Period music: Vacheron Constantin joins forces with Woodkid
How does a traditional watchmaker extend its influence in the wider cultural landscape? The answer for Vacheron Constantin – maker of some of the most complicated and exquisite timepieces to leave any workshop table – is through music. It goes without saying: musical assemblies, otherwise known as striking watches or minute repeaters which are considered one of the most difficult feats of engineering in the world of watchmaking, are a house specialty at VC. And much like a self-written “greatest hits” album, the legendary Swiss brand loves to outdo themselves with consistently amazing inventions.
We need only think of the 2020 release of the brand called “Chronographe à rattrapante Les Cabinotiers – Tempo”, a double-sided striking watch with a chronograph function and a perpetual calendar as well as a host of functions dedicated to the ‘astronomy. Comprised of 1,163 parts, it’s a work of art that defies belief – if it were human-sized, it would warrant its own Marvel movie. It’s really amazing.
A love of music at VC led to a mentorship program that is completely outside the brackets of his expertise, but only in literal terms. Conceptually speaking, the idea behind this coaching system – which aims to offer young musicians a helping hand with industry guidance and studio time among other things – syncs perfectly with the Manufactory’s MO, dedicated to preserving rare watchmaking skills and ensuring their transmission. through the generations.
The non-profit platform, known as “One of Not Many Mentorship Program”, is an ongoing collaboration established in 2018 between Vacheron Constantin and Abbey Road Studios in London. Leading the initiative for 2022 is French musician, director and polymath Yoann Lemoine, aka Woodkid, whose work crosses multiple genres including illustration, video production, graphic design, writing songs and production. This created a springboard of opportunities that saw him work with singers like Katy Perry, Lana Del Ray and Pharrell Williams, as well as Japanese game designer Hideo Kojima, fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière and street Parisian artist JR.
On the contrary, Woodkid should be chosen to play the aforementioned Marvel character, a kind of transmorphic man/watch hero, given his many artistic predilections and creative parts. As “meta” as it sounds, there’s no denying that VC – one of the oldest surviving watchmakers founded in 1775 – is venturing into more fluid and abstract territory with this project, which can only be positive. Indeed, the house has already shown how music can be used brilliantly and ingeniously in its timepieces: it was at Abbey Road studios that Vacheron Constantin organized the recording of the acoustic imprint of its Les Cabinotiers, presented in 2020.
Awaiting his call to Hollywood, Woodkid grasped his role as the more relatable crusader with both hands, naming Ewan J Phillips, a young London-area singer-songwriter, as his shining star, making him the first musical prodigy to join the VC Mentoring Fold. Phillips new song Say you never loved me is available now on vinyl and streaming services.
‘I was fascinated by the level of precision and perfectionism’
Here, The Week talks to Woodkid about this unique mentorship project that combines songwriting with the rarefied craft of watchmaking.
How did you get involved in this project? What was your first reaction?
It’s always very pleasant to collaborate with brands that talk about craftsmanship and know-how. So I said yes right away. There’s something about VC’s ideology that reminds me of the ideals and goals I have in life as a creator. I was also very touched by the idea of transmission and collaboration in this project.
What did you learn about watches through this collaboration?
I didn’t know much about watches before to be honest. I was fascinated by the level of precision and perfectionism this requires, especially at VC. I’ve always been fascinated by the question of time, almost in a metaphysical way, so learning more about how watchmaking is about capturing time in such a small space is something that really inspires me.
You’ve worked with pop icons like Harry Styles to progressive composers like Philip Glass. What has been your most exciting project to date?
Maybe compose a track for the Paris 2024 Olympics during the Tokyo ceremony. I must say that it was a great honor but also a great challenge, but I always like to explore new fields of expression.
Does something scare you?
Yes, oblivion and the passage of time in general. Fail too, or send the wrong message. But I’m doing better!
You are undoubtedly a polymath, what would you like to work on that you haven’t done yet?
I’m always very interested in anything creative. I recently collaborated on the creation of a fragrance, which was extremely exciting and new to me. I would like to develop my skills towards video games now.
Can you tell me more about Ewan? What made him stand out?
He has a timeless pop sensibility, linked to his way of singing, his way of writing. I always love when someone’s music can span the ages. And he has a great voice, which is always a great tool to work with.
Can you tell me what you think mentoring means?
I don’t know exactly, but I know some things from my personal experience as an artist. As someone who has worked with many other artists, these are things I like to share. I think I know identity and emotion, which are two essential things to be a great artist.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to support a young talent if not financially?
We all know things, to be sure of what you know and what you are an expert at, you need to be aware of what you don’t know and have the humility to accept that you don’t master all areas. . It’s not about knowing everything or having the answer to everything. It’s a lot about identifying your expertise and your qualities. We are all experts at something.
Did you have a mentor? If so, who?
I had a few yeses, my first manager was very referent for me, I also have friends whom I admire and from whom I borrow a lot. Knowing the people you like for their intelligence and point of view is very valuable.