We all know how when a watch gets released, the first thing they tease and like to show off is the front. We would be filled with questions about the dial colour, the numerals, the finishing, etc. I mean, those questions are warranted seeing as that is what we would be looking at the most. For me though, what I look forward to, is the case back. Now, I can’t give a straight answer as to why, but there’s just something about the detail and thought that is put into the back of the watch, the part not always appreciated and not often seen.
Now before I get into which is my favourite and why, let’s look at a few different types that were used over the years.
1. The Enamel Inlay
For me this is a tough one. Not because I don’t like them, but because I don’t understand why they aren’t talked about more, not appreciated enough. In my opinion it’s like art. If one of these companies was to do a full enamel dial, people would lose their minds. When you learn how complicated the process is, you begin to appreciate the amount of time it took to get each watch just perfect, only to not be seen all the time. Pictured is by far one of my favourite enamel inlay designs from Longines. If you were to buy a vintage piece with this inlay, it just makes it that much more special. But fyi, if it’s damaged or gone, the cost to restore will be a pretty penny if you send it back to them.
2. The Etched Finish
While some might think this is the easy way out in terms of getting a detailed design onto a case back, it opened the doors to incorporating more details on a piece. Not only did it incorporate more, but it allowed more companies to do it because of cost effectiveness compared to other methods that will be discussed. Pictured is a cashback from Eterna-Matic. While we might recognize their ball bearing logo, or their collaborations with Birks, the icing on the cake for this one is the etched ship that celebrates the Kontiki expedition.
3. The Medallion
In the 1960’s and 70’s, this was a popular option when it came to case back designs. Companies like Seiko used it for multiple lines, but probably the most popular was Omega. From the Seamaster to the Constellation, having a prestigious name on the front wasn’t enough. They took the time to go the extra mile and have their design almost ‘embossed’ onto the case back. On the Seamasters it was the Hippocampus, or Seahorse, inspired by Greek Mythology. Pictured though, is the Observatory that would be found on the back of the potentially more popular, Constellation. Funny enough, Jean-Pierre Borle, designed both. So, if you have one of these vintage classics laying around and you love the case back as much as I do, we have him to thank.
Last, but certainly not least, is the exhibition case back. It's literally in the name, they're showing off their work. While in the vintage world, this wasn’t popular at all, nowadays, it’s almost a go to when it comes to companies wanting to brag about what they designed. For some companies, like A Lange & Sonne, it’s almost a selling point. The beautiful intricacies working together to tell time. Simply put, it’s art on your wrist. It’s always been there, but now you can see it, and just appreciate it so much more. Pictured, one of the best from Grand Seiko. While their dials speak for themselves, I believe an underrated part of their watch making is the beauty of their movements. Not only reliable, but just really, good looking.
So, that’s a brief rundown of the options that are out there. Not mentioned are obviously the plain ones, or the ones that just feature the brand name on the back. That’s just boring. So, what’s my favourite? While I can appreciate them all, I’m torn between two. Enamel and exhibition. The reason why, I love the art, but I also love the movement. This is probably why the Patek Philippe Enamel World Time is at the top of my list. Enamel on the front, see the movement on the back. The best of both worlds. Sigh, one day.
Let me know which one is your favourite!