Enameling is one of the more specialized artisan techniques used for watch dials. There are a number of specific techniques but they mostly require the use of fine glass applied with a high heat source, usually a furnace. In some cases the enamel is applied in layers and heated each time. It’s a painstaking process and any irregularity means it has to be done again. Because of the skills required, the time it takes and the waste, these watches are expensive. Adding color adds more difficulties to the process.
So why do it? An all white watch enamel watch dial has an elegant and refined finish unlike any other kind of white. Colorful dials made of enamel have the same striking features. Below are four watches that use different enameling techniques and artisan finishes that produce exceptional dials.
Graff Métiers d’Art Graffiti 43mm
During Baselworld the luxury brand unveiled several Métiers d’Art watches featuring various hand-painted techniques. As the name would suggest this dial is a colorful tribute to street art with a vibrant and modern design. It is created with the little used emaille à froid (cold enamel) technique, where the enamel is heated to a relatively cool 180°C to create a smooth, glossy finish. For this piece, which is limited only by production, there are at least ten hues for each for each made and they all slightly different. The base plate of the dial is engraved by hand before the enamel is applied. Micro-painting is then executed on the enameled surface to provide further relief. Completing one watch dial could take as long as 40 hours.
Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon
The blue enamel dial for this timepiece is provided by the craftsmen of Donzé Cadrans, a company owned by Ulysse Nardin that specializes in creating handcrafted enamel dials. For this edition of the Marine Tourbillon, they used the technique of blue Grand Feu enameling. Grand Feu (translated as “Great Fire”) requires the high heat of a kiln to fuse the enamel powder. The heating of the surface is done in layers with each layer heated at very high temperatures. This repeated baking permanently sets the enamel so it is not likely to crack over time. The flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock is produced in-house.
Breguet Classique Grandes Complications 5367
The pure white elegance of an enamel dial is the primary feature of this extra-thin tourbillon watch. In a subtle design feature the graphic hand-beveled tourbillon bar, topped by a spinel, is positioned at 5 o’clock. The chapter ring with Breguet Arabic numerals is off-centered at 11 o’clock and directly facing the tourbillon. The watch measures a mere 7.45mm thick with the Calibre 581 powering the timepiece is just 3mm. What better way to highlight “Tourbillon Day,” in which June 26 marked the 217th anniversary of the patent of the Tourbillon, the revolutionary invention of Abraham-Louis Breguet, than with a watch featuring mechanical and artistic beauty.
Greubel Forsey Double Balancier in 5N Red Gold
This watch, like all Greubel Forsey timepieces, is a technological inspired product with design features that both accommodate the mechanical innovations while creating a contemporary aesthetic. In this case enamel plays a subtle but important role in the three dimensional look of the watch. The dial, which covers the upper-half of the watch face is made of black gold. Offsetting this are the white minute-circle, numerals, hour markers and power reserve, created with champlevé grand feu enamel technique, in which cavities are engraved and then filled with enamel. The lower half of the watch reveals much of the movement.