THE SEDUCTIVE art found on the dials of Girard-Perregaux’s new watches in their Chamber of Wonders métiers d’art collection adds a bespoke and artistic dimension to the house’s already coveted collections. Comparable to the work done by artisans of the Renaissance, each piece boasts exquisite workmanship and precise artistry.
Three meticulously crafted cartographic scenes are depicted on the watch dials, illustrating secret land and sea passages, travel routes of a bygone age and maps reflecting a time when humans were just on the cusp of geographical understanding. These exceptional watches show the world as it was understood to be at the beginnings of the age of exploration. Seen through our 21st century eyes, these views may seem almost naïve and simplistic, but nonetheless are charming and show how far we’ve come in just a few centuries.
Numbered within a trio of tiny pink gold discs and fitted with an automatic manufacture calibre, each of the three models is limited to only 18 pieces. The GPO 3300 calibre is a highlight of this esteemed watchmaker’s rich traditions and long history, and it guarantees reliability and precision. The main plate and bridges of each watch are carefully drawn chamfered, circular-grained and decorated with Côtes de Genève.
Composed of 205 parts, the watches offer a 46-hour power reserve at a frequency of 28,800vph. The 25.60mm diameter (11 ½ lines), for a thickness of 4.20mm, is perfectly suited to the refined lines of the watches’ elegant pink-gold cases, developed and made at the workshops of Girard-Perregaux. Each watch is a model of harmony, sporting a gently sloping and polished bezel to highlight the overall thinness of the piece.
The Pearl of Wonders watch is circular and features a classic style. The dial depicts maps drawn during the early 15th century by historian Ibn al-Wardi, the Greco-Egyptian astronomer and astrologer who lived in Alexandria in the early second century AD, and was considered the father of geography. Recalling the prominent influence that Arabic culture had over other civilisations, the dial places the Arabian Peninsula at the heart of its design, and also features the River Nile flowing into the Mediterranean.
The striking blue of the sodalite used on the dial provides a perfect backdrop for all the engraving and hand painting, which took an artisan 28 hours to complete. The result is a stunning miniature reproduction of the contours of an ancient map on the crystal, only 0.25mm thick. A final coat of lacquer, applied as a sealant, provides a protective and eye-catching sheen to this one-of-a-kind timepiece.
The Terrestrial Map watch, depicting an old Chinese map, was inspired by Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci, a theologian, a philosopher, a mathematician, a cosmologist and an astronomer who travelled to Asia as part of his missionary work and landed in Macau in 1582. He never left China and spent the rest of his life educating the Chinese on all the areas he was proficient in. He was one of the few Westerners allowed within the walls of the Forbidden City. As a tribute to the history and the discovery of new territories, the map on this timepiece shows five continents and four oceans with precise geographical and astronomical indications written in Chinese.
Using translucent white jade as its base, this timepiece glimmers with a depth that is unique to jade. Seventeen hours of craftsmanship went into creating the miniature painting on this dial, using Chinese ink to create light and dark shades in bold, confident brushstrokes, as if to mirror the rich history of the Middle Kingdom itself.
Finally, the New World, or “Novus Orbis”, is a breathtaking piece honouring Sebastian Munster (1488-1552), a highly lauded German scholar whose drawings of 142 maps were included in the book Cosmographia Universalis, a richly illustrated and detailed collection of cartograms.
Using a selection of stones and crystals such as blue and pink aventurine, calcite and Canadian nephrite, craftsmen employed the technique of stone marquetry and an impressive 95 hours to create an intricate mosaic for each watch. As the overall thickness of the dial stands at only 0.5mm, the delicate cutting and assembly of these crystal fragments reveal the dexterity and the skill required to create such a work of art. The minute hand-painted detail, done in six different tones, brings further life to this stunning timepiece, creating the unique illusion that the land elements on this miniature map are “floating”.