Vacheron Constantin is exploring new creative horizons in telling the marvellous story of skyborne adventurers. In addition to the delicate pounced ornament engraving technique, the dials are adorned with plique-à-jour enamel, a rare skill used for the first time by the Maison. The master engravers in the Vacheron Constantin workshops took up a real challenge: adding volume to the original two-dimensional drawings, and interpreting their colours through finishing effects. Each hot-air balloon called for up to three weeks of craftsmanship in order to reproduce the entire range of subtle feature and ornamental details of the original works. The dials thus compose authentic miniature scenes graced with an extraordinary variety of motifs.
The pounced ornament technique consists in removing material so as to fashion relief effects. This irreversible operation calls for an impeccably deft touch. The master engraver first traces the volumes using a drypoint technique, before sculpting the precious mass and creates a particularly delicate rounded effect. This stage serves to carve out the curves of the balloon and the basket, as well as the lines of the ropes. The burins are repeatedly sharpened so as to achieve extreme precision. The level of finishing becomes ever more sophisticated, all the way through to the smallest details of the human figures, animals and the meticulous decoration of the balloons. On the dials of the Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection, a translucent background in sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown or burgundy, evoke a spirit of airy transparency. Vacheron Constantin is for the first time calling upon this skill mastered by very few enamellers. Its layout is reminiscent of cloisonné enamelling; while the absence of a base recalls a miniature stained-glass window. The balance between the various shades is extremely subtle, as is the polishing of the partitions between them.
Transparency effects provide fascinating glimpses of the gear trains and discs of Calibre 2460 G4/1 through the plique-à-jour enamel. This special self-winding calibre enables a singular hands-free staging of the indications. The disc-type display is cleverly revealed through apertures around the rim of the dial, between the curves of the plique-à-jour enamel partitions. The hours, minutes, day of the week and date are shown by means of four discs: respectively two of the dragging type and two of the jumping variety.