I’ve always enjoyed looking at the back of a watch to admire the movement, sometimes even more than gazing upon the dial. In fact, the rear is sometimes more infinitely interesting than the face (don’t let your imagination run amok here). I particularly like the warm glow seen in the German silver of brands such as A. Lange & Sohne. Several techniques are used to decorate a watch movement and I cover several of them here divided into two parts. Which is your favorite?
Perlage, which means pearl, decorates the bridges, plates, the bottom of recesses and dials. While some claim that perlage keeps dust from getting into the movement, others say it’s just a form of embellishment. Either way, it’s an attractive finish. When done well, perlage is consistent and even across the surface.
Geneva Stripes are also referred to as Geneva Waves and they are seen on the surface of bridges. Geneva Stripes are made by taking away material; therefore, they can’t be applied to functional surfaces because it would affect the integrity and accuracy of the watch. Below you see DeBethune’s variation of Geneva Waves they call DeBethune Stripes.
Guilloche is named after Frenchman Guillot, who supposedly invented it. Mostly seen on dials, it’s a geometric combination of straight lines and curves cut into a rotating metal surface. While it can be done by machine, the artisan way uses a rose engine to implement the design.
Bevelling is the process of filing down a component on the top and side to a 45-degree angle. It goes beyond just getting rid of the burrs or extra bits of metal from the machining. Bevelling allows the light to play across the surface of the movement. Watch parts have different shapes composed of interior, exterior and rounded angles. Interior angles are the toughest to execute with a bevel followed by exterior and then rounded. High watchmaking often incorporates more angles than necessary as an aesthetic effect.
Skeletonizing is also referred to as openworking. By taking away material, it reveals more of the movement, which is thought to be artistically beautiful. The danger is if too much is taken away, the mechanism might not work or the watch movement can look rather anorexic.