Finishing - its role in watchmaking


Removing burrs

When parts are produced using milling or profile turning machines, small burrs can result. If these extraneous pieces of metal were left in place they could inhibit the rotation of moving parts, create undesirable friction or even prevent a watch from functioning. The excess material is removed by ‘drawing’ surfaces with a graver, Degussit ruby stone and diamond paper. The coarseness of the file will vary depending on the task being undertaken.



Removing signs of machining

The mainplate and three-quarter plate are two of the largest movement components found within a Zeitwinkel timepiece. They are manufactured from German silver, an alloy comprising copper, nickel and zinc, also known as ‘Maillechort’. These components are produced using a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, milled to infinitesimal tolerances measured in microns. Ultra-precise machining is essential for a timepiece to be accurate and reliable. After these parts have been milled and checked using a micrometer, there will inevitably be small traces of machining. In the elevated heights of fine watchmaking these parts are subsequently refined, not only to remove signs of machining but also to enhance their overall aesthetic appearance.




Some forms of decoration were initially employed for practical reasons. For example, perlage, a motif composed of numerous overlapping circles, dates back to a time when dust ingress was a big problem and had an adverse effect on the overall reliability of a timepiece. Sometimes termed ‘spotting’, the decoration, usually applied to the mainplate, proved very effective at retaining dust and preventing it from impairing the motion of moving parts. Today, watches are less prone to dust and water ingress, but the motif continues to be employed.



Augmenting the aesthetic appearance of parts

A luxury watch does not become sumptuous merely with the addition of gems or by having a case made of noble metal. A truly luxurious watch encompasses the tiniest details, sometimes functional, sometimes aesthetic and quite often both.

The three-quarter plate is adorned with Côtes de Genève motif, a decoration composed of parallel lines. This form of embellishment is usually restricted to non-functional parts and is primarily executed for aesthetic reasons. A surface adorned with Côtes de Genève wonderfully interacts with light, creating pockets of brilliance and shade.



Beyond the wearer's gaze

An indicative feature of a luxury watch is that the finishing extends to parts that will never be seen by its wearer. Given that decorating parts takes an inordinate amount of time, it seems logical to ask why decorate parts beyond the wearer’s gaze? However, having read this article, hopefully the rationale for performing the aforementioned protracted techniques adequately answers this question.


Go back