Watches: Never Turn Your Back!

Display backs are nice. Here on Cartier's Pasha

Most high end watches these days come with display backs. They show off the beauty of the movement behind it, more often than not adorned with Geneva striping, blued screws and other gorgeous decorations. They also give an insight into the micro-mechanics that for many of us is at least part of the appeal of these watches, and for the manufacture to create a beautiful rotor for automatic watches like Breguet did for their Marine Big Date.

But not all current watches have a display back. Sometimes because the manufacturer wants to obtain a higher water resistance or anti-magnetic capabilities, and other times because a closed back is deemed more appropriate by the watch’s designer. Or, let’s face it, because the movement ain’t so pretty and isn’t worth showing off. 

But don’t let a closed back fool you. Sometimes the movement is hidden behind it, like a special gem that is still laying in an unexplored cave. Most of the time the decorations are just as beautiful as on the watches with a display back, only with these movements they wait in the dark until they need another service and the watchmaker trusted with the job unearths its beauty. However, all this does bring another obligation to the watch manufacturer; don’t turn your back to the back! Especially when a watch comes with a closed back you need to make sure that it still is interesting for its owner to look at, because even the back of a watch plays an important part of the overall appeal of a wristwatch.

One well executed symbol is sometimes all a watch needs!

The most obvious choice to decorate the back of a watch is of course by putting the manufacturers logo there. Bell & Ross took this approach but did it slightly different. They use the &-symbol quite prominently in their communication and identity so they also took the bold step to make a very deep engraving of this symbol on the back of their watches, like for example in this Space 3 GMT. By doing this they make even the back of the watch a conversation piece! 

Sometimes the back of a watch is nothing short of being art!

Another brand that likes to make conversation pieces out of the back of their watches is Breitling. Most people who know the brand, are familiar with the engravings on the back of their watches that often consist of different levels and deepness. However for the Breitling B-1 they did another approach; They shaped the back of the watch like a turbine of a jet engine! What makes it extra special is that it actually serves a purpose, since it amplifies the sound of the alarm function of the watch. You really can’t ignore this noise level! And yes, the B-1 is powered by a quartz movement. That might have been indeed another reason why Breitling opted not to use a display back. But display back or not, it serves a manufacturer well if they never turn their back to it!

Categories Bell & Ross, Breitling, Cartier, Girard-Perregaux Tags , , , , , Bookmark
  • speedmaster

    I love interesting casebacks. For a few years I’ve considered writing an article focusing on them. There are a lot of nice vintage ones out there like some Constellation and Kon Tiki models.

    • Meehna Goldsmith

      Great additions to the list, Chris.

      • speedmaster

        No prob, I think a few vintage (late 60s, early 70s) Seikos and Citizens might have had some fun ones, too.

        • Meehna Goldsmith


  • Sravya

    Wow!! the designer pieces are wonderful and mainly the casebacks are fabulous and trendy.

    • Meehna Goldsmith

      So glad you enjoyed the piece, Sravya!