Wristwatches in Voodoo Style

Aug 01, 2007

Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watch manufacture in the world, introduced a collection that created a lot of buzz among watch experts and connoisseurs. The timepieces from Metiers d'Art 'Les Masques' collection reveal the miniature reproductions of primitive art masks developed in Alaska, China, Indonesia and the Congo. The masks associated with something sacred, mysterious and magic are elaborated with great mastery and care and then skilfully placed into the watches.

How were they created?

Vacheron Constantin selected twelve masks from a private museum collection to be recreated on a small scale, and then incorporated in the center of the dial of every watch. The Company is going to develop 25 boxed sets, each with four masks produced per year. The project will take over three years, and a total of 300 Vacheron Constantin watches will be available for most avid connoisseurs and collectors. For the first Metiers d'Art 'Les Masques' timepieces, the brand opted for a Chinese death mask, a Congolese face mask, an Indonesian theatre mask and an Alaskan frontal mask.

Each mask is developed in its own color. The masks just seem to be floating in space, at arm's length inside the Vacheron Constantin watches. Each mask is surrounded by a poem in prose written by Michel Butor, a French writer. The lines of a poem are formed into a mysterious message that may be read only when the light reaches the crystal at a certain angle. To reach this effect, Vacheron Constantin watchmakers applied a highly sophisticated technique of vacuum metalization, having sprayed the gold letters onto the crystal.

To come up with the most faithful miniaturization, the Vacheron Constantin team had to replicate the exact expression and patina of every mask, and convey the wear and tear the mask was subjected to over time. The brand's specialists wanted to exactly reproduce the marks left by a chisel or burin of the sculptor, together with the traces of verdigris.

First, the team scanned each mask in order to get a three-dimensional image. This allowed the craftsmen to choose the best angle for positioning the mask in the strictly limited space of the watch's case. With help of laser technology, the initial model acquired the exact forms. The team produced the prototype in gold, the material that best corresponded to the miniaturization requirements.

Then the created prototype passed into the hands of the engraver who with help of a chisel meticulously worked on the reliefs, having carved the raised areas and the hollows to replicate the effects of time and recreate the century-old traces left by the burins of ancestors.

One more challenge for the Vacheron Constantin team was the treatment of each mask's color. Having used the ancient formula for galvanic and chemical treatments, the brand' specialists mixed colors of gold. Then, with help of hand touch-ups with paint, the artisans managed to achieve amazing results.

While working on one of the masks' reproductions, the artisans even reproduced the verdigris traces spotted on the 1000-year old funeral mask from the Chinese Liao dynasty. As gold does not oxidize, the specialists created a protective coating. Then, the engraver put a little copper onto the gold, which was then oxidized. The final reproduction of the mask looked like it was created many centuries ago.

Where did the idea originate from?

The first question that probably comes to mind when seeing 'Les Masques' watches is why on earth Vacheron Constantin watchmakers would unite the exclusive art of watchmaking with the ancient masks' culture? Masks, often endowed with magic powers, are first of all associated with different rites and rituals and are of important social and religious value in some communities.

Still, masks have a chronological dimension if to consider them as fruits of time through which they have been transformed, stamped, and acquired softened contours. In this respect, watchmaking is of the same symbolic and even magical significance. Mechanical timekeeping creations are often associated with flight of time. Both watches and masks are relevant to the art of time, and bear aesthetic value closely related to their usage. Watches and masks are most often created by anonymous artists and passed from one generation to another.

The primitive art masks and Vacheron Constantin watches are united by one peculiarity. The Vacheron Constantin Company has been established in the city of Geneva for over 250 years. Geneva also boasts to be the home to the Musee Barbier-Mueller, one of the most beautiful primitive art museums in the world, that now celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Having united masks and watches, the Vacheron Constantin team wanted to evoke the cultural experience of people living on all the continents, and pay tribute to their arts and crafts. Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO of Vacheron Constantin, convinced Jean-Paul Barbier-Mueller to join their efforts in this adventure.

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Ask a Question


posted by: markmars / Feb 19, 2011 11:35 PM
A mask on the dial. too cool. being bored answering questions about the mask on the dial, never. just make up a few thousand stories and never use the same one twice. Boredom turned to creative thinking on the fly.
Like others i would love to have one. I have never seen one.
posted by: Vlad / Mar 29, 2009 10:57 PM
Anybody knows the price of such a masterpiece?
posted by: Dreamy / Sep 08, 2007 10:11 PM
A great post! These Vacheron Constantion watches will surely be sported on the most notable pages of the history of watchmaking. Its a pitty nothing is mentioned about Voodoo. Im crazy about such mestirious things! As far as I know, Voodoo is a name given to a traditional spiritual system of faith and rituals, widespread in West Africa. The major responsabilities of Voodoo are to explain the forces of the universe and influence them. Voodoo have an amazing oral tradition of faith stories reflecting genealogy, history and fables to the generations to follow. Voodoos adherents pay honor to deities and revere their ancestors.
posted by: Peter / Aug 14, 2007 10:24 AM
I'm greatly interested in everything related to masks and I'm even thinking of having my own masks collection! I am stunned by these Vacheron Constantin watches. I'd like to have such a timepiece in my collection but I guess they cost a great deal of money. I know that a lot of people believe that masks are exotic artifacts relevant to Third World cultures. But in fact masks are universally used and are of great importance in the religious and social life of certain communities. I'm sure everyone wears masks at Halloween, carnivals, kids' parties and festivals. So masks are not so scary - I'd rather say they have some magic about them!
posted by: Serg / Aug 10, 2007 05:20 PM
hmmmm... may be it's dangerous to see a death mask everyday on ur watches...we shouldn't disturb the sacred art !
posted by: Mary / Aug 10, 2007 05:10 PM
oh! it would be a great present for my husband! he's so interested in all these mysterious things!
posted by: Nicky / Aug 09, 2007 07:30 PM
I think this watch on your wrist would surely attract a great deal of attention no matter where you go! I'd get bored of answering all the questions...
posted by: Celine / Aug 06, 2007 11:08 PM
These masks can be gloomy for someone ,but it seems to me that they are created according to the requirements of religious rituals and carry deep information.They reflect some kind of emotional sensation.That is what I have understood from the post. I liked the idea and the watches
posted by: djuly / Aug 06, 2007 10:11 PM
I like the idea but these faces of the masks seem somehow gloomy to me. Why haven't they chosen some more joyful faces? These masks reminded me of some ancient chiefs... the way the watches are performed is just amazing - I wonder in what circumstances would you wear such an unusual watch? On a trip to Aborigines?
posted by: Helga / Aug 04, 2007 08:14 PM
waw! what a great idea! and how great it is realized in these timepieces! Voodoo watches are unique and very special. I'd like to have one.Thanks for the information.

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