Today we’re launching a new technique; new to us, and we think, new to watchmaking.
The watch in question combines three decorative styles in a single effect that is, we believe, a first. It features a sunburst pattern – common enough, but normally achieved in a machine process that involves spinning and brushing the dial. Our sunburst, however, has been hand-engraved: every minuscule score (around 1,120 of them) radiating from the centre is cut individually by hand. This is then layered up with coloured transparent enamel. It’s a simple idea: sunburst + hand-engraving + enamel. But the result is disarmingly beautiful, incredibly demanding to create, and unlike anything else we’ve seen.
Each dial takes approximately 100 hours of skill and concentration to complete. It’s one of the most labour-intensive things we’ve ever done, but it’s been a joy seeing these come to life over the past two years. That’s how long it’s taken to complete 25 dials. Bear in mind that two out of three dials we engrave never even get finished: on average, we need three dials to produce one finished enamelled piece, due to the rejection rate associated with enamel.
How do you engrave a sunburst?
Each dial starts as a solid silver disc cut by hand in our workshop. With the centre marked to ensure concentricity, the engraving process can begin. It’s physically exhausting and requires complete concentration for hours on end: each blank takes over two days to complete. Only one member of the team can engrave to this level – because of the taxing nature of the engraving, she alternates her days between enamelling and engraving.
The engraving is done using a tool called a graver, which is drawn with absolute precision across the dial surface – it has to be sharpened several times throughout each dial’s engraving process, to keep the lines consistent. The graver both cuts and polishes the metal with each stroke, and the result is incomparable. We’ve tried all the other methods in an attempt to make a more producible alternative, but nothing comes close.
The colour, chosen by Hodinkee based on a palette of enamels best suited to the fine engraved texture, has an ocular quality, reminiscent of a steely iris.
Why launch with Hodinkee?
Partnering with the world’s biggest watch publication is our way of planting our flag in the ground, with what’s both an original technique and one of the most skilful and demanding things we’ve ever done. We hope it’s a technique which others pick up, but it’s also nice to celebrate doing something new.
I’m on the waiting list and have a build slot; will this affect it?
No. The 25 pieces in this collaboration don’t alter any customer’s build slot. We set aside a proportion of the team’s time to develop experimental projects like this, as it’s an essential part of how we develop our skills and future products. This collaboration itself was actually finalised long before the creation of our waiting list, and before we had sight of the current demand. Since the outline of our waiting list system, we’ve incorporated time for development into our schedule to allow for innovation alongside our regular work.
Will this be available to waiting list customers?
As you know, our policy is to invite customers to choose anything that we currently make, when their build slot arrives. In keeping with that ethos, we will be making this technique available to customers in the future. But with a realistic output of a dozen sunburst dials per year at full tilt, and the costing premium that inevitably comes with that, we’re still working out how we do this, and we’ve had some great suggestions this week.
The Model 3 case will be available to customers soon, and we’ll have details on what form that’ll take shortly.
The Hodinkee edition, available at hodinkee.com, is priced at $6000 (+VAT where applicable). That reflects the time required to craft each piece – we calculated that between engraving, enamelling and watchmaking, our team has spent about over 100 hours on each watch. It may sell out quickly, so we do apologise if they go before you get a chance to buy.
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