Louis Erard continues its odyssey in artistic craftwork. This latest addition to the earlier limited edition Excellence Émail Grand Feu is this new 99 piece limited edition Excellence Guilloché Main. With an exquisite checkerboard hand guilloché dial.
Press Release information with commentary in italics.
Having criticized Louis Erard’s last collaboration project with Vianney Halter, I see only greatness in this latest collaboration. The artist who executed the checkerboard hand guilloché dial is not named in the Louis Erard literature, but the high resolution photographs we received showed that this is the work of a great artist.
Hand guilloché using a 100 year old rose engine is an art of itself. We have covered some of this in the Art of Breguet article, where we explored this craft. To do wave patterns, is one thing, but to execute the guilloché in straight lines, in a checkerboard pattern is yet another level of skill. The tricky part of this pattern, simple as it may seem, is that any small deviation is easily noticeable by the eye. The pattern will seem off, and spotted by just eyballing it. And to pull off an execution which seem as perfect as we have seen in the photographs is amazing. From the EXIF, we can clearly identify that the product pack photographs were made with Phase One IQ3 100 and the IQ1 100 (an earlier generations of the superlative IQ4 150 we tested in 2019) camera with the Schneider Kreuznach Macro LS 120mm f/4.0.
So in place of the flak I gave to Louis Erard, I am all praise for this latest Excellence Guilloché Main. And even the more impressed that the final asking price is below CHF 4,000. The dial alone is worth the entry price!
Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main
The Ref. 66237AA52 has a recommended retail price: CHF 3,900, limited edition of 99 pieces.
The 3D checked pattern catches the eye like a trompe-l’oeil: an unusual pattern on this type of finish, somewhat breaking the codes of the hand-guilloché dial. It resembles a contemporary interpretation of the marble parquet of a Venetian High Renaissance palace, crossed with an engraving by M.C. Escher.
The dials are made piece by piece by hand guilloché, one of the most traditional artistic craftworks of all. It is one of the rarer artistic craftworks that can be traced back through the entire history of watchmaking and continues to this day. In reality, it is the work of a goldsmith, where every motion of the hand counts, every gesture is the result of countless hours of work and exercises, the finished dial just a step. Like a pianist unfolding his concertos in a life of rehearsals and scales.
In this way, Louis Erard continues its journey through artistic craftworks. Hand guilloché is a new step, after Grand Feu enamel and before other artistic craftworks still to come. Always with the same objective: making the exclusivity of traditional skills accessible. And it goes even further. By making these artistic craftworks accessible, Louis Erard is fostering the perpetuation of these crafts, the survival of which depends on the world of luxury and remains fragile.
It takes several hours of work to complete just one of the dials of the Excellence Guilloché Main. They are made by the dial maker Fehr in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which regards its guilloché workshop as a precious treasure, and where each of these dials is manufactured, one by one, patiently, always by the same artisan.
The pattern is carried out on a manual guilloché rose engine lathe: a century-old machine made of cams, feelers, cranks and chisels. A whole mechanism with no regard for digital or automation. Here, everything is operated by eye and by hand. The artisan depends on her dexterity to create a pattern that is even, lively and harmonious. The demands are extreme: a single deviation in the pressure exerted on the chisel, a single broken line, and everything has to be redone.
This geometric pattern is devilish. It tricks the eye by creating depth in an image that is perfectly flat. The effect is reinforced by the black varnish, used to cover the dial before the guilloché, and the final rhodium plating that gives a silver patina to the brass exposed by the chisel.
We are far – very far – from standard practices in the Louis Erard price range, where watchmakers usually make do with stamping a pattern that imitates traditional guilloché. But to achieve the result of the Excellence Guilloché Main, there is only one way: respect for tradition and artistic craftwork.
In this model, a limited edition of 99 pieces, Louis Erard combines tradition and contemporary watchmaking, as is to be expected.
The case: modern, sleek in polished steel, 42 millimetres, water-resistant to 50 metres and with a signature fir tree crown. The strap: black calf nubuck leather with pin buckle. The movement: automatic Sellita SW261-1 with hour and minute function, visible from the open caseback. The dial: hand guilloché and signature fir tree hands in blued steel.
Finally, the shock of the price: less than 4,000 Swiss francs. This is, it must be said, completely unheard of, considering the type of finish and the level of exclusivity. The art and style of Louis Erard taking up the challenge of fine watchmaking. More artistic craftworks will follow.
Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main Specifications
Ref. 66237AA52 Limited edition of 99 pieces
Movement Automatic, Sellita SW261-1 calibre, 2 hands, 11½’’’, Ø25.60 mm, height: 5.60 mm, 31 jewels, 28,800 VpH (4Hz), élaboré grade movement, special openworked oscillating weight with Louis Erard symbol, approx. 38 hours of power reserve
Central hour and minute hands
Case Polished stainless steel, Ø42 mm, lug width: 22 mm, lug to lug: 49.60 mm, thickness: 12.25 mm, 3 pieces, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides and Louis Erard logo transferred in black under the glass, movement visible through the transparent caseback, water-resistant up to a pressure of 5 bars (50 m/165 ft), signature fir tree crown, caseback engraved with “Limited Edition 1 of 99”
Dial Matt black varnish, checked pattern made by hand guilloché in the traditional way by Fehr & Cie SA (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland), rhodium-plated, hour circle and “Swiss Guilloché Main” transferred in powdered silver
Hands Signature fir tree hands in blued steel
Strap Black calf nubuck leather with tone-on-tone stitching, polished stainless steel pin buckle, functional catch spring bars enabling the strap to be changed quickly
Dimensions: 22/20mm width, 80/115mm length