Quartz movements is what powers most watches today. The invention of quartz watches happened back in 1969 by Seiko with the watch called Astron. Since then, quartz watches has been the global standard. They are cheap to produce, affordable to own, cheap to replace, and accurate. So what do the jewels mean, it is higher quality, function properties, or just show off?
Not all quartz watches have jewels. Jewels are a way to minimize the wear in high-stress areas of the movement. Gears that rotate use bearings, and those bearings can be made of jewels due to their smoothness creating almost no friction. Hence reducing the overall wear of the movement.
Diving into quartz watches, there are more than just meats the eye when it comes to the jewels in the watch. Does it mean a higher-quality, how many jewels should the watch have?
One of my favorite entry-level quartz watches without jewels is the Citizen Eco-Drive diver, which is both cheap and high quality. If you’re more to the mid-level watches with jewels, I would recommend the Tag Heuer Aquaracer. Also a good value for money watch which looks stunning.
Why do Quartz Watches Have Jewels?
Quartz watches have moving parts, just like mechanical and automatic watches. Mechanical and automatic watches have a lot more jewels than a quartz watch.
The standard mechanical watch has 17 jewels. However, mechanical and automatic watches can have over 200 jewels depending on the complication of the movement. A typical quartz movement will have 5 jewels, but again depending on the movement’s complication, it can have more.
Jewels reduce friction significantly in the movement of the watch, allowing less wear on the movement. They are explicitly decreasing wear on the always moving parts. Higher-quality watches tend to have jewels, whereas lower-quality watches don’t.
However, there is no direct relationship between jewels in the movement and quality. Citizen has made some very good watches without using jewels. In contrast, Grand Seiko watches are extremely desired and high-quality and features jewels.
The jewels come from the origin of mechanical and automatic watches. Back in the day, natural jewels were used as bearings to combat the metal-on-metal contact. The jewels used where shepherd, diamond, garnet, and ruby. The jewels have been used since their creation and were also a means to reduce friction. Friction in a watch means inaccuracy and, over time, mean fatal damages to the watch.
In late 1800 hundred, Auguste Verneuil invented a process to make synthetic sapphire and rubies. The invention of synthetic jewels made the watch bearings much cheaper. The synthetic jewels have a similar scale of hardness to diamonds on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.
A movement that solely shows time has 17 jewels. In contrast, a movement with a date and winding mechanism (an automatic watch) has around 25 jewels. A typical mechanical and automatic watch beats 6 times per second (which is why the second hand is sweeping), which puts a lot of stress on the moving components.
A typical mechanical/automatic movement can consist of more than 100 components, which would introduce a lot of places with metal on metal contact. However, using jewels, a lot of the contact can be avoided.
Quartz watches have mechanical moving parts just like a mechanical and automatic watch, even though the general structure of the quartz movement is different. There are four types of jewels used in the mechanical and automatic watches; hole-, roller-, cap-, and pallet jewels, each serving a purpose. However, only hole- and cap jewels are used in quartz watches.
In the video, starting from around 03:30, you can see the placement of the gears, which is connected to the stepping motor. At 04:20 you can see the cover plate is attached to the stepping motor gears. What you will notice is that the gears is fitted inside jewels (specifically pivot holes).
Different Types of Jewels
There are different types of jewels to help with different kinds of friction problems. Hole jewels and cap jewels is what will be used in quartz watches. The roller jewel and pallet jewel is exclusively made for mechanical and automatic watches.
Quartz watches generally use hole jewels for moving parts. However, preserved for the higher-end quartz watches are the conjunction of hole jewels and cap jewels to create the frictionless movement with added shock resistance.
A hole jewel is a round jewel with a hole in the middle. The whole jewels are used to “hold” a metallic part which is rotating. It is mounted with a gear’s axle in a cylindrical pivot or conical pivot. Together with a cap jewel, they create a “pivot bearing.” A pivot bearing allows an axle to spin freely and add shock resistance.
A cap jewel is essentially a hole jewel without a hole. In simpler words, it is a round jewel, which is typically flat. The cap jewel is what adds shock resistance in conjunction with a hole jewel.
Roller (impulse) Jewel
The roller jewel is what sits on the impulse roller, which is connected to the balance wheel. As the balance wheel turns, the roller jewel pushes the pallet fork. Therefore, the roller jewel is also only found in mechanical and automatic watches.
The pallet jewel is rectangular shaped jewels used on the pallet fork. The pallet fork is only found in mechanical and automatic watches.
Are More Jewels in a Watch Better?
Before the invention of synthetic jewels, genuine jewels were used as bearing to solve the issue with friction. This meant that jewels were a direct indication of the quality. However, since the invention of the synthetic jewels, there is little correlation between jewels and the quality of a watch.
The quality of a watch is not solely determined upon the jewels in the watch. It is possible to get high-end quartz watches without jewels. The quality of the watch is also dependent on the manufacturing processes and materials used in the movement rather than just the jewel count.
However, since there is a big misconception in whether the jewels is an indication of quality, low-quality manufactures have used this factor to market their watches. While the jewels will reduce the overall wear on even the low-quality watches, it is just as much about the precision of the component production and the skills of the watchmakers to ensure the genuine quality.
If the production of the components has large tolerances, the components can jump out of place in the watch. Therefore, knowing something about the manufacturer and brand is much more valuable than looking at the jewelry count. E.g., going for ETA or Seiko movements are much safer than going for an unknown brand. Both ETA and Seiko are reputable watch brands, where the price typically reflects the quality.
I have a quartz watch on the wall in my (and my girlfriends) apartment. It is a cheap wall clock picked up from IKEA. The watch has cost somewhere around $15-$20 (sorry I can’t remember the exact cost). It keeps time just fine. However, I noticed when changing the battery at the movement is made of plastic. There is no metal or jewels.
The low-end plastic made quartz watches are cost-effective. However, they are laser welded and, therefore, cant be repaired. The mass-produced watches such are made to be thrown out when damaged. In contrast, high-end quartz watches made of metal components (and maybe including jewels) can be repaired and last a lifetime.
How Many Jewels in a Good Quartz Watch?
Going for watches with jewels is generally a good idea if you tend to have the watch for more than 5 years. While the jewel count in a watch is not a direct indication of the quality, it does indicate that some components are made of metals, which is better than plastics in the long run.
There is no perfect number of jewels in a quartz watch. However, for a watch just showing time 1-5 jewels is sufficient, while chronographs or other complications can require additional jewels. A good quartz watch is also dependent on the serviceability of a watch. If it breaks outside of the warranty period, is it possible to fix it?
The serviceability is generally good on all watches. However, the very cheap watches you find in kid stores and apps/websites like banggood.com and wish.com or IKEA is made entirely of plastic and most likely plastic welded. The plastic welding process makes the watch impossible to service because some parts are literally melted together.
When looking at the servicing, plastics should be cheaper and easier to replace than metal components, logically? The answer is yes, and no. No, because there is not made spare parts for most plastic quartz movements due to the simple fact that they are manufactured to be thrown out when damaged. Furthermore, due to the cost-efficiency, it would most often not be worth the money to repair as it would exceed the costs of purchasing a new quartz watch of the same quality. However, the answer is also yes, because plastics is cheaper as raw material and cheaper to process.
Are the Jewels in a Watch Worth Anything?
There is a typical misconception about the jewels in a watch. No matter if you are looking at quartz, mechanical, or automatic watch, the jewel count will be displayed somewhere in the brochure or on the case of the watch. To sum up the discussion from the first part fo the post, jewels are meant to reduce the friction at high-stress points in the movement. The jewels in the watch is not a direct indication of the quality of the watch. However, usually, it means higher quality.
Watch shop sellers often make the comparison of jewel count as a linear correlation to the quality of the watch. The well respected and most known worldwide brand Rolex has a watch called the Submariner (you probably have heard about it). The Rolex caliber 3135 used to power the Submariner has 31 jewels. The watch shown in the picture below has 100 jewels. Is the watch below then better? No, it is not. It might be good, but as you can see, the jewels are just inserted in the outer side of the movement for show.
Watch jewels are worth almost nothing in modern watches. Jewels used in high-end watches might be complexly shaped, which makes the manufacturing processes expensive. However, the jewels are not worth anything. In antique watches, the jewels used are genuine gemstone, which might have some value.
However, if you own an antique watch, you should claim down before thinking you have a pension fund in grandma’s pocketwatch. Most antique pocket watches are only worth between $100-$500.
On eBay, it is possible to find sellers selling jewels in a bulk of 100 for less than $10. This only goes to show that the jewels is mostly worthless, as they can be artificially made in a laboratory. However, the jewels found on eBay will be of lower quality. However, it is a good indication that you are not getting some kind of precious gemstone when purchasing a watch.
How Long Will a Quartz Watch Last?
A typical fashion piece shouldn’t be expected to last longer than 5 to 10 years. A fashion piece is watches like Daniel Wellington, MVMT, Vincero, or clothing brand names. While the watches are fashionable, they are mass-produced from “cheap” Chinese movements. While the watches is a justified purpose, you should count them in for a life long ride on your wrist.
In contrast, the more expensive ETA movements used in Tissot, Certina, and Tag Heuer movements are made to be serviced. They consist of metal parts which are, depending on the movement, held in place with jewels. When the movement has jewels, there is less stress on the exposed areas of the movement, which will also increase the longevity of the watch. Watches made from ETA quality movements could potentially last a lifetime.
It is important to remember that the quartz movement is made partially from electronic components. If the electronic components die, it might be cheaper or easier to replace the entire movement. While the watch is essentially the same, the actual movement is different. So we can take the debate of whether the watch is high quality when a full replacement is necessary when parts of the movement die.
Examples of Good Quality Quartz Watches
While there are many good quality watches made by many different watch manufacturers, I will give a couple of examples of good quartz watches with and without jewels.
While a watch with jewels is generally an indication of a higher quality watch, there is alternatives with watches without jewels, which can be just as good. The best way to go about getting a quality quartz watch is to go for a reputable brand that uses movements from reputable manufacturers or are producing high-quality movements themselves.
Going for watches with movements from ETA is a good indicator of a quality watch. The Japanse competitor Miyota also produces some good movements. Actually, Citizen owns the Miyota company. The Miyota movements is used in known brands like Fossil and Citizen. However, they are also sold to other companies.
However, their lower-end watches tend to have some trouble. While they are mass-produced, they are also made to be very cost-effective. The movements, therefore, uses some generally lower quality components.
Good Quality Quartz Watch Without Jewels: Citizen Promaster Diver Eco-Drive
Although the quality of Citizen watches goes brand-wide, their Eco-drive movements are a solid pick. The eco-drive technology gives the watch a six-month power reserve and can be charged in almost any light.
The Promaster Diver series is 200 meters water-resistant, which allows you to take it scuba diving. On top of the water-resistance, it is a watch you can both dress up or down. The blue dial gives it this versatility. Citizen mostly a mineral crystal, although not sapphire, it is sufficient for everyday wear.
- Eco-Drive technology is expected to last at least 10 years.
- The watch charges from any light (natural or artificial).
- It can charge in darker places such as offices.
- 200-meter water-resistance.
- Good value for money.
- It doesn’t need battery change every 2-3 years.
- It is too chunky for some people.
- The orange second-hand looks a bit out of place.
- Difficult to service if the movement breaks. A replacement is likely needed.
Good Quality Quartz Watch With Jewels: Tag Heuer Aquaracer
The Tag Heuer Aqauracer comes with a quartz movement from ETA. The specific movement is called F06.111 and has three jewels. The movement is extremely popular and used in many other watches, even other brands. Among the brands using this movement is Tissot, Certina, and Tag Heuer themselves.
Unlike many other quartz brands, the ETA movements are made to be serviced and maintained. The moving parts of the ETA movements are usually made of metals. Therefore, ETA movements are generally good picks if you plan to have the watch for a long time.
- 300 meter water-resistant.
- High accuracy.
- Stainless steel case and bracelet.
- Sapphire crystal.
- Good size for the average wrist.
- Design can be a bit repulsive for some.
- The case diameter can be too big for people with smaller wrists.
- Needs battery change every 2-3 years.
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