Swiss luxury watch brand VULCAIN unveils a new limited edition timepiece to honour the village of Champéry, Switzerland.
Champéry is a magnificent mountain village in the canton of Valais. Its single main road is lined with chalets typical of the val d’illiez. Their imposing facades conceal a wealth of mountain-style and modern interiors, a discreet luxury cherished by a well-heeled clientele with a preference for a humble, simple approach to life. Champéry is indeed a destination where modesty, respect and discretion reign supreme, thereby making it an unspoilt place, a true gem at the foot of the Dents du midi. The Vulcain watch manufacturer now pays tribute to it with a limited series of 23 exceptional timepieces.
Their pink gold cases frame dials that are entirely handcrafted by artisans mastering the centuries-old tradition of Grand Feu champlevé enamelling. The steeple and the main street of the village are so meticulously depicted that it takes a watchmaker’s eyepiece to appreciate each and every detail.
Living in their village nestling at the bottom of the Val d’Illiez, the population of Champéry, like the first watchmakers of the Jura, was essentially rural. Life was harsh, but this valley that turned so green and lush in summer was fertile and yielded sufficient food for its inhabitants. Its charm was soon discovered by the first foreign tourists who marvelled at the majestic presence of the Dents du Midi, appreciated the pleasant, gentle summers in the village, the coolness of the Vièze river and the conviviality of the natives.
It was in 1855 that the word “tourist” first appeared in the “livre des étrangers” (outside visitors’ register), making Champéry one of Switzerland’s oldest tourist sites. Three years later, in 1858, the Ditisheim brothers set up in La Chaux-de-Fonds their company that would give rise to the Vulcain brand and write a fresh page of Swiss watchmaking tradition.
While the Dents du Midi was to attract many tourists as well as hiking and sports enthusiasts, it also inspired many locals to become climbers. La Haute Cime (3,257 metres high) was scaled for the first time in 1784 by Jean-Maurice Clément, the scholarly vicar of Champéry.
The history of Vulcain is also intimately bound up with the mountains, since from the 1930s onwards; the sales representatives of the brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds began placing its watches on the wrists of experienced sportsmen.
In 1945, a team of 14 Italian alpinists including Walter Bonatti, one of the country’s most famous mountaineers, set off to conquer the second highest peak in the world, the K2 (8,620 metres high). On July 31st 1954, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni reached the summit, each with a Vulcain alarm watch on his wrist.
Today, the path of Champéry symbolically crosses that of Vulcain with a limited edition of 23 exceptional timepieces.
The number 23 was chosen in honour of the steeple and bell on which work began in 1723. The church, which is depicted on the dial, is indeed the soul of the village, the place where its inhabitants and tourists gather to pray together and to celebrate various milestones in the lives of parishioners.
Somewhat like a church bell, the striking of the Vulcain Cricket calibre punctuates the passing of time and provides a daily reminder of our obligations. It was thus the perfect medium for this celebration.
Since the start of the 20th century, technicians had been seeking to create an alarm watch, a quest that raised the difficult and apparently insoluble problem of housing an alarm mechanism within the limited space of a normal-sized wristwatch. All attempts made up until then – a bell, an easel comprising the acoustic organs, and even a claw gently scratching the wearer’s wrist – had yielded disappointing results. The Manufacture Vulcain was to have the honour of giving Swiss watchmaking the first alarm wristwatch that truly rang out as loudly as a large alarm clock, and of which the strident chirping was as insistent as that of a cricket hence the name.
Renowned for its iconic models and its unique mechanical movements, the Manufacture Vulcain has a place all its own within the world of Fine Watchmaking.
Active since 1858 in the making of exceptional watches, the company now located in a mansion in Le Locle, a cradle of Swiss watchmaking, has constantly produced timepieces meeting the diverse requirements of the passing eras.
Innovating in order to offer products worthy of the future; exploring Vulcain’s rich history in order to perpetuate its expertise and reveal its original character: such are the principles governing the daily work of the master watchmakers exercising their skills within the Manufacture. In addition to the fabled Cricket alarm calibre that continues to beat at the heart of the brand’s iconic models, the Manufacture has successfully established itself by offering legendary models bound up with the fabulous history of Vulcain. The brand continues to forge its exemplary foundation around its two pillars and their undeniable evocative power.
Among the various techniques used in enamelling, this theme is expressed through that of Grand Feu champlevé enamelling embodying a perfect match between the art of engraving and that of the enamel artisans. It consists in creating cells of various depths in the underlying material, thereby achieving a great variety of colour through the transparency effects created by the enamels.
The artisan gently fills each cavity with enamel using a goose feather or a fine brush, repeating this operation as often as necessary to create an optimal appearance featuring subtly graded shades of colour. These successive layers of enamel are coated with transparent enamel known as fondant (flux).
Next is the lapping or sanding stage, which is performed with a diamond file in order to level out and smooth the enamel and to reveal the metal composing the walls of the enamel cavities, as well as the larger parts to be engraved.
Once this operation is complete, the engraver works over all the metal parts with a burin or graver, in order to restore them to a vivid shine: this is a very tricky step, since some borders are only 2/10ths of a mm thick, while the enamel itself cannot withstand pressure and is liable to crack at any moment – thus ruining all efforts expended up until that point.
Each dial involves more than a week’s work, between engraving the base plate through to retouching after enamelling, along with a minimum of 15 firings in the kiln heated to a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius.
Model: UN ÉTÉ À CHAMPÉRY by Vulcain
23-piece limited edition
Case: 5N 18K pink gold
Case-back: solid, hand-engraved
Dial: champlevé enamel
Diameter: 42.00 mm
Thickness: 14.60 mm
Glass: cambered glare proofed sapphire crystal
Water resistance: 5 ATM
Manufacture Vulcain Self-Winding Cricket Calibre V-20
12-lignes unidirectional mechanical selfwinding alarm movement, ceramic ball bearings, 31 jewels, 229 parts, twin barrel, equipped with Exactomatic system, 48° lift angle
Decoration: rhodium coating, Côtes de Genève motif, blued screws
Functions: hours, minutes, centre seconds, alarm
Frequency: 18,000 vibrations/hour
Power reserve: 42 hours
Duration of the alarm: approx. 20 seconds
Strap: black Louisiana alligator leather
Dimensions: 22/18 mm
Buckle: 5N 18K pink gold pin buckle