Ulysse Nardin acquired artisan enameller Donzé Cadrans SA
and perpetuates traditional master craftsmanship
Last September 2011, Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin SA announced that it had acquired Donzé Cadrans SA, the specialist luxury watch Manufacture dial enameller.
Since its creation in 1846, Ulysse Nardin has been one of the most distinguished names in watch design. The first to utilize novel materials and bring forth fresh design sensibility, enamel has been featured prominently in its collections over the past 25 years.
The acquisition provides Ulysse Nardin with additional cloisonné and grand-feu enamel expertise, while cultivating its passion for uniquely beautiful watches.
Enamel is a vitreous material composed of silica, feldspar, kaolin and metal oxides, in the form of crystals. These metal oxides are either naturally occurring or added by master artisan, and they are what give enamels their infinite variety of colors. The mixture is then vitrified at very high temperature.
There are two main techniques:
Champlevé is an enamelling technique in which cells are carved with a chisel on the metal plate (dial), and filled with vitreous enamel. The piece is then fired until the enamel melts, and when cooled the surface of the object is polished.
Cloisonné is an enamelling technique in which the outline of the dial designs is produced either on the dial itself, or on paper. Extremely fine strips of gold wire measuring only 0.07 mm wide (no larger than a human hair) are hand bent and applied to the outline using two pliers. The individual cells that give the image detail, dimension and nuance are also formed by gold wire and placed within the outline. Colors are then picked out for each cell in order to create the cloister effect. Five layers of enamel are applied to the cloisonné dial. This meant that a cloisonné dial has all colored cells filled in and baked (800-1200 degrees celsius) in the kiln for a total of five times before it is ready to be polished. Theses multiple levels of color create the sense of depth and three dimensions that make the enamel dials come to life.