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Perlée is the French expression for pearl pattern. It describes a decorative pattern applied by grinding circles on a flat surface - mostly used in the automotive and watchmaking industry. Another French name for this upvaluating processed pattern is perlage. A ground circle is called pearl.
Nowadays, the perlée pattern is predominantly applied on parts of wrist watches. The round grinded circles are created by pressing a round rotating abrasive medium on a flat metal surface - freely controlled by hand or precisely by tool machines.
Perlée in the watchmaking industry
Decorated parts of a watch can be the movement main plate and bridges as well as the inside of the watch case and the watch case bottom as long as it is made from metal.
Under ordinary circumstances the decorated parts of a wrist watch remain invisible to the owner. Exceptions are watches with a glass bottom etc. and exposed perlée decorated parts. The perlée decor is nowadays considered as an indicator of a luxurious watch - especially if it is applied completely by hand.
The master watchmakers of the olden days tried to invent new grinding patterns. One is called the clavus pattern or in French language oeil-de-perdrix.
Perlée in the automotive industry
Clearly larger sized grinding pearls than in the watchmaking industry are used in the automotive industry. As a homage to the early days of automotive engineering the dashboard of the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 was decorated the old-fashioned way.