Swiss watchmaker Baume & Mercier has paid tribute to the work of modern art master Pierre Soulages with a Hampton model inspired by his work.
The Baume & Mercier Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’ takes its inspiration from a series of paintings created by Soulages that later became known as ‘Outrenoir’. The paintings are coated in black paint in “various states, textured into low relief with tools and brushes” revealing its nature through a play of light.
With the support of the Musée Soulages – which houses an unrivalled collection of the painter’s works – and the Association des Amis du Musée, Baume & Mercier approached 102-year-old Soulages about the project.
Baume & Mercier chose the Hampton model for its transposition of an ‘Outrenoir’ work into a timepiece. The iconic Hampton asserts a rectangular dial and case evoking the proportions of a canvas. Since its launch in 1994, the Hampton has represented the ultimate non-round watch. It is distinctive for its design, inherited from one of the Maison’s models dating from the 1960s that was in turn inspired by the Art Deco of the 1920s.
The aesthetic approach to clean, curved lines and perfect proportion demonstrates the artistic sense that is so important to the House. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the model has taken the Greek letter Phi – a reference to the golden ratio – as its emblem. The formal minimalism and understatement of the Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’ helps to showcase this tribute to Pierre Soulages’ artwork, while the restraint of the refined timepiece echoes the purity that characterizes his paintings.
Even the exclusive case in which the watch is presented pays tribute to the contemporary architecture of Musée Soulages, designed by the Catalan RCR Arquitectes who won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2017. The cladding of the building is made up of Corten steel, which has an appearance of iridescent rust.
In the exciting, innovative interaction between art and watchmaking, technical achievement is the keystone of the Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’. The watch dial miniaturization is a fascinating interpretation of a large-scale painting.
Here, again, is the question of time and the patina that it creates. The timepiece will be accompanied by a leaflet telling details of the collaboration and a VIP pass for two for the Musée Soulages in Rodez. A book on the work of Pierre Soulages will also be sent to each owner of a Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’.
In the exciting, innovative interaction between art and watchmaking, technical achievement is the keystone of the Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’. A watch dial miniaturization is a fascinating interpretation of a large-scale painting. Shrinking meters down into millimeters is a thrilling transformation.
Baume & Mercier makes use of new 3D printing technologies for this achievement. The preparatory work was an adventure of great consideration, trial-and-error, and finally success. Through a meticulous topography, advanced research and 3D wax printing, the ideal procedure was finally found: one that would liberate the volumes, reveal the details and bring out the beauty of this work in a continual interaction between shade and light. For the dial, brass machined with a laser was found to suitably meet this challenge.
Candia stone is used to create a diffuse matte effect, and an electroplating process is then applied to coat it with color through electrolysis to a thickness of 0.2 microns. One last coat of sheer, semi-matte protective lacquer to a thickness of 10 microns, and the piece is finished: black yet wreathed in light, filled with masterful contrasts.
The faceted brass ‘glaive’ hands are diamond-ground, sand-blasted, and then coated with black PVD. A touch of gold is added to the end of each one on request by Pierre Soulages in order to elegantly emphasize the passage of time. The case, sculpted in a stainless steel block, is sand-blasted and then coated with hydrogenated amorphous carbon ions through plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) to a thickness of 2 microns, providing a hardness of 6,000 Vickers.
Each material and finish is more ingenious than the last, capturing and sculpting the light, borrowing from the artist’s strokes to bring movement to the shapes and rhythm to the material. The self-winding mechanical Swiss caliber (ETA 2892) features a black oscillating weight adorned with a ‘Côtes de Genève’ that can be seen through the transparent watch back.
The back bears a ‘Hommage à Mr Soulages’ engraving. ‘Baume & Mercier’ appears as a metallic engraving on the underside of the domed sapphire crystal. Both sides of the crystal feature an anti-glare treatment to ensure that the image of the painting remains perfectly intact.
To intensify the chromatic depth of the watch, it comes complete with a built-in interchangeable strap in black nubucked alligator leather with square scales and a nubuck finish that fastens with a pin buckle in DLC steel.
This unique timepiece, of an exceptional technical and aesthetic complexity, offers a harmonious play on contrasting blacks through subtle nuances of mattes, semi-mattes, shine and diffuse layers, in keeping with the spirit of Pierre Soulages’ work. The strength of black is majestically represented in this tribute to the paintings of one of the most fascinating artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Baume & Mercier will produce the ‘Hampton Hommage à Pierre Soulages’ on demand in an edition limited to 102 individually numbered pieces, reflecting Soulages age. Each owner will receive two VIP passes to Musée Soulages and a book on the work of Pierre Soulages.
The Baume & Mercier Hampton ‘Hommage à Pierre Soulages’ will be produced on demand in an edition limited to 102 (reflecting the age of the artist) individually numbered watches. It will be available exclusively upon pre-order from February 9th on the Maison’s website.
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