There are designs in watchmaking that carry with them a certain weight of prestige, such as guilloché finishing by high-end brands like Kari Voutilainen, which is perhaps the most prestigious of all. However, with prestige comes price and many smaller watch collectors will never be able to get their hands on the highest quality craftwork. That is, until Louis Erard decides to have a go at it.
Their newest watch, the Excellence Guilloché Main, takes the artisanal craft of hand guilloché usually reserved for exquisite top-end pieces and makes it more accessible than ever before, in a limited edition of 99 pieces at a mind boggling CHF 3,900 (approx. £3,070).
The guilloché used here is a geometric pattern of checkers that creates a three-dimensional effect, despite the surface being completely flat. The design appears as layer upon layer of cubes stacked on top of each other and has been described as having an MC Escher flavour mixed with a Venetian palace floor. Thankfully it isn’t quite so disturbing or disquieting as an Escher piece but I do find myself captivated by the incredible line work.
Each line was engraved by hand by a single artisan at the Fehr dial making facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The dial was machined using a manual guilloché rose engine lathe, a device that is centuries old and has zero electronic or automated components, relying solely on the skill of the artisan. You can watch the lathe in action on Louis Erard’s YouTube channel. In terms of construction, the dial has a black varnish applied prior to the guilloché engraving and is then plated with rhodium to give a nice silvery finish.
Housed inside the 42mm stainless steel case is the Sellita SW261-1 calibre with 38-hour power reserve. Unlike the dial, this is nothing special and only has basic time functions – I suppose they had to make up costs somewhere considering the expense of having a single artisan hand craft all 99 dials. However, for almost £3,100 you would prefer a longer power reserve, 42 or 48-hours as a minimum. Beauty it seems is just skin deep.
Ultimately, the cool guilloché is the main thing you’re paying for, as the rest of the watch is pretty standard fare. Although, that’s a trade many collectors would feel is entirely worth it. On top of that it’s also very exclusive due to being a limited edition, meaning despite its accessibility it remains a special piece of watchmaking.
Price & Specs:
Model: Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main
Case/Dial: 42mm diameter x 12.25mm height, polished stainless steel, matt black varnish with checked pattern made by hand guilloché in the traditional way by Fehr & Cie SA (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland)
Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW261-1 calibre, automatic, 31 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 38h
Functions: Hour, minutes
Strap: Black calf nubuck leather
Price/Availability: CHF 3,900, limited Edition of 99 pieces
More details at Louis Erard.