Understanding The Process Of Making Mother-Of-Pearl Dials
Depending on the complexity of the dial, the entire production process easily takes anywhere from a month to six weeks and involves 15 different artisan steps. As such, they are predominantly made by companies that specialize in working with the shell. Typically, a dial maker with a strong team of approximately two dozen skilled makers can still only produce about 5,000 top-quality mother-of-pearl dials annually.
Once the shells have been selected, they are crushed and then precisely machined into thin sheets that are typically 0.2mm in thickness. From these mother-of-pearl sheets, perfect round orbs or specifically shaped pieces are precisely cut by CNC machines. These disks will then be used as the watch dial.
Mother-of-pearl dials can be engraved or finished with all sorts of patterns from traditional sunray to decorative motifs. This is all delicately done by hand on either the dial front or back depending on the design.
Dials can be enhanced in color by painting, varnishing or lacquering the back of the mother of pearl. Generally, mother of pearl has a milky white luster, however it can be found with a natural pearlescent hue in pale blue, pink, gray and brown. Polishing is an important step, as it brings out the natural luster of the shell.
Generally, numerals and markers are then inked onto the dial, or cut-outs are made on the dial for the setting of gemstones or applied indices. Further embellishments, including the hands or any diamond accents, are added last. The finished work of art then moves to its rightful place on the watch.