By Osheen Arakelian
The new Métiers d’Art Savoirs Enluminés collection draws aesthetic inspiration from the Aberdeen Bestiary, an ancient Celtic manuscript recovered from the Middle Ages that is internationally recognised for the quality of its miniaturised illuminations. The Aberdeen Bestiary was commissioned in the 12th century and was called the “book of beasts”, conveying a wide range of knowledge and beliefs, which has been key to understanding the evolution of humankind during the Middle Ages. The Aberdeen Bestiary is arranged in a hierarchical basis in 11 chapters: the creation of the world, wild animals, domestic animals, small animals, birds, snakes and reptiles, worms, fish, trees and plants, human nature and finally, minerals. Today it is preciously kept in the library of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. This extremely rare object has only been exhibited to the public on one occasion, in 2012, during the inauguration of the new library at the University of Aberdeen. In order to remain preciously preserved from light and damp, it can only be observed for 30 minutes a day. However, before we get to carried away with the Aberdeen Bestiary lets get back to business and look at the Vacheron Constantin Metiers D’Art Savoirs Enlumines Collection.
The Métiers d’Art Savoirs Enluminés collection comprises three 20-piece limited edition timepieces, each illustrated with an animal from the Aberdeen Bestiary.
The first of this trio is the “Altion”, a beautiful seabird linked to Water, building its nest on the seas, no matter what the weather, and symbolising serenity (an extract from folio 54v). The second model, “Vultures”, is adorned with two Fowl back to back – the quintessential ambassadors of the Skies (extract from folio 44v). Against a graded pink background, their bodies form a circle, the symbol of infinity and longevity. The third model, “Caper” – is devoted to the Earth (extract from folio 14r). It presents a midnight blue goat with a piercing gaze, and endowed with exceptionally sound judgement.
Each timepiece is cased in an 18-carat white gold case. The name of the animal portrayed on the dial is also engraved on the side of the case according to the original script to match the “Aberdeen Bestiary” as closely as possible. Sapphire crystal is utilised for both the dial side and also for the caseback in order to view the beautiful movement and finish.
The complexity of each piece is evident when you first look through the twin-level 22-carat gold dial. The upper element, bordered by a frieze, has a creature at its centre. Adorned with Grand Feu enamel, the upper dial perfectly marries miniature and champlevé techniques. The task of enamelling is long and labour-intensive, with colours applied through a microscope, one after the other, before hitting the kiln for some serious heat treatment. In the background, the enamelled gold background is textured by hand with fine brushes and erasers in order to emulate the gold leaf effect as much as possible.
The upper level of the dial, however, remains open on the right, revealing the lower part. There are also traces of Latin text from the Aberdeen Bestiary manuscript. This is a tribute to the creative power of Nature (Natura) and Life (Vita). Each layer is no more than 0.9mm in thickness. The raised polished letters provide a great contrast to the grained background, while the Arabic numerals on the chapter ring, arranged in a semi-circle, are delicately painted on the upper surface. Lastly, between the two levels on the dial, the hour numerals slide from top to bottom, in turn, in 60 minutes.
Beating within each piece is the exclusive Vacheron Constantin Calibre 1120 AT self-winding ultra-thin base movement. It beats at 19,800 vibrations per hour and has approximately 40-hour power reserve. The movement also meets the Hallmark of Geneva criteria with beautiful Côtes de Genève on the main flat movement and chamfered, hand-polishing on all the sharp edges. The same is also true of the screw heads.
Each piece is finished off with a brown Mississippi alligator leather strap with an 18 white gold triple-blade folding clasp.
A beautiful collection indeed and one that is definitely better seen under a loupe to be fully appreciated.
For more info, please visit vacheron-constantin.com
OSHEEN ARAKELIAN – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Drawing on a lifelong love of horology and a more recent introduction to appreciation of fine whisky, Osheen brought the two together with watch & whisky. He is the proprietor of the site, which covers everything related to watches and whisky. In between completing a degree in commercial law and supporting a rich social life, he is out and about attending all the latest watch and whisky events Sydney has to offer. His passion has also taken him around Australia attending a number of events and he hopes to continue his career in the watch industry on a more serious level after he graduates. Read his articles here.