BY ERIK SLAVEN
Baume & Mercier has thrown us a surprise with a daring yet elegant watch that pays tribute to legendary French abstract artist Pierre Soulages. Known as “the painter of black,” he always had an affinity for shades of black and used thick layers of paint to create textures and shallow reliefs. The watch dial was inspired by a painting series called “Outrenoir,” which Soulages began in 1989 (from a series initiated in 1979, NoirLumière) and it has since become very influential in the abstract art world. The specific painting, “Peinture 390 X 130 cm 17 mars 2019,” celebrates Pierre’s 100th birthday and is the piece that Baume & Mercier really pulled from.
The stainless steel case is from the brand’s rectangular Hampton line and sports a black DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating with a sandblasted finish. It’s dressy at 48.1mm x 31mm with a thickness of only 9.8mm. In the artist’s style, everything is blacked out, including the crown and nubuck alligator strap, which makes it all a bit edgy and certainly contemporary. The case back is secured via four black screws and features a round sapphire exhibition window that continues the contemporary vibe. Water-resistance is rated at 50 meters, which is perfectly adequate for such a piece.
The dial is the heart of the watch and really captures Soulages’ unique style. Multiple angles of heavy brushstrokes merge with varying shades of black in matte and glossy layers. Complex methods were used to create the dial, starting with a 3D printed wax base that was transferred to a brass dial with laser machining. Additional finishing allowed the matte and glossy sections to really pop. Electrolysis blackened the brass and it was finished with a thin coat of clear lacquer. Minimalism is the name of the game and black PVD hour and minute hands barely interrupt the dial with a gold-painted line at each tip for visual reference. Simple branding and “SWISS MADE” are also applied in gold. No seconds hand and no date.
Seen through the exhibition window, an ETA 2892-A2 automatic has been customized with black screws, a black rotor with Côtes de Genève and perlage on the plates. It’s a common movement for sure, but also well-executed here and very reliable. It has 21 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 42-hour power reserve.
The Baume & Mercier Hampton Hommage a Pierre Soulages (ref. 10641) is limited to 102 pieces and retails for USD 5,850, CHF 5,600 or EUR 5,400. Each watch also comes with a VIP pass for two for the Musée Soulages in Rodez.
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