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Watch Parts – The Balance Wheel

Anyone who owns a skeleton watch and wonders what it is they’re looking at, we are here to answer your questions. The first thing you noticed was probably the most animated part of the watch, a device that looks like a small wheel oscillating back and forth once you wind it up. That is called the “balance wheel,” one of the hundreds of parts that work together as a cohesive whole to make it run. The balance wheel is the modern and portable equivalence of a pendulum; that is, it is responsible for keeping accurate time. Combined with the “balance spring,” that coil of metal situated above the balance wheel, which kept the watch from slowing down as the main spring unwound, timekeeping became more accurate. Because they are moving parts, they are fixed with a jewel to help relieve the tension, stress, and friction that would normally damage a watch.

The speed of the balance wheel’s oscillation is directly responsible for the accuracy of the watch, and it is measured in vibrations per hour, or V.P.H.  The faster the vibration, the less affected it will be by the movement of the wrist. Current watches have a V.P.H. at an average of 21,600 to 28,800.

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