Art & Timewear



From sketch to watch


Before becoming an object of desire a watch is conceived on paper, then a design studio tackles such questions as golden mean and equilibrium. The genesis of a desirable timepiece, an icon in the making.

"I sketch my ideas on a bit of paper then give it to the designers," says Jérôme de Witt, head of his own independent company. Marie-Laure Cérède, who's in charge of design for Harry Winston, makes it a point of honour to recruit people adept with gouache and brush into her team. Certainly the creation process involves cutting-edge soft­ware, but the genesis of a new timepiece lies there: an idea sketched by hand, a fundamental stage for its success. At Piaget, timewear marketing director Franck Touzeau heads up two teams – design and marketing – that work hand in hand towards production. "Whether it's to extend a range or create a new model, we work collectively. After a market survey we produce a creation brief describing the world of the line and of the target client. This inspirational outline must be well constructed so the designer starts off on the right track," he emphasises. "The schedule, from model through prototypes to final product, demands weekly consultation between all involved over an average of two years." How to know if a design will turn out successfully? "A tremendous amount of work is done on the golden mean, equilibrium and ergonomics. An experienced designer told me one day that a desirable watch feels as lovely as it looks; there must be no unevenness." At Piaget the foremost subjects of discussion are the Altiplano and the demands of ultra-flat watches, but we can see a general trend for such soberness, one that pleases all ages. What could be harder than to design a consensual timepiece that people will not tire of looking at, today or several decades from now?

Elegy to paring
There, indeed, lies the secret of a watch's long­evity. Its design must be timeless, classical, universal, an equation both fascinating and mysterious. After years of technical demonstrations and unbridled imaginativeness, it would seem that the watchmakers are unanimous: nothing incites greater desire nor is more reassuring than a pared watch. And in this perilous style exercise Blancpain is exemplary: whether showing the moon's phases or a perpetual calendar, the Villeret collection dials exude a rare elegance. The same is true of Breguet, long-term producer of best-sellers. Almost by definition, pared design weathers the decades without a wrinkle. This year Omega takes up the challenge with its DeVille Trésor, inspired by the 1949 model, powered by a co-axial movement and flaunting a dial decorated with the vintage Clous de Paris pattern that will delight gentlemen. Such cachet Rolex's Cellini line has no reason to envy since its hours-minutes-seconds version, for example, offers four equally classy variations: black or white lacquer dial in a white-gold or Everose case. Lastly, Longines celebrates its Conquest's 60th birthday with the Conquest Heritage 1954-2014 collection of commemorative reissues, inspired by the original design; the collectable version in steel, yellow gold or pink gold reprises the silvered dial.