Métiers d’Art Les Masques Collection by Vacheron Constantin

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin and the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva partnered to create some of the most unique watches in the world. Using ancient tribal masks displayed in the museum, the designers from Vacheron replicated these masks and their meanings and created a four-piece series called the Métiers d’Art Les Masques collection.

The actual creation of these watches is an enormous feat in the world of watchmaking. Each mask measures about 20mm but had to be miniaturized to only a few mm. Which tools and materials should be used to do this were huge questions. With help from the Geneva Engineering School and laser technology each mask was able to be replicated in three dimensions and figure out the best possible position for placing the mask on the watch dial. It was decided that the masks would be carved from gold and it was a painstaking process to get all the details and expressions fixed on such a tiny workspace.

A special technique using specially-treated glass creates the transparent illusion that the masks are floating on the dial, while a customized metallization process on the sapphire crystal creates a unique tint that is particular to each individual mask.  The color tints are as follow: green for the Chinese mask, blue for the Alaskan mask, purple for the Indonesian mask and brown for the Congolese mask.

Vacheron used an automatic Calibre 2460G4 movement, so that the time can be read without any hands, which would interfere with the showcasing of the mask. The time indications rotate around the discs: hours on the top left, minutes on the top right, day on bottom left and date on bottom right.

Each mask: a Facial Mask from Indonesia, a Zangs Bag Facial Mask from China, a Pendant Mask from Mexico, and a Ngontang Mask from Africa tells its own story and comes with a poem. The watchmaker decided to include the poem as well and the words actually circle the sapphire dial in letters of gold and can only be read when the light hits the watch in a certain angle.

Here is an English translation (from French) of the poems:

The Chinese funeral mask

The light is concentrated
in the gold where I close my eyes
through my eyelids I see
the sleep of my descendants
I slip into their dreams
to give them my news
and light up the impasses
where adversity lies in wait

The Alaskan Frontal Mask

If I stick out my tongue
it is to show the trust I have in you
following your movements
on the sea between storms and in forests between
vast conifers on which your
genealogical myths will be inscribed

The Congolese Etoumbi-Mahongwe Mask

They wanted to deepen the shadow
where you will set your eyes
so that the flashes of sun and flames
will penetrate further
with their arrows to tattoo
not only your face and skin of your whole body
but the secrets of your night

The Indonesian Mask Wayang Topeng theatre
Bewitcher I observe
the shapes of girls who pass
my eyebrows are like a bird ready to take wing
and circle its prey
my moustache like a serpent

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