I confess I have a weakness for farmers' markets - if that makes me a liberal, bourgeois, sandal-wearing cliché, then so be it. You can't beat artisanal bread. Or artisanal cheese. Or artisanal preserves. In fact, I can't escape artisanal products these days - even in the mechanical watchmaking world. OK, mechanical watchmaking should sort of be an artisanal craft anyway. Globalisation and increased demand has meant the ateliers are no longer cottage industries manned by watchmakers who look like Mister Geppetto, however. In response, watch brands have started looking to long-forgotten techniques for finishings such as enamelling and engraving - what the French call the metiers d'art. Spearheading this trend is Vacheron Constantin, as beautifully illustrated by its Metiers d'Art - The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac animal series, which for the coming year will of course be all about the horse. The central technique used is grand feu enamelling - a rare speciality that involves applying enamel in layers to enhance the colours, in this case an eye-catching blue, and then a firing process that takes place at 800 to 900 degrees Celsius. Coming in either platinum with blue dial (above right) or pink gold with brown dial, the watch has a blue or brown alligator leather strap, depending on the model, and the case is a restrained 40mm. Inside ticks a calibre 2460 G4 in-house movement and features are kept to a bare minimum to put maximum focus on the enamel - there are no hour or second hands but hour, minute, day and date window indicators instead. This boutique-only limited edition is capped at 24 pieces (12 in each material) and Vacheron Constantin will confirm prices in the coming weeks. Next up is something rather regal from the Cartier Metiers d'Art collection - the Rotonde de Cartier with lion motif in straw marquetry (below left). It's part of a larger animal themed collection (it's not always animals with metiers d'art, trust me) that includes a very handsome crocodile, a beady eyed eagle and, of course, a horse, and the finish on these watches is exceptional. With only hours and minutes, again, features take a back seat to the visual feast of the image and the subtle changes in colour and tone the artisans have created with the straw. The Rotonde de Cartier case is made of red gold and measures 42mm, with the strap a semi-matt brown alligator leather. Inside is an in-house calibre 9601 MC mechanical movement. Only 70 pieces of the Lion motif Rotonde de Cartier will be made and prices are available upon request. Finally, we have a watch with metiers d'art credentials that are more subtle. The Arnold & Son TE8 Metiers d'Art I (below right) is a design marvel and harks back to the English brand's early years as watchmaker to King George III. The focus here is split between the wonderfully finished tourbillon on the bottom half of the watch and the hand-engraved, geometric pattern dial finish on the top half. Actually, scratch that - pretty much all the focus is on the latter and rightly so; the engraving is on German silver, an incredibly difficult material to engrave on. The case measures 44mm and is made of rose gold and the strap of black alligator leather. The level of detail on the TE8 Metiers d'Art I is breathtaking and with the watch limited to just eight pieces it is sure to become much sought after by collectors.