With a history spanning more than 500 years, it is tempting to think of watchmaking as an ancient craft. However, the creation of porcelain, and the process of then painting on it in miniature with enamel is more than 1000 years old. So it would not be an outrageous claim to state that 1500 years of artisanal experience has gone into the first releases from new watch brand Halcyon – the Sea & Cliff, and the Dragon.
Throughout the history of watchmaking, porcelain dials decorated with enamel miniature painting have been seen as symbols of both elegant, refined craftsmanship and of status. The astonishing artworks show the outstanding skills and boundless creativity of the craftspeople involved, and the ability of their owners to acquire exquisite portable pieces of art.
However, due to the complexity of the production process, the limited availability of skilled artisans, and the high risk of failure, watches equipped with these hand-crafted dials have become the reserve of a few high-end brands. With porcelain or enamel painted dial watches often selling for more than $150,000.
Today, in Jingdezhen, the birthplace of porcelain, a new brand, Halcyon, is challenging this status quo with their new Origin collection. Two pieces developed through expert knowledge of ancient techniques and superb craftsmanship.
The dials of the new Halcyon Origin watches employed the highly acclaimed “Famille rose” technique. Which involves hand-painting vivid and bright enamel onto a delicate and refined porcelain dial. Resulting in a perfectly balanced combination of two exceptional materials to create a stunning beautiful outcome.
To achieve this effect, they must go through the challenges of both porcelain production and enamel painting.
This starts with each porcelain dial piece going through dozens of processes, before being fired for 24 hours at 1400 degrees in the 1000-year-old “Dragon” Kiln.
After firing, the porcelain dial is sent to a highly skilled enamel miniature painter with decades of experience. Unlike other types of miniature painting, the firing temperature for each color in enamel painting varies. So once applied, each color needs to be fired separately, with each firing process putting the dial at risk of cracking or bubbling.
The results of this spectacular level of skill speak for themselves – the dials demonstrate the unique smoothness and delicate texture of genuine porcelain, as well as the intriguing detail and subtle color change of miniature enamel painting.
The dials of the Sea & Cliff, and the Dragon are mounted inside elegantly designed silver watch cases, with stainless steel backs, and feature a cunningly hidden crown at the 12 o’clock position. Powered by the Seiko NH25 automatic movement, the Origin is not only a beautiful addition to any collection, but also fully capable of meeting daily wearing needs.
Availability of this first Origin collection is limited, with just 100 pieces of the Sea & Cliff (priced at $1,699) and 20 pieces of the Dragon (priced at $4,699) shipping from June 2023.