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The art of black

BAUME & Mercier is exploring vision through the color black, as seen through the work of artist Pierre Soulages.

Pierre Soulage is known for his various works in exploring light and shade through the color black, but especially in a 1989 series called Outrenoir. In a statement, he said, “When the light is more intensely reflected, the black appears less black, and its surface effects become more noticeable, more active.” In an article from auction house Christie’s (https://www.christies.com/features/Beyond-Black-Pierre-Soulages-10009-3.aspx), he said, “I saw that it was no longer black that gave meaning to the painting but the reflection of light on dark surfaces. Where it was layered the light danced, and where it was flat it lay still. A new space had come into being.”

The watch created in his honor is therefore a stark, pure black.

The Hommage à Pierre Soulages transposes the properties of his Peinture 390 x 130cm 17 mars 2019, along with works in the Outrenoir series onto the brand’s Hampton model. The art deco-inspired rectangular piece, according to the company, evokes the proportions of a canvas. The watch was made with the collaboration of Musée Soulages and the Association des Amis du Musée.

“For Baume & Mercier, collaborating with Musée Soulages is a way to acknowledge how important art really is to the brand. This is more than a polite acknowledgment: it is a way of showing thanks for fulfilling our souls and the passage of time, inspiring us and thrilling us,” the brand said in a statement.

The watch case is in stainless steel — black of course — with a DLC coating case, mounted on a nubucked alligator strap — black again. It has a power reserve of 42 hours, with a sapphire crystal case back, running on the Swiss-made ETA 2892-A2 movement. The case measures 9.88 mm in its thickness, and is 31 mm by 28.10966 mm in its width and length. The black hands are tipped with gilt, and the dial itself is brushed, sculptural black, and gazing at the watch feels like gazing at a Soulages work in person, every day.

Why Soulages? According to the brand, “Because his work continues to captivate as much as ever, even when it is not in view. His black galaxy asks questions, enchants, and baffles; shiny, matte, dusty, streaked, flat, smooth, polished or salient.”

Of course, the privilege of owning a Soulages on your own wrist comes at a price: $5,850, and reflecting the artist’s age (he was born in 1919) there will only be 102 pieces, each numbered, in the whole world. —  J.L. Garcia