collaboration and a VIP pass for two for the Musée Soulages in Rodez. A book on the work of Pierre Soulages will also be sent to each owner of the watch. 

Mixing art and watchmaking is always a huge undertaking, a risk even, but here Baume & Mercier has not only successfully transcribed the work of Pierre Soulages into a watch, but has done it in such an artistic way that this timepiece deserves its place in a museum too!

What Happens when you Mix Art with Watchmaking?

Hampton Tribute to Pierre Soulages © Baume & Mercier


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The Baume & Mercier watchmaking Maison has always had powerful emotional and celebratory connotations, while expressing watchmaking excellence in all its creations. Since 1830, it has embodied a family history in which a passion for detail and a quest for excellence convey a firm commitment: to perpetuate its heritage while being an essential partner of memorable moments. For Baume & Mercier, time is far more than just a sequence of seconds,...

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