The Louvre Museum Paris, Vacheron Constantin, and auction house Christie’s have come together to offer a unique Les Cabinotiers wristwatch as part of an online “Bid for the Louvre” sale to benefit the world-renowned museum. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy an experience poised at the intersection of art and craftsmanship, between Paris and Geneva. The online sale, which started on December 1, will be held through December 15 on the Christie’s website.
The Geneva watchmaker has an existing partnership with the French museum. Vacheron’s Les Cabinotiers collection is named for the most experienced watchmakers of the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment’s “alchemists of time” who created extraordinary timepieces by special commission. Today, the Les Cabinotiers collection encompasses some of the maison’s most technically-proficient timepieces, like the Grand Complication Phoenix and the Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600, the world’s most complicated wristwatch with 23 complications.
Here’s how it works for the winning bidder: During a private visit to the Louvre, guided by an expert, the bidder can choose a piece of artwork that he or she fancies, which will be then reproduced in enamel on the dial of the watch. According to the choice made and the client’s preference, Vacheron Constantin’s master enameller will use the miniature enamel or grisaille enamel technique.
The delicate skill involved in miniature enamel — in its version known as the “Geneva technique,” dating from the 18th century — is reserved for the most experienced artisans and encompasses mastery of both pigments and fire. One of the main challenges lies in composing a color palette compliant with the original shades of the work, while remaining keenly aware that the multiple firings in the kiln at over 800°C are liable to alter its color and brilliance.
Grisaille enamel is a craft that was established in the 16th century and consists of superimposing touches of a rare white enamel — called Limoges white — on a layer of dark enamel coating the gold dial base. Each layer of enamel is then fired in a kiln, with the artisan scrupulously respecting pre-defined firing times to the nearest second.
As part of the experience, the winning client can then travel to Geneva and meet the talented Les Cabinotiers team to further customize the timepiece. In addition to the dial, which will reproduce an artwork from the Louvre Museum, the client can also choose the case material — from platinum, rose gold, or white gold — and decide the type of engraving on the officer-style caseback. This is, of course, in addition to choosing the straps and so on. Caliber 2460 SC, a self-winding movement that indicates hours, minutes and seconds via central hands, will power the watch. The movement, with its top-notch finishing ,qualifies for the Poinçon de Genève (Hallmark of Geneva) certificate. For more information, and to view the most recent bid, visit the Christie’s website.
A version of this article appeared on our sister website, WatchTime Middle East.
As a collector during 40 years, I am extremely excited with this beautiful piece. At almost 81 years I will not be able to participate, but I hope that in due course we will be shown the ultimate choice of the winner.