Shock Resistance is a fairly recent term in the world of watches. As more and more people are leading active lifestyles, watch brands are going to great lengths to create timepieces that are resistant to damage when dropped or when subjected to stringent and constant motion — such as being worn on the wrist during a tennis match.
Essentially, a watch is shock resistant if it can cope with shocks to the movement, especially to the delicate pivots that hold the balance wheel in place. Different watch brands offer various methods of making a watch shock resistant, but the general idea is to use a spring suspension system for the balance wheel.
One of the first systems — invented in the early 1930s — was the Incabloc system, a trade name for a spring-loaded mounting system for the jewel bearings that support the mechanical watch’s balance wheel. Swiss engineers developed the system in 1934 and it has become a standard in the industry with a flat jewel and endnote being spring-loaded into the main plate and balance cock so the bearings move laterally or vertically when subjected to shock.
Today, most watches have some degree of shock resistance, but dive watches, certified Chronometers and many pilot watches maintain a higher level of shock resistance — as they are specifically built to go the distance.
The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) has also issued certain standards of shock resistance. In the horology world, to be called shock resistant a watch must meet certain tests and controls (the limit is determined based on a watch accidentally falling from a height of about three feet onto a hardwood surface). In testing, a watch undergoing shock must keep its accuracy in the range of +/- 60 seconds/day.
Photo courtesy: Incabloc
Some brands today also conquer the issue of shock resistance via new materials and developments. This includes using synthetic jewels, silicon hairsprings, non-ferrous escape wheels, as well as adding inner and outer containers to the housing. Some brands have even developed all new case constructions with pressure absorbing elements.
If you are the active person, having a shock-resistant watch may just be right up your alley.