The Different Finishes On Watch Movements
Many watch brands talk about the “finishing” of their watches, but what does that mean? Simply, it means the decoration applied to part of a watch. High horology brands talk a lot about their fine finishing, often applied to the case, hands, and movement. A previous blog explored the finishing that you can find on watch dials.
This blog will briefly explore the various type of movement finishing that watch brands use for their movements.
Why spend time finishing a movement?
All watches have movements. Some of these are very simple, and some are very complicated. Some are powered by quartz movements, whilst others are automatic. There are lots of ways in which movements can differ. How a manufacturer finishes the movement is just another one.
Finishing is simply decoration of the movement. Sometimes manufacturers just use simple finishing, usually completed by a machine, to keep costs down. Other manufacturers might employ highly-skilled watchmakers to finish movements by hand.
The way in which a watch manufacturer finishes a watch usually reflects the quality of the watch. Really high quality and expensive watches will often have movements finished with a variety of patterns, whilst cheaper watches will have simpler movement finishing. There are obviously some exceptions to this where cheaper watches have really beautiful movements.
There are lots of different finishes on this Patek Philippe movement
A simple way to finish a movement is to polish it. It is unlikely that the whole movement will be polished, but some of the component parts might be. The bridge is a part that is commonly polished.
Some watchmakers will spend a huge amount of time polishing parts of the movement by hand until they have a mirror-finish. This is very striking and requires a lot skill to achieve. Grand Seiko watches often have mirror-finished components to their movements, as you can see in the image below. This type of polishing is called Some polishers are able to create an effect called black-polish. This is achieved when metal is polished to such an extent that it appears black. It is very impressive to see!
Black polishing on a Voutilainen watch. Photo courtesy of ACollectedMan
Grained, brushed, or sandblasted
The opposite to polishing is graining, or brushing a movement. Like dragging a rake through sand, a machine with a sharp edge is dragged over the metal. This leaves it with tiny etches, giving the metal a matte finish. The grain is often in a straight line, however, there are various patterns that watchmakers might grain or brush a movement in, such as circular or Geneva stripes.
Watchmakers achieve another matte effect by sandblasting the movement. This involves blasting compressed air and sand against the metal in order to cover it with lots of tiny craters. This is a very smart finish when combined with polished components.
The sandblasted components on a Gronefeld movement
Cotes de Geneve
Cotes de Geneve, or the Geneva stripes, are a high-end brushed finished that you often see on watch movements through crystal case-backs. To create the effect, the watchmaker either uses a lathe, or a rectifying rule (a bit like the arm of a turntable). This is incredibly difficult to execute cleanly and evenly, so this finish is mostly used on expensive watches. It is also a useful finish, as it hides any marks on the movement, and traps small particles of dust.
The distinctive stripes of the Cotes de Geneve finish is easy to see on this A Lange & Sohne 1815
Like Cotes de Geneve, perlage is a difficult effect to achieve. The watchmaker uses a rotating head, pressing it onto the metal to create an overlapping pattern of circles on the movement. It is very difficult to achieve a consistent pattern across the movement, so this finishing is often only used on expensive watches.
You can see the repeating circular perlage pattern in this movement
Anglage, chamfered or bevelled
Anglage, chamfering, or bevelling the edge of a movement component all mean the same thing. It means to polish the edge of a component, typically on a 45degree angle, to stop the edge of the component breaking off and damaging the movement. The top of a bevelled component is usually brushed in contrast to the polished, sloping sides. See picture below.
The highly polished anglage is on display here on the edge of the components.
Guilloche is one of the most difficult movement finishes to achieve. It involves carving extremely precise patterns into the metal using a rose engine lathe. The lathe operator has to been incredibly skilled to achieve a consistent pattern. The process needs to be completed perfectly first time – so it is only used on the most expensive watch movements.
The gold rotor of this Breguet movement is decorated with guilloche. It contrasts beautifully with the Cotes de Geneve finishing on the rest of the movement
At The Watch Collectors’ Club, we don’t have a favourite movement finish. We enjoy seeing the wide variety of finishes that watchmakers use to decorate the movements they put into their watches. They highlight the talent of watchmakers, and the pride that manufacturers take in the quality of their engineering. The best way to see some of the different movement finishes is to come to one of our events.
We explore the watches brand use to celebrate significant historic anniversaries.
We explore how modern watches are made