“We don’t usually play with patterns and colors for our men’s watches, as they are quiet,” Vacheron Constantin’s artistic director, Christian Selmoni, said on the telephone from the company’s Geneva headquarters.
That will change when the company unveils Elegance Sartoriale, five designs influenced by the traditional patterns of men’s suiting fabrics. The debut is scheduled this weekend as part of the Journées Européennes des Métiers d’Art, the annual celebration of French craftsmanship. (Vacheron Constantin Replica is one of the event’s sponsors.)
“In recent years we have been mostly working around women’s fake watches in our Métiers d’Art collection,” he said, “so this year we wanted to apply these feminine decorative crafts in a more masculine way.”
Pinstripes, herringbone weave and other patterns were hand-engraved on the replica watch faces, then enameled with colors ranging from raspberry red for the Prince of Wales check to sky blue for the tartan (below).
Mr. Selmoni said he chose traditional patterns for their instant recognizability, but there also were practical considerations, as 19th-century hand-operated guilloché machines were used to create the precise patterns. “We needed to have patterns with crossing or straight lines and strong character to give life to the watch dial,” he said.
The designs’ development took nearly two years, Mr. Selmoni said.
Vacheron Constantin’s designers referred to fabric samples while making sketches of the patterns, then the guillocheurs had to create the programs for their machines. “And there were many tries before getting a good result,” he noted.
Herringbone’s “V” pattern proved the easiest to adapt, as it is similar to the repetitive designs of traditional guillochage, Mr. Selmoni said.
The Prince of Wales check proved to be the most difficult. “There are intercrossing lines, so more hours were spent creating a structure on the metal surface that resembles the fabric,” he explained. “And the turning guilloché machine has to be reset for each line.”
Unexpected colors were chosen, so the timepieces would be distinctive. “We thought about doing the pinstripe in blue, as it is associated with the City and bankers’ suits,” Mr. Selmoni said. “But we tried a special enamel which is almost sand color and suddenly it looked like a silk jacket worn in Rome or Naples during the summer. So we kept it.”
Creating the enamel colors, which were applied by hand, was even more complicated than the guillochage, because, he said, “it’s not possible to use, say, a red Pantone 220 for the Prince of Wales check and do it in enamel.”
Instead, the enamelers experimented on prototypes, using different types of enamels and various shades, trying to achieve balance between a depth of color and transparency because, Mr. Selmoni noted, “the pattern needs to be seen through the enamel.”
The replica watches’ quirky central dials are decorated with paisley teardrops, floral patterns and diamond shapes to create contrast, something that Mr. Selmoni likened to matching a suit and a tie “because the rhythm of the patterns work.” Yet the dial designs were more difficult to perfect than he imagined, as the early 20th-century tapestry engraving process meant that “we had to play with the reduced proportions of each tie motif, making sure that they didn’t overtake the main pattern,” he said.
Elegance Sartoriale can be seen at Replica Vacheron Constantin’s Paris boutique on Rue de la Paix this weekend and then in London at its Old Bond Street boutique during London Craft Week, May 3 to 7, another event that the watch brand sponsors.
Sales of the swiss made replica watches will begin in late September, although the company declined to specify a date, in the brand’s boutiques around the world. In England, they will sell for 40,000 pounds, or about $56,000, about half the cost of other Métiers d’Art collection pieces such as the £105,100 Fabuleux Ornements watch inspired by French lace.
“They don’t have the complicated movement or gems that our other Métiers d’Art watches have,” Mr. Selmoni said. “Just the complexity of craft.”