The Crafting Process
Miniature painting in enamel, an extraordinary amalgam of science and fine art, is unforgiving work. No matter how great the skill of the artisan, the medium is temperamental and can be corrupted at any stage of production.
Nevertheless, each Ématelier dial is painstakingly wrought by hand and fire. The effort is worth it, because an enamel dial will long outlive not only its first owner, but its era. Thanks to its unique properties, enamel produces astonishingly vivid colours with infinite longevity, invulnerable to heat, moisture, and time.
Holding a piece of enamel art in a personal collection is extremely rare. Due to the expense and complexity involved in its creation, the vast majority of enamel works are found in museums. The rarity of skilled artisans is another factor, since the craft nearly died out in the early twentieth century.
Thankfully, the enamellers of today are seeing an increased demand for their skills as top watch houses invest in reinvigorating this unique art form.
The painting stage is the most complex. In the enamelling world, miniature painting—the technique used to produce Ématelier watches—is considered to be the most intricate and difficult.
The image must be applied in several layers, and fired in the kiln at up to 800ºC between coats. Hardier, more resilient colours that can withstand multiple firings are applied first, while more delicate shades are saved for the final stages.
Lastly, the dial undergoes the Geneva Technique, born in the eponymous Swiss city of Geneva. Here, a finished painting is coated with transparent enamel two to three times, and fired in the kiln in between coats. This sets the painting, provides a completely smooth surface, and enhances the depth and vividness of the colours. On average, each Ématelier piece undergoes as many as 10 to 12 firings in total.
With just a tiny miscalculation, the dial can warp, crack, bubble, or explode. Since the colours react to heat both individually and collectively, a slight mistake in the order can produce unintended results and force the enameller to start again.
Once the dial is finished, final assembly of the watch can commence.
The watches then go through a rigorous final inspection phase to make sure all components meet the highest standards. When all goes well, the result is truly a one-of-a-kind work of art worthy of a place in any collector’s repertoire.