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SIHH 2014: Jaeger LeCoultre Grand Feu – the return of the enamel dials

by Peter Chong on January 30, 2014

The house of Jaeger LeCoultre is one of those who we keep in close watch here at Deployant. They are one of the most innovative in movement development, and design, but also in creating beautiful timepieces which will stand the test of time.

This year’s SIHH crop is no different. Elsewhere we touched briefly on the JLC Hybris Mechanica 11. And we will cover other interesting novelties from JLC. And in this article, we explore the two new enamel dialed watches from JLC: the Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu and the Duomètre a Quantième Lunaire.

duometre-grandefeu-dialup

Jaeger LeCoultreDuomètre a Quantième Lunaire

The JLC Duomètre a Quantième Lunaire houses the innovative double train C.381 with the white enamel dial. The C.381 is a technically interesting movement, featuring a foudroyate seconds hand, which is driven by a separate train, but is coupled with the main timekeeping train as both share the same escapement. The movement is beautifully laid out, with an amazing eye to the aestetics.

duometre-grandefeu-mvt

The C.381 stands close scrutiny, as the movement finishing is very good, with all the important decoration aspects well executed. Note the double click on the wolf’s teeth wheel over the mainspring barrel. This virtuoso level of detail is typical of the old Valee le Joux style where the Jaeger LeCoultre maison hails from.

duometre-grandefeu-mvt-detail

Shown above, on the left, the cock bearing the jewelled pivot of the foudroyante hand. Note the beautifully done anglage, and dicoverture holding the jewel. And the black polished steel heart cam just below the jewel. The balance wheel cock on the right is also equally beautifully finished.

 

Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu

The Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu is based on the magnificent JLC C.849, ultra thin, manually wound, finely crafted movement is encased in a white gold case, and endowed with a beautiful white enamel dial.

master-grandefeu-roses

The enamel dial adds a mere 5.04mm to the case thickness of the regular Master Ultra Thin, and makes the Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu, a very slim timepiece with a timeless elegance of the enamel dial.

The art of the Grand Feu

The art of the grand feu, meaning “great fire” in French is used to describe the high temperatures of up to 800C-900C. This is a tedious and difficult process: the enamel substrate, which is glass particles are placed on the metal dial, often brass, but in the case of the Grand Feu series from Jaeger LeCoultre is white gold. The ensemble is fired in the oven. The base pure enamel is colourless and either transparent, opaque or transluscent, depending on how long the base substrate is fired.

Colour is added by doping the enamel with chemicals. For a white base, titanium oxide is the most usual chemical used. Magnificent, and beautiful colours can be added with different chemicals. Each colour is painstakingly added, and re-fired at the oven. In the case of the JLC Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu, the black markers for minute, the JLC logo and the words “Email Grand Feu” are fired separately after the white dial is complete.

duometre-grandefeu-dial-detail-1024

For the Duometre Grand Feu, an additional firing of the red markers are needed, and the cutout for the moon phase needed to be removed. Each re-firing brings the danger of the dial cracking. And cutting out the dial adds additional complexity as the delicate process, can sometimes cause the enamel to crack and the entire dial have to be discarded. After the successful addition of the markings, the dial is coated once again with a transparent layer to protect the enamel, and the dial is complete. It is sometimes mistakenly thought that an enamel dial with a drawing or picture such as those featured in the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art , one example is the Chagall & L’Opera de Paris. The artistry of the painting is of course an art to be marvelled with, but the precision needed to do a “simple” dial is very demanding, as the minute markers need to be very precisely positioned.

Two magnificent pieces from Jaeger LeCoultre. Coverage of SIHH continues, with more JLC novelties and from other houses in the show.

 

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