Chanel Brings Glyptic Art of Engraved Gemstones to the Wristwatch

An art dating back to the ancient Egyptians, the technique of engraved gemstones is the metier d’art that decorates the Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Glyptique, a quartet of one of a kind timepieces.

Named after the sign on the door of Coco Chanel‘s studio in Paris, the Mademoiselle Privé is a series of ladies’ wristwatches featuring elaborate dials decorated with artisanal techniques like enamelling and precious stone embroidery. These timepieces are inspired by the Coromandel screens in the designer’s homes, and like the Chinese lacquer screens they feature intricate decoration against a jet black background. The latest technique to make its way to the watch dial is glyptic art, the practice of carving small gemstones by hand that give the dial depth and detail. A technique devised several thousand years ago and found in Mesopotamia and ancient Greece, glyptic art was often used for cylinder seals, signet rings and cameos. Used to sculpt stones in relief (a motif that stands out) and intaglio (a recessed motif), the technique is use to create the dial decor of the Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel Glyptique. Only four unique watches have been made, each with a different motif on the dial but similarly inspired by Coco Chanel’s Coromandel screens.

Each dial is hand-made and takes over 100 hours to complete, starting with reproducing the key elements of the dial design on a gold plate via hand-engraving. The design is then cut out and engraved, forming the rocks, trees and flowers.

Tracing out the design
Hand-engraving the gold plate

Then gemstones, including turqoise, cornaline and lapis lazuli, as well as tiny pieces of mother of pearl are engraved to form the birds in the motif. Enamel accents are added to the motif and finally everything is piece together on the dial plate, which is 18k white gold.

Adding enamel accents on the plants sculpted from gold

Piecing together the tiny pieces of the dial decoration

All four versions of the Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel Glyptique have 37.5mm white gold cases with snow-set diamonds. They’re each equipped with an automatic movements with a 42 hour power reserve. The price is between S$340,900 and S$360,300 (equivalent to US$241,000 and US$255,000).

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Ancient Temple in Kyoto Inspires Speake-Marin’s Latest Timepiece

Kyoto's 800-year old Kennin-Ji temple serves as inspiration for this bespoke timepiece by Speake-Marin that's decorated with a pair of hand-engraved dragons on the dial, case and movement.

Independent watchmaker Speake-Marin collaborated with a trio of artisans of different specialties to create the Kennin-Ji Temple Masters Project wristwatch. Commissioned by a collector, the timepiece is a one of a kind creation decorated with relief engraving of twin dragons, based on the ceiling mural of the Kennin-Ji temple in Kyoto.

Possibly the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kennin-Ji was founded in 1202 and celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2002. On that occasion, a monumental ceiling painting measuring some 175 sq. m was commissioned for the temple. Painting by Japanese artist Koizumi Junsaku, the ceiling depicts twin dragons, a motif reproduced on the Kennin-Ji Temple Masters Project.

The 42mm case and dial are both white gold, with the dragon motif on the dial continuing onto the case. Even the lugs have been shaped like claws of a dragon.

Dutch engraver Kees Engelbarts was responsible for the decoration on the case and dial, while the movement was engraved by Eddy Jaquet, a Swiss engraver whose work includes the Master 7 Decimal Repeater by Voutilainen.

The twin dragon motif is repeated on the embossed leather of the presentation case, which was done by Swiss leatherworker Christophe Seewer.

And the movement is the calibre SM2, Speake-Marin’s top of the line in-house movement that has German silver bridges. As a unique piece ordered by a client, the Kennin-Ji Temple Masters Project has been spoken for. Speake-Marin, however, does custom watches frequently, with other examples including the Shimoda Majestic Monkey and the more recent Only Watch piece.

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