How Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Söhne And Jaeger-Lecoultre Engrave Parts By Hand
No other artisan from the world of haute horlogerie is so closely connected with our everyday life: engravings meet us not only on noble watch cases and in elaborate factories, but also in the normal life.
It is an ancient craft: over a thousand years ago, the goldsmiths of ancient Egypt or classical Greece know how to make true works of art. With a pointed device, they engrave patterns and motifs, thus performing the art of engraving or burial – the surface ornamentation with cutting tools. Their origins lie even further back: already 7,000 years before Christ so-called engravings are carried out on animal bones. However, it is only in the 15th and 16th centuries that this skill reaches its peak in Europe, where the rich and powerful appreciate artfully engraved armor and weapons. Almost every object can be engraved if its material, preferably metal, allows it: not only clocks and jewelery are decorated, the engraver also inserts inscriptions on metal and can make copper engravings.
Today, Engravings Can Also Be Applied By Machine
However, modernity has found tools that mimic its craftsmanship: decorations can be engraved by a small milling machine, applied by means of computer, laser or CNC technology, embossed or electroplated. However, the charm of hand-engraved patterns is inimitable – recognizable by their uniqueness and sometimes by the tiny irregularities which accompany the true handwork. This ancient craft is up to date – even if it is practiced with almost the same techniques and equipment as a thousand years ago. The tools have a nostalgic look: pointed, flat, boll, oval and thread-stiches, as are the most frequently used engraving styles, are available in various sizes and sizes in confusing variety on the engraving’s work table. There are also chisels, hammers, files and chisels.
The engravings – usually provided with a spherical handle made of wood – are individually adapted by the engraver to his hand and shortened to the appropriate length; in addition, the cutting edges of the working tool must be reground regularly. Just as important as the tool is the attachment of the workpieces: objects to be engraved must be kept quiet and flat and freely rotatable in the plane. There are several ways to fix them: they can be clamped on a wooden block or in an engraving ball, which can be rotated on a leather ring in the desired direction. Or you can put the pieces on a flat wooden base or putty ball. Only large pieces can be held in the hand.
In The Haute Horlogerie Only Small Parts Are Refined
In the Haute Horlogerie one does not encounter such large objects however: Here are usually small and dainty Werbesile by the hand of the engraver to improve. At A. Lange & Söhne, for example, the balance cock is decorated with hand-engraved ornaments, while the engravers at Jaeger-LeCoultre are responsible for decorating the case. At Chopardyou put on a special engraving called “Fleurisanne”. Typical for this Fleurier-style engraving are the relief-like motifs: The engraver does not design and engrave the motifs as usual “flat”, but additionally emphasizes them by removing material to make the lines of the pattern more distinctly perceptible.
Even in small independent workshops, craftsmen have devoted themselves entirely to the old art of engraving. In Germany, an engraver learns his art in a three-year course and, in addition to the production of tools, learns mainly relief and flat engraving techniques. After a one to two year continuing education – at a one-year full-time school or over a longer period in evening courses – the trained engraver can compete for the master’s examination.In Switzerland, the apprenticeship to the engraver takes four years. It is important not only to be skilled in craftsmanship, but also to create a talent, precision, a calm hand and imagination. The motifs that these skilled craftsmen make in metal are often complex, complex, engraved, and gorgeous: geometric patterns are applied by means of a distance knife, floral patterns are carved freehand with the stylus.
In the case of figurative motifs, the outlines are first recorded with a pencil or a steel needle before the craftsman begins the actual engraving. The only concession to today’s time is the microscope through which he looks during engraving. Chip for chip is then removed the material with the stylus – a work that requires meticulous care and can be nerve-racking. Because a tiny slipping by hand can ruin the whole piece. By changing the pressure of the palm of the hand to the prong and the angle of the steel wedge to the material to be machined, the engraver achieves the desired effect. What makes the layman frightening difficult makes the masters of their subject an almost playful impression: Like a fountain pen over paper, they let the stick slide over the metal and thus create new worlds.