The watch manufacturer Louis Erard has become synonymous with unique watch dials recently. But until now, the company has shown its expertise in using enamel panels and somewhat more traditional alloys in the watch industry; recently, the company presented its new watch – Excellence Marqueterie – which comes with a dial made of wood. Join us as we take a closer look at the latest addition to the Louis Erard lineup.
Louis Erard’s new watch comes in a classic round polished stainless steel case, measuring 42mm in diameter and 12.25mm in height. The watch is water resistant up to 50 meters.
Inside the watch, behind the transparent caseback, we find Calibre SW261-1 from Sellita. SW261-1 is an automatic movement, beating at a frequency of 4Hz – 28,800 vibrations per hour, and it offers a power reserve of 38 hours.
What makes this watch special is, of course, its dial. The dial features miniature wood marquetry, handcrafted by independent artisan Bastien Chevalier based in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland.
Crafting each dial for the Excellence Marqueterie watch is a painstaking and time-consuming process, requiring the skilled hands of an artisan. The use of marquetry at such a small scale is a remarkable feat, and Louis Erard’s achievement in creating the largest limited series of 99 pieces is unprecedented. What’s more, the price point of less than CHF 4,000 for a wood marquetry dial in a watch is a great value for such a technical and aesthetically innovative piece.
The checkerboard pattern featured on the Excellence Marqueterie dial creates an optical illusion of depth and motion, which is further enhanced by the interplay of light. This design was previously used on the Excellence Guilloché Main series, which showcased hand guilloché workmanship. However, the challenge is greater with the marquetry dial, as acknowledged by artisan Bastien Chevalier, who is one of the few experts in this craft in Switzerland. Achieving such precise geometric patterns requires a high level of skill and attention to detail, with any deviation being visible.
To create the checkerboard pattern, each facet is hand-cut with a saw into the wood using different types of wood for each color. The use of three shades of blue-tinted tulip tree and grey-tinted willow burl, cut along the grain, produces a stunning visual effect. Bastien Chevalier has developed his own technique, involving conscious breathing akin to that of a yoga master, to achieve surgical precision in each cut. The dial comprises over 70 pieces, each of which is carefully sorted, fixed onto the first mount, and glued onto the appropriate side. The back is then prepared to attach to the dial’s metal base, and the outward face is delicately sanded to the correct thickness.
Reference 34237AA58, Louis Erard Excellence Marqueterie Limited Edition, the latest piece of art added to the company collection, comes with a blue-grained calf leather strap with a tone-on-tone attachment points, blue linings and pin buckle.
The price tag of the watch is CHF 3,900, which equals ~$4,270 USD. This is an outstanding price tag for a timepiece with a wood marquetry dial, just like we see many times from Louis Erard.
If you don’t know Louis Erard, let’s do a short introduction with this company.
Louis Erard was originally established in 1929 as a watchmaking school in La Chaux-de-Fonds. It was only in 1931 that the company began selling watches under its own brand. After being sold in 1991, production was relocated to Le Noirmont. However, in 2003 the company was once again sold and relaunched. Louis Erard has since produced more than 200,000 watches, utilizing mechanical movements from renowned brands such as Sellita and Valjoux. The company has also collaborated with notable entities such as Leeds United Football Club and Ultima Sports sports cars. Louis Erard remains committed to creating watches with a regulator layout, which was originally designed for master clocks in the mid-18th century to provide the most precise time readings. In 2020, Louis Erard enlisted the expertise of esteemed watchmaker Vianney Halter to design the “Le Regulateur” complication piece as part of its Excellence watch collection.