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Articles | Interview

Wrist watches: they have something to tell about themselves

Wrist watch for any fan of elite time meters and for everyone,Lincoln's watch who appreciates the time, is a purely personal thing, a kind of native. Wrist watches travel with us everywhere, silently embracing our wrists. Though why silently? Apart from regularly telling us the current time, they are looking for an attentive listener in their owners, because they really have something to tell about themselves. I’ll note that wrist watch is a pretty fair and honest speaker, it can talk about its many both virtues and drawbacks. Of course, a certain impetus to such "conversation" is provided by a manufacturer. This article is devoted to the main technical features of watches, which can be read on the case, bracelet and other watch elements. There are also a large number of inscriptions, so to say, "about nothing", which sooner carry an advertising load and serve to "hook" the potential buyer of the wrist watch. For example, a person's attention is likely to be attracted by such inscriptions, as "high accuracy," "high quality", etc. These labels are now used rarely, because the buyer has become more experienced, and he is difficult to be cheated.
I'm not going to talk about various special engravings, made by watchmakers on the case of models by individual customer's order ("Beloved husband", "On the birthday ", "With love", etc.). I'll tell you just an interesting incident that occurred with the pocket watch of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who did not even know that he was holding a time meter with a tiny inscription, a unique message, engraved on the metal plate under the dial. In the 1850s, Lincoln bought a pocket watch that, much to his regret, got broken, and the president was forced to send it to repair in 1861. Then an Irish watchmaker, Jonathan Dillon, made engraving, which read: "Jonathan Dillon April 13, 1861. Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by insurgents on the designated date. Thank God we have a government". The inscription, which can only be read under a magnifying glass, speaks about the beginning of the Civil War, in 1861-1865, but that secret message was announced after many years by modern researchers. Now the watch of Lincoln is in the National Museum of American History in Washington. So, dear reader, take a closer look at your watch – maybe it will say something to you!
In no case you should ignore the information your "manual" time interpreter includes, but for some people, these inscriptions are still ciphers, which we will try to decipher now. Let's listen carefully what our wrist watches want to tell us.

“Swiss Made”

swiss madeIf a watch has the inscription «Swiss made», of course, you feel more respect for this time meter, as the Swiss wrist watches are safely considered to be the best in the world for its quality and high precision. It’s quite clear that almost from the beginning of the history of Swiss watchmaking these watches have multiple fakes. To fight against illegal production of watch copies of under the logo of Swiss quality several agencies have been created in Switzerland, most important of which is The Federation of the Swiss Industry. Also a list of features of Swiss quality correspondence has been designated. So, if a watch is provided with the inscription “Swiss made”, it must, firstly, have a Swiss movement (at least 95% of the parts), secondly, be assembled in Switzerland and, thirdly, pass the final quality control in Switzerland . It should be said that today only a few watch companies from the huge list can boast of a full implementation of these rules, that is, of course, a bit frustrating.
There is a budget version for avid fans of Swiss quality, who, however, are not ready to pay a huge sum of money for true Swiss wrist watches. Thus, the inscription «Swiss movement» on watches means that the movement is made in Switzerland (or, for example, “Japan movement” - in Japan), it has passed quality control in that country, but the case and watch assemblage were executed outside Switzerland. Often the place of assemblage is also indicated on the case. So, the question arises - is it possible to perfectly fit a non-Swiss case to a Swiss movement? The question remains open. Since the word “movement” is quite long, the manufacturers often reduce it to “mov('t)” or to “eb” (“ebauches” - movement in French). Up to this point we, of course, have been talking about mechanical watches. But you may also see the inscription “Swiss quartz”, which means that this watch is a genuine Swiss creation, the watch movement is quartz and, of course, Swiss as well. It turns out that “Swiss quartz” equals to “Swiss made”. However, attention! Often the Swiss watchmakers use the inscription “Swiss quartz”, bearing in mind that only the movement was made in Switzerland, but the watch itself was made in another country. So, the fans of the quartz time meters in this case should be more careful. To avoid mistakes, you should review all the visible details of watches, as the words “Swiss made” can stand on the bracelet as well, telling us that the bracelet was made in Switzerland (the inscription “Swiss wristlet” - Swiss bracelet – is possible). The words “Swiss made” or “Swiss parts” can also be found right on various details and elements of watches, not just on the dial or back case. The watch of exclusive Swiss origin might also have an inscription “Geneva” on the dial, often under the logo of the brand. Also the Swiss movements, marked with the inscriptions “Poincon de Geneve” or “Geneva Seal”, are considered to be the most accurate and reliable movements.

What are they made of?

The men's or women's watches will readily tell you what
made of steel materials they are made of. You only need to correctly understand the "talking" watches. Thus, the most common is the inscription “Stainless steel”, telling the story that the case or the bracelet (depending on the location of the inscription) is made of stainless steel. There is also a catch: the inscription “Stainless steel back” does not necessarily indicate that the watch is completely made of steel - only the back case is steel. What the rest parts of the watch are made of - we may only guess. Therefore, it is best to try to find and read the next engraving – “All stainless steel”. Other materials for the watches are marked: “Ceramic”, “Carbon”, “Bronze”, “Titanium” (but “Titanium back” – only back case is made of titanium), “Gold”, “Silver”, “Base metal case” or “Brass” (by the way, brass can be determined by weight, since it is much lighter than steel), “Platinum”. The straps of luxury watches are most often made of leather, that’s why sometimes the manufacturers mark the inside of the strap with the words “Genuine leather”.
If you have noticed the inscriptions “Sapphire” or “Sapphire crystal”, then the time meter is equipped with the most popular luxury watch glass, scratch-resistant. Sapphire crystal protects the dial or replaces the back case, and differs by a special attractive shine. If watches are marked with “Crystal glass” or “Mineral crystal”, then the dial is protected by usual mineral glass. On the other hand, what does the manufacturer mention an absolutely ordinary glass for? That’s why the inscription “Crystal glass” (“Mineral crystal”) is used quite rarely.
The inscription “hand-made” (“handcrafted”) on expensive wristwatches is very prestigious. It means, as you’ve guessed, that everything (finishing of movement, dial, skeletonizing, etc.) is performed by hand, and, therefore, the status and, of course, the price of a watch increase much.
The modern Swiss and international watch companies, designing wrist watches, provide maximum comfort reading of information from the dial even in the dark by covering the dial objects with luminescent substances. The luminous markings are mainly used in ascetic watches of military style. Thus, the inscriptions “T-Swiss made-T” or “Swiss made T25” are signals about luminous elements in a watch - the phosphors on the basis of tritium isotope. Some buyers are afraid to wear a watch, covered with the radioactive substance. In vain, because the radiation emanating from the tritium is so small that it is completely absorbed by the dial glass. However, the watchmakers have decided to cover the dials of their creations with a special safe substance - Super-Luminova – for especially worried customers, unwilling to expose their health to the slightest risk. The advantage of this substance is safety, the disadvantage - the necessity to "recharge" the paint from the light rays (tritium solution does not need to be recharged, however, in contrast to the Luminova, it might fade over time). So, if you still do not want to risk, and the watches-"fireflies" attract you, then look for the inscription “L-Swiss made-L” (sometimes simply “Swiss made”) on the watches.
It should be also noted that some watch companies-innovators, involved in the latest developments in the watch area, patented their special manufactory materials, which are indicated by special inscriptions. The Italian watch company “Anonimo”, known for its innovative designs, including the popular patented solution under the name of Kodiak, can serve as a striking example. This solution has water-resistant properties, used by the Florentine specialists for treating leather straps of men's wrist watches. The men's wrist watches from Anonimo have straps with the words “Original Kodiak” that is an indicator of high quality.

There is a profession – to protect the movement!

waterproof watchMany modern movements, installed in wristwatches, are characterized by high complexity and high cost of the materials used. A watch with extracomplicated "heart" must also be securely protected from the effects of the environment. Maybe you have ever noticed that the fragile things, watches in this case, strive to fall, for instance, from the desk or shelf, they can suddenly drop out of the hands. And when you're not afraid to drop the watch, for some reason it falls much rarer. The watchmakers seek various ways to protect watches from unwanted shocks, using systems for the watch movement "protection". The inscriptions «Antishock», «Incablock» on the case tell us that this model is equipped with special shock absorbers, which protect the balance axis (the most sensitive part of the movement) from shocks. At present, practically all watches are shock-proof (especially the elite men's wristwatches), so, frankly speaking, these inscriptions are excessive "pathos", a mention of obvious things.
Another "security" system of watches is a special case design, due to which the watches are protected from magnetic fields. Such design, popular among pilots, railroad workers and radio electronic engineers, manifests itself by the inscription “Antimagnetic” and guarantees the watches good health and long life.
The most common way to protect the clock movement is to ensure water resistance of wristwatches. This privilege is most often used by men's watches, although you can also find female models with a fairly high rate of water resistance. Before you select the model you are interested in, it is necessary to "talk" to it. The water resistance degree is informed by the letters «WR» (short for “Water Resistant”). Thus, the indications “WR 30 m” or “WR 3 Bar” say that this watch will easily endure
water resistant random splashes of water, hand washing, rain. It is not recommended to bathe with such watches.
Other models of
watches tell us that they are waterproof at a depth of 50 meters (“WR 50 m”, “WR 5 Bar”) that will allow the owner to take a shower or to swim in the pool with a watch on the wrist. However, this degree of moisture protection does not guarantee complete safety of the movement at jumping into the water, because the pressure might for a short period of time exceed the allowable 5 ATM, and your favorite watch will have to be taken to the repair.
The most suitable models for water sports such as swimming, diving, or diving to several meters, are watches with the degree of water resistance of 100 meters (“WR 100 m”, “WR 10 Bar”). However, the deep-sea researches will entail a breakdown of watches, so in this case it is better to use time meters with water resistance to 200 meters and above (“WR 200 m”, “WR 20 Bar”).
Many well-known watch companies are engaged in the design of extra water-resistant watches. They are aforementioned Italian watchmaker Anonimo, presented a men's wrist watch from “Professionale” series, the water resistance of which makes up from 1,200 meters to 2,000 meters; the models of Swiss manufacturers -"divers" men's wrist watches “Rolex Oyster Sea-Dweller”, Azimuth Deep Diver, Breitling Avenger Seawolf Chrono Blacksteel and many others.
Returning to the theme of this article, I want to note that instead of the words “meter (m)” or “bar” some manufacturers use a different measure of length - ft (“foot”). And the last thing I would like to remind our readers on the "real" water resistance: meters, feet or bars marked on the watch do not correspond to the depth at which the watch can be immersed. Thus, I would not advise you to dive to a depth of 30 meters with the watch having the inscription “WR 30 m”, but you may wash your hands (but do not place the case under a strong jet of water).

Listen to the "heart" of your watch

watch movementLet's listen to a watch tells us about its main "body" - the movement. Let's start with the obvious thing: if the time meter is telling us “Quartz”, then a quartz movement is located inside. The inscription “Automatic” means that mechanical watches are equipped with automatic winding movement, which accumulates energy from movement of the hand. The abbreviation “Cal.” (from “Caliber”), followed by numbers and letters, speaks of the caliber of the movement. The words “Power reserve” indicates the power reserve indicator located most often on the dial or elsewhere on the case. Sometimes there are inscriptions “Autoquartz” and “Kinetic”, which carry information about the battery of quartz watches, recharging from hand movements.
The so-called watch-regulators, marked with the inscription “Regulateur”, are interesting. Such watches are highly accurate, because the hours, minutes and seconds are displayed on three independent extra dials-counters (for details see the article in this magazine "What is regulated by watches-regulators"). Luxury watches are sometimes decorated with the proud inscription “Chronometer” or “Officially certified chronometer”, which states that this product is ultra-precise time meter that is confirmed by a number of special tests of the movement that took place in an independent research center. The certificate supplied with such watches confirms the abovesaid.
The work of the so-called coaxial escapement, designed by George Daniels and responsible for the accuracy of the mechanical watches, can be estimated in a wristwatch, marked by the inscription “Co-axial”, located mostly on the dials.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing elements of the movement is jewels, the number of which is marked on the case of the mechanical watches with the inscription “jewels” (before this word a number is indicated - the number of stones in the movement, such as "25 jewels”). The stones are responsible for the stabilization of the friction and decrease wear of contacting surfaces of the movement. On quartz watches you can see the inscriptions "2 jewels”, “1 jewel” or even “No jewels”, but it does not mean low quality of time meter, as in the quartz mechanisms the stones are not necessary, and the plate and the wheels of such watches are often made of plastic to reduce the weight of the surfaces.

"Complicated" inscriptions on watches

Finally, we have reached the most "complex" - the inscriptions on
inscription on the watch wristwatches with different kinds of complications. First of all, the most popular modern complication, which has already passed from the category of the unique to the category of the standard, is ubiquitous tourbillon, which now few people can be surprised at, indicated by the word “Tourbillon”. I think that the inscription “Chronograph” doesn’t need to be deciphered in details. It means that the watch has chronograph function (two or more independent measuring systems). Also, the word “Fly-back (Split) Chronograph” tells us that this watch has split-chronograph, i.e. has two second hands, started and stopped independently. The Swiss wristwatches with repeaters, "music" complications, which allow seeing not only the current time, but also listening to it, can be identified by the inscriptions “Minute Repetition” or “Chime”. If you met on the watches the following indications: “Grande Sonnerie”, “Petite Sonnerie”, “Carillon” or “Jagemart”, don’t worry – these are different kinds of the great repeater - each is good and unique. Actually, since I mentioned the "speaking" watches, it should be noted that the men's wristwatches with repeaters are the pinnacle of watchmaking, deserving the highest ratings. Among the "speaking" watches there are alarm watches, indicated by the inscription “Alarm”.
Among “the most and the best” there are watches with astronomical complications: “Moon Phase” (in French – “Phase de Lune”), “Dual Time” (double time) or “GMT” - a function of displaying the time in two zones simultaneously; “Perpetual Calendar”, “Equation of Time”, which calculates the difference between the standard time scale, where the length of day throughout the year does not change (24), and the solar time. For more information on watches-repeaters and astronomical time meters, please learn our articles, "Repeaters or talking watches" and "Astronomical Wristwatches - a path through the Universe", published in our watch magazine montre24.

Summarizing our peculiar rundown, concerning the inscriptions on wristwatches, it should be noted that all of these designations are the most common and most important. In addition to these, there are several other inscriptions, characteristic to this or that manufacturer of wristwatches (for example, a serial number engraved on the back of the watch). This kind of "conversation" with the wristwatch is really worthy of a good book, because the time meter can tell you many interesting things about itself. One has only to "listen" to it carefully. Indeed, the connecting-link of "relationship" with your wristwatch is a "conversation", which determines your choice in favor of a particular model.


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