Watch Terminology

A to Z  of Watch Terminology

0 – 9

12-HOUR RECORDER (12-HOUR REGISTER): A sub-dial on a chronograph that can record time periods of up to 12 hours.

30-MINUTE RECORDER (30-MINUTE REGISTER): A sub-dial on a chronograph that can record time periods of up to 30 minutes.


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

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

ANTI-MAGNETIC: Refers to a watches ability to withstand outside magnetic influences (based on its design and materials used in manufacturing). All watches can be influenced by magnetic fields if strong enough.

AUTOMATIC WINDING: This refers to a watch which is powered by the motion of the wearer’s wrist, movement of the wearer is transferred by a weighted rotor to power which is stored on a coiled spring. The mainspring releases stored power and acts as a power reserve, most quality Swiss watches will have a 40 hour power reserve and 2013 has seen Tissot launch the first Automatic watch with an 80 hour power reserve.


BALANCE WHEEL: A specialized compound wheel which by oscillating regulates the timing fast or slow of the watch or clock.

BAND: See Strap

BATTERY: A dry cell similar to that used in a torch which is used to power electric and electronic watches. (Example quartz watch). Most watch batteries are 1.5 volts and contain Silver Oxide. Digital watches are often fitted with a 3 Volt lithium cell.

BATTERY END-OF-LIFE INDICATOR (EOL): A function that signals an impending battery failure in a Quartz watch by means of the second hand jumping in two- or four-second intervals. The watch has approximately two weeks before battery failure. This is not a feature of all quartz watches.

BEZEL: The ring that surrounds the dial, or face, of a watch. Commonly constructed of gold, gold plate or stainless steel, the bezel may be adorned with diamonds on a jewelry watch. On sports watches, it often has calibrated markings and the ability to rotate in either one or two directions. The primary purpose of the bezel is to hold the crystal covering the face of the watch in place.

BI-DIRECTIONAL ROTATING BEZEL: A bezel that can be used for mathematical calculations or keeping track of elapsed time through either a clockwise or counterclockwise movement.

BRIDGE: A bridge is metal plates with “jewels” that hold rotating watch gears. They support the watch gears.


CALENDAR: A watch that indicates date of the month, day of the week, etc., as well as time.

CALIBER: Is used to refer to the size, shape, style of a watch movement. Different watch manufacturers tend to use their own identification system to number their calibers.

CASE (WATCH CASE): the metal case in which the works of a watch are housed.

CASE MEASUREMENT: An approximate watch measurement from one end of the watch to the other that does not include the crown. On average, Gents watches have a case width or diameter of 35 millimeters or larger and Ladies watches have a case width or diameter of 34 millimeters or smaller. The thickness measurement refers to the width between the case back and the top of the crystal.

CENTRE SECONDS: A hand at the center of the dial that indicates seconds, along with the hour and minute hands. It moves the fastest, it is also usually the thinnest of the three hands.

CHAPTER RING: a ring like band on the dial of a clock that bears the numerals or other symbols of the hours.

CHRONOGRAPH: Is a watch that has a stopwatch function. It will have two or three additional registers. The simplest chronographs have a register for 30 minutes, and a center-mounted second hand.

CHRONOMETER: Is a high-precision watch displaying seconds whose movement has been tested over a period of several days, in different positions and at different temperatures, by an official neutral body. Movements that has been certified by the Swiss official Chronometer Control (C.O.S.C).”.

COMPLICATIONS: Additional features beyond the simple display of hours, minutes, and seconds on a wrist watch. Features such as perpetual calendars, moon-phase displays, alarms, repeating mechanisms, and chronographs functions. A watch that is complicated usually consists of many parts, quite possibly, greater than a thousand parts.

C.O.S.C: is the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, which is responsible for testing and certifying the accuracy and precision of wristwatches in Switzerland.

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: The counting backward aloud from an arbitrary starting number to indicate the time remaining before an event or operation.Some countdown timers sound a warning signal a few seconds before the time runs out. These are useful in sporting events, such as yacht races.

CROWN: It is the button on the end of the spindle that is used for adjusting the time and/or date on an analogue (non digital) watch. Generally the winding is done with the crown flush against the watch, pulled out once it adjusts the date (if it has one) and pulled out a second “click” it adjusts the time.

CRYSTAL: A protective cover that protects the face of a watch made of glass crystal, synthetic sapphire or plastic Sapphire is the most expensive and durable crystal, approximately three times harder than mineral crystals and 20 times harder than acrylic crystals.


DEPTH ALARM: An alarm watches that sound when the wearer exceeds a preset depth level, usually Divers wear depth alarm.

DIAL: The face of a watch. On the dial there are numbers or symbols that indicate the hour of the day in a clockwise fashion.

DIGITAL: A digital display simply shows the time as a number, for example, 12:30 instead of a short hand pointing towards the number 12 and a long hand 30/60 of the way round the dial. The digits are usually shown as a seven-segment display. In general, functions in digital watches work by push-buttons, either on the side of the watch case, or on the surface of the watch itself.

DIVING WATCH: A diving watch is a watch designed for underwater diving that features, as a minimum, a water resistance greater than 1.0 MPa (10 atm), the equivalent of 100 m (330 ft). The typical diver’s watch will have a water resistance of around 200 to 300 m (660 to 980 ft), though modern technology allows the creation of diving watches that can go much deeper.


ESCAPEMENT: A mechanism consisting on an escape wheel and an anchor used to control movement of the wheel and to provide periodic energy impulses to a pendulum or balance.


FACE: See Dial

FLYBACK HAND: A second hand on the chronograph that can be used to time laps or to determine finishing times for several competitors in race. When reset, the second hand flies back to zero very quickly.


GRANDE COMPLICATIONS: The Grande Complication is the most complex watch you can find for a mechanical watch. It usually features such complications as Perpetual Calender, Chronograph, and many more.


HAIR SPRING: The very fine coiled spring found within the balance wheel of all mechanical watches.

Helium Escape Valve:


JEWEL: A Jewel in a watch is usually 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. This is commonly displayed on watches as number, generally the greater the number or jewels the higher the quality of the watch movement.


LAP TIMER: A function on the chronograph that allows the wearer to time segments of a race. When finished you would reset the chronograph and it would go back to zero.

LUGS: Projections on the watch case which the strap or bracelet is attached.

LUMINESCENCE: Luminescent coating is usually found on the watch hand or markers so that the wearer will be able to read the watch at night.


MECHANICAL MOVEMENT: A movement powered by a mainspring that works in conjunction with a balance wheel. The two types of mechanical movements on a watch are Automatic and Manual movement.

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.

MOONPHASE DISPLAY: A graphic display on the face of the watch which indicates the phase of the moon. It is a complication that is always costly.

MOVEMENT: The inner mechanism of the watch that keeps time and moves the watch hands. The watch be an automatic, manual, quartz, or electric movement.



PUSHERS: The push buttons that appear most commonly on a chronograph watch. The top button usually stops and starts the chronograph while the bottom one would reset the chronograph.


QUARTZ MOVEMENT: Quartz movements are watches that are powered by a battery or cell.


ROTATING BEZEL: A Bezel that be turned. There are many differentiations of a rotating Bezel. Most diving watches are fitted with a uni rotational bezel that only moves in one direction so if being used to time a scuba dive and was knocked it can only reduce the time left underwater.

ROTOR: The weight part of an automatic watch that winds that rotates and winds power onto the movements mainspring.


SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL: A crystal made of synthetic sapphire, also called the watch glass. A crack resistant and scratch resistant substance that will protect the face of the watch. This is a feature seen on most higher quality watches and some are also coated with and anti reflective coating on one or both sides of the glass.

SCREW DOWN CROWN: Is a crown / button that can be screwed into the case of the watch which will make the watch watertight.

SHOCK RESISTANCE: A watch’s ability to withstand an impact equal to that of being dropped onto a wood floor from a height of 3 feet.

STOP WATCH: A watch that has hands that display intervals of time.

STRAP: In the UK a watch strap generally refers to a Leather or Plastic / Rubber band used to secure the watch to the wrist. Metal bands are refered to as bracelets. When purchasing a replacement strap or bracelet, the width must match the distance between the case lugs.

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.


TACHYMETER: Measured the speed the wearer has gone over a certain distance.

TELEMETER: A telemeter determines the distance of an object from the observer by measuring how long it takes sound to travel that distance.

TITANIUM: A metal that is used for some watch cases, bezels, and bracelets. It is much stronger than stainless steel.

TOURBILLON: A tourbillon is one of the premier complications. It has a rotating cage to overcome the effects of gravity on the watches accuracy.


WATER RESISTANT: In broad terms it means that it is able to resistant splashes of water, there are different levels of water resistancy which are displayed on watches in metres.
50 metres
100 metres
200 metres