*Originally published March 2015
For those who really love high-end luxury watches, you know how meticulously watch brands work to finish not only the watch case and dial — seen by all, but also the movement parts — rarely seen by anyone. It is because they take as much pride in what is under the hood, so to speak, as what is on the outside. Generally, a host of different finishes are used on timepiece components (which we will cover in ensuing articles); but for now, we want to focus on the design that is known as Cotes de Genève striped finishing.
This motif is also sometimes referred to as Genève stripes or rayonnantes, depending on the brand. This is the most well known finishing on movements. It is a pattern etched on the smooth surfaces of the watch baseplate or other parts that — at first glance — resembles stripes. Indeed, the pattern is a series of stripes, but it is made by intricately engraving tiny, angled scratches in a systematic manner onto the smooth highly polished metal surface.
Generally, this motif is made using a special lathe that moves in a parallel motion, while a carving tool spins on to trace the finely brushed pattern. At the haute horology level, sometimes these inscriptions are done by hand on the lathe. The tiny scratches actually catch and reflect the light. There is also a circular Cotes de Genève motif, achieved using a similar technique.