Ending Level: All the things You Must Know About Watch Crafting

For ardent connoisseurs, the great thing about a watch lies not simply in its dial or in its technical capabilities. Certainly, it’s typically within the particulars that stay hidden in plain sight: an engraved stability cock, a chamfered important plate, a guilloched rotor. Reserved solely for the pleasure of the wearer, these beautiful crafts have existed because the daybreak of horology. We unpack their origins, and discover why they continue to be enduring emblems of haute horlogerie


In my years of writing about watches, I’ve been privileged sufficient to strive my hand at many of those crafts listed on these pages, together with tremblage engraving (it was so powerful that my hand harm for a superb six hours after); perlage (my botched dial was extra Pollock than Monet); and naturally, guilloche. Other than realising that I severely lack inventive expertise and persistence, every session imbibed in me mad respect for the artisans that spend months and years perfecting every craft, and diligently ply their commerce day in, day trip.

My try at guilloche was disastrous as properly: For one, the artisan wants to use constant strain to the dial, so the sample is uniform all through — a deeper or lighter incision could be seen by the bare eye, making for a visible mess. In fact, a creative temperament is a given. None of which I possess.

Guilloche is a sort of intaglio engraving, and is executed on manually-operated machines, together with rose engine lathes, straight lower and brocading machines. There’s proof that the approach flourished within the late center ages, and the guide machines that guillocheurs nonetheless use at present had been constructed within the 1500s.

The machines are all hand-operated, however over time, CNC machines have been calibrated to emulate the impact of a guilloched dial — however whether or not it’s hand or machine executed impacts the worth of the watch, clearly. In an interview with Robb Report in 2004, German guilloche specialist Jochen Benzinger mentioned, “You crank it by hand, you regulate the strain on the instrument by hand. It’s all a matter of really feel.”

Nonetheless, manufacturers together with Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Breguet proceed to perpetuate the inventive craft of guilloche by hand. The truth is, the usage of guilloche in watchmaking could be attributed to Abraham-Louis Breguet, who began utilizing the approach in 1786, because it served a purposeful function: it protected the metallic floor of the dial from put on and tear, and prevented fingerprint marks. Plus, as a result of it was not extremely polished and thus not reflective, it made for higher legibility.

It served an aesthetic function as properly, because the totally different guilloche patterns demarcated totally different sections of the watch. At the moment, a have a look at Breguet’s trendy watches function this visible artistry. The Breguet Classique 7137, as an illustration, options numerous guilloche patterns executed utilizing a rose lathe. A Clous de Paris sample on the gold dial doubles because the canvas, whereas the ability reserve (throughout the fan-shaped subdial at 9) includes a basket-weave design, and the date subdial includes a chequerboard sample.

Whereas Breguet was liable for introducing the approach to watchmaking, one man discovered magnificence in its purely ornamental type: Peter Carl Fabergé’s well-known eggs would famously function numerous inventive crafts, together with guilloche.

There are a number of “widespread” guilloche patterns that we frequently see at present together with barleycorn, sunburst, and flinque patterns, in addition to the clous de Paris, which as its identify suggests, resembles the cobbled-stoned streets of the French capital. The latter can be one other identify for the tapisserie dial, which has change into synonymous with Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watches, proving that the craft could be simply versatile and trendy. The distinction between the tapisserie and the clous de Paris is that the previous options flat squares, and never pyramid tops.


One of many oldest inventive crafts on this record, the artwork of engraving dates again to the Historic Egyptians, essentially the most well-known instance being hieroglyphics engraved in stone. This inventive craft has endured by the ages, surviving the Roman Empire, the Byzantine period, the commercial age, the digital renaissance… In fact, by the years, the artwork of engraving has been modernised as properly. Whereas it was previously solely completed manually on a rotary machine, it will probably now be executed by lasers and pantographs.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the allure of engraving by hand, a practice {that a} handful of watchmakers proceed to perpetuate. To grasp this method, it isn’t sufficient to only be expert at manipulating metallic — it additionally requires a creative temperament and a dexterous hand. Craftsmen work with a set of burins – most engravers have a instrument equipment of 20 to 40-odd burins — which are used to carve out the metallic (or wooden, ivory and loads of others apart from) to create incisions. These incisions can take the type of phrases, a sample, a motif, or an paintings.

Traditionally, engraving has lengthy been a part of the watch ornament lexicon, and has been utilized on most components of the watch, together with the dial, case, motion parts and even the buckle. One of many proponents of engraving within the nineteenth century was Édouard Bovet, who designed the fleurisanne engraving, which includes a repetitive floral sample. Patek Philippe, too, gained a repute for its stylised watches that featured crafts resembling gem-setting, enamelling and engraving. The truth is, engraved watches had been a standing image again then, one which confirmed wealth and good style. For Patek Philippe founder Antoine Norbert de Patek, he would engrave his watches to please his rich, aristocratic purchasers, and typically even personalise the timepieces with customized designs.

At the moment, the model continues to advertise inventive crafts by its Uncommon Handcrafts division, the place it perpetuates the custom and transmission of expertise that may have been lengthy forgotten if not for his or her help. Most lately, it confirmed its engraving expertise to nice impact with the Grandmaster Chime ref 5175 from its one hundred and seventy fifth anniversary celebrations, the place the gold case is exquisitely hand-engraved in an elaborate floral sample, befitting the milestone.

At A. Lange & Söhne, six in-house engravers work on its watches. Notably, the German watchmaker hand-engraves each single stability cock that leaves its manufacture. The design includes a florid sample of petals, however every stability cock is exclusive by sheer advantage of being completed by hand. The truth is, every stability cock could be recognized by the stroke of the engraver, every particular person possessing a particular type that may be seen within the depth and flourish of the engravings. The engraving of a stability cock takes about 45 to 90 minutes, whereas a case again can take about one week.

The engravers put their expertise to good use on A. Lange & Söhne’s Handwerkskunst dials, which have lengthy been a canvas to showcase the model’s inventive crafts. The likes of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Blancpain have additionally all used engraving to raise their inventive dials, tapping on totally different engraving strategies.

Engraving provides a plethora of choices for the wearer — the truth is, many select to engrave the caseback with names, initials and mottos, however for many who need to go that further mile (and who’ve fatter wallets), they will additionally select to engrave dials, instances and even buckles with a design of their selection.

Perlage and Cotes de Genève

Watchmaking is as a lot of an artwork type as it’s a technical science, one that may be appreciated from all angles. Discover how a connoisseur picks up a watch — if he robotically turns it over, likelihood is he understands and appreciates that there’s as a lot artistry to be appreciated within the working components of the motion as on the dial.

You’ll spot numerous finishings on the primary plate, however two of the extra acquainted ones are perlage and cotes de Genève. Perlage, actually that means pearls in French, creates a pearl-like impact on the bottom plate. Cotes de Genève, however, options equal stripes of various dimensions and traits. This method, as its identify suggests, originates from Geneva. It is usually often called Geneva stripes.

Each finishings had been designed to fulfil a technical function. Technically scratchings, they trapped the mud within the case, thus defending the motion from exterior injury. Each, nonetheless, have a distinctly totally different visible impression. Some collectors discover that perlage seems a bit cluttered, and therefore it’s typically relegated to a decrease bridge or {a partially} hidden mainplate. Nonetheless, there isn’t a denying that perlage is just not a simple ability to grasp because the artisan must stamp tiny concentric circles in a repetitive movement in order that they overlap within the actual sample in order to create a harmonious impact. It’s labour intensive work that requires a meticulous and detail-oriented nature.

Whereas it is perhaps extra widespread to see cotes de Genève, there’s one strategy to distinguish a high-end and not-so-high-end motion: look rigorously on the ending of the stripes. If the stripes function a sunray, polished and even perlage end, you have got a winner.

Each perlage and cotes de Genève can now be completed by a machine, however the place is the enjoyable in that?

Anglage / Chamfering

Many ornamental strategies had been born out of necessity: as we noticed in earlier pages, each perlage and cotes de Genève had been designed to lure mud particles throughout the “scratches” shaped on the floor of the metallic, thus defending the watch motion. However some had been purely ornamental, stemming from a need to please the attention. Anglage, or chamfering as it’s identified in English, is certainly one of them.

It exemplifies the punctilious nature of watchmaking, as a result of anglage, whereas not essentially vital for the functioning of the watch, is what separates haute horlogerie from the remaining. It’s a troublesome ability to grasp and in reality, aspiring watchmakers at Vacheron Constantin have to undertake an 18-month coaching programme to excellent this method.

Primarily, anglage is a ending approach that’s seen in haute horlogerie watches, whereby the sides of a element or a important plate are bevelled to create a 45-degree slope. It’s a minute element, one which serves no technical operate, however one which subtly elevates the class of the motion, including a refined contact.

The craftsman, known as an angleur, makes use of a metallic file or picket peg with an abrasive diamond paste to shine down the floor. Anglage is an exacting ability, because the angleur should be cautious in sustaining a gradual strain to the floor of the angle, in order that the floor is flat and common, with a constant width. No blemishes are permitted, and the signal of a profitable chamfered edge is a reflective floor. Whereas a CNC machine can replicate a part of the method, a gradual hand is required to edge out these internal angles.

It could take an angleur about eight to 10 hours to work on one bridge, so an amazing quantity of persistence and dexterity is required.

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