What Are Jewels in a Watch Movement? [Ultimate Guide]

what are jewels in a watch

In the watch industry, what you call a jewel is often called a “watch movement.” That’s because jewels are more commonly associated with precious stones than modern watches, which typically use two pivot Jewels or three jewels to wind the spring so that it winds more smoothly. But how do these modern watch jewels work? We dive deep into this topic in today’s blog post to ensure you’ll never confuse them again!

Watch Jewels help up-regulate time, which is just as crucial as regulating temperature. It’s possible that most readers are only dimly aware of this fact, or you’ve already forgotten. Does that mean that they’re not needed in watch movements? Our answer is “no” – they’re absolutely essential.

A few movements have not included watch jewels at all, but you probably wouldn’t know it unless you looked closely! Many of the most famous antique pocket watches had natural jewels inside. Most of the ones that didn’t were most likely just imitating the movements of popular watches that did have jewels in a watch.

As far as we can tell, jewels were first widely adopted in France in the 1700s. Before this, watches generally had very few jewels in their watch components; they only began appearing for their regulating properties around this time. Of course, jewelling was used for decorative purposes before then, but not like it is now.

Why Watches Have Jewels ?

The apparent reason a watch has jewels is for its movement. A watch is an exact piece of machinery, and the slightest bit of edginess could cause it to become inaccurate. By adding jewels to critical parts like the balance wheel, you can help ensure that your timepiece’s precision potential will be realized.

Jewels do more than simply make your timepiece perform better; they actually make it work less complicated watch. The purpose of jewel bearings in a watch is to reduce friction and wear-and-tear on the movement. The revolution of the balance fourth wheel is so fine jewels that it can quickly accumulate dirt and other material. The jewel bearings reduce friction because it has almost no contact with the balance wheel at all.

When you take a closer look at a watch movement, you’ll see that a fully jeweled watch looks like small beads. They’re not all precisely the same; some are much larger than others. The size of the jewel bearings has to be related to the size of your watch’s mainspring. If your mainspring is too small, you’ll need a larger impulse jewel setting. If it’s too large, it won’t wind properly.

Your watch’s jewels serve many additional purposes, such as adding strength and creating a smoother pivot Jewel when it comes time for your gear train to turn. They’re also responsible for regulating the speed and regularity of your watch’s tick-tock sound (which is referred to as isochronism).

Types of Jewels Used in a Watch

Jewels Types

It’s important to note that different manufacturers use various types of jewels. This is mainly because there are so many different kinds of watch movements to choose from, and the designs change over time.

The following are the most important types of jewels you’ll encounter:

Cap Jewels

Cap Jewels

Cap Jewel is among the simplest to use. Cap jewel is often used at the end of the mainspring barrel, preventing metal rubs from pinching. Because it’s virtually impossible to make a perfectly smooth motion without friction, cap jewels enable your master wheels to spin (without getting damaged) by giving up some of their smoothness.

Hole Jewels

Hole Jewels

Hole jewels can be made of different metals and sizes, and they move in three parts: the pinion, the wheel, and the jewel. As their name suggests, hole jewel is designed to fit into holes drilled into a gear train. Hole Jewel is common in watch movements because it’s hard to make space for a balance wheel without making room for a hole.

Roller Jewels

Roller Jewels

Roller jewels are helpful because they’re specially designed to fit on curved wheels, such as the ones on your watch’s chronograph. Roller Jewel can be of varying diameters and heights so that you can regulate smaller and larger wheels more accurately. These jewels are more frequently used in complicated watches than in simpler ones because they often need to accommodate the small wheels of the timepiece.

Pallet Jewels

Pallet Jewels

The pallet fork jewels are located in the watch’s balance wheel. Their specific function is to make sure that the tempered steel balance wheel receives the right timing signals. These Pallet jewels are responsible for protecting your watch from damage due to low and predictable friction. The more jewels you have here, the more precise your timekeeping will be.

How Many Jewels Are in a Good Watch?

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that watches with more jewels tend to be more expensive. You don’t necessarily need a lot of jewels, though – a watch with only one or two will work just fine for most people. In fact, some of our favorite budget Swiss watches have no jewels at all!

The quality of your watch’s jewel(s) depends on the number of jewels you have. The more jewels you have, the smoother your timepiece will perform.  The mechanical watch comes with as many as 32 jewels, but even a twenty-jewel mechanical watch movement is top of the line. Anything less than this, and your watch will probably struggle to keep its accuracy.

Watch Jewels

As with all things in life, a watch with a good amount of jewels will also be more expensive. If you’re looking for a really classic timepiece at a reasonable price, it’s probably best to stick with fewer jewels.

Brands like Hamilton, Elgin, and Bulova rely on their timepiece’s precision to carry their reputations. These brands believe in carrying the finest jewel counts in their watches, which means they cost more than models with fewer jewels.

There are many fine Swiss watches with jewels that are also reasonably priced. The more expensive brands will generally have more jewels, but plenty of good choices are at the higher end of the spectrum.

What do 17 jewels mean in a watch?

You’ve probably seen the term “17 jewels” on any number of watches. It simply means that it’s a watch with 17 jewels in its movement. The more jewels in your watch, the finer the timekeeping you’re going to get.

The watch industry often uses the term “Jewels” to mean something else. A movement that has 17 jewels is called a “vibrations per hour” (or VPH) movement, which is just another way of saying that it runs at 17,000 vibrations per hour. The Swiss standard for fine timepieces is 28,800 vibrations per hour, so anything less than this isn’t considered premium quality.

That said, keep in mind that not all watches with large jewel counts are top-of-the-line. Sometimes manufacturers will add jewels just for show and not for any practical purposes. This is why knowing what kind of jewel you’re dealing with is so important.

What do 21 jewels mean in a watch?

The term “21 jewels” is used to mean 21,600 VPH (or vibrations per hour). This is the ultimate count of the highest quality of Swiss timepieces known as “Master Complications.”

These watches are synonymous with high-end Haute Horlogerie, and they often sell for more than $1000. They’re created using complicated machinery that’s normally reserved for machines like satellites and Mars rovers. Their construction process involves molds of exceptional complexity that are never reused.

In addition to being the standard of Swiss luxury watches, 24 jewels are also used to refer to movements that perform with a very high degree of precision. This count is usually achieved through the use of a balance wheel that’s surrounded by a higher number of jewels. In contrast, a movement with fewer jewels (like, for example, 9 jewels) usually contains oscillating support loads weighing (called an escape lever).

Do Quartz Watches have Jewels?

A quartz watch isn’t technically a watch at all because it doesn’t require a balance wheel to function. As such, it doesn’t have any jewels inside. This is good news for those of you who can’t afford a luxury watch with mechanical movements.

Quartz movements are more accurate than most mechanical ones, and they’re also incredibly accurate – but unfortunately, they’ve never been associated with fine Haute Horlogerie. If you’re after Swiss quality and don’t want to pay for a mechanical movement, it’s worth considering picking one of these up.

Quartz Watches

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that even the most precise quartz movements aren’t as reliable as their Swiss counterparts. For this reason, many watch enthusiasts consider them a step down from mechanical wristwatches that also possess other attributes normally associated with luxury watches, such as a higher price.

But before you dismiss the quartz movement out of hand, we want to tell you about a technology called “estimates.” The word “estimates” simply means “simulated,” and it’s used to describe an escape wheel whose function has been simulated with electronics. In other words, some quartz watches have some of the features of a mechanical watch with the same number of jewels.

Specifically, many quartz movements appear to contain all or part of a balance wheel that’s surrounded by an escape wheel. This is usually achieved through charge-coupled device (CCD) technology. These watches are known as “simulators” because they do everything except the actual movement – they’re basically just decorations made to look like Swiss timepieces.

So, should you buy a quartz watch? It depends. Some people don’t mind the style of the simulated watches, but others will want to take advantage of the features that are associated with mechanical watches.

If you’re looking for a quartz watch that’s made by one of the most popular brands in the world, you should probably stick to their mechanical models. But if you’re not interested in driving up the price on any watch you buy, don’t be afraid to try out a simulated Swiss watch for yourself.

Do more jewels make it a better quality watch?

better quality watch

One of the reasons that Swiss watches are so revered by their customers is that even though these movements contain fewer jewels, they’re still incredibly accurate and robust. They often run for years and years (and sometimes decades) without needing any maintenance.

That’s because the balance wheel is extremely reliable and always performs exactly as it should. The balance wheel keeps track of the time using a form of magnetic induction, which makes it impossible for the watch to get out of sync with the time.

While more jewels can help you get a better watch, the truth is that this isn’t always the case. Some manufacturers use cheap-grade parts and jewels in their movements. The purpose of this is to make their watches seem like they’re worth more than they actually are.

If the jewels inside your watch aren’t properly aligned and perfectly polished, your watch can never provide you with accurate timekeeping. In other words, a watch with a lot of jewels might not be any better than one with fewer.

So, if you’re looking for watch quality, it’s best to stick to brands that only use top-quality parts and craftsmanship inside their movements.


Final Words

Now that you know the number of jewels inside a movement, you can keep in mind that there are still other factors that influence the quality of a Swiss watch. If you’re looking for an accurate timepiece with originality, style, and performance, it’s best to stick to watches with Swiss movements.

If you’re interested in a watch that’s a step down from a luxury Swiss piece, you should consider picking up a quartz watch. If you have the money, though, we encourage you to pick up one of the Swiss luxury watches at any price point as long as it meets your standards.

And if you want to dive deeper into the world of watches, be sure to check out our blog about the best watches on the market for men and women.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.


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Written By

Chase Coleman

Chase Coleman is a watch enthusiast who loves to surf the internet to look for must-have watches. He started writing helpful guide and reviews for choosing the best watch according to budget and style. He owns more than 50 watches already and loves to make it his lifelong passion.

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