When art watches meet micro-engineering

These watches combine the best of both worlds – fine art, and superb engineering.

Tariq Malik February 8, 2016

For me, one of the finest things in the world is wearing a really great wristwatch. The best watches combine creativity, craftsmanship, artistry and of course, a really intricate mechanical movement.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a quartz or digital watch. But they simply can’t compare with the technical brilliance of the best mechanical movements. When hundreds of miniscule moving parts work in perfect harmony, it’s a joy to behold. Combine that with art, and I’m hooked.

I’ve put together a list of some of the world’s finest to show you exactly what I mean. These watches combine the best of both worlds – fine art, and superb engineering.

Gerald Genta’s Grand Sonnerie 

Gerald Genta is a name that is legendary among watch enthusiasts. The man himself, who passed away recently, created some of the most inspired watches the world has ever seen. The brand lives on, and this watch is a fine example of how engineering can look (and sound) like fine art.

While designing this watch, the engineers actually studied the properties of metals, and made a new one called Magsonic. Then they created software to test the metal’s sound qualities in order to make the sound quality of the Sonnerie (chiming) like no other watch on the planet. There are around 850 individual parts in this movement.

The Romain Jerome Steampunk Tourbillon Gunmetal 

Just in case you didn’t know, Steampunk is an art movement inspired by the 1920’s steam powered revolution. It combines machine parts, rusted iron, cogs and pistons and vintage elements with a futuristic feel. It’s very popular in art circles these days.

Romain Jerome created this timepiece to celebrate the Steampunk movement, and they did it with style. The huge (50mm) dial is open-worked to reveal the perlaged mainplate and blackened bridges. It’s a feast for the eyes, and engineered to retro-perfection.

The Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 

British artist Willard Wigan creates micro-sculptures that are small enough to fit on the head of a pin. In 2007 he was awarded a knighthood by Prince Charles, and one of his works is inside this watch.

Greubel Forsey is a brand that is known for combining fine art with precision micro-engineering, but this creation goes the extra mile. There is a 23x magnifier worked into the crown so you can admire the micro-sculpture embedded in the intricate design. At first glance it looks just like a speck of gold, until you look a little closer.

I love the fact that it is paired with Greubel Forsey’s signature 30 degree double tourbillon which is itself an engineering tour de force.

Blancpain’s Métiers d'Art watches 

The ancient art of Japanese Shakudo engraving uses a metal alloy of copper and gold. It’s an incredibly time-consuming technique, and there are very few masters of it.

Blancpain’s Métiers d'Art collection incorporates the craftsmanship of some of the world’s greatest artisans. The image of Ganesh on the dial is actually more of a sculpture than an engraving. (In Hindu mythology Ganesh is the bringer of wisdom and good fortune.) The movement in this watch is an in-house made caliber 15B which is only 2.2mm thick.

Tariq Malik is owner of Momentum Dubai, the UAE's first and only vintage watch boutique. Visit momentum-dubai.com.