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 usually within the particulars that stay hidden in plain sight: an engraved steadiness cock, a chamfered foremost plate, a guilloched rotor. Reserved solely for the pleasure of the wearer, these beautiful crafts have existed for the reason that 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 damage for a superb six hours after); perlage (my botched dial was extra Pollock than Monet); and naturally, guilloche. Aside from realising that I severely lack inventive abilities and endurance, 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, time out.

My try at guilloche was disastrous as nicely: For one, the artisan wants to use constant stress to the dial, so the sample is uniform all through — a deeper or lighter incision might 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 minimize 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 through the years, 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 stated, “You crank it by hand, you regulate the stress 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 might be attributed to Abraham-Louis Breguet, who began utilizing the approach in 1786, because it served a practical objective: 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 objective as nicely, because the totally different guilloche patterns demarcated totally different sections of the watch. As we speak, a have a look at Breguet’s trendy watches characteristic this visible artistry. The Breguet Classique 7137, as an illustration, options plenty of guilloche patterns executed utilizing a rose lathe. A Clous de Paris sample on the gold dial doubles because the canvas, whereas the facility reserve (inside the fan-shaped subdial at 9) incorporates a basket-weave design, and the date subdial incorporates a chequerboard sample.

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

There are a couple of “frequent” 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 also be one other identify for the tapisserie dial, which has change into synonymous with Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak watches, proving that the craft might 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 means of the ages, surviving the Roman Empire, the Byzantine period, the economic age, the digital renaissance… In fact, by means of the years, the artwork of engraving has been modernised as nicely. Whereas it was previously solely achieved manually on a rotary machine, it could now be executed by lasers and pantographs.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the appeal of engraving by hand, a practice {that a} handful of watchmakers proceed to perpetuate. To grasp this method, it isn’t sufficient to simply 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 package of 20 to 40-odd burins — which can be used to carve out the metallic (or wooden, ivory and loads of others moreover) 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 incorporates a repetitive floral sample. Patek Philippe, too, gained a repute for its stylised watches that featured crafts reminiscent of 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.

As we speak, the model continues to advertise inventive crafts by means of its Uncommon Handcrafts division, the place it perpetuates the custom and transmission of abilities that might have been lengthy forgotten if not for his or her help. Most lately, it confirmed its engraving abilities to nice impact with the Grandmaster Chime ref 5175 from its a 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 steadiness cock that leaves its manufacture. The design incorporates a florid sample of petals, however every steadiness cock is exclusive by sheer advantage of being achieved by hand. The truth is, every steadiness cock might be recognized by the stroke of the engraver, every particular person possessing a particular model that may be seen within the depth and flourish of the engravings. The engraving of a steadiness cock takes about 45 to 90 minutes, whereas a case again can take about one week.

The engravers put their abilities 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 gives a plethora of choices for the wearer — in actual fact, many select to engrave the caseback with names, initials and mottos, however for many who wish to go that additional mile (and who’ve fatter wallets), they will additionally select to engrave dials, circumstances and even buckles with a design of their alternative.

Perlage and Cotes de Genève

Watchmaking is as a lot of an artwork kind as it’s a technical science, one that may be appreciated from all angles. Discover how a connoisseur picks up a watch — if he routinely turns it over, chances are high 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 plenty of finishings on the principle plate, however two of the extra acquainted ones are perlage and cotes de Genève. Perlage, actually which 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 known as Geneva stripes.

Each finishings had been designed to fulfil a technical objective. Technically scratchings, they trapped the mud within the case, thus defending the motion from exterior harm. Each, nonetheless, have a distinctly totally different visible impression. Some collectors discover that perlage seems to be 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 isn’t a simple ability to grasp because the artisan must stamp tiny concentric circles in a repetitive movement so 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 could be extra frequent to see cotes de Genève, there’s one method to distinguish a high-end and not-so-high-end motion: look rigorously on the ending of the stripes. If the stripes characteristic a sunray, polished and even perlage end, you will have a winner.

Each perlage and cotes de Genève can now be achieved 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 entice mud particles inside 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 one among them.

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

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

The craftsman, referred to 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 have to be cautious in sustaining a gentle stress 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 gentle hand is required to edge out these interior angles.

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

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