Logbook of production, chapter 1: the dials
Most of us have resumed work, life is gradually resuming, and for several weeks now, the production of our Union Collection watches has begun. This article will be the first of a small series, which will give our ambassadors the opportunity to follow the manufacturing process and its different stages: from the dials to the straps.
Today we are going to discuss the dials. Originally, it was a simple metal plate, which quickly became the center of attention. If we consider the case as the body of the watch, the dial is therefore the delicate face.
This is the first element that attracts the eye, it is, therefore, important to carry it out in the rules of art with impeccable quality. The manufacture of a dial is far from being a subcategory of watchmaking, it requires impeccable know-how and extreme precision to be both beautiful and readable. It supports many elements such as indexes, decorations, or simply inscriptions. In addition, for perfect placement of the hands, without risking touching the glass covering them or the other parts of the dial, each measurement must be made to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter. For our watches, the additional difficulty will be the curved dial, which requires a special technique.
April 15, 2020
First day of production. The excitement is at its peak, after weeks of the pre-order campaign and the uncertainty that we have all faced with COVID- 19, we are finally starting the cutting of steel plates which will become flat or curved dials. We begin to make the central and outer contour, where the canon of the movement will be housed. The canon will consequently receive the circular hands. The cutting process stops here for the flat dial, and for the curved dial, we will have to carve a thicker steel plate to give it its curved shape.
April 20, 2020
That day, we soldered our feet to the dials. These feet will be clipped onto the movement to position the dial for the following operations and final assembly.
April 25, 2020
This Wednesday, big things are happening. Using sandpaper, we will soften the metal plate. This step will remove machining residue, then sand the surface and finally prepare it for polishing.
Directly after these stages of dial preparation, before lacquering and varnishing, the plate must be properly polished to obtain a perfectly smooth surface to eliminate micro-scratches. This stage of the process is very meticulous, and we establish the bases of the best quality to limit the problems which can arise later. Indeed, we always have some surprises…
April 27, 2020
The dials now have the desired shape, they are polished and ready to receive their first layer of lacquer for the curved dials and varnish for the flat dials. Here we begin the last and most delicate stage of the production of the dials.
Whether lacquer or varnish, the process remains the same, but as you may have seen in pictures, the rendering is different. To prevent particles of dust from settling on the dial, we isolate it in a special cabin under very strict conditions. Our standards of cleanliness are high to offer you high-quality parts. Then, the varnish is applied with care, set to dry, and adheres to the metal plate before adding a second coat to obtain our famous velvet colors. Generally, a lacquer is applied on a flat surface and it is thus easier to manage the thickness of the coats. On our curved dials, the operation is more complicated and requires a special technique which is a secret recipe from the Maison!
May 7, 2020
Our dials are now dressed in their velvet color. So, it is time to focus on the last details. Let us start with the decal, here it is to add the inscriptions that should appear on the plate. Whether on flat or curved dials, you will always find the same three inscriptions: “Beaubleu Paris”, “Création Parisienne” (Parisian creation), and “Automatique” (automatic). This pad printing process is carried out in a white room to prevent the encrusting of dust particles once again. You may have a question in mind, but what is pad printing?
A pear-shaped tool collects the ink inscription on an engraved surface, then immediately moves it on the dial to obtain a clear and precise inscription.
May 12, 2020
Today we insert the indexes. The application of the indexes which are in the form of a lamp requires a different technique. These elements must be applied meticulously in their reserved place on the dial. They thus create a relief effect that accentuates the contrasts of the dial and therefore of the watch. And you know, it is all about contrast with Beaubleu watches!
May 20, 2020
Now is the time for quality control, an important step as it determines which parts can be used and which have defects.
May 27, 2020
Following the quality control of the dials, defects were detected on 4% of the parts. These defects, not visible to the naked eye, are most often micro-dust between the varnish and the metal plate or microbubbles in pad printing. They, therefore, lead to the scrapping of these parts to remake them from scratch. By this process, we install a high level of quality for our pieces.
This is how the first part of our logbook of the production collection ends. In the next article, we will detail the manufacturing of the cases, which requires different know-how but is just as exciting.