Grand feu enamel and cloisonné enamel in watchmaking

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When buying a watch, we pay more attention to the movement, to the external appearance of the watch, but not necessarily to the type of dial. Yet it is one of the most difficult pieces to achieve in Haute Horlogerie. Here are the specifics of the enamel:

Enamel dials are created from a powder (enamel) placed on a metal plate. The powder is mainly composed of silica, which is found in the sand. We melt everything with a "melting agent" which lowers the melting temperature.

oven dials

Then, we add something to color everything thanks to minerals and copper oxides. The shades then become blue/green, and improve the shine.


For each color it is best to use:

  • Yellow: selenium
  • Orange: uranium
  • Red: metallic gold
  • Purple: manganese
  • Pink or green: chrome
  • Blue green or red: copper, cobalt
  • Black or brown: iron

There are several types of enamel: "classic" enamel, cloisonné enamel, grand feu enamel and champlevé enamel. Cloisonné enamel consists of separating different parts of the dial using carefully arranged gold threads. 50 to 60 hours are needed to make a dial.

enamel dial

Here is an example on a Patek Philippe 5177G. The walls of the buildings, the side of the mountain in the background or the rocks in the foreground are delimited thanks to gold threads.

PP enamel
PP dark enamel

Champlevé enamel, on the other hand, consists of removing material from the dial and then filling it with enamel powder or other materials. The Vulcain that I had already presented here is a very good example of cloisonné and champlevé:

Vulcan city
Vulcan boat

In addition to these two methods, there are variations such as flinqué enamel. In addition to cloisonné enamel, some manufactures draw patterns through the sections separated by engraving or guillochage.


As for grand feu enamel, it is the most difficult enamel to master. It is reserved for craftsmen who are experts in their field. The method was developed in the 17th century and consists of cooking the white enamel, which is made up of arsenic, at a very high temperature.

Often white, cream or opaque, the grand feu enamel dial requires extreme meticulousness to avoid cracking, since a split dial is impossible to recover. The price is directly impacted and watches in grand feu enamel quickly become very expensive.


Nevertheless, an independent brand offers watches with enamel dials at a very reasonable budget (you're starting to know me, I like to highlight independents). This is the Antoine Tavan brand.

Antoine Tavan

In tribute to several famous painters, Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled an "Enamel Tribute" collection with 3 exceptional watches. From the realism of Courbet to the post-impressionism of Van Gogh, the selected paintings each have their own story:

JLC Klimt, Courbet, Van Gogh

Portrait of a Lady, by Gustave Klimt. Painted a year before his death, it is Klimt's only double portrait. The painting is presumed lost since 1912.

JLC Klimt 1
JLC Klimt 2

View of Lake Geneva, by Gustave Courbet. The painting is a view of the famous Swiss lake overlooked by the Dents du Midi mountains. In 1995, an expert told the museum that kept the canvas that it was fake. In 2015, Bruno Mottet traced and confirmed the authenticity

JLC Courbet 1
JLC Courbet 2

Sunset at Montmajour, by Vincent Van Gogh. By observing the view on a summer evening, the painter realizes this nature by capturing all the symbolic colors of Provence. It too was declared false several times before being examined for the last time in 2013.

JLC Van gogh 1
JLC Van gogh 2


Second Vintage

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