Louis Erard, the independent Swiss brand with a tradition of accessible luxury, has gained considerable traction in the past couple of years. One of the brand’s strategies to gain visibility for its Excellence collection was to invite designers Alain Silberstein and Eric Giroud, and even watchmaker Vianney Halter, to reinterpret the traditional regulator in a more contemporary key. Today, the brand adopts another feature associated with traditional watchmaking and introduces its first Grand Feu enamel dial on board another member of the Excellence family, the elegant Petite Seconde or Small Seconds. Once again, it turns to a third-party supplier’s expertise, in this case, the acclaimed Donzé Cadrans enamel workshop, to produce the handmade enamel dial of this edition of 99 watches. True to its accessible price philosophy, the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu Small Seconds will retail for less than CHF 4,000.
The Petite Seconde joined the Louis Erard Excellence collection as part of a trilogy of watches introduced in autumn 2020. Alongside the Regulator, a staple of the Excellence collection, the trilogy included two novelties: a Small Seconds model and a Monopusher Chronograph. Currently the simplest model in the Excellence family, the spartan time-only canvas of the Petite Seconde proved an ideal candidate for the brand’s first foray into traditional ceramic dials. The latest Petite Seconde Grand Feu enamel dial shares identical specs with the previous model.
In line with the brand’s mandate of accessible luxury, the movement is a Sellita SW261-1 automatic with a 38-hour power reserve and a special openworked oscillating weight. The case is made from polished stainless steel with a 42mm diameter and a thickness of 12.25mm, and the large knurled crown features engravings to evoke the shape of the spruce and fir trees on the slopes of the Jura Mountains. The layout is also similar with the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock and the vivid blued hands, also inspired by the shape of the fir trees that grow around the village of Le Noirmont. However, the incorporation of a handcrafted Grand Feu enamel dial changes the mood of the watch noticeably.
Enamel dial by DONZÉ CADRANS
By entrusting the enamelling process to Donzé Cadrans, Louis Erard ensures the highest possible quality available in enamel dials today. Founded in 1972 by master enameller Francis Donzé, Donzé Cadrans in Le Locle is one of the few remaining workshops that specialises in this centuries-old decorative art. Although enamelling has been around for millennia (Mycenae, 13th century BCE), there is only a handful of enamel dial manufactures in Europe today. Currently owned by Ulysse Nardin (2011), Donzé Cadrans also produces enamel dials for high-end watch brands.
To create the creamy coloured dial of the Petite Second, enamellers at Donzé Cadrans used the ‘Grand Feu’ (great fire) technique, which gets its name from the intense heat required to produce this extremely durable ceramic. Starting with a copper base that has been sprayed with alcohol, 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 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. 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.
The background of the dial displays a beautiful warm creamy beige colour. In contrast, the Roman numerals and elegant elongated indices are blue, like the railway minutes track and the bright blued ‘fir-tree’ hands. The small seconds counter combines four straight blue indices with eight indices in a darker beige colour.
Availability & Price
The Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu Small Seconds comes with a coffee-coloured nubuck calf leather strap with tone-on-tone stitching and a steel pin buckle. Limited to 99 pieces, the first batch of 15 pieces is now available. The retail price is CHF 3,900.
More information and orders at Louis Erard.