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Watch Knowledge Base

Understanding water resistance labels:

 The water resistance description is theoretical and refers to the water invasion prevention depth rating assuming that both, the watch and the water are motionless. Such tests are carried out in laboratories under strict conditions. An arm moving under water increases the pressure on the watch as does the movement of the water. 

Watches use on recreational scuba diving should have a screw down crown and screw on case back, these features together with specifically designed gaskets will prevent water invasion. If the watch is a chronograph - it should also have screw down pushers. 

1 meter = 3.3 feet

1 ATM (atmosphere) = 10 meters

  • Watches labeled "water resistant" can withstand splashes of water but should not be submerged in water.
  • 5 ATM or 50 Meters labeled watches should withstand very short exposure to water (running your hand under the tap or in a sink for a second)
  • 10 ATM or 100 Meters labeled watches can be used in a swimming pool.
  • 20 ATM or 200 Meters labeled watches can be used in recreational scuba diving.
  • Greater than 20 ATM or 200 Meters labeled watches are suitable for deeper diving.

We do not recommend to bath with a watch on because the soap and shampoo may reduce the surface tension of the gaskets and allow water to penetrate the watch as well as damage the gaskets.

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Diver Watch from Altanus

Quartz movements vs. Mechanical movements:

There are two very different ways of keeping time, mechanical and quartz movements.

 Quartz movements The main power source of a quartz crystal watch is the battery; the power this battery produces is transmitted to an electronic circuit which then sends the power received to the quartz crystal; the quartz crystal is shaped so that when this electrical charge is passed through it will vibrate rapidly dividing time into equal parts, this is known as frequency and is what makes quartz watches so accurate (the quartz crystal vibrates 32,768 times per second), Once each vibration is received the quartz sends a signal back to the integrated circuit in the form of an impulse, because the frequency is so high the integrated circuit reduces it to just one impulse per second which is then transmits to the stepping motor.

One part of this stepping motor is called a rotor; this component is geared to what’s called the train, which is what drives the hands that tell the time.

Ronda Quartz Movement

Ronda 705


Here is an interesting you tube video on how a quartz watch work:


Mechanical movements are just that – no battery, no electronics, just mechanical parts. It uses a spring to push a series of gears that are regulated by a balance wheel that spins back and forth at high speed (up to 36 000 beats per hour).

Almost all high-end watches are mechanical and require a great deal of precision to be manufactured and assembled. The Swiss are the best-known and most highly regarded producers of mechanical watches but there are producers in Japan like Citizen and Seiko that are second to none.

Mechanical watches can be hand wound or self-winding (automatic), by the nature of its components a mechanical watch movement will not be as accurate as a quartz watch movement.

Depending on the grade of the mechanical movement you can reasonably expect that a mechanical watch will run +/- 5-20 seconds per day. Colder and warmer temperatures that may be experienced during shipping may affect the timekeeping temporarily upon arrival.

To avoid damaging the mechanism you should not overwind or force your watch, just wind it enough to get the watch started if it is an automatic type, or if it is manual watch wind it until you feel it stop and never force the watch past this point to avoid damaging the mainspring or stem, both of which may be costly to repair and will void your warranty.

A mechanical watch will require periodic service to maintain its optimum condition; a service includes a complete cleaning and oiling, and should be performed at intervals of every 24 to 36 months or sooner if the watch will encounter dusty or damp environments regularly. Please be sure to use the services of a qualified watchmaker or technician experienced with the care and repair of mechanical watches or request a watch service from us.

Unlike a quartz/battery-operated watch, a severe jolt or dropping of the watch may cause damage to the fine mechanism inside so please take extra care when handling your mechanical watch

By following these simple steps, you will be able to enjoy you mechanical watch for many years.

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ETA 2824-2 Movement


Kinetic watches:

Kinetic watches use the movements of the wearers arm to produce the electrical energy to keep the watch running. The energy is stored in a cell called a capacitor and keeps the watch on time even when it is not being worn. Once a kinetic watch is fully charged it can keep time for up to 6 months even when not being worn. A kinetic watch does not need a battery and does not need winding.


Power Reserve:

Power reserve is the length of time the watch will run (in hours or days) when the mainspring is fully wound. An average mechanical movement will run between 40-50 hours on a full wind.

Keep in mind that on an automatic watch just wearing it is not enough to reach full wind, usually you will have around 50% power reserve after wearing the watch for a day. To fully wind an automatic you need to manually wind it through the crown, also the best way to start an automatic that has run down. 


Setting and winding a mechanical watch:

Shaking an automatic mechanical watch is NOT the correct way to get them running, you need to manually wind them to build up the power, after which you can wear them and the movement of your wrist will keep them running.

 To manually wind an automatic watch simply turn the crown clockwise in the closed position (as in pushed all the way in, not in the time or date setting position). You will feel a gentle resistance, that’s the spring being wound. Turn the crown 20-30 times to build up some power, then set it and wear it.

 Automatic movements are equipped with a clutch that stops the winding when it reaches full power so the crown will keep turning without damaging the spring; however, you must be very careful when winding a manual wound movement because they are not equipped with such clutch.

 To wind a manual wound movement wind it slowly and gently until you begin to feel resistance. When you feel the crown stop (kind of like getting stuck in rubber, it will suddenly stiffen up) you are at full wind. If you force it you will break the mechanism.


Servicing and maintenance

A mechanical movement is like an engine. It has gears, pivots, levers, springs and shafts that all work in delicate harmony to keep time, they are a marvel when you look at them closely with hundreds of tiny pieces working together; it’s amazing that they can run every day for years or decades while maintaining accurate timekeeping. 

But just like an engine, they require regular maintenance to run properly and last so all the moving parts need oil for lubrication, and these oils will dissipate or evaporate after a period of a few years, after which the parts will begin to wear heavily. Typical service intervals for a mechanical watch are between 3 and 5 years. This interval is critical – never go more than 5 years between services, even if the watch keeps good time. At that point the moving parts will begin to get eaten up by friction, and when it does inevitably stop or need adjusting you will spend more to replace the worn out pieces.


Watch winders:

When you start building a collection of mechanical watches, you will find very soon that you can’t keep them all running all the time. Once you have two or three watches, odds are you won’t rotate wearing them often enough to keep them running constantly. That is where a watch winder comes in handy.

A watch winder uses rotating mounts to gently turn the watches at regular intervals, replicating the movement of your wrist to keep automatic movements running indefinitely.

Besides keeping your watches running it will save the “headache” of constantly set the dates (handy on a calendar watch), plus it is the best way to keep the movements in top shape.

A mechanical movement is like an engine. It has many moving parts and requires oils to lubricate everything. When the movement is running, the parts move and keep the oils in place. When it is static, the oils will slowly evaporate and the parts may seize. If a watch is used regularly (say, weekly) the expected service interval is 3-5 years. If it sits idle for an indefinite period, or is used very rarely, that interval can be as short as 6 months to a year. So it is in your best interest to use the watch as much as possible to avoid the oils drying out. And if you can’t use the watch regularly, the watch winder keeps things in order for you. Plus automatic watches tend to run more accurately when kept on winders.

Not all watch winders are created equal. The best are programmable for TPD (turns per day) and will wind in both directions (if the watch only turns in one direction it puts extra wear on the automatic rotor system, and some watches only wind when turned in one direction rather than both). It should not run continuously because that places too much wear on the rotor and keeps the mainspring tension too high. The ideal is for the mainspring to be wound, then wound down, the rewound regularly – that maximizes performance and minimizes spring “memory” where the tension varies a lot depending on the winding level. On top of that, a good quality winder should be dead silent or near silent and have good quality motors that will run for years without issue.


Accuracy on mechanical movements:

With the introduction and mass production of quartz movements we have enjoyed decades of no-fuss, low maintenance and highly accurate quartz watches that has made us forget that for hundreds of years watches and clocks were far from dead accurate, in fact, It used to be that minutes a day were acceptable from less expensive wristwatches.

Nowadays on non-chronometer mechanical watches you can reasonably expect that they will run +/- 5-20 seconds a day; some movement when properly adjusted are capable of running within 5 seconds a day, but due that accuracy is easily affected by positional variance and taking into account that a watch on the wrist is constantly moving in space accuracy can vary quite a bit. You can even compensate for it in how you rest your watch overnight, placing it flat on its back will give a neutral or slightly fast rate, while putting the watch on its side with the crown down will make it run slower, and on its site opposite the crown will make it run slower still. Handy if you know that the watch usually runs slightly fast or slightly slow, you can compensate by how you lay it to rest.

An adjusted or chronometer spec watch is expected to run within 5 seconds a day regardless of position. The official rate for a chronometer movement is –/+4 to 6 seconds per day regardless of position but keep in mind that many variables can affect the rate (magnetic fields, air temperature, humidity, altitude) So –/+ 4 to 6 seconds per day is the ideal but not a guarantee.

 

Mechanical movement grades and finishing:

Not all movements are created equally. While the architecture can be the same, the level of finishing varies between "grades" and what individual manufacturers do to personalize movements. ETA is the best example of different grades. Many ETA calibres are available in up to 5 different grades:

  • Base/economique
  • Standard
  • Elabore
  • Top soigné
  • and chronometer.

 

Base grade: is what you would find in a Swatch, they are the least expensive and they often use components made outside Switzerland to keep costs down.

Standard grade: is the more common base movement, with better parts and more components made in Switzerland.

Elabore grade: takes the standard movement and upgrades some of the individual components for greater accuracy; they are also adjusted to multiple positions at the factory. But it still looks like a standard or base movement with flat finish bridges and plain screws.

Top Soigne grade: is a higher grade in performance and in appearance. At this grade, the parts and polished and finely finished and the bridges are given perlage (circular grain polishing) and/or polished stripes (called cotes de geneve). The screws are blued through heat treatment for a touch of colour. And all the components are upgraded; even the jewels are of higher grade. Top Soigne movements perform to chronometer specs, and are adjusted to 5 positions (but not temperature variations) and they are not officially certified (see Chronometer section).

Chronometer grade: is a top soigné that is adjusted to 5 positions and also to heat and isochronism. It is sent to Controle Officiel Suisses des Chronometres (COSC) for independent chronometer testing; COSC tests the movement at five different positions and 3 different temperatures for several consecutive days to determine accuracy. Timepieces qualifying as chronometers include a COSC certification number.

 

Why do you pay a significant premium for a chronometer?

An officially certified chronometer has to be independently tested to prove that it does in fact perform to chronometer standards. This is done by a third party company in Switzerland that tests any movement from any company that cares to submit them to the Controle Officiel Suisses des Chronometres or COSC.

Every single chronometer movement needs to be certified. That means if the watch is a chronometer, the movement inside it was sent to COSC and certified by them. Most chronometers provide a copy of the certificate to prove this, the certificate shows the score and the accuracy variation in all positions, and will list the serial number of the individual movement. This process costs money, so the cost of proving a movement is a chronometer adds to the price of the watch, hence the premium.

Often people call a chronograph a chronometer. This is wrong. A chronograph is a chronograph, a stopwatch. A chronometer relates only to the certified proven accuracy of the movement.

 

Materials typically used in watch manufacturing:

Watch companies employ a wide variety of materials when manufacturing their watches.

Movements:

Most watch movements are made of brass which is then either rhodium plated (to look like white metal), gold plated, or ruthenium plated (to look blackened, like gunmetal) for the final finish.

Some high-end movements are crafted using different materials like 18k gold or titanium and ceramic to shows the watchmaker’s attention to details but this does not improve the performance of the movement at all.

Watch cases:

  • Chrome is the cheapest material used in watches, it does not last like gold plating, it wears off over time and can corrode easily due to the salt in your sweat. No Swiss brands ever use chrome for cases, nor do any reputable Japanese companies. Only the cheapest of the cheap use this for their watches.
  • Steel is the most common material for watch cases, and has been common since the 1930s. Stainless steel (often of 316L or 316F grade) is what is used across the board. Some companies, Rolex in particular, pride themselves on using even higher grades of stainless steel – since the late 1980s, Rolex has been using 904L steel, which has a higher resistance to acid and corrosion than 316 grades (904 is actually designed for tools and containers that come in contact with chemicals of high acidity). It is totally unnecessary, but shows their attention to quality. The nice thing about steel is that it can be easily milled, polished and brushed and has good scratch resistance compared to other metals.
  • DLC and PVD: Stainless steel can have many different finishes applied to it using electroplating, DLC (Diamond Like Coating) and PVD (Physical Vapour Disposition) processes. The most common is gold plating to give a watch the goldtone look without the solid-gold price. Black PVD coating is very common on sport watches, but other colours are possible too. DLC is quickly replacing PVD as the coating of choice because it is up to 10 times more scratch resistant without costing much more to do; otherwise it provides the same type of finish as PVD. Keep in mind that any PVD/DLC or goldplated finish can wear or scratch off exposing the steel underneath.
  • Titanium has become a hot material for sporty and industrial designs. Titanium is considerably lighter than steel and has good tensile strength. It is distinguished by its characteristic colour, slightly darker than steel, and it’s hypoallergenic so it is good for people with allergies to certain metals. The downside to titanium is that it is softer than steel and scratches more easily, though it is still harder than gold.
  • Ceramic is a man-made material, it is a bit lighter than steel but as hard as sapphire (just below diamond). It is nearly impossible to scratch without a diamond tipped tool and is very rigid. It can be made in virtually any colour or texture, but the most common colours used nowadays are black, white, grey and sometimes green. The only downside to it is that because it is so hard and so rigid, it is brittle. If dropped it can crack or shatter. So it is very scratch resistant, but susceptible to shocks.
  • Sterling silver is a very old fashioned material for watch cases. Up to the 1930s silver was common because it is so soft and easy to work with making production of pocket and wristwatch cases easier. Nowadays it’s virtually nonexistent. Silver is a bit heavier than steel and has a warm tone to it, unfortunately sterling is extremely soft and oxidizes very easily; if left alone it will tarnish to a black-grey colour, easily removed with a polishing cloth. This can be a plus - after time the watch will get a nice patina, with the recesses and crevices blackened with tarnish.
  • Gold is the most popular precious metal on top of the line watches with 18k gold being the standard. Obviously a gold case commands a significant premium, often three to four times the price of a stainless steel piece of the same design or even more. A solid gold watch is a mark of distinction, a sign that the wearer has the means and the taste to wear such a fine timepiece. It has traditionally been a milestone watch (a gold watch for graduation, retirement, or to celebrate a great success) Gold is very dense and much heavier than steel, giving the watch a satisfying heft. It is a soft material, so it will scratch easily, but the benefit of the soft material is it is easy to polish back to new. Yellow gold used to be the most popular option, but now rose gold and white gold have become                   extremely popular for a more subdued look. Rose gold has a distinct soft copper tone achieved by adding more copper to the alloy. Red gold has the same tone, but a darker tone, almost orange in some cases. Pink gold is a bit lighter and softer in tone. White gold achieves a bright white finish in one of two ways, either the alloy itself is bright white, or the metal is a soft yellow which is then rhodium plated to look like platinum. Today most companies develop a true white gold alloy that does not require rhodium plating; the result is something that looks like steel at first glance, but on closer examination has a slightly warm tone. And because it is not plated, the finish won’t wear off and show the yellow-y metal underneath. 
  • Platinum is the most noble of the precious metals; it is the densest, heaviest, and most expensive material for producing watches. Platinum is incredibly heavy, even heavier than gold, but remains understated because at first glance it looks like regular steel. Wearing a platinum watch is the ultimate sign of understated distinction – only the wearer knows it is platinum. And they command an enormous premium, often 150% to double the price of a solid gold timepiece. For the ultimate in exclusivity, platinum is the only way to go.

 

Watch Crystals:

  • Sapphire crystal has become the norm in recent years, offering very good scratch resistance and durability. It is made by synthetically growing sapphire crystal tubes that are then sliced into wafers. They are very hard and difficult to make into complex shapes, and can be expensive to replace, but for durability they are unbeatable.
  • Mineral crystal, also known as K1 glass, it is the most common crystal in less expensive watches (under $500).The glass is a hardened but still prone to scratching. The advantage of K1 is it is very affordable and easy to replace and manufacture.
  • Acrylic is the oldest form of watch crystal, it’s basically plastic and it is sometimes called Plexiglas. Very easy to scratch but very resilient, it can be bend and flexed without cracking easily, it can be dinged and bounce back in a case where a K1 or sapphire crystal would shatter. They can be polished back to clear very easily (a little polishing compound on a soft cloth will take out most scuffs). They are the most affordable option out there and they are the most common on vintage watches made before the 1980s.

  

Watch common terminologies:

  • Analogue - a watch with dial, hands and numbers or markers that present a total display of 12 hours.
  • Analogue – Digital a watch that shows the time by means of hands (analogue display) as well as numbers (digital display). The analogue display has a traditional dial with hour, minute and second hands. The digital display shows the time numerically with a liquid crystal display. This feature is usually found on sport watches. 
  • Aperture: The date display window on a watch dial.
  • Calendar: Displays featuring the day, date or year in addition to the hour; analog watch dials show this feature in apertures or subdials.
  • Caliber: The configuration and size of the watch movement.
  • Countdown Timer: A chronograph function that measures how much of a preset period of time has passed. 
  • Chronograph – a multifunction sports watch with a stopwatch function. Most have two or three subdials or minidials for measuring minutes and hours. When used in conjunction with specialised scales on the dial it can perform many different functions such as determining speed (tachometer) or distance (telemeter) 
  • Complication: Refers to any watch function e.g: hours, minutes, day, date, calendars, stopwatches, alarms, etc. 
  • Digital – the display of time in numbers instead of hands. The numbers can appear in an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), which shows a continuous reading or an LED (Light Emitting Diode), which shows the time at the push of a button.
  • Divers Watch – divers’ watches traditionally feature a graduated rotating bezel, screw down winding crown and case back. They must be water resistant to at least 200 meters.
  • Dual time – a watch that measures current local time as well as at least one other time zone. The additional time element may come from a twin dial, extra hand or a subdial. 
  • Horology: The history and craft of making watches, clocks and other devices for measuring time.
  • Jewels: The term jewels usually refers to the bearings in a mechanical or automatic watch, mechanical movements will have at least 17 jewels but the most common spec is 23 and 25 jewels. It is important to note that quartz movements also use jewels (usually 2 to 4 jewels)
  • Perpetual Calendar – a calendar that adjusts automatically to account for different lengths of the month (30 or 31 days) and leap years. They can be powered by quartz or mechanical movements and are programmed to be accurate until the year 2100. 
  • Stopwatch – a watch with a second hand that measures intervals of time. When a stopwatch is incorporated into a standard watch, both the stopwatch function and the timepiece are referred to as a chronograph. 
  • Skeleton: This case design displays the watch movement with an open dial or with a clear crystal placed on the case back.
  • Sweep Hand: on standard automatic watches with 28800 BPH the marker that denotes the seconds moves around the dial at a rate of 8 beats per second given the sensation of a smooth sweep movement. 
  • Tachymeter: A register set on the bezel that measures the distance covered over a specific period of time.

 



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