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SpotlightThe Allure Of A Cool White Dial: Louis Erard Le Régulateur Grand Feu Enamel

Le Régulateur Grand Feu Enamel by Louis Erard evokes a minimalist design aesthetic by using an ivory hued enamel dial for the first time ever in their regulator watch

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Independent Swiss watchmakers Louis Erard, with popular watch collections such as 1931, Heritage and Romance, are noted for their signature regulator timepieces. The latest Louis Erard Le Régulateur Grand Feu Enamel, however, shifts the focus from its regulator mechanism to its enamel dial. Launched along with other two Le Régulateur Louis Erard watches, Atelier Oï and Cédric Johner, Louis Erard, for the first time ever, have used the regulator mechanism with the opaque, glassy material of enamel as the dial surface in the new Grand Feu Enamel timepiece.

Le Regulateur Louis Erard Grand Feu Enamel dial ivory white dial blue hands
With the Le Régulateur Grand Feu Enamel, Louis Erard, for the first time ever, have used the regulator mechanism with the opaque, glassy material of enamel as the dial surface

Grand Feu Enamel Dials: Unpredictable, Fragile Yet Elegant

Enamel dials are based on the design aesthetic of vintage-era pocket watches, and are created when glass-forming silica crystals are fired with metal oxides at high temperatures. There are diverse enamelling techniques that involve etching, die stamping, engraving and high-quality casting. Louis Erard chose the vitreous technique, popularly known as grand feu enamelling, which is the French term for ‘great fire’. This involves firing the enamel over 800 degree Celsius. To ensure the technique is carried out to perfection, Louis Erard had collaborated with Donzé Cadrans SA, a Swiss-based company that specialises in using traditional firing techniques to create enamel dials.

  • The Watch Guide

    To create the enamel dial, steel discs are cutout from prepared metal sheets

  • The Watch Guide

    The stainless-steel case is first soldered with three tiny ‘feet’ beneath

  • The Watch Guide

    After a good rinse, the three-legged case is ‘dusted’ with fine enamel powder like freshly baked cake ‘dusted’ with castor sugar as frosting.

  • The Watch Guide

    The dial is fired between three to eight firing cycles, till it achieves the desired 12.82mm thickness and right shade of ivory

  • The Watch Guide

    Upon completely cooling off the dial is polished to achieve a smooth finish

Compared to lacquered dials, enamelling is time exhaustive, and needs extreme accuracy in managing temperature control to get it right. Even after following the rules to the ‘T’, enamel is fickle, has a mind of its own, and at any stage of the firing process can get ‘flawed’ with the sudden formation of bubbles, cracks, roughness, and inconsistent colouring on the dial. Given the tedious process, grand feu enamel dials are mostly limited-edition or limited-production watches. For that matter, the Louis Erard enamel watch has a 99-piece limited run.

To create the Louis Erard enamel dial, steel discs are cut out from prepared metal sheets. Three tiny ‘feet’ are soldered on beneath each disc. This construction is bathed in acid to eliminate porosity and dirt. After a good rinse, the three-legged case is ‘dusted’ with fine enamel powder like freshly baked cake ‘dusted’ with castor sugar as frosting. The artisan ‘builds’ upon the dial set on the stainless-steel case, by applying multiple layers of enamel powder with a paintbrush. A mist of alcohol is sprayed on the case to prevent the powder from flying off during the transfer from the dusting table to the oven. The ‘mini cake’ is then fired over 800 degrees Celsius.

The Watch Guide

Inscribed alongside the dial edge between seven to nine o’clock is the hallmark ‘Fabriqué en Suisse Email Grand Feu’ (Swiss for ‘Made in Switzerland Grand Feu Enamel’)

The Watch Guide

One of the Louis Erard signatures on this timepiece are the three blued steel fir tree hands that assist in indicating the right time

The first round of firing ensures the powered enamel melts and gets glued to the case. At this stage, when fire meets alcohol and burns it off, there’s a sudden burst of flame or a grand feu. If the dial is devoid of flaws, a skilled artisan proceeds to flatten it with a small hand tool. It is given another enamel powder coating and fired again, between three to eight firing cycles, till the dial achieves the desired 12.82mm thickness and right shade of ivory. After perfecting the dial dimensions, two-toned enamel decals displaying inscriptions of timekeeping indications are applied. This includes a vertically stacked trio of timekeeping indications—an hour counter at 12 o’clock, a long central minute hand at the coaxial, and a running seconds counter at six o’clock—with Arabic numerals, indices, an outer minute track, sub-dial radius, and brand logo, and the dial is fired again for the last time. Upon completely cooling off, the dial is polished to achieve a smooth finish. Inscribed alongside the dial edge between seven and nine o’clock is the hallmark Fabriqué en Suisse émail grand feu (meaning ‘made in Switzerland, grand feu enamel’). One of the Louis Erard signatures on this timepiece are the three blued steel fir tree hands that assist in indicating the right time.

Minimalistic Design Aesthetic

A trademark fir tree crown sits at the right side of the case to adjust the time. Both sides of the case are fitted with domed antireflective sapphire crystals, with the open-worked caseback offering partial views of the movement. The grand feu enamel watch is an automatic regulator, runs on a reliable Sellita calibre, the SW266-1, which beats at 28,800vph and offers 38-hour power reserve.

Le Regulateur Louis Erard Grand Feu Enamel dial ivory white dial blue hands
The open-worked caseback offers partial views of the reliable Sellita calibre, the SW266-1, which beats at 28,800vph and offers a 38-hour power reserve

The Louis Erard Le Régulateur Grand Feu Enamel features a grained calf leather bracelet in grey with tone-on-tone stitching at the edges and black grained calf leather lining. This easily interchangeable strap comes with a sleek, polished stainless steel pin buckle.

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