Vacheron Constantin’s association with Japan stretches back more than 150 years, since 1862 when the then head of the company Charles-César Vacheron visited the country as part of a delegation sent by the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva. It started not only a rich trading relationship as the watchmaker’s fine timekeeping began to garner popularity, but also a relationship of mutual respect, which blossomed as Vacheron Constantin learned more about the country’s culture. This has since inspired many special editions, such as the exquisite Métiers d’art timepieces that paid tribute to Japanese craftsmanship and the lacquer art of maki-e.
Japan was the guest of honour at this year’s Homo Faber craftsmanship exhibition in Venice, at which Vacheron Constantin participated in partnership with the Louvre Museum. To celebrate the occasion, the watchmaker’s Les Cabinotiers department, tasked with creating some of its most ambitious and bespoke creations, developed two unique minute repeaters inspired by the mythology of the country.
They specifically draw from the works of 17th-century Japanese painter Sōtatsu by meticulously recreating depictions of Fujin the Wind God and Raijin the Thunder God on the dials. These have been brought to life in a process that takes hundreds of hours of craftsmanship by Vacheron Constantin’s skilled artisans. First, the yellow-gold dial is adorned with intaglio-type fine-line engraving to create an irregular chequered pattern reminiscent of gold leaf. This is then covered with a protective layer of transparent flux, fired in the kiln, before the intricate miniature enamel painting can commence.
The astonishing level of detail extends to each of the watch’s bezels and lugs, which feature fine-line engraving and slide pieces set with precious jewels. Inside is equally as much of a work of art, powered by the ultra-thin in-house Calibre 1731, perfectly calibrated to achieve a crystal-clear and harmonious sound.