Watch your history: Vacheron Constantin and The Louvre launch watches inspired by great civilisations

The museum tie-up features a series of limited-edition métiers d’art watches spotlight four great ancient civilisations.

Two venerable institutions both possessing centuries-old histories and an enduring appeal to modern audiences. Who better to bring antiquity into the present?

Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, and the Louvre Museum, founded in 1793, announced their partnership in 2019. The recently unveiled Métiers d’Art — Tribute to Great Cilivisations, a collection of four artistic timepieces that spotlight ancient civilisations, is the most significant outcome yet of this collaboration. There will be just five pieces of each design.

Using fine crafts ranging from enamelling to engraving, Vacheron Constantin artisans created stunning timepieces that spotlight four epochs: the Ancient Egyptian empire, the Achaemenid Persian empire, Hellenistic Greece during the Antigonid dynasty. and the Roman Empire of the Julio-Claudians.

Each watch features a layered construction to showcase a variety of crafts. A circular frieze surrounds every dial with ornamentation inspired by works hat represent the decorative arts of each historical period. A sapphire crystal bearing a sculpted gold applique — or mini sculpture — illustrating a major work from each era is placed on the centre of the dial. The same sapphire crystal also features text in different scripts, reproduced by metallisation. Here’s a closer look at these masterpieces.

Grand Sphinx De Tanis – Ancient Egypt

Standing 1.83m tall and 4.8m long, the Great Sphinx of Tanis was acquired by the Louvre in 1826 and is linked to the Middle Kingdom (2035-1680 BC). On the watch, the gold applique featuring the head of the sphinx was created using the pounced engraving technique, where the material is removed to create a sculpture in relief.

The dial’s other decorative elements take their cues from the cartonnage coffin of a certain Nakht-khounsou-irou, which is housed in the Louvre. On the rim, for instance, champleve enamel petals recall the floral motif of a large necklace depicted on the coffin.

Victoire De Samothrace – Hellenistic Greece

Dating back to between 200 and190 BC, the Winged Victory of Samothrace is a Hellenistic sculpture that was found on the Greek island of Samothrace. Representing the goddess Victory, it was originally made to thank the gods for a naval victory. The draped fabric on the statue proved a challenge for the engraver tasked with reproducing it on the small space of a watch dial.

The centre of the dial is enamelled in brown (a tricky colour to achieve), and on its periphery is a decoration taken from the friezes of two Greek vases. These motifs were created using grisaille enamelling, where white enamel is applied on a dark enamel base.

Lion De Darius Achaemenid – Persian Empire

A wall decoration made of moulded bricks, the Frieze of Lions (circa 510 BC) was originally located in the courtyard of the palace of Darius the Great in Susa, the capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in southwestern Iran.

Vacheron Constantin artisans adapted that artwork for this watch in two ways. A gold engraved lion sculpture was crafted and set against a background of glazed “bricks”. To create the wall, artisans used the technique of stone marquetry, where patterns are created using tiny pieces of coloured stones. To recreate the original colours of the Lion de Darius, turquoise and yellow mochaite jasper were used.

Buste D’Auguste – Roman Empire

The marble bust represented in this watch depicts the first Roman emperor, Augustus, wearing an oak wreath, a civic crown supposedly awarded by the Senate in 27 BC. While he called himself the first citizen of the Roman republic, he was an autocrat who nonetheless brought about two centuries of peace.

The sapphire crystal, which also bears an engraved gold applique of Augustus, features metallised Latin script drawn from an ancient inscription. The dial’s colourful rim was created using stone micro-mosaic; 660 tiny pieces of seven different types of stones were assembled and set with a binder.

This story first appeared in The Peak Singapore.

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