The magic of cloisonné enamel

The latest Christie's auction in Geneva featured a rare 18kt rose gold Patek Philippe timepiece with cloisonné enamel dial. In the 1940s and 50s, the Geneva watchmaker made a very small number of "time only" wristwatches where detailed and artistic cloisonné enamel dials were fitted.
Enamel is a soft glass comprising of silica, red lead and soda. Elements added to the mix bring about a change in color – chromium creates green, iron turns it grey, the presence of iodine turns it red. When fired in an oven at 800-1200°C, enamel liquefies and bonds to the metal base and cools to become a hard-wearing material that retains its shines and color over centuries. The cloisonné technique requires the artisan to create compartments or housings by hand-folding a 0.07 mm wide gold wire (no thicker than human hair) - pliers are used to tease out various shapes on the base plate. These compartments are filled in with enamel and fired in a kiln.
The present dial was crafted to special order in 1950, and was, most likely, originally delivered to France, to be housed in a French-manufactured case. After World War II, this was quite common practice in alignment with the post-war economic effort. Importing foreign jewellery was prohibited in France, so many Swiss makers had their cases made in France, often after their own Swiss model. Patek Philippe worked closely with French firms such as Guillermin, providing dials and movements under the agreement that Patek Philippe standards would be upheld.
Price realized: $ 252,000

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