Modern artists who shine in this field include Vanessa Lecci, who counts Cartier and Patek Philippe among her clients. She was also worked for Anita Porchet, who has created for Piaget and Hermès. In an interview with Haute Time, Lecci, a specialist in grand-feu, cloisonné and champlevé techniques, explains the role of the enameller as ‘the artisan who tries to manage fire, metal and glass with art and technique’.
‘Coloured, transparent and opaque glass, thin gold threads, define the subject, even infinitely detailed like a portrait,’ she says. ‘Gold leaf, gold powder, mother-of-pearl powder et cetera are ingredients needed to realise the idea.’
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Métiers Rares (Rare Handcrafts) Reverso Tribute Enamel series honours Ferdinand Hodler with miniature reproductions of his paintings on the 100th anniversary of his death. The work of the Swiss artist, whose depiction of his country’s lakes and mountains, was a clear and simple expression of nature’s order, posed challenges for Jaeger-LeCoultre’s enamellers that included reproducing an original painting on the 3cm2 surface area of the Reverso. On the front of the piece, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artisan guillocheur has used a century-old machine to embellish the dial with small lozenges that seem as though they’ve been woven. The engraving was then covered in translucent enamel to match the painting’s colour tone on the reverse side. There the engraving continues, with lines tracing out an elegant frame for the painting.
There are eight pieces only of three different models, each set in a white-gold case that serves as a canvas for the miniature artwork. The handcrafted detail took more than 50 hours per watch to complete. The new automotive-inspired GyroGraff Drive timepieces, which capture the Graff family’s passion for cars, incorporate intricately handcrafted dials. These are complemented by an extremely complex movement that hosts a watchmaking first: a hand-carved 3D gold moonphase working in harmony with two more complications, a double-axis tourbillon and a 72-hour power reserve indicator. Each GyroGraff timepiece has a domed dial on which there are three to four levels of relief, allowing Graff’s master craftsmen to build enough detail to achieve an incredibly realistic 3D quality.
One design shows an inside-the-cockpit view of a race at night, using marquetry to carve out the carbon dashboard. A second model featuring a vintage car depicts the driver and steering wheel through different levels of cutout appliqués. Each element has been hand painted using the peinture miniature technique. The third version showing a car speeding through the city incorporates a masterful miniature painting of blurred lights against a night sky.
The details on the dashboard of each car have been achieved using a technique known as decal, or transfer printing. Each element – a layer of ink – is meticulously transferred from an engraved plate to the dial using a silicone pad. The process requires a completely dust-free environment, steady hands and infinite patience.
Read part one of the Artistry in Watchmaking series.