Welcome to our "Behind the STORM" series, where we dive deeper into our design process that led to the STORM. In this blog post, we will discuss the hand-enameling process and why we do it.
History and Uses of Enamel
Hand enamel is a traditional technique used to apply enamel to various surfaces such as metal, glass, and ceramics. The process involves heating a mixture of ground glass and metal oxides to a high temperature, and then applying the melted enamel to the surface using a brush or other tools. The enamel is then heated again to fuse it to the surface and create a smooth, glossy finish.
Enamel has long been used throughout centuries, dating as far back as 13th-century BC. Used in jewelry, watches, and other accessories, enamel is a tried and proven material well suited for cosmetic uses. However, enamel applied by hand is a rare art that has fallen out of popularity in favor of quicker and cheaper processes due to decorative colour innovations in metal. Read more here on anOrdain’s website, a watchmaking company that specialises in enamel dials.
Enamel remains as an incredibly specialist skill despite the length of time that it has been around for. According to anOrdain, “enamel dial-making has since dwindled to become practiced by only a handful of artisans mainly in Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Japan. Thus, enamel dials are usually reserved for exclusive, high-end luxury watches”.
Hand-enamel watches are prized for their beauty, durability and the level of craftsmanship that goes into creating them. They are often considered as works of art and also, they are highly valued by collectors.
Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin's Enamel Dial Watches
Photo courtesy of A Collected Man
Enamel has a deep, lustrous look with a slight sheen that cannot be emulated by other techniques or materials. It is obvious why we fell in love with the technique. We really wanted to bring this art into STORM!
Due to Symphonium’s familiarity with high-end watches (it is a big hobby of theirs!), they are also fans of hand-enamelling techniques in watch dials. They wanted to help us implement hand-enamelling techniques into the Launch Edition of STORM. With their expertise, we worked together to design STORM’s dial.
In the world of IEMs, hand-applied enamel was something not yet done. We wanted to create something totally unique and challenge ourselves to produce something outside of our comfort zone. Our innovation has to be more than just sound!
How Hand-Enameling is Performed
1. Application of Enamel on the Faceplate
First, we have to prepare the bare faceplates by cleaning them. Any debris or dust would cause errors in the production process later on.
We then apply the enamel with a fine brush. It is important that the brush's hair is fine, so that application of the enamel is done precisely and accurately without blemishes. Due to the thinner pattern of the STORM's clouds, the enameling artist has to be very careful not to stain the raised surfaces. A mistake made would mean that the process has to be restarted.
Application of enamel with a fine brush
Before and After. The Enameled faceplate is now ready to be heated.
2. Heating The Enamel Thrice
Enamel has to be melted to sit flush into the faceplates to form a strong bond between the two materials. This is done through a process of heating the enamel in an oven, waiting for it to cool and then repeating the heating process until the enamel achieves the desired luster. Repeated heating and cooling also strengthens and hardens the enamel, transforming it into a durable material that retains its color and shine over time.
Getting Heated in the Oven
Experimenting with different temperatures and duration of heating, Symphonium has perfected the heating process to produce a beautiful shine with maximum hardness. We have to heat the enamel about 3 times to obtain the luster required. Each heating process introduces the potential for something to go wrong, such as bubbles forming or discoloration. Should it go wrong (which two in three faceplates do), we have to toss the faceplate and restart the process. It usually takes Symphonium two whole days to finish the STORM’s faceplates due to the complexity and rejection rate.
3. Quality Checks
After the enamel has been heated thrice, we check the consistency and finish of the enamel. It is important to view the faceplates under a very bright light to spot impurities or cosmetic defects. The heated enamel should have a beautiful, natural luster with plenty of depth. Should it pass our stringent quality control checks, the enameled faceplates are ready to be mounted onto the shells.
The fine grooves are evenly filled with enamel
And there you have it! While enamel is tricky and time consuming to produce, it is just as much of an art as the tuning and material selection is.
Stay tuned for the next "Behind The STORM" blog post as we discuss the very lengthy tuning process.