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Know Your Watch: Understanding Crystals in Watches

April 21, 2014.

Guide to crystals in watches

Moving on from our guide to different types of watch movements, watch straps and water resistance, today we're going to explain in a bit more detail the role that crystal plays in wristwatches and pocket watches.

What are crystals in watches?

The term crystal when used in wristwatches refers to the glass watch casing that covers the watch face. This rather lovely term shouldn't be confused with the quartz crystal used in watch movements.

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If you didn't know that these all-important watch casings were called crystals you may have assumed that these are made from glass - and you're not wrong - however, there are different types of crystals used and these effect the strength, scratch resistance and of course, the affordability of a watch.

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Different types of crystals in watches

The crystal used in wristwatches are typically one of three materials; sapphire, mineral and plastic or acrylic.

You should usually be able to see what type of crystal the watch has in the product description.

Sapphire Crystals

Sapphire crystals are the most expensive type of crystal used in watch movements. They are very durable - they are only scratched by diamonds or other materials that have a mineral hardness of 10 - and will not often need replacing. Sapphire crystals are most commonly used in the most traditional and luxurious watches. Sapphire crystals are considered to be three times harder than mineral crystals.

Twisted Time are proud to stock a number of watches with sapphire crystals like the 841 Dimension Steel Sapphire by Jacob Jensen.

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And the Pebble watch range by Bulbul.

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Mineral Crystals

The mid-range option, mineral crystals are often very difficult to distinguish from sapphire crystals on sight alone. Only experts or those brave (or stupid!) enough to take a steel knife to it will see that it is less scratch-resistant (and less valuable!) than sapphire crystals. It is essentially a type of hardened. reinforced glass and is much more durable than plastic or acrylic crystals.

The majority of watches on sale at Twisted Time use mineral crystals because it is so scratch resistant and is also easy to replace should an accident happen. Some examples of watches with mineral glass casings include Briston's watches and the range by Smart Turnout.

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Plastic or Acrylic Crystals

Plastic or acrylic crystals are mass produced manmade crystals used in watch movements at great affordability. Although they are less durable and much easier to scratch than both sapphire and mineral crystals, they are much easier and cheaper to replace. It is common for some watch brands to use plastic or acrylic crystals in more affordable versions of their most expensive watch designs.

While most watch repairers will only charge you a small amount to replace a plastic or acrylic crystal, it's also possible to try and fix it yourself and there are plenty of tutorials online. Our best advice, however, is to let a professional take care of it for you!

Top Image: Source

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