Charles Darwin wrote: "The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!"
statement! And this is precisely how I felt when a master Guilloche artisan
demonstrated the fine art of pattern making during our visit to
But before we can go any further with this it is crucial
to get familiar with Cernier itself. Cernier is the former capital
of the district of Val-de-Ruz in the canton of Neuchatel,
Switzerland.According to one pedantic administrator Cernier had an
area of 9.1 square kilometres . Of this area, 4.98 km2 is used
for agricultural purposes, while 3.44 km2 is forested. Of
the rest of the land, 0.68 km2 is settled (buildings or roads)
and 0.01 km2 (2.5 acres) is unproductive land.
about attention to detail...
you've got that right; a mere 9 square kilometres of land populated by
precisely 2,223 people. And, as the aforementioned administrator
reports, "...most of the population speaks French (1,727 or
89.9%) as their first language, German is the second most common (63 or
3.3%) and Italian is the third (49 or 2.6%). There is 1 person who speaks
linguistic digression: Romansch is the fourth official language in
Switzerland. I couldn't resist but to look it up: Romansh is divided
into five different regional dialects
(Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Putèr,
and Vallader), each with its own standardised written language. In
addition, a pan-regional variety called Rumantsch Grischun was
introduced in 1982, which is controversial among Romansh
go…a district capital the size of a small Australian hobby farm with
zero English-speaking inhabitants and a township where everything is
measured, recorded, kept as is; the place where time has stood still for
well over 800 years.
don't rush. They don't throw things away, or hurry to modernise the way
they do the craft of fine engraving, known as guilloche. And why
would they - when millions of watch enthusiasts worldwide go crazy at the
mere sight of an engraved watch dial, bridge or a case?
Kaenel, a guillocher, kindly demonstrated his craftsmanship on a 130-year
old machine. The trick is to go slowly, he said, and also to become one
with the machine. The rest is a matter of practice.
I am not
going to bore you with the technique itself. In essence,
guilloche is the play of light and shadows caused by intricate patterns in
metal created by a movement of a sharp engraving tool - or as Yann explains
- the magic which happens when shadow marries the light.
no two identical patterns or two identical watch dials and, as in the case
of Darwin's peacock, some patterns will simply drive you crazy.
do you do for living', Yann asked, looking in at my business card. 'You are
a watchmaker? Are your customers interested in guilloche?'
perhaps, one day - who knows? Rebelde is as much Breguet as
Parramatta is Neuchatel. But then again, who knows? In a generation
or two, someone from rebelde may visit your atelier to discuss the deal.
Cernier is not going anywhere anytime soon, right?'
hands, and smiled at each other. He appreciated my curiosity,
and I admired his
moment in time, to be cherished forever…
A picture of Breguet guilloches dial