We are in the middle of January, the Jurassian mountains, draped in white, impose themselves on you. Faced with them, you can question human omnipotence.
If we are in the Jura, it is to meet the dial maker of Formex : Cadranor.
This surface, flat or in volume, welcomes our gaze every day and provides us with a universal information: time.
By definition, it is one of the most important parts of a watch and yet we know almost nothing about how it is made.
The purpose of this article is to share with you the discovery and experience we had during our visit, which you will soon be able to watch on video…
Enjoy your reading!
It’s Romeo Granito who welcomes us. And yes, at Formex we do things in family.
With stars in his eyes and a sure hand, he shows us some of his creations. For a moment in this meeting room, time was suspended, giving way to a meeting between the passion of the profession and a desire to discover.
Like children, we discover a new world; a world in which what we look at each time we see our watches is created. Certainly, the case, the bracelet, the lugs and many other details play their part our seduction. But ultimately, the most imposing element in terms of surface area is the dial. And because of its size, even the smallest detail of style or workmanship can spell the end of our love affair.
This is why the dial is a very important element in a watch.
The dial maker is the bridge between what Raphaël, Formex’s CEO, wants for his watches and the finished product.
But let’s leave the meeting room and move from the theory to practice.
Now that you understand why the dial is important, we still haven’t answered our question: what makes a good dial maker?
You watch and don’t move, you just blend in. Each one has a mission and to fulfil it, they have to follow a whole choreography to the letter. The rhythm is set by the hum of the machines that come to work the material in a regular way.
The first steps, which consist of machining and satin finishing, are relatively uncomplicated for the dial maker. The machines are controllable, you just need to know their language to make them follow the instructions.
Follow us, let’s leave our observation post and find another one.
This time we have left the noise. The material has been machined and satinised and now it’s time for a bath. It is at this stage that the dial maker’s level is checked.
Touch gives way to sight. One submits to the material and tries to understand it in order to reach one’s goal.
It was from this point on that I was most impressed. By talking with the dial maker, I was able to understand that sight was one of the most important tools of the trade.
While the chemistry is going on in the baths and the varnish is being applied, one is subjected to the material. During these stages, one can only observe and adjust. This is a good way to practice humility. The expert eye will be able to inform the brain so that adjustments can be made with a safe gesture.
Mastery of a movement is acquired through experience and repetition. The eye can only be sharpened by experience and a good master. The one who will show you the important details, the warning signs of a good or bad reaction of the material. That is why it takes between 3 and 5 years to train a dial maker.
As we are discovering all the nuances that reside in a dial, he approaches us and tells us that he has 45 years of experience, yet he learns something new every day. It is in this simple sentence that we discover the power of the passion that drives him.
From what we could see, what makes a good dial maker is above all a passion for the job, a sharp eye and a sensitive touch.
Among the 7 steps by which a dial goes from raw material to finished product, there is the control. This last step is crucial and must be carried out impartially. The smallest defect can cause a rework or a rejection and, in this case, it is necessary to start all over again.
We are standing in this room, staring at a screen. He manipulates a Formex dial, analyses it with his binoculars and places it in such a way that he can check its conformity with the computer file. The colour has been validated beforehand by Raphaël and now it is the computer coolness that will allow the person to check the conformity of the machining.
A smile comes over the dial maker’s face when the compliance is perfect. Yes, it was perfect. Without having participated in its making, we were ourselves happy with the work well done, done before our eyes.
Happy and satisfied, we return to the meeting room. For a moment, we were able to glimpse the technical and human subtleties that are hidden in our dials. You will now know that a dial first goes through machining, satin finishing, a series of baths for its colouring, varnishing, decaling where the display is transposed, fitting and finally checking.
In batches of 20 to 50, it takes about 12 hours to go through all these stages. And the simplest dials are the most complicated to make, because they do not allow defects to be hidden. To be accepted, it must be as pure and as perfect as possible.
Now, when you’ll see a simple dial, you will know that it has taken more work for the dial maker than a charged dial.
It was with eyes full of stars that we resumed our journey in the Jura mountains. Letting ourselves be carried by their shapes, we continued our journey with our heads full of images.