Watches: Some FAQs
What's a "movement"?
A movement is the mechanism that actually calculates the passage of time--the
"guts" of the watch, if you will. Like the engine and transmission of a car,
watch movements are so fundamental to the quality of the watch that they are often
manufactured by separate companies, or by the same company in a different factory. The
movement is also the part of the watch which is usually covered by a warranty--much like
the "engine and drivetrain" warranties that come with new cars.
What is the legal definition of a Swiss watch?
As the universally-acknowledged manufacturers of the world's best watches, the Swiss are
understandably rather persnickety about what watches qualify as "Swiss." To
protect the integrity of their good name, several organizations have formed with the
specific intention of regulating quality and defining standards for the industry. The
Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry has produced a list of "Verordnung Swiss
Made" rules that state that a Swiss watch must:
- Have a Swiss movement that
- Was set into its case in Switzerland
- By a manufacturer of Swiss origin.
Which leads to the question: What is a Swiss movement? They have a ready answer, of
- It must have been assembled in Switzerland
- Under the supervision of a Swiss factory
- And the parts of the movement that are Swiss in origin
must constitute at least 50% of the movement's total value.
Movements that meet these exacting requirements earn the
right to be stamped with the word "Swiss." Sometimes the stamp will instead say
"Suisse," "Swiss Quartz," "Swiss Made," "Produit
Suisse," or "Fabrique en Suisse." These all mean the same thing.
However, if the case is not of Swiss origin, then this
inscription cannot be visible--it must be concealed by the case. However, the case may be
stamped with the words "Swiss Movement" to indicate that it's Swiss on the
inside, if not the outside. In the case of the reverse--a non-Swiss movement in a Swiss
case, only the words "Swiss Case" are permitted.
What does the word "Geneve" on a watch
Just as Geneva is a more specific location than
Switzerland, the desgination "Geneve" is a more exacting mark of prestige given
to watches by the Bureau de controle des Montres de Geneva. To qualify, in addition to
matching all the above criterion for a Swiss watch, it must have had one of its major
manufacturing steps take place within the Canton of Geneva. The theory is that at least
50% percent of the manufacturing costs will have been incurred "locally,"
protecting the trade and ensuring quality assembly.
What's the difference between a mechanical movement
and a quartz movement?
Mechanical movements are what most people think of
when they talk about the fine art of watchmaking--a precise, intricate system of tiny
gears and springs which use mechanical energy to operate. These watches have a mainspring
which is wound either by hand or by "automatic movement" (self winding). The
spring power is then transferred to the hands of the watch via a precise timing mechanism
known as a balance.
A quartz movement is a simpler, less expensive timing
mechanism which regulates time by sending an electric current from a battery to a tiny
quartz crystal, which vibrates at precise and predictable rates--32,768 cycles per second
to be exact. Quartz movements are superbly accurate and reliable. Because they can be
mass-produced, quartz movements are used in everything from clock radios and digital
watches to some very fine timepieces. However, what is gained in efficiency is lost in
elegance, according to some epicureans.
Interestingly enough, the first quartz watch, introduced
by Seiko in 1969, cost over a thousand dollars!
What does 17-jewel movement mean?
In spring-powered mechanical watches, conservation of
energy is practically an art form. To reduce friction, many of the spaces between gears
are set with tiny synthetic gem crystals, which resist temperature changes better than
metal and hold lubricant much longer.
What does the word "chronometer" mean?
Strictly speaking, anything that measures time is a
chronometer (chronos = time, meter = measure). An hourglass or a sundial is technically a
chronometer. However, in modern watchmaking the term "chronometer" is a specific
designation of accuracy, assigned only to high-quality watch movements that have been
tested by the COSC.
Who is the COSC and what do they do?
The Control Officile Suisse de Chronometers is a
Swiss testing laboratory that certifies watches, or rather their movements, as
"chronometers." Each movement is individually tested over a 15-day period in
different positions and temperatures, and passes only if it shows a loss of fewer than
five seconds per day. Watches that have certified movements will usually be stamped with
an inscription that says "Chronometer," "Certified Chronometer," or
"Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified."
What's a "chronograph?"
By definition a chronograph "records time."
In modern watches this refers to a stopwatch function of some sort.
What do the letters "T" and
"O" mean on my watch?
The letter "T" on the face of a watch
stands for tritium, the greenish-white substance on the hands and numbers that glows in
the dark. The letter "O" means that the indices on the dial are made of gold. It
is possible that this comes from the French word for gold, Or.
Is it true that tritium is radioactive?
Although tritium is a radioactive substance, the
amount of radiation from tritium-coated watch faces is less than 25milliCuries, which
isn't even enough to penetrate the watch case or crystal.
Is there such thing as a completely waterproof watch?
Not really--in fact it's not even a legal term in the
US anymore, and for good reason. Even deep-sea submarines have maximum depths beyond which
they cannot safely travel. That's because deeper water means higher water pressure, and
eventually water pressure will break the windows. Watches are rated for "water
resistance," which is an evaluation of how much water pressure the moisture seals can
Most watches are rated to 50 meters, which is more than
most of us will ever need. Sport and diving watches are often rated to 200 meters or more.
Ironically, humans can only safely dive to about half that depth, and extremely high depth
ratings are more an indicator of craftsmanship and status than actual utility. Water
resistance is also measured in ATM, or atmospheres. One atmosphere is equivalent to 10
What does "Shock Resistant" mean?
Shock resistance is an American government standard
of durability which means that the watch can survive a drop of three feet onto a wooden
Is it true that only a diamond will scratch a
sapphire crystal face?
Not quite. Another sapphire or ruby will scratch it.
Also remember that scratch-proof is not shatter-proof. A sapphire crystal is remarkably
durable, but far from impervious. It's best to treat a quality watch like any other piece
of finely-crafted jewelry.
What is an "Authorized Dealer," and why
should I buy from one?
Many fine watch companies control the distribution of
their products by licensing a select few retail outlets in each region to sell their
products. By doing this they can make sure that their products are sold by reputable
dealers who maintain their standards of service, presentation, and price, and that
competition in regional markets is regulated.
The Internet has posed a special challenge to fine watch
dealers, who have been very reluctant to allow their prestigious watches to be displayed
on websites, especially with prices advertised openly. The homogenizing power of the
Internet is sometimes viewed as a threat to small speacialty dealers, who operate in small
closed markets. Many of the watch retailers online are not authorized dealers, and the
watches they sell may not have valid manufacturers’ warranties.
Alrashid Cyber Mall is authorized to sell all of its