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One of Toronto-based Ematelier’s offerings is its bespoke enamel dial — a unique combination of fine watchmaking and the timeless art of enameling.

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The service, intended for the watch connoisseur with an affinity for fine art or a specific vision for the next addition to their collection, offers a fully customized enamel dial. Options include a replication or interpretation of an existing work of art, a tribute to an iconic timepiece from the past, or custom original work produced by Ematelier’s artists. The dial is then fitted by Ematelier onto a timepiece of the client’s choosing, resulting in a unique heirloom designed to long outlive its original owner.

Klimt, The Kiss. Grand Feu cloisonné and miniature painting. Gold plate, Gold wire. 15 firings.

Ematelier’s bespoke enamel dial service accommodates three possible options for the choice of watch. The client may purchase an Ematelier watch with the custom dial, fit the dial into a piece from their existing collection, or purchase a new timepiece from another watchmaker and have Ematelier add the custom dial. Ematelier’s comprehensive service covers everything from watch selection to final dial fitting, including any necessary case or movement modifications.

On Customization

Customized pieces introduce new dimensions of complication to the process. Ematelier is committed to faithfully adhering to the client’s vision, which involves careful selection of the right enameling technique — Grand Feu miniature painting, Cloisonné, Champleve etc. For instance, if the client opts for an enamel dial that showcases the work of an impressionist piece, the impressionist style’s characteristics brushstrokes must be taken into consideration and replicated with great accuracy.

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Van Gogh. For Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso, Cartier Tank and Ematelier watches. Grand Feu Miniature painting with careful replication of Van Gogh brush strokes. Gold Plate. 15 firings.

Likewise, replication of existing art may involve subtle adjustments to the original composition to accommodate the shape of the dial. The dial itself can be wrought in gold, silver, or copper, depending on the expected cost and/or the number of firings required to produce the piece. A round dial will behave differently than a square one in the kiln; the angles, whether rough or smooth, also play a role in how the dial comports under high heat. In short, no matter the skill of the enameler, these factors often amount to multiple attempts before the desired result is achieved.

Dial thickness is another factor to consider—especially when the client prefers to have their own bespoke dial fitted into a watch from an existing collection. Enamel dials are necessarily thicker than average; this is especially true for detailed works of art that require a higher number of layers. Ematelier will advise the client on whether their chosen timepiece can accommodate the thickness of their custom-made dial and, if possible, make adjustments to the case or movements to fit the dial properly.

Matterhorn mountain. Grand Feu cloisonné, Grand Feu miniature painting, engraving. Gold plate, gold wire, gold accents. 16 firings.

The color of the enamel can also change unpredictably during firing. Red is an especially tricky hue, as it’s most prone to changing color in the kiln. Pieces with a significant amount of red present a formidable challenge for the enameler.

On the Timeless Art of Enameling

The art of enameling is timeless in a straightforward sense: thanks to the  unique longevity of enamel, art rendered in this material will retain its integrity and colors indefinitely. This method dates back to ancient times; Enameled jewelry from ancient times is as beautiful and vibrant today as the day it was produced. Enamel art is thus an uncommonly suitable choice for heirlooms, designed to be passed from one from generation to the next.

Enamel art is as rewarding as it is complex. The process involves painting enamel, in carefully selected colors, onto a dial in layers. Between layers, the dial is fired sometimes 20 times in an 800°C kiln. Finished enamel is exceptionally resilient but the material is temperamental to work with: At any stage in the firing process, the dial is prone to cracking and warping, which requires the enameler to restart the process from the beginning.

Celestial dial is a snapshot of the sky in a specific place and time. Grand Feu cloisonné on a white gold plate. Gold accents, Gold wire. 12 firings. Mirror polished.

The Geneva technique, developed in its namesake city, is another intricacy. In this technique, the work of miniature enamel art is finished with a translucent enamel coating to protect it, create a smooth finish, and enhance the depth of the dial. However, this final step can also alter the colors of the art underneath. Extensive research, testing, and experience are necessary to finesse this process — hence, the rarity of enamel pieces.

On Ematelier’s Thorough Service

From consultation to completion, Ematelier covers the bespoke enamel dial process from start to finish. This journey requires thoughtful communication with the client to finalize timepiece selection, design, composition, enameling technique, and the creation of final renderings before production. Ematelier performs the entire production process in-house, from casting and CNC machining the dial plate and application of enameling techniques to polishing, fitting, and case or movement modification (if applicable).

Predicting the exact price of a custom email dial is complex. This is because there are a multitude of variables that can impact the cost. These include the complexity of the art itself, the enameling technique, the material for the base plate, and whether the Geneva Technique (translucent mirror-polished final layers of enamel) is used, among others. From start to finish, creating a custom dial may take several weeks as a collaboration among enamelers, artists, and jewelers. In many instances, the cost of the dial exceeds the value of the watch it goes into. But when the process is complete, one is left with a bespoke collector’s item that can be enjoyed for generations.

Learn more at the Ematelier website.

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