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The finishing of a mechanical movement is much more than mere decoration

Many MeisterSinger watches are fitted with a glass exhibition back for viewing the inner workings of the movement. However, the fascination that stems from this complex piece of technology is not only due to its constant, reliable timekeeping ability. The contrasts between the matt and shiny surfaces and the changing light reflecting from its wheels and disks are also a real eye-catcher. In fact, one of the core virtues in the art of watchmaking is that no flat surface remains unpolished and no edge unchamfered in a high-quality movement. Finishing, or “finissage” in French, is the term watchmakers use to describe putting the final touches to the various parts of the movement. The work includes various types of polishing and the meticulous tasks of deburring and engraving as well as gold- and rhodium-plating.

Originally, this elaborate workmanship was not done merely for decoration, but to maximize the efficiency of the delicate movements that drive pocket watches and wristwatches. Whereas the large, roughly forged cogwheels of early tower clocks were hardly affected by wind-borne sand or pigeon droppings, the balance of a portable timepiece can easily be brought to a standstill by a minute particle of dust and the merest layer of rust can block the fine movement. At a time when dustproof or even water-resistant cases were still unknown, precision watchmakers developed special methods for treating the movement’s metallic surfaces. Highly polished steel is less susceptible to corrosion than rough, untreated metal. The perlée (or “pearl pattern”) smoothed any unevenness on large surfaces and deburring prevented any particles from unfinished edges from clogging the gear train. Moreover, the addition of troughs was an indispensable way of ensuring a constant flow of organic lubricants to the movement.

 

Die MeisterSinger Archao wurde mit einer alten Guillochage-Maschine aufwendig veredelt.
The MeisterSinger Archao was elaborately refined with an old guillochage machine.
Alte Guillochage-Maschine von 1912.
Old guillochage machine from 1912.

From dust catcher to decoration

It is hardly surprising that painstaking finishing has always been necessary for a watch to bear the coveted “Geneva seal”, the “Poinçon de Genève”, which not only means the watch was made in Geneva, it also points to other prescribed design characteristics such as the grinding and polishing of all steel edges, screw heads, and other surfaces. The typical “Geneva stripes” (Côtes de Genève), which are also visible on the bridges and rotors of MeisterSinger watches, are perhaps the most well-known finish. Originally, their rough ribbed structures also served as “particle traps” to catch dust before it could cause damage to the fine axles and bearings within the movement.

These high-quality finishes are carried out with great skill and take an enormous amount of time to create. In fact, they are so interesting to look at, as they break the light beautifully and the perfect 45-degree chamfered edges so elegantly accentuate the shape of a bridge or wheel that the finishing was also visible and presentable proof of the high quality of the product. And they have remained that way ever since, even if some of these steps are no longer necessary today. The cases of our watches have long been reliably sealed and state-of-the-art CNC milling machinery produces flawlessly clean parts that do not need deburring. And the synthetic oils developed for watchmaking also flow into the center of the cogwheel without the need for troughs.

 

MeisterSinger setzte von Anfang an auf hochwertige und außergewöhnliche Veredelungstechniken (Modell: Edition 1Z, ca. 2001).
From the very beginning MeisterSinger has relied on high-quality and extraordinary finishing techniques (model: Edition 1Z, ca. 2001).

Less function, more meaning

Some finishing techniques no longer have a technical function, but have long since become more important for another reason, as in the competition between watch brands they can clearly distinguish a company’s products. The mechanical movements in MeisterSinger watches are all fitted with thermally treated screws. When carefully heated to 300 degrees Celsius they become coated with a thin layer of magnetite – and all in the same vibrant blue. The chamfering of the unique MeisterSinger bridge allows its momentum to really come to the fore and in the caliber MSA01, the movement specially developed to power the Circularis Automatic, the Circular graining (Côtes de circulaires) finishing of the bridge is also continued in the structure of the rotor.

Finissierung nach MeisterSinger-Art: Kaliber MSH02 mit Kreisschliff für das eigens entwickelte Werk der Circularis Gangreserve.
MeisterSinger finish: MSH02 caliber with circular grinding for the Circularis power reserve movement developed in-house.

Despite the wristwatches having a glass exhibition back, the finishing is not usually easy to see, but the owner of such a watch sees it very well when putting it on or winding it. And then a glance at the movement assures him that he is wearing a really high-quality timepiece, which a skilled professional has taken great care to manufacture.

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