Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers Collection

The new Métiers d’Art collection from Vacheron Constantin combines traditional horological techniques and artistic crafts like engraving, pounced ornament decoration and plique-à-jour enamelling.

The Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection pays tribute to five historical flights made in France in the late 18th century by balloonists known as aérostiers in French language. On the scale of a watch dial, the master engravers of the Maison faithfully reproduced in miniature the historical depictions of five flights undertaken in France between 1783 and 1785. Equipped with a self-winding manufacture calibre that powers a disc based display instead of hands, these timepieces proudly display splendid hand engraved and micro-sculpted gold hot-air balloons hover against a translucent plique-à-jour enamel background.

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1783: Aboard another aerostat, also designed by Étienne de Montgolfier, are two “sky travellers”, micro-sculpted on the dial. Against a sky blue plique-à-jour enamel background, this splendid pink and white gold balloon is engraved with suns, the zodiac, fleurs de lys, garlands, insignia and an eagle with outstretched wings.

In order to create the challenging artistic background for this timepiece, the master engravers of Vacheron Constantin have added volume to the original two-dimensional drawings, and interpreted their colours through finishing effects. Each hot-air balloon called for up to three weeks of craftsmanship in order to reproduce the entire range of subtle feature and ornamental details of the original works. The dials thus compose authentic miniature scenes graced with an extraordinary variety of motifs.

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Versailles 1783:  An aerostat, designed by Étienne de Montgolfier, rises into the air for the very first time. This “aerostatic experiment” has a sheep, a rooster and a duck on board. Their survival will testify to the sufficiency of oxygen at a given altitude. Engraved in white gold, the basket and its floating ropes, having been slightly damaged by the landing, are perfectly visible beneath the opulent 5N gold balloon.

The pounced ornament technique consists in removing material so as to fashion relief effects. This irreversible operation calls for an impeccably deft touch. The master engraver first traces the volumes using a drypoint technique, before sculpting the precious mass and creates a particularly delicate rounded effect. This stage serves to carve out the curves of the balloon and the basket, as well as the lines of the ropes. The burins are repeatedly sharpened so as to achieve extreme precision. The level of finishing becomes ever more sophisticated, all the way through to the smallest details of the human figures, animals and the meticulous decoration of the balloons. The light effects playing over the different gold textures naturally influence the visual appearance of the surface.

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1784:  The balloonist Blanchard had imagined a system for guiding a balloon’s trajectory. The ingenious system of wings built for this purpose can be clearly made out on the dial. While the landing took place far from the initial designated spot, the flight would inspire its developer and other balloonists in making more fruitful attempts.

On the dials of the Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection, a translucent background in sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown or burgundy, evoke a spirit of airy transparency. Vacheron Constantin is for the first time calling upon this skill mastered by very few enamellers. Its layout is reminiscent of cloisonné enamelling; while the absence of a base recalls a miniature stained-glass window. The balance between the various shades is extremely subtle, as is the polishing of the partitions between them.

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bordeaux 1784:  The whole of France takes part in the extraordinary conquest of the skies. This flight, made in Bordeaux with three voyagers in the basket, testifies to what had become a true phenomenon of the era. Reproduced in identical detail on the dial, the balloon features a splendid variety of fabrics and
ornamentation, as well as a mythological scene.

The predominant shades of each creation are also picked up on the display discs as well as the matching strap. The inner bezel ring framing the enamel is engraved with a motif inspired by balloon ropes, also varying between 3N, 4N or 5N gold according to the models.

Transparency effects provide fascinating glimpses of the gear trains and discs of Calibre 2460 G4/1 through the plique-à-jour enamel. The disc-type display is cleverly revealed through apertures around the rim of the dial, between the curves of the plique-à-jour enamel partitions.

The hours, minutes, day of the week and date are shown by means of four discs: respectively two of the dragging type and two of the jumping variety.

The calibre decorated according to the highest watchmaking finishing standards is generously visible through the transparent caseback. The gold oscillating weight, specially engraved and domed for this new collection, evokes the rounded shape of a hot-air balloon.

Brilliantly interpreted by the master artisans of Vacheron Constantin, the five flights each come in an exclusive limited numbered edition of five.

Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bagnols 1785: Ten thousand people salute this flight with thunderous applause. The elegant white and yellow gold basket appears to be floating on plique-à-jour enamel in various shades of blue. The upper part of the balloon is coloured by electroplating. Seven years later, the balloon canvas would serve to make clothes for Republican volunteers.

Technical details
Collection: Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers
Hallmark of Geneva certified timepieces

References
7610U/000G-B210 – Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1783
7610U/000G-B243 – Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1784
7610U/000G-B244 – Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Versailles 1783
7610U/000G-B245 – Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bagnols 1785
7610U/000G-B246 – Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bordeaux 1784

Movement
Calibre 2460 G4/1
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
Mechanical, self-winding
31 mm (11¼’’’) diameter, 6.05 mm thick
Approximately 40 hours of power reserve
4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hour)
237 components
27 jewels

Indications
Hours, minutes, day of the week and date in apertures on matching disc colour

Case
18K white gold
40 mm diameter, 12.74 mm thick
Transparent sapphire crystal caseback
Water-resistance tested at a pressure of 3 bar (approx.30 meters)

Dial
18K gold hand-engraved balloons
Skies in plique-à-jour enamel

Strap
Blue/green/brown/dark blue/burgundy Mississippiensis alligator leather with alligator leather inner shell, hand-stitched, saddle finish, large square scales

Clasp
18K white gold folding clasp
Polished half Maltese cross-shaped

Edition
Limited series of 5 numbered watches per reference

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