Watches 101

Here are some FAQs we often get regarding watches.

What is the history of the wristwatch? The wristwatch has quite a dated history, evolving from portable spring driven clocks in the 15th century. Called "clock watches", these were the first timepieces to ever be worn. They were oversized, heavy, and not very fashionable. As styles continued to change into the 1600's, the pocket watch was created. Men began to keep their watches in their pockets instead of around their necks, so a round and flat watch was slowly developed. Technology continued to improve over the next 300 years, with the development of the balance spring, lever escapement, and chronometers. These advances, coupled with better materials and mass production lead to the creation of the first wristwatch by Patek Philippe in the early 1868. Since then quartz and digital watches have become popular, and newer technologies like solar powered timepieces and the atomic watch were developed.

How does a watch tell time? A watch needs three key elements in order to function correctly: a source of energy, a mechanism to regulate time, and a display. The energy source can be electronic (like a battery) or mechanical (like a wound spring). The mechanism that regulates time, also called the watch movement, is usually either a mechanical movement or a quartz movement. The display shows the time and can be analog or digital. In short, the energy source powers the movement which tells time via the display.

What is a quartz movement? The quartz movement has only been around for 40 years when it was discovered that quartz crystals can actually conduct voltage when compressed. The battery sends electrical energy to the quartz crystals, which in turn creates a pulse at regular intervals. That constant pulse is passed on to a motor that converts the electrical energy into mechanical energy. The benefit to quartz watches is that both the consumer and the manufacturer get an affordable and reliable watch.

What is jewel movement? Jewel movement is all about efficiency. Inside the watch, tiny synthetic crystals are set between the gears in order to reduce friction. Watch parts are continually in motion, and jewels maintain better heat resistance and hold lubrication better than any metal. These jewels are also very hard so they resist abrasion and decrease friction on the moving metal parts. Jewels keep a watch moving!

Does more jewels mean a better watch? There are multiple levels of jewel movement but more jewels does not necessarily mean a better watch. It usually means that the watch uses a more complicated movement or that extra jewels have been added to further reduce friction. There is essentially no intrinsic value to the jewels themselves so don't let anyone tell you that more jewels makes the watch worth more.

What is a mechanical movement? Automatic? A mechanical movement uses energy from a wound spring and keeps time through the regulated release of that energy. A typical mechanical movement can keep time for about 40 hours, at which point it will need to be re-wound in order to continue keeping accurate time. An automatic mechanical movement is the same as a mechanical movement, however the spring is wound automatically from the movement of the wearers arm. An internal rotor turns in response to motion thus supplying the needed energy to wind the mainspring. No batteries needed!

My watch claims to be water resistant. What does that mean? Water resistant watches (without depth indication) should never be submerged in water, as they are meant to handle accidental splashes of water only. If the watch does not have a have a depth indication, it will likely begin to leak when submerged. Water tested watches use rubber gaskets to seal the case back, others allow you to screw in the crown to prevent leakage. High levels of water resistance are indicated by increasingly higher depth measurements, usually in meters. If you are looking for a watch to take surfing, it's best to purchase one rated to at least 100m (330 feet). Divers watches are usually rated at 200m (660ft) so anything rated between the two is suitable.

What is the best way to clean my watch? If you are talking about cleaning the exterior of the watch, a simple soap and water solution and a soft cloth will do the trick. If you have a scratch in the crystal, you can try to buff it out with plain old toothpaste and a little elbow grease. The interior of a watch is extremely delicate, and should only be cleaned by professionals. For the most part, only watches with mechanical movements will need to be cleaned internally, as dust and small particles can impede performance.

Why all the fuss over Swiss watches? Are they really worth it? Frankly, it depends. If you are a watch connoisseur, then you already know that Swiss watches are world renowned for their outstanding accuracy and quality. The Swiss have always been one step ahead of the game, creating the first wristwatch, the first quartz watch, pioneering water resistance, and other such accomplishments. In order for a watch to truly be classified as "Swiss", it must have a Swiss movement that was set into it's case in Switzerland, by a manufacturer of Swiss descent. Simple right? If you are not a watch connoisseur, then you are likely just looking for something that catches your eye, and keeps good time. There is no question that you get what you pay for when it comes to a timepiece, but there are many excellent watch brands outside of the Swiss lineup.

What is a chronograph? What is a chronometer? A chronograph is a watch that tells time and also allows you to time short events at custom intervals. Simply put, a chronograph is a watch with stopwatch functionality. Often used in sports such as running and swimming, the chronograph is an important feature to many athletes. Many may think that a chronometer is the same thing, but they are completely different. A chronometer is a watch that has been certified for accuracy by the COSC, an official Swiss government agency. While this may sound prestigious, 95% of watches tested make the cut. So while a COSC rating may be good, it is not necessary.

How long will my watch battery last? Most watch batteries will last for three to five years, depending on the complexity of the watch. The more functions you use one a daily basis, the shorter your battery life will be. Replacing a battery is a simple process, but should be left to a jeweler for warranty purposes. Always ensure that the case back is re-sealed properly in order to keep out dust particles and maintain water resistance.

Will a tide watch always work for my location? In most instances, yes. Tide watches are either pre-programmed for hundreds of different beaches around the world, or allow the user to set the watch with custom tide data. There may be certain areas with unusual tide patterns that cause the tide watch to malfunction but this is rare. If you are on the East or West coast of the United States, you can bet that any tide watch give you pretty accurate tide data.

I think my watch is broken, what should I do? Most of the time, a broken watch just means a dead battery. If your watch no longer tells time, the first thing you should do is call the manufacturer. They know their watches better than anyone else and in most instances can either diagnose the issue or fix it. If you believe there is another issue with the watch (it is taking on water or a dial is broken) we still recommend that you call the manufacturer. If the watch is still under warranty and the issue is a manufacturer's defect, you should be covered. They may send you a replacement watch or offer to fix the one you have.

Why is buying a watch from an authorized retailer important? Many manufacturers will only honor their warranties if the item is purchased from an authorized retailer. You also have to question the authenticity of a watch purchased from an unauthorized source. And yes, we are an authorized retailer of every watch brand we carry.

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