Having been reduced to an incredibly fine powder by the never-ending assault of the sea, sand is brought into the world of men, where it is heated up, ground down and tinted with many colours. From these tiny, seemingly insignificant grains emerges an entire art form, one that is still meticulously practiced today by the artisans at Donzé Cadrans, a renowned manufacturer of enamel watch dials.
Originally founded in 1972, then bought by Ulysse Nardin in 2011, the house employs only a few artisans, all of whom work solely by hand using traditional methods. One of the most delicate decorative techniques of the art of enamelling is undoubtedly the grand feu process. Placed into an oven and heated to very high temperatures, the enamel melts and bursts into flames before changing to a white or light beige colour as it cools. More subtle in nature, the champlevé and cloisonné procedures consist of separating different coloured enamels, either by carving divisions into a metallic base plate or by painstakingly layering gold filigree partitions on a flat surface. The filigree is only 0.07mm wide, allowing the artisan to design patterns of unequalled detail and sophistication. A final technique, the flinqué process, involves repeatedly bringing a single layer of enamel that’s been applied with a paintbrush to a temperature of 820 degrees, before polishing it, thus assuring a brilliant, glistening finish. Mastery of these four highly skilled enamelling techniques means that Donzé Cadrans is one of the very few houses that still crafts enamel pieces for the world of haute horlogerie.
Although Donzé Cadrans has modernised its industrial tools, the house hasn’t forgotten its modest origins or its reliance on techniques that are, at heart, humble and human. After all, it’s only in the heart of the fire that the beauty of its artisans’ work is finally and spectacularly revealed. “The house employs just a few artisans, all of whom work solely by hand using traditional methods.”
Fire-breathing dragons, galloping horses, fluttering butterflies and more emerge in lifelike form in the Ulysse Nardin collection. Here, tradition touches innovation, merging the excellence of in-house dials with the rare, centuries-old art of enamelling and classical styling. In the enamelling collection, there is breathtaking beauty in adornment and minimalism alike. Understated yet eye-catching, delicate but dignified, serious yet seductive, the straightforward elegance of the timepieces in the collection is as intriguing as their enamel counterparts. Glorious by glorious detail, watch faces erupt in realism, accented by bursting colour and striking finishes. Created by a few and cherished by many, the enamel artwork is void of any modern technology. A discipline deeply valued by Ulysse Nardin, enamelling is an exacting art unlike any other. Coupled with its pioneering Ulysse Nardin movements, the enamelling collection is prized by watch collectors around the globe.