By Indra Jhaveri
Spring-driven, portable clocks developed in the 1400’s presaged the invention of pocket watches in the 1500’s and subsequently, wristwatches. One of the first wristwatches of note was made for the Queen of Naples in 1812. Because these early cases were vulnerable to exposure to the elements and weather, most wristwatches of this time were made for ladies, while men carried pocket watches. The desire of the military for rugged, more durable timepieces that did not require a hand to remove the watch from a pocket prompted the innovation of wristwatches for men.
Mechanical watches are driven by a hand-wound mainspring which supplies the power to move the gears and hands. Synthetic rubies are used as bearings (and referred to as “jewels”). Besides pocket watches and manually wound wristwatches, there are automatics, tourbillons, chronographs, quartz and solar-powered watches. The tourbillon watch places the escapement and balance wheel inside a rotating case to negate the effect of gravity upon these parts of the movement to increase accuracy. The automatic watch is wound by the movement of the arm when worn. Chronographs have a stopwatch function as well as keeping normal time. Quartz and solar-powered quartz watches are extremely accurate with less moving parts. By applying an electric current to a quartz crystal, the crystal will vibrate at an exact, specific frequency that is the same for all quartz crystals (exactly 32,768 times per second). Modern solar-powered watches use light energy to charge a battery. Battery replacement is a normal and necessary procedure with quartz watches. Internal damage can also occur to the movement, but inspection and assessment should be quick and simple. If there is damage to the movement, frequently the entire movement will be changed.
Watches are made of very delicate and sensitive parts. Watches are made for various uses, such as active wear for sports. So, this type of watch is made of special materials that are more durable than decorative watches. Regardless of the type, all watches require regular maintenance and occasional repair. A water-resistant case is not waterproof and not all cases are water resistant. Moisture or dust can get inside the case. There can be a hundred or more parts in a mechanical watch. A strong blow or vibration can dislodge or damage some of the parts.
A proper cleaning and overhaul procedure requires complete disassembly, cleaning and inspection of every gear, wheel and screw. It is done with great care and diligence. First, the parts of watch are separated and washed in three special materials made for this purpose; then dried with gentle heat and then all components are put back in place. If any parts are damaged, they are replaced (with customer consent if necessary) and adjusted with a special device called a multifunction timegrapher to achieve optimum time balance. New gaskets are placed in the case of the watch and it is then tested for water resistance. Upon completion of the test, the movement is placed inside and tested again for water resistance and then put on a rotor test machine for a day or more to check that everything is working properly. Finally, the watch is then returned to the customer with test results (including charts and photos) and a warranty.
Besides being practical, whether simple or complex, modern or antique, watches are a style statement worthy of the addition to any collection. And with proper care and maintenance, a fine watch will stand the test of time.