The Model 1 Fumé: The Development of Fumé Enamel

by Hannah  - December 22, 2020

At the start of December, we launched the Model 1 Fumé: a fresh iteration of our first watch, the Model 1. Fumé enamel first appeared on our Model 2 dial in 2019, and we believe it to be the first gradated watch dial to exist in the medium of enamel. Now, the Model 1 Fumé offers a lustrous reimagining of the best-selling classic, the fumé enamel giving its dial a new and mesmerising depth. But what exactly is fumé enamel?
 
Fumé translates to mean 'smoked' and is the term used to describe a dial that gradates from a solid hue in the centre to a dark rim, creating a striking and dusky effect.

 
It was a serendipitous moment that led to the creation of our fumé enamel dial. Different metals will react variably to the heat of the kiln during firing, and it was an experiment with enamel on silver - as opposed to the usual copper - that led the team to their fortuitous discovery. When sanded back, a convex warp in the silver revealed a translucent window through the enamel to the metal below.
The underside of a dial must sit flush with the movement beneath it, so the warp rendered it useless, but the effect was astonishing enough to lead to over a year of development to recreate the error in a uniform fashion.
 
In order to reproduce the fumé effect, the silver dial would have to be flat on the bottom, domed on top and have the right proportions to allow the enamel to gradate at the correct rate. If the space between the top of the dome and the lower edges is too deep, the dial colour will remain dark all over and vice versa if the enamel is too shallow. To create a fumé dial effectively takes the perfect mixture of achieving an accurate depth and using the right enamel. 
 
The process began around 18 months ago and led the team to Struthers, a UK-based watchmaker. Struthers then put the team in touch with a die maker, who had previously made metal objects such as medals and coins with a hydraulic press, but who had not yet made watch dials. As a result, it took a lot of back and forth and trial and error before they found the perfect combination.

 



Making a Fumé dial:

  • When the blanks arrive at the studio, they have a flat bottom with an ever-so-slight gradient on top. They are also matte and quite murky in appearance, and so the first step is to brighten the silver by polishing.

  • For fumé enamelling, it is important to have as much light as possible reflect from the metal below. The texture on the blank is achieved by stamping and, when polished, it becomes a lot more visible. It is this texture that gives the finished dial its glistening effect.

  • Once polished, the next step is to apply the enamel, which is layered until it sits flush with the top of the metal. This process can take up to eight layers to complete.

  • A layer of enamel is also applied to the underside of the dial in order to maintain balance within the silver during firing and to prevent problems such as warping. Because glass and metal have different rates of expansion and contraction, warpage is a common problem, in particular when the process can involve eight firings in the kiln. The more exposed the metal is to the heat, the more prone it can become to problems. Counter-enamelling the underside helps to negate this risk.

  • When the enamelling process is complete, the surface is rough and uneven. Subsequently, the enamel is ground to make a flat, smooth surface before being polished on an automatic rotating polishing machine, using a series of liquid diamond suspensions.

  • Finally, once ground and polished, the dials can be printed. Stylistically, the Model 1 Fumé follows in the steps of its predecessor, with the numerals and indices, designed by our in-house typographer, taking inspiration from cartographic maps of the Scottish Highlands.



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