In celebration of World Animal Day, Fabergé introduces a new series of limited-edition watches to its Altruist collection. Crafted from 18k gold, these creations feature a craft technique that has never been featured in Fabergé watches before: the ancient Japanese art of Kaga-Maki-e.
The limited-edition collection features three hand-decorated watch dials, depicting a tiger, a lion and an eagle. These powerful animals have been applied to each dial by a female Maki-e artisan in Japan, each one taking two to three months to be meticulously hand-painted.
Maki-e is an ancient, yet sophisticated, lacquer technique, which originated in Japan and literally translates as ‘sprinkled picture’. Images are created by hand-painting striking designs in lacquer with a fine brush, then sprinkling layers of gold or silver dust over the lacquer while it is still wet. Only a small number of artisans in Japan are capable of carrying out this rare technique.
The lacquers used are formed from natural resin from the ‘Japanese lacquer tree’, Rhus verniciflua. Environmentally friendly, these are the same lacquers that were used as glue over 13,000 years ago. Maki-e has evolved over a long period of time, with evidence of the technique found at the Shosohin, an Imperial Treasury built in the 8th century.
Fabergé has partnered with a young, female Maki-e artisan on this limited-edition project. Mitsuki Tsuji, who is 26 years old, works in the Thounsai Atelier in Japan. Mitsuki admired her father’s artwork while growing up, and after high school she decided to train with the Maki-e master artist, Mr. Isshu Tamura. Mr. Tamura is a pioneer in the art of Maki-e, with over 20 years’ experience and has imparted his wisdom and knowledge onto Mitsuki, who is part of the next generation tasked with keeping the ancient artform of Maki-e alive. Mitsuki has proven herself to be a natural talent, as evidenced by these glorious watch dials, which are her debut pieces.
Fabergé has always celebrated young female talent, including Alma Pihl, a self-trained designer who started to work for Fabergé in 1909, when she was just 21 years old; she designed the famous Winter Egg of 1913 and the Mosaic Egg of 1914. Continuing this tradition, Fabergé’s current Head Designer is Liisa Tallgren, who joined the business in her late twenties and has been the mastermind behind many of the Maison’s most iconic modern-day creations, including the Fabergé x Game of Thrones Egg.
Each watch dial in the Altruist Maki-e collection undergoes a multitude of steps in order to be created. The creation of the Tiger watch dial is documented in a short video, illustrating the level of skill and expertise needed to create a unique design. In the video you will see that first a design is traced on the reverse side with slow-drying lacquer; this design is then transferred onto the dial; silver powder is sprinkled over the transferred design; lacquer is applied to the appropriate parts of the outlined design in order to create high-relief effects and silver powder is sprinkled over the parts of the design raised with lacquer, which is then covered in another coat of lacquer to fix the powder in place. The silver covered and raised parts are ground smooth with whetstone and the eyes are inlaid with mother-of-pearl by means of lacquer as an adhesive. Hairline carvings are executed on the surface to prepare other inlays and more mother-of-pearl pieces are inlaid on the pre-carved surface. The black pattern on the Tiger’s face is drawn with lacquer, and platinum powder is sprinkled over this. Individual pieces of platinum are glued one by one onto the lacquer coated surface and white lacquer is applied over these pieces ready for more platinum powder to be sprinkled on top.
This creation represents the perfect marriage of art and watchmaking and features a Vaucher Manufacture self-winding movement. Designed, manufactured and assembled in traditional fashion, the calibres make use of an oscillating weight decorated in the Fabergé style. To highlight the precious and rare character of this movement, it is produced in 22k gold, which also brings more accuracy to the movement due to its weight.
Through its carefully considered design from the intricate, traditional motif on the dial, to the tactile pleasure derived from winding its unique crown, the Fabergé Altruist is an elegant, three-handed 41mm watch resolutely modern in its construction. The collection is wound and adjusted by a Fabergé crown with a pivoting finger-grip, which swings out to offer a winding experience and offers a playful, kinetic element.
“We are very glad that we have been able to partner with the young female Japanese artist, Mitsuki, for the new Altruist Maki-e Limited-Edition Watches. Fabergé has always put forward talented female artists, including the young Alma Pihl, who designed the Winter Egg in 1913, and this is something I am particularly proud of. Whilst still being very young, Mitsuki masters this traditional Japanese Maki-e technique, and I am fascinated by the level of knowledge and precision required to work on these unique artistic dials, which bring the tiger, lion and eagle to life.” Aurélie Picaud, Director of Timepieces at Fabergé.
The Altruist Maki-e Limited-Edition Watches ($45,000/£34,100) are available to purchase at selected Fabergé boutiques and on Faberge.com. For more information or to book a virtual or in-person appointment, please contact email@example.com.