The miniature lion that is engraved in relief on the dial of the wristwatch appears to have been crafted by royal artisans in the sixth century B.C. in Persepolis (which is located in Iran today) in order to decorate the Apadana Palace of Darius the Great, who was the ruler of the Persian Empire at the time. This is evidenced by the miniature lion’s refined appearance and its meticulous attention to detail.
However, the beast, which was carved to seem as if it were moving against a crumbling stone wall, was really crafted in the 21st century by artists working at the métiers d’art studios of the Swiss timepiece Vacheron Constantin in Plans-les-Ouates, which is located outside of Geneva.
The antique stone wall panel known as the Frieze of Lions that formerly graced the halls of Apadana and is now on exhibit in the Near Eastern Antiquities section of the Louvre Museum in Paris served as the inspiration for the clock that is named the Lion of Darius.
The watch, which was revealed to be a part of a partnership between Vacheron Constantin and the Louvre in 2019, stood out as the most impressive item in a new four-piece Tribute to Great Civilizations collection that was shown at the museum a month ago.
On the face of the watch, there is a patinated-gold lion that is carved to seem very similar to the one that is on the antique frieze; it even has the muscles and the mane. It is mounted on a marquetry of turquoise and yellow Mookaite jasper from Australia. These two types of jasper were selected for their inclusions, which provide the delicate stone-setting with the illusion of having been used for a long time.
A sequence of triangles carved in metal and set in champlevé enamel are shown as features from another ancient panel at the Louvre called the Frieze of Archers. These triangles may be found around the circle of the object.
On the sapphire crystal that was placed between the engraved lion and the marquetry, there is a cuneiform writing that was derived from a tablet that was written in Old Persian and served as a foundation document for the palace of Darius.
The stated objective of the partnership is the conservation, preservation, and transmission of rare artistic crafts. These rare artistic crafts include champlevé and grisaille enamelling, stone marquetry, micro-mosaics, and metal hand-engraving, all of which were applied in the crafting of the new wristwatch collection.
The inspiration for the three remaining pieces in this series came from various artefacts and relics housed at the Louvre that date back to different eras and cultures. The ancient Egypt of the pharaohs served as the source of inspiration for the Grand Sphinx of Tanis watch. The Hellenistic period of Greece served as the source of inspiration for the Winged Victory of Samothrace watch. The beginning of the Roman Empire served as the source of inspiration for the Bust of Augustus watch
If these new inventions are any indication, the cooperation with the Louvre may provide the in-house craftspeople at the watchmaker with a huge field of inspiration as well as a source of new technical problems to tackle.
Each watch is outfitted with an alligator band and is driven by an automatic movement that was developed in-house. This movement, the calibre 2460 4G/2, displays the time and date through apertures rather than using hands. This was done so that the dial’s intricately crafted design would not be obscured. The wristwatches have been manufactured in a limited numbered edition of five pieces for each model, for a total of twenty, and the pricing are available upon request.
In addition to the significance that the company places on history and tradition, Vacheron Constantin has made a commitment to fostering the development of new works of art. Visitors to its main shop in New York City have the opportunity to experience “The Anatomy of Beauty,” a combined art and timepiece display, until September 1st. It showcases intricate heritage wristwatches and gem-set pocket watches in addition to aquatic-themed artworks chosen to raise awareness of the waterways and of the fragility of coral reefs. Some of the artworks on display include large-scale photographs of the Hudson River taken by the New York-based artist Melissa McGill and coral-inspired ceramic wall sculptures created by the Los Angeles-based artist Courtney Mattison.