Working with watch movements is an extremely delicate task and parts can be incredibly small. Even with perfect vision, it can be visually challenging to work with such tiny components, particularly when carrying out delicate tasks. Enhanced vision is crucial when examining small parts allowing you to check for signs of wear, damage or when applying oil for lubrication purposes.
Watchmakers have several options available for magnification. At some point throughout your watchmaking journey, there will be a need to use each type of magnification tool. Therefore, space in your toolkit should be made for each type of tool. This ensures that you can select the most suitable magnification tool for each task.
Why do Watchmakers Require Magnification?
Depending on the task at hand, watchmakers use a variety of magnifications. Most commonly, watchmakers generally use a magnification in the range of 2x to 10x. This allows watchmakers to examine intricate details and work with precision. The choice of magnification depends on the specific task.
Higher magnifications can be used for close inspections and delicate work. Watchmakers typically use watchmaker’s loupes for higher magnification. Meanwhile, lower magnifications can be preferred for some tasks for a broader view of general repairs.
A magnifying glass is handy for lower magnification. In some tasks that require extreme close ups, there is also the need for a microscope. A microscope may be used for incredibly specialized tasks involving tiny parts.
Ultimately, watchmakers utilize different magnification tools and techniques to ensure meticulous craftsmanship and accuracy in their work.
Different Types of Watchmakers Magnification
There are 4 main options of jewelers and watchmakers magnification that you should be aware of:
A basic magnifying glass is extremely affordable and you can find greater options under $6. Whilst higher end options are available, their price tags vary dramatically and there is no major need to purchase a branded version.
Go for a cheap option, ideally on a stand.
Watchmaker’s loupes dramatically vary in price but a basic option can be as little as $6. Branded loupes can be up to $80 but are worth the price tag.
Branded loupes are a worthwhile investment and I therefore recommend purchasing a branded one. Bausch & Lomb, Bergeon and Horotec are all great options. I also recommend purchasing two different loupes. Having both a 5x loupe and a 10x loupe covers all bases and a range of tasks.
Loupe Holder – Recommendation
A basic loupe holder will cost around $6 whilst a branded loupe holder will be between $12.
A basic loupe holder does the same job as a branded one. I therefore recommend going for a cheaper option and spending the money on a tool where it is more important to splash out on.
Clip On Loupe
A more suitable solution for someone who wears glasses, like myself, is to opt for a clip-on loupe. This type of loupe comes with a clip mechanism that allows it to be securely attached to the frame of your glasses. You can easily flip the loupe up and down as needed. This provides convenient magnification without the need for an additional accessory and without compromising on the stability of the loupe.
I have personally experimented with various clip-on loupes and found them to be highly effective. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the loupe and the fit of your glasses can impact the overall experience. In some cases, inexpensive clip-on loupes or ill-fitting glasses can lead to issues. The additional weight of the loupe on the glasses may cause them to slide down your nose more frequently which can be both annoying and disruptive.
When considering a clip-on loupe, I would recommend investing in a quality option that is compatible with your glasses. This ensures a secure fit and minimizes any issues.
I tried a branded clip on loupe for a few weeks and reviewed my thoughts on the Beco Technic Spectacles Magnifier which details my first hand experience.
The Beco Technic Spectacle Magnifier is available in 5 different magnifications (2.5x, 3.3x, 4x, 6.7x and 10x) and left or right eye orientation.
Clip On Loupe – Recommendation
A basic loupe clip-on loupe can cost as little as $9. Branded versions can cost between $50-$70.
There are limited branded Clip On Loupe options with the main one being the Bergeon 7913. I recommend checking compatibility with your glasses.
Magnifying Glass vs. Watchmakers Loupe
Whilst ultimately a magnifying glass and a watchmakers and jewelers loupe perform the same role, they have unique advantages and are used for different purposes.
A watchmaker’s loupe is specifically designed for extremely close-up work and provides higher magnification compared to a standard magnifying glass. Loupes are typically compact, portable and have a higher quality lens. They offer excellent clarity and minimal distortion when compared to a magnifying glass.
They are available in a range of magnifications allowing you to choose the level of magnification needed for the task whether it be intricate watch repairs, gemstone setting or examining small components. The design of a loupe also allows for hands-free use as it can be worn on the eye. This is extremely beneficial when working with small and delicate parts.
On the other hand, a magnifying glass provides lower magnification compared to a loupe. It is a larger, handheld device which is more suitable for tasks that don’t require high precision.
A watchmaker’s loupe is generally considered more specialized and better suited for the intricate work performed by watchmakers but both tools will play an important role in your toolkit.
Both tools have a place in your toolbox.
A basic unbranded option will cost around $25 whilst branded headband magnifiers range between $55-400.
While I personally haven’t had the opportunity to try a headband magnifier myself, I know many watchmakers that use one regularly and the Donegan OptiVISOR range seems to be the most popular brand.
A microscope is an incredible tool for watchmakers. Whilst it requires sufficient bench space, the benefits it offers make it a valuable addition to any watchmaker’s toolkit. The main advantage of a microscope is its extensive zoom magnification range allowing you to examine watch parts and components with exceptional detail.
Many microscopes also come equipped with useful features such as an articulating arm, allowing for greater flexibility and maneuverability. An LED ring light is also typically a feature providing great illumination for your work.
I never imagined buying a microscope as I could never justify the cost, but once I tried it I was blown away but the clarity and detail, and can no longer imagine working on a movement without one.
Microscopes are an investment with basic options costing at least $200 and going up to $1,000.
It’s worth splashing the cash for a quality branded microscope from AmScope which are available in multiple variations including with a boom stand.
Tips for Purchasing and Using Magnification
If you have the budget and workspace, a microscope will end up being your most used tool. However, all types of magnification have a place in your watchmaking toolkit.
One challenge commonly encountered with loupes is fogging up. This can be inconvenient as it can disrupt work with the need for frequent glass wiping. A solution for this is drilling holes in the top and bottom of your loupe allowing for improved airflow. This reduces the occurrence of fogging. There are also watchmakers loupes available with pre-cut holes in the top and bottom.
When using a clip-on loupe, ensure your glasses fit securely. This reduces them slipping down your nose due to the additional weight of the loupe. If you find your glasses need adjusting, you can attend your local optician for a fitting and adjustment.
Watchmakers Loupe & Optics FAQs
Watchmakers loupes are magnifying devices that are worn over one eye to inspect small and intricate details of watch components. They are essential tools for watchmaking, as they allow watchmakers to see the fine craftsmanship and functionality of timepieces.
Watchmakers need loupes to perform various tasks, such as assembling, disassembling, cleaning, repairing, and adjusting watches. Loupes enable watchmakers to work with precision and accuracy, as well as to detect any flaws or defects that may affect the quality and performance of watches.
A watchmakers loupe and a traditional magnifying glass serve different purposes and have different advantages depending on the task and the level of detail required.
Watchmakers typically use a magnification between 2x to 10x. The higher end is great for extreme close ups and delicate work whilst the lower end offers a more enhanced overview. Whilst a magnifying glass is typically used for lower magnification, a watchmaker’s loupe offer the best view for very small details and watch movements.
Choose a loupe that suits your task and preference.
Place the loupe over your dominant eye and adjust it until it fits snugly and securely. Hold the watch or component you want to inspect in your hand or on a stand. Bring the watch or component close to your eye until it comes into focus. Move the watch or component around to inspect different parts or angles. Switch between different loupes if needed.
Clean the lenses regularly with a soft cloth or a lens cleaner to remove any dust or fingerprints. Store your loupes in a protective case or pouch to prevent them from getting scratched or damaged. Avoid exposing your loupes to extreme temperatures or humidity, which can affect their performance. Handle your loupes with care and avoid dropping or mishandling them.
Watchmakers loupes are available from many online and offline sources. You can find them from big brands such as Bergeon, Horotec, Bausch & Lomb, or Donegan, or from budget-friendly alternatives that do the job just as well.
If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.