The process of depicting the voyage of the greatest explorers of all time on the watches' dials required from the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin all the technical and aesthetic expertise accumulated during the company's astounding 250-year history.
The 'grand feu' polychrome enameled dial has two parts - one part partly overlaps the other. On the upper part you will see a portion of the globe - a historical map reminding about the feats of the great explorer. The lower part of the dial features twelve numerals for the hour moving across a 132 degree minute scale.
The Vacheron Constantin engineers and watchmakers added to an extremely reliable self-winding movement, Vacheron Constantin Calibre 1126AT, a complication necessary to make the time move in the cartographical wake of the famous adventurers.
The highly sophisticated and patented mechanism drives both dial parts with help of a number of complicated devices linked by cams featuring the shape inspired by the Vacheron Constantin signature Maltese cross.
The highly original time reading has been made possible due to such exclusive in-house-developed devices as the pivoting crown, positioning fingerpieces, and rotating satellites with numerals.
The hour wheel has three arms extended by a satellite, each carrying four hour numerals, pointed in the direction set by a cam. The hour crown turns so that to line up the satellite with the necessary hour number in front of the gap found between the two dial parts. The cam then moves the necessary number into the gap and the hour crown makes it move from left to right in precisely one hour over the minute scale featured on the lower dial.
The hours that continuously count off the time move to the far end of the upper dial facing its lower half. The hour numeral is transformed into a symbolic hand that allows to determine the number of minutes at a glance. The amazing hours dance is based on a remarkable configuration that required a great amount of research and development, paying tribute to the challenging voyages undertaken by the courageous explorers.
The limited series of 'Metiers d'Art Tribute to Great Explorers' unveils the refined beauty of 'grand feu' enameling, one of the oldest, rarest and most outstanding traditions of hand craftsmanship, with only a few artisans holding the keys to its secrets.
During the complicated and delicate process of enameling, the master craftsman adds the colors of a motif dot by dot using a fine-tipped brush, first adding the colors to the outlines. Each colored glass paste application requires extremely rigorous and accurate gestures. Then, the dial is placed for some minutes in a kiln that is heated to a temperature of between 700 and 700 degrees Celsius.
The next stage is to sand down the cooled down enamel in the most gentle way not to spoil the effect. When the dial is being fired in the oven, the colors may change and even shrink, so the artist needs all his skill and experience to do everything right. At the end of the process, a translucent flux or protective lawyer is applied to the motif, the dial is fired at 900 degrees Celsius, and finally lapped and polished.
The same set of meticulous operations is fulfilled during each new color application, so the piece may be fired in the oven as many as 30 times in all.
As for the dials of the Vacheron Constantin 'Metiers d'Art Tribute to the Great Explorers' collection, the two dial parts must be enameled simultaneously to have them fully matched, implying the same colors, the same firing time, and the same radiance, so each dial is a unique work of art.
As a result, watch connoisseurs admire the detailed geographical depiction of the routes sailed by Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, created by outstandingly nuanced shades of color - from the pale blue of the seas to the orangey ochre of dry land.