Jean Dunand just unveiled a new one-off timepiece, the Orbital Confucius. “The mechanical prowess and poetry in motion of the gyrating tourbillon is enhanced with a miniature painting of sublime Oriental charm, an exceptional and highly original work of art.” This ultra-luxury watch features a hand-painted portrait of Confucius, on a very thin black onyx dial that has been inserted on top of a gold disk. Many hours have been spent in creating this timepiece, including fifteen kiln firings.

The first challenge for Jean Dunand’s miniaturist is to reinterpret the original rectangular drawing onto the round surface of the onyx and a grid is used to plot the picture. Using top quality Swiss varnishes, the artisan blends his colour palette before undertaking the artistic odyssey where steady hands, keen eyes and patience are called upon, vital prerequisites that pay homage to the Confucian adage that “Impatience over little things introduces confusion into great schemes”.

Because of the delicacy and precision required, the artist handcrafts his paintbrushes from marten hair, often employing only a wisp of twenty odd hairs. Working from the face outwards with the aid of a binocular microscope, the artist applies the colours often repeating a stroke to increase volume that can be appreciated on Confucius’ beard or drawing out the stroke to achieve the nuance and gradation to render the curve of Confucius’ forehead. Each painting session is followed by a stint in a 90-100° C kiln culminating in a final kiln firing of 6-7 hours.

The final result, a mere 3/100ths of a millimeter thick, is a beautiful timepiece that, is as much a piece of art, as it is a horological masterpiece.

Jason Pitsch
Posted by:Jason Pitsch

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