Parts/Mechanics of a Watch – Part 1

What better place to start on our horological journey than an overview of the mechanics of a watch. Herein lies the key to a watch’s excellence and value, so why not start from the very beginning?

Wristwatch Timeline

1880 – Initially seen as decorative and feminine, Constant Girard (Girard-Perregaux) develops wristwatches for men. As you didn’t need to operate them with two hands, this appealed to the military who benefited from precision time-keeping in operating machinery/weapons.

1904 – Louis Cartier designs the “Santos de Cartier” for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont who wanted to observe the time while piloting his “flying machine”. Designed specifically to be worn on the wrist, it featured fully incorporated lugs.

1914-18 – Use of wristwatches for military purposes again pushes the wristwatch away from female fashion accessory and into the world of the alpha-male. Luminous watches are pioneered.

1930 – The masculisaton of wristwatches has finally succeeded. The ratio of wristwatches to pocket watches is approx. 50:1.

1957 – The Hamilton Electric 500 is revealed: the first battery-operated electric wristwatch and the first to never need winding.

1969 – Seiko 35 SQ Astra is the first commercially available watch using the “Quartz movement”, guaranteeing a deviation in time of just 0.004 seconds/day.

borro’s Jargon Buster

As promised in our introductory blog, we want to delve into complications and sidereal time. However, this terminology can send even the most passionate watch enthusiast into a time-warp. Here is a list of commonly used terms, succinctly explained:

  • Case: encloses and protects the movement of a watch.
  • Chronograph: a watch that also records time intervals, like a stopwatch.
  • Chronometer: essentially a measure of precision and excellence, a watch can only be labelled a ‘chronometer’ if, after extensive testing, it satisfies the criteria set by the ISO 3159 standard.
  • Complication: any display in addition to hours, minutes, and seconds. Complications might include time zones or so-called “grand” complications such as moon phases or chronographs.
  • Face: part of the watch which displays the time.
  • Lugs: the extensions on the top and bottom of a watch where the bracelet or strap is attached.
  • Movement: refers to the internal mechanism of a clock/watch.
  • Quartz movement: the mechanism is designed around a quartz vibrating very quickly in response to an electric charge; it is these vibrations that enable the watch to keep time.
  • Sidereal time: is a time-keeping system astronomers use to keep track of the direction to point their telescopes to view a given star in the night sky. This is just one example of complications a watch could have.

N.B. Our next blog will burrow deep into the world of complications.

In Conclusion

The value and collectability of a watch depends heavily on its history, and its placing along the horological timeline. In comparison with other valuables and antiques, commercial wristwatches only celebrated their centenary at the turn of the millennium and hence watches that date back before the World Wars have the potential for rarity. To find out more on the value of your watch, contact the borro team or see our Value of Watches Q & As.

Until next time…

Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.

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