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Atelier Wen presents Inside the Atelier: Cheng Yucai, the Guillocheur of Xinmi

The patterns in guilloché are comprised equally of elevations and excavations; by alternating peaks and troughs. Turned mechanically into the surface of metal blanks, their ever-shifting highlights and shadows mirror the journey of the artisan whose hands are responsible for them. This is especially so in the case of Cheng Yucai, whose journey to being the sole guilloché master craftsman in China was far from straightforward...

In this intimate documentary short, follow Robin and Wilfried as they travel to Xinmi, getting to know the ins and outs of Cheng's atelier and the stories of the people within it.

Meeting a master craftsman

Many of you might recall the trip that Robin and Wilfried made to China at the end of July, through to early-August, in 2023. A key highlight of that trip was their visit to Master Cheng’s workshop in the hills surrounding Xinmi, Henan. It was, after all, the first time that our co-founders had met the enigmatic guillocheur in-person, and while they had interacted in video calls and WeChat messages, there was nonetheless a clear element of the unknown and unexpected.

As it turns out, what did eclipse all expectations was the overwhelming hospitality and warmth that they were greeted with, and the sheer genius behind the hand-turned dials of Perception. And as things stood, they had come well-prepared; with a camera crew and a clear intention to show the world the process and person behind the Métier d'Art.

The Guillocheur of Xinmi

This Chinese New Year, after several months of organising and editing the footage that was shot over those few days, we are immensely proud to present to you this documentary short that brings Master Cheng into the limelight. As the first installation of our Inside the Atelier series, The Guillocheur of Xinmi showcases not just the painstaking process behind his craft, but perhaps more importantly, the person that he is — through the accounts of his family members and disciples, and his interactions with our two founders.

As a man whose talents have gone relatively unnoticed throughout the majority of his practice, it was undoubtedly his guilloché prowess that contributed significantly to Perception’s success over the past year. And while we have placed his story front-and-centre in the presentation of this line, it feels only right that we can bring his actual presence into the public eye, celebrating his achievements for what they truly are. 

About Inside the Atelier

This documentary short on Master Cheng marks the first installation of a larger project. Through this series, we will seek to peel back the curtain on some of China's most distinguished master craftspeople, as well as the exceptional manufacturing partners that allow us to do what we do. 

So much skill goes unrealised and uncelebrated in China, and in the worlds of watchmaking and fine craftsmanship, this is especially true. Inside the Atelier is our ode to these cultures and capabilities. We cannot wait to show you more!

Watch the film:

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the film crew and team that made this possible, and in-particular, the likes of director Feng Haolei, producer Chen Mengqi, and editor Wang Changkai. This film was a joy to put together, and we sincerely hope you enjoy it — and we cannot wait to hear what you think!

And, from all of us at Atelier Wen, we wish you the most blissful and fortuitous beginning to the new lunar year! 新年快乐!

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