It is with a great deal of emotion that Baume & Mercier reveals its second unique timepiece based on one of the great master’s works. This new original creation – the outcome of an extraordinary collaboration with the extraordinary painter and the Musée Soulages of Rodez – pays tribute to the artist and expresses the strength and beauty of the poignant legacy that he left behind. The “Hampton Polyptyque Edition – Musée Soulages 10th Anniversary” watch is inspired by the painting Peinture 324 x 362 cm, 1986, Polyptyque I Edition from the series Outrenoirs.

“Pierre Soulages is connected with Baume & Mercier on many levels: humanistic and artistic, cordial and technical, and through the museum and timepieces that bear his name.  The first “Hampton Hommage à Pierre Soulages” timepiece, released in February 2022, was a testimonial to Baume & Mercier’s admiration for the great artist Pierre Soulages.  The second watch that we dedicate to him, which we are revealing today, represents the materialization of our dream: the creative embodiment of our connection. This one is inspired by our first encounter with the artist in person, in June 2021, when Pierre Soulages and his wife Colette invited us to their villa in Sète. It was at the precise moment when he suggested that we place a delicate touch of gold on each of the watch hands that we understood the extent to which he wanted to help us consider the design of the first watch, as well as those to come.” 

David Chaumet, CE of Baume & Mercier.

 “Human relations run through this cultural partnership, adding to its artistic, technical, and watchmaking dimensions. We connect through the mechanics of time, as if to overcome it.” 

Benoît Decron, Director of Musée Soulages Rodez – EPCC, Chief Curator of Heritage.

How the project came about

Just over a year ago, with humbleness and great sincerity, Baume & Mercier sought out the Musée Soulages, an international reference of the work of Pierre Soulages. In 2005, the artist donated a collection of 250 works and 250 documents to the urban community of Greater Rodez, and the museum was founded on the basis of that donation. It is a true extension of the painter’s studio in the spirit of his beloved Aveyron heritage.

In the springtime of 2021, Pierre Soulages and his wife Colette invited the Baume & Mercier executive team to their villa in Sète. All those in presence were captivated by the man’s humbleness and attentiveness. More than a talented figure, he proved to be a very likable human being. The curator of Musée Soulages was also there. We were all warmly welcomed. The first contact we made was with a long, admiring gaze. Then the Artistic Director of Baume & Mercier introduced the initial design project to Pierre Soulages. The idea thrilled him, and the artistic approach did too. And so the creative process got underway. The discussion turned to the way of representing his light-and-shadow work on a timepiece, and how to miniaturize the Outrenoir work to fit that scale. Each participant expressed their own vision of time, jointly taking inspiration from their differences. Colette Soulages and the museum curator also took part in the artistic metamorphosis. Eyes ablaze, mind alert, Pierre Soulages engaged with a lively spirit, challenging the team in technical and aesthetic terms. He advocated for the time to be displayed as invisibly as possible. He was an attentive, generous guide in transposing his pictorial universe to a timepiece. He questioned whether the overall appearance of a timepiece might be suspended. Going beyond the standard two-handed form, he entered a transcendent creative dimension to imagine spherical figures that would appear to float over the dial, which he would place at the tips of the hands. He then considered the color gold to contrast with the black. The collective reflection continued in the painter’s studio. It was a unique moment with a fascinating artist who, in his own way, led Baume & Mercier towards an approach that continues to influence the Brand’s creations. The exclusive “Hampton Polyptyque Edition – Musée Soulages 10th Anniversary” timepieces immortalize this extraordinary encounter, and Baume & Mercier is proud to have been able to give the painter a timepiece dedicated to him. 

The “Hampton Polyptyque Edition – Musée Soulages 10th Anniversary” watch is even more a tribute to him, since it carries the painter’s personality and symbolizes the union of both visions: that of the contemporary artist and that of Baume & Mercier.

This special edition also celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Rodez-based Musée Soulages, with which the Brand has established a solid, authentic relationship since the launch of the first edition.


The heritage of Pierre Soulages

For Baume & Mercier, designing a timepiece inspired by the work of Pierre Soulages is a way of express an admiration for his art, as well as our gratitude to have received so much from one of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Bedazzling and questioning, his work continues to inspire our sensibilities and minds, leaving us spellbound. The idea of carrying on his legacy has taken on an even more earnest resonance since his death. The creative exchange that brought life to these exclusive timepieces is a precious heirloom that will forever remain a part of the history of the Brand.

From dark to light

Beginning in 1979, Pierre Soulages painted his canvases entirely in black. More precisely, he layered different textures of black, applying them with various tools and brushes to reveal shiny, matte, powdery, dull, slick, striated, polished, and even sharp-edged effects. He brought attention to the quality of the light reflected off the black surface, creating effects by shaping the texture of the paint, cutting into the black texture of acrylic to alternate matte and shine, texture and smoothness, in low-relief.

The Noir-Lumière series was named Outrenoir in 1989. The painting that inspired the dial of this watch is part of that series. Peinture 324 x 362 cm, 1986, Polyptyque I is an oil on canvas measuring 324 x 362 cm: a gigantic polyptych made up of four overlapping elements, each measuring 81 x 362 cm. It hangs at Musée Soulages in Rodez.

Polyptychs are works made up of several panels, which is the case for the great majority of Outrenoirs. This format gave Pierre Soulages the opportunity to bring discontinuity to the surface through contrasting textures, overlapping horizontal and vertical strokes to be revealed by the light. The artist also brought the spectator into the equation, since the appearance of the work changes under the influence of light and texture as the viewer moves around. His approach to black is made even more powerful by the fact that it stretches across several panels in monumental dimensions. Its power of attraction is as strong as the technique that brought it into being.

An interaction between art and watchmaking

To understand the foundations of Pierre Soulages’ work, to reenact – freely, but as respectfully as possible – its formal and artistic expression, and to capture the strength and emotion that emanates from it are all challenges that Baume & Mercier took to heart. Every detail of the watch case and dial resonate with the creation, in both artistic and watchmaking terms.

This interaction between art and watchmaking has been an integral part of the history of Baume & Mercier since Paul Mercier – an art lover who surrounded himself with painters and writers – partnered with the watchmaker William Baume in 1918 to found the Baume & Mercier brand in 1920. The history of the house is interwoven with the world of art. Most importantly, it established the foundations for a vision of watchmaking that continues on today, based on craftsmanship and artistic sensibility in pursuit of design, innovative shapes, and a balance of volumes, proportions, and precise lines. This technical and aesthetic discipline is symbolized by the Greek letter Phi, a reference to the golden ratio that Baume & Mercier has chosen as its emblem. This history of creativity has been evident in each collection throughout the decades, and has brought success to the brand’s modern, bold, liberating approach.

The Hampton Collection, or the artistic expression of time

With a streamlined rectangular case and dial comparable to a canvas, the Hampton Collection offers the perfect exhibition space for the reproduction of Peinture 324 x 362 cm, 1986, Polyptyque I. The successor to a model that the brand launched in the 1960s – itself inspired by the Art Deco of the 1920s – is a striking tribute to art which, since its release in 1994, has epitomized the ultimate shape watch so distinctive of Baume & Mercier. Its understated minimalist design elegantly showcases this work, which is transposed in its every detail, and frames the overlay of vertical and horizontal strokes that form the composition and adorn the dial.

Monumental technical and aesthetic complexity

From the exploration of the color black to the transposition of light effects, the design was a considerable technical and aesthetic challenge which required the use of innovative 3D printing technology. The miniaturization of such a large surface – faithfully reproducing a painting that spans 324 x 362 cm onto a dial of 48.11 x 31 mm with a thickness of just 10 mm – requires ingenuity and technical skill that made this project particularly stimulating for the Baume & Mercier teams. Pierre Soulages took the artistic endeavor to heart and personally expressed his wishes for it. In particular, the teams made sure to showcase the contrasts of light effects on the watch components. The use of laser-cut brass and Levant stone create a soft matte appearance. The use of electrolysis makes it possible to plate the dial with color in a thickness of just 0.2 microns. A coat of semi-matte protective glaze is also applied in a thickness of 10 microns. These materials and processes liberate the volume, sculpt the texture, and showcase the alternating dark-and-light effects.

The dial of the “Hampton Polyptyque Edition – Musée Soulages 10th Anniversary” watch is a black composition in the image of this painting, which juxtaposes vertical and diagonal strokes. It emanates the force distinctive of all the visual variations of this work. The black hour and minute hands are tipped with hemispheres in 750/1000 rose gold, which the artist himself chose to imprint the design with his creative force and figurative vision of time.

The rectangular case in DLC steel is sandblasted and coated with hydrogenated amorphous carbon ions through plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition (PACVD) in a thickness of 2 microns, providing a hardness of 6,000 Vickers. It is protected by a scratch-resistant domed sapphire crystal, treated on both sides with an anti-glare coating. “Baume & Mercier” lettering appears as a metallic engraving on the underside of the sapphire crystal. The underside of the case is also protected by a sapphire crystal, which is fastened with four screws. A  “Musée Soulages 10ème Anniversaire n° xxx/328” engraving appears above it.

An automatic mechanical Swiss movement (ETA 2892) drives this timepiece, of which the exquisite finishes are demonstrated by the circular-grained bridge. The black oscillating weight, adorned with “Côtes de Genève” decoration, appears through the transparent case back. The watch, which indicates hours and minutes, offers a 42-hour power reserve and water-resistance to 5 ATM (approx. 50m).

It is mounted on a cellulose strap lined in apple leather. Its deep black color visually extends the chromatic power that emanates from the timepiece beyond its case. The interchangeable strap features a reliable spring bar system that allows it to be changed without the use of tools. It fastens with a DLC steel pin buckle.

A presentation case in the image of Musée Soulages

The exclusive watch presentation case pays tribute to the contemporary architecture of Musée Soulages in Rodez. Designed by the Catalan architectural firm RCR Arquitectes, the building won the Pritzker Architexture Prize, the highest distinction in the field. The case is entirely crafted in weathering steel like the siding of the museum building. The iridescent rust effects of its patina also evoke the passage of time.

To modestly yet proudly reenact the strokes of the immense painter Pierre Soulages. To pay tribute to his personality and work. To uphold the memory of that magnificent encounter. The creative exchange that began in the Sète-based villa will inspire timepieces to come, and will continue to contribute to the artistic vision of watchmaking so distinctive of Baume & Mercier. We express our sincere gratitude, wholeheartedly thanking the unique artist for his generosity.

ABOUT Baume & Mercier

Founded in 1830 at the heart of Swiss Jura, Baume & Mercier enjoys international renown. From its workshops at the heart of Swiss Jura to its headquarters based in Geneva, the Maison offers its clients the very finest timepieces. Born by a complementary balance between an artistic approach to shape and watchmaking innovation in the service of the client, the Baume & Mercier House continues to mark the history of watchmaking by passing down the design and watchmaking expertise that is the Brand’s legacy. This savoir-faire perfectly corresponds with the spirit of cooperation between the Brand’s founders William Baume & Paul Mercier: where classicism meets creativity, tradition meets modernity, and elegance meets character... In a more contemporary way than ever.