An Ancient Art Form: Enamel Painting on Luxury Watch Dials | The Singapore peak
Jaeger-LeCoultre shares the stories of great paintings lost and found through its new Reverso watches.
The blank case back of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso’s rotating case has long offered an endless canvas for artistic expression, with engraved messages as well as enamel miniatures. The watch itself debuted in 1931, while the first known Reverso with an enamel painting – the portrait of an Indian woman – dates back to 1936, five years later.
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Following a series of other Reverso launches during the model’s 90th anniversary year, Jaeger-LeCoultre recently unveiled the Reverso Tribute Enamel Hidden Treasures, a trio of fine craft watches featuring replicas of paintings that the we thought long lost but found later.
Speaking to The Peak via a video presentation in August, CEO Catherine Renier said: “We saw these paintings as a way to pay homage to the revelation that the Reverso provides. By turning the case over, we discover the work of art below.
Limited to 10 pieces each, the Hidden Treasures were made in grand feu enamel at the Atelier des Métiers Rares of Jaeger-LeCoultre. The reproductions pay homage to three masters: Gustave Courbet (View of Lake Geneva, 1876), Vincent Van Gogh (Sunset at Montmajour, 1888) and Gustav Klimt (Portrait of a Lady, 1917).
While the stories behind these works of art are all compelling enough to warrant a novel (or at least a short story), the legend of Klimt is the most intriguing. It is the only known “double” portrait of the Viennese artist and it has been “lost” twice. While Portrait of a Lady dates back to 1917, Klimt painted it over an earlier image of a woman who was said to have been his prematurely deceased muse. The fact that this is a double painting was not discovered until 1996.
In February 1997, Portrait of a Lady was stolen from an Italian art gallery, where it had been on display since 1925. Over the following years, several forgeries emerged. Then, in December 2019, gardeners discovered the original, hidden in a black bag, inside a recess in the wall of the same gallery. Quite the exciting conversation-starter to exercise on your wrist.
Vacheron Constantin’s latest bespoke piece is a masterpiece inside and out.
Dedicated to the creation of unique pieces for its best clients, Les Cabinotiers de Vacheron Constantin is at the origin of several of the house’s most astonishing horological and artistic blockbusters. Its latest unique creation, Les Cabinotiers Westminster Sonnerie – Homage to Johannes Vermeer, is the result of eight years of interaction between the collector who commissioned it and the Geneva watch manufacturer.
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On the officer-style caseback of this 98mm yellow gold pocket watch is a miniature reproduction of Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, dating from 1665. Anita Porchet, a renowned enameller, put seven months to research and complete it. As challenges well known to aficionados of grand feu enamel, multiple fires at high temperatures can cause color changes or cracks and even warp the metal base. Only the black background of the image required seven different shades.
The art of engraving also occupies a prominent place. Made for five months by a master engraver from Vacheron Constantin, it showcases acanthus leaves running along scrolls and flowers with a pearl heart. The work of the engraver is also the icing on the cake of this timepiece. Carved from a block of gold, the arch is flanked by roaring lions.
The watch is also impressive on the inside. The new caliber 3761 was developed by the team behind the 2015 Vacheron Constantin 57-complication pocket watch 57260 and features Grande and Petite Sonnerie ringing complications and a minute repeater coupled with a Westminster chime mechanism. with five gongs and five hammers. A tourbillon regulates the manual winding movement in 806 components with a dual wheel system to ensure smooth movement of the extra-long seconds hand.
Miniature enamel painting takes center stage in Patek Philippe’s latest Rare Handcrafts collection.
Patek Philippe’s sports watches may be making headlines these days, but true fans of the brand know it has a lot more to offer, including its focus on the decorative arts. In June, the luxury watch company hosted an exhibition at its historic headquarters in Geneva, showcasing more than 75 watches and clocks from its latest Rare Handcrafts collection.
Unique or limited-edition pieces showcase a range of artisan crafts, including engraving, grand feu cloisonné enamel, miniature enamel painting, guillochage, setting and wood microarquetry. A Geneva specialty since the 17th century, miniature painting on enamel figures prominently among these novelties – particularly on the backs of pocket watches and the dials of wristwatches. Using microscopic binoculars, the artisans use tiny paintbrushes to apply the pigments, which are mostly powdered metal oxides.
Patek Philippe frequently depicts flora and fauna in his miniature paintings, and one of them is on display in the Golden Ellipse watch. Known as the Roman Garden, it reproduces a fresco discovered in an imperial villa of the 1st century BC.
Initially, the craftsman applied two coats of white enamel which required three firing. In the next step, he used 12 basic colors and a variety of mixtures to paint the plants and the bird, which he drew several times. Then, using a traditional Geneva method, five coats of a transparent enamel called flux were applied, and each required baking. After that, the surface was ground, glazed and polished.
Make no mistake about it: there is a lot more to it than what you see with arts like these.
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