Flying is a dream that dates back to the earliest days of humankind. The dream finally came true in the late 18th century thanks to the intrepid balloonists known as aérostiers. Vacheron Constantin pays tribute to these sky-bound adventurers and the ethos of the era with their limited edition Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection.
The Maison’s master engravers have painstakingly reproduced the historical depictions of the five flights taken in France between 1783 and 1785 in miniature. Hand-engraved and micro-sculpted gold hot-air balloons are set against a translucent enamel background while time is displayed to the beat of Manufacture Caliber 2460 G4/1.
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Taking up to three weeks of craftsmanship for each 18-karat balloon, the remarkable pounced ornament technique consists of removing material, resulting in a relief effect, and requires an impeccably deft touch. Even seen-it-all watch aficionados will be dazzled by the authentic and meticulous miniature scenes and motifs on display.
To create the dials of the Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers collection, Vacheron Constantin employed the rare plique-à-jour technique, reminiscent of cloisonné and mastered by few artisans, for the first time. The translucent backgrounds are available in sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, brown or burgundy with coordinating alligator leather watchstraps.
That translucence offers glimpses of the gear trains and discs, and the self-winding caliber’s crystal caseback is entirely transparent. It’s here that one notices the gold oscillating weight, specially engraved and domed for this new collection, evokes the rounded shape of a hot-air balloon.
This stunning combination of artistic craftsmanship and horological techniques tells the stories of the pioneering aérostiers’ first flights—and reminds us just how far we’ve come since.