The Beauty of Watch Decorations & Finishes

by Jack Freedman

NOTICE OF DISCLAIMER: Please note that any and all information submitted here may not be accurate and could be unconfirmed.


The decorations and finishes of a watch movement, the subject matter discussed here, appear primarily on the MAIN PLATE and the TRAIN and BARREL BRIDGES as well as on the automatic unit BRIDGE and ROTOR. Much has been written about the merit of modifying a movement where, by the time a company is finish “finishing” the mechanism, it takes on a whole new character of its own which then cannot be compared to a basic movement assembled from raw parts. The purpose of this article, however, is not to evaluate the technical benefits these finishes might add, as that has already been discussed by Walt Odets on TimeZone, but rather to compile all the many photos of different types of decorations and finishes found on wrist watch movements.

First, a brief word about what these parts are normally made of. The most commonly used metal in mechanical watchmaking, for making main plates and train bridges, is brass, which is composed mainly of copper and 30 to 40% of zinc. It is strong enough and easy to work with and can be treated easily by gilding or galvanizing. Steel is not practical for watch plates as it’s difficult to work with, is magnetic and allows oxidation. “German silver” is an alloy of copper and zinc in which some put 12 to 25% nickel. A metal that lends itself well to the making of plates is “Glucydur”, a non-magnetic alloy of copper with 1 to 2% of beryllium, with the same hardness as steel but is very shiny and neutralizes oxidation. Its price, however, does not allow to use it frequently.

Modifying, embellishing, refining, engraving, chasing, plating, polishing, chamfering are different terms used to describe the “finishing” of quality watch movements. Most of these mentioned refinements are usually done to fine quality Swiss luxury mechanical movements where the finish also affects the running and durability of the watch.

As a trade watchmaker, I have always been intrigued by the various types of finishes found primarily on high-end watch movements. To the best of my knowledge, there exists no book which concentrates on the many different kinds of finishes which are quite fascinating to view. I have, therefore, found it worthwhile to compile photos of movements which I have classified in sections by types of finish for visual comparison. Please note that I may have omitted some, and my list may be incomplete, as I do not have a library of books to support full research on this interesting subject.

Click on the following sections below to view photos of different finishes found in fine mechanical movements:



  • Flat matte finish
  • Flat brushed finish
  • Cotes de Geneve
  • Cotes Circulaires
  • Anglage
  • Pierced & decorated with circular graining
  • Vagues de Geneve
  • Perlage
  • Skeletonized engraving
  • Guilloche-engraved
  • Soleil decorated
  • Glashutte polishing
  • Colimaconnage


  • Hand engraved motifs
  • Precious metals
  • Precious stones finish
  • A Rare Combination Of Finishes On One Timepiece

The writer acknowledges thanks to the “Watches 98” book and to the Public Relations Department of Seiko Corporation of America for information gathered to cover parts of this report.

Your comments are welcome and can be sent direct to me via

(copyrighted by Jack Freedman, 9/98)