When observing the mechanical case back with a transparent bottom design, we all take for granted that the gemstone (Jewel) of the movement is an indispensable key part for normal operation. The question is, when and why are gems widely used?
In simple terms, the watch movement is equipped with precious stones in order to reduce friction. The use of gemstones can be traced back to London in the early 18th century, when the manufacturing technology for fixing gemstones to metal plates was developed; more importantly, how to drill or drill a precise hole in the gemstone while ensuring smooth and Symmetry, and how to use a gemstone to fix the pivot (bearing and undercarriage) in the watch movement, are two major challenges to be overcome. Before using the gem, the pivot was connected directly to the metal plate. The main problem was friction, and the solution was to use oils with different viscosities. However, for accurate timing, the coefficient of friction must be known, and friction must be kept constant.
In the jewel story, the interesting part has nothing to do with horology, but politics, deception and humanity. What is even more ironic is that it is precisely the restrictions on the use of gemstones that have promoted the widespread use of gemstones.
The case back of the NomosLambda watch showcases several different types of synthetic rubies.
In the early 18th century, watchmaking in London was seen as an industry more like science than metalworking. In 1631, the Royal Charter issued by King Charles I guaranteed that watchmakers had their own guilds. The guild is responsible for ‘… in the name of a master, a superintendent, and peers, to uphold and maintain the art or mystery of clockmaking in London.’ In particular, the guild can be the main body (headed by the master) and handle the law The matter ‘as a group, the guild should have the same powers as individuals to defend in court.’ Above all, the Royal Charter grants guilds almost universal and monopolistic powers: ‘From time to time, the court can make reasonable laws and decrees (in writing) that benefit the guild.’
Similarly, London is a gathering place for scientific and industrial activities. Profitable trade must first solve the problem of longitude. More and more evidence shows that distance and position can be measured by timing. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a clock mechanism that is both accurate and stable. We all know that John Harrison finally solved the longitude problem, but before he started working on the groundbreaking clock, the basic stability problem needed to be solved first.
Nicholas Fatio Durer
Ironically, it was a young mathematician from Switzerland who found a solution to this real problem: Nicolas Fatio Dürer. Many people may be unfamiliar with this name. Let’s put it this way, Dürer was a ‘close companion’ to Sir Isaac Newton. But at the time, he had lost Newton’s favor and was looking for other ways to make money.
Dürer proposes that the gemstone with precise drilling can fix the pivot, which makes the running of the gear train less friction and more stable speed. Assembling gemstones is not a problem, the problem is how to drill holes. To drill such a small hole in a gemstone, a diamond drill is needed. By the 1690s, Dürer had improved processing. After the failed efforts to arouse the interest of Paris watchmakers, Dürer came to London with two French watchmakers, Pierre and Jacob de Beaufort, working here, on May 1, 1704. Applied for the No371 patent-‘… made of bearings for clocks using precious stones.’ The patent was initially granted for a period of 14 years.
A 17th-century pocket watch with no gems in the movement, like this David Ramsey pocket watch from 1618.
In December 1704, the brothers Dürer and De Beaufort applied to the House of Commons for a bill ‘… to use precious and more common gemstones in clocks and watches’ and extend the patent term. By December 11, 1704, the watchmaking guilds were aware of the problem. Naturally, the watchmaking industry would object because the patent would give the holder a monopoly on the use of any type of gemstone in watches and watches.
This new patent will further expand the scope of gemstones used in watches, including undercarriages and bearings. As such, any watch manufactured by a member of any watchmaking guild would need a patent license before using gemstones. Watchmakers will not have control over the production and science associated with it-and, at a more basic level, if others own the patent, the guild will not be able to retain all the benefits for its members, nor will it retain the art and mystery of watchmaking Monopoly. The last thing the guild is willing to do is to give part of the benefits to a third party group or individual. Not to mention that although the Debever brothers were guild free men, Dürer was not.
A guild-provided pocket watch made by Ignatius Huggerford can clearly see the jewel cap on the balance pivot.
Therefore, the watchmaking guild requested Parliament to revoke the patent. As evidence, the guild claims that the practice of fixing and using gemstones in the movement is nothing new in the Dürer patent. To prove this point, the guild provided a pocket watch produced by Ignatius Huggerford in 1675, which had a diamond auger on the pivot of a fixed balance wheel. In view of this, this patent has no legal basis, because the watchmaking industry is already aware of it, and members of the guild and freelancers have used relevant knowledge in watchmaking.
In January 1705, after the watchmaking guild (by master Benjamin Graves) submitted evidence to the House of Commons, the guild paid £ 2 and 10 shillings (equivalent to £ 260 today, a skilled craftsman at the time for a month (Wages of wages) for the purchase of Ignatius Huggerford pocket watches from owner Mr. Henry Magson. This pocket watch is kept by the master for future testimony. Mr. William’s previous watch owner, Mr. William, received 10 shillings (equivalent to £ 60 today). He testified before the House of Commons Committee that he owned the pocket watch before the patent application and sold it to Mr. Magson ( Undisclosed amount). This is a fait accompli. As a result, Parliament ruled that the patent had no legal basis. The Dürer and De Buffel brothers defeated in the face of the commercial strength and cunning of the watchmaking industry.
Ignatius Huggerford pocket watch balance with gems removed
In order to hide the patent, the pocket watch was sealed until the mid-19th century. A member of the watchmaking industry called E.J. Thompson reviewed the pocket watch and wrote a report. Concerning the problem of placing gemstones in the movement, he concluded: ‘In any sense, this movement is not equipped with gemstones. The edge of the hole is made of brass, and a piece of stained glass or soft stone is fixed on a silver disc. And polished to create the illusion of gemstones. ‘No matter in the 18th century or today, this pocket watch does not meet the standards in the sense of gemstone assembly. Because gems have no function, they are only used for decorative purposes.
However, the concept has matured without patents, and the use of gemstones in watch movements has begun to spread. The use of gemstones as fixed parts in the movement has promoted the development of British watchmaking, and also allowed Harrison and others to create clocks with unprecedented precision. By blinding the parliament, the watchmaking guild deprived Dürer of its wealth; if not, the use of gemstones would be greatly restricted, which might hinder the growth of London’s watchmaking in the 18th century and even Britain’s status as a major trading nation in the world.
The movement of Ferdinand Bersaud’s pocket watch (from Chopard L.U.CEUM Museum) can clearly see 5 gems.
It is the masters of the court and watchmaking industry (including Thomas Tompin and Daniel Quail) that make watchmaking an integral and meaningful part of everyone’s daily life. Clocks, and of course pocket watches, were expensive, and they were the focus of the aristocracy and wealthy class, but those days are gone. Today, clocks are an essential part of daily life, sailing ships across the sea, and understanding the nature and laws of the sky.
In 1768, Ferdinand Bersaud became the first continental watchmaker to use a gemstone movement. Since then, the application of gemstones has spread throughout the Swiss watchmaking industry and even wider, and the birth of synthetic gemstones has triggered major changes. To this day, gemstones are an indispensable key element in the architecture of the movement. (Photo / text watch home compiled by Xu Chaoyang)