Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches
Buying Guide

Showcasing the Mesmerizing Art of Dial Decorations through Six Mechanical Marvels

From hand-engraved dials, to silicon marquetry and cloisonné enamel, it's all possible in the wonderful world of watchmaking!

| By Robin Nooy | 7 min read |

We’re doing this differently this week, as we’re not content with ‘just’ listing watches within a certain price range, featuring a specific complication or a distinct dial colour. We’re not even going to focus on a movement’s complexity, an unconventional case design or a specific material. No, in this instalment of our weekly Buying Guide, we’re emerging ourselves into the wonderful world of dial decorations. From traditional guilloché to miniature enamel paintings and silicon marquetry, there is an abundance of incredibly creative craftsmanship to be discovered. The watches we’ve selected are all a labour of love and dedication, elevating the dial into true works of art.

Schwarz Etienne geometry

Guilloché is one of the oldest techniques still used in watchmaking today and one of the hardest to master. But the fact it’s considered a very traditional technique doesn’t imply it is only reserved for very classical pieces. Schwarz Etienne for instance, decided to give a geometrical spin on the art of guilloché with the aptly named Geometry. This time-only watch has a dial designed by Eric Giroud, who divided the dial into quarters, each with a scrambled order of different guilloché patterns. It comes in a silver or salmon colour with dark contrasting sections. The style is refreshing and fun, which also benefits from the brand’s micro-rotor movement. The Geometry is limited to 100 pieces per colour and retails for EUR 23,400.

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Quick Facts – 39mm x 11mm – stainless steel case, polished – sapphire crystal front & back – 50m water-resistant – silver or salmon coloured dial – segmented guilloché pattern – sandblasted minute track & small seconds subdial – lance-shaped hands – Calibre ASE 200.02, in-house – automatic winding with micro-rotor – 33 jewels – 21,600vph – 86h power reserve – dark blue or grey leather strap with folding buckle – limited to 100 pieces per colourway – EUR 23,400

Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans

When we first saw the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans, we were in awe of its architecture, but even more so by the incredible level of finishing. Front and centre is the dragon-scale engraved dial, where each indentation is hand-applied with a special chisel. This deeply alluring pattern draws you in to see all the details up close and personal, such as the black-polished bridges, blued hands, sapphire crystal subdial for the small seconds or the exposed keyless works. The feast for the eyes continues on the backside, with concave and polished screw heads, anglage, wolf-teeth gearing and more. The sad part is that all 12 pieces of the Subscription Edition have long gone, despite the price of CHF 50,000. Still, it’s a true work of art!

Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition

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Quick Facts – 39mm x 10.50mm – zirconium case, brushed & polished – embedded gold dove-tail in the baseband – sapphire crystal front & back – concave polished crown – red gold dial with hand-engraved ‘dragon scales’ pattern – exposed running gear & winding system – translucent sapphire crystal small-seconds subdial – observatory-style blued steel hour hand with blued steel minute and small seconds hand – calibre SBCA, manually wound – 194 components – 18,000vph – 72h power reserve – haute horlogerie finishing – textured calfskin leather strap – 12-piece subscription piece, sold-out – CHF 50,000 (excl. taxes)

Vacheron Constantin Metiérs d’Art Explorer Naturalists

Vacheron Constantin is known for its masterful artistic craftsmanship presented under the Métiers d’Art collection. One of the most fascinating creations in recent times is the quartet of watches called ‘Explorer Naturalists‘. Each one is inspired by a different place or event surrounding famous 19th-century explorations made by the HMS Beagle. The collections sails to Cape Verde, the Straits of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, and the Cape of Good Hope. Each dial is unique and shows incredible craftsmanship such as Grand Feu miniature enamel paintings and engraved appliques. Time almost feels secondary to the artwork, but is shown in the wandering hours display. Limited to ten pieces each, the price is EUR 203,000 apiece.

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Quick Facts – 41mm x 11.68mm – white or pink gold case, polished – sapphire crystal front & back – 30m water-resistant – 18k white gold two-level dials with Grand Feu miniature enamel paintings and hand-sculpted gold elements – Calibre 1120 AT, automatic – 205 components – 19,800vph – 36 jewels – 40h power reserve – dragging hours and minutes display – alligator leather strap with gold half Maltese cross-shaped folding buckle – limited series of ten pieces each – Vacheron Boutique exclusive – EUR 203,000

Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry

While the Executive Free Wheel by Ulysse Nardin is a marvellous watch on its own, the prime focus is on the dial-side mounted mechanics. This changes with the new and edgy Blast Free Wheel Marquertry, which uses 103 segments of luminous blue silicium. Ulysse Nardin is a true pioneer of silicon in watchmaking, so it’s only fitting to use it as a decorative element. The result is a dramatic and amazing play of light, as each segment has a different textured finish from the one alongside it. This is visible from almost all angles due to the sharply faceted white gold case construction and the box-shaped sapphire crystal cover. This artistry does not come cheap though, as it retails for EUR 139,200 including VAT.

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Quick Facts – 45mm diameter – faceted white gold case – box-shaped sapphire crystal – sapphire crystal caseback – 30m water-resistant – marquetry dial using 103 luminous blue silicon segments – grey hands with Super-LumiNova – UN-176 Manufacture movement, automatic – flying tourbillon UN Constant Escapement – silicon escapement wheel, anchor and balance spring – 249 components – 18,000vph – 7-day power reserve – blue velvet effect waterproof rubber strap or blue alligator leather strap – EUR 139,200

Minase Divido Shibo Urushi

The inimitable style of the Japanese specialist brand Minase is quite different and outspoken. The case-in-case construction for instance or the Ysegi-Zaiku puzzle-inspired design, all exemplify the brand’s metalworking expertise. The Divido is one of the four available collections and now comes with four different handmade dials by master craftsman Junichi Hakose. Each one is made with traditional Japanese Shibo Urushi lacquer, resulting in a fascinating play of colours set against an inky black background. The effect is impossible to recreate, so each dial is unique on its own. The ETA 2892 powered Minase Divido Shibo Urushi is available on a textured black rubber strap for CHF 7,200 or a steel multi-link bracelet for CHF 8,410.

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Quick Facts – 40.6mm x 11.0mm – stainless steel case-in-case construction, brushed & Zaratsu-polished – sapphire crystal front & back – 50m water-resistant – handmade dials using Shibo Urishi lacquer in 4 colours – hand-polished hands – ETA 2892/A2 base, finished & personalised by Minase – 28,800vph – 50h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date – steel bracelet with Zaratsu-polished and brushed links or black textured rubber strap – available through Minase’s online boutique – CHF 7,200 on rubber strap – CHF 8,410 on steel bracelet

BCHH x Andersen genève celestial voyager aurora & arctic sunrise

Collaborating with seasoned collector and entrepreneur Benjamin Chee, Andersen Genève created a fascinating duo of world-timer watches called the Celestial Voyager Aurora & Arctic Sunrise. The sleek 18k pink gold case comes in two variations, both featuring a combination of guilloché and cloisonné enamel, paired with a mother-of-pearl city ring. The centre section captures the amazing natural spectacle of the Aurora Borealis and a sunrise over the Arctic Circle. Not to be outdone by the front, the automatic movement around the back is driven by a guilloché decorated Blue Gold rotor. Limited to 15 pieces per edition, all worn on a hand-stitched alligator leather strap, the price is set at CHF 58,800.

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Quick Facts – 37.7mm x 10.1mm – pink-gold case, satin-finished & polished – sapphire crystal front & back – twin-symmetrical crowns – 30m water-resistant – dial with guilloché and cloisonné enamel centre & mother-of-pearl city ring – blue 24h ring – leaf-shaped hands – historical AS 1876 base with Andersen Genève world time module – automatic winding with 18k BlueGold rotor – 21,600vph – 40h power reserve – hand-stitched alligator leather strap with pink gold buckle – limited to 15 pieces per edition – CHF 58,800

2 responses

  1. Our Finnish friend Stepan Sarpaneva needs to be mentioned here as well.
    Mesmerising pieces with highly original dial decorations.

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