June 15, 2024

Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Grisaille – Turtle

In the Vacheron Constantin universe, Les Cabinotiers represents a department in its own right dedicated to the personalisation of models and to unique creations. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, a time when master watchmakers were called cabinotiers and worked in ateliers bathed in natural light, known as cabinets and located on the top floors of Geneva’s buildings. In the hands of these learned artisans, open to the new ideas of the Enlightenment, exceptional timepieces were born, inspired by astronomy, mechanical engineering and the arts.

Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Grisaille - Turtle

The turtle, which is thought to have appeared 200 million years ago, is both a marine emblem and a reminder of the slow evolution of species on Earth. “Les Royaumes Aquatiques”, the topic chosen in 2022 by Vacheron Constantin for its unique Les Cabinotiers timepieces, could not ignore this very special animal as a source of inspiration. A symbol of luck and longevity, the turtle is also present in a number of aquatic fables and legends, notably those surrounding Turtle Island – a 17th century buccaneer’s hideout – as well as the founding myths of the Amerindians. 

Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Grisaille - Turtle

The green turtle – an endangered herbivore weighing around one hundred kilos with its over one-metre shell – was chosen to enliven the watch dial. The animal glides gracefully amid a maritime setting adorned with plants and coral. To create this naturalistic tableau, Vacheron Constantin’s master enameller first used the miniature enamel painting technique and then gave full depth to this scene in grisaille enamel. Housed in a 18K white gold case, the dial is swept over by hours, minutes and seconds hands driven by self-winding Calibre 2460 SC

Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Grisaille - Turtle


The dial of the Les Cabinotier Grisaille – Turtle watch plunges into the deep blue sea in a strikingly realistic manner. The challenge of this remarkable creation reflecting a rare degree of enamelling expertise lies in depicting the richness of the ocean depths. Within this environment where the sun’s rays penetrate only partially, the field of vision appears to be cloaked in an opaque veil: colours disappear, replaced by a play on light and shade that creates the impression of a lunar landscape at the bottom of the ocean. The genius of craftsmanship displayed here consists in giving the illusion of a chiaroscuro immersion. To achieve this, the master artisan first worked on the dial using miniature enamel painting, a technique which requires perfect mastery of pigments and firing. The colours – composed of metal oxide powders mixed with a binding agent – are fired multiple times in a kiln heated to more than 800 °C in order to ensure their adhesion to the surface. Each such operation implies a risk of altering their radiance or their exact hue, as well as the potential formation of microbubbles. 

The first step is to create the painting in the form of shadows, while anticipating those that will not remain as such. On a translucent enamel background, the master artisan superimposed three basic layers of dark pigments mingling black and blue, before tracing the outlines of the turtle, sea grass and coral in shades of purple tones. Here again, four firings in the kiln were required necessary to achieve a perfect rendering while still maintaining a relative impression of obscurity. After working the dial using the lapping technique, the artisan then opted for a change of method in order to light up the miniature painting: grisaille enamel. Representing a skill that appeared in the 16th century, grisaille enamel consists of applying a layer of dark enamel overlaid with touches of a rare white enamel called Limoges white. Each layer is then fired in a kiln for specific times defined to the nearest second. Over the course of another ten or so firings, the details of the turtle and its natural habitat took shape before finally, after 120 hours of enamelling, endowing the dial with an air of stunning realism.

Vacheron Constantin: Les Cabinotiers Grisaille - Turtle


The Manufacture 2460 SC movement features a level of finishing that makes each constituent part an indispensable element of the final aesthetic composition. Oscillating at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and equipped with a 916/1000 gold oscillating weight finely adorned with a guilloché motif pattern, it is endowed with an approximately 40-hour power reserve. In the grand tradition of manufacture calibres, the bridges are finished with hand-polishing angles. The straight-graining, which consists in perfectly smoothing the component flanks, is also done by hand, while the screws are scrupulously polished. The plate is circular-grained on both sides with bridges adorned with a Côtes de Genève on the caseback side. 


Calibre 2460 SC is housed in a 18K white gold case measuring 40 mm in diameter. To admire the meticulous finishing work performed on all components, one must open the officer-type back, a hinged cover first introduced during World War I when small pocket watches with hinged backs were transformed into more practical wristwatches for officers. This single edition Les Cabinotiers Grisaille – Turtle watch is fitted with dark blue alligator leather strap secured by a white gold pin buckle.