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Hey, There’s a Ruby in that Watch! The Intelligence of Natural Gemstones

Prim clockwork of a wristwatch, watchmaking ex...

inner mechanics of timepieces

The Intelligence of Natural Gemstones

Jewel bearings were introduced in 1702 by Nicolas Fatio (or Facio) de Duillier  to reduce the friction in watches. The two-part mechanism breakthrough in timepiece engineering includes a bearing, in which a metal spindle turns in a jewel lined pivot hole. The advantages of jewel bearings include high accuracy, small size and weight,low static friction and highly consistent dynamic friction.

When the use of jewel bearings was first patented in 1702, only the most elite quality watchmakers used sapphire, ruby, or diamond jewel pivots. The majority of watchmakers would use  garnet, quartz, or even glass jewels to create their jewel bearings, due to the high cost of natural ruby and sapphire gemstones.

Jewel bearings for watches were ground from tiny pieces of natural gemstones from their introduction in 1702 until the early 20th Century. In the early 1900’s, a process to create synthetic rubies was discovered by Parisian Professor, Abraham-Louis Breguet . This process was invented in order to eliminate the high cost of natural gemstones by creating synthetic sapphires to be utilized in watch crystals. Nearly all modern-day watches use this synthetic ruby (or sapphire) in their watch jewel bearings.

Read on to discover the precise and persistent role in which the Ruby has played throughout the evolution of  timepiece mechanics, and the inherently possessed intelligence and engineering abilities of natural gemstones…

18K Yellow Gold, Diamond and Ruby ring in a crested wave design

Size 6.5, can be sized

Diamonds are approximately 1.20ctw
Diamonds are VS/SI in clarity H/I in color
Rubies 27 Cabochons Graduating in Size from 1.5mm-3mm

There is one constant element that you will find in each and every mechanical timepiece, from the earliest models to today’s modern designs. A complex integration of finely balanced moving parts are the fundamental foreground for all mechanical watches. This complex composition of mechanics involves the vital presence of a plain bearing. A watch bearing is a relationship, if you will, between pivot pieces and the torus shaped holes in which they are turned into.

Pivot pieces turn into torus shaped holes, which are drilled into two brass plates that are separated by pillars. The lower situated brass plate of the two was once drilled with small holes in order to allow the opposite end of the pivot to turn. Small amounts of oil were used to lubricate the pivots within the torus shaped holes. Through the progression of time, an accumulation of debris and dust from daily use would slowly form within the small holes.

A mixture of oils and debris would form into an abrasive material, acting asa sandpaper of sorts, slowly wearing away the soft brass of the plates, and eventually even the hard steel pivots. The once torus shaped pivot holes would morph into oval shapes as a result of this material accruing, directly causing erratic watch function and eventual failure.

Frustrated with this difficult and seemingly unavoidable eventuality, Watchmakers began to search for a material that was harder than brass, and which could withstand the constant movement of the pivots. The winning material was found in the natural Ruby gemstone, the second hardest natural material on record in the world. Fatio de Duillier made his mark on the historical evolution of timepieces when he developed and patented a method of perforating jewels for use in clocks in the early 1700’s.

With the goal in mind to optimize the capture of solar energy, Fatio suggested using a tracking mechanism which was capable of pivoting around the Sun. A well-known Swiss mathematician,  Nicolas Fatio de Duillier was the first to discover the ruby’s potential as a jewel bearing. Fatio was previously known for his close friendship and collaborations with Isaac Newton, his extraordinary work on the zodiacal light problem, and for originating the “push” or “shadow” theory of gravitation.

Natural Ruby (naturally occurring ruby crystal)

In collaboration with Pierre and Jacob Debaufre, Fatio de Duillier patented the use of  jewels as wheel bearings in mechanical clocks in 1702. This would mark the beginning of many advancements in the development of timepiece precision that would utilize the knowledge of planetary alignment and universal positioning as a guide to advanced timepiece engineering.

In 1902, Parisian Professor Auguste Victor Louis Verneuil created the first synthetic gemstone. A synthetic ruby. Verneuil perfected a flame-fusion method of producing crystals of ruby and other corundums within a short time period. This method became more industrialized over time; the basic components of rubies, alumina, undergoes purification, heating, fusion and crystallization, which results in a pear-shaped piece of artificial ruby.

This pear-shaped ruby is then sliced into small pieces and these pieces are shipped off to watchmakers. The watchmakers then destroy 90% of the synthetic ruby to turn into a usable part for a watch.  The high cost of certain modern-day mechanical watches are not due to the high price of natural rubies, as the wristwatches of the 18th and 19th Century. However, the labor intensive process of putting the synthetic rubies into the watch bearings is costly due to the time and labor invested to their proper placement in the jewel bearing.

The use of jewels in timepieces remains strong and steadfast in the world of watches, as they serve two valuable purposes. The first is the reduced friction within the bearings. This directly increases the accuracy and precision of the timepiece. Jewel surfaces within watch bearings reduces variations in movement, increasing the life and maintained integrity of the bearings.

Chopard Your Hour H Watch 13/6965 with Rubies

Authentic Chopard Your Hour 13/6965 18K White Gold and Ruby Watch

Brand New with Papers

18K White Gold Case

Pave Set with 100 Rubies=1.00ct

So,today let’s give a silent thanks in recognition of the Ruby and Sapphire Gemstones… The intelligent natural gemstones you never knew were in your watch!

The New Brand on the Block: TechnoMarine- Watch Repair

Watch Repair

Watch Repair

Working at a jewelry store that specializes in luxury watches at great prices, I tend to focus on the watches people wear. Lately I have seen many people sporting TechnoMarine brand watches on their wrist; TechnoMarine was launched in 1997 in St. Tropez, France by entrepreneur Franck Dubarry. TechnoMarine became widely popular with release of their first watch the Raft. The Raft had a really fresh look due to its adventurous and modern design. The watch featured a stainless steel case that had a unique rubber cover and a large distinctive unidirectional bezel. One reason for this watch’s popularity was its colorful dial and matching bracelet. The band and case cover could be easily changed so it was common for owners to swap bands to match their outfit.

The Raft went on to sell over 50,000 in its first year of production, quite a spectacular feat for such a new watch brand. Franck Dubarry moved their headquarters to Los Angeles, California in order to gain an even larger portion of the market. It was in LA were TechnoMarine really started producing the watches that would mark their legacy. A  full collection of diving watches were released in the late 90’s, this initial collection consisted of a combination of PU and stainless steel chronographs – combining chic French design with unmatched Swiss technology. TechnoMarine learned from the popularity of its first line of watches and continued to produce watches with a variety of bright colors with interchangeable colored bands. Watch Repair.

TechnoMarine continued it success with the release of the TechnoDiamond in 1999. The TechnoDiamond has the same look of the Raft with many of its features but has diamonds in the bezel. This allowed TechnoMarine to attract customers who were looking for a more luxurious watch. You really have to admire TechnoMarine for reaching such great heights in a market that is inundate with well established and trusted watch brands. TechnoMarine crafts beautiful watches and one I have been seeing them coming into our store more and more. These type of watches are great for those looking to establish a distictive watch collection without having to spend thousands. Typically these watches run from$200 to $400 and the popular Raft is only $190.

-Carlos at Raymond Lee Jewelers

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