As proverbs go, All that glitters is not gold is particularly well-suited to the métiers d’art. After the mechanical revolution of the early 2000s, decorative and ornamental techniques are spreading like wildfire through the watchmaking segment. Does a dial take on true artistic value simply because it incorporates a rare craft? Is a dial a miniature in the proper sense when only a tiny area has been embellished this way? While we are each free to form our own opinion, one thing is certain: the difference will never escape a true connoisseur, especially when the messages surrounding these métiers d’art avoid spurious claims.
Artist Dominique Vaucher is very much involved in the horological arts studio run by her husband, Olivier Vaucher. She believes there is a need to re-educate the public eye. “Only a minority of connoisseurs perceive the sensitivity inherent to art, yet this is what gives a piece its true dimension,” she observes. “Technique is not an end in itself when seeking to express the sublime or beauty, or to spin magic.”
Watchmaking marketing director at Cartier, Thierry Lamouroux concurs. The message he drives home is that creative teams must produce watches with a strong emotional value. “For a watch to truly convey a sense of intensity, our creative staff must first be fully familiar with the possibilities and limitations of a given technique. Only then will they get it right. Hence we encourage the departments concerned to communicate with each other so as to keep the process flowing and ensure the finished result brings true authenticity.”
“When you create, you also remember,” confides the director of the métiers d’art department at a leading Geneva watchmaker. This implies technique is the medium for inspiration which doesn’t necessarily come spontaneously. Rather, inspiration draws on experiences and influences which have been patiently absorbed and which resurface in the flow of pencil on paper. “Remember that Louis Cartier sent his trainees to the four corners of the globe with their sketchpad with the single instruction to capture anything that caught their imagination so as to better draw inspiration from it,” adds Catherine Devincenti, a gemmologist and jewellery expert.
This subtle process of educating the public has barely begun for watch brands. Beyond their aura, history or even expertise, they must now deliver compelling arguments in the eminently immaterial field of artistic expression. A task that cannot wait, knowing that customers in Asia, a crucial market for Swiss watchmaking, are renowned for their very definite and refined tastes in this domain.