The louvre

Vacheron Constantin and the Louvre pay homage to ancient civilizations with Métiers d’Art watches

The Lion of Darius coin is a tribute to the Persian Achaemenid Empire (559 – 330 BC).

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Vacheron Constantin and the Louvre Museum in Paris this week unveiled the Métiers d’Art – Tribute to Great Civilizations series, showcasing four new timepieces based on masterpieces from the museum’s collection.

The four artistic crafts timepieces – richly decorated treasures embellished with jewels, engravings and enamels (price on request) – each limited to five watches, are inspired by works that celebrate four ancient civilizations: the empire Persia of Darius the Great, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Hellenistic Greece of the successors of Alexander the Great and Imperial Rome.

“When we signed the partnership in 2019 with the Louvre, we wanted to have a multi-level partnership,” said Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin’s style and heritage director, as he showcased the watches in a suite in the l Hotel de Crillon in Paris before the official inauguration at the Louvre. “Initially, we wanted to create a crafts series in which we wanted to associate the Louvre with conception and design.”

The Roman piece is inspired by the marble Bust of Augustus from the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire (27 BC – 68 AD).

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Once they settled on an ancient civilizations theme, Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome were obvious choices since the museum’s collections are so extensive. Ancient Persia captivated the team after seeing Darius’ lion on display.

The Hommage aux Grandes Civilizations series is the result of two years of collaboration between the Louvre and the artisans of Vacheron Constantin, who sought to elevate the brand’s mastery in the historic decorative crafts of watchmaking with this project.

Each watch is built with several layers composed of a background and a surrounding frieze composed of decorative elements drawn from various works of the same period, a sapphire disc engraved with the associated text applied by a metallization process and the Main subject in finely carved gold placed at the top.

“That’s the real strength of this series: even though we pay homage to these ancient civilizations, these watches don’t feel like literal tributes to ancient civilizations,” Selmoni said. “These are very modern executions incorporating elements of the past.”

On a private tour of the closed museum, each watch was displayed next to the artwork that inspired it. The Lion of Darius coin is a tribute to the Persian Achaemenid Empire (559 – 330 BC). In the first palace of Darius the Great in Susa, capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in southwestern Iran, the first courtyard displayed a frieze of lions, symbols of royal power, in glazed siliceous brick.

The homage to Hellenistic Greece is represented by the statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike in Greek).

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Vacheron craftsmen imitated the brick wall on the bottom of the dial using stone marquetry made of 69 hand-cut pieces of turquoise and yellow mochaite jasper. The frieze surrounding the dial is inspired by the decoration of another work in the Palace, the Frieze of the Archers. For the Roman piece, which is inspired by the Buste d’Auguste marble from L’Empire romain des Julio-Claudiens (27 BC – 68 AD), Vacheron immersed itself for the first time in the art of micro- mosaics.

Surrounding the blue-green enameled center of the dial is a multicolored micro-mosaic composition of 660 tiny stone tiles of quartzite, cacholong, dumortierite, mochaite, red jasper, grossular and red aventurine. The design refers to a 4th-century mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel.

The Egyptian coin is modeled after the Great Sphinx of Tanis, one of the largest preserved sphinxes outside of Egypt. The main dial is a deep hue made by mixing blue and black enamel and baking it six times. The decorative elements of the dial are inspired by the necklace represented on the cardboard coffin of Nakht-khonsou-irou, and the sapphire disc is engraved with hieroglyphs. The large head of the sphinx is sculpted in white gold in relief using the sanded ornament technique.

The Egyptian coin is modeled after the Great Sphinx of Tanis, one of the largest preserved sphinxes outside of Egypt.

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The homage to Hellenistic Greece is represented by the statue of Victory of Samothrace (Nike in Greek), a winged goddess resting on the prow of a warship. This masterpiece was discovered in 1863 on the island of Samothrace in the northern Aegean Sea.

The center of the watch face is warm brown enamel. The perimeter is decorated with enamels in grisaille representing the decorative friezes drawn from two Greek vases with geometric figures painted in red and various ornaments with foliage or geometric motifs. The dial is surrounded by a gold frieze decorated using the line engraving technique inspired by the Pergamon Vase, a marble masterpiece of the first century BC sculpted in bas-relief. The ancient Greek script is taken from a second AD stone tablet discovered at Samothrace.

“These watches are 100% relevant for the 21st century,” Selmoni said, “and we’re quite proud that we can always reinvent ourselves through these decorative crafts, which haven’t changed, when you think of enamelling, since the 18th century.”