Gold gears in pocket watches

Thread: Gold gears in pocket watches

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  1. #1
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    Dec 2012
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    Gold gears in pocket watches

    Looking at descriptions of pocket watches, every now and then I see a watch that says
    that the main gear is made of gold or even that the entire gear train is gold.

    How common is this and why is/was it done?

    As I ponder it, I have several theories:

    1) First is that it is marketing -- a way to sell a high dollar watch in its day,
    although it may both then and now be an indicator of a really fine watch.
    Or is it?

    2) Gold is a soft metal, so I find it surprising that it would be used for a gear.
    Maybe this line of discussion belongs on the watchmaking forum?

    3) Gold won't rust or corrode -- this would be its big virtue aside from the
    marketing appeal.

    So I may be all wet -- but would like to hear what those in the know have to say.

  2. #2
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    Re: Gold gears in pocket watches

    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tucson_Tom View Post
    1) First is that it is marketing -- a way to sell a high dollar watch in its day,
    although it may both then and now be an indicator of a really fine watch.
    Or is it?
    May be today's alloys and production precision make it less important, but back then it was in deed an indicator for a fine watch, because the higher effort returned a better quality, and was not just to suggest the feeling to have some precious metal in the movement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tucson_Tom View Post
    2) Gold is a soft metal, so I find it surprising that it would be used for a gear.
    Cold rolled gold alloys are pretty hard, and much more important: They have self-lubricating capability. Gears are not perfect, i.e. the teeth don't perfectly roll on reach other. Depending on the production precision there is always some friction left, back then more than today. Nobody would care about less wear through less friction, but higher accuracy was well a reason to prefer gold alloys.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tucson_Tom View Post
    3) Gold won't rust or corrode -- this would be its big virtue aside from the
    marketing appeal.
    Nobody would care for the rust resistance of gold alloys, as long as combined with rusting steel pinions. And the tiny weight of wheels doesn't actually add a reasonable value. But the more difficult processing of gold in return for the not actually exciting improvement was only accepted for high grade waches.

    Regards, Roland Ranfft
    Last edited by Roland Ranfft; December 4th, 2012 at 19:38.

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