Cartier, Hublot, And Louis Erard: When Time Takes A Backseat To Art
by Martin Green
If you consider a watch to be a purely practical device, you may be best served by a tool watch that prioritizes function over form.
The practical functionality of mechanical watches over the past decades has largely been replaced by newer, mainly electronic, devices that can tell the time much more precisely and usually for much less money. While this does not stop people from buying and enjoying (mechanical) watches for the functions that they offer, breaking the link with pure functionality loosens the restraints for watch designers.
But what happens when form dominates function nearly completely and the watch itself becomes a canvas for art? What if artistic freedom can be enjoyed without time display being the primary purpose?
When highlighting watches focusing on form over functionality, there is little point in discussing movements as long as they are harmonious with the art and adequate to their task.
If the movement is your focus, then you might look elsewhere because here it would be like buying a painting because you like the frame. These three watches are all about their expressive capabilities.
Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry Watch
The Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry watch is, in my opinion, the best piece that has ever come out of Cartier’s métiers d’art department. While the craftsmanship is breathtaking, I am especially taken by the composition.
In many of its art pieces, Cartier goes for a lifelike resemblance of the animals portrayed, but in this case the artisan has taken a more abstract approach, resulting in a very dynamic piece, bold and colorful.
And, surprisingly, it feels to me as though the panther almost comes alive.
Cartier achieved this by combining straw and gold marquetry for the first time. This is quite an undertaking as it means that a single craftsperson needs to be a master in both disciplines with the ability to combine them to provide an entirely new range of options – which Cartier exploited to the max.
The relief of the panther is very imposing, creating a three-dimensional effect further strengthened by the different color shadings. For this, Cartier utilized an impressive 11 colors of straw in various shades and sizes as well as three different colors of gold.
Adding even further to the dial’s complexity, yellow gold wires are embedded in the straw elements while the spots on the panther are made with enamel. According to Cartier, the dial alone requires 97 hours’ worth of work.
The fact that it tells time is almost irrelevant as you most likely won’t be looking at its hands anyway.
For more information, please visit www.cartier.com.
Quick Facts Ronde Louis Cartier Straw and Gold Marquetry Watch
Case: 42 x 8.03 mm, white gold, crown set with sapphire cabochon
Movement: ultra-thin manual-wind Caliber 430 MC (based on Piaget 430P), 2.15 mm in height, 3 Hz/21,600 vph, 38-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 30 pieces
Price: on request
Hublot Big Bang One Click Marc Ferrero
When you work with a renowned and established artist on a watch, you have quite a challenge on your hands as you need to translate his or her work into a timepiece without taking away any of the magic that makes it so unique.
Hublot did quite the opposite, adding even more magic to the Big Bang One Click Marc Ferrero. This is not the first time that Hublot has used his famous work Lipstick as a motif for its timepieces: but where the previous two limited editions were all about bold colors, the two current ones are “just” black and white.
To me, this makes the watch all the more expressive as the red of the lips serves as a focal point, sucking the observer further into the world of Ferrero with the other details.
Hublot once again did an outstanding job of transposing the art onto the dial, which displays the artistic details in relief. This tranforms the watch: instead of merely having the image of a famous painting on it, it becomes a complete work of art.
I especially like that the brand had Ferrero transfer his illustrative work onto the strap. Being a Big Bang One Click, the strap can be changed with one easy click; Hublot supplies both watches with an additional alligator skin strap in the color matching the dial.
Changing the strap changes the whole vibe of the watch, putting much more of an emphasis on the dial rather than having the watch and strap function as a piece of art around the whole wrist.
Whether you prefer the black version in a case made of polished black ceramic or the white one in stainless steel is a matter of choice as they work equally well.
For more information, please visit www.hublot.com/en-us/news/big-bang-one-click-marc-ferrero.
Quick Facts Hublot Big Bang One Click Marc Ferrero
Case: 39 x 12.55 mm, polished black ceramic or polished stainless steel, bezel set with 42 brilliant-cut diamonds (1 ct)
Movement: automatic Caliber HUB1710 (based on Zenith Elite 670), 4Hz/28,800 vph, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 100 pieces per color
Price: CHF 17,400/$18,300 (white/stainless steel version), CHF 18,400/$19,400 (black/ceramic version)
Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Excellence Regulator
Alain Silberstein is, without a doubt, one of the most creative minds in watchmaking. I still much regret that his own brand is not around anymore as it enriched the watch scene so much.
Fortunately, though, he still collaborates with other brands. One of my favorites constitutes the collaborations with MB&F, in particular the MB&F LM1 Silberstein.
Recently Silberstein teamed up with Louis Erard to create what is perhaps the most tantalizing regulator watch around. While the watch measures only 40 mm in diameter, it is packed with bold colors and expressive hands, Silberstein’s instantly recognizable signature elements. The bright colors make the watch both highly legible and fun in a way that very few other watches can compete with.
Louis Erard delivers this watch in two different versions: one with a black PVD-coated case and black dial and the other in stainless steel with a silver dial. While both share the same look, the use of different primary colors makes a difference in their characters.
Both are powered by the popular, slim hand-wound Peseux 7001 movement, which has been modified to power a regulator-style dial and power reserve indicator. That enables Louis Erard to offer a reliable artistic mechanical watch at considerable bang for the buck: at 2,900 Swiss francs (including Swiss VAT) for the black PVD-coated version and CHF 100 less for the stainless steel edition, I consider it a steal.
Even more noteworthy, despite Silberstein making a great variety of watches and complications throughout his long career, he has never designed a regulator before. The fact that only 178 pieces of each version will be made ensures that this watch remains a rarity.
And when it comes to art, that’s most certainly an added bonus.
For more information, please visit www.louiserard.com/creations/excellence/excellence-regulator-limited-edition-by-alain-silberstein.
Quick Facts Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Excellence Regulator
Case: 40 mm, natural stainless steel or black PVD-coated stainless steel
Movement: manually wound ETA Peseux 7001 modified with module for regulator dial layout and power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 178 pieces per color
Price: CHF 2,800 (stainless steel), CHF 2,900 (PVD-coated version)