Bovet 1822 cultivates the art of engraving

Located in the heart of the Jura mountains, the Maison’s engraving workshop perpetuates a truly ancestral tradition of Haute Horlogerie. In this light-filled setting, the artisans individually hand-craft each of their artistic masterpieces.

Bovet produces all the engravings adorning its watches in a dedicated workshop in the village of Tramelan. Stepping inside the door reveals a peaceful, serene place where time appears to stand still. The creation of these masterpieces is a time-consuming and delicate process, requiring each artisan to demonstrate deep concentration and rigorous discipline. The engravings are done by hand without the aid of machines or models. A single mistake means having to start all over again – which is why there are no deadlines here.

The history of engraving
Some traces of engraving have been found dating back to ancient Egypt. A sign of wealth, this decorative technique was usually used to adorn jewellery and valuable objects. At Bovet, the first engraved movements and cases date back to the early 1800s. From a very early stage, the Maison fitted its timepieces with a transparent caseback enabling owners to admire the magnificently decorated movements. The brand is now perpetuating this artistic heritage, while embedding these techniques firmly in the future.

The master engravers
Graduates of art schools, these phenomenally skilled artisans specialise in engraving, performing an apprenticeship until they are ready to assume the mantle of a professional, Master Engraver. Key attributes of an engraver include an even temperament, calm demeanor, passion for the art and meticulous attention to detail.

In the Bovet atelier, master engravers work on collection timepieces, engraving cases, base dials, movements, bows and more, while also delighting in creating bespoke engravings for private collectors.

Each engraver’s personal style is unique. Even when doing the same intricate design, there are subtle yet distinct differences from engraver to engraver, making each engraved piece a one-of-one, utterly unique piece of art.

The tools and techniques
Tools and techniques haven’t changed in centuries. Today, the metal of the engraving tools is of higher quality and longer lasting, but the form and function remain the same. Today’s engravers use microscopes while engraving, but just about everything else is the same.

Bovet’s artisans are masters of line engraving, creating intricate designs by removing infinitesimal shavings of metal, usually gold, from the timepiece’s case, bow, buckles and components. The engravers use a tool called a graver; its handle is pushed firmly into the palm of the hand. This way, the sharp end of this instrument can be eased into the metal at a precise angle to carve lines, curves and other decorative embellishments.

In addition to differing styles of line engraving, the engravers have also mastered hammer and chisel engraving. This versatile expertise allows many of timepieces to feature chiseling and Fleurisanne engraving on various components.

The designs
Fleurisanne engraving is the decorative pattern featured most often on Bovet watches. Based on the flowers and vines found on ancient Greek columns, this style of engraving remains the most sought-after by collectors.

The Bris de Verre motif, which literally means “broken glass”, comprises minute, intricately juxtaposed triangles. It is frequently seen embellishing the movements and cases of several one-of-a-kind models in the Grand Complications collection. It is a motif that first appeared on House movements at the end of the 19th century. The result is a remarkably luxurious and delicate design requiring over one hundred hours of work to engrave the case alone.

The engravers also specialise in chiseling, which entails the use of a small hammer to make indentations into the material. The result is a beautiful finish that catches and reflects light, creating an illusion of the material being set with diamonds. While Bovet often decorates movement plates and dial base plates with chiseling, entire cases have also been finished this way.

Bovet’s engravers love creating bespoke designs for clients. This allows them to flex their creative muscles and create something truly unique and unforgettable. One example is the limited edition OWO Residences London collection. Bovet is proud to be the Official Timepiece of OWO Residences. The collection features special engravings on the case and the bow, recalling design details seen within the OWO building itself.

Another example is the lady’s Rolls-Royce Boat Tail timepiece. This 100% bespoke timepiece features a case that is completely hand-engraved and then filled with blue lacquer. Thanks to the patented Amadeo convertible system, this timepiece can be worn on the wrist or mounted onto the dashboard of the coach-built Rolls-Royce.

When a design is finalised and approved by the client, the pattern is transferred onto the metal. Once the outlines are on the metal, the engraving can start. Depending on the complexity of the design and the area of the surface to be engraved, it can, in some cases, take over 500 hours for the engraving process to reach finality.

For the ground-breaking Récital 28 Prowess 1, the master engraver designed a completely new motif, named “Rays of Light.” The engraving starts small in the centre of the movement and grows larger as it gets closer to the outside, like the sun rays lighting up the world. The exposed perpetual calendar is completely hand-engraved and hand-finished, with work totalling more than 100 hours.

Unique in its field
By adding engraving, a client expresses his or her personal tastes onto the timepiece, in the process making it a highly personalised expression of individuality. More than 35% of all Bovet timepieces are bespoke creations featuring hand-engraving, special colours, miniature painting, marquetry and more.

Engraving is just one way that Bovet adds luxurious embellishments to its timepieces. Others include exquisite hand-finishing of the components: Côte de Genève, circular graining, chamfering, mirror polishing, sunburst finishing and satin-brushing, along with other techniques including guilloché, miniature painting, enamel painting, wood marquetry and gemsetting.

Bovet is committed to continuing and furthering High Watchmaking artistic crafts, propelling these traditional arts into the future through the skills and passion of its artisans.

June 27, 2024