In a very short period of time, Louis Erard has made a name for itself as a go-to brand for original collaboration watches and for its democratising approach to offering traditional métiers d’art to a broader public. The latest model flaunts an exquisite handmade dial using wood marquetry to depict an abstract cubist pattern. Handmade by artisan Bastien Chevalier, each dial of the 99 limited edition Excellence Marqueterie watches hosts a unique work of miniature marquetry art and comes with a surprisingly accessible price.
A key player in Louis Erard’s strategy and a board member, industry veteran Manuel Emch masterminded the brand’s turnaround with a strong focus on original collaborations (Alain Silberstein, Vianney Halter, Atelier Oi, etc.) and affordable models with métiers d’art dials. Usually the terrain of upper echelon brands, Louis Erard has produced dials with Grand Feu enamel, hand-guilloché decoration and even cool stone dials for under EUR 4,000.
The miniature abstract Escher-like pattern on the dial, similar in nature to the earlier guilloché dials, posed a challenge to Bastian Chevalier. Not only are geometric patterns the hardest to execute in marquetry, but Chevalier had never produced such a large series. A cabinetmaker and skilled marquetry artisan, Chevalier is one of the few experts in this field and renowned for his contemporary approach to these metiers d’art.
The canvas selected for the art is a model from the classic Excellence collection with a polished 42mm steel case, a height of 12.25mm and water-resistance of 50m. To recreate the chequerboard pattern with its trompe-l’oeil effect, Chevalier cut every diminutive piece of wood by hand in the direction of the grain with a saw. Each colour is sourced from a different kind of wood – the three shades of blue are applied to tulip tree wood, while the grey-stained areas are made of willow burl. The surgical precision of each cut, exact to a tenth of a millimetre, is the only way to assemble the composition without gaps. Chevalier would engage in yoga breathing techniques to steady his hand before taking his hand to the saw. Using a scalpel and a binocular microscope, each tiny piece of the composition is glued to the metal base and then sanded to the correct thickness. One mistake and you have to start from scratch.
Respecting the artwork on the dial, there are no numerals and time is indicated by the signature blued fir tree hands of Louis Erard. The dial bears the artisan’s signature and is protected by a domed sapphire crystal.
Engraved with “Limited Edition 1 of 99”, the caseback reveals the elaboré-grade Sellita SW261-1 automatic calibre with its customised Louis Erard rotor. Beating at 28,800vph, the movement delivers a 38h power reserve.
Matching the darker tone of blue used on the cubes in the dial, the watch is fitted with a blue, grained calfskin strap with tone-on-tone stitching at the attachment points and a stainless steel buckle. The functional catch spring bars on the reverse allow for a quick DIY change of strap.
Availability & Price
The Louis Erard Excellence Marqueterie is a limited edition of 99 pieces and retails for CHF 3,900 (excl. tax). More information at louiserard.com.