About six months into Vacheron Constantin’s newly forged artistic and cultural alliance with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the two organisations present the “Masterpiece on your Wrist” project. This is the first of many projects that are dedicated to safeguarding and passing on knowledge and expertise. This one is extra special because now you can wear a literal masterpiece on your wrist.

While the program is a unique offering, wearing a piece of art isn't new to Vacheron Constantin. The brand produced something similar with its partnership with The Louvre in 2019. The bespoke program, “Masterpiece on your Wrist”, revolves around two touch points:

  1. A unique, single-piece edition Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers
  2. The enamel dial must have a reproduction of a masterwork housed in the world’s preeminent museums 

The partnership with The MET brings many iconic and beloved artworks from the famed American museum into the program catalogue. Masterpieces such as "Wheat Field with Cypresses" by Vincent van Gogh; "Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies" by Claude Monet; "Northeaster" by Winslow Homer and even, sculptures such as "Diana" by Augustus Saint-Gaudens were chosen and brought to life by Vacheron Constantin’s revered Métiers d’Art department.

The Process of the Art

Celebrating decorative techniques applied in watchmaking, watches in the Métiers d’Art collection are enhanced by the maison’s master artisans. These experts of the clock, whose technicity and artistry are passed down from generation to generation. Here, a client’s selected artwork is faithfully reproduced in Miniature Enamel Painting or Grisaille Enamel. The former involves meticulously hand-painting intricate artwork onto a base layer of baked enamel. Paint is applied in thin layers of individual colours and fixed through successive firings in a kiln. After completion, the artisan seals the painting with a transparent enamel flux, enhancing its brilliance and depth. Miniature enamel painting stands out for its ability to replicate dramatic details, movement, and vibrant colours. This makes it ideal to imitate brushstrokes and impasto effects of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Winslow Homer’s paintings.

HOMO FABER 2018 Making Of Email Grisaille Enamel Palais Venitien.

On the flip side, grisaille enamelling is favoured for its unparalleled ability to evoke depth, luminosity, and dimensionality. Thanks to the predominant monochromatic guise and shading, it excels in creating the illusion of sculptural relief. Master artisans begin with a typically dark or black enamel base before translucent layers of Limoges white enamel are overlaid to create a spectrum of grey tones. As the layers build up, a chiaroscuro effect simulating the interplay of light and shadow on three-dimensional forms comes to life. You'll see this effect for Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Diana sculpture.

Commissioning clients will enjoy a private tour of The MET alongside its experts and curators, during which a masterwork of choice will be selected. A trip to Vacheron Constantin’s Plan-les-Ouates headquarters beckons next as clients get to meet master watchmakers and artisans who will craft the project before the experience culminates in the bespoke timepiece.

Beyond selecting the watch’s aesthetics, clients are also given free rein in the calibre selection. Three of Vacheron Constantin’s finest movements are available. They are the Calibre 2755 TMR with a minute repeater, power reserve, tourbillon, hours, minutes and small seconds on tourbillon; calibre 1731 with minute repeater, hours and minutes or the three-handed calibre 2460 SC hours with all bearing the prestigious Poinçon de Genève.

Apart from “Masterpiece on your Wrist”, Vacheron Constantin and The MET will continue a series of joint projects. These are designed to showcase their respective rich heritages and ability to keep cultural legacies alive for future generations.

Originally published on Men's Folio