They evoke a time when the world had yet to be discovered. They retrace the famous epic journeys of the great 15th century explorers who braved the seas and oceans to discover distant horizons. Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral: Vacheron Constantin celebrates their spirit of adventure through a new series of three ten-piece limited editions, the Métiers d’Art Tribute to great explorers. Crafted in Grand Feu enamel, each dial depicts selected portions of a 1519 map from the Miller Atlas. These three masterpieces of miniaturisation and expertise are driven by the Manufacture 1120 AT movement. These new models, presented at Watches & Wonders 2021, are part of the theme of the Maison for 2021 : entitled Classic with a Twist, it highlights Vacheron Constantin’s creative energy, guided by an identity that celebrates a heritage and dares to deliver the unexpected.
The spirit of travel, exploration and discovery of arts and cultures is an integral part of Vacheron Constantin’s history. A history rooted in the origins of the Manufacture, in an age when François Constantin did not hesitate to travel the world to open new markets and to fly the banner of the Maison high and wide, wherever possible. This openness to the world still pervades the philosophy of the Manufacture, which symbolically celebrates the spirit of adventure through a new journey – on this occasion a voyage through time – in memory of the great 15th century Portuguese explorers.
With this third opus in the Métiers d’Art Tribute to great explorers collection, which completes two series presented in 2004 and 2008, Vacheron Constantin ventures into one of history’s most exhilarating chapters. In the wake of models dedicated to Magellan, Zheng Hé, Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo, which proved a great success with collectors, comes the turn of Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral to be honoured through extraordinary miniature compositions enhanced by talented master artisans. They bear witness to the noble touch and impressive creativity of the enamellers whose mastery of Grand Feu enamel once again broadens the horizons of the Métiers d’Art collection. A rare skill extending an invitation to travel while firing the imagination.
Masterful miniature Grand Feu enamel expressions of patience and meticulous care
Inspired by a map from the 1519 Miller Atlas, of which a painted reproduction is kept in the Portuguese Maritime Museum (Museu de Marinha – Lisbon), each dial shows a part of the world and the maritime routes respectively taken by the three explorers. In order to replicate the finely nuanced colours and the extreme delicacy of the motifs, the Maison opted for the art of enamelling. The result is three dials in Grand Feu enamel, masterpieces of patience and precision that require a full month’s work and 11 firings in the kiln at a temperature of between 800 and 900°C. These are all stages in which mastering fire proves crucial, since a few seconds too many can jeopardise several weeks of work.
The art of enamelling is a rare skill, a subtle blend of experience and sensitivity demonstrated in each move made by the artisan. Composed of crystal and metal oxides, enamels come in the form of small blocks of colour that the enameller first crushes into an extremely fine powder. The latter is then worked to create a substance similar to paint, which is applied in successive touches, enabling the enameller to represent motifs with incredible finesse and nuance. After coating the dial with the background colour, the enameller tackles the dial motifs, starting with the outlines of the continents, which are here enhanced with gold-coloured enamel powder. The decorative elements of this elegant composition – including the ships, fauna, flora and wind rose – are also produced using the delicate technique of miniature painting, thus serving to reproduce a host of details and subtly graded shades, obtained after numerous tests by the enameller. Each addition of colour requires another firing, since enamel is a mineral material that must be melted down in order to display its famous brilliance and intense depth.