Why Do Watches Have Jewels?

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Watches are intriguing devices and have always been objects of fascination due to their extreme portability but highly sophisticated but tiny mechanical parts.  What is even more interesting is the fact that all this sophistication is fitted into such a tiny enclosure. You may have noticed that it is written on some watches that they contain jewels. Ever wondered what this means? Why do watches have jewels?

Jewels or precious stones are used in watches to prevent or reduce friction between the surfaces of moving metal parts within a mechanical watch. Moving parts and bearings in a watch can get worn quickly, especially without lubrication so the jewels help keep them running smoothly and accurately. 

interior of wristwatch showing jewels
Jewels are used inside watches to reduce friction.

Let’s continue below to find out more.

watch movement with 33 jewels
CFB A2000 Caliber Watch Movement: 33 Jewels (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

Here, we take a closer look at the jewels contained within a watch and discuss whether some are better than others.

Why Watches Have Jewels

watch gear
Close up view of automatic watch with jewels

The matter is actually simpler than you think. Stones or jewels are used in watches to prevent or reduce friction between the surfaces of moving metal parts within a watch.

When metal rubs against metal in the absence of lubrication, the moving parts like pivots and bearings in a watch can get worn quickly, which can lead to the watch breaking down. Although in the early days of watchmaking genuine semi-precious stones like rubies emeralds and sapphires were used, today some synthetic stones have been developed for this purpose.

Where Are Jewels Used Inside Watches?

Usually, most watches contain jewels in their pivot points and in the gear train. You can also see jewels in the anti-shock mechanism.

Since jewels are expensive, unscrupulous manufacturers sometimes add jewels to watches in places where they are not required and unnecessarily raising the price of the watch.

This would lead to the misconception that the watch is sophisticated and expensive although it is just a simple and inexpensive watch with its price inflated due to the additional jewels. In fact, these extra jewels can actually work to the detriment of the moving parts.

That said, the difference in the number of jewels from one watch to another depends on the level of complication in the moving parts. Additional jewels can especially be noticed in Automatic watches.

So, the answer to the question of why do watches have jewels is simply to reduce the wear and tear of moving parts to give a longer life to the watch and to create longer periods between servicing.

Jewels For Accuracy

47 jewel watch
47 Jewel Watch. Photo Credit: Acid Pix

Another point that is worth noting is that of the accuracy of watches. We all like to have an accurate watch. Some of the most precise Swiss-made watches can have tremendous accuracy and you don’t need to correct them for months or even years. One of the contributing factors to the accuracy of a watch is the number and quality of jewels used in it.

The explanation for this is quite simple. The biggest constraint in the functioning of a watch is friction. If more friction builds up between the moving parts of a watch, then an extremely minute slowing down takes place. Although this dragging is almost imperceptible, over a period of time, it builds up into a few seconds or even minutes of difference.

Friction between moving parts can be greatly reduced by adding jeweled bearings to critical parts, thereby increasing the accuracy of the timepiece.

This brings us to the second question – are sapphires Rubies emeralds better? Let’s consider this interesting question and see if we can find a simple answer to it.

What Kind of Jewels Are Used?  

close up of sapphire
Sapphire is a common jewel used inside watches.

Precious stones like diamond, sapphire, ruby, and garnet were used in the moving parts of watches ever since the invention of jewel bearings in 1704.

Sapphires crystals are also used in watch faces because of their hardness makes them one of the most scratch-resistant types of watch glass material available.

Over the years, synthetic sapphire was developed and today, synthetic Sapphire synthetic or genuine Rubies are used. Emeralds are only used for decorating watches, for instance, the Piccadilly Princess Royal Emerald Green watch which is priced at about a million dollars.

Are Sapphires, Rubies or Emeralds Better?

We cannot really say whether a sapphire or ruby is better for creating a jewel bearing in a watch. Whether sapphires or rubies are used the smoothness of movement solely depends on the level of sophistication and design of the internal parts of a particular watch.

Generally speaking, ruby is the most preferred stone used in a watch, as can be seen in most of the watches that are available in the market today. So, the question of rubies, emeralds or sapphires the better choice for watches really boils down to the purpose for which they are to be used.

A sapphire maybe better in place of ruby for particular watch design. However, it would be incorrect to say that any particular jewel is better than the other out of these three. We hope that these two questions have been answered adequately and that you have enjoyed reading this article. Speaking of jewels, several readers have asked: are watches considered jewelry? – find out here.

Please feel free to leave your valuable comments, feedback and questions if any and we will be glad to get back to you.

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