Family Jewels

Thread: Family Jewels

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Family Jewels

    Is there a time-line for jeweled movements? I.E 15 jewels 1900-1920, 17 Jewels 1920-1930 etc. what is the difference and how does it affect the quality of the movement? I have seen some watches advertised with 30 jewel movement is this just overkill?!

  2. #2
    Member Shangas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Re: Family Jewels

    Jewelled movements were introduced in the early 19th century, if my memory serves. Jewels help the watch by providing frictionless bearings for moving parts. By rubbing against the jewel-bearings instead of against metal parts, the moving parts of the watch run smoother and prevent wear and tear on the watch-movement.

    More jewels means that the watch can fight friction better, and run more smoothly and keep better time. As watches improved, yes, jewel-counts did go up, but I couldn't give dates on that. Jewelled movements of 17 and up were around long before 1920.

    For most time-only watches, 17-23 jewels is generally considered the best. For watches with additional features, extra jewels are needed to cut down on friction for those extra mechanical functions.
    "Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary interest...nothing has more individuality save, perhaps, watches and bootlaces."

    - Sherlock Holmes.

    'The Yellow Face'.

  3. #3
    Member AbslomRob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Canada

    Re: Family Jewels

    The first patent for jewels in clocks was in the late 16th century, I believe. By the 19th century, most "jewels" were small pieces of ruby or sapphire (which are the same mineral, just different colors). Prior to around 1870, 15 jewels was considered a "Fully jeweled" lever movement (two impuse stones on the lever, one jeweled impulse "pin" on the balance, a pierced and a cap jewel on either side of the balance, and pierced jewels on either side of the lever, escape wheel, fourth wheel and third wheel). For lever watches, the first seven were pretty much considered the "minimum" jeweling (7 jewels).

    Towards the end of the 19th century, the increased competition in America (fueled in part by the growth of the railways) led some companies to start jeweling the center wheel in order to claim that their watches were "better". This trend coincided with the development of "synthetic" jewels (which were cheaper and more "pure" then real jewels). Most of the jeweling statements made past the turn of the century owe more to marketing then any honest advantage. Consider that a center wheel only turns once an hour (and mainspring barell even less).

    In theory, a jewel is only "counted" if it actively works to reduce friction and wear in the movment. This has only really been "enforced" in more recent times though; cheap turn of the century watches would often add "useless" jewels to the movment in order to be able to pretend to be better quality then they are. Other companies were equally devious, but more creative; adding jewels in places where they techincally do work, but they don't really do anything. The ultimate example of this was the infamous Waltham 100, which was a basic 17 jewel watch with 83 jewels added around the edge of the winding rotor. They were supposed to prevent the rotor from wearing if it touched the plate, but that never really happens. It was just a ploy to "celebrate" the 100th anniversary of the Waltham Watch Company.
    My growing collection of "affordable" vintages:

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