You see the terms referred to regularly here at Perpétuelle: “grand feu”, “champlevé”, and “cloisonné”. And what are they? Enamel techniques, of course! Very often used to create some of the most beautiful watch dials the world has ever seen. But what exactly do these terms mean? How are these enamel techniques different? What distinguishes each of these enamel types from the others? And what about those other rare occasions where we see the art of “flinque”, & “grisaille” — enamel techniques as well — on display. I explore these questions and more in this overview of the art of enamel in watchmaking.
In many articles related to fine watchmaking, it is easy to brush past big, fancy (and typically French) words used to describe watchmaking techniques — enamel-related or otherwise. But given that enamel dials are often the most unique and beautiful of all dials in fine watchmaking, with basically all of the most prestigious haute horlogerie brand producing such pieces (some more frequently than others), the time has never been better to deepen our understanding of what these terms mean.
Because of the organic nature of the material and manner in which it is produced — almost always by the skilled hand of an experienced artisan — I believe that it can be fairly stated that every watch with an enamel dial is a unique piece as well. But for most, the difference between a cloissoné dial (such as that found on a Patek 5131G) and a champlevé dial (as seen on a Vacheron Metiers d’Art) is but another trivial watchmaking detail. This naivete, I confess, was somewhat the case for me as well — at least for a while. But then I became more and more intrigued by the art of enamel and decided to expand my knowledge base, which I share with you now.
This is an article I’ve had in my head for quite some time now, and an admittedly one that only the nerdiest of watch-nerds might appreciate. But I’m glad to have finally finished it and I enjoyed writing it. So follow along as I take you through the finer points of enamel and enameling techniques used in fine watchmaking. And please note — this is not an exhaustive study of the very broad ranging “art of enamel”, but as I say will review the most commonly used techniques fine watchmaking, and a few less commonly used techniques as well.
Well it’s been a big week (the new Patek Grandmaster Chime grand comp, and the similarly impressive Vacheron Constantin I showed you before that), but believe me there are many more watches in my queue to show you. Like this one. So let’s switch gears a bit and look at this new release from Blancpain. It has a mouthful of a name — officially the “Blancpain Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph” — and there’s a reason for that, as I will explain in more detail below. But the other exciting there here is that this watch is yet another piece with Blancpain’s new high-frequency, in-house chronograph, the F385. I really like this caliber.
Aesthetically, the Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback is housed in a satin brushed gray ceramic case, with a ceramic crown and ceramic chronograph pushers and a unidirectional blue ceramic rotating bezel marked with liquidmetal indexes. The blue color theme is carried over to the dial, which offers three subdials for the chronograph counters and small seconds display. On the back of the watch, the movement and winding rotor are visible through the clear case back. The winding this limited series bearing the logo for the Ocean Commitment.
This watch is beautifully designed and proportioned in every way. And it is a limited, numbered edition of only 250 pieces, the first in a series of LE’s as part of the Ocean Commitment initiative. More looks and det’s below.
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Blancpain introduces a new Chronograph Pulsometer in the Villeret collection, its most classically styled series. The watch features Blancpain’s new, high-beat automatic caliber from the manufacture (the F385 — yes, the same one as in this bad boy), endowed with a flyback chronograph function — and perfectly suited to the 43.6mm red gold case. And of course as the name implies, the cambered enamel dial also has a pulsometer scale which enables one to check a heart rate quickly and easily (simply start the chronograph and then stop it after counting off 30 heartbeats).
More pics and a list of several other pulsometer watches, on the click
The new Villeret Perpetual Calendar from Blancpain is an extraordinary watch, and perhaps the finest achievement in an already impressive set of of new introductions this year. The new self-winding Blanpcain Calibre 5939A comprises 379 parts and measures 7.25 mm thick, with an impressive 8-day power reserve. It is offered in choice of red gold, or a limited edition platinum model, and comes in a dedicated box equipped with a winder serving to keep the watch on time even when not in use. The box cleverly designed solid wooden box doubles as a cigar humidor if the interior is removed.