Watch Terminology (The Complete A-Z Glossary of Watchmaking)

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Written By Alan

Would you believe a G-Shock I was gifted in 2014 by my grandpa started my lifelong journey of a watch geek?

🕑  Last Updated: October 12, 2022
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In our opinion, being a watch collector is one of the coolest hobbies around.

It’s like having your own personal museum right on your wrist! Not only do you get to enjoy the watches themselves, but you also get to learn about the history and culture behind them. Plus, it’s a great way to show off your style.

What’s equally exciting, modern watches can serve so many purposes: they can be a great help to scuba divers, first responders and even military personnel.

With that said, as beautiful and exciting as the world of watchmaking is, all the tongue-twisting terms coming your way can make it seem confusing at times – especially for beginners.

So, what exactly do you know about watches?

Do you know the difference between a quartz and an automatic watch? Do you know which intricate parts are essential for a timepiece to show accurate time?

If not, don’t worry, because in today’s article we will dive deep into watch terminology. The glossary of watch terms covers everything from very basic definitions such as watch movements to more fancy terms such as beating frequency or quickset mechanism.

As they say, knowledge is power. Hence, let’s grasp some more of it!


A measure of how well a watch keeps time. It is usually expressed in terms of the maximum deviation from perfect timekeeping, either in seconds per day or parts per million. Generally speaking, the higher the accuracy, the better the watch. However, there are many factors that can affect a watch’s accuracy, including its age, temperature variations, and the strength of the magnetic field it is exposed. For these reasons, it is important to take a watch’s accuracy into account when purchasing one.

Acrylic (watch glass)

A type of plastic that is often used to make watch faces. It is shatter-resistant and relatively lightweight, making it a good choice for watches that need to be durable and easy to carry. Additionally, acrylic watch glass can be molded into a variety of different shapes, which allows for more creative designs in watches. It’s usually found in low-budget timepieces.


The process of making small changes to the timekeeping mechanism of a watch in order to improve its overall accuracy. This can be done by changing the position of the balance wheel, adjusting the tension on the mainspring, or changing the escapement rate. Often, a watchmaker will use a precision timing machine to make these adjustments.

Alarm (function)

The alarm function in watches is used to give the user an auditory signal at a specific time. This can be useful for reminding the user of an appointment or event. The alarm function is typically set by pressing a button on the watch face. Some timepieces offer a vibrating alarm which can be useful in a variety of situations.


A device used to measure altitude or elevation. It is typically found in the so-called ABC watches. The altimeter works by measuring the pressure of the atmosphere at any given point. This measurement is then converted into an elevation reading. This information can be helpful in tracking ascent and descent rates, as well as overall altitude gain or loss. The function is especially popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts, eg. hikers or mountain bikers.


A lightweight metal that has a natural tendency to produce a protective oxide coating when exposed to air, making it exceptionally corrosion-resistant. It’s often used with watch bezels, clasps, or cases.


When a balance wheel oscillates, the amplitude specifies the greatest value measured in degrees that it achieves. The amplitude values of most wristwatches are between 250 and 300 degrees. The balance wheel oscillates too fast if the amplitude is too low, affecting the watch’s accuracy.

Annual calendar

In addition to the year, many calendars feature the month and/or date. The only difference between it and the perpetual calendar is the precision and whether or not leap years must be manually altered.


A type of watch that is designed to be resistant to the effects of magnetism. A watch with magnetic resistance won’t be affected by magnetic fields, which can cause the timepiece to run inaccurately. Anti-magnetic watches are often used in environments where there is a high level of magnetic interference, such as in laboratories or near electrical equipment. The movement of the watch is protected from magnetism by a special casing that surrounds the movement.


A window found on the dials of some timepieces that displays information such as the time and date.

Atomic clock

A timekeeping device that uses an atomic resonance frequency standard to help maintain very accurate time. At present, an atomic clock is considered the most accurate clock type in the world. It’s used in many applications where precise timing is essential, such as in global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) and radio navigation systems. Atomic clocks are also used as the basis for defining the base units of time and frequency in the International System of Units (SI).


A type of watch movement that is powered by the natural motion of the wearer’s arm. The watch has a rotor that spins as the arm moves, which winds the mainspring and powers the watch. Automatic watches are also known as self-winding watches.

Balance spring

A tiny, spiral-shaped metal strip in a watch that helps to keep the timepiece’s balance wheel in motion. The balance spring is attached to the balance wheel on one end and to the watch’s case on the other. It counteracts the force of the mainspring, which powers the watch, to keep the balance wheel moving back and forth at a steady pace. This oscillating motion is what powers the watch and keeps time. The balance spring is one of the most important parts of a watch, as it helps to ensure the accuracy of timekeeping.

Balance wheel

A weighted wheel in watches that helps to maintain time. It rotates back and forth on an axle, and its oscillations are used to regulate the release of energy by the escapement, which controls the rate at which the watch hands move. The balance wheel is one of the most important parts of a watch, and its accuracy is critical to the timekeeping of the watch.


A physical unit of measurement for pressure, which is commonly connected with water resistance in timepieces, particularly diving watches. The rule of thumb is that 10 meters equal one bar. The abbreviation “ATM” (atmosphere) is sometimes used instead of “bar”. Additionally, the term “bar” is can be used to denote a bearing holding in mechanical watch movements, similar to the phrase “bridge”. Unlike the bridge, however, it is only linked to the plate on one side.


A cylindrical container that holds the mainspring of a watch. The mainspring is wound tight, storing energy that will be used to power the watch. The tighter the mainspring is wound, the more energy it stores and the longer the watch will run before needing to be rewound. Barrels can be made of different materials, such as brass, steel, or even gold. Some barrels are decorated with engravings or other ornamentation.


A phrase for a thin bar in a mechanical movement. An example of a barrette is an anchor bar.


A widely used nickname for one of Rolex’s most popular GMT watches, the GMT-Master II Ref. 126710BLNR. The nickname comes from the color patterns of the watch’s bezel which are blue and black.


See above (although the nickname refers to another GMT model, GMT-Master II Ref. 116710BLNR).


The ring around the outside of a watch face. The bezel can rotate and is often used to measure time or track elapsed time. In the past, it was the ring that held the watch’s protecting crystal in place and secured it to the casing. Bezels are usually made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. Some bezels are decorated with jewels or other materials.

Bidirectional bezel

A rotating ring that surrounds the watch’s dial. It can be used to measure elapsed time or other increments of measurement. The bezel can rotate in either direction, making it a “bidirectional” bezel. Watches with bidirectional bezels are often used by divers and other outdoor enthusiasts, as they can be used to track both time and distance.

Black polish

This sort of finishing is also known as mirror polish (French: miroir ou bloqué) and is considered a highly sophisticated polishing method. Because the roughness of the surface is less than the wavelength of light when black polishing is used, the surface looks white or black.


Also called blueing, it’s a process of thermal hardening of metal. Screws, for example, are heated to a temperature of 290-300°C during this procedure, resulting in a coating of oxidation thick enough to refract the light blue.


A unit of measurement describing the pace at which a watch’s movement operates each hour. BPH stands for “beats per hour”.


The band that connects the watch to your wrist. Watch bracelets are traditionally made of leather or stainless steel, but other materials like nylon and rubber are also quite popular.

Bracelet lug

A small, typically metal piece that protrudes from the side of a watch case. Lugs are used to attach a watch bracelet or strap. The distance between the lugs is known as the lug width, and this measurement is important when choosing a replacement bracelet or strap. Some watches have removable lugs, which can be swapped out for aftermarket lugs of different sizes or styles.

Breguet hands

Although at first they were exclusive to Breguet timepieces, now they are used in many other watchmakers as well. They are made of gold or platinum and are very thin and delicate. The hands are also curved to fit the contours of the dial. This makes them very easy to read, even at a glance. They are usually tempered blue and feature a distinctive circle at the front end with two sickles touching in a tapering end.

Breguet overcoil

An invention by Abraham-Louis Breguet that is used in wristwatches. It is a type of balance spring that is coiled into an S-shape. The purpose of the Breguet overcoil is to improve the accuracy and stability of the watch movement. It does this by reducing the amount of friction between the balance wheel and the escapement. The overcoil also provides a greater range of motion for the balance wheel, which further increases accuracy.


A component that helps to connect the different parts of the watch movement. It is usually made of metal and has a number of small holes or sockets that allow the various gears and other components to be attached to it. The bridge helps to keep the components in place and ensures that they all work together smoothly.


See: Adjustment.


Originally, the term was used to measure the size of a watch movement, typically expressed in millimeters. It was indicating the thickness of the watch movement and therefore the overall thickness of the watch. Nowadays, the word “caliber” mostly refers to the specific model of a watch movement.


A unit for calculating the mass of a gemstone and assessing gold purity. A 24-step scale is used to determine the purity of gold. As a result, 24-carat gold is pure gold. 750 gold (18 ct.), 585 gold (14 ct.), and 333 gold are the most common gold alloys used in wristwatches (8 ct.). In the case of gemstones, 1 carat equals 0.2 grams.


The outside part of a watch that houses the movement, dial, and hands. It protects the inner workings of the watch from damage and also gives the watch its style and appearance. There are many different materials that can be used to make a watch case, including stainless steel, gold, platinum, titanium, and plastic. The style of the case can also vary, with some being round or square, and others being more ornate or intricate.


The back of a watch. It is sometimes made of transparent material so that the wearer can see the intricate workings of the movement. Some casebacks are also decorated with engravings or other designs.

Central second hand

The watch hand that moves around the dial in a clockwise direction, indicating the seconds. This hand is usually distinguished by being slightly thinner than the other hands on the watch. Some watches have a sub-dial on the face of the watch that displays only the seconds, without using a central second hand.


There are many different types of ceramic that can be used in watches, but the most common is probably zirconia. This is a powder that has a very high density due to heat-induced shrinking. Zirconia is a strong and durable material that is resistant to scratches and other damage. It is also hypoallergenic, so it is a good choice for people with sensitive skin. Other popular types of ceramic include alumina and silicon nitride.


A timepiece with an additional stopwatch function. The most common use for a chronograph is to time laps or races, but they can also be used for any other purpose that requires timing. A person who wears a chronograph may find it useful to know how to operate the stopwatch feature. Learn much more specific information on this topic in our article about chronograph watches.


A timepiece that has been tested and certified to meet precise accuracy standards. The governing body issuing the certification is usually COSC (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). Chronometer watches are highly accurate and are thus prized by collectors and enthusiasts. Many top-tier watch brands produce chronometer-certified timepieces, which are typically more expensive than non-certified watches.

Chronometer escapement

A specific type of escapement used in mechanical watches and clocks. It is a locking device that allows the gear train to advance only when the balance wheel is swinging and unlocks the gears to allow them to freewheel when the balance wheel stops. This allows the timepiece to keep accurate time. The chronometer escapement was invented by British watchmaker John Arnold in 1759 and is still used in many modern timepieces.

Circular-grain finish

Often referred to as “stippling”, it’s a decoration technique. This is a unique type of surface finishing that is primarily concentric. The design is also known as a “peacock’s eye pattern” and can be found on metal tabletops at bistros outside of the field of Haute Horlogerie.

Coke bezel

The name is used to describe a red-black Rolex bezel that can be found in the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II series. Because of the popularity of the design, other manufacturers also provide the Coke bezel theme.

Complete calendar

The date, weekday, and month are all shown on a watch with a complete calendar (also known as a full calendar or quantième complet from French). The term “full calendar” is also commonly used.


An additional function on a watch that performs a specific task. They are usually displayed as small dials on the face of a watch and can include features such as a date calendar, moonphase indicator, or simply the time in different time zones. Some complications are more popular than others – for example, the date complication is one of the most commonly used, while a moonphase indicator is less commonly found on watches.


Stands for Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres and is the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. Founded in 1973, COSC is an independent, non-profit organization that tests and certifies the accuracy and precision of Swiss-made watches. COSC-certified watches are some of the most accurate and precise timepieces in the world.


The name was coined by Rolex in the 1950s to denote a timepiece having a moon phase and calendar function, and it is now often used to designate Rolex Daytona chronographs.

Co-axial escapement

A type of escapement in a mechanical watch that uses gears to achieve a high power reserve. It is composed of two sets of gears that are mounted coaxially, with the first set meshing with the escape wheel and the second set meshing with the pallet fork. The advantage of a co-axial escapement is that it does not require a lubricant, which can cause problems over time. Instead, the gears are mounted in jewels that provide a smooth surface and reduce wear. It was developed in 1970 by George Daniels.


A small knob on the side of a watch that is used to set the time and date. The crown is usually located on the right side of the watch, near the 3 o’clock position. Some watches have a screw-down crown that must be unscrewed before it can be pulled out, while others have a push-button crown that can be pushed in and pulled out. The crown is used to adjust the time and date by turning it either clockwise or counterclockwise. It is also used to wind the watch’s mainspring, which powers the watch.

Crown protection

A protective device that is fitted over the crown of a watch. This helps to protect it from damage, especially if it is knocked against something hard. It first started appearing in watches in the 1950s. Crown protections are often made from plastic or metal and can be customized to fit different watch models.


The see-through glass that covers the face of a watch. Its goal is to keep your watch protected from the elements while also giving it a polished look. Instead of a crystal, the majority of watch faces on the market are made of a variety of manufactured crystalline glass-like materials. The three most common varieties of glass used by watchmakers are acrylic, mineral, and sapphire. You can learn more about the subject by reading our guide to watch crystals.

Cyclop lens

A Rolex invention dating back to the early 1950s. It’s a type of lens that magnifies the date display in several Rolex Oyster models. This invention makes it much simpler to see the date, and it has become a trademark of the Swiss watchmaker.

Date window

A small aperture on the watch face that displays the current day of the month. Many watches have a date window, and it is one of the most useful features of a watch. The date window allows you to keep track of the date, which can be helpful for appointments, events, and other important dates.

Day-date window

A feature found on some watches that shows the date and the day of the week. This can be handy for keeping track of what day it is and when upcoming events are scheduled.

Day/Night indicator

A small sub-dial or window that shows which side of the watch is facing up. The window will be black on one side and white on the other, which will correspond with the colors of the sky at night and during the day. The two-tone Pepsi or Coke bezel on GMT watches performs this purpose.

Decentralized second hand

When a watch has a decentralized second hand, the seconds do not appear in the same place as the hour and minute hands in the dial’s center. The second hand, in the shape of a totalizer, is placed independently on the dial.


An anomaly in the timepiece that can be caused by a variety of factors, including incorrect time setting, exposure to magnetism, or physical shock. It can also be due to a component failure within the watch movement. A deviation can result in the watch running too fast or slow, or even stopping altogether. In some cases, the deviation may be so slight that it is difficult to notice without a close examination. In other cases, it can be quite pronounced and cause the watch to lose or gain significant time.


The part of the watch that you look at to tell the time. It is typically a circular area with numbers or markers around the edge, and it can be made from a variety of materials, including metal, plastic, or glass. To represent the hours, the dial is commonly split into four or twelve equal portions. In most cases, they are denoted by indices or digits. The design possibilities are extensive, ranging from dials with no marks to dials that are totally blank.

Dive watch

A type of timepiece that is meant to be worn when diving underwater. Dive watches often include a unidirectional bezel that helps divers keep track of their dive time and are water-resistant to depths of at least 100 meters (330 feet). Feel free to check our list of affordable dive watches for some inspiration.

Double chronograph

A type of timepiece that has two separate stopwatch mechanisms. Each one can be started and stopped independently of the other, which makes it perfect for timing two different events simultaneously. Many professional sports teams use double chronograph watches to time their players during training exercises. These timepieces are commonly known as Rattrapante chronographs.


A type of watch movement used in Citizen watches that is powered by light.

The idea behind the Eco-Drive movement is that it helps to conserve energy and reduce the impact on the environment. The watches that use this type of movement are designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear, as well as being environmentally friendly.

Timepieces utilizing the Eco-Drive technology – no matter if we’re talking about high-end or cheap Citizen watches – come with a power reserve of 6 months which effectively means they never run out of fuel. The life expectancy of Eco-Drive watches is up to 10 years.


A 5mm comfort extension link that lets you lengthen or shorten your bracelet by 5 millimeters. It was patented by Rolex.


The word derives from French and means an unfinished watch movement that serves as the base for many different types of watches. These movements are usually created by watchmakers in Switzerland and then sold to other companies who finish them off and put them into final products. Also referred to as the raw movement, it consists of the base movement, the gear train, as well as the hands and the shafts. It doesn’t include the escapement, balance, and mainspring.


The word relates to a type of material used with some watch dials. Enamel is derived from the old Franconian phrase “smalt,” which means “to melt together.” A mass of inorganic components (mainly silicates and oxides) is fused together during the creation of enamel.


The art of carving designs or text into the surface of a watch. It can be used to add personalization or decoration to a watch. Many people choose to have their names or initials engraved on their watches. Some people also choose to have special messages or quotes engraved on their watches. Engraving can also be used to create unique patterns or designs on the surface of a watch. Watch engraving is a popular way to add a personal touch to a watch. It can also be used to make a watch more unique and stylish. Get inspired with our watch engraving ideas.


A key part of a watch that helps to control the speed at which the watch runs. It is made up of a number of moving parts that work together to keep the watch running on time. The escapement also includes the escape wheel and the pallet fork. Together, these parts help to control the movement of the watch’s gears. It is the heart of a movement and consists of an escapement wheel and a lever.


A leading manufacturer and supplier of raw movements globally. Many well-known watchmakers use ETA raw movements as a starting point and then improve them. All ETA movements are manufactured in Switzerland.

Fat Lady

It’s a nickname for another popular Rolex model, the GMT-Master II Ref. 16760. The name alludes to the case size which at 6.3mm is higher than other GMT-Master timepieces. Due to the usage of the newly launched caliber 3085 and sapphire crystal, a bigger casing was required.


As the name indicates, refers to the last touches applied to each component of the watch mechanism. It takes hundreds of man-hours to ensure that every angle and surface symbolizes the pinnacle of the watchmaking skill.

Flyback function

A feature found in some watches that allows the wearer to reset the time and restart the chronograph with a single push of a button. This function is especially useful in racing when a quick reset is needed. The flyback function can also be used to stop and restart the chronograph without having to reset the time first. This can be helpful if you want to track laps or other timed events without having to keep resetting the time. Flyback functions are typically found on higher-end watches, and are not as common on cheaper models.

Folding clasp

A type of watch closure that can be opened and closed with one hand. It is made up of two parts: the clasp and the keeper. The clasp is attached to the end of the watch strap, and the keeper is attached to the other end. The clasp secures the watch strap around your wrist, and the keeper prevents it from coming undone.


The rate at which the balance wheel of a watch oscillates. The faster the balance wheel oscillates, the more stable the timekeeping of the watch will be. Most watches have a beating frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour (vph). However, some high-end watches have a higher beating frequency, such as 36,000 vph or even higher. The higher the beating frequency, the more accurate the timekeeping of the watch will be.

Geneva seal

A type of certification mark used in Switzerland. It indicates that a watch has been inspected and meets certain criteria set by the Canton of Geneva. The criteria include the use of certain materials, assembly methods, and quality standards. Watches with Geneva seals are typically more expensive than those without them.

Geneva stripes

A Swiss movement refining method in which the plate is adorned with vertical stripes. “Côte de Genève” is another name for them.

Glashütte stripes

A type of watch movement decoration that originated in the German town of Glashütte. The stripes are created by engraving parallel lines into the metal surface of the movement, and they are usually seen on the balance cock or bridge. The stripes are said to improve the stability of the balance wheel and reduce vibration, which can improve the accuracy of the watch. Glashütte stripes are a distinctive feature of German watchmaking, and they are often used to identify a watch as being made in Germany.

Glidelock system

A mechanism that allows you to easily adjust the length of your watch’s band. This system uses a small, spring-loaded lever located on the side of the watchcase that you can use to open and close the band’s clasp. This makes it easy to find a comfortable fit for your wrist. It’s another extension system patented by Rolex, although it allows for a much bigger extension than the Easylink method mentioned above. Straps using the Glidelock system can be extended by up to 30mm.


The abbreviation stands for Greenwich Mean Time. It is the timezone that is used as the global standard for measuring time. GMT is calculated by averaging out the time in all of the world’s timezones. This ensures that everyone uses a common standard for tracking time.

GMT watch

A type of timepiece that is meant to assist users to keep track of time in different time zones. The watches contain an easily-distinguishable fourth hand that can be adjusted to point to the time in a different time zone, allowing you to check what time it is in another region of the globe fast. GMT watches are especially handy for regular travelers or for persons who need to keep track of time variations for business. You can learn more about the subject by reading our article about GMT timepieces. Alternatively, check out our list of best GMT watches under $1k for some inspiration.

Grande complication

A watch type that combines multiple major complications into a single piece. Many watchmakers use the term “Grand Complication” to describe their collection’s showpiece watches.


A decorative technique used on the dials and movements of watches. It involves engraving a pattern into the metal, which can create a variety of intricate designs. This technique is often used to add a touch of luxury to a watch, and it can be found on both vintage and modern timepieces. It was developed by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1786.


A pointer on a watch face that indicates the time. There are three main types of watch hands: hour, minute, and second. Each type of hand has a specific function and purpose. The hour hand tells the time by pointing to the hour mark on the watch face. The minute hand tells the time by pointing to the minute marks on the watch’s face. The second hand tells the time by pointing to the seconds marks on the face. Together, these three hands help you tell time accurately.

Haute Horlogerie

A French term that describes high-end watchmaking. Watches that are considered Haute Horlogerie are typically made by hand with the highest level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. These watches are often complex, with intricate mechanisms and luxurious materials. Haute Horlogerie watches are not mass-produced, but rather, each one is made as a work of art.

Helium valve

A device that is used to release the gas from a watch that has been exposed to high pressure. The valve allows the watch to equalize the pressure inside and outside of the watch, preventing the watch from being damaged. It’s an integral component in high-quality dive watches from brands such as Citizen, Seiko or Orient.


Another nickname for a Rolex watch, this time the Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610LV. The name alludes to the green dial and the green Cerachrom dive bezel.


The symbols that go around the ring of the dial of your watch. When combined with the hands, they tell you what time it is. Indices are available in a wide range of forms and sizes. Arab and Roman numerals are two of the most commonly used varieties.


Crucial elements of the watch face. For example, an indicator in the form of a second hand is referred to as a central second hand when it is located in the center of the dial. In the case of a totalizer, the second hand is referred to as a little second. Auxiliary indicators are anything that appears in addition to the primary time display, such as different complications or additional time zones.


Tiny, decorative pieces that are fitted into the watch movement to improve its appearance and performance. They are usually made of metal, glass, or plastic. There are different types of jewels, each with its own specific purpose. Their main task, however, is to minimize the friction inside the movement, therefore contributing to its longevity. There are a minimum of 15 and an average of 18 jewels in mechanical timepieces. The number of diamonds in a watch increases along with the number of complications.

Jump second

Often known as a dead or deadbeat second, it’s a type of mechanism in mechanical watches in which the seconds hand ticks once per second, similar to a cheap quartz watch. This is in contrast to most mechanical timepieces which utilize the sweeping second hand.

Jumping hour

A jumping hour watch features a disc viewable via an aperture on the dial that leaps to display the next hour precisely when the minute hand reaches 60 minutes, rather than a typical hour hand that sweeps the dial once every 12 (or 24) hours.


A nickname for yet another popular Rolex release, the Submariner Ref. 16610LV which features a black dial and green aluminum bezel.


A name used for pocket watches that don’t use a protective cover. The dials in Lépine pocket watch models are always visible, therefore they are more prone to external damage.

Lever escapement

A type of escapement used in watches and clocks. It consists of a lever with two pallets, which are used to release the gear train. The escape wheel is mounted on the lever and the teeth of the wheel engage with the pallets. The lever is mounted on a pivot point and when the gear train is released, the escape wheel turns and the lever pivot point is reached. The pallets then engage with the teeth of the escape wheel and stop it from turning. The gear train is then rewound and the process repeats. Also known as “detached” escapement, it ensures the ticking sound of the watch.

Limited Edition

Watches that are only made and sold in a small, specified number of units. These can be wholly new models or existing models that have been upgraded with aesthetic or technology improvements. These are frequently created to commemorate anniversaries and other special occasions, such as a release of a popular movie (eg. Batman).


Components making up a stainless steel bracelet. These bracelets can consists of anywhere from 2 to 10 or even more links, hence the names 2-link or 10-link bracelets.


Components that link the case to the band. Between the lugs is the spring bar to which the bracelet is fastened.


Watches have luminous material on their hands and faces. This material glows in the dark, making it easy to see the time even when there is little light. Luminous material usually contains a compound called tritium, which emits a faint light that can be seen for up to 20 years. Some watches also use luminescent paint, which glows after being exposed to light.


A spiral torsion spring made of flat sections of spring steel, used to store energy in a mechanical watch or clock. The energy stored in the mainspring makes the timepiece run. The mainspring is tightened by spinning the winding crown, and kinetic energy powers the movement. Depending on the model, the energy can last for up to a few days. However, as long as the watch is worn, it will keep ticking well.

Manual winding

Watches with manual winding are those which are wound by hand, as opposed to being powered automatically via an internal mechanism. Many people believe that manual winding watches are of a higher quality than their automatic counterparts, as they require more care and attention to keep them running smoothly. For some models, a separate winding key is required. The power reserve indicates how much time is left before the watch has to be rewound.


A watchmaker who creates all of the components of a watch, including the in-house caliber.

Maxi dial

A Rolex-patented watch face design known for its enlarged luminescent indices which gives the dial a bigger presence.

Milanese bracelet

A type of watch bracelet that originated in the city of Milan, Italy. It is typically made of stainless steel, and consists of a series of linked chains. The bracelet may be decorated with gemstones, beads, or other ornamental elements.

Mineral crystal

Tempered crystal glass is used to make this sort of watch crystal. Mineral crystal first got popular in the 1970s before being phased out in favor of sapphire crystal, which is the most durable glass type used with watches. However, mineral crystal is still the most widely used material in timepieces to this day, especially amongst the low-to-mid budget collections.

Minute graduation

A measure of time that is used to indicate the progress of minutes. It is usually marked on the outside of the watch face in a series of small lines or marks that extend from the center of the watch. Minute graduation can be used to help you keep track of time when you are performing tasks that require a specific countdown, or when you need to be aware of how much time has passed. Many watches also include a seconds graduation that can be used to measure shorter periods of time.

Minute repeater

A type of repeater that has distinct pitches for hours, quarter hours, and minutes.


Manufacturer of Japanese quartz and mechanical movements. Since 1959, Miyota belongs to the Japanese watch mogul, Citizen. Next to Seiko, Miyota movements are the most frequently used Japanese calibers.

Month indicator

Akin to the date display, a month indicator or month display is a dial complication that isn’t required for the time display. On complete or perpetual calendars, month indicators are frequently encountered.


A type of watch complication that indicates the phase of the moon. The moonphase indicator usually consists of two discs: one for the moon’s disc and one for the background sky. The position of the moon on the disc corresponds to the current phase of the moon.


The term is used to refer to watch dials that are fully covered in a paper-thin layer of mother-of-pearl. Because the raw material is so delicate, producing a mother-of-pearl dial takes a long time, and watches with this sort of dial are more expensive.


The internal mechanism of a watch that keeps time and moves the watch’s hands, indicators, and other functions. The movement is powered by either a battery or a spring that must be wound periodically, and it consists of many moving parts working in concert to keep accurate time.


A silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the iron group of elements and is hard, ductile, and malleable. This substance is frequently used as an alloy in the manufacture of stainless steel which is an ever-present element of a lion’s share of watches in the market.


A rubber-like material. It is known for its durability and elasticity, which makes it ideal for use in products that need to be flexible. Nivaflex can also withstand high levels of wear and tear. Mainsprings are frequently made from this material.


A synthetic fiber that is commonly used to make textile watch straps. It’s a tough, virtually fully hypoallergenic material that’s frequently used in sports watches.

Observation watch

A high-precision timepiece with an extra-large casing and dial used for navigation or scientific use. This watch style originated in the 18th century with precise measurement equipment for marine and aviation uses. Military observers utilized observation watches to timing maneuvers and assess enemy troop distances throughout the twentieth century.

Onion crown

When a watch has an unusually large crown, it’s referred to as having an “onion crown”. This type of crown is often found in Flieger-style pilot watches. Timepieces boasting an onion crown are not only attractive and entertaining to wear, but they also serve a functional purpose: allowing pilots to wind the crown and set the time while wearing gloves.


The regular movement of a body, such as a balance wheel or pendulum, from one extreme to the other and back. The oscillator is made up of the balancing wheel, the escapement wheel, and the anchor.


Refers to a type of case first introduced by Rolex in 1926. At the time of invention, it was the first case with water-resistance properties that consisted of a bezel, caseback, and a crown – with all elements centrally screwed.

Oyster Perpetual

This iconic Rolex watch model is believed to be the world’s first water-resistant timepiece. It’s one of the Rolex series devoid of a date function. The term “Oyster” refers to the Rolex-patented waterproof case while “Perpetual” refers to the automatic movement. To this day, all Rolex timepieces with both features have “Oyster Perpetual” engraved on their faces.


A type of stainless steel that contains a high percentage of oyster shell in its composition. This unique alloy is prized for its corrosion resistance and superior strength. The material is primarily known as 904L stainless steel although Rolex, which has been using it in watches since 1985, named it “Oystersteel” in 2018.


A common term for chronograph watches with a white face and black chronograph sub-dials that resemble the appearance of the fascinating Chinese animal. The dial of a “reverse panda” has a black background with white sub-dials.


A name used to refer to enthusiasts of Panerai watches.


The intentional discoloration of tritium or radium-based luminous material (or “lume”) on hands and markings, dials, and even the metal of some types of cases. It’s mostly used with watches that are supposed to boast a vintage style.

Paul Newman

The moniker for the Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 with a manual winding and panda dial which comes from a well-known American actor.

Pepsi bezel

A blue-red watch bezel is indicated by this. The Rolex GMT Master models popularized the color scheme, and it is now extensively adopted by other manufacturers as a result of its popularity.

Perpetual calendar

A type of complication of a wristwatch that can display the day, date, month, and year until (at least) 2100 without manual modification.

Pilot watch

The name was first invented as the result of the collaboration between Albertos Santos-Dumont and Cartier. To put it simply, it’s a type of timepiece designed particularly with pilots in mind. A big and easy-to-see dial, an oversized crown, and a watch face with luminescent elements so you can read the face in the dark are all elements of a pilot watch. The name pilot watch was first invented as the result of the collaboration between Albertos Santos-Dumont and Cartier. Apart from the aforementioned characteristics, some complex mathematical calculations may be completed simply and rapidly while flying using the more capable pilot watches.

Pin buckle

A type of watch closure that uses a pin and hole mechanism to secure the watch band. It is considered more secure than other types of closures, such as metal clasps, and is often used in watches that are meant to be worn during strenuous activities.


An important part of the movement since it guarantees that the balance wheel is properly mounted. The pivots are exceedingly delicate and are shielded by a shock-absorbent mechanism.


A valuable metal that is difficult to shape and polish, but once set, it has exceptional strength and endurance. Platinum watches are frequently the rarest within a collection, often associated with complication expertise, because of platinum’s higher price when compared to gold. It was discovered by watchmakers in 1920, and Louis Cartier used it to produce countless art deco masterpieces.


Watch polishing is the process of restoring a timepiece to its original condition. This can be done by removing scratches and scuffs from the watch case and bracelet, as well as polishing the crystal. Watch polishing is a delicate process that should only be performed by a qualified watchmaker.

Power reserve

The available energy contained in a watch’s mainspring is referred to as the power reserve. The spring gradually unwinds while the watch is running, until all of the power is used up and the watch stops or is wound up again. The power reserve is measured in hours, and most watches have a power reserve of between 40 and 60 hours. A power reserve indicator is commonly seen on hand-wound watches, and it informs the wearer when the watch needs to be rewound.


A device that is commonly seen in chronograph timepieces. This medical information is provided by combining the scale with the chronograph function of the watch. The scale of a pulsometer is commonly set to 15 or 30 heartbeats (or pulsations).


The buttons on the side of the watch that you push to interact with the watch. They are often used to change the time or date on the watch, or to perform other functions. They are mostly seen in chronograph watches although multi-function digital watches like Casio G-Shocks also utilize them.

Pussy Galore

Collectors use this nickname to refer to the Rolex GMT-Master Ref 6542 since it was worn by Honor Blackman in the movie Goldfinger.

PVD coating

The abbreviation “PVD” stands for “Physical Vapor Deposition” which is a coating method that involves vaporizing a material to create a full metallic coating that improves its resistance. PVD coatings are ultra-thin protective coatings that are applied to materials to improve their performance and extend their life. Many stainless steel timepieces have a PVD coating that gives them their black color. The procedure can also be done using gold particles to give a timepiece a gold finish which is called PVD gilding.

Quarter repeater

A type of repeater characterized by chiming the hours and quarter hours at different sounds (pitches). The clock rings out the time through a succession of chimes when a sliding lever on the case is pressed. To give you a clearer picture of the mechanism, a minute repeater plays the hours, quarters, and minutes, whereas a quarter repeater just plays the hours and quarters.

Quartz Crisis

A time period in the 1970s and 1980s when traditional watchmakers were struggling to compete with quartz watches. This new technology had allowed for more accurate and cheaper watches to be produced, putting many companies out of business. While some brands were able to adapt and survive, others did not make it through the crisis. Also known as the Quartz Revolution, the period was kickstarted by the release of the world’s first battery-powered timepiece by Seiko.

Quartz movement

The type of movement that you’ll find in a basic, unostentatious watch. It uses a battery as its primary power source. The battery powers quartz watches by sending an electrical current through a tiny quartz crystal, which electrifies it and causes vibrations. Watches running on quartz movements are considered to be more accurate than other types, and oftentimes they are also less expensive.

Quickset mechanism

Also known as the quickset date mechanism, the function allows you to move the day, date, or other calendar features more quickly than by continually moving the hour hand through the 24-hour cycle.


A type of chronograph complication that has an extra mechanism to allow the user to time two events separately. This extra mechanism allows the user to stop one event while the other continues, or to pause one event while the other catches up which makes it possible to measure elapsed time with great accuracy.

Rattrapante chronographs are often used in sporting events to measure the time between two competitors. Chronograph watches utilizing this complication are also known as double or split-second chronographs. The so-called rattrapante hand (a split second hand) allows for this function, as it may be stopped separately from the chronograph hand and leaps back at the touch of a pusher.

Reference (number)

In other words, it’s the watch’s model number. It identifies the entire watch model. You can typically find out about the watch type, material, dial, and movement by using the reference number. It is usually shortened as Ref. and is used with all Rolex models.


The polishing of scratches, as well as the filling of dents and nicks, are always included in refurbishment. In the course of a restoration procedure, a worn watch with visible symptoms of “wear and tear” may be additionally re-sealed to protect it from water.

Regatta countdown function

A countdown mechanism that displays the last few minutes before the start of a boat race. This allows competitors to get as close to the starting line as possible without having to cross it. It is a popular feature of sailing watches.

Regatta timer

One of the most specific complications available in watches today is the regatta timer complication. It displays a 5- or 10-minute countdown to signal the start of a regatta. Again, it is mostly seen in watches for sailing.


The outermost ring on the dial of a watch, typically made of metal. It serves both aesthetic and functional purposes, providing a frame for the dial elements and often featuring markings or engravings that provide information about the watch. In some cases, the rehaut may also be used to house complications such as a date display or a moonphase indicator.


A function on a watch that allows the user to hear the time being told by the watch, usually through a series of chimes.

The repeater function is activated by a slide or button on the side of the watch case, and the time is then told by activating a mechanism inside the watch that strikes a small gong. Repeaters were once common on watches, but have become less so in recent decades as quartz watches have replaced mechanical ones.

Each minute and hour is represented by a distinct tone. This system, which necessitates a repeated hitting mechanism, is one of the most complex watch complications out there.


Watches that run backward are known as retrograde watches. The retrograde hand is often used for complications such as the date or day of the week. Some watches also have retrograde seconds hands,


Inspections and possible cleaning of each watch component, replacement of any worn-down components, application of oil to the movement, and replacement of the waterproof seals are all part of a general watch revision. It’s suggested to do this once a few years.


It mostly refers to dials that are covered with a wafer-thin layer of rhodium. Since rhodium is characterized by its cool shimmer, when it’s plated on dials (and especially white gold), it creates a head-turning shine that’s appealing for many.


Rolex’s moniker for its own timepieces which are half gold and half stainless steel. Usually, the combination includes stainless steel watch case while the bezel, crown, and center links of the bracelet are made of 18k gold. It applies to any watch made of steel and 18k gold, whether yellow, pink, or white gold.


Another term coined by Rolex, this time to refer to the combination of stainless steel and platinum found on some of their watches. It was patented in 1932 and is particularly frequent in the Yacht-Master series.


A small weight that spins around when the watch is moved. This motion keeps the watch movement going. The rotor is only present in automatic watches and swings back and forth to wind the mainspring when the user moves his arm.

Sapphire crystal

The most expensive form of watch glass which is very hard and hence long-lasting. It’s by far the best material for shock protection on the watch dial. At the same time, it’s extremely legible as most sapphire crystal watches use an anti-reflective coating.

Sapphire has been the standard watch crystal in the luxury category since the 1980s although more affordable watchmakers include the glass in their collection nowadays.

Screw-down caseback

A screw-down caseback is one with no threads or holes on the back and a threaded ring that screws down (or bayonets) the case back to the case.

Screw-down crown

A screw-down crown is a type of watch crown that screws onto the watch case to provide a watertight seal. This type of crown is found on dive watches and other water-resistant watches.

The screw-down crown prevents water from entering the watch case through the winding stem opening. Most screw-down crowns have a gasket or O-ring seal that helps to create a watertight seal. Some watches have a double gasket system with an inner and outer gasket for added protection against water leakage.

Screw-down pushers

Screw-down pushers (or buttons) are most often encountered on chronograph watches designed for shallow diving. The pushers must first be unscrewed before the chronographs can be used.

Second time zone

A second hour hand is used to show the second time zone in some watch models. The timepieces which allow you to stay up to date with two timezones at once are called GMT watches.

Seconde foudroyante

A fairly complex type of watch complication that precisely shows fractions of a second by dividing the second into quarters, fifths, and even tenths of a second. Often referred to as the “jumping second”.

See-through caseback

A transparent window in the watch’s caseback that allows you to see the movement inside. It’s a popular feature on many mechanical watches, and it’s also a good way to show off your watch’s inner workings to others.


Another commonly-used term referring to mechanical automatic watches.


One of the most popular movement manufacturers in the world. The brand’s mechanical movements are designed in Switzerland at its headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Shock protection

Shock protection is a case mount that is elastically attached and helps to cushion shocks to the pivots and the balancing wheel.

A watch must pass specific testing and standards in order to be labeled as shock-resistant. The limit is determined based on a watch accidentally falling from a height of about three feet onto a hardwood surface. A watch that has been subjected to shock must maintain accuracy of +/- 60 seconds each day throughout testing to receive the shock-resistance stamp.

Simple calendar

The term used to describe a fairly simple watch complication that shows the date and the days of the week.

Single hand watch

A type of timepiece tha has just one hand rather than two, three, or four. If it’s a 12-hour dial, this hand will circle it twice a day. If it’s a 24-hour dial, the needle completes one full revolution every day.

Because the absence of a second hand makes it hard to tell whether the watch has stopped, many of these models have an indicator that let’s you know whether it’s still operating accurately.

Skeleton watch

A type of watch that has a transparent or semi-transparent case, which allows the wearer to see the inner workings of the watch. Skeleton watches are often considered to be art pieces, as they showcase the intricate craftsmanship and engineering that goes into making a quality timepiece. The vast majority of skeleton timekepieces are mechanical models.

Small second

A small second watch is devoid of centrally-positioned second hand. Instead, it displays the seconds in a separate subdial, usually located a the 6 o’clock position.


A nickname for the Rolex Smurf Submariner 116619LB. The moniker dervies from the color of its Cerachrom Bezel and Dial, which are both blue, like the smurf cartoon characters.



A type of watch that features a chiming mechanism that rings out the time on demand. It’s also known as a Westminster chime watch, named after the famous clock tower in London that features this style of chiming.

Most sonneries feature four or five different gongs, which sound in sequence to indicate the hour, quarter hour, and minute. Some high-end sonneries also feature a striking mechanism that allows the watch to chime on the hour, even when it is not being worn.


A spiral-shaped watch movement component constructed of an extremely thin steel strip. Springs are put at numerous points throughout the movement, but are most typically utilized as tension springs, which act as the movement’s power reserve.

Stainless steel

A common material used in watchmaking. It is an alloy of iron, chromium, and other metals, and it is known for its durability and resistance to corrosion.

Stainless steel type 314L is usually used across low-to-mid watch collections while the type 316L is more common amongst higher-end timepieces. There’s also the 904L stainless steel that’s used exclusively by Rolex.

Sun pattern

A decorative technique that is often employed on bigger components such as gear wheels. During the grinding process, a spiral pattern is formed that tapers towards the interior. Another commonly-used term is solar finish.

Sweeping second

A second hand on a watch that moves in a smooth, continuous motion around the dial, rather than ticking off the seconds one by one. This gives the watch a more sophisticated look and can make it easier to read the time at a glance.

Many people prefer sweeping second hands for their watches because they find them more elegant and easier to use.


Watches with the Swiss-made label come with a quality assurance guaranteeing that the calibre was manufactured and assembled in Switzerland. Another requirement that needs to be met is that at least half of the components used must have been manufactured in Switzerland in order for this designation to be granted.


A watch equipped with a tachymeter scale can be used to determine the speed of an object. It operates by measuring how long it takes to go a certain distance. This data may then be utilized to compute the speed of the object in question.

Most tachymeter watches use a chronograph.


The distance traveled may be measured using a telemeter scale.


See: blueing.


A watch that has three hands, typically the hour hand, minute hand, and second hand. Three-handed watches are the most common type of watch. Many people find them to be the easiest to read, as all of the information is displayed on one screen.

Three-quarter plate

This sort of plate, which is often made of untreated German silver, covers about three-quarters of the movement, storing the barrel, crown wheel, and whole gear train. The balancing wheel bearing and the anchor are housed in a cock.

Ferdinand Lange invented the plate in 1864.


An exceptionally tough, anti-allergenic metal that is often utilized for wear-prone watch parts. It’s also remarkably lightweight – it weighs approximately 50% less than stainless steel.

Tonneau case

A type of watch case that is designed in the shape of a barrel, or cylinder. This design was popular in the early 1900s and has made a comeback in recent years as a retro-style option for watches.

Tonneau cases are typically larger than round cases, which can make them more comfortable to wear on larger wrists.


Tiny displays on the main dial of a watch that show information such as seconds, minutes, or hours. They’re often referred to as sub-dials and are typically a feature of chronograph watches.


Using a spinning escapement, a tourbillon watch is able to compensate for gravity’s influence on its timekeeping accuracy.

The tourbillon, which is French for “whirlwind”, is made comprised of a balance wheel and an escapement enclosed in a tiny cage.

As one of the most complex mechanisms of a watch ever devised, the tourbillon was developed by Pierre Jaquet-Droz.


The case and band of a bicolored or two-tone watch are made from two materials that are each a distinct hue. Stainless steel and gold are two of the most popular color schemes.

Unidirectional bezel

A unidirectional bezel is a type of bezel that can only be turned in one direction. This type of bezel is often used in watches to help the wearer keep track of elapsed time.

For divers, the unidirectional rotating bezel is a convenient and practical way to keep track of their dive time. Even if a diver accidentally rotates the bezel counter-clockwise, the diver’s safety is guaranteed


One of the most well-known mechanical movement companies globally. The Valjoux 7750 movement, which is generally regarded as one of the best chronograph movements in the world, is probably the biggest invention of the Swiss movement maker to this date.

Watch Winder

A watch winder is a device that is used to keep a watch running when it is not being worn.

This is important for watches that have automatic mechanisms, as these watches rely on kinetic movement to keep winding. If a watch isn’t worn regularly, it can stop working properly. Watch winders help to keep watches in good condition by keeping them moving when they’re not being worn.

A watch winder typically has a base that the watch is placed on, and a arm or other type of support that holds the watch in place. The base is connected to a motor, which is what causes the watch winder to rotate. The motor is controlled by a timer, so that it can be set to rotate the watch at different intervals. This helps to keep the watch wound and in good condition.

You can learn more on the subject by reading our article about watch winders.

Water resistance

A measure of how well a watch can withstand being submerged in water. The higher the water resistance rating, the longer a watch can be worn in water without being damaged.

Not only is water resistance important for divers, but it can actually be very useful for anyone who enjoys swimming, sailing, or any other water-based activity. Water-resistance is also important for people who live in areas with a lot of rain or snow, as it can help to keep your watch from being damaged by the elements.

In general, there are three main types of water resistance: splash-resistant, swim-proof, and dive-proof.

A meter, foot, or bar may be used to represent the level of water resistance. However, peak pressures may occur, therefore the figure should not be taken literally. To put it another way, if your watch shows 3 bar pressure, by no means can you dive to 30 meters.

Weekday indicator

The day of the week is shown in this function, which is one of the simplest complications around. A totalizer or a display window on the watch face is often used for this purpose.


The mainspring is powered by the watch being wound, which may be done manually or automatically.

A manual mechanical watch must be wound by hand, as the name implies. On the other hand, automatic watches are self-wound, meaning they keep ticking because of the kinetic movement of your wrist.

Winding crown

A part of a watch that is used to wind the watch’s mainspring. This is done by rotating the crown either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the watch. A winding crown is also known as a stem or winder. Some watches have automatic winding, which means that the watch winds itself as it is worn. A winding crown is not necessary on a watch with automatic winding.

World Time watch

A type of watch that can display the current time in multiple time zones around the world. World time watches are useful for travelers, as they can help keep track of what time it is in different parts of the world. Some world time watches also include features like alarms and timers, making them even more versatile.


See: Flyback function.

1 thought on “Watch Terminology (The Complete A-Z Glossary of Watchmaking)”

  1. I am in search of a Casio watch with with the day/date feature. I want a watch that gets it’s time automatically and does not requite the time to be set. I want a relatively inexpensive and don’t want or need a whole galaxy of functions as I am an old guy and won’t use them.

    I like the older style (1970s), rectangular digital display in silver or stainless.

    I hope you can help me please,


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