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Of the four items Val Joux lists, only one is really a measure of movement finish, the "polishing of parts." Blued steel screws, engraving on the rotor, and "gold" (or, more usually gilt) may be aspects of fine movements, but today are more likely to be relatively cheap shortcuts to give movements a distinctive look. Almost everyone who uses the ETA 2892 these days engraves and gilts the rotor, and many also use blued screws. These don't, in themselves, add up to a beautifully finished movement.

Among the criteria to judge the finish of a movement:

  1. Bridge surfaces may be roughly smoothed (in very cheap movements), gilt, or (in the best movements) rhodium plated. Before plating, bridges in high quality movements are decorated with various patterns. The best known pattern is the Geneva Bars (or cotes de Geneve) and the less costly perlage (swirls of overlapping circles). The bridges on the best movements have extremely smooth surfaces, bevelled edges (anglage), recessed screws with polished surfaces on the recesses (this called "moulding" or oeil de perdrix). The plating should be almost white, not gray or yellow, and without stains or scratches. The spacing between bridges should also be regular.
  2. All screws should be polished. In order from good to best, screws will be: flat-polished; polished, chamfered screws (anglage between the polished top surface and burnished sides of the screw); flat-polished, chamfered outer edges, and chamfered slot edges. The heads of the screws should be absolutely level with the bridge surfaces (excluding screws whose function relies on projection above the surface, such as balance regulator screws).
  3. All exposed steel parts (click, regulator lever, etc.) are polished, and in the best watches, the polish should be "black," giving a deep, glossy finish. Poorly polished parts are gray in appearance. The quality of the polishing is a product of a complete lack of any marks or unevenness of the surface. The best work also burnishes and rounds the edges of these parts.
  4. The finish on the ratchets and wheels is important. In increasing order of quality (more or less), there are voluted ratchets (a spiral pattern or other design running out from the center); voluted ratchets with bevelled toothing (polished, chamfered edge on the toothing); "large gouge volutes" (a star-like pattern of lines radiating out from the center) and stopping ashort distance from the outer edge and bevelled toothing; "diamante" finishing (a moire-like surface) and bevelled toothing.
  5. The finish of a movement is enhanced by good quality jewels which are well set in the plate or bridge (or attached). Stones of darkest color and clarity are most desirable. (In the synthetic rubies used in almost all watches today, coloring is achieved by adding chromium oxide to the aluminum oxide and the purity of ingredients determines clarity). When the jewel is set directly into the plate or bridge (friction jewelling), it is set into a hollow with sloping sides (the "decouverture"), which must be perfectly burnished in the best movements (this enhances the brilliance ofthe jewel). Jewels may also be set in "chatons." Instead of setting the jewel in a hole drilled in the plate, the jewel is set in a ring (the chaton, often made of gold) and the chaton is screwed to the plate. The shape of the jewels, the shape of the holes in the jewels, and the use of jewels in pairs ("cap" jewels or "combined" jewels) are important in determining the quality of the movement, but more a matter of function than finish. Diamond, instead of ruby, may also be used for cap jewels.
  6. The "non-visible" parts of the movement (on examination with the movement in the case, with the back removed) are as well finished as the "visible" parts. The bottom of the plate (the surface and motion works under the dial) is especially revealing of movements that are well finished.
  7. Engraving ("chasing") of bridge surfaces entails a great deal of handwork and, to some, enhances the beauty of a movement. I usually find it unattractive and superfluous in an otherwise beautifully finished movement. Chasing often detracts from the perception of the function of a movement.
Really beautiful movements, finished as I have described above, have an immediate and unmistakable appearance on visual inspection. The perfect color, gloss, and sheen, seen even with the naked eye, gives the movement an immaculate, silvery, almost ethereal quality. This kind of appearance is the product of many fine operations. As I have said before, judgement about the quality of finish of a movement (or the quality of its design and construction, which are different issues) can only be learned by looking at movements. The naked eye, a 4 power loupe, and a 10 power loupe will each reveal different aspects of finish and quality, all important to the watchmaker.

One should start by looking at really fine movements to develop a standard. Among all current manufacturers, Patek, Audemars, Lange, and JLC (in approximately that order, I would say) are the only firms consistently adhering to the highest standards of aesthetic finish. (Others are taking more "pragmatic" approaches to finishing, but may be producing functionally excellent movements. IWC is an interesting example because in using JLC movements, IWC finishes them to a much lower standard.

Visually compare a gold Geographique with a "small" Portugese. Both have a sapphire back.) It should be obvious from this description of finish that blued screws, gilt surfaces, or an engraved rotor do not constitute good finish of a movement. In the current marketing climate (with such heightened awareness about mechanical movements), such cheap efforts at the appearance of quality have become common. It is amazing what manufacturers are now willing to reveal under a sapphire back. Once you have looked at beautiful movements, many of these will look downright ugly.
 

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good information Tera. Where did you get it. Can you provide the link also. Thanks!
 

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Oops, maybe not now, I was googling information about what the ornate scroll work on a exhibition watch movement is called, {Chasing} and it was among the search results. I have my browser set to delete everything when closed and it has been closed twice or more since then but I'll see if I can find it.
 

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[align=center]I only have one that is fully decked out, and according to the mans description, it is overly ornate and glit to provoke the thought that it is a genuine high quality movement. It is a China automatic movement in my Auguste Galan...[/align]
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Mechanical movements absolutley fascinate me. It is the whole reason I got into watch collecting. I own several skeletonized movements and I could just stare at them for hours. Very cool information. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Tera-Ram,
Your presentation on watch movements and their finishes was simply the best explanation of what truely makes a high end watch, a high end watch.

Great Job!!

Old Neil
 
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