Métiers d’art watches embody the peak of horological skill – they are, literally, works of art in their own right. Crafts such as engraving, enameling, miniature painting, or guilloché are some of the techniques used to decorate and embellish the dial, case, or movement of fine mechanical watches. Manufacturers promote these rare traditional professions and encourage them. Sometimes the crafts are not learned in school but are taught by master craftsmen who train chosen students in their workshop.
Métiers d’Art watches have become increasingly important in the luxury world where personalization is key. Many major watch brands are searching for the most highly skilled artisans in the world to hand make intricate marquetry, enamel, or mosaic dials. Whether made from mother-of-pearl, wood, ceramics, or even marble, these unique watches are a timeless statement to the brand’s artistic appreciation in question and, of course, the owner’s taste.
You might assume that these precious watches are kept safely stowed away in a safe due to their delicacy, but this could not be further from the truth.
Métiers d’Art watches are intended to be worn and used as timepieces, and the artisans who made them would certainly appreciate them being admired as much as possible. It is even possible to wear Métiers d’Art watches every day, just that with some, you need to be more careful with than others. What better way of paying homage to the skill of the artisans and the vision of the designer?
Cartier is one brand that creates miracles with marquetry and mosaics to accentuate the natural beauty of their famous panther. The Rotonde de Cartier Panthere Wood Marquetry watch was painstakingly made with thousands of tiny wood slivers, individually placed on the dial with tweezers to bring the sensuous animal to life. This watch makes a powerful statement that speaks to all lovers of skilled craftsmanship and animals. Watches such as this have the power to make colleagues and friends pay closer attention to your timepiece than your words.
In 2019, Hermès launched the Slim D’Hermès Pegase Paysage in wood marquetry. Selecting a carefully chosen variety of woods, including yellow pear and Macassar, the master artisans successfully created a dial with a highly effective contrast. The famous winged horse is easily visible from a distance, and horse lovers of both genders will adore this watch and will undoubtedly be reluctant to let it leave the wrist.
Not every Swiss watchmaking brand focuses on flora and fauna; some brands also create marvelous pieces with abstracts. Ulysse Nardin continues to turn heads, for example, with the Classico range, which features mermaids in erotic underwater scenes. Jaquet Droz is very well known for some of the best Métiers d’Art watches for men – their Petite Heure Minute Relief Rooster is a unique and beautiful piece featuring gold, mother-of-pearl, and onyx surrounding a miniature painting.
You might prefer an ultra-masculine Lundis Bleus Métiers d’Art. The ‘Contemporaine’ in Burgundy features an exquisite enamel ‘Ocean Surface’ dial – contemporary and wonderfully stylish. Patek Philippe also makes several Métiers d’Art watches, including the Complications World Time, Rare Handcrafts, and the Golden Ellipse Rare Handicrafts.