Métiers d’Art Traditionnelle
“L’empreinte du dragon”
Artistic crafts and grande complication horology,
a tribute to superlative craftsmanship
The Watch Quote™ - October 2nd, 2014
While the “Métiers d’Art” collection by Vacheron Constantin continues to roll out a distinguished line of watches worthy of the finest master works, the expertise cultivated by the Manufacture in the field of top- flight crafts is revealed in delicate touches throughout its range of timepieces. In order to highlight one of the many skills that it perpetuates with consistent excellence, the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin presents the Traditionelle Calibre 2253 L’empreinte du dragon model featuring an entirely hand-engraved case. This fine watch is equipped with prestigious horological complications and adorned with a dragon- scale motif executed by a master-artisan who was awarded the prestigious title “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 2011.
Vacheron Constantin pays tribute with impressive regularity and virtuosity to a range of artistic crafts through its “Métiers d’Art” collection. Engraving, gemsetting, enamelling and guilloché convey the full breadth and depth of the artisan-type skills perpetuated by the Geneva-based Manufacture for over 250 years. With subtle touches, these demanding arts are liberally sprinkled across the collections of the Maison, transfiguring exclusive models into unique works of art. For the very first time on a Grande Complication model in the Traditionnelle collection, the meticulous and refined art of engraving finds its place on the pink gold case.
The engraving art at its apogee
Offering unique expressions of superlative craftsmanship, the case, bezel and lugs of the Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 L’empreinte du dragon have been entirely hand-engraved by one of the most experienced master engravers of his generation, who was indeed named “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” in 2011. This lifelong title conferred in recognition of authentic excellence rewards the perfection of a masterpiece and requires months and even years of preparation.
Stemming from close collaboration between the Vacheron Constantin designers and this talented artisan who joined the Manufacture in order to express his talent to the full, the dragon-scale symbolises imperial power and authority in Asia. In addition to the powerful aesthetic effect, the remarkable geometry of a dragon scale involves a number of challenges at each stage of the work. From defining a motif harmoniously applied to the variously sized surfaces of the case, through to the line (copperplate) engraving of almost inaccessible parts, this meticulous work calls for expert dexterity – because such a masterpiece can tolerate no mistakes. There are no trial runs: the engraving is performed entirely by hand on the already assembled case, without any transferred pattern or laser tracing to serve as a reference, and at the considerable depth of 4/10ths of a millimeter.
The generous case thus provides an ideal medium of expression for this profound and impressive form of intaglio engraving. In addition, the specific 18-carat pink gold alloy used by Vacheron Constantin proved particularly challenging to engrave because of its hardness – a difficulty compounded by the constraints of a sophisticated motif obliging the master engraving to devise dedicated half moon-shaped tools in order to decorate the appropriate parts while avoiding the risk of damaging the surrounding areas.
Entirely performed by hand using burins, a compass and custom-made tools, this intricate and delicate task calls for up to 70 hours of patient workmanship. Exclusive by its very nature, the case-back of the Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 L’empreinte du dragon bears the inscription “Pièce Unique”.
To set the perfect stage for the ancestral artistic craft of engraving, Vacheron Constantin chose a highly complicated model in its Traditionnelle collection. This line of timeless watches, graced with round cases and refined elegance, is inspired by the aesthetic codes that have defined some of the finest historical creations from the Manufacture. While remaining firmly attached to its fundamental values, the collection nonetheless expresses itself in contemporary language, thereby serving as a reminder that tradition and modernity are natural companions at Vacheron Constantin. The entirely in-house developed and crafted Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 L’empreinte du dragon model is distinguished by a remarkable level of meticulously hand-crafted finishes. This timepiece bearing the prestigious Hallmark of Geneva meets the many demanding criteria of this supremely independent label that is a guarantee of provenance, of high-quality precision, of durability and of watchmaking expertise.
In addition to the tourbillon, the Traditionnelle Calibre 2253 L’empreinte du dragon also features various complications relating to the Earth’s path through space: a perpetual calendar, an equation of time as well as sunrise and sunset indications. The equation of time is a fascinating complication serving to measure the difference in minutes between true solar time and standard or legal time. This time lag or advance varies daily, while remaining within a range of -16 to +16 minutes. Sunrise and sunset times represent another rare horological complication, serving to provide a precise reading of these indications at any place on earth chosen by the client.
This highly technical watchmaking masterwork calling for several thousand hours of development boasts a stunning 14-day power reserve. Calibre 2253 measures just 9.60 mm thick and comprises 457 parts. The inner technical complexity of this timepiece is equalled only by the refinement of its external attributes: a 44 mm- diameter case in 18-carat gold, a silvered opaline dial adorned with 18K pink gold applied hour-markers, and a pink gold folding clasp shaped like a half Maltese cross.