The latest collection of timepieces from Canada-based hand-painted dial specialist watchmaker Ematelier is a men’s-focused range known as “Elements.” The goal of the collection is to offer a platform for enthusiasts to order bespoke-made watch dials using a range of techniques that all fall under the larger category of “enamel dials.” Ematelier even produces a few serial-production Elements pieces with more basic, albeit still traditional enamel dials that start at just under $5,000 in price. What you see here is an example of a more complicated enamel dial technique that combines hand-enamel painting as well as a cloisonne construction. This Ematelier watch as configured costs about double the price of the entry-level Elements models, but is still an incredible value compared to what the same artistic dial would cost you from a traditional Swiss watchmaker. Hence the noteworthiness of this Ematelier Elements watch with the grand feu cloisonne enamel “earth map” dial is directly related to the value for the money given both the quality and the incredible flexibility the brand offers when it comes to producing their watches.
Until recently Ematelier mostly focused on watches for women. The brand started by offering exclusively women’s watches using a different base case and mostly focusing on dial designs that are more feminine. Ironically, the Elements case, while different in style, is more or less the same size as Ematelier’s other case but with more masculine proportions. The Elements case is accordingly 38.8mm wide and 10.2mm thick, here offered in polished steel. The case uses a sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 50 meters. It offers a handsome, conservative look that is meant to serve as a frame for a variety of dial styles.
Inside the Elements watch a Swiss Made Soprod A-10 automatic movement that operates at 4Hz with 42 hours of power reserve. The movements used are the higher-end decorated versions and you can view the movement through the sapphire crystal caseback window. The dial display has been minimized for aesthetic purposes (with the removal of the seconds hand for example) and features just the hours and minutes. As this is not a sports watch but something meant for more formal attire, I think that works just fine in my opinion.
Now let’s talk about the beautiful dial – because that is really where the Elements watch shines and what the Ematelier brand is all about. Patek Philippe is among the brands today that is perhaps best known for producing watches with map-style grand feu enamel painted dials – and they aren’t cheap. Rolex has done this in the distant past, and from time to time we see watches from other brands which decide to release a map-style dial produced using traditional hand-applied artistic techniques.
Ematelier produces the dials in-house, and one like this using grand feu cloisonne enamel takes about 7-10 days to complete. That’s just the dial. What is cloisonne enamel anyways? In short, it is a technique that begins with an artisan creating a small wirework composition using small strands of gold. These create little box areas which are painted with different colors and then oven-fired multiple times while the composition takes form. The process also requires using both gold and silver-colored foil, and a variety of polishing techniques to make sure the result is stunningly beautiful. While it can be challenging in the abstract to appreciate all the work that goes into a dial like this, it is correct to say that producing such a dial, with such a high level of quality is an outstanding feat for any company. That Ematelier can offer this type of wrist-worn art for such an accessible price should be highly encouraging to enthusiasts out there not willing to pay many multiples in price for a comparable product from one of the most historic brand names.
The Elements dial is comprised of multiple parts with the center of the dial being the most complex given that it applies the cloisonne enamel technique. The outer dial is technically a separate element and uses a more traditional enameling technique with the black Roman numerals and markers painted on the white background. This produces not only excellent contrast but also color permanence – as is why enamel became popular in the first place. This outer dial with the markers allows for a high level of legibility despite the center of the face being reserved for the artistic composition.
Some earth map dials select only a portion of the globe as it allows for more regional detail, but in this instance, Ematelier decided to include the entire map which I think helps the overall composition look more complete and visually attractive. The cloisonne enamel map features the natural earth tones such as green, brown, yellow, and blue for the map, as well as a complex latticework of the gold strands that make up the cloisonne part of the detailing. I like how there is a distinct line for the equator, as well as a circular blue section that references the arctic region which helps visually orient the map given how we expect to see representations of our planet. Everyone I have shown this cloisonne enamel dial to agrees that the quality is excellent, and for the most part easily on par with the work coming from similar artisans and craftspeople located in Switzerland and the surrounding areas. In fact, the level of detail and effort in this Ematelier dial perhaps surpasses that applied to watches from brands typically considered masters in this field.
On the accompanying blue alligator strap, the Elements watch with the enamel earth map dial is versatile and handsome, even if it has a very traditional demeanor to it. Customization options for a watch like this are vast including various case materials, straps, and no limit to the dials that can be produced ranging from different maps to different hour markers. Opting for changes is possible, but will increase the cost of the watch – still a relatively affordable price for such levels of personalization. As seen with this beautiful grand feu cloisonne enamel earth map dial, the price for this Ematelier Elements watch is $10,000 USD. Learn more at the Ematelier website here.