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Métiers d'Art - A Modern Take

Métiers d'Art A Modern Take

“Métiers d’art”: the name evokes a world of magic, mystery… and dusty antiques. And that’s a shame, because the artistic crafts are constantly being renewed and reinvented. Watches & Wonders demonstrated this magnificently

Are there limits to imagination? Is art a language? Does our culture belong to us?

No, this is not your end-of-term philosophy test. We didn’t get four hours to answer the question, but we did have four days to understand that, where watchmaking is concerned, these questions are moot. There are no limits to the imagination, and each brand has its own artistic grammar, which is constantly being revisited and refreshed.

But this was not always the case. For 250 years or more, some of the world’s most skilled artisans have deployed their exceptional artistry on a canvas measuring just a few square centimetres. They’ve done everything: engraving, sculpture, painting, marquetry with stone, leather and feathers, gem-setting, and dozens more techniques. Is there anything left to try?

Thankfully, there is. And the latest edition of Watches & Wonders proved it with effortless panache. Ideas meld and marry, techniques evolve, and materials graciously accommodate them all. In fact, we are a very long way from seeing everything the métiers d’art have to offer in watchmaking.

1678 beads for Hermès

In this melting pot of good ideas, there are some familiar faces and a few rather nice surprises. In the first category, we find – quelle surprise! – Hermès. Focusing on its spirit animal, the leather goods designer has created the Slim d’Hermès Cheval de Légende, which comes in two models.

For the first, the artisan uses a laser to create minuscule hollows in an enamelled, hand-polished gold surface. 1678 rose gold balls are deposited there, before being fired in a kiln to fix them in the enamel. This is an incredibly sensitive procedure: a few seconds too little or too long could ruin the entire piece. The second creation, made up of blued enamel beads, follows a similar process, but the blue balls are made up of crushed enamel crystals, which are then rigorously calibrated and selected. These 1678 enamel balls are then moistened and applied with a paintbrush, before being fired.

Coup de jeune sur les métiers d’art

Slim d’Hermès Cheval de légende © Hermès

A jigsaw puzzle from Saint-Blaise 

In the category of surprises, we find Louis Moinet. The independent workshop based in Saint-Blaise (Neuchâtel) caused a stir with a rather unusual triptych in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. This micro capsule collection comprises three one-of-a-kind pieces, each based on a different animal: a lion, a leopard and an elephant. These three subjects are depicted in micro-painting on a real 81-piece jigsaw puzzle made of metal, which is assembled then painted. It’s a unique and fascinating concept.

Coup de jeune sur les métiers d’art

Savanna © Louis Moinet

Pincushion chic

The Mademoiselle Privé Pique-Aiguilles Décor Dentelle by Chanel is a striking creation. The camellia lace design is a combination of three different skills. First, the technique of hand-engraving was used to create the texture of the dial’s gold surface. A translucent enamel coating was then applied using the grand feu technique to give it lustre. Finally, a thinly applied coating creates a lace-like effect with a camellia motif. The design is completed with pearls and five diamonds. It’s not terribly wearable (55 mm in diameter) but that’s irrelevant. This is art for art’s sake. And it is utterly Chanel.

Coup de jeune sur les métiers d’art

Mademoiselle Privé Pique-Aiguilles Décor Dentelle © Chanel

A cow and emojis

The final artistic crafts trend is to run as far away as possible from solemnity and seriousness. It’s all about having fun, raising eyebrows and turning things on their heads. Several brands tried their hand at Watches & Wonders (think of the ProPilot X Kermit Edition by Oris), but two really took a new artistic path towards play and emotion.

The first is Rolex, which has presented a stunning new Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 whose days are replaced by emotions, the date by emojis, and the dial with multicoloured champlevé enamel. This shows Rolex’s métiers d’art in a refreshingly cheeky light.

Coup de jeune sur les métiers d’art

Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 © Rolex

Finally, in a more bucolic register, the latest from Claude Meylan features a dial on three individually  levels, each piece of which is sculpted and painted. They represent a cow, an Alpine meadow, and a ladybird in the foreground. This careful work also takes a lighter approach to the serious artistic crafts, giving them a modern, playful spin. Swiss kitsch!

Coup de jeune sur les métiers d’art

Claude Meylan's cow watch © Claude Meylan

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