Originally Posted by apropos
I am pretty sure JLC does its enamelling in-house at Le Sentier - at least I am sure they do so for peinture sur émail (painted enamel) - which is led by the incomparable Miklos Merczel. Cannot speak for whether their cloisonne work is outsourced.
I think the other big house that led the way for in-house enamelling is VC, but I am not sure if that is a current thing with them.
For the benefit of everyone else here are some examples in lieu of a lengthy explanation as to why I rate the JLC enamelworks very
highly. Remember this is all done in vitreous
(as in glass) enamel - everything is done with the consideration that the end product has to survive being fired in a jeweler's kiln.
This is not widely known, but only
gold cases can have vitreous enamel applied to them. Steel JLCs have epoxy resins applied to them and are then baked at a much lower temperatures. Which is nice in its own way, but not quite at the same level as vitreous enamel in terms of depth, beauty or difficulty. Thankfully not cost either though.
Your friendly neighbourhood JLC boutique or AD is likely to refer to either process as "enameling", and while a little misleading they are not technically
wrong - one is vitreous
enameling, the other cold
Sometimes they more accurately refer to the process for steel JLCs as "lacquering". This is cold enamel:
I wish you all the very best with your venture, and will keep an eye on your marque!
That's actually a pretty good (if crazy) idea, but I sadly don't print money...
Anyway, since I'm on a bit of a didactic roll, here are some examples of engraving on JLCs... I'll leave it up to you guys to decide who does the finer work. JLC Le Sentier:J.C. Randell:
Have you checked out the new 2013 JLC Master Perpetual Calendar? Would be interested in your thoughts about its "balance".
Oh you mean enamelling on the case, I was referring to enamelling on the dial, the vitreous sort as you mention. Not sure if the two are the same, but they do seem like related processes.
Vitreous enamelling required firing 20-30 times in an 800 degree C kiln. At every stage of firing the dial can be ruined by pure chance, and the enameller has to start from scratch. The high cost of enamel dials accounts for this wastage, as well as the skill and experience needed. In the Chinese workshop those artisans working on cloisonne and freehand enamel (painted freehand like a painting) must have at least 6 years experience. The junior ones start with mould-assisted dials.
I highly doubt VC uses in-house enamellers, just like their Richemont stable mate Van Cleef. As you know in-house in the watch industry is a term subject to much "flexibility".
The JLC enamels are very nice - I have scarcely seen enamel done on cases before. The cold enamels are not worthy of comparison in the same breath and are ersatz in my opinion, an attempt to deceive through semantics. Not specifically JLC, but the industry as a whole.
Here are some examples of cloisonne and freehand enamel done by the Chinese workshop led by Master Xiong.
Series of the Four Noble Flowers - the orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum and plum blossom representing the four seasons
24k gold filigree done by hand, part of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals series
Butterfly enamel tourbillon piece unique sold for 200,000 USD. The entire movement and tourbillon carriage is of fired enamel and solid gold base.
Comparison of the double escapement movement I posted earlier with the Langematik. Some haute horlogerie editor visited the factory and this was one of his photos. Definitely still some way to go in the finishing department but it is a good start, not least to compare themselves with Lange. One must note this movement is not even available anymore from Lange.
Example of the porcelain dial. Skeleton watches are not to my taste but this shows what can be done. Not the movement is skeletoned with gold chatons, unprecedented to my knowledge.
Great Wall tourbillon, a symbol of two Chinese accomplishments. One of the watches I have ordered. The tourbillon is freesprung, has a 63 hour reserve due to the high quality in-house balance spring and is made of titanium.