Vacheron Constantin launches watches in the Symbolique line
April 2011: Since it knows what time means, Vacheron Constantin has continued to add to the spirit of the Métiers d’Art collection, the “La Symbolique des Laques” series, which was created over three years with each year seeing a new set of three watches in a limited series of twenty.
This year the ‘Kame Kaeru Koi’ watches, dedicated to the aquatic realm, present animals selected from the vast symbolic legacy of Far Eastern artistic traditions. Incarnations of longevity, luck and strength, the turtle, frog and carp disclose their attributes in stylised waters on the enamelled dials. Four months were required to make each one!
Turtle (Kame) and Lotus Watch: For Japanese, the turtle embodies longevity. The way it moves rightly symbolises patience and authority, and the pattern on its shell is also a sign of good luck, as is the octagonal shape of its carapace. Here associated with the lotus flower, it celebrates purity. In the purest maki-e tradition, the animal’s shell is brought out by a light momidasi polishing done using oil stones, in such a way that the light reflects on its patterns, setting off their geometric precision. Its eye is incrusted with shell using the raden technique, while the taka maki-e technique lends a relief effect to the leaves floating on the shimmering waves.
Frog (Kaeru) and Hydrangea Watch: The frog is the symbol of returning. It is known for its faithfulness. Legend says that it always returns to its starting point, no matter how great the distance. It is naturally associated with prosperity in an essentially agricultural, rice-growing economy. Its croaking is often heard in spring, the season of renewal. And if it decides to live in someone’s garden, it protects that person from danger and bad luck. Paired with the hydrangea, the frog is one of the most glorified animals in Far-Eastern mythical traditions. Its glistening eye is made using the hirame technique, which consists of spreading hirame powder before applying a lacquer that is to be darkened. Its body captures the light thanks to momidashi polishing done with oil stones. The kakiwari technique, which reveals the underlying layer of lacquer, is used to depict the detailed veining in the plants’ leaves.
Carp (Koi) and Waterfall Watch: Originally representing perseverance, the carp is also famous for its courage and determination. Many Chinese and Japanese legends praise its ability to swim upstream to negotiate rivers and waterfalls, despite currents that often are very strong. It is a symbol of success and good fortune. Its association with waterfalls symbolises strength and willpower. On the watch dial, the carp moves gracefully through the tumultuous water. The coloured lacquers, applied to the maki-e powder using the iro-katame technique and then polished, contrast with the black background. On the back, the waterfalls flow gracefully. They were created with the maki bokashi technique, which uses gold powder dispersed on the lacquer to blur the pattern.
These three watches are three unique illustrations showcasing the art of maki-e that has come down through the ages. Its technical mastery is crowned by a symbolic aura that anchors it even more firmly in the collective memory, Japanese history, Far Eastern history, and the world’s artistic heritage.