Vacheron Constantin goes up in the sky with its new The Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection. Five limited editions of five timepieces each for five aerial adventures.
Splendid hand-engraved and micro-sculpted gold hot-air balloons accompany in a dreamy journey against a translucent plique-à-jour background, powered up by the Manufacture Calibre 2460 G4/1.
Taking inspiration from the dream of flying, Vacheron Constantin explores the mythical adventures of the first intrepid balloonists of the late 18th century, known in French with the word aérostiers.
The collection The Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers faithfully reproduces in miniature, on the scale of a watch dial, the depiction of five flights undertaken in France between 1783 and 1785.
Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Versailles 1783
This model represents an aerostat, designed by Étienne de Montgolfier, rising into the air for the very first time. This “aerostatic experiment” did not have humans on board, but animals: a sheep, a rooster and a duck. The finding of the animals still alive after the landing testified to the sufficiency of oxygen at a given altitude.
Engraved in white gold, the basket and its floating ropes, having been slightly damaged by the landing, are perfectly visible beneath the opulent 5N gold balloon.
Les Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1783
This mission saw the first human to rise heavenwards. Étienne de Montgolfier designed another aerostat, this time transporting two “sky travellers”, both micro-sculpted on the dial.
Against a sky blue plique-à-jour enamel background, this splendid pink and white gold balloon is engraved with suns, the zodiac, fleurs de lys, garlands and an eagle with outstretched wings – the full set of royal insignia.
Vacheron Constantin Les Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Paris 1784
The balloonist Blanchard had imagined a system for guiding a balloon’s trajectory. The ingenious system of wings built for this purpose can be clearly observed on the dial. While the landing took place far from the initial designated spot, the flight would inspire its developer and other balloonists in making more fruitful attempts.
Vacheron Constantin Les Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bordeaux 1784
The whole of France took part in the extraordinary conquest of the skies. This flight, made in Bordeaux with three voyagers in the basket, testified to what had become a true phenomenon of the era. Reproduced in identical detail on the dial, the balloon features a splendid variety of fabrics and ornamentation, as well as a mythological scene.
Vacheron Constantin Les Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers – Bagnol 1785
Ten thousand people saluted this flight with thunderous applause. The elegant white and yellow gold basket appears to be floating on plique-à-jour enamel in various shades of blue. The upper part of the balloon is coloured by electroplating.
Fun fact: seven years later, the balloon canvas would serve to make clothes for Republican volunteers.
In preparing The Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers Collection, the master engravers in the Vacheron Constantin workshops accepted a real challenge: adding volume to the original two-dimensional drawings and interpreting their colours through finishing effects.
Each hot-air balloon needed up to three weeks of craftsmanship in order to reproduce the entire range of subtle feature and ornamental details of the original works. The dials thus compose authentic miniature scenes graced with an extraordinary variety of motifs.
The plique-à-jour enamel
On the dials of the Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection, a translucent background in sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown or burgundy, evoke a spirit of airy transparency.
Vacheron Constantin is for the first time calling upon this skill mastered by very few enamellers. Its layout is reminiscent of cloisonné enamelling; while the absence of a base recalls a miniature stained-glass window.
The balance between the various shades is extremely subtle, as is the polishing of the partitions between them.
The predominant shades of each creation are also picked up on the display discs as well as the matching strap. The inner bezel ring framing the enamel is engraved with a motif inspired by balloon ropes, also varying between 3N, 4N or 5N gold according to the models.
The calibre: aesthetic and Haute Horlogerie
Transparency effects provide fascinating glimpses of the gear trains and discs of Calibre 2460 G4/1 through the plique-à-jour enamel.
This special self-winding calibre enables a singular hands-free staging of the indications. The disc-type display is cleverly revealed through apertures around the rim of the dial, between the curves of the plique-à-jour enamel partitions.
The hours, minutes, days of the week and date are shown by means of four discs: respectively two of the dragging type and two of the jumping variety.
The calibre decorated according to the highest watchmaking finishing standards is generously visible through the transparent case-back. The gold oscillating weight, specially engraved and domed for this new collection, evokes the rounded shape of a hot-air balloon.
The timepieces belonging to Vacheron Constantin Les Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers are all Hallmark of Geneva certified.