Masterpieces from the Met for the Wrist by Vacheron Constantin

Art in enamel.

Having announced a partnership with The Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, Vacheron Constantin has just launched Masterpiece on Your Wrist, a programme that offers the opportunity to commission timepieces featuring enamel dials that replicate select artworks from the Met’s collection in a wristwatch created by Les Cabinotiers, the watchmaker’s workshop for custom and bespoke watches.

A client could commission Vincent van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses as a minute repeater for instance. Naturally, clients who commission such a timepiece will receive more than a watch. The process includes a private tour of the Met and a visit to Vacheron Constantin’s Geneva manufacture.

Wheat Field with Cypresses

Initial thoughts

Geneva’s important watchmakers, namely Vacheron Constantin and its crosstown rival, have long reproduced important works of art on wrist (or pocket) watch dials. In the late 20th century, Suzanne Rohr famously replicated various classical European artworks in miniature enamel. And more recently, Anita Porchet recreated Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring on the monumental Les Cabinotiers Westminster Sonnerie commissioned by a noted Asian collector.

Masterpiece on Your Wrist is a continuation and formalisation of that historical practice that also allows privileged access to one of the world’s most noted museums. For an art lover, this is quite the opportunity.

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies by Claude Monet

Granted, most of the artworks in the Met are already in the public domain, so the museum’s permission is not required to reproduce them – any one of the paintings could be rendered in miniature enamel independently of the museum.

But that would lack the experiential aspect of Masterpiece on Your Wrist, namely the meeting with the Met’s curators and experts. That would be an invaluable experience, particularly for a collector who is keen on the details of the artwork.

Vacheron Constantin doesn’t officially reveal the names of the enamellers who would work on such a commission, but they will most likely be part of its in-house enamel workshop. Though the relatively anonymous artisans who work for Vacheron Constantin lack the name recognition of someone like Ms Porchet for instance, they are the ones responsible for some impressive creations, including the Wind God and Thunder God pair.

Commissions equipped with the cal. 2460 SC will feature a rotor unique to Masterpiece on Your Wrist

Enamel masterpiece

Masterpiece on Your Wrist allows clients to choose from almost any artwork from the Met’s collection, ranging from paintings to sculpture to historical objects. The process begins with a tour of the Met hosted by its curators, who will guide the client in his or her choice of artwork, followed by a visit to the Vacheron Constantin manufacture in Geneva.

The artwork will be reproduced in enamel on the dial, with the specific enamel technique depending on the nature of the artwork.

Paintings are most likely most appropriate for miniature enamel, the historical technique of choice for artworks on timepieces. Sculpture, on the other hand, might do better in grisaille enamel, a near-monochromatic technique that involves painting and removal of enamel.

Northeaster by Winslow Homer, powered by the cal. 2755 TMR

Since the miniature artwork requires maximum real estate on the dial, only certain models are suitable as the base. For now, the watches that can serve as the canvas for the reproduction artworks are those powered by the cal. 2755 TMR, cal. 1731, and cal. 2460 SC.

The cal. 2755 TMR is a tourbillon with minute repeater that is exceptionally complex on the back, but only requires an aperture at six on the dial for the tourbillon, leaving the rest of the dial free for enamelling. The other two movements, on the other hand, are two-hand calibres, making them most ideal.

The prices for such commissions is on request, but a time-only watch would likely be priced at about US$250,000, with the more complicated examples costing multiples of that.

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