— Vacheron Constantin Replica Watches has unveiled the fruits of its partnership with the Ecole Boulle in Paris, which we announced in November 2014. It’s an exceptional result for an initiative which, we hope, will mark an important milestone.
This is what we mean by joined-up thinking. Eighteen months ago, WorldTempus unveiled the project that was to cement the relationship between Vacheron Constantin and Paris’s prestigious school of art and design, the Ecole Boulle. The aim of the partnership was to create a unique presentation case for the manufacture, by means of a competition among the best students on the DMA course (Diplôme des Métiers d’Arts). At the end of March the company unveiled the final prototype, which will be very close to the finished article. It is stunning.
A breath of fresh air
Only the gaze of young, independent eyes could have captured the essence of the manufacture, and distilled from it an unprecedented and very refreshing approach. The object in question, a presentation case for a métiers d’art watch, a unique piece for the time being, oozes creativity and talent.
The 25 cm-diameter elliptical form, with an open centre, is based on the proportions of the golden section. “It’s the void in the centre that defines the structure of the case,” Corentin Ollivau and Clément Demarson, the two students behind the design, explain. “It’s an almost Taoist approach: the empty space represents potential.”
The pair worked together – an unusual arrangement not specifically dictated by the competition rules – enabling them to combine their skills in cabinetmaking and engraving. The guiding inspiration for the case was the architecture of Paris. “Our inspiration was a bird’s-eye view of Paris, an abstract and nebulous form. The Place Vendôme is symbolically at the centre of our creation; it’s the nexus of the métiers d’arts and creation.”
Nevertheless, the duo were not content to simply carve the capital’s roads out of wood. They took their historical research extremely seriously: “When we researched Paris and its layout, we were inspired by the orientation of the city, its decumanus and cardo [the East-West and North-South axes of a Roman city]. The Seine is a structural element. On four dates of the year – 8 May, 11 November, 2 February and 4 July – the sun follows its course exactly.”
As a result of these researches, the case is highlighted with silver engraving finished with gold plating, with the river Seine as a central element. The gilding stands out magnificently against the layered and sculpted wood of the wild service tree, stained black. “Everything was designed for light,” note the two craftsmen. What could be more appropriate for the City of Light – or more magnificently executed?
The shape of things to come?
It took the two men a year to produce the case, the equivalent of 2,400 hours’ work. They also called upon the expertise of Jean-Baptiste Viot, an independent watchmaker, to build the gear train that moves the Replica Watches UK housing, in the centre of the case.
For the moment, the presentation case is one of a kind. The two students have now graduated from college, so in theory the adventure stops there. In practice, however, it is more than likely that the manufacture will place a small number of additional orders – “no more than ten,” whisper the creators, who are preparing to embark upon their professional life in partnership, a continuation of their creative pairing at the Ecole Boulle.
Looking beyond the immediate term, we should applaud the approach taken by Vacheron Constantin: a relatively simple partnership was set up with a school that shares the company’s ethos, and the company reaps the benefits of the result, which was beyond all expectations, while furthering its mission to preserve the métiers d’arts. It ticks all the boxes. We can only hope that this partnership inspires other companies of a similar calibre – for the greater good of watchmaking, art schools and future generations.