Time to talk about watches: Get with the movement

When we think about heirlooms, you probably think of gemstones instead of watches. But watches are symbols of amazing craftsmanship, collectable, and, in my opinion, totally fascinating.

The artistry of a mechanical watch movement

You know what a watch looks like from the outside, but what’s going on inside the casing? Here are three types of movements:

1. Mechanical: Before batteries, watches were all mechanical. These watches were first developed in the 17th century, and haven’t changed that much:

  • They’re operated by a spring, which is wound by its stem.
  • A weighted wheel goes back and forth and moves forward a small amount with each swing.
  • That action moves the watch’s hands forward (and makes that ticking sound that you hear in mechanical watches).
  • The second hand on a mechanical watch sweeps around the face.
  • Jewels, usually synthetic rubies, reduce metal-on-metal friction. Only a few jewels are necessary in most mechanical watches.

One source estimates that there are a minimum of 100 moving pieces in a mechanical watch! As you can see, the movement is a piece of art.

2. Automatic: An automatic watch (also known as “self-winding”) works much like a mechanical watch.

  • Instead of your having to wind it manually, the watch gets its energy from the natural movements of your wrist.
  • A small piece, called the rotor, is connected to the movement. Every time your wrist moves, the rotor spins, which automatically winds the mainspring.
  • If you don’t wear your watch for a few days, you’ll have to wind it by hand.
  • Rolex watches are actually automatic.

Quartz movements

3. Quartz: A watch with a quartz movement is an electronic version that uses a battery to charge and run it.

  • A tiny sliver of quartz vibrates when electricity is passed through it.
  • The resulting vibrations make the watch hands move.
  • The second hand on a quartz watch moves around the face in distinct clicks.
  • Quartz movements gained popularity in the 1970s.

The highest-end watches (the Rolls Royces of the industry) include Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Chopard, Fortis, Franck Mueller, IWC, Jaeger-Le Coultre, Patek Phillipe, and Ulysse Nardin. These watches are hand made, with prices that can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In future blogs, I’ll discuss what makes a collectible watch. Just as with your precious jewels, these works of art should be insured. For an up-to-date appraisal of your collectible watches, call me. It won’t be a minute too soon!

Brilliantly yours, Aimee

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