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Why Do Watches Have Jewels? What Do They Do?

Jul 20,2023 | PAGANI DESIGN Official Store

Those who know little about watch-making would describe watch jewels as crystals or stones inscribed on the watch case or bezel.

But in the watching landscape, these gems are not those adornments but, in fact, are the functional elements of a mechanical watch movement responsible for the smooth operation of timekeeping.

The objective of putting up jewels in timepieces is to minimize the friction in the inner movement so that all working parts can rotate smoothly, resulting in better durability, precision, and performance.

Learn more about watch jewels, why watchmakers fit them into the watch movement, and what they do in this comprehensive guide.

What are Watch Jewels?

Watch jewels are tiny pink or purple synthetic rubies placed into the hole in a watch movement. These stones act as bearings to reduce the friction between the mechanical components, help increase the lifespan and protect them from getting worn out.

They provide a hard, rough place for metal components to move freely. They are the essential drivers that affect the watch's accuracy, durability, and precision.

Probable you have read 17 rubies on standard luxury watches, including models PD-1723 and PD-1701 Speed Master. Some brands go further by adding 21 jewels into a watch movement. It all relies on the complexity of the mechanism and design of each timepiece. Simply put, more jewels mean less friction in the movement.

What Is The Purpose Of A Watch Jewel?

Jewels are put in to increase the accuracy of the watch.

Watches are made with different complications and moving elements. Especially GMT watches involves small mechanical parts that rotate with many gears. To make them move smoothly,

watchmakers needed a material that could save the watch mechanics to worn out from continued usage.

Watch jewels were discovered because they are not conducive to lots of friction, cannot grind down over time, and can fit in smoothly.

Without these tiny bearings, watches were observed to experience significant wear and tear, negatively impacting performance and accuracy.

The purpose of a watch jewel is to protect timepieces from this depletion. They act as bearings providing a slick surface so that all moving parts within the watch can ease friction.

This can result in better watch efficiency, performance, and longevity.

Types of Jewels Used in a Watch?

1. Hole Jewel

This type of stone bearing is the most common you can find inside a watch movement. They are called holes or pierced jewels because they are mounted strategically inside the wheel shaft.

They are donut-shaped with a hole cut right in the center. They are round from the top and flat from the bottom. They help to reduce friction at the point where there is circular motion.

When they are paired with cap jewels, they are referred to as pivot bearings.

2. Cap/ Capstone Jewel

A cylinder-shaped jewel placed at the end of the wheel arbor to support it. They are mounted in conjunction with a pallet jewel and act as shock protection at events when a watch is dropped or hit by something.

3. Pallet jewel

They are brick-shaped and used within a watch movement to box within a pallet fork. This jewel is responsible for minimizing the friction caused by the pallet fork.

4. Roller jewel

A D-shaped jewel resembling the pallet jewel is located within the pallet fork. It connects the pallets and the escape wheel.

What Kind Of Watches Need Jewels?

We all know that a watch has three movements: Mechanical, automatic, and quartz.

  • Mechanical watcheslike the Popular PD-1723 need as many as 17-21 jewel bearings because they require manual winding, unlike their automatic counterparts. More jewels in a mechanical watch mean less friction so that their components would not grind over each other.
  • Most Automatic watches are powered by the movement of the wearer's wrist, although we have some automatic watches that have their manual winding ability. The one that runs on kinetic energy needs 25-27 jewels (because of the added complexity) to efficiently transfer the energy from the wearer.
  • Quartz watcheslike models PD-1701 Speed Master and PD-1664 are run on a battery using quartz crystals, so no manual winding is needed. They have fewer moving parts and often have little to no motion within the movement, so high-quality quartz requires no jewel to function.

Although some quartz has gear functions that require winding by hand, jewels are placed to ensure these gear bearings run smoothly.

Also, keep in mind that there is no ideal number of jewels that define a perfect watch. It depends on the watch's complications- by complications; we mean chronograph, perpetual calendars, or GMT. The more complex a watch is, the more jewels are needed to function efficiently.

Does More Jewels In A Watch Matter?

No, a jewel count cannot make a significant difference. A watch with more jewels does not term as a valuable watch.

Knowing the jewel quantity in a timepiece is only useful to evaluate the complexity of the movement. More jewels would not make a timepiece any fancier or of high quality.

More jewels would, in fact, mean it can be capable of doing more mechanically complex tasks within the watch.

Another factor that matter is the watch mechanism that dictates the jewel requirement. A typical hand-wind mechanical watch has 17 jewels as a compliment. If you go for an ultra-thin or high-grade movement, it needs an extra few jewels to protect against wear and tear.

Similarly, some moving parts between the mainspring and escape wheel are eligible for more jeweling because they need larger forces or a relatively higher speed to function.

Components such as minute, hour hands, winding trains, and calendars require no jewel.

A typical self-wind movement requires an extra 4-8 jewels to transfer the forces to power the mainspring efficiently.

How Many Jewels Should A Watch Have?

A watch movement has various jewels according to different models and brands.

Ideally, a watch should have 17 jewels to be called a fully jeweled watch.

The standard number of jewels in a fully mechanical watch is 17, whereas a self-winding, automatic watch would have 25-27 jewels to reduce all positioning errors.

These numbers are just a baseline but not a hard-core requirement. Often, you will observe more than 21 jewels in a movement; in fact, the world’s most complicated watch Ref. 57260 from Vacheron Constantin, is measured to have 242 jewels with 2800 components and 57 complications.

Jewels are placed within the gears, pinions, and pivots to allow the watch parts to rotate freely.

Here is the description of the 17 jewels, along with their types and placements.

Number of jewels

 

Types of jewel

 

Placement

 

One

Impulse Jewel

 

Balance wheel

 

Two pairs

2 hole jewel

2 cap jewel

Staff Pivot

Two

Hole and cap jewel

 

Centre Wheel

 

Two

Pallet jewel

 

Escape Lever Pallet

 

Two

Hole and cap jewel

 

Escape Lever

 

Two

Hole and cap jewel

 

Fourth Wheel

 

Two

Hole and cap jewel

 

Third Wheel

 

Two

Hole and cap jewel

 

Escape Wheel

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Does It Mean When A Watch Has 17 Jewels?

The 17-jewel count refers to the standard number of bearings inserted within the mechanical watch movement. They are located all along the balance wheel to the center wheel pivot. A watch with 17 jewels is known as a fully jeweled watch.

2. What Do 21- Jewels Mean In A Watch?

A 21-jewel refers to a watch with more than the standard 17 jewels added for better efficiency and reduced positioning errors. Sometimes watch with more complications and complex parts need extra rotation, so Jewels make sure to provide them with smooth spaces to move easily.

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