The anatomy of a luxury watch is as complex as the human body. For the average watch owner, taking one apart may be as daunting as performing surgery, but for Peter Evans, the resident watchmaker here at Hamra Jewelers, it’s just another day in the operating room.
We believe that the best way to care for your luxury watch is to know what makes it tick … literally. So today, Peter gives us a course on Watch Anatomy 101.
The watch bracelet is what keeps your expensive timepiece securely on your wrist. They may be made of steel, gold, platinum, or leather, and may be inlaid with gems as a decorative touch.
The most important part of the bracelet is the clasp, which Peter says is one mark of a quality timepiece.
“Keeping it on your wrist is very important, especially when you’re talking about a luxury watch. So those are made with very, very high quality.”
The biggest body part of a luxury watch is the case, which connects to the bracelet. Together, these two components make up the outside of a watch.
The case’s main job is to protect the inside movement, as well as the dial and hands. These parts are all easily damaged by everyday activities and the elements — especially water.
“Even if you’re not a professional diver or someone who goes yachting on the weekends, you come into contact with a lot more water than you’d expect: washing your hands, giving the dog or the baby a bath, getting caught in the rain, doing maintenance around your house and putting your hand in a bucket of water — not to mention your normal sweat and humidity in the air,” Peter says.
To combat the deluge, luxury watch cases always include gaskets. These little rubber rings create a pressure seal that keeps the movement free from water, dust, and lint. But even gaskets aren’t always impermeable — they only have a shelf life of 3-5 years before they need to be replaced.
“Then you’re back to being barely dust-proof at that point,” Peter says.
The next piece is the most easily recognized part of a luxury watch, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets the name right.
“Clocks have faces,” Peter says. “Watches have dials.”
The dial serves as the backdrop for the watch’s numbers and hands, as well as the date indicator or other features that your watch may include.
“It’s probably one of the most important parts of the watch that doesn’t actually do anything,” Peter says. “It doesn’t move, it doesn’t light up. It doesn’t do anything but show you the time based on where the hands are.”
Along with the case, the dial is the main focal point of a luxury watch, and often features precious metals, gems, or mother of pearl.
Inside the watch, things get a bit weightier.
Inside all automatic watches is a crescent-shaped weight anchored by a central axis. As you move your wrist throughout the day, the weight swings back and forth and automatically winds your watch. 95 percent of Rolex watches have automatic movements, making this oscillating weight a major component of luxury watches.
Balance Wheel and Hairspring
With the weight powering a luxury watch, the majority of the work is left to the dynamic duo that is the balance wheel and hairspring. These two work together to create the “heartbeat” or ticking of the watch. The balance wheel rotates, which adds tension to the hairspring, a very fine strip of metal that is coiled around itself like a snail’s shell. The hairspring’s release drives the balance wheel back past its starting position, forming one “tick” of the watch.
These workhorses are the most commonly repaired piece of your luxury watch, especially the hairspring.
“It’s really susceptible to shocks, and people really beat up their watches,” Pete says. “If you bang it around enough, that spring moves out of place and then it stops keeping time, and I have to put it all back in the right spot.”
One way to assess the quality of your watch is to simply look for the jewels — and we don’t mean the decorative ones on the outside. Many luxury brands use tiny, specially cut jewels as bearings in the watch movement. They create a smooth surface for the movement, which cuts down on friction and makes the parts last longer. So the more jewels your watch has, the higher quality it is, and the longer it will last.
None of the tiny, hair-thin components in a luxury watch would work properly without proper lubrication. Each watch has a few different oils and lubricants that must be applied in just the right place and quantity to keep things running smoothly.
Peter says dried oil and lubrication is one of the biggest problems he sees when he takes a watch in for repair. Most luxury watch brands recommend relubricating every 5 years or so (Rolex recommends 5-7), but unfortunately, watches often go significantly longer before getting the proper service.
Thinking of purchasing a luxury watch? Hamra Jewelers is happy to assist you every step of the way, from choosing the perfect timepiece to maintaining your investment. To see our collection of luxury watches, visit our showroom or give us a call at 480-946-5110.