11/27/2023
 4 minutes

Stylish and Unique: Your Watch, Your Engraving

By Barbara Korp
Cartier-2-1

Stylish and Unique: Your Watch, Your Engraving

A one-of-a-kind, personalized watch? If a striking bracelet isn’t enough for you, engraving a watch is a great way to customize it. An engraving can remind you of a special moment, commemorate an event, or be a way of congratulating someone. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about engraving a watch.

Which watches can I engrave – and where?

In theory, every watch can be engraved, because there will always be at least a little bit of space for text. But in practice, maintaining the aesthetics of a watch is an important consideration. The case back is thus a popular spot, as it not only offers plenty of space but is also very discrete. This obviously won’t work for watches with a glass case back. Timepieces with a relatively smooth stainless steel case back are best, like most Rolex or Nomos models.

Rolex Datejust – dank glattem Boden ideal für Gravuren
Rolex Datejust – perfectly smooth case back for engraving

Some brands also offer rotor engravings, such as the German brand Stowa. In this case, you’ll need to decide on the engraving before buying the watch – engraving it after the fact will be much harder. But this is one of the more creative and charming ways to personalize a watch for a true watch lover!

The independent Swiss brand Norqain is trying something new. On all of their models, the left side of the case is home to the “Norqain plate,” available for you to engrave a short personalized message. Best of all, the plate can be swapped out, so that you can individualize your watch without committing yourself to the engraving for life (or the life of your case back). In fact, you can update the engraving as often as you’d like.

Norqain Independence – mit Norqain-Plate
Norqain Independence – with the Norqain plate

Who engraves watches?

Watches are normally engraved at the jeweler or dealer where you buy them. Traditionally, a jeweler will only engrave a timepiece after you’ve purchased it.

Recently, however, more and more watch manufacturers are providing engraving services. Some are even making special offers. Nomos, for example, offers free engravings of models in its Club collection, right in its Glashütte workshops. These watches even have space for four lines of text, making them the perfect anniversary gift.

Nomos Club Campus – durch Nomos selbst in Glashütte gravierbar
Nomos Club Campus – can be engraved by Nomos in Glashütte

How are watches engraved?

The most common and affordable option for engraving a watch is laser engraving. Many jewelers offer post-purchase laser engravings for under $100. The laser “burns” the surface of the watch, guided by software. Since no special craftsmanship is involved, the process produces very consistent results.

If you’re looking for something even more special, a hand engraving may be the perfect option. This involves true craftsmanship and can only be done by a professional. Hence the price, which can easily exceed $100 per word. Hand engravings are made with a small diamond-tipped burin and a steady hand. Especially when it comes to stainless steel, which is pretty hard, the process can be challenging – but the result is all the more fascinating for it.

Mechanical engravings are made with a machine, which of course makes the process more affordable. However, quality can vary widely with this method, and you might end up with sloppy writing. If this is way you want to go, choose your service provider carefully.

Why should I engrave a watch? And why not?

An engraving makes a watch your own. It can serve as a reminder of special moments or events in your life, which means you can enjoy having your watch remind you of these things for years to come, and enjoy the fact that you own a truly unique timepiece. Whether you treat yourself to an engraved watch or give one to someone special, an engraved watch is probably one of the most personal items you can find.

However, if you want to sell the watch at some point, an engraving can present a hindrance. An engraved watch will usually command a much lower price because other people don’t want to wear your memories on their wrist. While it’s possible to switch out a case back easily enough, replacing an engraved rotor is significantly harder. For all these reasons, you should only engrave a watch that you intend to keep for your whole life – and choose an engraving you can live with for the duration.

Special decorative engravings

Some engravings are small pieces of art in themselves. Luxury brands in particular have specialized in elaborate engravings that turn watches into unique pieces of jewelry. If you want to dip your toes into the world of decorative engravings, take a look at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. This watch is not only affordable relative to other engraved and decorated watches, it’s also meant to be engraved. The smooth backside of the reversible case provides plenty of space, and engravings can also be finished with enamel. Additionally, the reversible case makes it possible for you to show off your engraving to the world. This makes an engraved (and enameled) Reverso both a beautiful watch and a unique piece of jewelry.

Jaeger-LeCoultre – das Wendegehäuse bietet viel Platz für Gravuren und auch die Möglichkeit, diese sichtbar zu tragen.
Jaeger-LeCoultre: The reversible case provides plenty of space for engravings and the chance to show them off.

Summary

You should always carefully consider the decision to engrave a watch – both the watch and the engraving need to be well-chosen. That said, an engraving is the most stylish way to personalize a watch or send someone special a personal message that will last a lifetime.


About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

Read more

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