The cost of watches with enamel work is often high, at least in part because of the exacting work that goes into making them. It takes at least five hours to create a simple enamel dial in a single color, according to Claude-Eric Jan, director of DonzÃ© Cadrans, a dial specialty company. More elaborate pieces that incorporate techniques like cloisonnÃ©, in which wires are strategically placed to create complex designs, can take as long as 60 hours.
Throughout the enameling process, dials coated with strongly hued pigments are repeatedly baked in an oven set to a temperature of more than 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit, to intensify the color and deepen the surface appearance.
DonzÃ© Cadrans â in Le Locle, Switzerland, about a two-hour drive from Geneva â is one of just a handful of companies that specialize in traditional watch enameling. (âCadransâ is the French word for dials; the company was founded in 1972 by Francis DonzÃ© and purchased by Ulysse Nardin in 2011.) About 60 percent of its clients are brands owned by its parent company, the luxury giant Kering; it also makes dials for companies like Patek Philippe.
Another enameler, Anita Porchet, based in nearby Corcelles-le-Jorat, Switzerland, creates dials for brands like Piaget and HermÃ¨s. She frequently uses techniques like champlevÃ©, which adds engraving patterns to the process. Demand for the work is constant; as she said, âIâm 150 percent busy all the time.â
With their visible craftsmanship and scarce supply, watches with enamel details appeal to connoisseurs. âYou target a collector for sure â someone who appreciates the quality,â said Franck Touzeau,…