Les Cabinotiers is a department in its own right within the Manufacture Vacheron Constantin, dedicated to creating single-piece editions. Following in the footsteps of the Geneva master-watchmakers known as cabinotiers in the Age of Enlightenment, the team took up the challenge of giving substance to the dream of a passionate collector who wanted a pocket watch that was technically and aesthetically exceptional, reflecting the noblest traditions of 18th century Haute Horlogerie.
The Les Cabinotiers Westminster Sonnerie – Tribute to Johannes Vermeer pocket watch is powered by a new 806-part manual winding calibre, regulated by a tourbillon and comprising Grande and Petite Sonnerie Westminster chimes, coupled with a minute repeater.
“This astonishing creation has been made on request by one of our clients who owns an impressive number of important timepieces from Vacheron Constantin. He has a couple of unique timepieces as well, notably, an old fashioned minute repeater in steel and one of the 15 unique pieces from the Métier d’Art Chagall & L’Opera de Paris “Tribute to Famous Composers”, said Christian Selmoni, Style & Heritage Director, Vacheron Constantin.
Within the range of watchmaking complications, Grande Sonnerie models have always enjoyed a special aura, not only because of the inherent complexity of these mechanisms striking several gongs, but also because of the musical qualities required.
Grande Sonnerie watches have a centuries-old tradition within the Maison. Among the oldest timepieces preserved to date, the first travel clock housing such a complication dates back to 1820. When it comes to pocket watches, the oldest model with Grande and Petite Sonnerie in the Vacheron Constantin private collection is dated 1827.
It was followed by several timepieces equipped with such mechanisms, some of them representing landmark creations endowed with an array of extremely sophisticated complications, such as the “Packard” presented in 1918 or the King Fouad I watch completed in 1929. More recently, the world’s most complicated pocket watch, Reference 57260, was presented in 2015 on the occasion of the Maison’s 260th anniversary, affirming the expertise of the Maison in the realm of exceptional watchmaking.
The officer-type caseback cover features a miniature enamel painting, finely crafted using the Geneva technique and reproducing the Girl with a Pearl Earring, a work by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer dating from 1665. Above and beyond the challenge of reproducing the work of a great master, an additional difficulty lies in the small size of the 98 mm-diameter support. The case sides are graced with hand-engraved friezes composed of acanthus leaves and tulips, accompanied by a “pearl” rim, while the bow is adorned with two roaring lion heads carved from a block of gold.
Stemming from over 266 years of expertise and eight years of development within the Les Cabinotiers department, the Les Cabinotiers Westminster Sonnerie – Tribute to Johannes Vermeer fulfils the expectations of a collector for whom “passion lies in always seeking that which is theoretically impossible to obtain.”