Vitreous, or Grand Feu enamel, is the art of fusing glass to metal. The process involves a wafer thin metal disc and multiple layers of enamel powder delicately applied by paintbrush, layer by layer, and fired at upwards of 800 degrees celsius. The result is a watch dial of less than a millimetre thick, with a perfectly flat and consistent finish.
Rising to the challenge of mastering one of the great crafts of watchmaking, our enamellers have, in five years, become experts in the field. Guided by the research our resident jeweller Adam Henderson conducted in anOrdain’s infancy, our three expert enamellers, Morna, Nicky and Sally have spent years refining the practice of enamel dial making. The enamelling team has expanded further recently and with this our knowledge of specialisms including hand engraving and glass work.
Before joining anOrdain, each of the enamellers graduated with a Design degree from one of Scotland's prestigious art schools or spent years developing their own craft practice. They have since spent time building up our in-house knowledge, by studying under enamellers working in different disciplines of enamel, such as cloisonné and champlevé.
It all begins with a disc being cut from a copper or silver sheet. The underside of the dial must first be ‘counter-enamelled’ to prevent the dial from bending in the kiln.
Enamel is ground from lump form into a powder and applied to the metal base. The kiln is heated to over 830°C and the powdered dial is fired. The exact time in the kiln varies depending on the chemical make-up of a particular enamel.
Once removed from the kiln and cooled, the dial is checked for inclusions or bubbles which are removed and refilled between each firing. The process is repeated several times until the correct depth of colour and height are achieved. The final firing gives the dial a smooth sheen.
Two points of enamel are removed from the reverse of the dial, and dial feet are soldered onto the exposed copper. These help secure the dial to the watch movement. The dials are printed using traditional pad-printing equipment. The printed dials are inspected through a loupe and if satisfactory, the ink is then cured.
The completed dials are passed on to our watch-makers, who can begin assembly. The watches are regulated and tested in six positions over a 48-hour period before they are ready to package and dispatch.