Glossary of Watch Terms

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12-Hour (24-hour) recorder (or register): A sub-dial on a chronograph (see chronograph) that can time periods of up to 12 or 24 hours.

30-Minute Recorder (or register): A sub-dial on a chronograph (see “chronograph”) that can time periods of up to 30 minutes.

A
Alarm: The watch alerts you with beeps at a pre-set time.

Analog: A watch that shows the time using hour and minute hands.

Anti-Magnetic: The movement of a mechanical watch can be thrown off balance if it comes in contact with a strong magnetic field; Magnetism is common in loudspeakers, televisions, refrigerators, cars, etc. etc. and these days most watches claim to be anti-magnetic. This is achieved by using alloys for certain parts, among them the balance wheel and escape wheel. Electronic watches are not susceptible to magnetism.

Automatic Winding: (or self-winding) This term refers to a watch with a mechanical movement (as opposed to a quartz or electrical movement). The watch is wound by the motion of the wearer’s arm rather than through turning the winding stem. A rotor that turns in response to motion winds the watch’s mainspring. If an automatic watch is not worn for a day or two, it will wind down and need to be wound by hand to get it started again.

B
Balance: This is essentially and oscillator which regulates the speed of the movement of a mechanical watch.

Battery Reserve Indicator (or end of battery indicator): Some battery operated watches have a feature that indicates when the battery is approaching the end of its life. This is often indicated by the second hand moving in two second intervals instead of each second.

Bezel: The ring which surrounds the watch dial (or face). The bezel is usually made of gold, gold plate or stainless steel.

Bi-directional Rotating Bezel: A bezel that can be rotated either clockwise or counterclockwise. These are used for mathematical calculations such as average speed or distance (see “slide rule”) or for keeping track of elapsed time(see “elapsed time rotating bezel”).

Built-in Illumination: Lighting on a watch dial that allows the wearer to read the time in the dark. Check out Seiko’s Lumi-brite technology.

C
Calendar: A feature that shows the date, and often the day of the week. There are several types of calendar watches. Most calendar watches show the information digitally through an aperture on the watch face. Some chronograph watches shoe the information on sub-dials on the watch face.

Cases: The case of a watch must not only protect the mechanism and hold all the parts together but it must also look good -sometimes to the extent of making a timepiece into a piece of jewelry. The following are the main parts of a watch case. The middle part, into which the movement is fixed, is the case band. On the bridge side, the middle of the case is closed by the case back. On the dial side, it is closed by the lunette or bezel, carrying the glass.

Chapter Ring: The ring on the watch dial bearing figures and minute marks. The hour figures are sometimes called chapters.

Chronograph: A watch that includes a built in stopwatch function – i.e., a timer that can be started and stopped to time an event. There are many variations on the chronograph. Some operate with a center seconds hand which keeps time on the watch’s main dial. Others use sub-dials to time elapsed hours, minutes and seconds

Chronometer: Technically speaking, all watches are chronometers. But for a Swiss made watch to be called a chronometer, it must meet certain very high standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control (C.O.S.C.). If you have a Swiss watch labeled as a chronometer, you can be certain that it has a mechanical movement of the very highest quality.

Complications: One or more features added to a watch in addition to its usual time-telling functions, which normally not only include the hours, minutes and seconds but also date and often the day of the week as well. Complications such as; perpetual calendars, moonphase displays, alarms, repeating mechanisms, quarter strikes as well as stop/start chronograph functions. Power reserve indicators are also usually regarded as ‘complications’

Cosmograph: The cosmograph differs to the chronograph in that the tachymeter is on the bezel rather than on the outer rim of the dial. This was invented by Rolex to create a more modern look to the watch.

Countdown Timer: A function that lets the wearer keep track of how much of a pre-set period of time has elapsed. Some countdown timers sound a warning signal a few seconds before the time runs out.

Crown: Also called a stem or pin, a crown is the button on the outside of the watch case that is used to set the time and date. In a mechanical watch the crown also winds the mainspring. In this case it is also called a “winding stem”.

Crystal: The transparent cover on a watch face made of glass crystal, synthetic sapphire or plastic. Better watches often have a sapphire crystal which is highly resistant to scratching or shattering.

D
Depth Alarm: An alarm on a divers’ watch that sounds when the wearer exceeds a pre-set depth.

Depth Sensor/Depth Meter: A device on a divers’ watch that determines the wearer’s depth by measuring water pressure. It shows the depth either by analog hands and a scale on the watch face or through a digital display.

Dial: The watch face.

Digital Watch: A watch that shows the time through digits rather than through a dial and hands (analog) display.

E
Elapsed Time Rotating Bezel: A graduated rotating bezel (see rotating bezel”) used to keep track of elapsed time. The bezel can be turned so the wearer can align the zero on the bezel with the watch’s seconds or minutes hand. After a period of time passes, you can read the elapsed time off the bezel. This saves you having to perform the subtraction that would be necessary if you used the watch’s regular dial.

Electronic (Quartz) Watch: A watch, usually battery-powered, which uses an electric current to cause a quartz oscillator to vibrate, normally 32,768 Hz per second but sometimes at much higher frequencies. These vibrations are processed by an integrated circuit which transforms the current into impulses. These are fed into a stepping motor which drives a train of gears to move the hands.

Escapement: Device in a mechanical movement that controls the rotation of the wheels and thus the motion of the hands.

F
Flyback Hand: A seconds hand on a chronograph that can be used to time laps or to determine finishing times for several competitors in a race. Start the chronograph, putting both the flyback hand and the regular chronograph seconds hand in motion. To record a lap time or finishing time, stop the flyback hand. After recording the time, push a button and the hand will “fly back” to catch up with the constantly moving elapsed-time hand. Repeat the process to record as many lap times or finishing times as needed.

G
Gear Train: The system of gears which transmits power from the mainspring to the escapement.

Gold Plated: A layer of gold electroplated to a base metal.

Grande Complications: The most complex of mechanical watches featuring an abundance of complications. The term is normally restricted to mechanical watches. Quartz watches with additional features are usually described as ‘multi-functional’.

H
Hairspring:
The spring that vibrates the balance. Also called balance spring.

Horology: The science, craft, industry and trade concerned with instruments for measuring time.

I
Integrated Bracelet: A watch bracelet that is incorporated into the design of the case.

J
Jewels: Synthetic sapphires or rubies that act as bearings for gears in a mechanical watch. The jewels reduce friction to make the watch more accurate and longer lasting.

Jumping Hours: A digital display where the time in hours is shown in the dial as a number, usually visible through an aperture. The number changes, or jumps, precisely on every hour.

K
Karat: Gold content of an alloy, on a 24-part scale. Fine gold has 24 karats, consisting of almost 100 percent pure gold; 18-karat gold has 750 thousandths, 14-karat gold, 585 thousandths of gold. The gold content is stamped onto the metal.

Kinetic: Refers to the Seiko line of Kinetic watches. This innovative technology has a quartz movement that does not use a battery. Movement of your wrist charges a very efficient capacitor which powers the quartz movement. Once the capacitor is fully charged, men’s models will store energy for 724 days without being worn. Ladies models store energy for 3-7 days. Of course, if the watch is worn every day the capacitor is continually recharged. The watch alerts you to a low capacitor charge when the seconds hand starts to move in two second intervals

L
Lap Timer: A chronograph function that lets the wearer time segments of a race. At the end of a lap, he stops the timer, which then returns to zero to begin timing the next lap.

Liquid-Crystal Display (LCD): A digital watch display that shows the time electronically by means of a liquid held in a thin layer between two transparent plates. All LCD watches have quartz movements.

Lugs: Projections on a watch face to which the watch band or bracelet is attached

Luminescence: Luminous dials first appeared during the Great War when soldiers needed to tell the time in the dark. Early forms used Zinc Sulphide compound agitated by a radioactive salt. It was painted on hands and was potentially dangerous to those applying it. Its use was banned in the 50′s, since Tritium, a substance with a low radio activity, replaced it. Other methods have been devised. Timex’s ‘Indiglo’ uses electronic luminescence; a button on the side of the case causes a tiny current from the battery to the electrodes and gives off energy in the form of light. Seiko uses fluorescent material on the dial, activated by any exposure to light.

M
Measurement Conversion: A feature, usually consisting of a graduated scale on the watch’s bezel, that lets the wearer translate one type of measurement into another-miles into kilometers, for instance, or pounds into kilograms

Mechanical Movement: A movement powered by a mainspring, working in conjunction with a balance wheel. Most watches today have electronically controlled quartz movements and are powered by a battery. However, mechanical watches are currently enjoying resurgence in popularity.

Minute Repeater: A watch which can additionally tell the time, at the push of a button or move of a small slide on the side of the case, by striking the hours, quarter hours and minutes since the last quarter hour on small goings inside the watch. Such complex watches are never inexpensive.

Moon Phase Display: A graphic display by means of a specially shaped aperture in the dial to indicate the phase of the moon, i.e. full, new or somewhere in between. Very popular in the 90′s but losing favor in the second half of the century.

Movement: The inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and moves the watch’s hands, calendar, etc. Movements are either mechanical or quartz.

Musical Watch: A watch that plays a tune on demand or on the hour.

P
Pavé: A number of jewels or stones set close together, i.e. paved in diamonds.

Plate: A metal plate that supports the bridges and various parts of the movement.

Polished: Made smooth and brilliant by very fine-grained abrasives or by rubbing with a burnisher.

Power Reserve Indicator: A feature that shows when the watch will soon need a new battery or winding. A battery reserve indicator on a quartz watch informs the wearer when the battery is low. Often this is indicated by the seconds hand moving at two or three-second intervals

Pushers or Push Pieces: Push buttons are on the case of the chronographs and some complicated watches. Most are used to stop and start a stopwatch but sometimes serve other functions.

PVD – Physical Vapor Deposition: A coating of titanium nitrate applied in a vacuum and then covered by a coating of 22k gold to obtain a gold colored finish.

Q
Quartz Movement: A movement powered by a quartz crystal to. Quartz crystals are very accurate. They can be mass produced which makes them less expensive than most mechanical movements which require a higher degree craftsmanship.

R
Rhodium Plating: Protective coating of metal objects with a thin layer of rhodium (hard, brittle metal that does not oxidize and is malleable only when red-hot).

Rotating Bezel: A bezel (the ring surrounding the watch face) that can be turned. Different types of rotating bezels perform different timekeeping and mathematical functions (see elapsed time rotating bezel,” “unidirectional rotating bezel,” “bi-directional rotating bezel” and “slide rule.”)

Rotor: The part of an automatic (or self-winding) mechanical watch that winds the movement’s mainspring. It is a flat piece of metal, usually shaped like a semicircle, which swivels on a pivot with the motion of the wearer’s arm.

S
Sapphire Crystal: A crystal made of synthetic sapphire, a transparent, shatter-resistant, scratch-resistant substance.

Screw-lock Crown: A crown that can be screwed into the case to make the watch watertight.

Second Time-zone Indicator: An additional dial that can be set to the time in another time zone. It lets the wearer keep track of local time and the time in another country simultaneously.

Shock Resistance: As defined by U.S. government regulation, a watch’s ability to withstand an impact equal to that of being dropped onto a wood floor from a height of 3 feet.

Skeleton Watch: A watch with no dial and only a chapter ring. As much metal is removed as possible and all the remaining parts are decorated with elaborate engravings.

Sliderule: A device, consisting of logarithmic or other scales on the outer edge of the watch face, that can be used to do mathematical calculations. One of the scales is marked on a rotating bezel, which can be slid against the stationary scale to make the calculations. Some watches have slide rules that allow specific calculations, such as for fuel consumption by an airplane or fuel weight.

Solar Powered: A watch that uses solar energy (from any light source) to power the quartz movement. The Citizen >Solar-Tech< models use this technology and provide a 180 day power reserve, so they are able to run continuously. For more information, click here to go to Citizens Internet Site.

Split Hand: A second hand on the second spring. The hand can be stopped independently of the switched-on chronograph and return to the current time with the push of a button.

Spring Bars (or pins) : Spring-loaded bars between the lugs on the case, used to attach a strap or metal bracelet to the case.

Stepping Motor: The part of a quartz movement that moves the gear train, which in turn moves the watch’s hands.

Stopwatch: A watch with a seconds hand that measures intervals of time. When a stopwatch is incorporated into a standard watch, both the stopwatch function and the timepiece are referred to as a chronograph.

Sub-dial: A small dial on a watch face used for any of several purposes, such as keeping track of elapsed minutes or hours on a chronograph or indicating the date.

Swiss Made: As a part of a move towards greater consumer protection and in order to combat fakes in the Far East that claim to be Swiss made, the Swiss federal council in 1993 laid down the rule that a watch has to satisfy before it could be described as Swiss made. The movement must be of Swiss origin, and must contain at least 50% Swiss parts. The watch must be cased in Switzerland and pass its final inspection in that country.

T
Tachymeter: (“tack IM eh ter”) A feature found on some chronograph watches, a tachymeter (also called a “tachometer”) measures the speed at which the wearer has traveled over a measured distance.

Tank Watch: A rectangular watch designed by Louis Cartier. The bars along the sides of the watch were inspired by the tracks of tanks used in World War 1.

Telemeter: (“tel EH meh ter”): A telemeter determines the distance of an object from the observer by measuring how long it takes sound to travel that distance. Like a tachymeter (see “tachymeter”), it consists of a stopwatch, or chronograph, and a special scale, usually on the outermost edge of the watch face.

Titanium: A metal that is used for some watch cases and bracelets. Titanium is much stronger and lighter than stainless steel. Titanium is also hypo-allergenic.

Tonneau Watch: A watch shaped like a barrel, with two convex sides.

Tourbillon: A device, invented by Breguet in 1801, in which the escapement is mounted in a small revolving cage as a means of overcoming the effects of gravity on the precision on a mechanical timepiece.

Train: A series of gears that form the works of a watch. The time train carries the power to the escapement. The train is used for other functions such as chiming.

U
Uni-directional Rotating Bezel: An elapsed time rotating bezel (see “elapsed time rotating bezel”), often found on divers’ watches, that moves only in a counterclockwise direction. It is designed to prevent a diver who has unwittingly knocked the bezel off its original position from overestimating his remaining air supply. Because the bezel moves in only one direction, the diver can err only on the side of safety when timing his dive. Many divers’ watches are ratcheted, so that they lock into place for greater safety.

W
Water Resistance: The ability to withstand splashes of water. Terms such as “water resistant to 50 meters” or “water resistant to 200 meters” indicate that the watch can be worn underwater to various depths.

Winding Stem: The button on the right side of the watch case used to wind the mainspring. Also called a “crown.”

World Time Dial: A dial, usually on the outer edge of the watch face, that tells the time in up to 24 time zones around the world. The time zones are represented by the names of cities printed on the bezel or dial. The wearer reads the hour in a particular time zone by looking at the scale next to the city that the hour hand is pointing to. The minutes are read as normal. Watches with this feature are called “world timers.”

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