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The Engraver, An Artist-Artisan
March 28, 2011 Stories

The engraver, an artist-artisan

From the case to the movements, engraving is one of the decorative techniques that form the soul of a luxury watch. It’s a savoir-faire that has been passed down from generation to generation.


Engraving is the product of a long tradition in the art of Swiss luxury watchmaking. Utilitarian or decorative, it involves adorning each component of a timepiece with miniature sculptures or extremely detailed, fine motifs, a job that often requires human handiwork.  With extraordinary skill, the engraver cuts into the material, using chisels and working almost exclusively by hand. From engraving initials, numbers on the face, or decorations drawn by a designer to the ad-hoc creation of a motif, the work of this goldsmith demands patience, dexterity, attention to detail and an aesthetic sensibility. Like an artist, the engraver adds his touch and personality to each one of his masterpieces.

“Doing the work by hand is the only way to render the material responsive and to evoke emotion in those who look at the finished piece. The work of the engraver makes each object unique, because each artisan has his own sensitivity, his interpretation and his personal touch,” explains Dominique Fléchon, director of the research and study center at the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie.

Often hidden in the depths of the case, the subtlety of this decorative work is nonetheless unveiled in skeleton watches. Designed to highlight the beauty and architectural complexity of their movement, these models with transparent casebacks reveal their lacelike mechanics, which are enhanced by the ornamental delicacy of the engraving. As representatives of this work, the Jules Audemars Equation of Time skeleton or the Lady Jules Audemars with transparent sapphire caseback pay tribute to the attentive care that Audemars Piguet brings to this complex and refined savoir-faire, the pinnacle of the art of prestigious watchmaking.