Watch Glossary


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Are you an outdoor guy looking for a watch as tough as you? Or perhaps you're a sophisticated woman in search for something stylish and luxurious​?

A combination of precise engineering and artistic craftsmanship, watches are sophisticated and versatile in so many ways. When looking for that perfect timepiece, it is important that you know what you are looking for and how to find it. A knowledge of some basic watch vocabulary can help you make the right choice. This watch glossary gives you the tools to buy watches that fit perfectly into your life.



Alpha hands: Refers to watch hands that are tapered in design.

Altimeter: A watch feature that determines altitude through changes in barometric pressure. This feature is commonly present in pilot's watches.

Analog: The traditional type of watch that displays time with dial, hands and numbers otherwise known as hour markers.

Analog chronograph: A watch type that displays time and stopwatch functions on the sub dials of the watch in analog. The analog chronograph function in quartz watches often display 1/10th seconds and 1/100th seconds in sub dials movements varying from 30 minutes up to 12 hrs.

Analog digital:  This type of watch shows time in both analog and digital display, usually operating independently of each other. These watches are usually battery or solar powered quartz operated.

Aperture: A watch feature, usually found in dial watches, that display a certain function, usually a calendar, date or day.

ATM:  The term ATM is used by watchmakers to denote water resistance. The acronym itself stands for Atmosphere as it describes the atmospheric pressure around the watch.

Automatic movement: Also known as a self- winding watch, a common feature in most watches today. This removes the need for manual winding as it is automatically wound up by the natural motion of the wearer's arm.


Baton hands: A type of watch hand, that is straight and narrow. It sometimes referred to as a stick hand.

Bezel: The bezel is the metal that encases the rims of the watch's crystal.

Bi-directional rotating bezel: a type of rotating bezel used to describe a bezel that can be turned in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions.


Caliber: Refers to an automatic watch's configuration and size

Case: The watch's internal mechanism is housed in the case.

Case back: Refers to the removable cover of the watch case that allows access to the mechanisms inside.

Chronograph: A chronograph measures a specific duration of time, commonly known as the stopwatch function on a watch.

Chronometer: The term is used to designate a watch that has beed certified for accuracy. Chronometer timepieces are high-precision movement watches quality tested by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC). These watches bear a certification number as proof of its quality. 

Complication: This term is used to refer to any other feature of a watch aside form the basic timekeeping functions.

Crown: The button located at the side of the watch case used to adjust the time and the date and the movement for mechanical watches. This is also refered to as the winding stem.

Crystal: This refers to the panel over the watch face set to protect that watch dial. Different watches have different quality of crystals, the most common are: Hardlex, Mineral, Synthetic Sapphire or Sapphire.


Dauphine hands: A type of watch hand, wide at one end and tapered to a fine point with a crease down the center.

Day- night indicator: A watch feature that indicates daytime or nighttime hours. This feature is usually a shaded oval encircling the dial rim or the bezel, it may also display the time zones for major cities around the world.

Depth sensor: A watch feature usually found on dive watches, it determines depth through measuring water pressure.

Dive watch: A type of watch most suitable for snorkeling or scuba diving, tested by the International Standardization Organization (ISO),  Dive watches have a water resistance rating of 20 ATM (200 meters/660 feet).

Dual time watch: A type of watch that displays two time zones. This watch can either have two dials, an analog and a digital display on the same dial or sub dial placed on the main dial.


Elapsed-time Bezel: A watch feature that shows a tachymeter scale on the rim of the watch's bezel that measures distance covered based on a specific period of time. It is often used to compute speed based on time traveled or distance based on speed.



Gasket: The seals placed on the crown, buttons, case back and crystals of a watch to increase water resistance.

Guilloche: A watch design that is of a symmetrical pattern that ripples outward from the center, also known as the sunburst pattern.


Horology: The study of measuring time and the art of crafting time pieces.

Hour recorder: A chronograph sub dial feature that records for a specific period of time. Most watch recorders have 12- hour, 60-minute and 30-minute registers.


Index markers: A watch design that replaces the numbers on a dial with a stick-shaped marker.


Jewels: Jewels refer to the synthetic rubies or sapphires used as bearings for the gears in mechanical watches. The term jewels was coined as tradionally natural gemstones were used a gears.


Kinetic: Refers to a watch technology that powers the watch capacitor through the natural motion of the wearer's arm. This eliminates the need for solar and battery power instead it uses oscillating weights to generate power.


Lap timer: A Chronograph function that can time segments of a race. The timer can be use to time each lap of a race as well as the total time.

Lap time memory: A Chronograph function that can store lap times for the user's future reference.

Lugs: The stubs that attach the watch case to the watch band or bracelet.


Main plate: The Main plate is the base panel that holds the watch's movement.

Mainspring: Refers to the spring that unwinds to release energy to power the watch's movement.

Mechanical movement: The mechanical watch movement is powered by a manually wound mainspring  to store potential charge to power the watch and its functions.

Military time: . Also known as the 24- hour format, the display is usually on a sub dial or as an added digital function.

Moon phase dial: A watch feature that indicates the phase of the lunar moon, usually in a subdial or as a graphic display. Some watches have a sun and moon sub dial, which helps in tracking time.

Movement: Movement refers to the interior mechanism of a watch that determines time, date and other functions. Watch movements can either be mechanical, quartz or automatic.




Perpetual calendar: A watch feature that keeps the calendar accurate, it automatically resets the day either monthly or annualy.  

Power reserve: Refers to the amount of energy that a watch has stored in its movement. Full power reserve for the average mechanical or automatic watch is approximately 36 hours.

Pulsimeter: An advanced function in sports watches that measures the wearer's pulse rate.


Quartz crystal: The Quartz crystal, usually synthetic quartz, drives the time keeping function of a quartz watch..

Quartz movement: The Quartz movement regulates time by oscillating the quartz crystal by sending an electric current from the battery to the quartz crystal to create precise and predictable vibrations that accurately regulate time.


Register: Also known as a Sub dial.

Rotating bezel: A rotating bezel can be turned and adjusted by the watch wearer. A watch with this type  of bezel usually pairs with a rotating dial with scales and markings that aid the wearer in calculating timekeeping and mathematical equations. Two types of Rotating bezel are bi-directional and inidirectional.


Screw-down crown: This type of crown creates greater water resistance for the watch because as compared to the push-and-pull crown, the screw-down crown fits into the watch case to create a stronger seal.

Shock resistance: Shock resistance refers to the watch case's ability to withstand physical pressure, protecting the movement and complications. The durability test for a watch's shock resistance is surviving a 3 feet drop to a wooden floor or any impact of equal measure.

Skeleton case: A watch design that shows the movement design through a small opening on the dial or with a clear crystal placed on the case back.

Solar-powered watch: A type of quartz watch with solar panels on the case that harness energy to power the movement.

Split-seconds chronograph: A watch feature that allows the measurement of time intervals through the use of two hands that simultaneously move but can be split up in order to time more than one action. The variable hand is called the fly-back hand.

Sweep hand: Also known as the sweep second hand, this is the long hand that moves around the dial and used to indicate time in seconds.

Swiss-made movement: Refers to time pieces with Swiss parts, the watch should also be assembled and cased in Switzerland.


Tachymeter: A tachymeter is a scale used to account speed of travel based on a specific distance, this feature is often found on a timepiece's bezel or the dial rim.

Telemeter: A timepiece's telemeter is often set on the bezel. It determines the distance between two points based on the time it takes for sound to travel from thye watch to a specific object.

Tonneau case:A watch case design with convex sides, resembling the side view of a barrel.

Tourbillion: Refers to the frame for the escapement section of a mechanical watch, often featured in a window as a design element in time pieces.


Unidirectional rotating bezel: Refers to a rotating bezel that turns in only one direction.



Waterproof: Refers to a timepiece's water resistant feature. Note that no watch is 100 percent water proof but many have a high water resistance rating.

Water resistance: A watch feature that protects the case and the movement from moisture. This is done through applying rubber, nylon or teflon gaskets on the case back and securing seals of crystals, crowns and push buttons. Water resistance is measured in terms of ATM (see definition above), the higher the ATM on the watch the higher the water resistance.

World time dial: A watch feature, generally found on the bezel or outer rim of the timepiece's main dial, that shows different timezones, mostly for major cities the world over.