2009 - Celebration of a collection “Les Masques” part 3

2009 - Celebration of a collection “Les Masques”

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Published by 571 on July 14th, 2009 at 05:26 p.m..
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Four years ago, in 2005, Vacheron Constantin celebrated 250 years of uninterrupted history. This jubilee event, unique in the annals of watchmaking history, was a perfect opportunity for the Geneva-based manufacture to demonstrate its mastery of horological art with exploits that redefined the limits of what is possible. Having proudly turned to its past, Vacheron Constantin is continuing its steady march towards the future, in an ongoing quest for the extraordinary. To create, astound and enchant, these are the challenges for the years to come.

Watchmaking is an art requiring fresh starts and continual improvement. How else can one go on creating surprises? Thanks in particular to one of its founders, François Constantin, the manufacture’s name and reputation are synonymous with distant horizons. An accomplished ambassador and tireless traveller, he crisscrossed the world in the hazardous conditions of the times to spread the company’s watchmaking expertise on other continents. By 1820, he was already exploring opportunities in China and, in 1833, the first Vacheron & Constantin watches were crossing the Atlantic. The company had realised very early on the necessity of gaining a foothold in the New World and opened a subsidiary in New York before going on to open one in Brazil around 1840, and another in India ten years later. Can a timepiece serve as a cultural bridge between nations? Both the company’s founders believed so. In 2007, the manufacture felt the need to go back to basics, paying homage to man when he verges on the sublime. It was a long journey, taking its watchmakers through time and space in search of man’s roots and focussing on one of the most beautiful expressions of his soul.

Three years
Twelve Masks

Three hundred exceptional timepieces
What would be the best subject to subtly evoke the human experience? The manufacture’s master watchmakers and designers considered several possibilities. As it turned out, the choice of masks was an obvious one, for Geneva is extremely fortunate in having one of the world’s finest museums of primitive art, the Barbier-Mueller Museum. Its proximity guided Vacheron Constantin in its final choice. The Métiers d’Art “Les Masques” collection, therefore, grew out of a reflection on the near and far, the past, present and future, and the process of constant renewal.

But one obstacle remained: to win over the museum. Would it be willing to lend its treasures for months on end so that they could be reproduced on the dial of a collector’s watch? In the end, two things convinced Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller of the project’s beauty and significance: a lunch during which he and the Vacheron Constantin team headed by Juan-Carlos Torres were able to share their common passion for beautiful objects, and the manufacture’s philosophy.

The rest was a matter of horological magic and the commitment of a team to surpass the limits of possibility. Twelve masks were selected from the Barbier-Mueller collection for small-scale reproduction in gold. They repose majestically at the centre of each timepiece in a collection that spans two thousand years and four continents.

Because Vacheron Constantin understands the value of time, it respected the time needed to create such exceptional pieces. Long months were required first of all to perfect the movement, and then the techniques with which the master craftsmen could reproduce these works of art in miniature. There had to be plenty of time for questioning, reflection and invention.

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