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Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers – Récits de Voyages, Part 1

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Vacheron Constantin presented novelties under the motto ‘A watchmaking odyssey honouring arts and cultures of the world’. The new Les Cabinotiers pieces combine the excellence and dedication of master watchmakers and great artisans. 

Vacheron Constantin has always embedded the countries and cultures of the different continents in its designs. In 1755 the same year, when the first apprenticeship contract signed by Jean-Marc Vacheron (1731-1805) basically founded the watchmaking manufacture, the first steam engine got installed in America to pump water from a mine. The next one hundred years brought tremendous inventions in all fields of life and is referred to as Industrial Revolution. Watchmaking had also gone through great developments; nothing proves it better than the first complicated timepieces by Vacheron Constantin from around 1790, or the jumping-hours watch from 1824. 

Steam engine and of course railways stretching all over Europe and North-America have become the real hallmarks of the period. Both the founder’s grandson Jacques-Barthélémy Vacheron (1787-1864) and his partner François Constantin (1788-1854) were great travellers and established commercial relations with many countries. Different architectures, structures and even discoveries served as muse for Vacheron Constantin throughout the decades, like the ‘Métiers d’Arts Fabuleux Ornaments’ collection inspired by Ottoman architecture, Chinese embroidery, Indian manuscripts and French lacework or the ‘Métiers d’art Les Aérostiers’ timepieces. 

Now Vacheron Constantin invites us again on an imaginary journey throughout the world to discover its wonders with the Récits de Voyages series. 

Récits de Voyages: Les Cabinotiers – Memorable places

The Maison has always been famous for artistic creations, created with a number of traditional techniques (like grisaille or ‘plique-à-jour’ enamel) – furthermore the artisans are constantly working on developing new techniques or application methods. 

The ‘Memorable places’ watches depict four historical sites on a 40 mm-diameter case in 18K 5N pink gold. The dials are created by using a new technique that combines different engravings – and for two of them a touch of damascening. 

The depictions include the site of the 12th century Angkor Thom; the former Chinese imperial Old Summer Palace during the Qing dynasty; the Confucius Temple built in 1302 in Beijing and the Tour de l’Île – the Maison’s home in the 19th century Geneva. These miniature masterpieces are inspired by illustrations dating from the 19th century, at a time when Vacheron Constantin was making its first contacts with China.

Each dial is composed of several plates cut from yellow, white and pink gold, juxtaposed to form the different coloured elements of the painting, or even superimposed to give depth to this precious assemblage. 

Before being assembled, these plates are first engraved using micro-sculpture techniques and line-engraving incisions. The challenge for the master artisan is to work on plates that are about 0.4-0.8 mm thick, and therefore not to exceed 1 to 2/10ths of a millimetre in engraving them. It takes no less than 200 hours to create a single dial. 

To give an even more realistic touch to the two timepieces representing the site of Angkor and the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, he also proceeded to damascene the tree’s foliage. This decorative technique involves embedding a metal wire in an engraved surface, meaning either pink or yellow gold encrusted into a white gold base.

Calibre 1120

The pieces house the Calibre 1120, originally launched in 1968, measuring just 2.45 mm thick and 28 mm in diameter. As Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin Style & Heritage Director shares – ‘When Vacheron Constantin unveiled this movement, it was one of the thinnest self-winding calibre of its generation: accurate, reliable and an achievement in itself. When we revisited it in 2010, we made only minor improvements – notably to increase the power reserve with a new oscillating weight thereby providing ample proof that this movement was indeed – almost – perfect right from the outset.’ 

Source: press release. Photo credits: Vacheron Constantin
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