From the Eye of a Master Enameller: Neige de Printemps

Tiffany To, Alex Ballmer and Douglas Escribano sit down with Antia Porchet to better understand the Dome Clock to be offered in Hong Kong Watch Auction XII, through the eyes of the Master Enameller herself.

Tiffany To, Alex Ballmer and Douglas Escribano sit down with Antia Porchet to better understand the Dome Clock to be offered in Hong Kong Watch Auction XII, through the eyes of the Master Enameller herself.

Patek Philippe has always been a champion in providing resources for the advancement and research of technology and horology. In 1948, Patek Philippe inaugurated its Electronic Division, with the goal of innovating photoelectric and electronic timekeeping technology. In 1955, the manufacture showcased a solar-powered photoelectric clock at the World Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Dome Clock is a result of two guiding principles – merging beautiful and intricately crafted works of art with technological innovation. The curved panels provide the perfect canvas for an artisan to showcase his or her ability to create exquisite and colourful scenes on a variety of subjects. To apply enamel on the curved panels requires extreme delicate handling, technical virtuosity and artistic sensibility. Enamel as a medium is exceedingly challenging to work with; any variation in temperature or drafts of air during firing causes the enamel to crack, thus rendering Patek Phillipe cloisonné enamel dome clocks amongst the most coveted timepieces for collectors.

The present dome clock is one of the most impressive examples of its kind to grace the auction market in recent years. Displaying the theme “Neige de Printemps”, it depicts the exact moment of the change of seasons. With spring slowly taking over the winter cold, bursts of vegetation can be seen against a beautiful mahogany and marbled background. Cranes are painted in polychrome enamel throughout. A symbol of wisdom and wealth, cranes have been used throughout Chinese and Japanese culture in both folklore and art.

© David Marchon

Phillips in Association with Bacs and Russo is humbled to have the opportunity to speak with Madame Anita Porchet, the Master Enameler of her generation, who needs no further introduction. A friend of the famed Suzanne Rohr, Porchet’s works of art have graced every blockbuster watch manufacture, from Patek Philippe to Vacheron Constantin. Together, we pull back the curtain to shine a light on how these exquisite works of art are created.

© Jean Marc Bréguet 

Our particular interest was to understand how each Dome Clock is created, and the role of the manufacture in the creation of each masterpiece. When prompted to discuss how each Dome Clock is made, Porchet says that "Patek Philippe gives almost total freedom to the artisan to create a dome clock. There are no Patek design cues, the artist's creative mind is revealed on each of the dome clocks which makes them so unique.”

Porchet says she really likes the marbled background of the present Dome Clock because "it shines a spotlight to these cranes that are so meticulously detailed.”

In terms of the technical aspects of creating the dome clock, Porchet says that the process is totally different from creating a dial for a wristwatch or pocket watch.

"It is almost two different jobs," she says. "I often joke about it saying that I feel like a house painter when I create a dome clock.”

With regards to the intricacy of the object itself, Porchet notes that the gestures are highly technical and that laying the gold wire is very complicated on a three-dimensional object and especially one shaped like a dome.

"I am very meticulous and constantly seek perfection, so creating a dome clock takes me too much time, I prefer to work on the small details of a dial and remain in admiration at the work on this kind of object," said Porchet.

The enameller's comments speak to the intricacy of creating such a labor-intensive project. It then comes as no surprise that Patek Philippe has always championed this form of art since the 1950s, showing the brand’s dedication to persevering the tradition.

"Patek Philippe is a brand that always wanted to preserve and highlight the craftsmanship, even when it was no longer fashionable. It is therefore a privilege to collaborate with the Patek Philippe creative teams,” said Porchet, emphatically.

To obtain the seal of approval from the Master Enameler herself is no small feat. Her comments and opinions not only bolsters the collectibility of this masterpiece, but provides the future owner an amazing story to share.

More information about the Hong Kong Watch Auction XII here

More information about Anita Porchet here

Photographer copyright: David Marchon here

Photographer copyright: Jean Marc Bréguet here