automatic-mechanical-movement

There are many watch enthusiasts out there, often surfing the web one can find pages and pages on technical details regarding movement mechanisms such as: Tourbillon, Escapement bridge, Pallet bridge, Ratchet, Plaque, etc, etc; all very beautiful and interesting but often not very useful for the most common and used watches.
 
In these cases we are talking about technical aspects of watches that cost even tens of thousands of Euro.
I will provide you with information to better understand the most used watches on the market, which apparently all seem alike.
 

Let's start with basic information then we will introduce more complex and technical aspects.

 

 

How many times I have heard collocation phrases like:

hear tell say listen to problems

 

  • My watch resists water very well !
  • What do I do if water gets into the watch ?
  • I never thought it wouldn’t resists water, there is written Water Resistant !
  • After replacing the battery water got in, before it held great !
  • At the shop, when replacing the battery they scratched the Back case !
  • At the shop, when replacing the battery they ruined one of the Back case screws !
  • The glass on my watch got scratched, yet they sold it to me as scratch-resistant !
  • Why does my Watch cause red spots and irritation on my skin !
  • Ahh, I cannot wear watches because I am allergic to nickel !
  • My Bicolour Watch, the Gilding got ruined very quickly !

 

 

You will find these and other answers in the section: Why did it happen?

And these are just a few examples, I could write 1 full page of topics, fundamentally many people are not familiar with some aspects, or they were not properly explained to them by the shop assistants or simply they did not read the whole instruction booklet to the last page, including the words in small print; don’t worry, it happens to me too sometimes! How many read instruction booklets and manuals 100%? Almost nobody.
I am always available to update or expand topics that you might point out.
 
Nowadays one can easily find substantial differences in the elements and materials used to build the structure of commercial watches, and less on the mechanism; Cases, bracelets, bracelet joints, leather straps, glass, treatments and baths made on various metals, back cases, fasteners, and other small (but not predictable) details.
 
The building quality is also reflected later in possible maintenance, like for example the “simple” changing of the watch’s Battery.
 
 

Metals used in Watches

In watches, one generally uses metals such as: Steel, Stainless Steel, Nickel-Free Stainless Steel, Titanium, Super Titanium, Gold, Silver and Platinum.
This does not prevent the use of less precious metals such as Brass (later Chrome- or Gold-plated), or Poor-quality alloys, used on very cheap watches, hoping to see them less and less, because these metals or shoddy and cheap alloys often create allergy problems, even to people who normally have never had similar problems.
In this case the phrases "the less you spend and the less you have" or "the more you spend and the more you have" are absolutely right (in general).
To people who have an allergy to Nickel, I say: don’t give up on the pleasure of wearing a nice watch, all you need to do is choose the right one.
In the market there are some Brands which use Nickel-Free Steel, stated or certified (e.g. 316L alloy Steel with a very low content), some Brand have committed in this direction, and offer a good selection at commercial prices, thus you can make your purchase with confidence and peace of mind.
 
The other very effective alternative (but with less choice), is Titanium, this metal has properties known to be hypoallergenic and in addition has the advantage of being much lighter than Steel about 40% less.
As I mentioned, in this case the choice of models is much more limited, in fact not many Brands offer catalogue models in Titanium, while other Brands have believed in this "Metal", increasing over the years their collection of Titanium Watches, creating even special alloys, such as Super Titanium Ti+IP alloys, which  offer less weight, high resistance, and a pleasing colour, nearly identical to Steel.
These Metals and materials used, not only guarantee usability to anyone, but remain more unchanged over time as they have fewer problems with oxidation, rust, wear, etc.
 
 

Watch glass

The 3 most commonly used materials are: Mineral Glass (Glass / Crystal), Sapphire Glass (Synthetic Sapphire), Acrylic Glass (Plastic / Plexiglas).
 

Cristal mineral Glass

The most widely used is Mineral Glass, what some people wrongly call scratch-resistant, why did I specify  Glass / Crystal and not simply Glass or simply Crystal? The difference between the 2 (similar) materials, is well known, Crystal is Glass that has been melted again with the addition of lead oxide to increase its strength and brightness. Almost all manufacturers do not give these specific directions, all one knows is that the Mineral Glass used in most cases is Crystal but without specifying details, resistance, class or other, only in isolated cases one sets Mineral Glass with treatments aimed at increasing its resistance to “scratching” but without further specifications.
 
Mineral glass, average hardness 6 on the Mohs scale, given that the exact components may vary.
At the beginning we said: “mistakenly called scratch-resistant”, this term is used incorrectly by many, as actually, this is a durable material, but that does not mean that it does not get scratched, it is definitely harder to ruin compared to Acrylic Glass. Once scratched it is difficult to smooth and polish, one needs special machinery and specific abrasive products, this operation often costs as much as the Glass itself or more and one is not guaranteed a perfect result, so it is quicker to simply replace it with a new one.
 

Sapphire Glass

create-sapphire-crystalsThe most valuable and resistant ever (at the moment), is Synthetic Sapphire (synthesized in the laboratory), its use is spreading a little at a time, it is usually put in standard on Watches by valuable brands, and on some collections of “medium” commercial-end Watches. It is to be preferred whenever possible, to choose a Watch featuring Sapphire Glass, but this should not affect the choice from the beginning, it can be a bonus that helps in deciding between the various models selected. In some models by prestigious Brands  non-glare Sapphire glass is also used, which increases the feeling of transparency while avoiding most glare.
Synthetic Sapphire glass, hardness 9 on the Mohs scale.
 
 

Acrylic-Plastic Glass

Often, simply called Plastic Glass or Plexiglas, used often on inexpensive watches or those made in Plastic, but in some cases simply chosen for style reasons, some Watches by fine Brands, have chosen it to produce Vintage-style Watches.
It is easy to scratch, but it is fairly simple to smooth it and polish it.
Commercially one uses, various terms to indicate an Acrylic Glass (Plastic, Plexiglas, etc.), because also in this case there are various kinds and types of it, depending on the mixture used to make the plastic material. Usually one calls Plexiglas, that higher-quality Acrylic Glass, while with the word Plastic Glass, one means standard-production Acrylic Glass.
 
 

Water Resistance (W.R.)

table water resistant watches water resistance watch
 
This is a simple but delicate topic, often underestimated, the biggest problems arise from the fact that many watches bear the writing Water Resistant on the Back Case; with the presence of such writing many "naively" think that the watch is Resistant to Water, instead this is completely wrong; if one goes and reads carefully the instructions booklet provided by the manufacturers, one will notice that it always includes a table with Water Resistant reference and observing it well one can understand that a watch that features this statement, is totally unsuitable to use with water; the manufacturer's Warranty, provides no coverage for the possible entry of water in the watch, in these cases, as one has misused it.
 
 
You will say, why write it? Wouldn’t it be better not to write anything in this case?
I fully agree with you, given the utter uselessness of this single writing! But… the laws are clear and they  are shown on the tables in the instruction booklet / manuals, so the producers are "officially" fair and have properly informed the user.
If one wants to use the Watch in water, or even just wet it with water, one has to buy watches featuring on the Back case the writing Water Resistant followed by the writing 3, 5, 10, ... Bar/ATM. Here we find ourselves in front of watches manufactured and guaranteed with a water Resistance of 30, 50, 100, or more, meters (m.), but carefully read the instructions on the table, because depending on the Bar/ATM marked, there are restrictions on their use, that if not followed may void the warranty; Some may think: how can they prove that it wasn’t used properly under water as reported? There are modern tools used for Water-Resistance tests (very precise), which carry out a Dry Air Test, which make it possible to check, with no margin for error. Below I have included a water Resistance summarizing Table for watches, which I have created by doing a summary of the Tables provided by the major manufacturers (for each Brand refer to what is printed on the instruction booklet / manual). My table is therefore an example to understand better, but Not an absolute point of reference.
 
Another consideration: how am I using or will use the Watch?; shower, swimming, snorkelling, scuba-diving, etc; depending on the use one can understand what is the parameter of Water Resistance best suited to our needs, if one is looking for a watch that goes beyond the simple W. R. of 10, 20, 30,…, one can find on the market Watch lines with W.R. of 10, 20, 30 Bar/ATM followed by writing Diver. These watches have been subjected to tests, specific checks and inspections, may sometimes hold the ISO6425 certificate, so we are talking about Professional Water Resistant Watches, these watches must meet precise quality standards in order to ensure safety and reliability when diving in Salty water; Tests can be carried out to all or part of the produced watches, receiving an ISO6425 certification.
We have indicated the parameters of W.R. in Bar/ATM, as actually these are 2 different measurement scales, but with such a slight difference that manufacturers, commonly use one or the other indifferently; therefore some Brands on the Back Case state W.R. 10, 20, ... Bar, and others state W.R. 10, 20, ... ATM; the practical purpose for you does not change.
 
Please Note: Many underestimate the use of the watch in the shower, but one must be very careful as the watch is subjected to beating hot water, this situation increases the "stress" and the expansion of metals and seals causing water to penetrate more easily.
 
 

Watch with PVD and Plating

A quick clarification between watches with Plating treatment in Gold, Rhodium, etc., and watches with PVD treatment in Gold, Rosé, etc.
pvd-physical-vapor-depositionThe PVD technique (Physical Vapour Deposition), is different from the conventional Electroplating, it seems to be confirmed by various manufacturers that the PVD Technique gives better results in terms of the duration of the covering treatment, in fact as you can see in the picture, a layer of Titanium is deposited over the Steel structure, followed by a layer of Gold or of another material that can confer the desired colour, in this way the PVD Technique is able to obtain a very hard surface, furthermore it has a low environmental impact compared to conventional Electroplating.
 
In traditional Electroplating one could obtain better or worse treatments / covering depending on the thickness of the cover one laid on, a few years ago the best Plating was that of 10 Micron in thickness.
They are 2 different techniques, but as often happens on the market, things overlap and are "aligned verbally" and sometimes confused.

In recent years the use of the PVD technique as a treatment for watches has increasingly spread, today we do not know how many Brands use one method rather than the other (they do not always officially declare it), but Brands of a certain importance, now use only the PVD Technique.
The PVD Technique gives a higher resistance over time and the possibility to apply a wider range of colours.
In case of Plating instead the quality generally differs in reporting the Micron thickness of the covering, therefore one can have (or had) very light Plating up to those of 10 Micron; a good Plating typically starts from 3 Micron upwards.
 
 

Watch Movement Mechanisms

The main movement mechanisms used on wristwatches are: Quartz, Eco Drive, Kinetic, Auto-Mechanic, Mechanical Hand-Wound, the most important ones are: Quartz, Eco Drive, and Auto-Mechanic, those numerically prevailing on the world market are Quartz.
 eco-drive-charge-of-light-for-watches

 

  • Quartz Movement Mechanisms: meaning those electronic Movement Mechanisms (analogue, digital or ana-digi), structured with an electronic circuit powered by a battery.automatic-mechanical-movement-oscillating-weight
  • Eco Drive Movement Mechanisms: meaning those electronic Movement Mechanisms, structured with an electronic circuit powered by a accumulator charged by the transformation of electric light (natural and/or artificial) into electric power.
  • Kinetic Movement Mechanisms: meaning those electronic Movement Mechanisms, structured with an electronic circuit powered by a battery that is charged by the movement of a "rotor", using kinetic energy.
  • Mechanical-Automatic Movement Mechanisms: meaning those Movement Mechanisms completely mechanical, entirely devoid of electronics, powered by a spring that is loaded via a "rotor" (as in picture on the right, marked in Blue).
  • Mechanical Hand-Wound Movement Mechanisms: meaning those Movement Mechanisms completely mechanical, entirely devoid of electronics, powered by a spring that is manually loaded by turning the setting “crown" (wheel).

 

 

 

Watch dials

clock-dial-in-natural-mother-pearl-diamondsThis part of the Watch is not always observed with the proper attention, observing the construction details on some brand-name watches one can notice how this watch component can feature a high constructive complexity. Variety, type and quality of construction reach huge differences, from the dials of commercial watches that cost a few €/$, reaching even cost of hundreds of €/$ on limited edition pieces or pieces with hand-crafted finishing; the costs may rise further, in the presence of gemstone inserts. Often in commercial watches the dial has a background of simply painted metal with the addition of Indexes or Numbers, while in brand-name watches the dial is made of several layers of various materials, where particular processing is applied to increase its value.
Here you can see a detail of a dial (from a well-known Brand), in genuine mother-of-pearl, with natural Diamonds fixed on the Indexes, please take note of the accuracy, the attention to detail and the quality of the materials used, by observing it well one can be able to fully appreciate the beauty of this high level of craftsmanship.
 
 

Watch Straps and Bracelets

There are important differences that you can find in this important part of your watch, not only for its high aesthetic impact, but for the quality of the materials used, lust like in watch cases, we can see the variety of metals that can be found. The strap or bracelet determines the ease of wear of the watch itself, its overall weight and its aesthetic beauty.
Straps in Watches can be made of: Leather, Fabric, Plastic, Rubber, Vegan Leather, etc., often you can find 2 or more of these materials together to create particular and more resistant straps.
 
structure-watch-bracelet-componentsIn Very cheap Watches, one may find straps in Vegan leather with a sort of “cardboard” padding (fortunately this is increasingly rare), Natural leather straps in different colours and varying quality, as it often happens we start off with few €/$ until we get to several hundred €/$ for top quality and valuable types of leather, used by important Brands. The difference can also be found in materials such as Plastic, Rubber, Silicone Rubber, but even in this case, often quality "pays", in terms of wearability and durability.
In Watches with Metal bracelets, we will find many differences, even at a construction and assembly level (on the left you can find an example). Currently the most widely used metal is Steel, in some cases producers favour the use of Titanium to promote resistance and lightness, while if one wants to enhance the watch one can use a combination of Steel and Gold structure-in-steel-gold-bracelet-watchor simply Gold. In the case of Steel and Gold bracelets one can also notice substantial differences between manufacturers, on the right I have included an example of the structure most commonly used today, the  thickness of the Gold used to make these bracelets can vary from Brand to Brand, in some cases (few), they make only the outside in Gold without the Steel structure. Anyway they have a good durability and resistance over time.
 
 
 

Why did it happen?

questions doubts and perplexities

Let’s go back to the initial comments and provide further explanation:
  • My watch resists water very well !
Do not push your luck, the fact that you used your watch in water and nothing ever happened, does not mean it couldn’t, on that day you will not be able to blame anyone, not even if you think it possible the damage might have been caused by a change in the battery, a repair of the watch or any other similar intervention; is your Watch W.R. ? If Yes, how many Bar/ATM? Have you ever tested it for Water Resistance ? The watch may have been built by the manufacturer as W.R. 3, 5,..., but over time, over the years the gaskets and the various components may have aged, worn out, or in any case may no longer be suitable for use in water. Remember that a tiny opening, crack or ruined area is enough for water to get inside your watch.
 
 
  • What do I do if water gets into the watch ?
Take it as soon as possible to a good watchmaker who will dry it and carry out an Inspection of the Movement Mechanism; once that is done it would be a good idea to understand how the water got in and solve such problem, so as to avoid it happening again; alternatively from that moment onwards one must absolutely avoid using it in water.
 
 
  • I never thought it wouldn’t resists water, there is written Water Resistant !
We suggest you read the Paragraph: Water Resistance (W.R.)
 
 
  • After replacing the battery water got in, before it held great !
From the start we cannot blame or not blame the person who changed the battery, carried out a repair or other.
If a watchmaker does his job properly, when he receives a watch resistant to water for 3, 5, 10, ... Bar / ATM, he should ask: do you want to carry out a Water Resistance Test or an Impermeability Test ? For those who have a laboratory and are equipped with modern tools, a Water Resistance Test is carried out dry, in Air pressure environments and/or in vacuum, Water Resistance Tests are carried out in just a few minutes and are fairly cheap. Therefore the watch will be returned with a changed battery and/or repairs carried out, accompanied by an inspection stub printed by the machine which carried out the Water Resistance Test, indicating which and how many Tests were carried out and the results obtained. This Water Resistance Test is doubly important, it serves to protect you who will have peace of mind regarding Water resistance and at the same time it protects the professional who has carried out the job, since the Water Resistance Test shows that the watch was delivered Water Resistant. Remember, time, wear, hits and other could affect the watertight features of the watch; the topic is not trivial because all the watch needs to risk water getting in is just a small structural instability! Because of this, the higher the number of Bar/ATM is, the greater will your peace of mind be when you are using it in Water.
 
 
  • At the shop, when replacing the battery they scratched the Back case !
  • At the shop, when replacing the battery they ruined one of the Back case screws !
These like other similar problems, could be due to the Lack of professionalism on the part of the watchmaker, but that is not always the case. For further explanations on the issues we invite you to read the analysis, How to Change the Battery to the Watch.
To summarize: you should know that sometimes it can be the inexperience or lack of preparation of a professional, when it comes to in certain repairs; all you can do is find one that is better and more competent.
In other cases (few), accidents can happen even to people who are very experienced, this is due to the Poor structure of some Watches or to wear in certain parts, unfortunately manufacturers, do not reflect enough on post-production intervention problems such as changing or replacing the battery, replacing/changing the straps or other components, or even regarding simple maintenance; there are borderline cases, sometimes, where there are no slots for opening, or badly positioned, or too small, sometimes non-existent! When they use screws to secure the back case, that have “little grip”, or are made with Metals that rust easily, or soft Metal that can be ruined even by the perfect screwdriver! Etc., etc. Who is to blame or to take responsibility ? The professional watchmaker or someone else…? I have seen cases so "absurd" and unpredictable (some would call them "borderline cases"), that I too can understand how the "normal user" might not fully understand the difficulties which in some cases may be encountered, on jobs that are “apparently” trivial, not very demanding or anyway “ordinary”!
 
 
--- This makes one think!!! What do you say!?! ---
 
 
  • The glass on my watch got scratched, yet they sold it to me as scratch-resistant !
See Paragraph: Watch Glass (Mineral glass).
 
 
  • Why does my Watch cause red spots and irritation on my skin !
  • Ahh, I cannot wear watches because I am allergic to nickel !
See Paragraph: Metals used in Watchmaking.
 
 
  • My Bicolour Watch, the Gilding got ruined very quickly !
See Paragraph: PVD and Plating.