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Watch Case Back 101: An Appealing Beauty Beyond the Dial

Watch Case Back 101: An Appealing Beauty Beyond the Dial

Watch case back is often forgotten while in fact lots of beauty can be seen here. Find out the exclusivity of watch case backs here!
Apr 18, 2024

Have you ever admired the back of your watch? A simple flip-over and a beautiful sight of working movement are presented. Watch case back is often considered an underrated part of the watch. It can’t be denied that the watch’s overall appearance is seen from the dial where the most important thing about a watch is displayed — especially the time. 

A watch case back is like a hidden gem behind the watch and is often forgotten. In fact, a case back is a perfect place for the watch brands to engrave some details about the watch. It’s like a blank canvas where artwork can be created. Aside from the watch brands, the wearer can also change or kind of identity without changing any part of the watch. 

However, as I observe, the watchmaking industry has evolved in creating the beauty of a case back. There are types where a wearer can enjoy a plain sight of the intricate movements inside their watch. That’s what I’m going to talk about in this article along with some timepieces that show off their appealing working movements.

Watch Case Back 101

Compared to the front side, the rear cover of the watch — that we call case back — is often hidden. It’s inevitable as the back definitely wouldn’t be seen when the watch is worn. Many people might not prioritize this part as a top priority to choosing their watch. Yet, you can still take a little time to admire what’s behind your lovely timepiece. 

Oftentimes, depending on the case back’s types, watch manufacturers can do quite a lot of things on their watch case back. Some of them include details about the watch, such as water resistance and a brand’s identity. While others decide to make it an open case back where the wearer can enjoy how their watch internal’s parts work. 

Read also: Watch 101: What is a Watch Crown and Why It is Important?

Watch Case Back Types

According to some references on the internet, there are several watch case back types that are common in the watchmaking industry. Let’s get into details below.

Hinged Case Back

A hinged case back is probably uncommon in modern wristwatches yet the one with this style definitely is a statement in itself. A watch with a hinged case back is mostly used in a pocket watch in the past or in a reference to hunter or officer pocket watch style. As the name suggests, it has a solid hinged that covers the rear part of the watch. In other words, the watch case has a jointed back that opens to disclose the working movements. 

Minimalist Case Back

As the name mentioned, a minimalist watch case back is the simplest of all. There isn’t any artistic or engraved art on this type as the watch manufacturers focus only on providing significant details. Most of the time, you can find information about the water resistance, serial number, and certification number. Other than that, it’s just a plain surface to cover the back of the watch.

It’s so easy to find a watch with a minimalist style as it is the standard one and doesn’t need much effort to make. However, what now is considered standard was too difficult to afford for mass production in the past. Besides, watch manufacturers tend to focus on functional purposes rather than making art for their case back. Therefore, vintage watches often have the minimalist case back. 

A typical watch collection with a minimalist style can be easily found in Sinn watches. As they are tool watches, the brand only wants to focus on providing reliable performance. There aren’t many aesthetic points in their case back aside from the information on watch specifications.

Crowded Case Back

The opposite of a minimalist case back is the one with crowded elements. You can easily spot this case back as the brand wants to use every inch of the surface to create engraved art or information. However, despite the heavily designed presented on it, the watch manufacturers still pay attention to how it looks.

Too many elements without a good layout or balance would only create a mess and an unpleasant look. Therefore, there are certain things to consider to make a crowded case back, such as the readability of the information, hierarchy for each element, and the balance between elements and space. 

Personalized Case Back

As I have mentioned previously that a watch case back can be a good place for the wearers to engrave their personal identity without changing any part of the watch. Many people have done this just simply to commemorate a special event or a gift to someone. 

Watches as a gift are common among the watch community. Giving the customized one will be a good way to show your love and sincerity towards another. It somehow tells a story in a unique way.

Exhibition Case Back

A case back with an open or exhibition style is my favorite one if you ask me. The exhibition case is a style in which the brands present their intricate movements in plain sight. In this case, the watch case back isn’t only a cover but also a window where the wearer can enjoy how the engine (movement) powers the watch. 

Rado True Automatic Open Heart Black Ref. R27510152
Rado True Automatic Open Heart Black Ref. R27510152

Many luxury watches opt for this style as they can show the impressive work of their movement, especially when they make it in-house. Sapphire glass is used for this case back and, thus, an open view of the intricate movement can be enjoyed easily. Sometimes, the brand would also put a minimal engraved around the sapphire crystal to provide some information.

Many watch lovers, especially ones who adore mechanical timepieces choose to have an open case back. The intricacy of the movements is an art of horology itself that is worth admiration. Therefore, having easy access to enjoy the beauty of movements is the reason to grab a piece with this style.

Watches with Beautiful Exhibition Case Backs

There are lots of watches that have a uniquely beautiful case back. The world of horology is a realm of never-ending art innovations and, thus, you could prepare yourself for other enhancements in the future. In this section, I want to share some of the watches that I consider impressive in their watch case back.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

The Speedmaster Moonwatch is a timepiece that not only holds a great value for being part of the space exploration but is also an impressive watch design. The Moonwatch has an exhibition case back where you can have a see-through view of how this top-notch timepiece works. 

Omega provides the watch in two different versions. The first is equipped with the sapphire crystal while the other one uses a hesalite gas. The latter one is the phenomenal one as the watch brought in lunar mission used a hesalite crystal. The difference lies in the scratch resistance to which a sapphire crystal is better on it. 

The Oris Big Crown ProPilot X Calibre 115

Trying to show how impressive a movement becomes one common reason why a brand chooses an exhibition case back for their watch. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot is powered by the Caliber 115 — an in-house movement that they are proud of. Oris wants their customer to see and appreciate the art of watchmaking they made.

The Caliber 115 is an in-house movement designed with a 10-day power reserve and greater accuracy. Through their open case back, you can enjoy and observe how those impressive performances work — the wheels, jewels, and other elements placed perfectly. 

Breitling Navitimer 01

Another exquisite in-house movement can also be enjoyed through the exhibition case back of the Breitling Navitimer 01. Not only that it highlights the complexity of the watch dial, but Breitling also wants the wearer to look deeper into the intricate parts and see how the engine works. 

This timepiece is powered by the in-house B01 self-winding mechanical chronograph. This movement itself is a robust and reliable one that is used in almost many current Breitling chronographs. Thanks to the exhibition case back, you can enjoy the impressive movement that makes your watch sweep.

After all, a watch case back is not only the rear cover of the watch. Well, although it does cover the internal part of the watch, the function is still important. Although not many, the beauty of the case back can still be a value where enthusiasts can enjoy the intricate movements of the watch through an open case back.

You might also like: A Brief History of Watchmaking: From the Early Days to Now

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