We can’t deny having been surprised by Louis Erard, a brand that was clearly flying under the radar… But for a couple of years now, the brand has undergone a profound shift in strategy, first by creating collaboration models with revered designers or watchmakers, then by bringing a contemporary take on the tradition of artistic craftwork, yet at an accessible price. Following the handsome Excellence Émail Grand Feu introduced a few months ago, the brand continues its odyssey in traditional decorative techniques, by now presenting the Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main Limited Edition, with a surprisingly modern hand-made engine-turned dial.
Louis Erard has been highly active recently. In addition to nicely executed watches in its permanent collection, such as the Excellence Triptych or the classic Regulator, the brand has created multiple talking pieces, all collaborative projects with watchmakers, designers or revered suppliers. Think about the bold Silberstein Regulator, the watches designed by Eric Giroud or even Vianney Halter’s take on the regulator watch. Recently, the brand, which is known for its accessible take on luxury and watch collecting, has gained considerable traction. It also decided to bring traditional artistic craftwork to contemporary watchmaking and with fairly-priced models, such as the Excellence Émail Grand Feu and its dial made by Donzé Cadran.
Following this path, the brand today presents a new watch that once again manages to provide rare decorative techniques, normally reserved to higher-end models, yet in its usual price range. And this time, we’re talking hand-guilloché dial. Once again here, the Excellence Guilloché Main breaks the codes with a modern approach, different from what’s usually found in traditional guilloché – no clous de Paris or grains d’orge pattern here. Louis Erard’s watch is a trompe-l’oeil, with a graphic and contemporary pattern with a 3D checked pattern over a black contrasting base.
The dial of the Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main is executed piece by piece by hand guilloché technique. These are made by dial maker Fehr & Cie SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and the pattern is carried out on a manual guilloché rose engine lathe. No CNC machine or automated process here, but a man-controlled century-old machine that chisels the surface of the dial to reveal the metal and the desired pattern.
For its Excellence Guilloché Main, Louis Erard designed a rather impressive pattern that tricks the eye, with a well-known 3D effect that creates depth in an image that is perfectly flat. The combination of a black varnish base, used to cover the dial before the guilloché, and the final rhodium plating that gives a silver patina to the brass exposed by the chisel, enhance the depth effect resulting in 3D squares that appears to be like stairs. As for the design itself, the result is pretty spectacular, yet it could be puzzling for some. It is far from a classic, discreet watch and the dial is eye-catching. To make sure the focus is made on the pattern, Louis Erard went for a simple two-hand display, with the signature fir tree hands in blued steel, and the logo of the brand is transferred under the glass.
For the rest, we’re in known territory, with the brand’s classic 42mm stainless steel case, measuring 12.25mm in height – the same as the Excellence Émail Grand Feu or the Excellence Petite Seconde – and a domed sapphire crystal on top. The watch is worn on a 22mm black calf nubuck strap, for an understated look. It is closed by a pin buckle and features quick-release spring bars. Under the see-through caseback is a simple yet robust automatic movement, the Sellita SW261-1 in élaboré grade with a special openworked rotor. A movement that has nothing special but that helps to offer this watch at a fair price.
Indeed, the Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main comes at CHF 3,900, a very reasonable price considering the work done on the dial. It is a limited edition of 99 pieces and is now available for orders at www.louiserard.com.