You have probably heard of a watch having so many “jewels”, and wondered what these were, and what they were used for. The first question that comes to mind is, “What are the jewels in a watch for?” The simple answer is that jewels in watches serve to increase the accuracy of a watch and increase its lifespan by reducing the friction between moving parts. So when talking about “jewels”, are we actually talking about rubies and stuff, or is it something else? We’ll answer that question next.
What Kind Of Jewels Are Used In Watches?
Nowadays, most of the jewels used in watches are made out of a synthetic version of sapphire or ruby also known as “synthetic corundum.” This was not always the case, however. Originally, in the 1700s when jewels were first introduced to watches, they were actually made of natural gems. Different gems were used, such as garnet, or sapphire, depending on the quality of the watch.
It wasn’t until later on, in the early 1900’s, that a method of creating synthetic jewels was invented. This process made it much less expensive to put jewels in watches. On that note, a lot of people often ask if jewels in watches have any real value, should they be removed.
Are Jewels In Watches Worth Anything?
In practicality, no, the jewels in watches do not have any real considerable value. This is especially true once watches started using the synthetic gems. Of course there are jeweled watches that do hold value. However, the value of the watch is determined by other factors, and not necessarily by the jewels within it.
How Do Jewels Increase the Accuracy Of A Watch?
So earlier, we stated that jewels are used to increase the accuracy of a watch. How does this work exactly? How does a “jewel” increase the accuracy of a watch? A jewel increases the accuracy of a watch by reducing friction between the moving parts.
Well, we already know that mechanical watches are made of many moving parts such as gears and the like. These parts tend to generate friction. Jewels are placed in between some of these moving parts in order to reduce the friction between the internal mechanisms of the watch.
This is why the jewels used in watches are commonly referred to as “jewel bearings.” With these jewel bearings in place, now instead of metal rubbing against metal, you have metal rubbing against jewels. This in turn reduces the friction of these parts. The end result of this is that you have a more accurate watch with a longer lifespan. So what about the number of jewels in a watch?
Number Of Jewels In A Watch
Now that we know what jewels are used for in a watch, it’s time to talk about the actual number of jewels found in a watch. I’m sure you’ve heard of a “17 jewel”, or “21 jewel” watch, for example. Well this is actually referring to the number of jewels used in that watch.
Okay, so does this mean that the more jewels added to a watch, the better or the higher quality the watch? Well the answer is both yes and no! Yes having more jewels will mean more parts that have less friction in them. But this effect is only true up to a certain point. After that point, adding more jewels becomes useless and redundant. This brings us to the next point……
How Many Jewels In A Watch Is “Good”?
17 is good number of jewels for a watch to have. Keep in mind, this refers to a “time-only” watch. by “time-only”, we are referring to a watch that only tells the time, with no other complications such as date, chronograph, or tourbillon features.
The jewels placed in watches serve several different purposes within that watch. Usually, a watch that contains 17 jewels is considered a “fully jeweled” watch. This is because it takes 17 jewels to act as bearings in a typical time-only watch.
Within a fully jeweled time-only watch, you will find 1 jewel inside the balance wheel, 4 jewels on the balance staff pivot, 2 jewels on the center wheel, 2 jewels on the escape lever pallet, 2 jewels on the escape lever, 2 jewels in the 4th wheel, 2 jewels in the third wheel, and 2 jewels in the escape wheel.
That will give you 17 functional jewels. Watches with other complications will have more jewels placed in other areas relevant to the functions of that particular watch.
Are More Jewels In A Watch Better?
Now how many functional jewels a watch can actually have is the subject of much contention. Many watch experts would say that 25 is the maximum amount of functional jewels you can find on a watch. And this is for watches that do contain additional features, such as date, calendar, etc. Beyond that, a higher jewel count is mostly hype and marketing.
Since the introduction of jewels into watches, there have been watchmakers advertising a higher jewel count in such a way as to imply a higher quality watch, but as we have stated, this does not necessarily mean that more jewels will give you a better watch!
A prime example of this was the Waltham 100. This was a watch made with 100 jewels. If we know that anything over 25 is arguably useless in a watch, then that is a lot of useless jewels! Some people theorize that the Waltham 100 was originally created as satire of the industry, but who really knows at this point?
To sum things up, we have thoroughly explained the use of jewels in watches. Now you should have a better idea of what the jewel count of your watch actually means.
This should be especially helpful when negotiating prices on watches, as some people will try to use an inflated jewel count to inflate the buying price of a watch.
With the knowledge of jewel functionality, it will be easier to see through hype and marketing when it comes to making informed decisions on purchasing a watch.
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