Watch Finishings and Decorative Techniques

Today there are numerous different decorative techniques when it comes to the dial or other parts of the watch, from quite common ones like Mother-of-Pearl or satin-brushed to the old art of paillonnée enameling.

Watch Finishings and Decorative Techniques


An angled chamfer is added to the edges of the plates and bridges for both decorative and functional purposes. Anglage is also referred to as chamfering or bevelling.


The indexes, numerals, or decorations are cut out from sheets of metal and applied to the dial.

Blued Steel

When applying heat to steel at a specific temperature, the metal hardens, and the resulting blue color is an oxide layer on the steel. Different temperatures will create different shades of blue. The most common use is blued hands on the dial.


Brushing or graining is a finishing technique where the metal surface is scratched delicately. Spinning brushed wheels are used to achieve a brushed look with many fine-scored lines.

Champlevé Enameling

In this enameling technique, the base is engraved with a pattern that serves as partitions that are then filled by the enameler.

Cloisonné Enameling

The enameler applies tiny silver or gold wiring to the base to create a pattern, creating separate partitions that can be filled with color. The wires remain visible.

Clous de Paris

A special type of guilloché or embossing on the dial that results in small square pyramids. This is by far the most commonly used guilloché technique.

Côtes de Genève

A decoration used on movement plates consisting of tightly engraved curved or straight lines. A rotating tool is applied to the flat surface of different components, such as the rotor or the bridges.


An opaque or semi-transparent colored glassy substance is applied to a metallic or other hard surfaces for ornamental purposes or as a protective coating. The transparent glass is turned into different colors using metal oxides and, when heated to 800° celsius, will melt and fuse with the surface below. There are different types of enameling techniques, such as Grand Feu, Cloisonné, and Champlevé.


Three-dimensional scenes are hand engraved on the dial or on a closed case-back watch as decoration.

Les Mécaniques SauvagesVacheron Constantin Phoenix Engraving Gravure
Les Mécaniques Sauvages Vacheron Constantin Phoenix Engraving Gravure


Any guilloché or engraving that is covered with a protective coating like enamel is referred to as flinqé.


Fumé or gradient dials are achieved by spraying the darker hue onto a rotating dial that has already been through several coloring processes. The result varies depending on the intensity of the spray and the speed of the rotation.

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue with Fume Dial

Grand Feu Enameling

A difficult process that is nonetheless the most common form of enameling seen today. The effect of a grand feu enamel is achieved by building up many layers of enamel, one atop of the other. Each time a new layer is added, the enamel dial is fired. Any imperfections render the dial useless, and the enameler must start again. Over 60% of enamel dials end up in the bin.

Grisaille Enameling

Grisaille enamel is the ancient technique of enameling that owes its name to the shades of gray it uses -from the French grisaille, which means gray.

Vacheron HOMO FABER 2018 Making Of Email Grisaille Enamel Palais Venitien
Vacheron Constantin – HOMO FABER 2018 Making Of Email Grisaille Enamel Palais Venitien


A mechanical method of engraving intricate patterns onto the metal surfaces of a watch using a rose engine machine. There are different types of guilloché, including Clous de Paris, Tapisserie, Sunburst, and Flinqué.

Vacheron Constantin Guilloché
Vacheron Constantin Guilloché


The use of lacquer on the dial resulting in a very intense color, making, for example, white dials look like porcelain.


The process of creating a pattern, design, or picture on the dial using thin veneers or layers of other materials. The pieces are cut and fit together to form a decorative image.


The dial is made of thin slices of meteorite, and no two dials will ever be the same.

Louis Moinet Mars Mission
Louis Moinet Mars Mission Meteorite Dial

Miniature Painting

The art of executing minuscule drawings on a dial. Most dials using this technique use synthetic paints. Miniature painting in enamel is still popular due to its intense color and durability.

Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe – miniature painting of a magnificent dragon

Mirror Polish or Black Polish

A mirror polish is, as its name suggests, when a metallic component is polished to an extremely high finish. Sometimes in certain lighting, the result can appear to be black, hence the name “black polish.” Polishing is done by hand and is very time-consuming.

Mother of Pearl

A thin layer of crushed oyster shells is precisely machined into thin layers that are usually 0.2mm.


A thin layer of opaque or semiopaque whitish glass is applied to the dial surface.

Openworked or Skeleton

This is where as much metal as possible is removed from the movement to expose its inner workings.


Tiny precious metal spangles are punched out one at a time from gold or silver leaf and placed between layers of enamel on the dial. One of the oldest and rarest dial decoration techniques.


A decoration technique that comprises repeated overlapped circular graining, usually on metal. A watchmaker will apply the perlage patterns by hand using a special tool.


This enameling technique is similar to cloisonné enameling. The enamel is applied in partitions divided by a thin wire. However, there is no base or backing on the final product. The result is very similar to a stained-glass window.


Sand is fired at high pressure resulting in a matt finish.


A dense row of microscopic parallel lines gives metal a satin shine. Also referred to as satin finish or straight graining.


Sunburst is a type of guilloché technique whereby the design radiates out from the center, much like the rays of the sun.

Sunray Brushing

A pattern of imperceptible lines, like the sun’s rays, intersecting at the same central point on the dial. It is created using a brush, usually with metal filaments.


A type of guilloche pattern that leaves lots of small squares on the surface of the dial, separated by thin channels. Sometimes called a “waffle dial.” The pattern creates hundreds of flat squares on the dial, most famously seen on the dials of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.


An engraving technique used on dials achieved by the use of burin, which is a custom-made tool, to make a series of pinprick marks.


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