Independent brands from nine European countries presented their top collections and new releases at the three day exhibition. Bovet, Jacquet Droz, A.Lange & Söhne, Vacheron Constantin and Van’t Hoff all shared their expertise in creating highly decorated dials and watch mechanisms. In the separate Metieres D’Art room craftsmen from the exhibiting companies decorated watches in real time – any interested passer by could have a look at the fine detail of their work.
I stayed in the Metieres D’Art room for quite a while, studying a variety of ways in which the watches were embellished. At first I was taken by Vacheron Constantin’s model Elégance Sartoriale, which was created jointly with Vitale Barberis Canonico – the world’s oldest supplier of high quality fabrics. The watch faces were designed in the recognisable patterns you’d find in mens’ suits: tartans, zigzags or a Windsor check. But what looks at first sight like fabric is in fact a miniature painted enamel. I was particularly stunned by the craftsmanship of Jacquet Droz’s enamel masters who can create drawings of almost any complexity on watch dials. The Geneva based company had arranged a workstation for one of the craftsmen next to their exhibition stand who carefully painted new watch dials in front of everyone’s eyes.
‘High art’ watches aren’t only decorated on the outside. Admirers of watches from the German maker A.Lange&Söhne would know this well. There are only five expert craftsmen who do the intricate engraving on the movements by hand – and you can tell by looking at the finished product which one of them decorated it. Further on watch from Chopard’s collection L’Heure du Diamant glistened from display. Its pave set diamonds exemplified high craft of gem setting. The stones on the oval watch face were placed so close together that the metal beneath was practically invisible – something many watchmakers and jewellers attempt to do.
Geneva watchmaker I liked the most was the one I came across last. The name Van’t Hoff is comparatively new, but its founder Dick Steenman is well known in the watch world. He’s been creating original models for a number renown brands for years, but now he’s decided to make his own timepieces under his mother’s name. Dick is a virtuoso of various highly intricate techniques of watchmaking, and is always experimenting with new ways of decorating timepieces. That’s obvious in his Zodiac models – which incorporate miniature sculptures behind the glass of the watches’ dials, and flowers cut from mother of pearl that embellish Edelweiss collection pieces. Jewellery watches weren’t only on display in the Metiers D’Art room – so in my search for the best I went around the whole exhibition and chose ten which really stood out to me.