Watch Glossary
In addition to their exterior beauty, watches are also an incredible feat of engineering and craftsmanship. Many complicated parts must all work in tandem in order to not only tell time, but perform the myriad other functions that many of today’s watches perform. This section contains an overview of the major parts of a watch
A subdial on a chronograph that can record time periods of up to 12 hours.
Displays military time by sub-wheels or digital readout.
A subdial on a chronograph that can record time periods up to 30 min
Analogue watches have hands to show the time.
A feature which allows you to measure the altitude you are at.
These watches work by winding themselves up whilst being worn on the wrist, so you don't need to wind them manually. The movement of the wrist turns an oscillating weight which keeps the mainspring wound and the watch working. When not being worn most automatic watches, if fully charged, will run for approximately 36 hours before stopping.
This is a non-precious metal, such as brass.
These are markers which represent the hours and minutes on a watch in place of numerals.
Also known as a cell, the battery provides the power for all quartz watches.
Some watches have this function which gives you warning when the battery INDICATOR power is starting to run low. This is often done by having the second hand tick at 2 or 4 second intervals.
This is the ring on the outside of the case that surrounds the dial of the watch. In some watches the bezel can be rotated, or may be set with crystals or diamonds to give the watch a more elegant look.
Watches often come on a metal bracelet made up of small links. The bracelet can be made out of a plated base metal, stainless steel, titanium, or precious Metals such as silver and gold. Watch bracelets are usually fastened by means of a clasp, although you can get expanding bracelets which slip over the hand.
This is a set consisting of a bracelet watch and an individual bracelet of a matching design.
The fastener on a leather strap.
A feature of a watch showing the date and occasionally the day of the week. Some watches will also indicate the month.
This is the measure of the purity of gold. Pure gold is 24 carats, but gold watches are usually 9 carat gold (37.5% gold) because it is harder wearing and more affordable. You can get 18 carat gold watches (75% gold) but these are less common and more expensive.
This is the main body of the watch which contains the movement. The case can be made of different materials and be of different shapes.
The cover on the back of a watch which protects its insides whilst allowing access to the movement as needed. It can be made of different materials ranging from plastic to 9ct gold, although stainless steel is most common. The case back usually flips off and is snapped back into place, although water resistant models frequently have a screw down back to make it harder for water to get into the watch. Watch manufacturers often print information about the watch on the case back, for example model numbers and water resistance.
A watch with a separate stopwatch function. A chronograph watch usually Has two or three smaller dials on the main watch face which measure different gradations of time, for example seconds, minutes and hours.
A watch that has been subjected to rigorous testing by an official watch testing centre and has earned a certificate to support its quality and accuracy.
The fastener on the watch bracelet. There are different types depending on the style of bracelet and watch, with more heavy duty, sports and 9ct gold watches often having extra security features such as a fold over bar or push-button release.
A function which allows you to measure a preset period of time.
Also known as the button. This is used to alter the time and date feature on most watches. It is also used to win-up the movement of mechanical watches. in some water resistant watches the crown can be screwed down for extra protection against water entering the watch.
Also known as the watch face. This sits on top of the watch movement and gives a watch its own individual character. It can be plain with just numbers or batons, or can be very ornate to fit in with the overall design of a watch.
A watch, or display within a watch face, which uses a liquid-crystal display to display the time or other functions.
See dial.
The protective cover over the dial of the watch. It can be of different shapes to fit in with the style of the watch and, although usually flat, can sometimes be domed or have a raised bubble over the date feature. The glass can be made of different materials, with the most common being:
Acrylic crystal - inexpensive and light scratches can be buffed out.
Mineral crystal - a hardened glass which is treated to be more resistant to scratches.
Sapphire crystal - the most expensive and durable. Sapphire has a hardness second only to diamond, so it is highly resistant to scratches It is three times harder than mineral crystal and twenty times harder than acrylic crystal.
A precious metal which is most commonly used in its 9 carat and 18 carat forms. White gold, where the yellow pigment has been bleached out and the resulting metal rhodium plated, is becoming increasingly used for watches as it is immensely popular in jewellery. For more information see carat and hallmark.
This is the authorised stamp from an assay office which is found on items of gold, silver and platinum. The hallmark indicates the authenticity and standard of the precious metal and is awarded after independent tests by the official assay offices at London, Birmingham, Sheffield or Edinburgh.
These are used to indicate what the time is on an analogue watch. They come in different styles depending upon the manufacturer and style of watch face. The hands of some watches are coated with a luminous substance so that they can be seen easily in poor light or the dark.
A watch movement created by Seiko which utilises the movement of your body to charge up a rechargeable cell within the watch. The power from this battery then runs the workings of the watch and results in quartz accurate time-keeping, plus keeps the watch working for long periods when it is not even being worn. Kinetic watches have a power reserve indicator so you can see if your watch is running low on power. As a battery change is unnecessary not only do these watches save you money in the long term, they also are always water resistant and environmentally friendly.
Liquid-crystal display, as seen with digital watches.
A self-illuminating coating sometimes found on watch dials and hands which make them visible in the dark.
A traditional movement which is powered by a mainspring which is wound up by hand using the crown. As the mainspring slowly unwinds it drives the intricate workings of the watch movement.
A hardened glass which is treated to be more resistant to scratches.
Taken from the inside of the shell of a freshwater mollusc, this is an attractive and iridescent material which is sometimes used on the dial of a watch. It's colourful lustre can add a decorative quality to the watch face when the light catches it.
The inner workings of a watch. There are several different types of watch movement, including: mechanical; automatic; quartz; kinetic; and eco-drive. See the individual movement descriptions for more information on each.
A watch with a number of different features, or functions. These functions may include a stopwatch, an alarm or dual time facilities.
A feature of some watches where the date is always correct as it automatically adjusts to take account of the different lengths of the months and leap years.
A watch movement which is driven by a replaceable battery. The battery sends A small current through a quartz crystal which, in turn, vibrates at a very consistent rate. This makes quartz movements incredibly accurate as the amount of time lost or gained over the course of a day is absolutely minimal.
A bezel that can be turned round, usually anti-clockwise. They can be used for different reasons on different watches.
The most expensive and durable. Sapphire has a hardness second only to diamond, so it is highly resistant to scratches It is three times harder than mineral crystal and twenty times harder than acrylic crystal.
Some water resistant watches have a crown that can be screwed-down onto the watch case itself. This adds extra protection from water entering the case.
Synthetic gaskets which are used to provide a water-tight barrier, or seal, at different points in the watch, most commonly between the watch back and case.
A telescopic metal pin used to attach the strap or bracelet onto the watch case between the lugs.
A dense, highly durable and rust-resistant metal often used for watch cases and bracelets. Its natural colour and hardiness means that it only needs to be electroplated if a gold colour is required. It can be given either a polished or matt finish, or a combination of the two for a more decorative finish.
A precious metal used in some watches and watch bracelets. It is assayed and hallmarked to confirm that it contains at least 92.5% pure silver.
A leather, simulated leather, plastic, nylon or material band that holds a watch onto the wrist.
A very lightweight yet hardwearing metal of a greyish appearance. It is much stronger than stainless steel but also much lighter, making it perfect for watch cases and bracelets.
A feature which also shows the time in 24 hour format, usually by means of a separate dial on the watch face.
An often misused term as no watch is 100% waterproof.
This is the measure of how suitable a watch is for various activities in water. The water resistance of a watch is tested in laboratory conditions at different water depths. The degree of water resistance of a watch is commonly measured in METRES, but this is slightly misleading as it actually refers to the amount of water pressure at that depth and does not mean that you can wear the watch down that deep. Below is a rough guide as to what can generally be done at the different levels of water resistance:
  • Up to 30 metres - just splash proof.
  • 50 metres - suitable for swimming in shallow water, but not recommended
  • 100 metres - suitable for swimming or snorkelling.
  • 200 metres (20ATM or 20bar) - suitable for skin diving.
If you want to go scuba diving you will need to purchase a watch especially designed for diving.
A feature which can allow you to tell the time in any country, usually indicated by the major cities.