Bovet Fleurier fired enamel miniature painting

Miniature painting and its various techniques have always underpinned the renown of Bovet Fleurier timepieces. Recognised and highly prized in the 19th century, richly decorated pocket watches were made essentially at the behest of the Emperors of China.
Rich in colour and varied themes, dials deployed all the creativity of artists of the time. Today BOVET perpetuates this Art by offering a collection of FLEURIER timepieces featuring essentially mother-of-pearl dials decorated with miniature paintings reprising the themes of period pocket watches or meeting growing demand by offering subjects such as portraits, animals and floral themes.
Certain religious themes such as the Madonnas of Russian icons are enhanced by a rarely seen technique never before used to decorate dials: Gold and silver leaf gilding. The gold or silver leaf can be applied only to a perfectly smooth base. The artist must then apply an intermediate lacquer to the mother-of-pearl or metallic base. This lacquer, called “mixion” is a kind of glue specially formulated to be compatible with other resins and able to withstand the same stoving temperatures. The technique of application remains traditional and involves the use of the gilding cushion and gilding knife. After stoving, the gold and silver leaf is “burnished” or polished with agate, and the contours are straightened with a dry point.
At the 2009 Show BOVET presents a pair of Unique dials produced using the lacquering technique. Lacquerwork was a major art form representative of the Art Deco years. While enamelled lacquer may show similarities with enamel in terms of the final result, it is on the other hand more resistant to shocks and can be applied to any base provided the latter can withstand a temperature of at least 170°C. Its application involves no risk of deformation of the base, even when precious stones are present.There can be no denying the success of these techniques and their exceptional and unique finish. Thanks to the handful of artisans who practice their craft exclusively for BOVET, this Art has been placed on a sure footing for the future.
mother of pearl Bovet Fleurier Miniature painting on mother-of-pearl calls for exceptionally sharp eyes and dextrous hands. To complete a single dial, the painter spends an average of 40 hours, peering attentively through the binocular magnifier.
1st stage: adapting a subject to the dial
Pictures are usually rectangular, BOVET Fleurier dials are round; and they have a hole in the middle for the hands. These constraints often mean the artist has to recompose the original subject so that it is adapted to its new canvas.
The artist draws an outline of the paintable area of the dial five times as big as the original, in which he composes the subject in a pencil drawing for approval.
2nd stage: transferring the subject to the dial
Transferring the subject to the dial is done by tracing a grid of horizontal and vertical lines over the picture. The same grid, but smaller, is also painted on the mother-of-pearl dial with a fine brush. The grid provides points of reference of each element of the picture. 3rd stage: preparing the palette of colours
After a first visual appreciation of the colours needed for his task, the painter composes his palette, preparing paint mixes, which will be maintained and modified as the need arises.
He then reshapes his brushes. Its bristles made from hair of a marten, as none available on the market are fine enough for this art. He will get through at least 10 and as many as 20 such brushes before the painting is finished.
4th stage: the most difficult part first
Given that miniature painting needs total concentration and sometimes up to 70 hours of meticulous work under the magnifying glass, the painter’s rule is to start with the most difficult details. In a portrait, the eyes and the facial features are dealt with before anything else.5th stage: in search of colour
The search for the right shade is a constant challenge; the artist has to identify the dominant colour of each detail of the subject. The base colour for each element is painted on uniformly to prevent the mother-of-pearl showing through.
6th stage: applying the paint
The base shade is applied and the other colours are progressively blended in to achieve the desired gradation and nuances. Many extremely fine additional layers are then applied, yet the completed painting is hardly five hundredths of a millimetre thick.7th stage: drying in the kilnThe dial has to pass through the kiln several times to dry each layer of paint, so that a new layer of colour can be painted on. Repeated drying also minimises the wet paint’s exposure to dust, which can ruin the work. The paint takes between 30 and 60 minutes to dry — depending on its thickness — in a 100° C kiln. Particularly complex subjects need up to 60 passages in the kiln. The completed painting is finally baked for five hours to prepare it for finishing.
8th stage: dial finishes
A transparent lacquer is now delicately applied over the whole dial surface. This is done in a special cabin in which air is filtered to two microns. Five layers are needed to apply 0.15mm of lacquer. The dial is then dried in the kiln for 24 hours at 120°C, before being smoothed on disks to reach its final thickness. After cleaning, the lacquer is polished to its full brilliance. The holes in the centre and for applied hour-markers are then pierced. Finally, the dial markings are transferred and the gemstones or hour-markers are fixed in the dial.Each miniature painting is unique and made to order only.