Crafted by Vacheron Constantin’s prestigious Les Cabinotiers Department, this single- edition Les Cabinotiers Grisaille – Turtle timepiece depicts a green turtle in a maritime décor adorned with coral and created using two rare techniques: miniature painting and grisaille enamel. This one of a kind creation pays tribute to the world of the sea and its accompanying mythology.
It comes in a 40 mm-diameter 18K white gold case with an officer-type back. Beating inside this horological masterpiece is the self- winding Calibre 2460 SC, developed and crafted by Vacheron Constantin.
The turtle, which is thought to have appeared 200 million years ago, is both a marine emblem and a reminder of the slow evolution of species on Earth. “Les Royaumes Aquatiques®”, the topic chosen in 2022 by Vacheron Constantin for its unique Les Cabinotiers timepieces, could not ignore this very special animal as a source of inspiration.
A symbol of luck and longevity, the turtle is also present in a number of aquatic fables and legends, notably those surrounding Turtle Island – a 17th century buccaneer’s hideout – as well as the founding myths of the Amerindians.
The green turtle – an endangered herbivore weighing around one hundred kilos with its over one-metre shell – was chosen to enliven the watch dial. The animal glides gracefully amid a maritime setting adorned with plants and coral.
To create this naturalistic tableau, Vacheron Constantin’s master enameller first used the miniature enamel painting technique and then gave full depth to this scene in grisaille enamel. Housed in an 18K white gold case, the dial is swept over by hours, minutes and seconds hands driven by self-winding Calibre 2460 SC.
The dial of the Les Cabinotier Grisaille – Turtle watch plunges into the deep blue sea in a strikingly realistic manner. The challenge of this remarkable creation reflecting a rare degree of enamelling expertise lies in depicting the richness of the ocean depths.
Within this environment where the sun’s rays penetrate only partially, the field of vision appears to be cloaked in an opaque veil: colours disappear, replaced by a play on light and shade that creates the impression of a lunar landscape at the bottom of the ocean. The genius of craftsmanship displayed here consists in giving the illusion of a chiaroscuro immersion.
To achieve this, the master artisan first worked on the dial using miniature enamel painting, a technique that forged the reputation of “Geneva enamels” in the 17th century and which requires perfect mastery of pigments and firing. The colours – composed of metal oxide powders mixed with a binding agent – are fired multiple times in a kiln heated to more than 800 °C in order to ensure their adhesion to the surface. Each such operation implies a risk of altering their radiance or their exact hue, as well as the potential formation of microbubbles.
The first step is to create the painting in the form of shadows, while anticipating those that will not remain as such. On a translucent enamel background, the master artisan superimposed three basic layers of dark pigments mingling black and blue, before tracing the outlines of the turtle, sea grass and coral in shades of purple tones.
Here again, four firings in the kiln were required necessary to achieve a perfect rendering while still maintaining a relative impression of obscurity. After working the dial using the lapping technique, the artisan then opted for a change of method in order to light up the miniature painting: grisaille enamel.
Representing a skill that appeared in the 16th century, grisaille enamel consists of applying a layer of dark enamel overlaid with touches of a rare white enamel called Limoges white. Each layer is then fired in a kiln for specific times defined to the nearest second.
Over the course of another ten or so firings, the details of the turtle and its natural habitat took shape before finally, after 120 hours of enamelling, endowing the dial with an air of stunning realism. Such a level of mastery, which is visible on every part of the dial, sublimates this miniaturist approach to aesthetic sophistication expressed through even the smallest details.
The Manufacture 2460 SC movement features a level of finishing that makes each constituent part an indispensable element of the final aesthetic composition. Oscillating at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and equipped with a 916/1000 gold oscillating weight finely adorned with a guilloché motif pattern, it is endowed with an approximately 40-hour power reserve.
In the grand tradition of manufacture calibres, the bridges are finished with hand-polishing angles. The straight-graining, which consists in perfectly smoothing the component flanks, is also done by hand, while the screws are scrupulously polished. The plate is circular-grained on both sides with bridges adorned with a Côtes de Genève on the caseback side.
Calibre 2460 SC is housed in an 18K white gold case measuring 40 mm in diameter. To admire the meticulous finishing work performed on all components, one must open the officer-type back, a hinged cover first introduced during World War I when small pocket watches with hinged backs were transformed into more practical wristwatches for officers.
The Les Cabinotiers Grisaille – Turtle watch is fitted with dark blue alligator leather strap secured by a white gold pin buckle.
“Les Royaumes Aquatiques®”
“Les Royaumes Aquatiques®” (aquatic kingdoms) evoke the wonderful world of the sea and its accompanying mythology. A source of inspiration for poets, an obsession among explorers, a pipe dream for fabulists or a treasure trove for naturalists… the sea has also nurtured the creations of Vacheron Constantin, which this year has chosen “Les Royaumes Aquatiques®” as the theme for its single-edition Les Cabinotiers timepieces.
Vacheron Constantin and the sea
Marine life has been a rich source of inspiration throughout the history of Vacheron Constantin. A world that is inseparable from sailing, whether on lakes or the high seas.
From the mid-19th century onwards, specially commissioned pieces adorned with miniature enamel paintings or engravings began to be crafted, demonstrating a strong attachment to the world of the sea and its natural or legendary creatures. Lake landscapes and boats with lateen sails, brigantines at anchor, dolphins, sea dragons and mermaids are among the themes chosen for these pocket watches. Great attention has also been devoted to technical aspects.
Renowned for its precision “instruments”, Vacheron Constantin delivered marine chronometers to several army corps in the early 20th century, knowing that this equipment was indispensable for calculating longitude at sea. More fanciful yet still radiating a maritime aura, some of the desk chronometers made by the Maison in the 1940s were shaped like rudders, while one of the models of the famous 1937 “Bras en l’air” (arms in the air) pocket watch, displaying the hours and minutes on demand, is named “La Caravelle” with its engraved and gem-set motif. For the 1996 launch of the Overseas line, Vacheron Constantin also drew inspiration from the name of this new collection evoking the spirit of travel across oceans. The caseback is thus meticulously engraved with a caravel skippered by the famous explorer Amerigo Vespucci in his quest to discover the New World.
With its Métiers d’art collection, which appeared in the early 2000s, Vacheron Constantin has revived naturalist themes related to water and its fauna and flora in an approach celebrating decorative techniques.
In 2011, the Manufacture presented the second series of three Métiers d’art – La Symbolique des Laques watches featuring the aquatic world thanks to Maki-e: an ancient traditional Japanese technique that consists of sprinkling gold or silver dust on still wet lacquer, usually black, to create the motif. These watches feature the turtle, the frog and the carp, embodiments of longevity, luck and strength in Far Eastern animal symbolism.
A year later, it was the turn of the Métiers d’art – Les Univers Infinis series to pick up the theme of water, this time interpreted according to the graphic expression of Dutch artist Cornelis Escher. The Fish watch featuring guilloché and cloisonné enamel and the Shell watch with engraving and champlevé enamel reflect the same sensitivity to naturalist decorations, based on a resolutely contemporary approach.
Les Cabinotiers: single-piece creations
In the Vacheron Constantin universe, Les Cabinotiers represents a department in its own right dedicated to the personalisation of models and to unique creations. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, a time when master watchmakers were called cabinotiers and worked in ateliers bathed in natural light, known as cabinets and located on the top floors of Geneva’s buildings.
In the hands of these learned artisans, open to the new ideas of the Enlightenment, exceptional timepieces were born, inspired by astronomy, mechanical engineering and the arts. This expertise, which constitutes the great Geneva watchmaking tradition, has been flowing through Vacheron Constantin’s veins since 1755.
The rendering of this turtle in a maritime décor adorned with coral reflects Vacheron Constantin’s particular attentiveness to detail, a real second nature. This extraordinarily painstaking care is expressed through the designers’ aesthetic choices and preferences as well as in the meticulous finishing work performed by the artisans. All the components of a Vacheron Constantin watch benefit from this scrupulous attention, even those that remain invisible once the movement has been assembled.
A keen eye will note the fine guilloché work on a dial or the gem-set minutes track; it will make out the contours of the Maison’s Maltese cross emblem on the links of a bracelet; it will notice the small flame-blued screw serving as a seconds indicator on a tourbillon carriage and the mirror polish of a minute-repeater hammer; it will appreciate the artisans’ delicate touch when chamfering a plate or rounding off a bridge; and finally, it will admire the miniature enamel painting depicting a ship tossed around by a stormy sea streaked with lightning.
Model: Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Grisaille – Turtle
Calibre 2460 SC
Developed and manufactured by Vacheron Constantin
26.2 mm diameter, 3.6 mm thick
Approximately 40 hours of power reserve
4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hour)
Hallmark of Geneva certified timepiece
Hours, minutes, central seconds
18K white gold
40 mm diameter, 9.42 mm thick
18K gold covered with “Grand Feu” miniature enamelling and grisaille enamelling representing a “Turtle”
18K white gold hands
Dark blue Mississippiensis alligator leather, hand-stitched, saddle-finish, large square scales
Buckle 18K white gold buckle; Polished half Maltese cross-shaped
Les Cabinotiers model
“Les Cabinotiers”, “Pièce unique”, “AC” hallmark engraved on caseback