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IHH 2016 Bestiary: promoting biodiversity in Geneva

IHH 2016 Bestiary: promoting biodiversity in Geneva
Horses, panthers, butterflies... Geneva was something of a wildlife hotspot during the SIHH 2016.

After years of record growth, animal themes appear to be suffering the effects of global warming... or, in the case of watchmaking, global cooling. On the strength of a wave of enthusiasm for artistic crafts in watches, dials bearing animal motifs have been a reliable feature of watch fairs in recent years. But problems in exactly those markets that were particularly partial to this style of watch have affected biodiversity at the 2016 SIHH.  Nevertheless, there remain some pockets of resistance, where the fauna remains plentiful.

Astonishingly, in the year of the monkey, watches inspired by the Chinese zodiac are few and far between. You need to visit Vacheron Constantin to find any signs of simian life, but this mischievous creation is everything one could hope for. As in all its Métiers d’Art watches, the interpretation is central to the design, and the diminutive three-dimensional engraving in white gold is striking.

Animals are an intrinsic feature of Van Cleef & Arpels’ design vocabulary, along with clouds. This year, birds and butterflies chase each other around a billowing cloud of mother-of-pearl outlined in gold. The ballet of the Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons is orchestrated by the first movement to be designed and made entirely in house. Its uniqueness lies in its three butterflies that move at varying speeds to indicate the minutes. At the press of a button they all swoop around the dial in turn, along with the sculpted swallow.

Cartier is a garden, a zoo and a natural history museum rolled into one. Animals are a major part of the company’s heritage, the panther in particular. Cartier has dedicated around ten models to the ferocious feline, two of which in particular captured our imagination. The first is the most maternal watch imaginable – the Panthères et Colibri – and perhaps best described as an automaton watch. On pressing the crown a panther cub appears between its mother’s paws, while a hummingbird flies up to indicate the power reserve. In a more dramatic variant, the Panthère Mystérieuse, the big cat strikes a familiar pose: languidly stretched out, as if resting on a branch, and curled around a small medallion of transparent sapphire. Above the dial float two hands, faithful to the principle of mysterious displays which is one of the hallmarks of Cartier’s style.

The final beast that visited the watch fair is, like the others, imaginary, and for that we can all be grateful. Russian jeweller Ilgiz F. has produced a unique series of dials for Bovet. The resulting watches, featuring representations of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, will go on display in the Kremlin Museum this spring. The grim reaper on his white charger did his best to strike fear into the hearts of the delegates thronging the SIHH 2016, but with so many wonderful watches to enjoy, his warning no doubt went largely unheeded...

Article prepared by DAVID CHOKRON. For more information, please visit;