Are Jewels in Watches Worth Anything?

As timepieces par excellence, watches are widely valued for their craftsmanship, precision, and aesthetics. Among the intriguing features that contribute to their appeal are the jewels intricately set in their mechanisms. But, what significance do these jewels hold, and most importantly, do they add any tangible value to the watches?

It is indeed an interesting aspect to explore. Jewels in watches are not mere decorative elements. They play an essential role in enhancing the functionality of watches, ensuring longevity, and reducing friction in the moving parts. Consequently, they can contribute to the overall value of a watch, but their worth isn’t always as straightforward as one might think.

Delving into the world of horology, we’ll examine the intricate role of jewels in watches, their historical significance, types, and how they influence a watch’s value. This article aims to shed light on these facets, offering valuable insights to watch enthusiasts and potential investors.

What are Jewels in Watches?

Historical Context and Evolution of Jewels in Watchmaking

The history of using jewels in watchmaking traces back to the early 18th century when Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, a Swiss mathematician, invented a method to drill hard stones and use them as bearings in watch movements. The jewels were initially used to reduce friction, thereby increasing the watch’s life and maintaining time accuracy.

Over time, as technology advanced, the use of jewels extended from mere functional aspects to status symbols, where a higher number of jewels were associated with superior quality and craftsmanship.

Explanation of Jewels in Watches

In horology, “jewels” refer to the small gemstones—traditionally ruby, sapphire, or diamond—used in watch mechanisms. These stones are crafted into tiny bearings and other components and placed at critical points in the watch movement where metal would typically grind against metal. The hardness and slickness of these gemstones mitigate friction and wear, enhancing the watch’s durability and precision.

Types of Jewels Used in Watches

Common Types of Jewels

Rubies, due to their hardness and relative abundance, have been the most commonly used jewels in watchmaking. However, synthetic sapphires and garnets also play a significant role. These stones can withstand the constant mechanical stress and have a low friction coefficient, making them ideal for watch movements.

Special Types of Jewels

Apart from the common types, there are special jewels like diamonds used in certain high-end watches. These are typically found in luxury timepieces and significantly impact the watch’s value and prestige.

How are Jewels Used in Watches?

Roles of Jewels in Watches

Jewels primarily serve two functions in a watch—reducing friction and serving as reservoirs for lubrication. The jewels are strategically placed at pivot points and gear trains, which are areas of high wear. This placement helps in reducing wear and tear and maintaining the accuracy of the watch.

Technical Advantages of Jewels in Watch Mechanisms

Jewels offer various technical advantages, such as mitigating mechanical wear over time, improving accuracy, and even improving power reserve in mechanical watches. Their usage enhances the longevity and performance of the timepiece, adding functional value to the watch.

What Factors Influence the Value of Jewels in Watches?

Quality of the Jewel

The quality of the jewel used in a watch greatly influences its value. Higher-quality jewels, especially diamonds, can significantly increase a watch’s worth.

Type of Jewel Used

The type of jewel used in the watch can also influence its value. For instance, watches with diamonds are generally priced higher than those with rubies or sapphires.

Number of Jewels in a Watch

While it may seem logical to assume that more jewels mean a more valuable watch, this isn’t always the case. The number of jewels in a watch used to be a marker of quality in the early days of watchmaking. However, with the advent of modern manufacturing processes, the number of jewels beyond a certain point (typically 17-21) doesn’t significantly enhance the watch’s functionality. Therefore, while a greater number of jewels can suggest superior craftsmanship, it doesn’t necessarily translate into higher monetary value.

Are All Jewels in Watches Valuable?

The Reality of the Value of Jewels in Watches

The value of jewels in watches is often misunderstood. While they do contribute to the watch’s functionality and sometimes its aesthetic appeal, their individual worth is usually minimal. Most watch jewels, especially in mass-produced watches, are synthetic and relatively inexpensive. The true value they add lies in their contribution to the watch’s performance and durability.

Misconceptions about Jewels in Watches

A common misconception is equating the number of jewels in a watch with its overall value. As stated earlier, while a high number of jewels can suggest a high degree of craftsmanship, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher resale value. Additionally, not all jewels used in watches are precious gemstones. Many are synthetic, manufactured to serve a practical purpose, and not to add intrinsic value.

How to Determine the Worth of Jewels in Your Watch?

Expert Evaluation and Appraisal

To accurately determine the worth of the jewels in your watch, a professional appraisal is recommended. Expert watchmakers or certified appraisers can evaluate the quality, type, and setting of the jewels, as well as the overall craftsmanship of the watch, to provide a reliable estimate of its value.

Self-Evaluation: Signs of a Valuable Jewel

While an expert evaluation is the best way to assess your watch’s worth, some indications may suggest valuable jewels. These include the type of jewel (e.g., diamond), the brand of the watch, and the presence of certificates of authenticity.

The Impact of Jewels on the Overall Value of Watches

How Jewels Contribute to Watch Value

The contribution of jewels to a watch’s value is multifaceted. They enhance the watch’s functionality, aesthetics, and in some cases, its prestige, especially for luxury watches with precious gemstones. The value added by jewels is more evident in high-end watches, where the quality, type, and setting of jewels are meticulously chosen for their superior characteristics.

Case Studies of High-Value Jeweled Watches

Several iconic watches exemplify the significant value added by jewels. For instance, the Rolex GMT Master II, known for its ruby and diamond-studded bezel, or the Patek Philippe Calatrava, adorned with sapphire crystals. These watches are renowned not only for their exquisite craftsmanship and performance but also for their stunning display of jewels, contributing to their high market value.


In the realm of horology, jewels in watches play an integral role. From their historical origins to their current applications, their significance transcends mere aesthetics. While their monetary worth isn’t always substantial, they add tangible value by enhancing the functionality, durability, and in some cases, the prestige of watches.

Understanding the value of jewels in watches requires a comprehensive look at their practical roles, types, and the overall craftsmanship of the watch. While they may not always make your watch worth a fortune, they undoubtedly contribute to the fascinating world of watchmaking, lending precision, durability, and allure to these treasured timepieces.

Michael, an ardent horology enthusiast, brings his love for exquisite timepieces to life at WatchReflect. With a background in marketing and a penchant for luxury, he dives into the world of popular watch brands. His journey began during his years at a Swiss watch boutique, fueling his passion for precision craftsmanship. Through his words, Michael shares the allure and innovation that define the watch industry.

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