Markham Fine Jewelers Blog

There is an enticing exhibition taking place until the end of the year at the National Watch & Clock Museum. Entitled Sacred, the exhibit focuses on the symbolism and religious concepts of time. The exhibit is designed to give visitors an inside view about how various religions view the passage of time.


Time has been used for millennia as a major focus in many religions. Christians focus their feast days around different times of the year, the Islamic and Jewish community focus on the stages of the moon, while the Buddhists see time as a wheel that focuses on the movement of the sun. Similarly, many ancient religions view time differently. The Druids measured time by the solstices, the Egyptians by the stars and rise and fall of the Nile, and the Mayans and Aztecs around a solar year."

The exhibition showcases many of these views of time for both the ancient and modern civilizations. The museum, home to America's largest timekeeping collection, is located in Columbia, Pa., and has an impressive collection of watches and clocks — with revolving special exhibits such as this one.


Once you're there, don't forget to visit the ongoing "James Bond Wore the Quartz Revolution" exhibit, which showcases many of the timepieces worn by Bond stars in EON Productions movies from 1973 through 1995.


When you are buying a fine timepiece with a mechanical movement inside, the technical specifications for the caliber usually list the number of jewels. Typically, those jewels are synthetic rubies, but sometimes brands use synthetic blue sapphires, as well — for a bit of a different look. The thing is, unless the movement is visible via a transparent caseback, you don't even see those jewels. So then, why use them at all? The reason is simple and effective: using synthetic jewels in the movement as bearings actually reduces friction within the caliber and therefore gives the movement a longer life by reducing wear and tear.

Adding jewels instead of mechanical metal pieces to do the bearings' job helps ensure accuracy. It also enables the watch brand to make the movement smaller in size and in weight than it would if the parts were made of metal. Additionally, rubies can withstand temperature changes and so offer stability. However, setting these minuscule jewels into their designated spots on the movement is no easy task. In fact, seasoned watchmakers must do this job using tweezers and microscopes. In the end, though, the look is beautiful, and it is great if you get to see the rubies (or sapphires) in all their glory in the timepiece.

As noted, these jewels are synthetically developed. Most use aluminum and chromium oxide that undergo heating, fusing and crystallizing processes. These rubies are not as valuable as natural rubies.  The number of rubies that are used in each watch movement varies depending on the timepiece and its complexity. Typically, a three-hands watch will have about 11 to 17 rubies in it. Generally, though, more complex calibers and more moving components will demand the use of more rubies.


We've all heard the term "shock resistant" in the watchmaking world. However, what does this term really mean and is your timepiece resistant enough to absorb shocks caused by falling, dropping, exerting too much acceleration at once, and more?


It is a viable question in today's fast-paced world where active lifestyles put us on the edge of powerful sports and lifestyle engagements all the time. As such, today's top watchmakers are going to new heights to make their watches sturdier so they can withstand the rigors of daily life.

Essentially, a truly shock-resistant watch is one whose movement is not damaged when dropped or subjected to constant impactful motions (i.e., worn on the wrist during a tennis match). Generally, watch brands achieve this via different types of suspension systems for the balance wheel. Such systems include pivots that can hold a balance wheel in place, while offering enough "give" to go with the situation or even more complex multi-level suspension processes.


The most commonly used system is the Incablock — invented in the early 1930s and perfected time and again. Incablock is a trade name for a spring-loaded mounting system for the jewel bearings that support the mechanical watch’s balance wheel. Some brands today combine the Incablock system with synthetic jewels, silicon hairsprings, non-ferrous escape wheels, outer housing containers, ceramic ball bearings and other high-tech materials and trains that make the watch movement ever more resistant to blunt force trauma.


The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) has also issued certain standards of shock resistance. In the watch world, to be called shock resistant, a watch must meet certain tests and controls and adhere to the standards of shock resistance issued by the ISO, including keeping accuracy while undergoing shock of  +/- 60 seconds/day. Additionally, most watch brands using shock resistant movements also use top-quality case and crystal materials to avoid breakage.

Is your watch shock resistant? If you have purchased a certified chronometer, yes. Other watches that are shock resistant mostly include dive watches, pilot watches and certain high-tech sport watches. Stop in any time to discuss shock resistance with us and to find the watch that is right for your active lifestyle.


In a bold move, aviation watch giant Bell & Ross is shifting attention from the skies to the seas with an all-new marine-instrument collection. Taking inspiration from its beloved BR 01 watch, the new timepieces — three in total — offer a contemporary reinterpretation of the first marine instruments of the 17th century.

The three models include the BR 01 Instrument de Marine, the BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph and the BR X1 Tourbillon Chronograph. Each of the watches — made in limited editions only — features an Indian rosewood bezel and case cover on the front. The reddish colored, textured wood is designed to emulate the cases that housed ship chronometers centuries ago.


The BR01 Marine and the BX1 Skeleton Chronograph are also adorned with bronze — for a vintage patina that is a coveted look. When this material comes into contact with air, it changes its patina over the years so that each and every case will be unique with time. The BX1 Tourbillon Chronograph is crafted in 18-karat rose gold.

While it is a departure for the brand, we will most likely see more explorations into new frontiers by Bell & Ross in the coming year, as well. These pieces are well worth a close-up look. You may find yourself moving from skies to seas, as well.


We are often questioned about what "power reserve" really means, so here we take an in-depth look at what the Swiss refer to as "Reserve de Marche."

Essentially, when a mechanical watch is fully wound, it will continue to work for a designated number of hours — even when laid on your dresser — before needing to be rewound. The length of time the watch will continue to run is called its power reserve. Watches have differing lengths of power reserve based on their mechanics.

This is how it works: To power a watch, a host of gears, teeth, barrels and springs must interact. But it is the spring and barrel that essentially keep the watch operating. A long piece of metal is tightly wound into a spring and then placed inside a cylinder or barrel. This is where the energy is stored. The spring releases its tension in a consistent manner, offering constant energy to power the watch at a regular rate.

The amount of power a watch has is determined by many factors, including the number of barrels and springs. A watch with a longer power reserve will usually have two barrels and two springs.

Additionally, power reserve can differ from watch to watch depending on whether the mechanical watch is manually wound (by the wearer) or is an automatic watch (wherein the rotor of the watch automatically winds during use). The norm on an automatic watch is 36 to 42 hours, while a manual wind watch can be equipped with enough power reserve to last for week (and in extreme circumstances, longer).

Some watches offer what is a called a power reserve indicator on either the dial or the case back. This tells how much power is left in the watch before needing to be wound. Indicators are most often shown via a subdial with a hand pointing to a number that shows the remaining power. Sometimes that indication shows a color palette instead of a number. This type of indicator often displays a blue or white color and then a bright red area. When the hand is in the red, it means it's time to wind the watch.

Other indications may use plus or minus signs, an up or down indication, or a linear read out. Some watches do not offer power reserve indications and you just need to know when you wore the watch last to know that it may need to be wound to avoid having to reset the time. Even better, you can use an automatic watch winder to keep your automatic timepieces wound perfectly all the time.


If you are a watch lover and plan to be in New York City on October 14 and 15, you are going to want to visit the Watch Time New York exhibition, with top watch brands, expert panel discussions, watch book signings and so much more.


Organized by WatchTime Magazine, the annual luxurious consumer event is held at Manhattan's Gotham Hall. This year, more than 20 of the world’s finest watch brands will not only be showing their latest and greatest timepieces, but also will be bringing in watchmakers, artisans and even celebrity brand ambassadors so that consumers can get a taste of watchmaking from every perspective.

Attendees can mingle with watch company executives, industry experts and fellow watch aficionados, including Instagram star Anish Bhatt, founder of the Watch Anish watch blog. A full lineup commences on Saturday, October 15th, including a talk on “Vintage Collecting” presented by Phillips Auctions, with WatchTime Editor-at-Large Joe Thompson; an expert panel discussion of the distinctive quality of hand-made luxury mechanical watches, moderated by Media Personality and Reporter Bill McCuddy; a presentation on the history and evolution of dive watches by WatchTime Editor-in-Chief Roger Ruegger; and book signings with authors and industry experts, including 33-year watch veteran journalist Roberta Naas, author of six books on watches and timekeeping.


Brands strutting their stuff at Watch Time New York will include A. Lange & Sohne, Armin Strom, Bell & Ross, Blancpain, Breguet, Carl F. Bucherer, Corum, Harry Winston, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jaquet Droz, Jean Rousseau, MB & F, Moritz Grossmann, Nomos Glashutte, Omega, Perrelet, Romain Gauthier, RGM, Seiko, Peter Speake-Marin, Tutima, Urban Jurgensen and Vacheron Constantin.


Last week we covered how new materials are influencing watch performance both inside and out. In one of those posts we discussed how materials for cases, bezels, bracelets and straps are becoming more advanced in terms of durability, lighter weight and scratch resistance.

However, what we haven’t talked about is the very essence of the watch: the case itself. In fact, one of the most important design elements of a timepiece is its shape. From round to rectangular, from square to oblong, the look of a watch determines its appeal – and that starts with the case shape and its profile.

All cases are not created equal. A watch case can be artful, thoughtful, simple and elegant, or it can be bold, three dimensional, rugged and high tech in nature. One case may be easier to machine and put together than another case. In fact, cases can be milled from a solid block of material or can have dozens — even hundreds — of parts that must be put together.


In the early years of the 20th century, during the Art Deco period, many cases were square and rectangular (such as the famed Cartier Tank or the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso). The Roaring Twenties yielded unusually shaped geometric cases and ergonomically curved cases, as well. However, by the late 1930s and into the 1940s and 1950s, we began seeing more round watches. This is because people were beginning to demand water resistant watches, and it was much easier to make a round watch water resistant than a square one with so many edges and angles.

Once the utilitarian need of water resistance was conquered, brands began working on cases that became art – and new shapes appeared, including sculpted cases, coin cases, Dali-inspired shapes and more.


Today’s luxury watch brands offer a case for everyone. While certain sports watch companies may mill a case from a single block of metal to render it more sturdy and rugged, other brands build complex cases with dozens of parts to demonstrate their abilities to produce a case worthy of the movement inside. These multiple-part cases are no weaker or less water resistant than a solid-block case, as long as the brand has focused on gaskets, fittings, screw-lock casebacks and crowns, and an overall precision interplay of parts.


The making of a watchcase starts from a mold—a plaster-like or 3-D printed rendition of what the case will look like. When all the parts and angles are approved, the case material is selected and high-precision cutting machines mill the case parts (lugs, sides, back, bezel, etc.). Each of these parts is then fitted together and properly fastened and finished with stunning angles, bevels and more — all of which lead to a highly recognizable finished timepiece.


It is no easy feat making a case that is distinguishable from across a crowded room, but top watch brands do it. Stop into our store anytime and we can do a side-by-side comparison of some of the finest cases and shapes on the market.


While watchmaking technology has been steadily improving for more than five centuries, there always seems to be room for improvement. Today’s finest watchmakers continually push the boundaries when it comes to innovation – offering new and exciting technology, functions and even materials.


Gold, platinum and steel will forever be forged into watch cases, but today, many brands also take their inspiration from the space, aviation, automotive and medical worlds when it comes to super high-tech materials.


Among the favorites are engineered ceramics, multiple grades of high-tech titanium, hypoallergenic alloys, aluminium (a derivative of aluminum that can be colored and is super light weight), carbon fiber (a dense yet light-weight material that is super strong thanks to the layering or weaving of thousands of strands of fibers), kevlar and more. Some brands are even working with transparent sapphire to create cases that are virtually see through.


The point behind these materials is not just to offer an exciting marketing angle, but, more to the point, to offer more durability, more scratch- or shock-resistance and lighter weight. Indeed, the materials used have to meet a clear objective, whether that is achieving a certain color, a certain weight or a certain aesthetic appeal.

Some brands are even building their own alloys of gold that will keep the gold from scratching or wearing in any way. This, of course, makes them even more precious in the long run.


Additionally, brands are even perfecting the coatings they apply to the materials. Years ago, when one wanted to add a different color to a metal, the piece was bathed in an electroplating process. Today, at the high end of the luxury watch spectrum, a host of coating methods can be employed, including PVD (physical vapor deposition), DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) applications and other methods that make the coating last longer and resist scratching.

We invite you in any time to see our vast array of timepieces that utilize high-tech materials in their cases, bracelets, bezels and straps.


First shown to the world during the March BaselWorld exhibition, the Swiss-made Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar watches are in stores now and deserve a close-up look. The new watch is powered by an in-house-made movement (Frederique Constant has 19 Manufacture movements in its repertoire) hand-built in the brand’s Plan-les-Ouates workshops outside of Geneva. Additionally, every one of the 191 parts in the caliber is individually finished.


The FC-775 automatic movement was in the research and development stages for two years. The end product is one of the easiest to use perpetual calendars on the market. Inset buttons easily adjust the functions (the button near 5:00 advances the moon, the one near 8:00 manipulates the day and date, etc.). Once adjusted, this highly sophisticated mechanism will take into account the months with 30 and 31 days, the 28 days of February and also the leap year cycle with the return of 29 February every four years. It will only need to be adjusted on March 1, 2100, when we skip a scheduled leap year to keep our calendar in sync with time.


Part of the brand’s Slimline collection, the Perpetual Calendar is at once a robust and reliable timepiece with a strong design aesthetic. Offered in rose gold-plated finish or in stainless steel, the 42mm case sports a sapphire caseback for viewing of the movement. Several dial choices are being offered and the watch is sold in a luxurious wooden box.


We invite you to stop in any time to see this new Perpetual Calendar watch and to see all of our Frederique Constant timepieces.


With Labor Day behind us, it seems to be a signal of oncoming fall – shorter days, earlier nights. This makes it a great time to invest in a watch that tells time in the dark. Luminous watches that don’t look luminous during the day but that glow brightly at night or in the dark took about a century to perfect.

In the early 1900s Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium. It was only a decade or so later that watch companies and dial makers turned to the substance as a luminous aid. Little did they know the dangers involved in using the material, which emits particles that have the effect of ionizing and glowing fluorescent.


Dial makers developed a radium-based paint and, in 1914, Radium Luminous Materials Corporation began producing the phosphorescent paint for watch hands and markers. Workers would paint the dials and often lick the tip of the brush to get a finer point on it for thinner, more exact lines. They began getting sick from the radiation within the paint and many died. A group of women banned together in the late 1920s and took the company to court, which led to its closing and the implementation of new rules about the material.

Scientists and researchers looked for other options and, in the 1960s, found tritium, which was more harmful than radium, but limits were established on how much could be used in a paint (vintage 1960s watches using this material may have a single or double T on the dial).

Eventually laws prohibited the use of radioactive paint and in the 1990s Super-LumiNova was unveiled. The non-radioactive substance is the material of choice today. It offers a strong glow (in several colors) without the danger. Additionally, the material has been improved over the past 20 years and is brighter today than it was in its original forms. The material glows after absorbing sufficient UV light, and the strength of the glow depends on how many layers of Super-LumiNova are applied.


Some watch companies also use a new tritium-based system called “Gaseous Tritium Light Source” (GTLS), wherein the material is encased in tiny glass tubes that are placed together to form numerals or markers. This system is brighter than Super-LumiNova but also more expensive and more difficult to execute.

At any rate, now that you know how much research has gone into creating watches with lumen, we invite you to stop in any time and see our great selection of luminous watches.

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