Métiers d’art watches that look stunning on the wrist, from Vacheron Constantin to Cartier

Photo of seven watches that are like art

Métiers d’art watches are some of the most stunning timepieces ever made

The tradition of métiers d’art in Swiss watchmaking dates back over two centuries. In 1755, Vacheron Constantin began using a delicate enamelling method to create miniature paintings on its watch dials. Since then, the techniques used in métiers d’art watches have evolved exponentially to include a wide array of enamelling methods as well as engraving, guilloché, and the use of other unconventional materials. Each of these techniques requires artisans who have trained for years to become experts in their crafts, and as such, only a select few brands continue to keep these incredible art forms alive. Here are seven stunning examples of métiers d’art watches.

Cartier Métiers d’Art Baignoire Allongée

Photo of Cartier Baignoire Allongee
Photo by Cartier

As part of its novelties released at this year’s Watches & Wonders, Cartier unveiled the Métiers d’Art Baignoire Allongée. The brand revamped its Baignoire line back in 2019 to include the Baignoire Allongée. As the name suggests, it features an elongated “bathtub” shaped case that while symmetrical, evokes a similar aesthetic as the brand’s coveted Crash models. This year in particular, the Baignoire has seen a surge in popularity, so it’s only fitting Cartier would introduce a novelty edition for serious collectors. The Métiers d’Art Baignoire Allongée features a marquetry dial that combines shards of mother-of-pearl, turquoise, onyx, and white gold. The highly geometric look is complete with a spiky bezel set with diamonds, grey spinels, and blue tourmalines in an inverted pavilion setting.

JLC Reverso One Precious Colours

Photo of Reverso One Precious Colours Green
Photo by Jager-LeCoultre

The Reverso was originally created as a utilitarian watch for polo players in the 1930s. However, the unique protective case quickly became a blank canvas for design, transforming the model from tool watch to dress watch. While often used to display a custom engraving, JLC has given one of its latest Reverso offerings a special treatment. The Reverso One Precious Colours, also launched at Watches & Wonders this year, showcases a combination of grand feu enamel work and gem setting. Altogether, a single case requires 80 hours of enamelling and another 45 hours of gem setting by hand to complete the intricate and beautiful geometric design.

Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art Undulata

Photo of Piaget's Altiplano Metiers d'Art
Photo by Piaget

You don’t need us to tell you the Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art Undulata is one of the best examples of a métiers d’art watch. Just ask the GPHG. This model took home the coveted award in the Artistic Crafts category at this year’s Oscars of watchmaking. Here, we also see the marquetry technique used with a wide array of colours and textures thanks to a dozen layers of straw, parchment sycamore, leather, and elytron. The unique arrangement of these materials accommodates the off-center hours and minutes counter and the flying tourbillon carriage that occupy the dial. To complete the look, Piaget employed gem setting around the tourbillon, bezel, and lugs, with each dial taking more than 44 hours to complete.

Krayon Anywhere Métiers d’Art Azar

Photo of Crayon Anywhere
Photo by Krayon

When Krayon first debuted its Anywhere line in 2020, it focused on reinterpreting the brand’s unique astronomical complication that allows you to calculate the time of the sunrise and sunset anywhere in the world. Last year, the watchmaker built on the collection with a model that not only boasts impressive functionality but also showcases exceptional artistry. The Anywhere Métiers d’Art Azur brings the brand’s signature complication to life with a blue colour scheme in a vast array of tints and shades that calls to mind the image of the sky from sunrise to sunset. To create this effect, a Swiss enamelling artist deposited each dab of lacquer by hand until the desired spectrum of blue hues was achieved.

Vacheron Armillary Tourbillon-Tribute to Art Deco Style

Photo of Vacheron Armillary Tourbillon
Photo by Vacheron Constantin

One of the most stunning new examples just came out last month in Dubai. Here, Vacheron Constantin debuted a new collection of Les Cabinotiers pieces including the Armillary Tourbillon-Tribute to Art Deco Style. As you can guess from the name, this model is an ode to Art Deco styling, specifically that of New York City’s architecture. The dial showcases a geometric pattern made of two layers of champlevé wood micro-marquetry and the resulting design is reminiscent of the iconic Chrysler Building. Typically, champlevé is used for enamel dials, but here, VC used 110 tiny pieces of precisely cut wood, marking a first for the brand. The whole process takes a month to create just one dial.

Bovet Miss Audrey Sweet Art Watch

Photo of Bovet's Miss Audrey Sweet Art
Photo by Bovet

When it comes to brands that have pushed the bounds of artistic techniques, Bovet immediately comes to mind. Over the years, the watchmaker has explored nearly every type of métiers d’art dial from Fleurisanne engraving to flinqué enamel. In 2021, Bovet took innovation to new extremes with a dial as sweet as candy because it was quite literally made of sugar—an industry first. Thanks to a highly complex and highly secretive method patented by the brand, it was able to process raw sugar crystals in a way that prevents structural changes, like melting, throughout the course of design. Each sugar crystal of the Miss Audrey Sweet Art Watch is hand selected for size and consistency then coloured with a biodegradable lacquer paint before being applied to the dial by hand.

Hermès Silk Scarf Series of Metiers d’Art Dials

Photo of Arceu Hermes
Photo by Hermès

There’s nothing quite as iconic in luxury as a Hermès silk scarf, with its playful scenes and bold colours. Now imagine those designs reimagined in the tiny real estate of a watch dial. This is métiers d’art at its finest, combining wood marquetry, enamelling, miniature painting, and engraving to recreate scaled-down versions of the brand’s illustrious silk scarves. One of these editions, released last year, features a tiger motif composed of wood marquetry, including 290 individual pieces cut from tulipwood, plum, ash-olive, maple and sycamore. The tiger alone takes five days to assemble and is surrounded by several other animals that are hand engraved in gold applique and painted.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA