Perlage: in search of grandeur
March 7, 2012 Savoir-Faire

PERLAGE: IN SEARCH OF GRANDEUR

Once considered mere background decoration, this technique has been promoted to the face of the Millenary caliber 4101.

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Its name evokes the magnificent gleaming orbs of a pirate’s deep-sea treasure, but perlage (also know as circular graining or stippling) has long been considered a lesser form of adornment. “It’s a pattern of tightly overlapping, concentric circles created with a revolving, abrasive peg. In general, the technique is used to camouflage the unpolished parts of a movement, such as the bridges, plates and recesses. But here at Audemars Piguet, it’s more and more valued,” says Sylvain Freiholz, manager of the pre-assembly and movement workshop, which includes decoration, at the Manufacture AP.

For the past eight years, Freiholz’s team of six experts has used the technique on about 25,000 movements annually. The work is done by hand, using a machine equipped with a rotating peg that is lowered to mark the part’s surface. The decorator-watchmaker uses varying pressure to determine the luster and design of the graining. “By mastering this technique, we’re able to create patterns and textures that are increasingly beautiful,” he explains.

Aware of the aesthetic potential of this traditional decoration, the AP designers have become more interested in highlighting it. It can be found, for example, as a subtle touch on the balance of the caliber 3120. But it’s on the new Millenary 4101, on the market only a few weeks, that it can be seen in all its splendor because it appears on the face of the watch. In the future, according to Freiholz, it’s highly likely that this technique will be used in even more daring ways.