Given the amount of time and skill required to handcraft a Grand Feu enamel dial, it’s not surprising that they are usually reserved for high-end watches. Louis Erard, the watch brand based in Le Noirmont, is determined to democratise traditional métiers d’art and offer them to a wider public. Last year, the independent Swiss brand produced its first Grand Feu enamel dial for a watch with a price tag of under CHF 4,000. This year, the brand repeats the formula and entrusts its second Excellence model with a Grand Feu enamel dial to the reputed firm Donzé Cadrans which specialises in enamel dials. The second Excellence model now comes in a more versatile 39mm case size with a lovely white enamel dial enlivened with touches of blue and red.
For the past couple of years, Louis Erard has devised a strategy to gain visibility by inviting watch designers like Alain Silberstein, Eric Giroud and even watchmaker Vianney Halter to reinterpret the versatile Régulateur model. Under the artistic and strategic direction of watch industry veteran Manuel Emch, Louis Erard has also added refined decorative techniques to the mix and has produced models with handmade enamel and guilloché dials revisited in a contemporary key.
grand feu enamel
The second Grand Feu enamel dial has also been handcrafted in the Donzé Cadrans workshop and uses the Petite Second model as its base. Now offered in a 39mm case, the lovely white enamel dial and crisp blue Roman numerals are given a dash of modernity with the bright red numeral XII and the eight subtle red markers of the small seconds at 6 o’clock. The pointy fir tree hands, inspired by the shape of the trees that grow around the village of Le Noirmont, are blued and add a distinctive Louis Erard touch.
Like all Grand Feu enamel dials, the three colours used on the dial require separate turns in the kiln at temperatures of over 800°C. And like all enamel dials, great expertise is required to avoid mishaps that can occur in the kiln. Donzé Cadrans, based in Le Locle, has been in the business of enamelling dials since 1972 and is now owned by Ulysse Nardin. The beauty of an enamel dial is that the colours are fixed forever, permanently bonded to the metal base, and will never lose their radiant sheen. Starting with a copper base, enamel powder is sprinkled on the surface and placed in a kiln that reaches temperatures of 800°C and up. The process is repeated until the right thickness is achieved. An entirely manual process, all sorts of things can go wrong during the firing stage: warping, cracks in the surface and even blisters and bubbles. Not even the final colour can be ascertained until the dial has cooled and rejection rates are high. The dials that pass the test are then ready for printing. Not your regular printing process with ink, but printing with enamel powder, meaning that each colour has to be printed separately, and the dial has to go back in the kiln to fix the colours.
Designed to match the colour scheme of the dial, the red grained calfskin strap has two blue stitches at the level of the lugs and comes with a polished stainless steel pin buckle with catch spring bars to change the strap.
Case and Movement
The 39mm stainless steel case has a thickness of 12.25mm and is polished throughout. The large, knurled crown is engraved with triangular shapes to evoke the fir and spruce trees of the region. In keeping with the brand’s policy of accessible luxury, the movement is a Sellita SW261-1 automatic with a 38-hour power reserve. The dedicated rotor is openworked with a black lacquered Louis Erard monogram.
Availability & Price
The Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu II is a limited edition of 99 pieces and retails for CHF 3,900. For more information, please consult Louis Erard.com.