Gobbi Mag

Glossary of watchmaking
Laura Canepa Blaser

Haute horlogerie? It is an ensemble of history, traditions, creativity and innovations that, like every universe of our culture, has its own specific vocabulary. It is a dictionary as detailed and vast as the excellence of mechanical watch-making techniques when they enter in symbiosis with the applied arts. A novel would not suffice to explain the marvelous history of the timepiece, which began back in the 13th century when the first clocks were made with weights, gears and foliots. 

Today, more than ever before, the watch is an object of desire. But what does the customer require of this companion of life that promises to last forever?

Customers not only want accuracy and reliability in measuring time (and other natural phenomena thanks to the introduction of complications). When we reflect on the purchase of a watch, we also want to wear an object with a particular design that allows us to participate in the heritage of a brand that has conceived, designed and, even better, made it in house: that is, produced within the walls of its factory or shop.

The first emotion is transmitted by the Habillage. The term groups together all the external components that hold the caliber: that is, the mechanism (mechanical, manual or automatic). At Patek Philippe, about forty different calibers created for wristwatches are in production. 

Case, glass, bezel, crown, dial, hands, lugs, case back, bracelet and buckle. These are the key words of Habillage, each with a very important role for the proper functioning of our watch. The characteristic of each component is fundamental not only from an aesthetic point of view, but most importantly for protecting the movement from dust, humidity and shock, the factors that could undermine the reliability and accuracy of our precious object.

Today the glass is made of synthetic sapphire: a material that is Grade 9 on the Mohs scale, which means that it is extremely hard, inferior only to the diamond. Its anti-reflective properties and curved shape make the dial, which is the face of the watch and usually respects the individual style of each brand, perfectly easy to read.

Colors, materials (90% in brass, gold, aluminum, carbon or precious stones), finishes (brushed, lacquered, galvanized, enameled, guilloché, engraved) indications (indexes and numbers), dimensions and design (skeletonized, perforated), all come together to create the personality of the dial, which is a small work of art. 

The dial is surrounded by the case, which during the twentieth century, with the rise of fine watchmaking, experienced many stylistic changes based on the influences of art, architecture and design. The most common case is definitely round and forms a perfect circle, but each customer can find his or her favorite geometric shape in a variety of styles: tonneau, square, oval, and coussin. And since we’re talking about wrist watches, which became more popular than pocket watches starting in the 1930s, the strap/bracelet is an additional element for choosing the perfect timepiece to suit us. Comfort, design, durability, and prestige are just some of the qualities that the strap must possess to be perfectly in line with our lifestyle and habits and to keep the perfect companion of our most precious moments snugly on our wrist.