Urban Jürgensen & Sønner the Montre Observatoire Email
The art of enameling embodied in the ‘Montre observatoire émail’Limited Edition in Platinium and Rose Gold
To celebrate the extraordinary UJS-P8 detent escapement, the first detent escapement ever created for a wristwatch, the choice was made to renew and connect with the centuries of history and tradition at Urban Jürgensen & Sønner. It meant that this new limited edition wristwatch was destined to be fitted with an exquisite, hand made enamel dial of the highest quality achievable following exemplary traditions. Enameled dials have enjoyed a long history at Urban Jürgensen & Sønner, where only the best enamel artisans were used in the creation of the dials used in their timepieces through the course of 240 years.
“…One must admire the sharpness of the young girl’s eyes and the lightness of her touch in guiding the brush throughout this difficult work. However, such exhausting work, which must be carried out with the greatest possible precision, can only be undertaken for a few days each week…” (Excerpt from Jules II Jürgensen’s report on dial enameling)
It is an incontrovertible fact that traditional methods of artisanship have always been forced to cope with the repercussions arising from the inevitable march of progress, and the art of enameling is a particular craft where not only artisanship, but also language has played a role. In the 21st century, the word ‘enamel’ is often thought to be synonymous with anything that is painted with a high gloss finish, even though this is far from the definition of the original craft. Even within the world of haute horologerie, enameling is often confused with the use of white or colored resins used on ceramic, as well as paints that require only a very low temperature, such as 150˚ or 160˚ C in order to fixate and harden. Linguistic mystification also plays a role with the coining of the term ‘cold enamel’ used to describe such painted work at low temperatures, whereas it has no connection with traditional enamel artisanry in any way.
In the final result, when we peel away these distractions from reality, there is one central and simple key that correctly defines a proper enamel dial from anything else - and that is fire – in the form of high temperatures. By designation, true enamel work requires a production temperature between 550˚ and 800˚ C. These high temperatures are absolutely essential in order to allow the silica, ground into a fine powder and mixed into an emulsion, to melt, vitrify and transform into a glass-like surface of exceptional glow and depth.
The creation of enameled dials
In addition to the firing techniques mentioned above, many other aspects affect the creation of an enamel dial created for our watches. In the finest quality dials the material of the dial itself is always made of platinum or 22K gold and entirely handmade. The fondant layer, whether white or colored, is applied in not one, but several very thin layers, followed by up to 10-15 more layers of transparent vitreous enamel which is then fired between 700 and 800 ° C.
It is the application of these many layers of fondant followed by transparent layers, perfectly set with exact thickness over the entire surface, which creates the transparency, glow and depth of a flawless dial. Such work allows no shortcuts. For the enamel dial maker, it is also a nerve-wracking process, since the possibility of the dial deforming or developing hairline cracks increases with the firing of each layer. This process is well captured in the term grand feu, which is used to delineate enamel dials of the highest quality. Even after these procedures have been completed, the dial is not yet finished. It will still have to undergo further grinding, lapping and polishing – entirely executed by hand – before the final perfection of the fire will reveal itself in its entirety.
Whereas most enamel dials are normally 0.8 - 1.2 mm in thickness, the dials specially created for the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Montre observatoire émail have been created with a thickness of a mere 0.5mm, with all the black numerals and text on the dial also entirely hand painted. Taken together, this represents an amazing technical feat only achievable by a grand master of the enameler’s art.