GPHG 2014: artistry of the highest order from the metiers d art watch finalists

A closer look at the six nominees in the Artistic Crafts category vying for first place at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) 2014 later this month.

Chanel's Coromandel Twin Volute Enchantée watches symbolise the duality between yin and yang. One features a dark dial, decorated with Grand Feu enamel, that portrays a Chinese pipe player suspended on a cloud while the other dial is sculpted from mother

The nominees in the category of Artistic Crafts watches vying for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) 2014 - the equivalent of the Oscars for watches - will be putting on their best faces for the 14th edition of this decisive horological competition, which will be celebrated on 31 October at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. 

To classify for this particular category, the GPHG rules that only "watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enamelling, lacquering, engraving, guilloché (engine-turned enamelling), skeleton-working, etc.", will be admitted.

Last year, Chanel watches stole the show with its Mademoiselle Privé Camélia Brodé timepiece. With a silk embroidered dial featuring a camellia, the famous French embroiderer La Maison Lesage was in charge of the "needlework painting". And this year, Chanel watches returns with yet another exquisite creation called the Coromandel Twin Volute Enchantée, part of the Mademoiselle Privé collection, which showcases some of the intimate objects that furnished Gabrielle Chanel's 31 rue Cambon apartment in Paris.

In this case, the exquisite Chanel watch echoes details of the Coromandel lacquer screens that decorated her home: antique Chinese folding screens, coated in dark lacquer, that are carved before being painted and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory and other materials. Two dials of the "Coromandel Twin" have been created to represent the Asian philosophy of duality, of yin and yang, man and woman, light and shadow and black and white. The darker dial is made with Grand Feu enamel and portrays a Chinese pipe player suspended on a cloud. The lighter dial is sculpted in mother-of-pearl. The 37.5mm white gold cases and crowns are adorned with snow-set diamonds framing the magnificent Oriental scenes. Under the dial, a self-winding mechanical movement gives life to the hours and minutes.

Chaumet watches competes with the tu m'aimes (Catch me...if you love me) in pink gold, with a dial decorated with six butterflies set against a precious myrtle burl wood background. If you look closely, you will see that the butterfly wings are made from inlaid red carnelian, white wood and blackened gold, delicately poised on a diamond-set rose gold stem. The bezel of the 35mm rose gold Chaumet watch is enhanced with a double row of diamonds, while underneath the case a self-winding mechanical movement features a whimsical butterfly-shaped rotor.

Of the six finalists in the Artistic Crafts category, there is one watch set aside for men. Art Piece 1 by Greubel Forsey is first and foremost a complex mechanical machine, very in keeping with the founders' philosophy of inventiveness and impossibly difficult horological pieces. The artistic touch here is the incorporation of a nano-sculpture representing a gold caravel ship with three masts measuring a miniscule 0.31 x 0.95 x 1.22mm by British sculptor Willard Wigan. In order to view the sculpture, a microscope lens has been incorporated on the lateral crown. If you can't find the hour and minute functions on the dial, it's because they're hidden and can be activated on demand.

The Hermès Arceau Millefiori watch, with its stirrup-inspired lugs, has been decorated with thousands of miniature pink glass flowers crafted by Les Cristalleries de Saint-Louis in France, the same company that has been blowing life into glass paperweights and other objets d'art since 1586. Presented in a 34mm grey gold case with a diamond-studded bezel, this pretty Hermès watch is equipped with a mechanical self-winding movement.

Beautifully depicted, two birds flutter across the dial of the Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Saisons watch with lifelike detail. Set against a hand-engraved mother-of-pearl dial, the birds are sculpted and engraved in gold before being applied to the dial and then painted by hand. Containing the miniature trompe-l'oeil, the domed sapphire glass heightens the optical illusion of the scene. The hours and minutes counter, as in most Jaquet Droz watches, is placed at the top of the dial and on this occasion, set in a grey gold case with diamond embellishments.

The Voutilainen Hisui watch is a fusion of Swiss watchmaking prowess and the ancient Japanese art of lacquer, practiced in the Edo period. Watchmaker Kari Voutilainen commissioned Unryuan, one of the greatest lacquer studios in Japan, to create the mesmerising green dial, inspired by emerald and jade gemstones that give the watch its name. What is even more incredible is that the bridges of the movement have also been lacquered, requiring a total of 1,000 hours to complete the dial and bridges. To create the magical scintillations, gold dust, gold leaf, shell of great green turban and abalone shell from New Zealand were added to the lacquer.


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