From the beginning of recorded history, man has asked the age-old question, “What time is it?”
Although we have always known the sun rises and sets every day, we did not always know how to tell the time in between these two events. These smaller increments of time have come to dictate our daily lives, and throughout the ages we have searched for ways to accurately measure the day.
Cavemen used a pointed stick and a circle of stones to make the first crude sundial. Generations followed with equally rudimentary devices that gradually became more intricate: knotted ropes, hour glasses, water clocks, notched candles, candle clocks and clock lamps. Finally, mechanical clocks driven by wheels and weights made their debut during the Middle Ages. These were made more accurate when Galileo discovered the pendulum principle. Locksmith Peter Henlein then invented the coiled mainspring around 1500 and used it in the first portable clocks.
In 1571, Queen Elizabeth I was presented with the first known wristwatch. Unfortunately, like most watches of that day, it kept atrocious time.
Eighteenth and Nineteenth century craftsmen made the watch a work of art while improving its efficiency.
Today, modern technology has brought the watch to a peak of accuracy and beauty, and has invented some totally new ways to mark the passage of time.
Why Buy a Fine Watch?
Watches today not only tell time, but they can tell you the day, date and time in other time zones, remind you of an appointment, wake you up and monitor your heartbeat.
Watch styles reflect and define the times, from sports chronographs to ultra-thin dress styles. A watch is an important accessory.
Some watches carry the grace and tradition of names recognized around the world as signifying the highest elegance in jewellery and timepieces.
Fine watches are designed by artisans and craftspeople who fashion case, bracelet, dial and sometimes gems into not just a functional timepiece, but a work of art.
It’s a Potential Heirloom
Your watch can be an investment in beauty and value. Certain gold and diamond watches, over time, even increase in value. Witness the prices some prestige timepieces fetch at famous auction houses. And, it is a lovely remembrance of a loved one.
It’s Priced to Suit your Pocket
Whatever your price range, whatever your need, there’s a watch for you. If you enjoy changing your watch to fit your activity, fashionable less-expensive yet highly accurate watches are available from your Association of Fine Jewellers jeweller in a variety of styles and price ranges. If you can afford the most extravagantly designed, precious metal watch encrusted with gemstones, your jeweller can offer you a wide selection to choose from.
Types of Watches
Mechanicals are the traditional “wind-up” watches. They work because of a mainspring inside the watch that the wearer winds by turning the crown on the side of the watch. The spring gradually unwinds and turns tiny interlocking wheels, which move the watch hands to measure seconds, minutes and hours.
Automatic or self-winding watches wind themselves as the wearer moves their wrist. The wearer’s arm actions cause a weight behind the movement to rotate, winding the mainspring. They can also be wound manually.
Quartz watches are powered by batteries rather than a mechanical spring. The batteries send electronic impulses through a small bar of synthetic quartz crystal, which vibrates more than 32,000 times per second. Those vibrations are channeled through a series of gears that result in one impulse per second.
Analog V Digital
The terms ‘analog’ and ‘digital’ refer to the way time is displayed on the dial. Analog simply refers to a watch with traditional time-telling hands. Quartz analogs are watches in which the hands are moved by the electronic impulses passing from the battery through the quartz crystal to a step motor that moves the hands.
Digital watches display the time with digits – numbers -instead of hands. The numerals are created by either light-emitting diodes (LED) or liquid crystal displays (LCD). Quartz watches are generally more accurate than mechanical watches, for two reasons. One, mechanical watches have many moving parts. That means more friction and less accuracy as the parts interact. Digitals have no moving parts. Two, the quartz crystal’s constant and amazingly frequent vibrations per second enable watches to measure the second with unprecedented accuracy. A quartz watch should function properly for years with a battery life of one to up to five years.
Special feature watches perform a variety of tasks. Besides telling the hours, minutes and seconds, many watches reveal the month, day and year. Some also give the phases of the moon or the time in other countries or time zones.
Chronograph watches measure small fractions of a second. Some are used to calculate speeds, distances and altitudes. There are specialized watches for astronauts, pilots, parachutists and skin divers-even timepieces that meet the special needs of blind persons. Also, most fine watches today are specially made to resist water, dust, wind, shock and magnetic fields.
Price and Style
Watch prices range from around €20 to more than €10,000. The most expensive watches are those made with precious metals such as gold or platinum and decorated with precious gemstones.
They also require the labor of skilled craftspeople. Some of the finest watches are handmade by master watchmakers who have spent a lifetime developing their craft.
Selecting a Watch
Selecting a watch, like selecting any piece of jewellery, should be based on personal taste.
Today’s watches are not only timekeepers, but are considered important fashion accessories. Men and women make a definite fashion statement by the watch they choose – sporty, dressy, youthful, tailored or sophisticated.
People today are replacing their old-fashioned watch with a complete wardrobe of watches to suit their lifestyles. For sport or leisure, a person may want to wear a chronograph. For business use, a more tailored-looking watch with a leather strap and neutral colour dial is sometimes desired. For evening and dress wear, the sky is the limit for decorative and elegant watches.
Gold or platinum bracelets with or without precious gemstone accents – for men and women – provide an excellent way to show off your fashion panache. To achieve the expensive luxury look without the expense, watches of gold overlay are also available.
Where to Buy Your Watch
No matter what style of watch you choose, there are some guidelines to follow. Buy a watch with a familiar trademark or one whose performance has a good reputation. To avoid being ripped off, always buy from a reputable jeweller whom you know and trust in the community, who is available today for advice in making your purchase and tomorrow for service and future reliable purchases. Since it is difficult, if not impossible for the untrained person to detect a counterfeit, avoid the transient street peddler or questionable mail-order promotions that advertise huge discounts on so-called designer or famous name watches.
Taking Care of Your Watch
- Read your warranty. Be sure that the manufacturer is behind the warranty.
- Take the time to show you care. Wind a mechanical watch in a clockwise direction, preferably about the same time each day. Take it off your wrist so as not to place undue pressure on the stem.
- Although many watches are equipped with shock-resistant devices, it’s not wise to subject it to overly vigorous treatment.
- Replace broken or scratched crystals immediately. Even a hairline crack can let dust or moisture into the mechanism, threatening its accuracy.
- Unless the degree of water-resistance was clearly specified when you bought your watch, don’t risk wearing it into the shower or pool, or on a moist wrist.
- No matter how handy you are, don’t attempt any do-it-yourself watch repairs. Only an expert watchmaker should be trusted to put your watch back into working condition if there is a problem.
- It’s best to replace a battery in a quartz watch before it runs out. Dead batteries left in the watch can leak or corrode and ruin it. Also, don’t attempt to change the battery in a watch yourself. Take it to a specially trained jeweller or manufacturer’s authorized watchmaker or watch repair person (Batteries can run for one to five years, depending on the watch.)
- Finally, if you have any questions, ask your jeweller. Your jeweller values you as a customer, and you should trust their judgement.
Care & Cleaning
Fine jewellery and watches are precious possessions that are designed and crafted to last a lifetime. However, proper care is required to assure the lasting qualities of your jewellery and watches. Retail Jewellers of Ireland is pleased to offer simple guidelines for the care and cleaning of your fine jewellery.