Métier d’arts is part of a long tradition in Swiss watchmaking and each year several watch brands introduce timepieces that highlight their expertise in artisan crafts by producing limited-edition timepieces with highly decorative dials. The techniques and visuals vary greatly, but they all reflect a dedication to old world craftsmanship still being practiced by dedicated artisans, although in much fewer numbers. The watches below employ some of the many techniques, including bas relief, plique-à-jour enameling, stone marquerty and hand engraving.
Chopard Happy Fish
The newest Happy Fish creation from the Swiss luxury brand uses gold adorned with bas relief engraving and luminescent textured mother-of-pearl to create a fish swimming in deep blue waters made of snow-set sapphires arranged in subtly graded shades. A lone red jasper makes up the fish’s eye. Seven diamond bubbles float within the artistic dial that takes craftsmen 30 hours to complete. The artisan work is housed within a 36mm 18k rose gold case with an 18k rose bezel topped with diamonds of three sizes laid in a distinct orderly pattern. This boutique exclusive is limited to 25 pieces.
Jacquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara
The dial of this watch features plique-à-jour enameling on a silver base. Plique-à-jour (French for “letting in daylight”) is a vitreous enameling technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light shines through the transparent or translucent enamel, producing a stained glass effect. It’s a very challenging artisan technique with a high failure rate. In this case the motif on the dial is a multi-colored tiger with an off-centered mother-of-pearl hour display at 2 o’clock. The dial is surrounded by a bezel set with 100 diamonds. The watch is available in two 35mm versions. A white gold piece features a tiger in hues of blue, while a red gold version depicts the creature in gold and brown tones. Each is limited to 28 pieces.
Piaget Altiplano High Jewelry Lapis Lazuli Marquetry Tourbillon
This ultra-thin watch employs the artisan techniques of stone marquerty and gem-setting. To create the dial, Chopard brought in master artisan, Hervé Obligi. Lapis lazuli is used for the dial in shades of blue ranging from ultramarine to azure speckled with white and gold in a whirling pattern. Obligi uses a tiny bow saw composed of a hazel tree branch and an abrasive-coated steel wire to slice stone into pieces barely 1mm thick. The pieces are then assembled like a puzzle and glued onto a smooth gold surface before heat gluing the joints by filing the empty space between the beveled edges with pine resin. The white gold bezel lights up with the sparkle of baguette- and brilliant-cut diamonds totaling 5.07 carats. This boutique exclusive is limited to eight pieces.
Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers
This collection of five limited-edition watches pays tribute to France’s first hot-air balloon flights, which took place from 1783–85. The timepieces depict an historical representation of the flights through the combination of hand-engraved and micro-sculpted gold figures and translucent plique-à-jour enamel backgrounds. Each dial takes three weeks to produce due to the range of subtle features and ornamental details. The pounced ornament technique was used to remove material to create relief effects of the balloons, baskets, people and animals. The scene for each engraving is backed by a colorful translucent background in sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown, or burgundy, using plique-à-jour enameling.