This search is sponsored by Eterna

Search in :
Quality certification - The Poinçon de Genève embraces nanotechnology

Quality certification The Poinçon de Genève embraces nanotechnology

The Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Hallmark) will henceforth be engraved using new technology that is more precise and may even be of interest to other sectors beyond watchmaking.

The Poinçon de Genève is dead, long live the Poinçon de Genève! This royal allegory hides an unprecedented technological change at this famous institution. In short, the Poinçon de Genève, found on the timepieces of brands such as Cartier, Chopard, Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin, will no longer be a hallmark in the literal sense. Its vocation and the regulations governing it remain the same, but the famous hallmark will no longer be applied by a stamping process. The new engraving technique is based on nanotechnologies.

The same, but different
For the watch buying public, little changes. For those in the industry, however, it’s a genuine revolution. Why? Because the ancient technique of hallmarking by stamping (the “poinçon” in the Poinçon de Genève is the punch that stamps the die-set on a press) consisted of nothing less than a violent compression of materials.
This squashing of metal often resulted in an imprecise contour, which meant that the engraving had to be reworked to make it clean and smooth – a process known as trimming. Another disadvantage was that such hallmarks could not be stamped on to materials that were too fragile or too hard (because the stamp would not leave an indent). But the myth persisted and nobody thought about eradicating these problems. Nobody, that is, apart from the very institution behind the hallmark itself, Timelab.


L’ancien Poinçon de Genève Timelab

Contactless engraving
The problems occurred because of two materials being in a state of shock against each other. So to improve on this the process needed to be carried out without contact, and it was along these lines that Timelab worked. Its partners: a laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the MaNEP network (Materials with Novel Electronic Properties), a non-profit association based in Geneva, in collaboration with PHASIS, a spin-off of the UNIGE.


"Principe d’électrolyse"

The result of their work is this new type of contactless engraving, called “nanostructuring engraving”. It is based on the principle of electrolysis, sending a number of electrical impulses to the surface to be engraved (see large photo at the top of the page). Technically, the Poinçon de Genève is no longer a hallmark. But for the beauty of the name and its history, the name will be kept. “The Poinçon de Genève is not changing, it is innovating,” summarises Anne-Sophie Guerra, Director of the Timelab foundation.


nouveau Poinçon de Genève

New opportunities
This invention opens up new opportunities for the industry. The absence of contact means that the Poinçon de Genève can now be placed on extremely thin products, even jewellery pieces. “As long as they have a metallic element that can receive the electrolysis and thus the engraving,” Jorge Cors, Manager of PHASIS, points out.
Furthermore, all metals can now be “hallmarked”, even the very hard platinum. The new hallmark will also offer a better definition, since the material will no longer be compressed:  instead its surface is merely modified. This method also allows the engraving to be done on plates before they are cut out, or on the finished product, which offers manufacturers greater flexibility to choose at which stage their timepiece is hallmarked.
In turn, other industries, such as medicine or aerospace, may soon be interested in this technology.


Watch Finder

Search by:

Find your watch


Characterised by audacity and inventiveness, Cartier’s watchmaking history reflects a unique state of mind: “jeweller of kings and king of jewellers”. Its renown is bound up in the tradition of...

Find out more

Maison Chopard epitomises the alliance between watchmaking and jewellery. It has always known how to meet the expectations of its day, relying on four essential values: expertise, tradition,...

Find out more

The Roger Dubuis Manufacture was founded on the desire for independence and watchmaking excellence. With remarkable dynamism, Roger Dubuis quickly ignited the world of Haute Horlogerie and has...

Find out more

An exploration of the history of Vacheron Constantin is a voyage of discovery, revealing the excellence of age-old watchmaking. Each timepiece is the result of the creative inspiration of the...

Find out more

Recommended reading