We visited the workshops of the Singapore brand Travailler Et Jouer to see how they make enamel dials in-house, in-country. We are following that up with a review of the Matin Blue Enamel piece.
Travailler Et Jouer Matin Blue Moon Enamel
Travailler Et Jouer (EJ) is a Singaporean microbrand, producing signature handmade enamel dials. We visited the atelier a few weeks back to understand the enamel firing process, and documented a step-by-step breakdown here. Travailler EJ starts off with the Matin collection, with 3 different dials to choose from. We review the signature Matin Blue Moon Enamel, including the full experience a buyer receives.
When you purchase the Matin Blue Moon from Travailler EJ, Jeremy offers you a visit to the artelier to try your hand at making your own dial. Not to worry that you screw up, as Jeremy will still make a good one for your watch. To make the review of the watch similar to an actual buying experience, Jeremy also offered us a quick enamel dial making workshop at his atelier. We reveal the terrible results we got.
Let’s just dive into the focus of The Matin Blue Moon Enamel- the dial. Looking at the description (from our previous visit to atelier) of the enamel firing process made it seem rather prescriptive and simple. After going through the tedious and precise process, I’ve come to appreciate just how much experience, skill and art goes into a simple dial. On the Matin Blue Moon, we can see some waviness in the dial. For the untrained eye, it looked like badly applied paint. But upclose, you can almost see depth in the layers of colours, as if staring into liquid. A smooth glossy dial can be achieved by polishing it and sending it for another fire (as described in our review of the Breguet Classique Tourbillon here), but Jeremy felt that this texture is a better representation of the art of enamelling.
Every firing step is a risk to the dial, and could easily undo all the previous firing and hard work put in. When I was making my own dial, it took every effort to keep the sifting level and even, having powder sifted onto where I wanted it. Moving the dial into the kiln was the most stressful thing I have ever done (because I’m a scaredy-cat). At the end of 3 firings, I didn’t get the dial colour I wanted. And it made me realize that having consistent and even colours on an enamel dial doesn’t come by chance. On the Matin Blue Dial, the colours are even and consistent across different watches after Jeremy’s uncountable number of experiments to get the temperatures, timings and sifting exact. The texture is deliberately left slightly wavy to reflect (no pun intended) the result of the final firing.
The markers and logo are pad-printed. Jeremy also let me have a go at pad-printing, and I have to say that I am terrible at it.
I tried it about five times, and all five were unsuccessful at various stages. While he patiently encouraged me to continue trying until it was correct, I simply gave up and wanted to keep a bad print, as a reminder that I am untalented. Pad printing is an easily automated process, but here at Travailler, it remains a manual art. I asked if he would consider enamel painted markers, and Jeremy said that’s a whole new level of mastery which he is nowhere near. As far as we know, the only brand with masters skilled enough to have hand painted markers is Credor, on the original Eichi.
Dial Making Experience
Because every purchase of the Blue Moon includes an invite to a dial making experience, this review shall take that into serious consideration. The dials we made took some serious efforts. We had to grind the enamel in a very tiny agate mortar and bowl. Then wash it, and then grind some more. Later when we tried to paint it, the enamel paint refused to go where we wanted it to go. Sifting was not much easier either. Getting the exact firing timings, including for how long to keep the door open, was also a very precise science.
As far as possible, Jeremy left very little to chance. Even then, the dial I made is a far cry from the consistency and richness on the Blue Moon. The printing was also more painstaking than it looked. The badly printed dial below was the most successful of, believe it or not, five tries. Even then, the sheer satisfaction of holding onto a DIY enamel dial felt like quite a big deal. All who purchase the Blue Moon are definitely in for a treat, and I highly recommend they pounce on the invite by Jeremy. The dial is for the maker to keep, and can perhaps be made into a keychain or fridge magnet, to remind one self of the painstaking process involved in making an enamel dial by hand.
The watch is 39mm which is a tad too big for a dress watch, but is becoming today’s preferred size. The watch sits very comfortably thanks to the teardrop lugs which smooths the straps around the curve of the wrist.
The lugs are rather fancy, reminding me of Spiderman’s logo when viewed straight on. Interestingly, these lugs were neither welded nor screwed on, instead, they were machined out from a single block of 316L stainless steel. The case feels sturdy in the hands, and has a nice mirror finish all round. The box crystal didn’t quite agree with me. I think a flat crystal would appear cleaner. The box crystal style is reminiscent of vintage watches with acrylic crystals, likely to appeal to those who like vintage styles.
All 3 watches in the Matin collection are powered by Swiss Sellita SW210-1. It’s a reliable and robust hand wound movement, with a power reserve of 42 hours. The SW210-1 comes in 4 variants in terms of accuracy, and Travailler EJ uses the regular standard of +-15 seconds. It is further regulated by the brand for higher accuracy.
In use, the watch kept good time. Winding and time setting via the crown was smooth with a feel which is commensurate with the Sellita movement.
The Competitive Landscape
The Matin Blue Moon retails for USD2000. At this price point, we have to put aside all luxury brands such as Breguet and Ulysses Nardin as the enamel dial watches from these manufactures are easily above USD10000.
At the similar ball park in pricing, the watch that we would be familiar with is Seiko Presage Riki Enamel in white or brown (SPB113J1 and SPB115J1) with a RRP of about USD1500. Turning towards the microbrand market, we notice AnOrdain Model 1 to be rather similar. It also uses Sellita movements, and make their enamel dials by hand, one at a time. The AnOrdain Model 1 retails at USD1300, making them more affordable than Travailler EJ. However, if we consider that Travailler EJ warmly invites you to visit the atelier and try your hand at a bespoke dial, then they are easily placed ahead of their competitors as buyers are buying more than a watch- they are buying a whole experience that will culminate in the form of a watch.
It is a great time piece, making use of high end Sellita movement and great manufacturing techniques and materials. The design is simple and comfortable for daily wear or dinner wear. We think Singaporeans and frequent travellers to Singapore should take the advantage of making full use of the dial-making experience. Supporters, especially Singaporeans, of microbrands should seriously consider getting on board while Travailler EJ is able to cope with the hands-on sessions.