Watches Inspired by The World at Large

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The masters of crafting luxury watches draw inspiration for their design from curious places and things, at times. Legacy brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, and others are quick to leverage their rich history for inspiration, whereas more contemporary brands like Hublot are often more free to seek out inspiration from just about anything. In this editorial series, we`re taking a closer look at some of these sometimes unorthodox sources of inspiration, as well as how they have been executed. These sources can be as obvious as the world of motorsport, architecture, or nature, as they can be vastly more out-of-the-ordinary.

For this installment, the topic at hand is a where rather than a what. That’s right, much in the same way that a destination can fuel the creative juices of fashion designers, architects, and other artists, the watch designers will also occasionally lean on a specific destination when crafting their latest timepieces. While we could have looked at special editions for hotels or other properties—the Audemars Piguet Hotel Byblos special editions come to mind—instead we focus in on creations from Vacheron Constantin, Hublot, and Grand Seiko whose timepieces were spawned from the visions of specific destinations around the globe, some being relatively obvious choices, and one being an obscure selection with a very fascinating back-story.

Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières – Paris

In a series whose names translates to Cities of Light, Vacheron Constantin unveiled a short series of stunning dials depicting an artistic rendering of Geneva, New York, and in this case Paris, in aerial view at night. With Paris already being known as the City of Light, it seemed the most logical of the trio of releases to examine with a closer eye. Typically watches like this are crafted through very traditional means, in particular using traditional enameling techniques or engraving. While this Métiers d’Art Villes Lumières piece does feature a Grand Feu enamel dial in the champlevé style—a technique where the dial maker cuts away part of the dial metal to create  small pools in order to apply the enamel—Vacheron Constantin went for a slightly “outside the box” approach when it came to the final details of its creation.

In reaching out to Yoko Imai, a very talented Japanese visual artist who has over the years mastered the craft of applying precious metal and stone powders to surfaces, Vacheron Constantin was able to create these unique dials unlike anything the industry had seen to date. Applied atop the rich midnight-blue enamel cityscape, Yoko Imai painstakingly applies gold, pearl, platinum, and diamond powders of varying fineness to create a remarkably accurate representation of the city’s bright lights. As means of comparison, this aerial shot from NASA provides a more than reasonable mirror as seen from earth’s outer orbit. Pricing of these rare gems from Vacheron Constantin is listed as “on request”.

Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Special Edition Concrete Jungle

Where Vacheron Constantin took a unique approach to a traditional watchmaking method, our selection from Hublot, the Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Special Edition Concrete Jungle (isn’t that a mouthful) opted for a new material otherwise unseen in watchmaking for their special edition to the concrete jungle we all know and love: New York City. Co-designed by world renowned street artist, who spent the majority of his formative years in the Big Apple, the timepiece’s design is quite literal, though aesthetically the application of a concrete bezel to the Hublot Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph, atop its matte black case finished with a diamond-like carbon coating, somehow just screams New York street style. On its exhibition caseback, Eaton has added one of his signature mosaic motifs featuring a partial portrayal of the city’s iconic statue of liberty. More limited than most Hublot creations, a modest 50 examples of the Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Special Edition Concrete Jungle were made available via the Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue Hublot Boutiques in New York City, priced at $19,500.

Grand Seiko 9R Spring Drive Chronograph Limited Edition SBGC017

First unveiled at Baselworld in 2016, we were instantly enamored with this obscure and endearing addition to the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic line. These Black Ceramic models already made our wants list for their unique multi-piece ceramic and titanium case design, however it was the dark green dial, and its strangely appealing micro-printed forest that instantly caught our eye. Those in the know are aware, every last detail of a Grand Seiko watch is decided upon thoughtfully, so we instantly inquired what the brand was paying homage to with this forest-themed motif.

Outside of the city of Suwa, in Nagano Japan, a fascinating traditional festival takes place known as the Onbashira. Once every six years (last celebrated in—you guessed it—2016), the festival involves the replacing of four large pillars at Suwa’s Grand Shrine. To do so, the community must fell four massive fir trees, pull (and at times even ride them) down steep hills and across a river into the city center. Once this terrifying and sometime deadly task has been completed, a large parade unfolds, and then the pillars are raised, destined to stay in place until the next six years have passed and the whole process starts over again. And to think, we North Americans think something so simple as Art Basel is at times worthy of a limited edition timepiece….

The Grand Seiko 9R Spring Drive Chronograph Limited Edition SBGC017 was produced in a limited edition of 600 pieces, with examples occasionally appearing on the secondary market.

Author: Justin Mastine-Frost