The vast watchmaking expertise of Vacheron Constantin spans the full gamut from everyday classical timepieces to grandiose one-of-a-kind masterpieces, all of which are regarded as bona fide works of mechanical art. Moreover, through numerous tribute timepieces honouring the grandmasters of fine art, the maison preserves watchmaking’s most traditional handcrafts while cementing its strong ties with the art world. But as much as we tend to associate Vacheron Constantin with Renaissance masters of the Louvre as opposed to, say, postmodernist works of the Centre Pompidou, the truth is that the maison has got a lot more in common with contemporary art, and indeed Pop Art, than one might realise.
For sure, its deep wealth of haute horlogerie savoir-faire puts it among the world’s top watchmaking manufactures, but Vacheron Constantin is equally adept at creating powerful aesthetics. Its virtuosity with shaped watches reigned through the 20s all the way to the 70s when trend-setters on both sides of the Atlantic desired an elegant Vacheron Constantin timepiece, then known for its bold expressions of style and design. These vibrant creations often come finessed with a plethora of distinctive features ranging from the artful and the elegant to the quirky and even the eccentric.
Because just as the greatest Pop artists found great inspiration in challenging the norms of fine art to evoke irony, humour, and parody, so has Vacheron Constantin reinvented the classics with daring combinations of textures, patterns, and colours to astound the mind and create some of its most original designs. Till this day, the manufacture builds on this unique horological philosophy, offering a twist on conventions, a composition of unexpected contrasts, and playing with light effects to generation emotions like no other.
Take the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date for instance. A classic gent’s model that sits just as elegantly on a lady’s wrist. Its sleek 42.5mm 18K pink gold case encircles a rich sunburst blue dial as it presents two useful functions in a playful retrograde display, turning something as mundane as day and date into a moment of excitement. Catching the retrograde hand skipping back from 31 to 1, or from Sunday back to Monday, is one of the most delightful rewards of wearing this timepiece.
And that’s really the essence of Pop Art, isn’t it? To surprise and to provide sudden, intense emotion. Likewise with the ladies’ Traditionnelle Tourbillon, a svelte 39mm feminine grand complication timepiece in 18K pink gold that highlights the tourbillon at 6 o’clock with a circlet of round diamonds, plus more around the bezel and all over the case. Why? Well, why not? The tourbillon is functional, yet it’s also beautiful. Like Warhol’s soup cans, it is a work of art fully deserving of its own canvas. But in lieu of an actual canvas, it gets an exquisite natural mother-of-pearl dial shimmering along with the sparkle of precious gemstones.
Then there is the graceful yet whimsical Égérie Self-Winding with its lively sloping numerals and offbeat crown at 2 o’clock demonstrating Vacheron Constantin uncanny knack for putting a twist on convention. Brilliant diamonds, delicate guilloché, and that fabulous leather strap in bright fuchsia provides a bright pop of colour and textural details reminiscent of comic strips inspiring a Lichtenstein painting—thick outlines, bold hues, and Ben-Day dots all inclusive.
Even in Vacheron Constantin’s bread-and-butter timepieces such as the Patrimony Self-Winding, there lies a palpable connection to this Pop Art spirit. Clean, sober graphics and clever use of contrasting finishes reflect the manufacture’s phenomenal range when it comes to creating magical moments through watchmaking craftsmanship.
So while we might not be seeing a can of soup or a comic strip on a grand complication métiers d’arts timepiece any time soon, you could certainly expect an explosion of joy accompanied by an avalanche of exclamation marks, coupled with loads of likes and loves, when you POP! into the new year with Vacheron Constantin.