The Geneva Coast

Posted by: Mark Moss   |   17 September 2011   |   12 Comments  

Becoming a watch collector and aficionado can feel like learning a foreign language.

Sometimes figuratively, as when learning what the names of the various components of a movement are called. After that, trying to understand what each piece actually does is another job again and one that I would have to confess I haven’t finished. Or gotten very far with at all, if I’m honest with you. But still, the desire to learn counts for something, right?

And sometimes it literally is learning a foreign language, unless you’re a native francophone. Looking back at my last article, I used a couple of phrases to describe dials. “Flinqué”. “Clous de Paris”. Both describing different types of guilloché dial… Oh. There I go again. It seems we can’t get away from them. I passed all 3 terms through a couple of online dictionaries and translators, largely hoping to get something amusing back as much as a sensible result. No luck, all the tools just gave up instead.

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Guillot is in fact the name of the French engineer who invented a machine to perform the type of engraving we now refer to as “guilloché”. “Clous” are nails (as in the things you hit with a hammer, rather than fingernails. Though you may hit those with a hammer too if your DIY isn’t up to much). What is special about Parisian nails I don’t know but the diamond shapes on the dials do look similar to the head of a nail from a couple of centuries ago. “Flinqué” I give up on, maybe a French-speaking reader can help me out.

Fortunately, today we’re going to be looking at another French term to describe dials, but one that is much easier to translate. In fact, you’ve already seen the translation if you saw the title of this post.

Côtes de Genève. The Geneva coast. We’ll come back as to why it’s called that later.

Heuer in the 60s and early 70s

In the 60s and at the onset of the 70s, Heuer dials tended to be quite sober. Attractive certainly, take a look at the brushed starburst finish of a 1964 Carrera 2447 S or the metallic dial of a Chronomatic Monaco, but sober nonetheless.

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Blacks, whites, silvers and the occasional blue were the order of the day.

Then, in 1974, along came the third generation Carrera to stir things up and throw out the rulebook along the way. It wasn’t only the dials that broke with tradition. Out went the roundish cases of the earlier generations and in came a strongly oval shape, with covered lugs. Often these are called “barrel” Carreras thanks to this unusual case. Thanks to that, they arguably haven’t aged as well as earlier Carreras and can be overlooked by collectors today. They really look of their time but buy one at the right time as the 70s drift in and out of fashion and you have a nice classic watch that will draw attention, and should cost a lot less than buying a Carrera from either earlier generation.

1974 begat the Silverstone too, with its 3 different colour dials each with a dial finish unique to that colour, but that’s a story for a different day.

Côtes de Genèves

So, you promised to tell us about Côtes de Genève (hereafter CdG to save writing the whole thing out, accents and all) Mark. Ah, so I did.

It’s a term usually used in horology to describe the banded decoration sometimes seen on watch movements. It has something of the look of waves as they lap upon the shore, which is the origin of the term. So now you know (if you didn’t already).

Here’s a Heuer example, from the Valjoux 5 movement found in a late-model Super Autavia dash timer:

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Many current TAG Heuers with display backs will also show this sort of decoration.

But less often, this style of decoration is applied to dials and this is where we come back to the six models of the third generation Carrera. Let’s look at them one by one.

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