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Watch Jewels: What Do They Do and Why Do They Matter?

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Guide
watch jewels

Watch jewels, or jewel bearings, are tiny synthetic ruby or synthetic sapphire pieces strategically placed within a watch’s movement to reduce friction and enhance the timepiece’s functionality. Serving as a smooth surface for metal components like the wheel train to rotate freely, watch jewels play a crucial role in improving the accuracy and longevity of a watch.

For the most part, watch jewels are used in several areas, such as the balance wheel, staff pivot, and center wheel. With proper lubrication, these synthetic watch jewels serve as efficient bearings, minimizing metal-to-metal contact and ensuring a smoother operation of the watch mechanism.

If you’re a watch enthusiast or collector, the jewels in a watch matter a lot. Yet, how many should your timepiece have? This article answers that and all other watch jewel-related questions, so stick to the end!

How Many Jewels Should a Watch Have?

The number of jewels in a watch often serves as an indicator of its complexity, according to Esquire. Still, more jewels don’t necessarily mean a watch is of higher quality. 

The answer to how many jewels a watch should have depends on the watch’s movement and design. 

However, there’s a standard range based on the type of mechanical watch movement:

1. Manual and Simple Automatic Watches

tag heuer automatic watch

7-21 Jewels: Basic manual watches usually have around 7 jewels or less if produced before the quartz watches have taken over. Most automatic watches will have a few more, around 17 to 21 jewels, due to the additional parts in their movement. A great example of a watch with 17 jewels is the Seiko 6300. 

2. Chronograph and Complicated Watches

rolex cosmograph daytona

25-31 Jewels: Chronograph watches, which have additional functions like stopwatches, typically have between 25 to 31 jewels. However, according to Watch Base, other calibers, like the Rolex Caliber 4130, may have up to 44 jewels. These extra synthetic rubies support the added gears and levers required for the additional functions.

3. Highly Complicated Watches

longines watch with moon phases

Up to 50 Jewels or More: The most intricate mechanical watches featuring moon phases, perpetual calendars, or multiple chronograph functions may contain over 50 jewels. These jewels are essential in maintaining the precision and functionality of such complex mechanisms.

Currently, the pocket watch with an outrageous 2,800 components has 242 jewels, and it’s no other than the Vacheron Constantin 57260. According to Forbes, this watch has an estimated value of around $8 million with its various complications. 

Are More Jewels in a Watch Better?

More jewels in a watch don’t necessarily indicate better quality. While jewels reduce friction and enhance the watch’s lifespan and accuracy, their number should correspond to the watch’s movement complexity.

Here are a few things to remember when associating the number of jewels with the quality of the watch:

  • Function Over Quantity: A certain number of jewels is essential for specific functions within the movement. Too much of it is deemed unnecessary and may even affect the overall mechanism. 
  • Over-Jeweling: Some manufacturers add extra jewels that serve no functional purpose, merely as a marketing tactic.
  • Real Indicator: The true measure of a watch’s quality extends beyond jewel count, encompassing craftsmanship, design, and overall performance.

While jewels are crucial to a watch’s operation, more isn’t always better. It’s the right number in the right places that counts.

So what exactly happens if too many jewels are placed in the watch? 

If there are excess jewels in a timepiece, the following consequences are highly likely:

  • Additional Friction: Ironically, while jewels are meant to reduce friction, placing them where they’re not needed can introduce additional points of contact and thus increase friction, potentially affecting the watch’s accuracy and longevity.
  • Misalignment: Unnecessarily added jewels might not be placed with the same precision as functional ones. Any misalignment can disrupt the smooth movement of gears and other components.
  • Increased Complexity: Every added component, including unnecessary jewels, introduces more complexity to the watch movement. This can make servicing and repairs more complicated and potentially more costly.
  • Potential for Damage: Extra jewels that are not held or secured properly might come loose over time, risking damage to the movement.

With all these being considered, adding more than what’s required can harm the movement. 

Types of Jewels in Watches

In a watch movement, there are several types of jewels. Each type has its function and can be found in specific parts of a watch mechanism.

pallet jewels

Pallet Jewels: These interact with the escape wheel in the watch’s escapement mechanism. They ensure the regular, controlled release of the gear train’s energy, allowing accurate timekeeping.

roller or impulse jewels

Roller Jewels or Impulse Jewels: The roller jewel or impulse jewel is mounted on the balance roller and interacts with the pallet fork, transferring energy and maintaining the oscillation of the balance wheel.

endstones or cap jewels

Cap Jewels or End Stones: These are flat jewels placed on top of a shock absorption system or above the balance wheel’s pivot jewels. They reduce friction and prevent the escape wheel’s teeth from touching the balance staff during shocks.

hole jewels

Hole Jewels: A hole jewel, characterized by its bored center and typically a slightly rounded top or flat bottom, is a friction-reducing jewel bearing for wheel axles or pivots in watch movements.

When a watch is described as having a certain number of jewels, it usually means a combination of these different types, all serving to reduce friction, enhance accuracy, and increase the longevity of the watch movement.

Watches With Jewel Count

Wondering about the jewel count of different watches? 

The subsequent sections below lists some of the popular luxury watch models from various watch brands and their corresponding number of jewels.

Rolex

ModelJewel Count
Datejust 26mm Jubilee 7917331 Jewels
Sea Dweller 43mm 12660031 Jewels
Datejust 31mm Jubilee 27827431 Jewels
Yacht Master II 11668031 Jewels
Rolex Yacht-Master Oysterflex 22665942 Jewels

Tudor

ModelJewel Count
Pelagos LHD 25610TNL26 Jewels
Black Bay Chrono Panda 79360N41 Jewels
Black Bay GMT 79830RB26 Jewels
Black Bay 58 79030B27 Jewels
Black Bay S&G 79733N26 Jewels

Omega

ModelJewel Count
Speedmaster Snoopy 3103242500200126 Jewels
Seamaster Aqua Terra 2205241210300139 Jewels
Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 3103042500100226 Jewels
Omega Speedmaster Day Date 3220500025 Jewels
Omega Seamaster Railmaster 2201040200600135 Jewels

Hublot 

ModelJewel Count
Big Bang Unico 441.NX.5171.RX43 Jewels
Classic Fusion Aerofusion 525.CM.0170.RX60 Jewels
Spirit of Big Bang Titanium Rainbow 642.NX.0117.LR.099931 Jewels
Classic Fusion Chronograph Black Magic 541.CM.1171.RX59 Jewels
Hublot Classic Fusion 541.NX.1171.LR35 Jewels

Patek Philippe 

ModelJewel Count
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5164A-00129 Jewels
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time 5164R-00129 Jewels
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph 5960R-00140 Jewels
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moon Phases 5396G-01134 Jewels
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 7234R-00129 Jewels

More Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Does 21 Jewels in a Watch Mean?

A watch with 21 jewels typically means it uses 21 synthetic gemstone bearings in its movement. These precious stones help decrease friction between the watch mechanism’s various parts, improving its accuracy and longevity. 

It’s common for mechanical or automatic watches to have around 17 to 27 jewels, so a watch with 21 jewels would be within the typical range for this type of timepiece.

2. Is 22 Jewels Good for a Watch?

Yes, a watch with 22 jewels is considered a quality timepiece. This falls within the common range of 17 to 27 jewels in mechanical and automatic watches. As mentioned earlier, the jewels serve a functional purpose by decreasing friction between moving parts and increasing the accuracy and lifespan of the watch. 

However, it is essential to remember that the number of jewels is only one aspect to consider when assessing the quality of a watch. Other factors, such as the materials used, craftsmanship, and the watchmaker’s reputation, should also be considered.

3. How Many Jewels Does Rolex Use for Its Watches?

Rolex is known for its high-quality luxury watches. The number of jewels used in a Rolex watch can vary depending on the particular model and its movement. 

For instance, the Rolex Caliber 3135, a popular automatic movement, uses 31 jewels in its construction. Meanwhile, the Rolex Caliber 3000 uses 27 jewels. 

Here are more details on the jewel count of other Rolex calibers according to Watch Base:

Of course, other models with more intricate complications will have more jewels placed in their mechanism. 

4. What Is the Highest Jewel Count on a Luxury Watch?

The Logical One by Romain Gauthier is a standout timepiece, not only because of its unique design and high craftsmanship but also due to its impressive jewel count.

This is recognized in watchmaking for having one of the highest jewel counts in a watch. The movement of this particular piece boasts an astounding 63 jewels. This significantly high jewel count is unprecedented for most traditional watches, even those within the luxury segment.

In the Logical One, the high jewel count results from Romain Gauthier’s unique movement design approach and multiple complications integration.

5. Are There Luxury Watches With Zero Jewels?

Yes, luxury watches, especially the quartz watch type, have zero jewels. Some watchmakers have explored creating timepieces without jewels to challenge traditional horological norms or showcase alternative engineering solutions.

The primary reason some watches don’t have jewels is the utilization of modern materials and innovative engineering techniques that effectively reduce or eliminate the friction that jewels traditionally handle. 

6. Is It Bad if a Luxury Watch Has Zero Jewels?

Whether or not a luxury watch has jewels does not inherently determine its quality or desirability. However, there are considerations when evaluating a luxury watch with zero jewels:

  • Engineering Innovations: Some luxury watch brands employ advanced materials or innovative designs that minimize the need for jewels. In these cases, the lack of jewels is a testament to modern engineering solutions.
  • Historical Context: Older luxury watches might not have jewels simply because they were crafted before the widespread adoption of jeweled movements. These watches are valued for their craftsmanship and historical significance.
  • Performance and Longevity: Jewels in watches reduce friction, enhancing the movement’s longevity and accuracy. A watch without jewels might require more frequent maintenance, depending on its design and materials.
  • Brand Reputation: The reputation of the watch brand plays a significant role. If a reputable luxury brand releases a watch without jewels, it’s likely they’ve addressed potential friction and wear concerns through other means.

While jewels in watch movements are essential, a luxury watch with zero jewels isn’t inherently bad. It’s crucial to consider the watch’s design, the materials used, the brand’s reputation, and its intended purpose. 

If the watch is from a well-respected brand and meets the performance and aesthetic expectations of the buyer, the absence of jewels shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Final Word

It is not uncommon for watch enthusiasts to emphasize the number of jewels in a timepiece, as this can indicate its accuracy and build quality. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that not all watch jewels are created equal, and other factors, such as the movement’s craftsmanship and quality, can also contribute to the performance of a watch.

Key Takeaways

  • Typical watches have 17 jewels, but luxury watches with intricate designs can surpass this range.
  • A high jewel count, while indicative of design intricacy, isn’t the sole measure of a watch’s quality or functionality.
  • Jewels in watches minimize friction and ensure smoother movement, enhancing timekeeping accuracy and longevity.
  • Beyond jewel count, innovative engineering, design, and craftsmanship significantly contribute to a watch’s prestige and performance.

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