For Louis Erard, the goal is always the same: to make the delights and deliriums so exclusive to métiers d’art of high-end watchmaking accessible. And not only in terms of price, but culture, with an irrefutably contemporary spirit. The checkerboard expresses the spirit of the times: aesthetic, playful and eye-catching, with a trompe-l'oeil pattern that protrudes and hollows out under the light.
Louis Erard has borrowed the motif once before, in a series of 99 watches dedicated to hand guilloché. On this marquetry dial, the challenge is intensified. Bastien Chevalier himself — one of the few, if not only, Swiss experts in this art — recognises that taking up such a challenge is pure madness: “Geometric design is the hardest thing to do. You have to be totally precise. The pattern won’t permit any error — the slightest deviation is visible.”
Each facet is cut into the wood by hand with a saw. Each colour is in a different wood: three shades of blue-tinted tulip tree, and grey-tinted willow burl, cut in the direction of the grain. The cut must be of surgical precision to a tenth of a millimetre, if the pieces are to be assembled without the slightest gap appearing in this surgical-level jigsaw. Bastien Chevalier has developed his own technique to achieve this remarkable feat: conscious breathing, in the style of yoga masters.
The dial incorporates more than 70 elements. The series is made up of 99 pieces. The patience required of this work is extreme, and the production time exceeds the normal budgetary limits for a dial at this price.
Once cut, the tiny pieces are meticulously sorted and deposited with the tip of a scalpel under a binocular microscope, then fixed on the first mount. The assembly is then glued on the appropriate side. The back is prepared so that it can be attached to the dial’s metal base, and then the outward face is delicately taken again to be sanded to the correct thickness: it’s almost imperceptible, a few hairs’ breadth. Each step is decisive; there’s no going back. Time passes. The first dial is complete... 98 to go.
In this highly exclusive model, Louis Erard brings a rare craft to the fore — a craft that business logic would normally reserve for discerning collectors — and combines it with fine watchmaking. A modern case with precise shapes in polished steel, 42 millimetres in diameter, with domed sapphire crystal, water-resistant to 50 metres and bearing the signature fir tree crown. The blue grained calf leather strap features tone-on-tone attachment points, Louis Erard blue lining and a pin buckle. The movement is an automatic Sellita SW261-1 with hour and minute function, visible from the open caseback.