Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jaquet Droz - Master of Enamel Dials

When you think of the brand Jaquet Droz, enamel dial comes to mind. And not just any enamel dial - a two toned one at that!

A friend of mine actually owns one of these beauties. The timepiece is limited to 88 pieces and a certificate informing the owner that the dial is a special batch of two toned dial.

The certificate informs the owner that the timepiece comes with a cream coloured "grand feu" enamelled dial and the ivory coloured applied "grand feu" enamelled subdials.

Enamel dials are difficult to make. Some say the success rate is as low as 40 to 1, that is for every 40 dials, only one make it. And this is for "normal" enamel dials. "Grand feu" enamelling is a rather sophisticated technique that only a few practitioners have managed to master. After several layers of enamelling can the master transfer the Roman and Arabic numerals unto the dial prior to the final firing in the oven.

This particular model features two different enamelling processes and three separate enamelled dial and subdials brazed together.

The Grand Feu technique takes patience and skills to achieve a close to flawless dial. The artisan applies the oxides and fires the dials in the oven several times to achieve a consistent dial. Notice the white spots on the dial - perfect imperfection. Gives the dial its character and uniqueness. Because of the way enamel firing is done, no two dials can be alike.

As I understand it, the brand does not make two toned dials anymore. Just too difficult to make them. The rejection rate is close to 99% and allows the production of only 1 to 2 pieces per month.

The back features an automatic calibre and a well decorated rotor. The movement has a power reserve of more than 60 hours.

The Grande Seconde two tones has lots of presence - the beauty of the enamel and the two toned dial is just stunning. The 43mm case is just nice to show off the enamel and gives proportion to the two off-centre dials.

You can see that the dials are not perfect ie there are still spots here and there. Some say that if the enamel dial is perfect that it is not enamel - there is still so much that humans can achieve. And enamelling is an art plus lots of science of getting it at the right temperature. But somehow, I think it is more art than science.

I am happy for my friend who owns this unique limited edition - I think it will be a long while before Jaquet Droz will come up with two tone dials again.