December 5, 2008
by Ariel Adams
Before fond observation of this beautiful watch line, it is a good idea to know the historical source of the art faithfully reproduced in miniature. Without knowing history behind the art, these watches are just really nice reserve glass eglomise art pieces done with incredible skill. Much deeper appreciation for this line (and a better excuse for wearing them) comes from knowing what the painted scenes are all about.
In what I consider another move to become the worlds most culturally literate watch brand, Angular Momentum chose a specific form of early 19th century art to focus on in the Artisan Beauty & Glamour Orientalism collection. Without going into a history lesson, you can imagine the interesting artistic fervor that occurred in the late 18th century after France and Britain began to militarily move east, into the Middle East and North Africa.
After Napoleon defeated the Turks, and then was beat by the British, there was a new presence of Europeans in the region. To most, the sights were completely new, and the foreign culture was documented through photo realistic painting, as photography was not available at the time. Thus, this type of art was more involved with reproducing reality than impressionism or abstraction. The idea was to communicate what was seen in these exotic regions of the world. For many, the term “oriental,” refers to “the Far East,” or what most people refer to as Asian countries. While this is a modern use of the term, “oriental” literally means east (the opposite, “occidental” means west). Because the regions involved were east of where the Europeans were coming, the artistic movement was referred to as orientalism.
Going into countries such as Turkey, Morocco, Persia, and Egypt, the traveling artists doubling as cultural explorers were known as the “orientalists.” The typically closed cultures that the artists were encountering were not particularly keen on allowing the outsiders into their ritualistic lives. One area unknown to Europeans was the concept of the Harem, which in Islamic culture (as I understand) was a place of the home or otherwise specifically reserved for women. The Harem bathes were places where women went to bath and beautify. The level of cleanliness and personal grooming for most people in these regions was far greater than most non-aristocratic Europeans were used to. Being fascinated by these baths, the occasions when the artists were allowed inside, they often took the opportunities to document their experiences. You might think it strange that the subject of each painting is a Caucasian European women being served by a local. This is because the artists typically hired models to pose for the scenes. It was also likely an attempt appeal to the tastes in Europe, and everyone enjoys a nude scene, especially if there is an educational component to it.
The detail in the original paintings was incredibly ornate, and here in the eglomise (reverse sapphire crystal paintings), the detail is preserved in a shrunken state. Eglomise enamel painting creates a very sharp painting underneath the watch crystal. A section is cutaway to allow for a view of the single rotating disc meant to display the time. Inside each of the watches is an automatic mechanical movement. The cases themselves are 42mm or 37mm wide, good sized watches for either sex. From a design standpoint, I can honestly see either sex wearing these watches, even though traditionally, pave, or full pave diamond cases combined with white straps are reserved for women’s watches. These would go equally well with a black alligator strap.
The art is amazing, and if you’ve never seen an eglomise painted watch, you are missing out. These are by no means cheap, but as Angular Momentum points out that they are a good value in comparison with other, diamond encrusted, artfully painted timepieces ( which can be $100,000 and up). As such, there are two case options depending on the diamonds involved. The ‘pave’ diamond watch case versions have diamonds on the bezel and lugs, while ‘full pave’ have diamonds all over the bezel, lugs and sides of the watch. All cases are in steel. Price range from $20,000 – $40,000. Contact Angular Momentum for more information.
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