Movement decorations in watchmaking

Have you ever heard that a caliber could be decorated? Have you ever wondered why? In horology, watchmakers tend to decorate their movement to enter the very exclusive world of high watchmaking. Decorations are a brand’s signature to become more distinctive. But it also happens to be useful for the caliber functioning and maintenance.


Decorating a caliber requires hours of work and specific skills. It’s not mandatory to get a functioning movement, however it is recommended for its durability.This is why you’ll find several different decorations styles on the market. From the most simple ones without aesthetic concerns, to the most elegant ones done by hands requiring traditional skills. Realization and finishing vary from a watchmaker to another, but most of them uses same traditional technics.

As mentioned earlier, decorations are not exclusively made for beauty concerns but also to enhance the caliber’s durability and precision. Calibers become indeed less subject to corrosion, dust and other alterations. The watch could therefore gain in accuracy. Accuracy that you should regularly check here to verify your caliber’s health.

Nowadays, only few watchmakers master decorations internally. It’s part of a Maison’s value, competences and strategy. Connoisseurs rather appreciate hand-made decorations (like on the Patek Philippe caliber 240 of the above picture) as it highlights Patek’s expertise.

Let’s see briefly the four most used decorations throughout horology:

Circular graining (or stippling):
circular graining
It consists in removing material from plates of the movement in tiny circles. This decoration is made with hundreds of overlapping circles, usually all done by hands. The initial objective was to capture dust circulating inside the movement. Less dust in the movement means better durability and therefore a greater precision over time.

Côte de Genève:
As the circular graining, they are made of abrasive stripes (hand made). Today they are mainly decorative and are done on bridges. Côte de Genève come from Geneva and were also made to prevent dust from entering the caliber. The idea was to find protection to lubricants, pivots and jewels.

It is the action to bevel the edge of bridges to make them more aesthetic. Usually done by hand, it highlights the edge of main plates and gives wonderful brightness to the caliber.


This decoration is only aesthetic and is usually made either on the oscillating weight or on movement’s components. It is the action to create a relief either by hands or machines and to play with lights. Here on the photo, it is the calibre 2790SQ from Vacheron Constantin which has been totally engraved. We can also talk about engraving skills on watch cases, buckles and bracelets.

One last thing: do you know to which watch belongs this engraving?
-> the famous Grand Master Chime from Pate Philippe to celebrate their 175th anniversary.
Here is a video about it.

See you soon for a next article to share our love for mechanical watches !