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Why do watches have jewels?

When watchmakers talk about jewels, they are not referring to the decorative gemstones on your watch’s bezel or band. Rather, the ‘jewels’ they’re referring to are inside your watch movement, unseen but certainly not unimportant. Read on to find out what watch lovers had to say about these fantastic and functional little gems.

Nicole Ghosn

Nicole Ghosn

Nicole Ghosn, Senior Jewelry Designer at Marc Jacobs. She’s responsible for the Runway and commercial collections.

Accuracy and Durability

Jewels in watches are mostly used as bearings in the watch movement, which allows for a reduction of friction between its mechanical components. The result is better accuracy in timekeeping, as well as longer durability of the mechanical components.

Corundum is often used because of its high hardness rating of 9 on the Mohs scale, only surpassed by Diamond (10 on the Mohs scale). Natural Ruby and Sapphire were mostly used in the past, and are replaced today by synthetic colorless Corundum.

Matthew Paxton

Matthew Paxton

Matthew Paxton, Founder of Hypernia.

Watch Jewels Are a Natural Lubricant

Watches are probably one of the few things where jewels have a functional use rather than just being there for the aesthetics.

High-grade watches incorporate jewels in their movements. They use them as a form of natural lubricant and become bearings for the wheel trains and to reduce the wear rate of contact surfaces or areas with high friction.

Harriet Chan

Harriet Chan

Harriet Chan, Co-founder & Marketing Director at CocoFinder.

Less Friction, Better Accuracy

Just as a bike has bearings, a watch has jewels that serve the same purpose – to reduce friction among moving components. The presence of these jewels ensures that the watch you buy can serve you longer without breaking down. The jewels in the watch will help the moving parts of the watch resist wear and tear, and with that, you can reduce your visits to your repair shop.

When you buy a high-value watch, it will contain more jewels than a regular one. Regular mechanical watches have an average of 17 jewels incorporated in their makeup. Higher value watches, on the other hand, will have 21 jewels. These extra capstones help to reduce positional errors as the watch’s hands are moving.

However, the most important reason for the jewels in your watch is to ensure that it tells time correctly. When the jewels reduce friction between the bearings in your watch, they also help to increase the watch’s accuracy. The friction tends to cause slight variations in the applied impulses, which affect the accurate timekeeping of your watch. When your watch keeps losing time often, it is most likely a friction problem caused by jewels.

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