Grand feu enamel dials were quite common during the 20th century. Nowadays, however, these dials have become much rarer and often have relatively high prices. Today, grand feu enamel is synonymous with excellence and commensurate with the decorative arts. This process is technical and demanding, but the result is worth it !
Introduction to grand feu enamel
Enamel is a somewhat powdery material. Indeed, it is comprised of an array of minerals, including silica, clay and feldspar. The natural shade of enamel is whitish beige. However, different elements can be added to this base colour to create blue, green, red or even grey. This material is then baked in a special oven at between 800 and 1,200 degrees Celsius to fuse it. This stage gives the technique its grand feu (i.e., great fire”) name. Many cycles of firing and polishing are required for the enamel to achieve a smooth surface. To design a watch face, the enamel is fused onto a copper disc. The inscriptions and indexes are then drawn in ink and fired at a low temperature. However, it is also possible to use a quicker, simpler technique involving pad printing. It can take up to 10 hours to create the enamel design on a dial. Grand feu enamel can result in true works of art.
Unmatched elegance for very limited production
It goes without saying, this delicate material requires extensive work and definite skill. No other material gives this result, which makes grand feu enamel so elegant and alluring. Aesthetically speaking, it results in magnificent colours, an extremely smooth texture and incredible shine. Moreover, this material does not deteriorate over time, taking decades to acquire a certain patina. Here are two models that will make your head spin.
Vacheron Constantin American 1921
As its name suggests, this historic piece transports us straight to the Roaring Twenties. What makes it so special is that the dial can be read diagonally, meaning that you do not have to tilt the wrist to tell the time. The white dial features a railway minute track, black-painted Arabic numerals and small seconds between 3 and 4 o’clock. It contains a hand-winding movement that builds up a 65-hour power reserve.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Ivory Enamel
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Ivory Enamel has a generous 43 mm diameter. The ivory dial is made even more stunning by the 18-carat red gold case. The model houses a self-winding movement with a 68-hour power reserve.
If you are captivated by this artistic and romantic vision of watchmaking, we would be delighted to show you the models we carry at our shop.