The jewels race: When do extra jewels make a difference in value for collectors?

Lee Passarella

NAWCC Member
Jul 8, 2015
425
679
93
Country
Region
This may be the sort of dumb question that even surpasses the kind assurance on the Forums that "there are no dumb questions." But why does the seeming cache that increased jewel count confers on watches not carry over to all examples? Is it a matter of rarity or manufacturing quality or both? For example, why are some 24-jewel watches valued far less than one would expect them to be supposing that the higher the count, the greater the value? If that is not a reasonable dictum in collecting circles, I'd like to know. I'm sure there are some collectors and sellers who apply this dictum, maybe selectively, to watches they own or want to sell. I recall one seller telling me that a fixer-upper was worth getting because it was a "23-jewel railroad watch."
I hear repeatedly that 17 is the number of jewels that are truly significant to quality performance in a watch. So, supposing that the additional jewels are like the fairly superfluous add-ons that let car makers sell an LE car for a couple thousand more than an SE model, is that what we are really dealing with? a somewhat cynical move by watch companies to provide luxury treatment that wasn't really essential to the functioning of a watch? Thus the additional jewels is not what gives a watch cache with collectors but the sheer fact that 24- and 25-jewel watches would have been produced in low numbers for the show-off crowd and so are valuable simply by virtue of their rarity?
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,162
859
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
Dumb basically means one cannot speak which would make asking questions a little difficult.
There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. I'll try not to give a stupid answer and I'm sure there will be others who can improve on my words.
That jewels are not absolutely necessary for timepieces to function is evident in the numbers produced that managed to keep time for at least as long as they were maintained.
Jewels reduce friction and keep the oil in place longer, which makes them desirable in improving the performance and reliability of the movement
In manually wound timepieces;
7 jewels appears to render quite a lot of mechanisms accurate enough for the requirements of the purchasers.
More like 15 are the basic full jewel count for a watch to remain accurate enough for longer life.
17 jewels are an improvement in the longevity of maintained accuracy and 21 jewels increase accuracy and longevity further by adding endstones or cap jewels on existing jewels.
Higher end watches usually also came with extra endstones and jewels on both ends of the centre wheel and barrel arbor.
Thus some manually wound movements can display 23 and 25 jewels as legitimate jewel fittings.

Further complications such as automatic winding systems chronograph and calendar mechanisms etc., may well see the need for extra jewelling but most can get away with a number between 21 to 28.
Repeaters and the like of further complications will also increase the number of jewels deemed to be necessary for high end function and longevity.

I've serviced watches with 50 jewels and upwards. While it is true that they may seem unnecessary and in most cases simply be bling, this does not always hold true.
Instances of watches with extra jewels in the calendar ring, looks like bling and likely is but it also could be that it saves the extra wear that may have ensued from the particular design and therefore extend the life if not the accuracy.
There is more to say but I'll stop here.
 
Last edited:

karlmansson

Registered User
Apr 20, 2013
2,790
188
63
Linköping, Sweden
Country
There was a period in time when this very question caused some manufacturers to put jewels in movements that were more or less decorative. The jewels themselves are not valuable (anymore) so it's the application, where and how, of the jewels that makes the watch better or worse with high or low jewel count. But as roughbarked points out above, a higher jewel count implies that greater care and consideration was taken towards longevity, accuracy and servicablility. I.e. a better watch.

I think that the word to take away from the appraisal of your fixer upper was "railroad". Or possibly the combination of the two statements. It being a railroad grade watch tells you more about the standards it was made to than the amount of jewels in the watch.

Regards
Karl
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,162
859
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
There are jewels and there are jewels. As one oil company paraded, oils ain't oils..
Decorative takes on a whole new concept.
Many watches may have been decorated with real jewels too.
The real issue is the fitting of any so called jewel. This costs more and can easily push the price into regions that should have been reserved for better quality usage.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: grtnev

karlmansson

Registered User
Apr 20, 2013
2,790
188
63
Linköping, Sweden
Country
There are jewels and there are jewels. As one oil company paraded, oils ain't oils..
Decorative takes on a whole new concept.
Many watches may have been decorated with real jewels too.
The real issue is the fitting of any so called jewel. This costs more and can easily push the price into regions that should have been reserved for better quality usage.
I wasn't referring to paveéd cases and such. Some, less distingushing, manufacturers put more jewels in than was warranted by function of the watch and also increased the jewel count on the dial. I don't have a concrete example of this so maybe a poorly made point by me.

Still, there are poorly made watches with 21 jewels and very well made watches with 7. But from a good manufacturer, in a high end line of watches, a high jewel count will reflect quality rather than an attempted inflation in price.
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,162
859
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
In all accuracy though, even in
I wasn't referring to paveéd cases and such. Some, less distingushing, manufacturers put more jewels in than was warranted by function of the watch and also increased the jewel count on the dial. I don't have a concrete example of this so maybe a poorly made point by me.

Still, there are poorly made watches with 21 jewels and very well made watches with 7. But from a good manufacturer, in a high end line of watches, a high jewel count will reflect quality rather than an attempted inflation in price.
In all attempts at accuracy though, even in as you say; "in a poorly made watch", 21 jewels is still going to keep it more accurate for a longer period. If an attempt was made to put them in correct positions.
Basically it has been a long time since jewelling numbers mattered. Yes it carried on for far longer than it should.
 
Last edited:

DeweyC

NAWCC Member
Feb 5, 2007
2,421
981
113
Baltimore
www.historictimekeepers.com
Country
In all accuracy though, even in

In all attempts at accuracy though, even in as you say; "in a poorly made watch", 21 jewels is still going to keep it more accurate for a longer period. If an attempt was made to put them in correct positions.
Basically it has been a long time since jewelling numbers mattered. Yes it carried on for far longer than it should.
While I have a couple 950s for completeness, I am more enamored with the 972, 974 and 978s, These watches are of the same build quality as the 992 with the main exception being (for the non 972s) the balance assembly which is lighter and are not adjusted to five positions. I am ignoring jewel setting material.

My observations document that virtually any part could have been destined for any watch in the Hamilton 16s line (again excluding jewel settings and sapphire pallet jewels). Unlike other makers Hamilton did not grade parts according to tolerance and finish. Everything was made on the same tooling to the same standard.. For example, all pinions are finished to the same quality; no "U"and "A" finishes.

So; the better ENGINEERED product is the 972. It left the factory to the same standards as the 992 but with a more efficient use of parts. This was the Hamilton philosophy exemplified when they insisted (unsuccessfully) that the M22 would be at least equal the M21 and the USN should buy only the M22.

I have taken to the time to adjust a 974 to the same specs as a 992. But it takes some effort because the balance assembly is not as good as an oscillator as the higher grades. It wants to be wound more frequently in 24 hours for best results (maintain amplitude as in automatic wind watches).

While here, I had a conversation with a locomotive driver who told me the main thing the supervisors cared about was the state of wind on the watch. There was a big fine if it was too run down. So they got into the habit of winding their watches a couple times per shift.

Knowing railroaders did not make a lot of money, it would be interesting to know the sales figures for the 972 vs 992 to working people. Hamilton made far too many 996 and above for just the RR market. Especially when you realize these men (which they were) often carried the same watch for 20 years or more.

My personal opinion (which is all it is) is that marketing "RR watches" was a way to express "quality" for those who appreciated and could afford more than a lower grade option. And Hamilton protected its brand (and kept production costs down) by having one standard of parts finish.

I once did an analysis of replacement parts cost vis price lists for the various grades and it became clear to me that the price difference between a 972/954 and a 992 was driven mostly by perceived value and not parts.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
As others have already said here, jewels in mechanical watch movements have both functional and cosmetic attributes. Generally speaking, and I'm sure there may be exceptions, American watch manufacturers put the most jewels in their highest quality, best made and most carefully adjusted products - or at least, in the movements they wanted the public to regard as their best made and adjusted products. Railroad watch standards probably helped to reinforce the notion that quality was synonymous with jewel count.

As watch manufacturers succeeded in bringing reliable timepieces within the reach of citizens of average means and watch prices fell, manufacturers had to develop creative means of inducing more affluent buyers to invest in watches that were more expensive than they actually needed. The concept of "quality" in the watch market was never defined exclusively by timekeeping performance. A gold case, which was seen as an obvious "quality" feature, has nothing to do with timekeeping performance, and indeed, many movements of indifferent finish or performance were cased in gold. So the distinction between quality and mere timekeeping performance was always present in the market for manufacturers to expand upon. Jewels, which provided increasingly marginal performance improvements after the first fifteen, were an obvious way of distinguishing implicit quality levels in a way the public could easily comprehend and quantify. Fifteen jewels originally was considered "full jeweled," and most agreed that 23 jewels was the sensible limit for a time-only watch movement. But once the "jewel count = quality level" notion had been firmly instilled in public perceptions, the table was set for the jewel packing competiton that ensued between companies such as Illinois, Columbus, Seth Thomas, and Rockford during which jewel counts reached 24, 25, 26 and in one instance, even 28 jewels [edit: per Fred's subsequent comment: reports of a 28 jewel Seth Thomas Maiden Lane may be apocryphal].

Different manufacturers evidently approached jeweling differently. At Waltham, the higher jeweled movements also tended to have more precisely made, and/or better finished parts. Jewel counts reached 19, less frequently 20, and very rarely even 21 jewels in their early American Watch Company Grade keywind production. These jewels were also ruby or sapphire (crystalline alumina, Mohs hardness of 9.0), rather than chrysoberyl (crystalline beryllium aluminate, Mohs hardness of 8.5) on the lower grade production. Shown here is AWCo grade 20 Size movement SN 150,048, with Fogg's patented vibrating hairspring stud [an allegedly isochronous regulator], which is a candidate for the first 21 jewel American watch. (At least one other 21 jewel example from this same run reportedly is known, but I am not aware of its serial number. Most examples from this run have only 20 jewels, as only the top pivot hole for the vibrating stud arbor is jeweled. However, SN 150,048 has both holes jeweled. The fourth image attached shows the 21st jewel, on the dial plate.) Conversely, until the mid-1890s, nearly all E. Howard & Co. watches had fifteen jewels, regardless of grade (though the first run of fifty divided plate keywinds [Series I's] had seventeen jewels, and even fewer very early EH&Co movements [such as SN 185] had only seven). At Hamilton, Dewey pointed out that watch parts were made and finished to uniform standards regardless of grade. At the E. Howard Watch Co. of Waltham, some Series 0 movements were made with superfluously jeweled ruby banking pins, as a cheaper way of elevating the jewel count of the movement to 23 without going to the expense of jeweling the mainspring barrel. Across the pond, at least one English maker, James Hoddell, was exporting 23 jewel time-only movements to the US as early as the 1850's, whereas most English makers adhered to conservative jeweling practices more like Edward Howard's. Mid-19th century English pocket chronometers, which enjoyed the highest contemporaneous reputation among English watches, typically had no more than thirteen jewels (as the spring detent escapement itself needed only one jewel, rather than the three required by a lever escapement). Perhaps someone else can comment on Swiss jeweling practices in the 19th century.

DSCN0243.JPG DSCN0245.JPG DSCN0251.JPG DSCN0205.JPG DSCN0188.JPG DSCN0189.JPG DSCN0193.JPG DSCN0194.JPG DSCN0196 (2).JPG DSCN0196.JPG
 
Last edited:

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
I cannot comment on 19th century Swiss jeweling (though I know they went with a more high-jewel route than the English on their best production). But the Gruen Watch Co. from the mid-'20s to the '50s took an interesting approach to jeweling. As far as I know, their jeweling philosophy was unique among 20th century manufacturers.

Gruen (bought or) manufactured 100% of their watch movements in Switzerland between 1914 and 1946. During that time, import tariffs were a significant drag on the import economy, particularly for high-end watches (anything over 17 jewels was subject to a punitive tariff in order to protect the American industry). In 1930, that tariff became much more punitive and Gruen stopped importing movements with more than 17 jewels.

**
Only one problem - Gruen had worked to build a reputation for quality, and they were now in danger of losing the jeweling race (and with it, some portion of their sales and reputation). The only thing to do was to use the jewels as efficiently as possible, so at some point, the Gruen master watchmakers sat down at a table and asked themselves, "What is the maximum timekeeping accuracy that we can get out of 17 jewels?"

Their answer: remove the jewels from the center wheel, and cap the escape wheel instead.
**

Every new manual Gruen caliber from the mid-'20s until at least the end of the '50s followed this philosophy. The escape wheel is always capped if the watch has 17 jewels, and the center wheel runs in a bushing*. (*Late 17 jewel watches with the improved sweep seconds train have a jeweled center wheel and capped escape wheel, due to that train having one less wheel in it.)

This is especially notable on the calibers 115 and V4. Early examples of both calibers are jeweled to the center wheel like normal; examples from the late '20s and early '30s (at the end of the production runs) have an unjewelled center wheel and capped escape wheel. So they felt strongly enough about their philosophy to change long-established models to conform (the V4 was built from c.1906 to c.1930 - about 25 years!).

No doubt, this philosophy had roots in the Swiss idea that jeweling the center wheel was unnecessary. Many very fine Swiss movements of the era carried 15 jewels, and many others carried 17 of which only 16 were properly functional (center wheel jeweled on top only, escape wheel on capped top only - useless jewel). These watches actually appear to have more jewels than a Gruen, which again points that Gruen had some reason for doing it the way they did.

At least you can say for Gruen that capping both sides of the escape wheel (rather than one) is more honest as a jeweling procedure. But there's plenty of wear on all those center wheel bushings. I would guess that they were right about the short-term timekeeping - but at this point it is clear that it was a mistake if the watches were intended to last a lifetime. (Of course, this being Gruen, they were not really worried about long-term timekeeping. Gruen was pivoting to a "wristwatches as fashion" advertising model around the same time - I suspect that they were planning for first owners of their watches to use them for only a few years before upgrading to a more fashionable model.)

** Lines between the asterisks are speculative. No record of the company jeweling philosophy exists. The rest of the post is factual.
 
Last edited:

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
The first run of American Watch Company Grade 20 Size keywinds, which were movements that were begun at the Nashua Watch Company, had 19 jewels and no center hole jewels. Instead, the pallet arbor and escape wheel both were capped. Some early 16 jewel Appleton, Tracy & Co. Model 1857 Walthams and 18 jewel AWCo Grade Model 1868 Walthams had hole jewels on only the dial plate side of the center wheel, while 16 jewel Am'n Grade Model 1872 Walthams had hole jewels only on the top plate side of the center wheel.
 
Last edited:

Lee Passarella

NAWCC Member
Jul 8, 2015
425
679
93
Country
Region
I suppose it wasn't such a dumb, stupid, inane, jejune, or fatuous question after all, given all the responses it received. Thanks, all! I have yet to digest your responses fully, but I'm sure there is good reading here for many more members than just me.

But just to advance a part of the question in my original post that might not have been fully answered, the "23-jewel railroad watch" I mentioned is a Hampden New Railway. So a part of the question should be, why is this watch generally valued less (and maybe far less) than 23-jewel watches by Hamilton and Illinois that are also railroad grade? In this case, I assume the reputation of the manufacturer comes into play more than rarity or other factors. So all things being equal (including relative rarity), are there inherent factors that make similar Hamilton and Illinois watches (much) more collectible?
 
Last edited:

musicguy

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Jan 12, 2017
7,595
4,118
113
New York State
Country

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
You have to understand that past 15 jewels, the jewels don't really have much bearing on the actual value of the watch (though they serve as a useful proxy for it, most of the time).

The actual value of the watch, when new, lay in the engineering behind the design, the quality of the construction, and the time spent adjusting the finished watch. And, for collectors, the condition of the watch, the reputation of its brand (which is largely based on the new value factors), and the scarcity/rarity also become major factors - probably outweighing the value factors of a new watch, since none of us are using these watches as our only timekeepers.

From the 15 jewel base pocket watch, here's what the extra jewels do, and this is the order in which they're typically added. The center wheel jewels (17) add significant durability. The escape wheel caps (19) improve timekeeping by a minute amount and keep dust off the pivots, which adds to reliability; the pallet fork caps (21) do not improve timekeeping, but do keep dust off the pivots. This is where normal jeweling ends, as any gains after this point won't affect timekeeping.

Any barrel jewels add additional durability to the barrel assembly, though if they're not functional while the watch is running, they're not adding much. (I'm looking at you, Hampden... only the 16s Model 5 has useful barrel jewels). With a clever design, such as the Hamilton, early Keystone Howard, or late Illinois jeweled barrels (23), the jeweled pivots function both while winding and while running, reducing running friction significantly, and reducing wear to nothing. The Waltham and early Illinois safety barrel jewels only function while running (23), which is more important, but wear from winding is possible (and you can't see the jewels - they're internal. No bling factor here!). The Hampden, Rockford, Columbus, Seth Thomas, &c visible jewels (23) only function while winding, which is basically pointless. They do prevent wear from winding, but they don't prevent the far more significant and substantial wear from running. A very few of the watches from Columbus, Seth Thomas, &c have Waltham-type internal jeweling and the visible jewels too, meaning that the jeweling functions during both winding and running (25). This is the highest functional peak jewel count that is typically seen. Note however, that these 25 jewel watches are equaled by 23 jewel watches of better design. And in combination with a few of the ideas below, you can get a watch with an even higher jewel count.

Some other manufacturers did other things to reach higher jewel counts without jeweling the barrel:
- Late Keystone Howards use ruby banking pins, which add no value to timekeeping or durability.
- Rockford, Illinois, Buren and others capped the second wheel, which does nothing except keeping dirt out of it.
- A very few watches here and there have cap jewels on wheels that normally don't see cap jewels. The Waltham Ultimatum capped the center wheel :):???::), and every now and again you'll find a pocket watch with a capped third wheel (not recommended since it carries the seconds hand).
- A late Swiss Waltham design capped every train jewel on both upper and lower plates, making a 25 jewel watch from a 17 jewel base. The idea was to keep things cleaner, and the jewels didn't actually interact with the pivots, unlike normal cap jewels. I would imagine that it kept things cleaner, but aside from that represents no improvement over 17 jewels.

You will find 19 jewel watches that are 17+barrel jewels, because of a strange railroad rule that was in place for a few years. And there are some other outliers (later Illinois and Hamilton 12s dress watches for one, and also Waltham treated barrel jeweling as more important than cap jeweling up until about WWII). But otherwise, this should be good as a rule.

Wristwatches follow different rules (notably, pallets are almost never capped after 1930), and there are lots of superfluous cap jewels on the train from pretty much every maker after WWII (in yet another outbreak of the jeweling wars).

The thing is though, jewels counts above 15 nearly all contribute to durability and reliability, not timekeeping. Now, jewels are pretty cheap, but they still cost money. So there's no point in throwing them at watches without good enough execution or design to need extra durability or reliability. Your typical watch was not adjusted well enough that you would notice the marginal gains you get from capping the escape wheel. And it wasn't designed to last so long that barrel wear would ever be a problem. So why bother? (Well, unless you're trying to cheat the market - see e.g. the Elgin 411. But no reputable maker can sell very many of that sort of watch without shooting themselves in the foot.)

However, when you've poured your heart and soul (and time, lots and lots and lots of time) into a "Masterpiece" top of the line model (say, a Hamilton 922), surely it deserves the best of everything! And sure enough, the 922 is a 23 jewel watch. So a higher jewel count goes with higher quality. But the quality is in making the parts better, and fitting them better, and adjusting them better, not in the jewel count itself.

The public has always liked to simplify to easy things like number of jewels. There was a Swiss company (I don't remember which) importing 23 jewel, 2 adjustment fake railroad watches for a while. They were banking on gullible customers, and I'm sure they succeeded. The watches were junk, but they were not lying about the jewel count - their watches really did have 23 jewels in them (of course, many other similar frauds did lie about the jewel count! Most Swiss Fakes have very few real jewels in them). In this case, the lack of value was due to the poor design, poor execution, and lack of adjustment, not the jewels. And when you see one, you'll understand - because it looks like junk!

Hampden is not known for great designs, or great finishing, or great adjustment (though the best Hampdens were RR standard and many can still perform at that level after a service). Hamilton is known for all three of those things (and their best models sometimes perform at that level even without service). Consequently Hamiltons are more valued, and valuable.
 
Last edited:

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Whoa! I'm not sure at all that the dissertation on jeweled barrels in post #14 is entirely factual. It's my understanding that even though not a major contribution to timekeeping accuracy, motor barrels and safety barrels, when jeweled, do add to timekeeping abilities to a small degree. Particularly, after years of use.

I was unaware that Illinois or Hamilton had "safety" barrels as opposed to motor barrels. They are not the same thing, so elaboration on that would be helpful. I also thought that the Hampden Model 4 had a more complex jeweled barrel than the model 5, but both were "useful" safety-types.

There's also some ambiguity in the statements made, because of a lack of specifics involving models and sizes. IE: "A very few of the watches from Columbus, Seth Thomas, &c have Waltham-type internal jeweling and the visible jewels too, meaning that the jeweling functions during both winding and running (25)." Which ones? And, were the "basically pointless" visible jewels referred to, only on 18s models from the manufacturers you named?

I'm fascinated by barrel designs and jeweling...so please...more details!!! Thanks!
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
I agree that jeweled barrels allow accuracy to remain the same after years of use - they don't wear out. They also reduce friction somewhat. I do not think that that automatically means that they improve the watch's timekeeping, except from a reliability/durability perspective. After all, a slightly stronger mainspring could make up for the tiny extra frictional loss. After years of use, they definitely help - I was not trying to deny that. In the present day, there can be a very big difference between a watch with jeweled barrel and one without in terms of how well they keep time! But I suggest that that was not true at the time of manufacture (except in the sense that a better-adjusted watch keeps better time).

I point to the 19j Bunn 16s vs. 21j Bunn Special, and the 19j B. W. Raymond vs. the 21j Father Time (18s 3/4 plate or 16s, your choice) as examples. Both 19 jewel watches have jeweled barrels, and both 21 jewel watches do not - but the 21j watches were considered better watches and priced accordingly. I do not conclude that the 21 jewel watches were better (except, perhaps, in adjustment) - rather, I conclude that the train performance was equal. In particular, the 18s Elgins differ only in that the 21 jewel version has its (identical) barrel running in bushings instead of jewels (and of course the capped pallet fork).

I believe information about Hamilton's 992B and 950B exists that could help resolve this. It has been some years since I read it though. Something about total frictional losses in the train. I seem to recall that there was no difference between them.

Early Illinois watches (16s and most 18s) use a barrel that I had understood to be functionally the same as Waltham's safety barrel. Others can correct me if I am wrong. I have not personally disassembled an Illinois internally jeweled barrel.

I never said that Hamilton used a "safety barrel", and I specifically left the term "motor barrel" out of my post, lest people get confused. I know what the difference is. But I would suggest that we not go down that road.

If the Hampden Model 4 barrel is functional, I would love to learn about it. I know very little about the Model 4. I only know about the Model 5 because I own one (and about the 18s because I used to own a Special Railway).

I was trying to speak in general terms about the smaller American watch companies, which is why I didn't give details. For watches with doubly-jeweled barrels, I was referring to 25 jewel 18 size watches from Columbus (the [R. R.] King) and Seth Thomas (the Maiden Lane). They are the only ones that I know my statement is true for, and are also vanishingly rare. Possibly other makers did something similar (Illinois?) but I wished to stick to statements I can prove.

For "basically pointless" jewels, I was referring to pairs of barrel jewels (or single jewels) that would function only during winding. I was thinking of 18s watches when I made the list of manufacturers, but I believe it to be true across the board. Rockford, Columbus and Seth Thomas never built 16s (or smaller) designs with jeweled barrels that I am aware of. I had already mentioned that Hampden made a 16s watch that has functional jeweling. I left Illinois off (though it should have been included) because things get too confusing when Illinois is present in all three categories of high-jewel watches! (The three categories I presented were: internally jeweled, visibly jeweled, and barely-functional visibly jeweled.)

Illinois is the only company I know of where a lower-jewel-count watch has better functional properties than a higher one made at the same time! (I refer to the 23 jewel 18s Bunn Special, compared to the 24 jewel 18s Bunn Special.)
 

Jerry Treiman

NAWCC Member
Golden Circle
Aug 25, 2000
6,746
2,878
113
Los Angeles, CA
Country
Region
The Waltham and early Illinois safety barrel jewels only function while running
With regard to Waltham, the jewels in their jeweled mainwheel functioned both during winding and running, although the un-jeweled uppermost and lowermost pivots/bearings also saw friction during winding.
08-barrel.jpg

Waltham treated barrel jeweling as more important than cap jeweling up until about WWII
When I was doing research in the Waltham archives at Harvard’s Baker Library I came across a 1903 letter from Waltham’s president, Ezra Fitch, to Robbins & Appleton (Waltham’s sales agents) in which he discussed their plan to substitute the jeweled main wheel for the pallet cap jewels on 21j Vanguard and Crescent St. as this would “… substitute a very useful improvement for the most troublesome pair of cap jewels, which would also seem to be a sufficient reason for the advance in price”. I note that neither justification involves timekeeping improvement. I, personally, believe that cap jewels at the pallet and escape wheel do reduce friction in dial-up and dial-down positions, allowing for freer movement of these two essential elements of the escapement. Considering that many lay their watches flat overnight this is an important consideration.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
I suppose it wasn't such a dumb, stupid, inane, jejune, or fatuous question after all, given all the responses it received. Thanks, all! I have yet to digest your responses fully, but I'm sure there is good reading here for many more members than just me.

...
To the contrary, Lee, I think your question was apposite, lucid, perspicuous, piquant, and even perspicacious.
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
When I was doing research in the Waltham archives at Harvard’s Baker Library I came across a 1903 letter from Waltham’s president, Ezra Fitch, to Robbins & Appleton (Waltham’s sales agents) in which he discussed their plan to substitute the jeweled main wheel for the pallet cap jewels on 21j Vanguard and Crescent St. as this would “… substitute a very useful improvement for the most troublesome pair of cap jewels, which would also seem to be a sufficient reason for the advance in price”. I note that neither justification involves timekeeping improvement. I, personally, believe that cap jewels at the pallet and escape wheel do reduce friction in dial-up and dial-down positions, allowing for freer movement of these two essential elements of the escapement. Considering that many lay their watches flat overnight this is an important consideration.
Prior to this thread, I had never heard what Waltham's rationale actually was for leaning so hard into barrel jeweling. Thank you!

It was a particularly interesting question to me since the other big makers (Illinois, Elgin, and Hamilton) definitely did not make such a big deal about barrel jewels.

Waltham improvements order, c. 1920 (all watches):
17 jewels + internally jeweled safety barrel (19j, e.g. Riverside) + escape caps (21j, e.g. Crescent St.) + pallet caps (23j Vanguard, Maximus)
There are a very few Walthams that omit the jeweled barrel and have 21 jewels (some Maximus for example).

Elgin improvements order, c. 1920 (railroad watches):
17 jewels + pallet caps (19j B. W. Raymond) + escape caps (21j Father Time) + visibly jeweled safety barrel (23j Veritas)

Hamilton and Illinois improvements order, c. 1920 (railroad watches):
17 jewels + jeweled motor barrel (19j Hamilton 996, 952; Illinois Bunn et al.)
17 jewels + escape caps + pallet caps (21j Hamiton 992 et al; Illinois Bunn Special et al.)
17 jewels + jeweled motor barrel + escape caps + pallet caps (23j 950; Illinois Sangamo Special et al.)


I would be interested to hear what the problems were, exactly, with the pallet cap jewels. I have heard that they are problematic, but generally the statement takes the form of the one in the letter you quote - no detail as to why.

I point to the 19j Bunn 16s vs. 21j Bunn Special, and the 19j B. W. Raymond vs. the 21j Father Time (18s 3/4 plate or 16s, your choice) as examples. Both 19 jewel watches have jeweled barrels, and both 21 jewel watches do not - but the 21j watches were considered better watches and priced accordingly. I do not conclude that the 21 jewel watches were better (except, perhaps, in adjustment) - rather, I conclude that the train performance was equal. In particular, the 18s Elgins differ only in that the 21 jewel version has its (identical) barrel running in bushings instead of jewels (and of course the capped pallet fork).
Fixing my own errata:
The 16s 19j B. W. Raymond I refer to in the quoted paragraph is an early model that uses a jeweled barrel. Elgin switched this model to a capped pallet fork before 1920.

"I do not conclude that the 21 jewel watches were better (except, perhaps, in adjustment) - rather, I conclude that the train performance was equal." -- In fact, the performance of the 21 jewel train should have been very slightly better due to having caps on the escape wheel (and pallet fork, though I am ambivalent about whether those actually improve timekeeping in an absolute sense). I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote the original -- but I wrote it late at night, I suppose that is enough reason.

The end of the paragraph should read, "capped pallet fork and escape wheel)."
 
Last edited:

vintageguy

NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Oct 27, 2013
319
519
93
58
Minnesota
Country
Region
But why does the seeming cache that increased jewel count confers on watches not carry over to all examples?
What a great thread this is, Lee! I've learned more about jeweling and its impact on performance and durability from reading this thread than from all the other scattered resources I've reviewed over my eight years of collecting. And thanks to all the posters who spent a significant amount of time, thought and energy preparing their contributions. Nice!
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Sponsor
Aug 24, 2000
83,965
1,911
113
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
This is an interesting thread but I am concerned about the references to cap jewels on the second wheel and a second hand on the third wheel.

I believe when naming the wheels (or arbors), the main wheel is number one and the second wheel is the center arbor. The third wheel is the intermediate wheel in the train and the fourth wheel carries the second hand on sub second watches.

I suppose one could call the escape wheel the "5th wheel." The pallet arbor and balance arbor are the remaining moving elements and they oscillate rather than rotate.

All seven arbors are candidates for friction reduction although it only does much for the faster moving ones. It is possible to put cap jewels on all the arbors, but the 4th wheel and the second wheel have hands attached to them which prevents a cap jewel from appearing there.

Two of my favorite watches are the Rockford 300 and 305 23 jewel models which have cap jewels on the third wheel just to increase the jewel count. It makes them look nice also.

The Waltham Swiss imports that were the farewell song of the production were sold in a 25 jewel version with the Waltham patented "Reservoil" system that put a second hole jewel and a cap jewel for each train wheel in an attachment covering the back plate. The claim was that placing a drop of oil in each of these oil reservoirs would ensure fresh oil on those pivots. The 25 jewel Walthams only have cap jewels on the balance.
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
My apologies, you are correct with regard to counting the wheels. My comments above about a second wheel should be addressing the third wheel, and third wheel, the fourth. Obviously one cannot cap both ends of the center wheel. It was a stupid mistake. I should have checked a diagram - I don't think of the train wheels by their names very often.

Those Rockfords are really nice!

I know little about the Waltham Reservoil system. You say there is an extra cap and hole jewel on the attachment on the back plate? That would make 25 jewels, but... what good would the extra hole jewel do on each fitting? Were the pivots extra long to reach the oil? Or was it supposed to move by capillary action?

I had assumed that there was another attachment on the other side of the movement with more cap jewels on it, thus my comments.
 

Tom McIntyre

Technical Admin
Staff member
NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Ruby Member
Sponsor
Aug 24, 2000
83,965
1,911
113
84
Boston
awco.org
Country
Region
Most watchmakers think the reservoil is just a gimmick to allow them to legally write 25 jewels on the dial. There is nothing different about the underlying movement from any other 17J Waltham import. It even has the 17 jewel engraving under the attachment. The hole jewel and cap jewel together form a little bottle of oil with the cap off turned upside down over the pivots if the watch is lying face down. I have never seen one in the original box, but perhaps there was a note to the owner telling them to be sure to lay the watch down on its face overnight for best effect. Even then there would not be much transfer unless one used a very light oil.

I recently heard that the Swiss Waltham company had purchased the North American rights to the brand and may be planning to introduce some higher grade Waltham wristwatches back into the U.S. I pre-ordered a couple of the Depolier Field and Marine watches they are producing with Watch Angels.
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
Fascinating information! It seems pretty useless if it is only applied to the top pivots of the train, but gimmicks are gimmicks I suppose.

I should add to this thread generally that I am not an expert in this subject (in case you hadn't figured it out yet from my mistakes). This subject fascinates me, and I have been picking up tidbits here and there over 10+ years of reading on this forum and others. When I saw this question, I wanted to try to put the information I had gathered together in one place, since the bits and pieces I found were very widely scattered. Hopefully my presentation was not too misleading. Please keep correcting where there are errors.

Some additional thoughts on friction:
- One of the big goals in making accurate watches is to lower running friction as much as possible.
- Hole jewels drastically lower friction (large change), and cap jewels lower it even more (small change).
- The faster the wheel is turning, the more adding jewels will help to reduce friction.
- Theoretically all cap jewels lessen the amount of friction in the train, but on slow-turning wheels the degree of actual improvement is very small. For some cap jewels on some watches, it may be small enough to vanish into a measurement's margin of error.
- Theoretically, cap jewels have no effect on wear. They only improve frictional properties. This is because a cap jewel improves on a hole jewel, and a hole jewel should reduce wear to essentially nothing already.
- In real life, any and all cap jewels help significantly with wear by keeping the pivots clean.
- Ideally jewels should be applied in pairs for the most consistent effects on friction and/or wear.
- Watch trains with lower friction allow for greater accuracy, due to a combination of factors which an expert could explain better than myself.
- My understanding is that the Hamilton 992B and 950B represent the pinnacle of American watchmaking in terms of reducing friction in the train.

Regarding the quality of watch vs. its jeweling:
- Adding jewels without re-engineering the underlying watch design to benefit from the lower friction does little to improve timekeeping (particularly in a theoretical sense - after all, in the real world, higher-jeweled watches were generally adjusted better, and therefore performed better).
- Adding jewels to a watch, if that is all that is done, will not improve the timekeeping of a watch in any meaningful way.
- The quality of construction of the watch determines (in a theoretical sense) how good a timekeeper that watch can be.
- The actual adjustments applied to the watch will determine its real-world timekeeping ability.
- Time spent in adjustment accounts for much of the sticker price of a high-grade watch.
- Quality watches can often be adjusted to railroad standards, even though they were not built or adjusted in that way out of the factory, because they have quality construction. (However, you'll have to pay to have those adjustments done by a watchmaker now. And it's still very expensive.)
- Very highly adjusted 15 jewel watches are proof that it doesn't require a high jewel count to produce superlative timekeeping, but they are more susceptible to losing that timekeeping if not kept oiled. Higher jeweled watches will take more abuse due to having better wear characteristics.
 
Last edited:

Fred Hansen

NAWCC Member
Aug 18, 2002
5,445
573
113
Country
Great thread! One note to add though is that I believe the 26 jewel Illinois (18 size only, approximately 270 made) is the highest jewel count from a major American maker.

I don’t believe a 28 jewel Seth Thomas actually exists, as the example pictured as such in the Shugart price guide is in reality a 25 jewel watch (though with a bit of ambiguity as to whether it may have once had one additional jewel due to a bushing currently peened beneath its barrel).

Also I don’t believe a 26 jewel 16 size Illinois actually exists, as although a production run is listed as such in the Illinois serial list the watches I’ve seen from this run have all been 23 jewel movements.

All that said - I’d love to see something to prove me wrong on any of these points.
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Moving from accuracy to run time...Illinois touted jeweled barrels as a way not only to reduce friction but allow the use of a thinner mainspring to increase run time and improve isochronism. This - from the company that came up with 60-hours of run time. Might be something to it eh?

Illinois SMB Advantages .jpg
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Regarding post #17 - especially "Something about total frictional losses in the train." While what's stated may well be true, it likely comes down to the "tuning" of elements in the entire train. My reasoning is based on facts about frictional coefficients between steel and brass (.44-.50) as would exist in a watch where pivots ran against bushings. Jewels (sapphires and diamonds) against steel have a Cf of .10-.15 by comparison.

My "hunch" is that once RR Standards got tough, the most direct way to improve the performance of a 17-jewel watch to meet the standard (metallurgy being a bit more primitive 100-years ago) would have been more about not increasing friction in the train than to reduce it. In other words - jewel the barrel!

Once metallurgy, surface finishing, and interchangeability were improved, Hamilton's choice to use a jeweled barrel in the 950B, seems to me, more a matter of marketing to a prestige market, than an engineering decision.
 

terry hall

NAWCC Brass Member
Apr 12, 2001
7,106
522
113
Central North Carolina
Country
Region
Moving from accuracy to run time...Illinois touted jeweled barrels as a way not only to reduce friction but allow the use of a thinner mainspring to increase run time and improve isochronism. This - from the company that came up with 60-hours of run time. Might be something to it eh?

View attachment 658642
to tag onto this post.... first two from a boxed watch package, condition was not really good..
Third from Megger's Illinois Encyclopedia, fourth from a folding phamplet

5067087 23j bunn motor barrel paper b crop.jpg 5067087 23j bunn motor barrel paper crop.jpg Ill motor barrel.jpg illfoldpamphletjeldbarrel.jpg
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
Thanks for the illustration of early and late Illinois barrels. It would appear to me, looking at the diagram, that the early Illinois barrel that your last illustration shows is not a safety barrel, because it drives from the outer end of the mainspring. Therefore its proper description would be a 'jeweled going barrel' (as it functions in the same manner as a regular going barrel, only with jewels added). Otherwise it is very similar to the Waltham design. Regarding wear, the Illinois and Waltham appear to have identical characteristics (that is, wear while running is eliminated, but some wear from winding could still occur). The big difference between them is that the Waltham drives the train from the inner end of the mainspring, which makes it safer in the event of a mainspring breakage (thus the term 'safety barrel').

The late Illinois barrel described in the first three illustrations is a completely different (and definitely Superior) design.
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Virtually all jeweled barrels - going, motor, safety - work like the ones in these illustrations. I'm a major fan of the jeweled safety barrel, although I seek out all types and will pay more for clean examples. (Thus, for me, answering Lee's original question.
When do extra jewels make a difference in value for collectors?

Barrel Types .jpg
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
On the other hand, I'm reluctant to spend extra on so-called "smokestack" jewels. There are always exceptions, but since the consensus seems to be that anything over 17-19 jewels does little if anything for timekeeping, durability, run-time, and general functionality, the decision to spend more on higher jewel counts, is typically down to finish and sheer beauty. Web C. Ball might have said it best:

Smokestack Jewels .jpg
 

musicguy

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Jan 12, 2017
7,595
4,118
113
New York State
Country
What I would want to pay more for in terms of extra jewels......

I love the 19j watches with the exposed jeweled barrel. I don't care if
it's for show or does not improve the timing . I have collected
Elgins, Hamiltons, Illinois and a Hampden(now sold) all with this exposed
jewel on the ratchet wheel. I think they look great. In reference to the OP's question
about paying more for more jewels, I would pay more
for one of these than I would for a regular 21j watch.


1608584518458.png



I just added this photo in case someone new does not know what I am referring to.

20210614_133510.png

Rob
 

ben_hutcherson

NAWCC Member
Jul 15, 2009
3,162
360
83
Kentucky
Country
Region
This is a good and interesting discussion.

As a couple of general comments:

1. This has been hinted at, but jewels are not inherently a mark of quality. As an example, Illinois made some 21j watches that were only adjusted to temperature and otherwise thoroughly mid-grade watches. The Walthm 21j 83 model is inferior in fit and adjustment to the better grades(AT&Co, gr. 35, and especially the Crescent St).

2. With that said, any time I reassemble a non-full-plate watch, I generally will wind it a few clicks without the pallet fork installed. In many cases, those with straight pivots on the escape wheel tend to only "bounce back" once(I think this is called backlash) or maybe twice if everything is perfect. Good 21j watches can sit there and go for several seconds. That in and of itself is, for me, evidence that cap jewels at least on the relatively fast escape wheel do make a difference.

3. I see upsides and downsides to cap jewels on the fork. The fork does run very fast, so in theory the reduced friction should help. Also, the correct endshake and sideshake is critical to ensure proper engagement between the escape wheel and the pallet jewels, as well as the interaction between the roller jewel and fork and the safety dart and safety roller. A hole and cap jewel assembly with conical pivots is, in my experience, tends to not wear in a way that will increase either of these as compared to straight pivots.

4. Jewel count is not necessarily directly correlated to value. Many collectors like "the best of the best" and it's often the case that the highest grade/best watches from a given time period of a given model are often(but not always) the ones with the highest jewel count. There are things that can be appealing about a higher jeweled watch as well. As an example the 23 and 24j 18 size Illinois Bunn Specials are both superb watches. The 23j version is both less common and I'd argue a better watch(jeweled barrel vs. capped 3rd wheel and a barrel jewel that only functions during winding) but the 24j remains, for the most part, the more desireable and higher valued one. I think that the big jewel in a gold setting on the barrel bridge is too "sexy" for a lot of collectors to pass up.

At the same time, though, look at the value of a 7 or 11j Hamilton as compared to a 946 or 950...
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Looks like we're back to friction issues. It explains Ben's observations and makes a decent argument for more highly jeweled movements. Although, because it makes for a lot of complexity for a little improvement, I'm still with Music Guy on the matter.

The conical pivot (1) requires two jewels for a bearing, a cap jewel (5) and pierced jewel (6). Unlike the cylindrical pivot, the conical pivot has no "shoulder" and uses the cap jewel to determine the end-shake of the wheel pinion (3). This arrangement provides lower friction than the single-jewel cylindrical pivot arrangement. Generally, friction on the conical pivot occurs only at the tip of the pinion on the lower cap jewel (3) or, in a vertical position of the watch (a horizontal position of the pinion) on the thin edges of the holes in the two pierced jewels (6).
The conical pivot is usually used on the balance wheel and, sometimes, on the escape wheel.


The cylindrical pivot (1) has the advantage of simplicity, robustness, and low cost. The friction of the cylindrical pivot is relatively high compared to the two-jewel arrangement used with the conical pivot. This friction results from the relatively thick jewel hole (2) and the pivot shoulder-rubbing on the backside of the jewel (3) on the lower pivot (depending on the position of the watch).
The cylindrical pivot is used for the mainspring barrel and gear train of the watch. The balance wheel usually uses a conical pivot, as does the escape wheel in many finer watches.

jewel.cap-.jpg jewel.straight-.jpg
 

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,481
874
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
To the original question, I suggest the answer is that, at least in the sales I have seen, jewel counts over 23 add to the cost significantly, especially 25 and 26 jewel watches. Value is in the mind of the owner. There is a mild bump for 24 jewel watches, but I have been "married" to mine for along time.

I have seen this frendzy for these jewel counts at many auctions.

In terms of value, at 23 and below the other factors such are desirability rarity and condition dominate. After sale adding jewels usually lowers the value of an America watch.

One brief US watch fashion was for 19 jewel watches. Someone, I think Ball published an article reporting the most accurate watches they handled were 19 jewel.

Swiss makers were not a monolith and had varying approaches. Most Patek Philippe pocket watches had 18 jewels and extra jewels in my experience do not significantly add "value" unless they designate special items. Competition watches often had unusual jeweling and are not always marked. The jewel patterns of these also add "value". It is not the jewel count but what a collector thinks the pattern signifies.

For most watches the Swiss tended to minimize jewel count in response to tariff based on jewel count, when these were in effect. Other makers went for bling and oftern a high jewel count on a Swiss watch is a not a sign of high quality. The rule is that there isn't one.

I have long heard the English makers disliked high jewel counts and regarded them as an American abomination. I have several very fine English watches with high jewel counts and some were clearly for the English market, which shows that not all makers minimized jeweling. In England, most high end watches were made to order and if the customer wanted a high jewel count that is what they got.
 

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
On a totally different tack - I just remembered the "long-wind " Waterbury literature tried to make a virtue of having no jewels, as a result of its being a "poor man's" tourbillon. They claimed that the simplicity of the design (less than half the parts of conventional watches) and the rotation of the movement in the case, reduced wear and friction to levels that made jewels unnecessary for accurate timekeeping.

Since these "dollar" watches, especially the skeleton versions, are now often worth as much or more than jeweled ones - where does that take the original premise of this discussion?

$_57 (7)--.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: roughbarked

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
Great thread! One note to add though is that I believe the 26 jewel Illinois (18 size only, approximately 270 made) is the highest jewel count from a major American maker.

I don’t believe a 28 jewel Seth Thomas actually exists, as the example pictured as such in the Shugart price guide is in reality a 25 jewel watch (though with a bit of ambiguity as to whether it may have once had one additional jewel due to a bushing currently peened beneath its barrel).

Also I don’t believe a 26 jewel 16 size Illinois actually exists, as although a production run is listed as such in the Illinois serial list the watches I’ve seen from this run have all been 23 jewel movements.

All that said - I’d love to see something to prove me wrong on any of these points.
Hi Fred, my previous post has been edited to indicate that reports of a 28 jewel American watch (a Seth Thomas Maiden Lane) may be apocryphal. Thanks for pointing this out.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
On a totally different tack - I just remembered the "long-wind " Waterbury literature tried to make a virtue of having no jewels, as a result of its being a "poor man's" tourbillon. They claimed that the simplicity of the design (less than half the parts of conventional watches) and the rotation of the movement in the case, reduced wear and friction to levels that made jewels unnecessary for accurate timekeeping.

Since these "dollar" watches, especially the skeleton versions, are now often worth as much or more than jeweled ones - where does that take the original premise of this discussion?

View attachment 659104
KipW, as I'm sure you knew, jeweling is only one aspect of a watch that affects its value. Some watches have significant value despite having few jewels, or even no jewels at all, on account of other factors, such as novelty and rarity. But your observation doesn't change the fact that jewel count usually makes a difference when comparing the market values of otherwise similar watches with different numbers of jewels.
 
Last edited:

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
To the original question, I suggest the answer is that, at least in the sales I have seen, jewel counts over 23 add to the cost significantly, especially 25 and 26 jewel watches. Value is in the mind of the owner. There is a mild bump for 24 jewel watches, but I have been "married" to mine for along time.

I have seen this frendzy for these jewel counts at many auctions.

In terms of value, at 23 and below the other factors such are desirability rarity and condition dominate. After sale adding jewels usually lowers the value of an America watch.

One brief US watch fashion was for 19 jewel watches. Someone, I think Ball published an article reporting the most accurate watches they handled were 19 jewel.

Swiss makers were not a monolith and had varying approaches. Most Patek Philippe pocket watches had 18 jewels and extra jewels in my experience do not significantly add "value" unless they designate special items. Competition watches often had unusual jeweling and are not always marked. The jewel patterns of these also add "value". It is not the jewel count but what a collector thinks the pattern signifies.

For most watches the Swiss tended to minimize jewel count in response to tariff based on jewel count, when these were in effect. Other makers went for bling and oftern a high jewel count on a Swiss watch is a not a sign of high quality. The rule is that there isn't one.

I have long heard the English makers disliked high jewel counts and regarded them as an American abomination. I have several very fine English watches with high jewel counts and some were clearly for the English market, which shows that not all makers minimized jeweling. In England, most high end watches were made to order and if the customer wanted a high jewel count that is what they got.
Jon, I'm curious to know what the jeweling configuration is on the 18 jewel Pateks. Can you say? Thanks.
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,162
859
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
Haven't pulled a Patek like these down. However it could be a jewelled center? Some have endstone on escape but others don't. They all have 18 jewels. Edit: all the non-complicated manual movements.


This watch has 27 jewels
 
Last edited:

KipW

NAWCC Member
Mar 24, 2015
110
91
28
Country
Clint, I agree with everything you said. IMO the "value" of a Waterbury long wind derives from a few features. Namely, the skeleton aspect of the early models, and the movement rotation in the case, both essentially "novelties". It's also a rare watch in the sense few have survived. However, one more aspect is historically important, the fact that it was/is the only totally original American design. All others are derivative of European layouts that existed for centuries. No doubt Yankee ingenuity, improved on many details of design, but none were completely "first principle" engineering, like the Waterbury. Then there's the price, back in the day. The first "Roskoff" proletariat-type watch from this nation and godfather to the true dollar watch. So, there's genuine collector value in that, I would think.

The power of jewels (and plate variations) in conventional watches, is frequently magnified in people's minds because it's a simplistic way to differentiate, between otherwise seemingly similar designs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Clint Geller

Dr. Jon

Moderator
NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
6,481
874
113
New Hampshire
Country
Region
I have seen a lot of Pateks marked 18J. My quick on-line auction search showed that they do not jewel the dial side center and they cap the escape wheel. It is like a typical US 19 but without the lower center jewel.
 

Clint Geller

Gibbs Literary Award
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Jul 12, 2002
2,189
1,657
113
67
Pittsburgh, PA
clintgeller.com
Country
Region
I have seen a lot of Pateks marked 18J. My quick on-line auction search showed that they do not jewel the dial side center and they cap the escape wheel. It is like a typical US 19 but without the lower center jewel.
So they are jeweled like 18 jewel Waltham Model 1868's or the first run of AWCo Grade Model 1872's. I'm wondering why Patek, or Waltham for that matter in an earlier time, chose that configuration. Perhaps they figured that center hole jewels were basically only cosmetic anyway, so it made sense only to jewel the visible side.
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,162
859
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
So they are jeweled like 18 jewel Waltham Model 1868's or the first run of AWCo Grade Model 1872's. I'm wondering why Patek, or Waltham for that matter in an earlier time, chose that configuration. Perhaps they figured that center hole jewels were basically only cosmetic anyway, so it made sense only to jewel the visible side.
It does depend on the materials they make the main plates from but I've seen quite a few Swiss watches banging the hands on the dial because the center was worn out.
 

thesnark17

Registered User
Jul 11, 2020
72
69
18
Country
Region
I suspect that a watch's expected lifespan is a part of it too. How many years does it take to wear out a lower center bearing? I would imagine that even without proper service, it would still take a while.

Jeweled watches were supposed to last a long time, but I do not think the manufacturers were thinking on a timeframe longer than, say, 30-50 years. (Historically, 30 years is plenty of time for a big change in style, necessitating a need for a new watch, and 50 years is about as long as you could expect someone to use a single watch.) And of course, worn center bearings can be replaced if needed.

I have always considered that jeweling only the top of the center wheel is all about eye appeal - the same reason that on much higher-end watches, sometimes you see a single jewel on top of the barrel. The single jewel is cheap compared to the markup you can get for including it.

The customer gets what they pay for, but sometimes they pay for pure cosmetics!

I know that the market pays what the market pays, but for myself, an 18s 23j Bunn Special has more value than an 18s 24j Bunn Special because the jewels are more functional. (The 26 jewel version combines the best of both worlds, but I'll never have the money for one of those!)
 

musicguy

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Sponsor
Jan 12, 2017
7,595
4,118
113
New York State
Country
The customer gets what they pay for, but sometimes they pay for pure cosmetics!
:) But we like cosmetics and do give value to them
like damaskeening, plate design (3 finger bridges etc etc) engraving, diamond end stones, dials,
Hands, special names on the movement(and dial) and much more.
Yes it's a lot of marketing but it gives us interesting variations
to collect. And yes I do believe have added value.

Like many others here I have never been purely influenced by jewels when I
purchase a watch, but "in general" they do speak to the value of the watch
on the open market.

Hopefully people do not try to compare jewel count in watches from the
20th century with ones from the 19th century. I love many of the 15 jewel
watches from the 1860's and 1870's and 1880's



Rob
 

Forum statistics

Threads
166,231
Messages
1,448,295
Members
86,745
Latest member
Timemaestro
Encyclopedia Pages
1,057
Total wiki contributions
2,906
Last edit
NAWCC Online Structure and Operation by Tom McIntyre