A new development in enamelling, our fumé dials follow the same enamelling principles as our traditional vitreous dials, with a few unique steps.
While experimenting with enamel on a silver blank, the enamellers found the metal tended to warp and dome. This fault would normally render the dial useless, if not for the fact that when sanded flat, the enamel’s interplay with the metal formed an attractive gradient.
An idea was sparked, and after months of rigorous experimentation, they were able to replicate the ‘mistake’ in a consistent way. With the fumé dial, we follow our existing manufacturing method, using a domed silver base, stamped in the same way a coin might be.
Making a fumé dial
We start by stamping a sheet of pure silver in a hydraulic press, much like a coin might be. We work with a specialist in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter to make this - die sinking and stamping at these tolerances is only practised by a few people today.
In the studio, the dial is textured and polished by hand. This process gives it a brighter, 'dimpled' appearance, reflecting the light in a multitude of directions once the enamel is applied.
The underside of the dial is ‘counter-enamelled’ to prevent the dial from bending when in the kiln.
Enamel is ground from lump form into a powder and applied to the metal base. A typical enamel consists of silica, red lead and soda ash. Translucent enamel, such as that on our fumé dials, tend to have a higher proportion of silica than opaque enamel.
The kiln is heated to over 800°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. If found, they are removed and refilled between each firing.
The process is repeated until the correct depth of colour and height are achieved. The final firing gives the dial a smooth sheen. The great challenge is preventing cracking as the dial rapidly heats and cools - silver and enamel expand and contract at different rates. With only a tenth of a millimetre of enamel in places, this has taken great skill to achieve.
The dials are then 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 watchmakers, who begin assembly.
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