A lesson learned eons ago and since then routinely dismissed is that watch dials should be easy to read. In modern times you’ll find even very high-end watch makers pushing the envelope of design and visual complication to create timepieces that look modern, but often eschew predictable function. One school of thought teaches that to really make a name for yourself you need to study new and complex ways of presenting a watch dial. This often leads to visually interesting, but difficult to read watch dials.
Step about 100 years back (and longer) and the predominant feeling on the matter of “making a name for yourself in the watch industry” was quite reversed. While match makers were continually trying to make watches more precise on the inside, they were also trying to make them as easy to read as possible (without sacrificing beauty of course). A good practice to achieve this goal was to create a very high contrast dial with indicators being extremely precise in their application.
One notable technique to accomplish this goal was to use an enameled dial. A long while ago a technique called “grand feu enamel” was invented. The idea of it was to use enamel on porcelain, but to do so where the tiniest of images would be clear to the eye. As such, the details on a watch dial are extremely precise and small. Only a technique that allowed a dial to have perfect numerals and indicators could pass muster.
Enameled surfaces offered the high level of contrast (and permanence that resisted the wear of time), but were not always “precise” enough in appearance. It was therefore necessary to use grand feu enamel techniques. The process involves baking dials at extremely high temperatures. A fair amount of dials don’t survive the bake. Those that do however are remarkably beautiful with the most crisp of images on usually pure white surfaces.
Having come out several years ago, the Breguet Reveil du Tsar watch is a beautiful example of a timepiece with a complex alarm movement and machine engraved guilloche dial (in Breguet tradition). This year Breguet offers a new version of the Reveil du Tsar watch with a grand feu enamel dial. This model will not be limited in prodiction, but will only be available for purchase at Breguet boutique shops.
The watch is 39 mm wide in a coined-edge 18k rose gold case. The beautiful multi-level enamel dial has such a visual pop. The black Arabic numerals and minute indicators pop out nicely being accented with hints of red on the dial as well as the blued steel hands (which are also fired to achieve the blue color).
The Breguet Reveil du Tsar Enamel watch contains a Breguet caliber 519F automatic movement. The impressive movement has a power reserve of 45 hours (with a power reserve indicator on the dial), and three other important functions. Most notable is the alarm. A subsidiary dial on the face that looks like a smaller watch face is used to set the alarm. A porthole below 12 o’clock indicates whether the alarm is set to “on” or “off,” while the complication is adjusted via a crown at 4 o’clock. The watch also features a GMT hand opposite the alarm dial, which are atop a subsidiary seconds dial. There is a tasteful date window placed above 6 o’clock.
Even with all the functionality, the dial looks fantastic. Busy to the point of being stimulating, but not confusing. Breguet decided to keep the price of this enamel dialed version of the watch the same as the standard Reveil du Tsar timepiece. Available only at Bregeut boutiques, the watch has a price of $36,400. www.breguet.com.
1. 39mm wide 18k rose gold case
2. Dial to set the alarm
3. GMT indicator hand
4. Grand feu enamel dial
5. Power reserve indicator for movement
Ariel Adams is the Haute Living Watch Editor and also publishes the luxury watch review site aBlogtoRead.com.<”aBlogtoRead.com” should link to http://ablogtoread.com>