Guides Watch Culture Watches

Ematelier’s Mastery of Custom Enamel Dials is Second to None

Ematelier Klimt The Kiss Enamel Dial

If you have the artistic desire for a micro-painting on your watch dial, there’s one place to go; Ematelier for their bespoke enamel dials. Of all the decorative crafts lavished on watches – engravings, guilloches and the like – arguably the most demanding is enamelling. Even ‘basic’ mono-colour enamel is tough enough to execute, with the potential for cracked dials and imperfections all too common. But that’s not the kind of enamel we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the kind of enamelling reserved for only the most intense of metiers d’art pieces, the collector’s pieces, and personal heirlooms that turn a watch face into a piece of art.

Unfortunately – and understandably – that kind of enamelling is exceptionally rare. Not only are there few watchmakers confident enough to give it a go, there are even fewer artisans able to make it a reality. That’s especially true if you’re looking for something bespoke.

Ematelier Klimt The Kiss Wristwatch

Ematelier Custom Enamel Watch Dial (Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss)

It’s easy to see the appeal. You can design onto your watch face your favourite piece of art, some meaningful scene or design, or just something fun and abstract to really make the watch your own. And yet for something so wonderfully broad, the realities are very limiting. If you go to most watchmakers, they’ll only want to work on their watches – which makes sense, even if it’s not exactly egalitarian of them. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll be paying a ridiculous sum of money for a process that’s going to take a very long time.

It seems like if you want yourself a lovely enamelled dial, you’re stuck. But that’s where Ematelier comes in. Based in Canada but with skills imported from the traditional enamelling home of Russia, Ematelier is one of the few places in the world you can get an expertly made custom enamel dial for any watch. The fact that they’re a fair price is a bonus.

Ematelier Van Gogh Starry Night Dial

 

Van Gogh Starry Night

Ematelier Van Gogh Cafe Terrace at Night Dial

 

Van Gogh Cafe Terrace at Night

Ematelier Van Gogh Wheatfield with Crows Dial

Van Gogh Wheatfield with Crows

Enamelling as a craft does cover a number of different techniques. You have your grand feu, the classic, multi-layer version you’ll find on most classical Swiss watches. You have Cloisonné, where gold wire is used to pick out a design before the space in-between is filled with enamel. Then you have miniature painting, which is self-explanatory. Where usually you’ll find these crafts across different studios, they’re all under Ematelier’s roof.

Ematelier Matterhorn Multi-Technique Dial

Ematelier Custom Enamel Multi-Technique Dial (Matterhorn)

So, what’s the process? How does this actually work? Well, that depends on whether your dial is going in an existing watch or you’re opting for one of Ematelier’s own. As layers are being added to the dial, you need to make sure there’s actually room in the watch. Stock dials tend to be 0.4mm thick and even basic enamel will double that to at least 0.8mm.

Ematelier’s own watches are designed to take dials of up to 1.5mm thick. That means not only is there plenty of space for any design you care to imagine, it leaves room for their finishing touch: the Geneva Technique. This involves adding a layer of transparent enamel over the finished dial, protecting it from wear and tear. It’s an incredibly hard technique as it requires a further firing of the dial at a lower temperature so the already enamelled elements don’t melt. That’s especially hard with red, which can easily bleed in the process, ruining the whole thing.

Ematelier Celestial Map Custom Dial

Ematelier Custom Enamel Dial (Celestial Map)

Whichever you go for – an Ematelier in-house piece or your own watch – the process is the same. You work with a designer on your idea, whatever that may be, and like any bespoke piece they’ll mock it up for you. From there they’ll work with you to perfect the design as a dial before starting the weeks-long process of turning a blank dial into an enamel masterpiece. You can send them your watch for fitting or have it done yourself; either way the result is the same: immaculate.

Ematelier Custom Panerai Earth Dial

Ematelier Custom Panerai Earth Enamel Dial

We mentioned earlier that Ematelier’s bespoke enamel dials are priced fairly, but given everything we’ve said you shouldn’t be expecting cheap. Budget anywhere between $8,000 and $12,000. It’s a lot of money to be sure, but for something unique, lavished with all the skill and expertise of masters of their craft – and compared to what you can get elsewhere – fair is fair.

More details at Ematelier.

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest watch and luxury lifestyle news straight to your inbox