The beginner’s guide to watch anatomy

Discover some basic watchmaking vocabulary that will help you navigate our website and better understand the timepieces featured here.

TYPES OF WATCHES

Automatic

This watch has a rotor, or oscillating mass, that rotates when you move your wrist, winding the watch.

Connected

This is an electronic timepiece that is linked to your smartphone.

Quartz

This watch is powered by a battery, and the quartz crystal guarantees the precision.

Manual

A manual watch has to be wound via the crown.

THE WATCH ITSELF

Aperture

A window in the dial that showcases something (date, power reserve, day/night indicator, etc.).

Bezel

The ring encircling the dial. In diving watches, the bezel has a scale on it so you can track how long you have been under water.

Case

The box that holds the watch together, with the movement inside.

Caseback

The back plate of the case.

Crown

A piece that juts out from the side of the case, usually on the right hand side, allowing you to wind and set the watch.

Deployant buckle

A folding metal buckle that holds the watch securely on the wrist.

Dial

The “face” of the watch, where the hands and other indications are displayed.

Indexes

Also called indices, these are raised numbers or batons attached to the dial via adhesion or pegs. They are used to indicate hour and minute marks (e.g. five minutes, ten minutes, etc. and double as hour indicators).

Lugs

These are the link between the case and the strap. There are four lugs on a watch and they are the protrusions from the case that allow the strap to be connected to the case.

Minute scale

This scale details the minutes on the dial of a watch. It is alsp called a railway track because it looks a little bit like one.

Pin buckle

A pin buckle is a traditional method of closing the strap, where the pin on one side of the strap is inserted through the holes of the other side of the strap.

Pushers

A pusher is a sort of button on the side of the case which actuates a function (the start and stop of a chronograph, the starting of a minute repeater, the change of a time zone, etc.)

Sapphire Crystal

This transparent synthetic crystal protects the dial, and is virtually scratchproof. Synthetic sapphire crystal is the second hardest material, after diamonds.

Complications

Complication

Any feature that does more than simply show the time, even a date or a small second is considered a complication.

24-Hour display

A way to easily display 24-hour or military time.

Alarm

This watch sounds at a time set by the wearer. Mechanical alarms usually use two barrels, one for the watch and one for the alarm.

Annual calendar

This watch will run for a full year (starting on March 1) without having to be reset. It will have to be reset at the end of February, the only month that varies in the number of days from year to year.

Automat

An animation on the dial of the watch that follows a predetermined sequence of movements.

Celestial chart

A detailed representation of the night sky, complete with stars and constellations.

Chronograph

This is a watch that allows for the independent timing of an event. Usually, a chronograph has two pushers on the side of the case to start, stop and return the chronograph hand. Most chronographs have subdials that measure the minutes and hours. There are chronographs that have only one pusher, which controls all the chronograph functions, and these are called monopusher chronographs. A chronometer, not to be confused with a chronograph, is a watch certified to an official precision standard.

Constant Force

A mechanism that ensures the unwinding of the main spring in a regular, “constant” manner. A regular main spring will have more force at the beginning of its unwinding than at the end.

Day/Night indicator

A display that shows whether the time in question is during the day or at night.

Depth gauge

A display that shows how deep a watch has gone under the water on a given dive.

Equation of time

This is the difference between solar time (the time it actually takes the Earth to revolve around the sun) and civil time.

Flyback chronograph

This chronograph allows the instantaneous resetting of the chronograph hand, so it “flies back” to zero with just one push, instead of having to stop, reset and start again.

GMT

This timepiece displays two times simultaneously, either through a GMT hand that points to the second time zone or a separate subdial for the second time zone.

Jumping hands

Instead of regular hands, a single digit shows the hour and it jumps directly to the next hour, from three to four, for example.

Minute repeater

This is a watch that chimes out the time (hours, quarter-hours and minutes) when a lever is activated. The minute repeater is considered one of the most complicated watches to manufacture.

Moon phase

These watches have a display that shows the phases of the moon (full, half, crescent, etc.).

Perpetual calendar

The ultimate calendar because it knows how long each year is, no matter if it is a leap year. Keep a quality perpetual calendar running and you won’t have to reset it until the year 2100.

Power reserve

This complication is an indicator somewhere on the watch (usually on the dial) that shows the state of wind for the watch. Like a fuel gauge in your car, it shows how much power is left in your mechanical timepiece.

Pulsometer

This is a track on the dial that allows the easy measurement of a pulse.

Retrograde

This kind of display counts up (whether it is seconds, minutes, the date, etc.) then snaps back to zero

Split seconds chronograph

This chronograph has two chronograph hands instead of one, which split apart, allowing you to time different things. The French term for this complication is rattrapante, which means “recovering” or “catching again.”

Stop seconds

This is when the movement of a watch stops when the crown is pulled out so you can set the seconds precisely.

SuperLuminova

This is a luminous material that, when charged by the sun or another light source, emits a glow that allows the time to be read.

Tachymeter

This scale allows you to compute land speed over a fixed distance.

Telemeter

This scale allows you to approximately measure the distance to something that can be both seen and heard (e.g. a lightning bolt or the flash of a gunshot) using the speed of sound.

Tourbillon

A tourbillon is a complication designed to counteract the effect of gravity on the movement’s balance, thereby increasing the movement’s accuracy. The tourbillon features a cage that holds the balance and the escapement, and the cage turns independently of the watch, usually at a constant rate of once per minute. The tourbillon, which means “whirlwind” in French, is one of the watchmaking art’s most involved and elegant complications.

World timer

These timepieces provide a way to read the time in 24 (or more) time zones around the world.

Decorative Techniques

Enamel

An opaque or semi-transparent glassy substance applied to metallic or other hard surfaces for ornamental purposes or as a protective coating.

Guilloché

A mechanical method of engraving intricate patterns onto the metal surfaces of a watch using an rose engine machine.

Openworked or Skeleton

This is where as much metal as possible is removed from the movement, to expose its inner workings.