Railroads were at the forefront of the effort to standardize timekeeping in the late 1800's, because when their engineers' watches weren't accurately synchronized, terrible locomotive collisions could result. In addition to encouraging the creation of standardized national time zones, the railroads provided a ready market for pocket watches made to exacting specifications, including the number of jewels and adjustments.
Adjustments means the watch has been specially calibrated to keep constant time regardless of position, adjusted to work in the vertical position, the horizontal position, the left, right, upside down position.
Jewels are bearings on the various gears to reduce friction. A watch with no jewels is metal grinding on metal and soon will stop.
On a very high-grade watch, every single wheel or gear would have a jewel, one on the front and one on the back, plus cap jewels to prevent it from going up or down.
Lower-grade watches would only have them on the gears moving the fastest and a really poor quality watch would only have one or two jewels or maybe none. These are not gem-quality jewels, but industrial type jewels (rubies, sapphires, and diamonds are so hard they make very good bearings because they don’t wear). A watch must have at least seven jewels to be considered a jeweled watch, and standard high-jeweled watches have 23 (and sometimes even more – the McIntyre Watch Company had a watch with 25 jewels). High-jeweled watches are rare, and therefore sought-after by collectors.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Barry S. Goldbergs Pocket Watch Collection
American Watch Company Web
National Watch and Clock Museum
Clubs & Associations
- Key, Lock and Lantern, Inc.
- Railroadiana Collectors Association, Inc.
- National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
- National Association of Timetable Collectors
- National Railway Historical Society