Métiers d’Art watches are back in fashion! Elite names of Haute Horlogerie have been showcasing their artistic flair and capability this year, introducing masterful dials and fine craftsmanship. But few of them possess the cultured heritage and knowhow of Girard-Perregaux in this department. Earlier this year during Baselworld 2015, the Swiss luxury brand unveiled the Chambers of Wonders, a set of three watches that reproduce maps of the world through the eyes of artists from three different civilizations.
From left to right, they are the “New World,” the “Terrestrial Map,” and the “Pearl of Wonders”. They showcase maps of the worlds drawn between the 15th and 16th century by Sebastian Münster, Matteo Ricci, and Ibn al-Wardi, respectively representing North and South America, China, and the Arabian Peninsula. Each world is interpreted with a unique technique.
The New World is a depiction of North and South America rendered by a mosaic of hand-cut and hand-polished gemstones including blue and pink aventurine, calcite and nephrite. The assembly phase takes up to 95 hours for each dial, according to Girard-Perregaux.
The Terrestrial Map, which reproduces an early drawing of China, is created using a different technique. India ink is applied carefully on delicate white jade stone (measuring 0.70mm thick). Again, this fragile exercise, mastered only by a few in-house experts, is rumored to require more than 17 hours.
Finally, the Pearl of Wonders, which represents the Arabian Peninsula, is created by combining painted papyrus reeds under a singular blue sodalite stone that has been hand-cut, polished and engraved.
The biggest concern when it comes to métiers d’art watches is the legibility of their dials, as artistic prowess sometimes oversteps the main function of the watch, that of telling the time. In this particular collection, which has two dials that can be called busy, the issue is avoided skillfully by hand-finishing the hour and minute hands in order to give them a bright shimmer under any light.
Stepped lugs and a thin case make the watches in this collection very agreeable on the wrist. The handsome dials measure 40mm each, much smaller than many of the brand’s other novelties, but the conservative size complements the subject matter of these timepieces.
Powered each watch in the Chamber of Wonders collection is caliber GP03300, an in-house automatic movement that has been beautifully decorated as well, and is visible through a sapphire case back.
Métiers d’Art watches are gaining in popularity, especially in non-European markets. More than ever, collectors want to own one-of-a-kind timepieces, and artistic dials, made by fine artists and privy to changes at the minuscule level, certainly achieve that goal. The Chamber of Wonders collection is available in sets of three, priced at $143,550.