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Discover the bond between Franck Muller watchmaking and the art of dial painting

#FirstClassFriday

Text: Angelyn Kwek

Paint me a Franck Muller masterpiece

Insiders and fans of the brand will know Franck Muller for its case-making forte, but did you know the maison is also a master of dial painting? It is at the heart of the Jura canton in Switzerland, in a small municipality called Les Bois, that they've manufacturing their own dials for years — to the point where the legendary skills of Franck Muller's watchmakers have made the area renowned.

More than a talent to crow about, this element is one of the manufacture's main watchmaking pillars and is inextricably tied to many an iconic Franck Muller timepiece. Case in point, go to any Franck Muller boutique and you'll immediately notice the larger-than-life swirly numbers decorating the walls and displays. These are the numerals from the Crazy Hours collection and it's a leitmotif diffused across the brand, seen in different variations on many dials but crafted with the same precision and dexterity for all. 

Each number starts off as a 'mould' where pigments will then be deposited to fill up its shape. The artisan uses a special pen-like tool to do the job, which dispenses the paint via a needle-thin tip. This pen has a tube attached to the end, where the paint will be pumped through whenever the machine's foot pedal is depressed. This is all done while looking through a lens, so you can see the magnified version of what you're doing. While it sounds fairly uncomplicated on paper, it's actually much harder than it appears because yours truly has given dial painting a shot during WPHH a year ago when one of Franck Muller's master craftsmen happened to be stationed in-house for demos. I was given praise for doing a good job when my first attempt came out decent enough, though I would have fubbed it up if I had squeezed out even a miniscule drop more of paint. Which apparently was the case for most folks who gave it a whirl and inadvertently created an overflowing mess.

Franck Muller Art of Dial Painting

And that's where you need a very skillful hand. The craftsman not only needs to regulate the amount of paint — he has to cultivate adept control over the pressure of his foot because too hard a touch and paint will go spilling out the sides of the 'mould' — he also needs to spread it out to fill the number's shape such that it levels out to just the right height to create a uniform look from 1 to 12. The end result is distinctive numerals in all kinds of fonts and colours, playfully arranged around the dial to express the concept of time as an abstract construct. This signature trait makes a Franck Muller watch apparent even from 10 paces away, and is no doubt why collections such as the Vanguard (both men and lady editions) and the iconic Crazy Hours have withstood the test of time to celebrate 15 years today.  

A little bit of outrageous and a lot of personality paired with the signature Cintrée Curvex case, here are the spectacular timepieces that prove Franck Muller's mastery of dial painting, launched exclusively to hail the magic of the maison's brand of artistry and creativity:

The Crazy Hours 15th Anniversary Asia Exclusive and the new Lady Vanguard Moon Phase collections are available at Franck Muller boutiques and select Franck Muller watch retailers.

For last week's #FirstClassFriday, click here.

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