Mechanical watchmaking is often about traditions. Even pushing the envelope in developing modern materials and complications can be considered a tradition in a sense. For some part, we romanticise mechanical watchmaking in the most traditional sense of things. A gorgeous guilloché dial, for instance, can get your heart rate up if you’re a true watch enthusiast. Easily costing an arm and a leg, there are some recent alternatives that use the age-old art of engine-turned guilloché decoration at a relatively affordable price point. Here are four recent watches, starting under 10k euros, with true handmade guilloché dials.
Guilloché is a rare art in watchmaking, with only a handful of people mastering the craft worldwide. It originates from a process called engine turning, which in essence dates back to the 16th century. The technique was developed to decorate soft materials like wood and ivory before being developed for harder materials like silver and gold. This came in the 18th century with the invention of the rose engine lathe. It has been an art appreciated by aristocracy and noblemen and -women for centuries.
A rose engine lathe is a complex machine with a barrel with various rosettes. What is unusual in the process is that the material to be engraved object rotates instead of the cutting tool. A large spring-loaded arm presses the rollers, or rosettes, against a fixed pin, often called a rubber. The entire setup needs to be perfectly aligned in order to create the best possible pattern. All this is down to mathematical calculations and is a delicate and precise art.
As the craftsman turns a handle, a belt and pulley system rotates the barrel with the rosettes. The pin follows the wave-like pattern on the rosettes. The cutting tool is pushed into the object by hand to engraved the pattern according to the selected rosette. If the force applied to the cutting tool is too little, the cut will not be deep enough. If the force is too great, it will obviously cut too deep. So you can imagine it is a very delicate balance that looks deceptively simple but takes years to master.
When done right, a hand-made guilloché dial is an absolute thing of beauty though. So just for the sake of it, in today’s buying guide we show you four recent watches with surprising Guilloché decorations, all starting at a price of under 10k:
The Garrick S4
Garrick is a returning guest here at MONOCHROME, and for very good reasons. Dedicated to keeping the spirit of British watchmaking very much alive, Garrick has launched the S4 collection earlier this year. Following start-up collections like the Norfolk, Garrick turned to proper Haute Horlogerie with the S1, S2 and S3. This S4 turns another page for the brand, much in the same vein as the previous S-branded models.
What the Garrick S4 does is present a dial that is made almost entirely by hand, with vast bespoke options, in a relatively affordable package. It’s not often you get this level of detail in a watch at such an attractive price. There’s a choice of patterns, where they are applied, and further finishing of the dial. Bespoke watchmaking, at less than EUR 6,000 before taxes is just hard not to be impressed by, now is it?
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 10mm height – steel case and crown, case available in gold on request – gold or rhodium plated dial – applied chapter ring with ink-filled numerals – hand-turned guilloché or frosted finishing – calibre BF03, modified ETA 6498 movement – hand-made three-quarter plate with engraved barrel and crown wheel cover – GBP 5,995 (guilloché dial)
The Laine Watches GG3
Small watchmakers come from far corners of the world, and Laine Watches, although based in Switzerland has clear Finnish roots. Computer engineer turned watchmaker Torsti Laine produces some stellar looking watches with an interesting blend of traditional techniques, mostly focusing on decoration.
The Laine GG3 collection is one of the most recent iterations of his ideas and was introduced alongside the Laine V38 and Gelidus3. The GG3 is based on the Gelidus model has a dial with three different sections of Guilloché decoration (GG3 = Gelidus Guilloché 3). Customers have a choice for patterns, colours, finishing and movement decoration to configure a unique watch. As a result, it is highly unlikely two Laine Watches will ever look alike, apart from models produced in small batches like the collaboration pieces with CronotempVs.
Quick facts: 40,5mm diameter x 11,3mm height – stainless steel case – dial with three guilloché sections with bespoke patterns – bespoke colors and finishing available – LA18.1 calibre, ETA 6498 base movement – newly made three-quarter bridge with extensive finishing – CHF 9,800
The Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main L.E.
In a shift to more a daring and contemporary style, Louis Erard has been on a roll these past two years. What the brand has done is resurge its creative spirit through some very interesting collaborations, with industry icons like Alain Silberstein or Vianney Halter. The interesting play on materials, colours and textures results in some rather fun watches.
Earlier this year Louis Erard took this rekindled creative spirit to Guilloché decorations, but again with a certain twist. Not content with doing a traditional pattern, the brand opted for a more geometrical one instead. In a very M.C. Escher-esque way, the Louis Erard Excellence Guilloché Main has a very intriguing dial. The hand-made engine-turned dial is a trompe-l’oeil, an optical illusion of sorts. The 3D checked pattern set against a black background adds real depth to the dial and provides a modern twist to an otherwise very classical decoration.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 12,25mm height – stainless steel case – matt black varnish dial – hand-turned checked guilloché pattern by Fehr & Cie SA – signature fir tree hands – Sellita SW261-1 élaboré – automatic movement – limited to 99 pieces – CHF 3,900
The Staudt Guilloché Chronograph
It’s not often we see Guilloché work in a watch that originates from the Netherlands. But Yvo Staudt has recently offered just that, with his Staudt Guilloché Chronograph. This elegantly styled watch with a bi-compax Valjoux 7753 automatic movement is fitted with a hand-turned dial. The refined Barley pattern is applied by master craftsman Jochen Benzinger.
The Guilloché pattern radiates from the centre outwards, and also covers the chronograph counters. Packed in a nicely proportioned case in either stainless steel and blue dial or rose gold and silver dial, the Staudt Guilloché Chronograph is an interesting and appealing watch. And dare we say it, quite reasonably priced too, with the steel variant costing EUR 5,989.
Quick facts: 41mm diameter x 13,6mm height – stainless steel or rose gold case – concave bezel – frosted silver or galvanic blue dial – hand-applied Guilloché in Barley pattern – polished or heat-blued leaf-shaped hands – Valjoux 7753 chronograph movement – limited to 50 pieces in gold and 100 pieces in steel – EUR 5,989 in steel, EUR 17,989 in gold