It’s the stuff of a tourist’s dream: two cows of the Hérens breed locking horns in a traditional combat des reines (cow fight) against the backdrop of Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain. The cows of the Hérens race are noted for their combative nature and the queens often fight in a show of dominance, although there are rarely injuries, since the fight is won as soon as one cow turns away. Nevertheless, the spectacle is so enshrined in Swiss culture that it has spawned organised competitions – including a national championship – throughout the region surrounding the Hérens valley from where these cows originate, in the longer shadows of the Matterhorn.
Villeret Métiers d’Art 8 Day Hand-Winding © Blancpain
Blancpain has immortalised this typical scene using the techniques of skakudō and rokushō that the brand now has some three years’ experience of using on models such as the Villeret Shakudō Ganesh. The shakudō part is the dial base itself, which is made of an alloy of gold and copper. The two cows are separate hand-engraved gold elements that are applied to this dial base. The rokushō is the process of creating a patina by dipping the dial into a copper salt bath and then rinsing it. This is where the deft touch of the craftsman is required, since this is the process that will determine the final colours of the motif. It can take the craftsman several hours of dipping and rinsing to get the right colour, the number of baths and the length of time in the bath being the key factors. Furthermore, Blancpain’s experience has shown that the gold appliques can transfer patina to the gold base, which can then oxidise. To avoid this, the individual elements are sealed by heating to around 90-100° Celsius. The cows’ collars are in contrasting yellow gold and are inserted into hollowed-out cavities in the red-gold cows, then hammered, engraved and polished – all by hand. Only after polishing are the Blancpain logo and the Matterhorn hand-engraved on the shakudō dial by an in-house artisan working with extremely accurate tools.
BBlancpain Calibre 13R3A hand-wound movement © Blancpain
This particular model is a unique piece and, unusually, has no specific name other than the standard Villeret Métiers d’Art 8 Days Power Reserve. Like the previous shakudō models it is housed in a Villeret case in rose gold with a 42mm diameter. The hour and minute hands – the only indications on the dial, to ensure minimum disruption of the dial art – are driven by the Blancpain Calibre 13R3A hand-wound movement which offers eight days of power reserve. Its fine decoration can be viewed through a transparent sapphire crystal exhibition case back and it could be yours for just 150,000 Swiss francs.