Jewels in a Watch

By on 08/05/2014


Has the term ‘jewels’ in mechanical watch specifications confused you? The most commonly heard jewels include 15, 17, 19 and 21. However, there are some like the Ingersoll Grand Canyon that contains 35 jewels or the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia that has a total of 76 jewels. So what really are these jewels and what’s their purpose?

In mechanical watches, jewels were developed to minimize abrasion and tear at the point of heaviest wear. When metal rubs against metal and when the oil breaks down, the pivots and bearings can get damaged. Thus, jewels help reduce friction between two metal pieces that rub against each other’s and ensure the watch wear lasts longer. They ensure the watch functions for longer periods between servicing and also make sure damage to high wear points is greatly reduced. In most watches, jewels are used for all the pivot points or moving parts in the gear train as well as anti-shock settings. Moreover, watches with complications also use jewels to minimize friction and tear over time.

Jewels are stiff, durable and not easily breakable and therefore wear slowly and can be worked to a smooth and even finish. These properties of jewels help watchmakers to reduce friction in their timepieces. Jewels are harder than the watch metals they are used with and include sapphires, rubies and diamonds. While diamonds are more expensive than the former two, many watch companies have now come up with a cheaper alternative and that is synthetic diamonds. Modern watchmakers are also using synthetic materials to manufacture synthetic sapphires as well as rubies.

The lower-end watch market typically used 5 or 7 jewels. However, this market has ended and has been taken over by the quartz. Nowadays, most manual wind watches have a standard accompaniment of 17 jewels. In addition to this, many watchmakers have brought back the use of chatons, which is a technique in which tiny brass or gold settings are used to fit the jewel into the movement plate.

Earlier, a higher number of jewels in a watch signified higher quality, complexity and price. However, this is not true anymore. Thanks to easy production and setting of synthetic stones, watch collectors are now less interested in the jewels that are fitted in their time pieces.


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