The Art of Miniature Painting
In 1822, Edouard Bovet set a new precedent for the decorative arts and raised the level of pocket watch artistry.
Bovet casebacks featured meticulous miniature paintings that mesmerized the Chinese market where Bovet enjoyed prolific success. One of Bovet’s original watches is currently on display in the central room of the Forbidden City. The early 19th century pocket watch’s caseback includes a spectacularly lifelike painting of two swans.
After Edouard’s death in 1849, the Bovet brand fell into relative obscurity. In turn, the art of miniature painting was nearly lost. But, when the sleepy brand of Bovet was revived in 2001 by entrepreneur Pascal Raffy, the brand sought to once again distinguish itself from its competitors with its unrivaled craftsmanship, including the practice of fine miniature paintings.
Now under the name BOVET 1822, this restoration to the brand’s origins meant a return traditional artisan techniques to replicate the fine miniature paintings on par—if not surpassing—the quality of the brand’s historic casebacks.
Today, BOVET 1822 artisans practice centuries-old methods to apply Chinese lacquer to the watch dials
These gifted painters begin with an original or commissioned design that roughly five times larger than the dial. The inspiration is then scaled down to suit the watch dial’s round shape and the position of the hour and minute hands.
As the pseudo canvas, BOVET 1822 largely uses mother-of-peal dials as the base for their miniature paintings. The dial is coated with a translucent lacquer that reveals the iridescence of the mother-of-pearl. It also presents a strikingly deep background for the foreground’s colorful opaque paint.
The highly-trained artists work beneath a microscope with 50 times magnification to perfectly apply the Chinese lacquer. Most remarkably, they paint with a brush that is so fine, it is the equivalent of a single human hair. And in between each coat of paint, the dial must be fired in a kiln and then polished.
Once the final layer of lacquer has been applied, the artisan must reduce the dial to its final thickness by gently buffing away any raised paint. Some dials are also embellished with gold leaf or gold or silver paillons to create a metallic effect.
This painstaking process is a testament to BOVET 1822’s dedication to keeping the centuries-long tradition of fine watchmaking alive.