Enamelling Artisan

Artistic crafts

All the artistic crafts practised within Chopard Manufacture are aimed at embellishing a movement, case or dial and this top-flight artisanship is exercised on the diminutive surface area of watches. While all these skills are fascinating, one almost magical example is known as Grand Feu enamelling. How can an Artisan reproduce the beauty of a peony on a luxury watch dial – the quivering of its petals and the subtlety of its colours – using just enamel powder, a little oil, a kiln and a brush? Christophe, Chopard's Enamelling Artisan since 2019 and the man behind this miracle of miniaturisation reveals the secrets of this art.

"This ancestral art requires every artisan to make their own enamels with silica, kaolin, lead and natural dyes. It's all about chemistry."

Christophe, Enamelling Artisan

Christophe, Enamelling Artisan

Grand Feu enamelling is an art calling for great patience and accuracy and the dial is the equivalent of a painter's canvas, except that the tiny space available for artistic expression measures just a few centimetres in diameter. The raw material is fascinating, involving sheets of glass coloured with metal oxides, either translucent like barley sugar or opaque like mosaic.

These are then crushed to a fine sand and the resulting coloured glass powder is called enamel. However, this material must be mixed with pine oil before serving as paint. While the ritual varies according to motifs or colours, it always begins with the Artisan coating the topside and underside of the dial with a first layer of white enamel, before the first high-temperature firing. He repeats this operation several times, in order to obtain an entirely white base.

Work of art

Once satisfied with the result, he places the dial in the kiln to ensure that the enamel is flat, while taking care not to deform the base. Some enamels however, even if they appear to form a homogenous mixture, do not necessarily melt at the same temperature. And as Christophe is seeking precision, he fires the different colours separately and once the painting is finished, bakes the fired enamel one last time at 800 degrees Celsius to melt everything together.

Christophe’s work is identifiable thanks to the graceful elegance of the hands and faces he paints, as well as by his art of conveying an expression or giving life to a plant. Requiring more than just a knowledge of enamelling techniques, it takes perfect mastery of drawing techniques as well as authentic talent to transform a watch dial into a work of art.

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