Swiss luxury watch brand Baume & Mercier presents the Hampton “Hommage à Pierre Soulages”, a limited edition timepiece as a tribute to famous French abstract artist Pierre Soulages.
In January 1979, Pierre Soulages inaugurated a series of works at his Parisian workshop which he called Noir-Lumière. In 1989, the series became known as Outrenoir. The surface of each painting is coated with black paint in various states, textured into low relief with tools and brushes.
Each Outrenoir painting plays on with the light that reveals its appearance to the viewer, particularly as the person moves. When the light is more intensely reflected, the black appears less black, and its surface effects become more noticeable, more active. Soulages’ black successively appears glossy or matte.
Musée Soulages in Rodez possesses a collection of the master’s works like none other. The painter was born in that city in 1919. With support from MuséeSoulages and the Association des Amis du Musée, the watchmaker Baume et Mercier approached Pierre Soulages with the project for a unique watch paying tribute to his work.
Liberally taking inspiration from an Outrenoir painting by Pierre Soulages to turn it into a watch creation is an idea based on admiration and recognition, but bringing it to life poses a technical challenge. One work in particular guided the experiment, the exceedingly elevated Peinture 390 x 130 cm 17 mars 2019.
This work – which the Soulages couple donated to MuséeSoulages in 2020 – celebrates the painter’s 100th birthday, a testimony to his vitality and inspiration. The work guides the light through a play of overlapped panels of slanted streaks which sweep from one side of the composition to the other. The action painting technique that Soulages developed cuts into the black acrylic material to produce a variety of matte-and-shine effects. The light released by the painting is essential, in that it may also bear the full spectrum of colors.
The challenge of the watch designer was to reflect the spirit and content of this work. To this effect, the Baume & Mercier team took care to bring out contrasts in the way light reflects off the watch components. Each detail of the dial and case is eloquent, revealing the beauty of the timepiece. The finishes take on their full meaning, as pertinent on the watch as they are on a painting.
Baume & Mercier chose the Hampton model for its transposition of an Outrenoir work into a timepiece. The iconic Hampton asserts a rectangular dial and case evoking the proportions of a canvas. Since its launch in 1994, the Hampton has represented the ultimate non-round watch. It is distinctive for its design, inherited from one of the House’s models dating from the 1960s that was in turn inspired by the Art Deco of the 1920s.
The aesthetic approach to clean, curved lines and perfect proportion demonstrates the artistic sense that is so important to the House. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the model has taken the Greek letter Phi – a reference to the golden ratio – as its emblem. The formal minimalism and understatement of the Hampton “Hommage à Pierre Soulages” helps to showcase this tribute to Pierre Soulages’ artwork, while the restraint of the refined timepiece echoes the purity that characterizes his paintings.
Even the exclusive case in which the watch is presented pays tribute to the contemporary architecture of MuséeSoulages, designed by the Catalan RCR Arquitectes who won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2017. The cladding of the building is made up of Corten steel, which has an appearance of iridescent rust. Here, again, is the question of time and the patina that it creates.
The timepiece will be accompanied by a leaflet telling details of the collaboration and a VIP pass for two for the MuséeSoulages in Rodez. A book on the work of Pierre Soulages will also be sent to each owner of a Hampton “Hommage à Pierre Soulages”.
In the exciting, innovative interaction between art and watchmaking, technical achievement is the keystone of the Hampton “Hommage à Pierre Soulages.” A watch dial miniaturization is a fascinating interpretation of a large-scale painting.
Baume & Mercier makes use of new 3D printing technologies for this achievement. The preparatory work was an adventure of great consideration, trial-and-error, and finally success. Through a meticulous topography, advanced research and 3D wax printing, the ideal procedure was finally found: one that would liberate the volumes, reveal the details and bring out the beauty of this work in a continual interaction between shade and light.
For the dial, brass machined with a laser was found to suitably meet this challenge. Candia stone is used to create a diffuse matte effect, and an electroplating process is then applied to coat it with color through electrolysis to a thickness of 0.2 microns. One last coat of sheer, semi-matte protective lacquer to a thickness of 10 microns, and the piece is finished: black yet wreathed in light, filled with masterful contrasts.
The faceted brass “glaive” hands are diamond-ground, sand-blasted, and then coated with black PVD. A touch of gold is added to the end of each one on request by Pierre Soulages in order to elegantly emphasize the passage of time. The case, sculpted in a stainless steel block, is sand-blasted and then coated with hydrogenated amorphous carbon ions through plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) to a thickness of 2 microns, providing a hardness of 6,000 Vickers.
Each material and finish is more ingenious than the last, capturing and sculpting the light, borrowing from the artist’s strokes to bring movement to the shapes and rhythm to the material. The self-winding mechanical Swiss caliber (ETA 2892) features a black oscillating weight adorned with a “Côtes de Genève” that can be seen through the transparent watch back.
The back bears a “Hommage à MrSoulages” engraving. “Baume & Mercier” appears as a metallic engraving on the underside of the domed sapphire crystal. Both sides of the crystal feature an anti-glare treatment to ensure that the image of the painting remains perfectly intact.
To intensify the chromatic depth of the watch, it comes complete with a built-in interchangeable strap in black leather with square scales and a nubuck finish that fastens with a pin buckle in DLC steel.
This unique timepiece offers a harmonious play on contrasting blacks through subtle nuances of mattes, semi-mattes, shine and diffuse layers, in keeping with the spirit of Pierre Soulages’ work. The strength of black is majestically represented in this tribute to the paintings of one of the most fascinating artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The “Hampton Hommage à Pierre Soulages” is limited to 102 (reflecting the age of the artist) individually numbered watches.
Model: Baume & Mercier Hampton Hommage A Pierre Soulages
Automatic (ETA 2892)
Black oscillating weight adorned with «Côtes de Genève» decor
Power reserve: 42 hours
Frequency: 4Hz (28’800 vph)
Thickness: 3.6 mm
Hour and minutes
Sandblasted steel-DLC case
Size: 48.11 x 31 mm
Thickness: 9.8 mm
Antiglare (2 faces) scratch-resistant domed sapphire crystal
Sapphire case back with screws «Hommage à Pierre Soulages n°xxx / 102» engraved
Water-resistance: 5 ATM (approx. 50m)
Black dial inspired by the «Outrenoirs» paintings
Baume & Mercier metallisation written below the sapphire
Black sword-shaped hands with gilt lines
Interchangeable black nubuck alligator strap
System of bars with very reliable lug that allows to change the strap without tools
Steel-DLC pin buckle