Of the most expensive watches ever sold at auction, four of the top five have come from one company– Patek Philippe. Since being founded in 1851, the Swiss powerhouse has become one of the most prestigious watch companies in the world by manufacturing watches that can be considered the pinnacles of horological innovation. Each and every Patek Philippe timepiece is completely handcrafted, taking nearly a year to produce. Furthermore, for each watch, master craftsmen at the company assemble each of the over 250 parts all by hand. Needless to say, Patek has mastered all aspects of creating a luxury timepiece, including dial-making, which many argue is one of the most significant aspects of a watch. In this article, we examine how a dial is made a Patek Philippe, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the process.
All Patek Philippe dials are made by Cadrans Flückiger, a subsidiary of the company based in Geneva that has been around since 1880. Patek Philippe purchased Cadrans Flückiger in 2004, making the production of Patek Philippe watches completely in-house with no reliance on external suppliers. Annually, Cadrans Flückiger produces nearly 100,000 dials, only forty percent of which meet the strict requirements to be used on a Patek Philippe watch.
The production of a dial entails anywhere from 75 to over 100 delicate steps, all which must be completed with the finest precision so as to avoid even the slightest inaccuracies. The process begins when a team of horologists come together to draft the design of a dial, generate the exact specifications, and generate a prototype. Serial production begins by stamping blank brass plates for the eyes of the hands’ staffs as well as for the aperture for the windows. Next, the dial is formed into its circular shape. From here, the next steps include mechanical drilling, circular graining, milling, and deburring. Once this has all happened, the surface gets processed.
Pressurized jets, handheld brushes, or abrasive discs are used, depending on whether designers want the dial sandblasted, have a satin finish, or have a sunburst pattern. Next, the dial acquires a coating of rhodium, ruthenium, nickel, silver, or gold, by being immersed in a electroplating bath. The dial receives its final color after multiple immersions in this electroplating bath. For Patek Philippe watches, the primary colors used for the dial include gray, blue, white, silver, gold, and black.
Patek is revered for their dials with Guilloché embellishments, which are also crafted at this facility. Using an antique machine, master craftsmen delicately complete the mechanical processes one by one to create the tiny designs onto the watches dial. The enameling that we see on some of Patek Philippe’s most beautiful watches requires in-depth knowledge of the materials, and extremely intricate kiln firings in which one tiny mistake can render the dial unusable.
The final step is a long series of quality checks that workers test to guarantee that the dial is flawless in every aspect. The process behind the creation of a dial is certainly seem lengthy, highly detailed, and extremely complex, but it’s how Patek Philippe sets itself apart from any other luxury watch company to be the best in the world.
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