GONE WILD

With a time­piece that took a pair of watch­mak­ing’s most out­stand­ing crafts­men two years to en­grave, enamel and re­fine, Her­mès has be­come the artis­tic force to be reck­oned with.

L'officiel Singapore - - Bijoux - BY KENNY LOH

Na­ture at Full Gal­lop – that was Her­mès’ theme at this year’s Baselworld. There are many po­ten­tially great ref­er­ences one could spawn from that: the glo­ri­ous flow­ers of the Ama­zo­nian rain­for­est; the colour­ful birds that soar above its trees; or even un­tamed horses – a source of in­spi­ra­tion so dear to the highly artis­tic Parisian house. But for Her­mès’ most im­por­tant cre­ation at the Swiss fair, artis­tic direc­tor Philippe Del­ho­tal looked in­stead to some­thing far less lit­eral, and that was the life­like draw­ing of a tiger by late French artist Robert Dal­let.

To take things to the next level, Del­ho­tal knew that he couldn’t just have ar­ti­sans en­grave the tiger on a dial or paint one in enamel – that would prove too lit­tle of a chal­lenge given Her­mès’ un­ri­valled savoir-faire in the two artis­tic crafts. So, on the new Arceau Ti­gre, he com­bined the two, but not in an ex­pected way. The dé­cor of the watch’s dial is achieved us­ing an or­nate tech­nique called émail om­brant (it trans­lates to “shaded enamel” in English). It in­volves the use of a litho­phane (a moulded art­work in thin porce­lain), which re­veals a 3-D im­age when translu­cent enamel col­lects in the sunken ar­eas of a neg­a­tive im­pres­sion.

To take things to the next level, Del­ho­tal knew that he couldn’t just have ar­ti­sans en­grave the tiger on a dial or paint one in enamel – that would prove too lit­tle of a chal­lenge given Her­mès’ un­ri­valled savoir­faire in the two artis­tic crafts.

When ex­perts in dif­fer­ent crafts work to­gether on a sin­gle time­piece, syn­ergy, of course, is cru­cial. But, in the case of the Arceau Ti­gre, there was no cause for con­cern for Del­ho­tal, who teamed up with pos­si­bly the artis­tic cir­cle’s most rep­utable dou­ble-act – Swiss mas­ter en­graver Olivier Vaucher and his enam­eller wife Do­minique – to de­velop the ex­cep­tional watch.

Adapt­ing émail om­brant for a small, 41mm watch dial was no easy feat. It took ar­ti­sans at the Olivier Vaucher SA ate­lier in Geneva two years to re­pro­duce and re­fine Dal­let’s orig­i­nal tiger draw­ing as a neg­a­tive re­lief on a white gold base. This was then coated with a slightly-tinted translu­cent enamel to bring the im­age to life. When it ac­cu­mu­lated in deeper spots, the enamel was denser and ap­peared darker, while the raised ar­eas were barely cov­ered and there­fore re­mained very light in colour. To fin­ish off the dial in the most re­al­is­tic way pos­si­ble, en­gravers also recre­ated the in­di­vid­ual strands of hair that com­pose the tiger’s coat.

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