Pocket Watch Database

Pocket Watch Movement Finishes

American pocket watch movements are usually found with either a Gilt or Nickel finish. Some manufacturers produced movements with a two-tone finish, using gilt damaskeening over nickel.

Note: The finishes referenced on this page apply to the movement finish inside the watch, not the case material.

Gilt Finish

Gilt movements are characterized by a gold-colored finish "gilded" on brass movement plates, typically engraved without color inlay. This finish was exetremely common before 1900. However, once manufacturers began offering nickel-finished movements, gilt became a less popular option and was more prevalent in lower quality movements.

Nickel Finish

Nickel movements are characterized by a silvery, often-polished, finish on the movement plates, and usually adorned with decorative damaskeening patterns. Once nickel movements became popular in the late 1800s, they often sold for a premium when compared to identical gilt movements.

The nickel material was more durable than gilded plates and offered a better surface for decorative machining methods.

Two-Tone Finish

Two-Tone movements are characterized by dual-finish patterns using a thin layer of damaskeened gilt on nickel plates. Two-Tone movements were usually reserved for premium watches due to the extra time and attention during the manufacturing process, resulting in some of the most beautiful movements ever produced.

Damaskeened Gilt Finish

Often referred to as "gold-flashed," damaskeened gilt movements are are characterized by a thin layer of damaskeened gilt on nickel plates. Unlike two-tone movements, damaskeened gilt plates are designed to feature the polished golden finish over the entirety of the plates.