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Dial crafted by a master  –  traditional 19th century silver-plating by friction brought into the modern age

13 Nov 2020

Grossmann Uhren celebrates its twelfth anniversary with the XII Birthday Edition watch on 11 November 2020

  • Only a handful of skilled craftsmen still master the art of silver plating by friction today
  • A fine-grained, silvery, anti-reflective surface makes the dial extremely easy to read
  • Numbers plus M. Grossmann logo engraved and finished in black for a high contrast
  • Limited edition of just twelve pieces

To mark the 12th anniversary of Grossmann Uhren GmbH in Glashütte I./ SA, the German manufactory for exquisitely crafted watches with perfect mechanisms is launching a new model on 11 November 2020. The model bears a special reference to Moritz Grossmann, the grand master of the art of watchmaking in Glashütte and namesake of the manufactory. The main focus is on the silver- plated by friction dial, a traditional finishing technique from the 19th century, which was also used by the gifted watchmaker Moritz Grossmann for his high- quality pendulum watches.

The new model comes in a limited edition of twelve pieces and bears the name ‘XII Birthday Edition’  – just six pieces in rose gold and six in polished steel, each handcrafted in the traditional way.

Silver-plating by friction  –  history

Few watch elements are as prominent as the dial, often the main factor in determining whether the beholder is inclined to buy and wear the watch. There are almost no limits to the design of this iconic feature in today’s highly technical times. Process-controlled electroplating is performed in electrochemical baths. Or the latest coating processes are used.

At one time, however, such technical finesse was not readily available everywhere for lack of electrification. It was still possible, however, to create sophisticated watches with ever-improving characteristics, such as those developed and manufactured by Carl Moritz Grossmann in the 1860s and 70s. Watchmakers at that time often used what was known as grain or silver plating by friction to refine the surface of high-quality dials. This process was widespread in the pre-industrial era and was often used in Glashütte and did not require electricity.

Traditional methods

Only a handful of skilled craftsmen still master the sophisticated art of silver plating by friction today. And what makes dials with this surface finish so exceptional and unique.

A whitish powder consisting of silver granules, salt and tartar is rubbed onto a brass sheet using a little water and a brush. It was, and still is, essential to clean and roughen the dial thoroughly beforehand. All the engravings on the dial are filled with lacquer before being silver-plated and then fired in a kiln to avoid excessive silver build-up.

The surface is sanded to roughen it, which also removes any excess lacquer so that only a deep black inlay remains in the engraved areas. As the silver powder does not stick to the lacquer, the engravings and numerals are completely left out of the silver plating process, which means they retain their rich black colour creating an optimum contrast to the bright silver.

Appearance  –  fine-grained and velvet-like with excellent readability

Master craftsmen from Glashütte have brought the traditional process into the modern era by applying the silver-plating by friction to the one-piece dial of the XII Birthday Edition.

The visual appearance of the dial is a fine-grained, velvet-like surface that reflects most of the incident light without causing glare. This ensures excellent readability. To protect the high-quality silver-plating by friction from oxidation and other environmental influences, the dial is finished with a protective coating.

Vintage look

The XII Birthday Edition is embellished with large Roman numerals in the style of the historical pocket watches of the Carl Moritz Grossmann manufactory’s namesake. The original Moritz Grossmann logo: ‘M. Grossmann’ from 1875 underlines the elegant vintage look. The numbers and logo have been engraved and finished with black lacquer. The delicate, handcrafted, poiré-shaped hands annealed to a blue hue harmonise perfectly.

Moritz Grossmann – master craftsman in Glashütte

Moritz Grossmann, initiator of the German watchmaking school in Glashütte in 1878, provided students with basic watch movements for educational purposes as early as the 19th century. The students used them to make pocket watches, many of which also had silver-plated dials.

The silver-plated by friction dials of historical pendulum watches, pocket watches and, in particular, chronometers are still in excellent condition today and can be admired in the German Watch Museum in Glashütte, the former home of the German watchmaking school.

Calibre 100.1

The XII Birthday Edition is offered with the calibre 100.1. The transparent back made of sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on one side provides a view of the inner workings. Of particular note is the luxurious High Artistic finish of the timepiece. This is the most elaborate stage of finish offered by Moritz Grossmann. The 2/3 plate has the typical broad, horizontal Glashütte ribbing. The Grossmann balance is visible in the curved plate cut-out and is borne by the cantilevered balance cock with fine micrometer screw. Raised gold chatons and pan-head chaton screws are a testament to the high quality. Hand-polished chamfers on going-train wheels and the edges of levers and springs create a special depth and light reflections.

Another feature is Grossmann’s manual winding with pusher, which is entirely made in-house. This proprietary hand-setting mechanism eliminates two significant challenges: altering the hands unintentionally when pushing the crown back into place and avoiding the ingress of foreign particles like dust during the adjustment process.

The XII Birthday Edition versions

The XII Birthday Edition is available in rose gold with a dark-brown hand-stitched alligator leather strap and in polished steel with a hand-stitched black alligator leather strap.