Enamel dial finishing is an art unto itself in watchmaking, and among this labor intensive discipline few processes carry the prestige of the traditional Grand Feu enamel technique. While Grand Feu has been used in horology for centuries, the complexity and difficulty of the process has traditionally confined this finish to high-end luxury models. Louis Erard looks to change this preconception with its first major release of 2021, bringing the richness and tradition to a somewhat more democratic price point. With a timelessly clean dress design and an impressively affordable take on the classic Grand Feu enamel dial, the new limited edition Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu stands as an impressive dark horse contender in this traditional dress watch segment.
While on the large side for a dress design at 42mm wide, the stainless steel case of the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu is pure classic dress watch in its design. A fully polished finish, rounded case sides, an elegantly narrow bezel, and narrow tapering lugs come together to form a clean and traditional look. Louis Erard equips the watch a sapphire display caseback, along with a 50-meter water resistance rating.
Naturally, the real centerpiece of the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu is its enamel dial. Grand Feu is a delicate and complex finish to achieve, requiring layer upon layer of fine silica powder, metallic oxide, and potassium to be brushed on to the copper dial base by hand in between intense kiln firings at a temperature of over 800 degrees Celsius. Failures in the kiln are common and unavoidable, making successful Grand Feu finishes highly sought after. The end result is impressive in initial images, with a creamy even matte feel to its off-white tone not unlike the surface of an eggshell. Louis Erard keeps dial hardware and text to a minimum to avoid distracting from this surface, with a classic chemin de fer minutes track and a mix of slim printed indices and Roman numerals in deep matte blue. The blued fir tree handset, shared across the main dial and the 6 o’clock small seconds subdial, offers a touch of unique personality along with its traditional color contrast.
Inside the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu beats the Sellita SW261-1 automatic small seconds movement. While decoration is simple beyond a custom engraved rotor, the SW261-1 offers respectable performance with a 38-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. The brand takes a slightly less traditional route when it comes to strap pairings, opting to mount the watch on a dark chocolate brown nubuck leather strap. While this fuzzy texture adds a more casual modern flair to the design, the subtle brown tones interact nicely with the cream white of the dial in initial images.
With an interesting blend of modern and traditional touches alongside a classic hand-finished dial, the limited edition Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu offers enthusiasts a unique and well-appointed contender in this dress watch market segment. Only 99 examples of the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu will be made, available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of 3,900 CHF. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.