Grand Feu enamel dials

Hand-assembled Swiss watch Zeitwinkel 082° Email Grand Feu with enamel dial, handmade watch hands and manufacture movement ZW0102

An unfortunate characteristic common to many products these days is that they are intrinsically obsolete. Products endowed with so-called cutting-edge technology invariably become outdated as innovation continues its relentless march. Furthermore, some objects are intentionally designed to fail once the warranty period has expired. Sadly, many modern-day goods are simply not intended to last.

In stark contrast, true luxury confers a lasting joy that won’t diminish with the passage of time. A wonderful example of this built-in longevity can be seen with the Zeitwinkel 082° Email Grand Feu. As its name implies, this model features a Grand Feu enamel dial.

What makes a Grand Feu dial special?

Unlike many types of dial, Grand Feu enamel will retain its showroom-fresh appearance for future generations. This fade-free horological canvas is often the preserve of Haute Horlogerie due to its protracted and costly creation, however, for many watch aficionados, its allure remains unsurpassed.


Manufacturing of enamel dials in a grand feu process for Zeitwinkel watches


The making of a Grand Feu enamel dial

Enamel is a combination of silica and crushed oxides. It is used in powdered form and is available in a variety of colours. The process of making a Grand Feu enamel dial begins with a copper dial blank. This is dipped in alcohol and then dusted with enamel powder on both the upper surface as well as the underside. The alcohol temporarily adheres the powder to the dial blank prior to the firing process.

The dial blank is placed in an oven, usually operating at about 800°C. The alcohol soon evaporates and the enamel powder melts and fuses with the blank. As stated previously, the enamel is applied to both sides of the dial blank. This ensures that both surfaces expand in union. If the enamel was only applied to the upper surface, the dial would buckle. The firing period and the temperature are influenced by the type of enamel used, albeit such factors are subjective and are primarily based on the artisan’s judgement.

Manufacturing of enamel dials in a grand feu process for Zeitwinkel watches


Once the dial is removed from the oven, it must be allowed to cool before the process is repeated again. Indeed, the application of powder, firing and cooling is performed several times, imbuing the dial with a rich lustre. After the dials have been subjected to this time-consuming process, as many as 30-40% will be discarded. The reasons for rejecting these dials includes the presence of air bubbles, cracks or other imperfections.


Manufacturing of enamel dials in a grand feu process for Zeitwinkel watches


Those dials that pass muster are polished with diamond paste and then pad printed. This latter process involves applying the hour markers, Zeitwinkel name, place of origin, etc, to the dial epidermis. Thereafter, it is fired again, bestowing all markings with a fade-free appearance. A piece of carbon is used to flatten the surface and then the dial is trimmed prior to being affixed to the movement. At all times, absolute care must be exercised in order to avoid harming the precious dial material. However, rest assured, once encased, the dial will be safe from harm and promises to retain its fresh-faced appearance for generations to come.

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