Explaining Cotes de Geneve

Last Updated on June 22, 2019 by Calibre 11

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?

Explaining Cotes De GeneveAnd 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.

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[1]

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.

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[2]

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[3]

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:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[4]

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.

Carrera 110.571 NC

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[5]

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way first. Reason being, it doesn’t have a CdG dial at all. But it’s Heuer’s first example of a PVD (Particle or Physical Vapour Deposition) watch that was made available for general sale, apparently after experimenting with the Monaco that David has written on in the past . I like it for its sheer monochromaticity. Monochromaticness? Ermmm…. because it’s black and white.

Carrera 110.573 B

Carrera Calibre 12[6]

Here we see for the first time the 3 “waves” that comprise the Carrera’s CdG dial. They are designed to reflect light differently as it moves across the dial, so at times the dial can appear a single colour whilst at others the waves are distinct as in the photo. It’s something best seen in person, the effect of the dial really changes with different light. One tip though – when driving wearing one of these, wear long sleeves and cuffs to avoid being distracted!

Now we’ve actually seen a CdG dial, it’s time for another brief French lesson. The effect is achieved by a series of arcs engraved on the dial:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[7]

These are designed to catch and scatter light differently depending on where it falls on the dial, just as the asbestos fibres do in the semi-precious stone tiger’s eye:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[8]

This effect is called chatoyancy from the French “œil de chat”, literally cat’s eye, which is the obvious inspiration for the tiger’s eye stone too. This style of dial is often also called tiger’s eye after the visual similarities between the two. Not all tiger’s eye dials also have the banding of CdG though, so we are dealing with particularly distinctive dials with these Heuers.

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[9]

Carrera 110.573 F

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[10]

Effectively the same watch as the one above, but this time with a brown dial (catalogued as fume or smoke depending on territory). Even more a 70s watch in brown, I think the orange highlights on the hands and dial work even better here than on the blue dial.

I usually prefer Carreras on straps to bracelets, but I make an exception for this third generation. That blue ray strap was never right for this watch, so it now finds itself on one of the two types of bracelet that were available for these models:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[11]

Much more appropriate, and see how much flatter the dial looks in this different light, with the 3 bands less distinct. This is the flat link bracelet, the other has more “jubilee” style links. I’ll show you an example later.

This is also one of the watches I chose to highlight in my review of the auction of Arno Haslinger’s Heuer collection at Bonham’s in December 2010. A particularly fine example, it reached what must be a record price for these Carreras:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[12]

Carrera 150.573 B

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[13]

Counterpoint to the blue-dialled watch above, this time featuring the Calibre 15 movement rather than the Calibre 12. The C15 was sold at a discount to the C12, having lost the 12 hour register of the latter, but does have the reassuring familiarity of a perpetual seconds hand. Many of us have become familiar with a constantly running second hand on modern watches, so the Calibre 11/12 can be disconcerting at first in that nothing moves on the dial from minute to minute unless the chronograph is running. A contributor on OnTheDash once called the C11/12 dials “sleepy”, which is a perfect description.

Carrera 150.573 F

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[14]

The fume version of the Calibre 15 watch. Note the slight scratches on the glass of this example – the third generation was the first Carrera to use mineral crystal rather than plexiglass, which meant they were more resilient but finer scratches could no longer be polished out as easily.

Carrera 110.515 CHN

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[15]

A personal favourite, this gold-plated model may be the most 70s of all the barrel Carreras. In a good way. The champagne dial is perhaps the most dramatic of all the CdG dials in how much it changes with light:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[16]

This example is on the jubilee-style bracelet I mentioned earlier, compared with the flat link bracelet shown underneath in steel:Explaining Cotes De Geneve[17]

Barring the later quartz models, these can be the cheapest way into owning a vintage Heuer Carrera nowadays and are well worth seeking out as a result. But now for an interloper in our run through the third generation Carreras:

Carrera 110.253 B

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[18]

Heuer was obviously very pleased with the blue CdG dial from the 110.573 B as it also found its way into this late-model refresh of the second generation 1153 in 1978. Its companion models with grey and champagne dials have them newly designed and bespoke – this blue model is the only one to recycle a CdG dial but does it to good effect.

After production of the third generation “barrel” Carreras ends around 1979 (around the same time as the second generation, which it supplemented rather than replaced) Heuer leaves aside the CdG dials for a time.

Cortina 510.513

Only to come back with a real bang in the 80s with this Cortina:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[19]

Though exceptionally flamboyant for Heuer at the time, the CdG on the barrel Carreras was actually quite restrained. There were only 3 “waves”, arranged vertically. This Cortina takes it a step further with many more waves in a horizontal, “blinds” pattern.

Explaining Cotes De Geneve[20]

Again, the patterns change depending on how much light is falling on the dial. I find it a very attractive effect and well suited to the Lemania 5100 dial layout. Overall, I prefer the Carreras but that could just be ingrained by years of Carrera collecting! If you want the effect subtle then opt for a Carrera, but if you’re more full on then the Cortina could be the watch for you.

Cotes de Geneve Today

We’ve not seen a CdG dial from TAG Heuer (to my knowledge and recollection at least) but we have seen more exuberant use of case materials and some fancy dials featuring textures such as (fake, uurggh) carbon fibre.

But we have seen CdG patterns used elsewhere, such as the face-plate of  the Monaco V4 (I guess its debatable whether that’s a dial or not)

Explaining Cotes De Geneve

and here on the back-plate of the Carrera Mikrograph

Explaining Cotes De Geneve

and finally, it’s a common sight on the finished rotors of many of today’s watches

Explaining Cotes De Geneve

Perhaps this is one trend from the 70s we could welcome back with open arms now, without worry of the vagaries of fashion. Over to you TAG Heuer.


After I wrote this article, there was a post on OnTheDash where regular contributor Shaun Wainstein showed a group shot of some of his barrels:

Explaining Cotes De Geneve
I thought it was a photo worth repeating here! There is some interesting discussion further along the post too, if you are interested in these watches.



[1][8] Courtesy Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licence
[2][3][4][5][6][14][18][19][20] Courtesy OnTheDash.com
[7][9][10][11][15][16][17] Mark Moss personal collection
[12][13] Courtesy OnTheDash.com, Arno Haslinger and Bonhams

[21] Shaun Wainstein