Have you ever heard watch collectors talk about the mechanical movements of the best luxury watch brands in the world?
Do you know the difference between quartz vs automatic watches? How about the differences in function between the uni-directional rotating bezel from the bi-directional rotating bezel?
If not, we got your back.
Like the numerous fields of science, the complex yet fascinating world of watchmaking has a lot of difficult watch pronunciations and complex definitions. And in this guide, we will help you understand the complicated art of making watches by defining the terminology used.
Here is the complete watch nomenclature guide arranged from A to Z for your convenience and ease of reading. Enjoy!
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A through H
The term accuracy in horology refers to the measurement of how excellently a watch keeps time. For example, a quartz watch has an average accuracy of ±0.07 per day. While a wristwatch with mechanical movement has an average of -4/+6 seconds per day.
The term analog refers to an analog watch that uses hour and minute hands to show the time of the day, unlike a digital watch that displays time using a digital display.
Refers to a watch that indicates the day, date, and month.Watches with these features can automatically adjust the displayed date based on 30- and 31-day months to ensure that the correct day is always shown.
Altimeter is utilized to measure altitude. It is an essential watch function, especially for men who love to hike or fly an aircraft.
Refers to a watch that measures time by monitoring the characteristic frequency of radioactive transfers between the electrons of free atoms. It is considered the most accurate clock in the world today.
A term that refers to an automatic watch that uses automatic-winding mechanisms and a rotor to recharge the movement through the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. It is the direct opposite of watches with quartz movements that are powered by a battery.
A balance spring or hairspring is a very fine spring that ticks at the center of mechanical watch movement that causes the recoil of the balance wheel. It also regulates the rate at which the balance wheel oscillates.
The balance wheel can be found at the heart of the mechanical watch movement. It oscillates at a constant rate to move the gears, which allows the watch hands to move forward to ensure the accuracy of the wristwatch in telling time.
A nickname used by the watch community to refer to the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 126710BLNR with a blue and black bezel in a jubilee watch bracelet. Although widely used, this moniker has never been used officially by Rolex.
A nickname used by the watch community to refer to the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 116710BLNR with a blue and black bezel, the direct predecessor of the “Batgirl.”
It is a type of bezel that can be turned in both directions that can be utilized to measure time-related events like elapsed time or shifting time zone. You can usually see it in upscale watches and diver’s watches.
Refers to the watch strap that attaches the timepiece to the wrist of the wearer. Traditionally, most watches or vintage watches bracelets are made of stainless steel or leather. But today, rubber and nylon can also be used as an alternative.
Breguet hands describe the shape of the watch hands where the free end is characterized by a hollowed and off-center circle, culminating with a very pointed part. It is a classic and was traditionally used in pocket watches back in the early days.
A bridge is a piece of mechanical watches that supports and acts as a platform for smaller watch parts that hold them in place.
Also known as the satin finish, it is a hand technique to give the watch case a matte finish. It also provides the watch case with a three-dimensional finish.
This term refers to a metal pin designed to secure the watch strap to the wrist.
A synonym or other term for a watch’s movement. Calibre and watch movement both refer to the assortment of small parts of a timepiece that are combined to create an internal mechanism to make the watch work.
The backside of a watch case that can be removed to access the inside of a wristwatch. Some luxury watch models offer a sapphire crystal case back or transparent back to provide a view of the internal mechanical movements of their timepieces.
This term refers to an inorganic non-metallic material used in watchmaking. It is a robust, highly scratch and fade-resistant material often utilized on the bezel of divers’ watches. This is a go-to timepiece option for men suffering from allergies to metal.
Chronograph watches are a type of timepiece enhanced with a stopwatch function. Usually, you can use the chronograph function by using the push buttons that can be found beside the crown.
A watch that has been certified for its accuracy by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), the official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. Mechanical watches must be accurate to -4/+6 seconds a day, while quartz watches must achieve ±0.07 per day accuracy.
A clasp is a folding mechanism that secures the watch to the wrist of the wearer.
Refers to a red and black Rolex bezel used for GMT-Master and GMT-Master II models.
A term used by luxury watch brands that indicate watches that display the date, the weekday, and the month. These types of timepieces need to be adjusted in months with less than 31 days.
A term used to describe a timepiece function beyond telling the precise time and offers additional benefits, such as the chronograph function or displaying the time in another time zone.
Watch complications make a watch more valuable due to complexity to manufacture a timepiece.
A term popularized by the Rolex company. Since 1963, the word has been enthroned on the dial of the Rolex Daytona model, marking chronographs with moon phases. Today, it is also used by the company for their chronograph watch in general.
Refers to magnifying glass invented and patented by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex company. The cyclops lens can be found on the watch crystal over the date display.
Refers to the date display found on most watches in the watch market today. It is often located at the 3 o’clock side of the watch face.
Refers to a timepiece that displays both the date and the day of the week.
A diver’s watch refers to a timepiece with water-resistance features and the ability to resist underwater pressure up to 200 meters deep. Most water-resistant watches are equipped with gaskets to prevent water infiltration and protect the watch’s mechanical movement.
Engraving is a technique of inscribing patterns, numerals, or letters into the watch dials, watch case, or other hard surfaces. This can be used as extra decor to the timepiece or to add a personal touch to the watch.
The escapement is an internal piece that facilitates the transfer of energy from the power source to the counting mechanism of the watch. It consists of an escapement wheel and a lever and is considered the heart of watch movements.
It refers to the conclusive manufacturing procedure for watches in which the movement is refined by skilled craftsmen using special finishing techniques.
Refers to the speed or number of oscillations conducted by the balance wheel.
A chronograph watch with flyback functions allows its wearer to record the time multiple times in quick succession, which is extremely valuable for pilots. In this watch, the chronograph function can be stopped and reset to zero with a single press.
An abbreviation for Greenwich Mean Time. It also refers to a watch that displays two different time zones simultaneously.
A timepiece with several upscale complications.
An engraving technique used for decoration of the watch dial.
Refers to a mechanical watch that does not automatically wind. Watches like this are powered by manually rotating the crown.
A French term that means “high watchmaking.” This term is used to describe watchmakers and timepiece manufacturers that demonstrate extreme proficiency in designing their watches and applying technical innovation to their craftsmanship.
A nickname used by the watch community to refer to the Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610LV. This Rolex has green watch dials and green cerachrom bezels.
I through P
An index indicates the hours and minutes on the analog watch dial. They are used as an alternative to roman numerals. They are often represented as dots and dashes, but sometimes they can also appear in other forms, such as diamonds.
Jewels or sometimes referred to as stones. They are synthetic sapphires and rubies that are used to hold moving parts of mechanical watches to minimize friction.
Jump second is a term that refers to the second hand that moves abruptly and not continually from second to second. Other watch enthusiasts also call this “dead second.”
A nickname used by the watch community to refer to the Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610LV. This watch model features a green aluminum bezel and a black dial.
A watch or watch collection that is made and sold in limited pieces.
Links compose the individual parts of stainless steel watch bracelets.
Refers to a tightly wound metal coil where the energy of a mechanical watch is stored. The mainspring is tightened by turning the winding crown and drives the movement by using kinetic energy.
Refers to a dial that is created and patented by the Rolex company. The luminous dots in the watch dial are created larger than expected to give the watch’s regular dial more volume and presence.
A mechanical watch has a traditional movement that is not powered by a battery. The mainspring of these watches requires regular winding for it to work proficiently.
Refers to a watch bracelet that is made from thousands of small links that are woven together.
Refers to a watch with a high-end complication. It can strike out the hours, quarters, and minutes on request. It is a helpful function for people that are visually impaired.
A feature in a watch face that displays in which phase the moon currently is.
Mother Of Pearl
A dial that is entirely covered by a thin layer of mother of pearl. Its most distinctive characteristic is its iridescence, which makes it appear to change shade when viewed from different angles.
Also called as calibre, the term movement refers to the entire mechanism of a timepiece that makes it work to indicate the time.
Refers to a synthetic fiber that is used to create a robust, lightweight, and hypoallergenic textile watch strap. This material is often used and paired with a dive watch.
Oscillation refers to the constant oscillating movement of the balance spring around its resting point.
The Oyster watch case is the first water-resistant wristwatch case that was invented by Rolex. It was created in 1926 and is still used by the company today.
Oyster Perpetual is a watch collection patented by Rolex. The word “Oyster” indicates that it has waterproof cases, and “Perpetual” means that the watch from this collection has an automatic movement.
This term refers to a dial design in which the main dial is colored white, and the subdials are black, resembling a face of a panda.
Paneristi is a term used to refer to fans and watch enthusiasts who love the Panerai watch brand.
Paul Newman is an American actor famous for using the Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239 with its exotic white dial.
Pepsi bezel is a term that indicates a blue and red watch bezel that is originally made popular by the Rolex GMT-Master models.
The perpetual calendar is a watch complication that can keep track of the date even in leap years. Watch with this function can display the day, date, month, and year.
A type of watch that originates from the collaboration of Louis Cartier and Alberto Santos-Dumont. These watches have the ability to do mathematical calculations easily and quickly while in flight.
The power reserve is a term used to describe the number of available power stored in the watch mainspring. Some mechanical watches have a power reserve indicator to show the remaining energy left in the watch movement.
A scale around the watch dial that can measure the wearer’s heart rate.
Q through Z
A watch with quartz movement uses battery-powered mechanisms to accurately tell the time of the day. Watches like this are considerably less expensive compared to mechanical watches.
A regatta countdown is a function that allows its wearer to time the start of sailing a yacht or regatta. This complication shows a 10-minute countdown to display the precise time to start the regatta.
Retrograde is an indicator on the dial of the watch that displays functions such as the time, date, and even power reserve. Retrograde watches are also known as watches that can run counterclockwise.
A rotor or oscillating weight is an internal part of a watch that spins in an automatic movement to charge the mainspring.
A durable and scratch-resistant glass is used to cover the dial of a watch.
An alternative term for an automatic watch.
Servicing involves cleaning and relubricating the internal mechanism of the watch to maintain its accuracy. A mechanical watch should be serviced at least once in 3 to 5 years.
A skeleton watch has no dial. This type of watch shows off the inner workings and mechanics of the timepiece.
Sonnerie is a French term for “ring” or “making a sound.” These chronometers with self-striking tools reproduce the time using bell or chimes springs.
Watch enthusiasts used this term to refer to a timepiece that’s been quality assessed and assembled in Switzerland.
A built-in function in a wristwatch that can measure and calculate the speed.
The telemeter scale determines the distance of an object from the watch wearer.
A thermal hardening technique used for metal parts of a watch.
A type of escapement in the rotating cage that is utilized to negate the damaging effects of gravity on the movement of a watch.
Ultra-thin is a term that refers to a slim and lightweight watch. In the watchmaking industry, slimness is often considered a complication. The thinner the watch, the more complicated it is to make.
The capability of a watch to be submerged underwater and withstand the water pressure without damaging its movements.
An electronic rack that is designed to keep an automatic watch. It can simulate the movement of the watch wearer to ensure that it continues to run efficiently even if not used.
Winding is the mechanism by which the tension spring is tightened to keep the watch properly functioning.
Zero-resetting is a term that describes the action of resetting the watch’s hands to their initial starting point.
What Are The Parts Of A Watch Called?
Now that we initially understand the terms and definitions widely used in the watch community, this is the time to see the different parts of the watch.
Check out the below visual to see where the parts of a watch are located.
Crystal is the see-through portion of the watch that protects and covers the dial and the watch’s hands. This piece can be made of plastic, glass, or for luxury watches, synthetic sapphires.
The hands of the watch are the markers on the dial that indicates time. Most chronometers in the market are composed of the second hand, minute hand, and hour hand.
The case is considered the house of the wristwatch. It serves the same function as the skin of our body, which protects and holds the contents in position.
The dial or also known as the face of the watch. It is the part that actually displays the time. Watch dials can come in several colors, designs, and marker combinations that differ based on the watch model.
A piece of metal that attaches the watch case to the strap or stainless steel bracelet.
The bezel is the ring that surrounds the watch face and secures the watch crystal in place. The bezels can be fixed or rotated to provide functionality, such as a time zone indicator in the world time watch, a compass, or a countdown timer.
Also called the push button, the pusher is similar to the crown. These buttons can be found on the side of the case and can enable different watch functions, such as adjustment of the date or month.
A knob on the side of the watch. This is used to set and adjust the time. The crown is also used to wind the mainspring of mechanical watches to keep them functioning.
A much smaller dial inset into the main dial of the timepiece. Subdials are used for secondary functions, such as measuring the time in split seconds chronograph.
Hour marker numeric labels on the watch face. These are the indicators that mark out the hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
A watch is a mobile time-telling device intended to be carried or worn by a person.
A watch enthusiast is called a horologist.
A timepiece that has 3 dials is called a chronograph watch.
Putting It All Together
There you have it! Hope you enjoyed our comprehensive list of watch terms or nomenclature. You should be informed enough to understand basic conversations about watches.
Now, you can take this education and start building out your watch collection if you are a beginner as well. If you want to keep learning check out some of our rated books on watch!