Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Glossary of Watch Terms

These words are used frequently in watch lingo. Refer to the following definitions if you have any questions about technical specifications or terms. We are also very happy to discuss these terms or any other questions you may have about shopping for watches. Please call 1-866-377-3034.


12-Hour Recorder (or Register):

A subdial on a chronograph that can record time periods of up to 12 hours.

30-Minute Recorder (or Register):

A subdial on a chronograph (see "chronograph") that can time periods up to 30 minutes.

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Refers to rate constancy of a watch, not only on whether it is showing the exact time. A watch gaining or loosing exactly the same amount every day is considered accurate.



Sometimes referred to as Hesolite, an acrylic crystal is composed of plastic composite that is generally less expensive and less durable than a sapphire or a mineral crystal. Benefits of an acrylic crystal are that it flexes rather than shatters on impact. It also produces little glare under bright light and can be polished easily.


A device that makes a sound at a preset time. There are both quartz and mechanical alarm watches.


Function that provides altitude by responding to changes in barometric pressure, commonly found in pilot watches. Inside a pressurized airplane cabin, the altimeter registers as if on land.

Analog Watch:

A watch with a dial, hands, and numbers or markers that present a total display of 12-hours.

Analog-Digital Display:

A watch that shows the time by means of hands (analog display) as well as by numbers (a digital display). The analog display has a traditional dial with hour, minute and sometimes second hands. The digital display shows the time numerically with a liquid crystal display. This feature is usually found on sport watches.

Annual Calendar:

A watch showing the day, date month and 24 hours, adjusting automatically for short and long months. The calendar needs setting only once a year - at the end of February to the 1st of March.


Small opening. The dials of some watches (in French: montres ?� guichet) have apertures in which certain indications are provided (e.g. the date, the hour, etc).

Atmosphere (Atm):

Unit of pressure used in watch making to indicate water resistance.

Atomic Time Standard:

Provided by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Time and Frequency Division,

Colorado, atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a metal isotope that resembles mercury. The result is extremely accurate time that can be measured on instruments. Radio waves transmit this exact time throughout
North America and some 'atomic' watches can receive them and correct to the exact time. To synchronize your watch with atomic standard time, call (303) 499-7111.

Automatic Movement / Automatic Winding (also called self-winding):

A mechanically powered watch that is wound by the motion of the wearer's arm rather than through turning the winding stem (manual mechanical). In response to this motion, a rotor turns and winds the watch's mainspring. Most automatic watches have up to 36 hours of power reserve. If an automatic watch is not worn for a day or two, it will wind down and need to be wound by hand to get it started again..

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A vague, generic term used to refer to the band that holds a watch on your wrist. The preferred terms bracelet and strap, clearly describe the two major types.

Battery EOL:

Battery End Of Life indicator. This function forewarns of impending battery failure in a quartz watch by means of the second hand jumping in two or sometimes four-second intervals. The wearer usually has approximately two weeks before battery failure.

Battery Life:

The period of time that a battery will continue to provide power to run the watch. Life begins at the point when the factory initially installs the battery in the watch.


A device that converts chemical energy into electricity. Most watch batteries are the silver oxide type, delivering 1.5 volts. Much longer-lasting lithium batteries deliver 3 volts.

Battery-less Quartz:

Also known under various marketing names, including Kinetic (Seiko), Omega-matic (Omega), and Auto quartz (Invicta). Terms for the modern hybrid watch technology of using a quartz movement powered by a small electric current generator operated by a rotor. Electricity generated from the rotor's movement is stored in a capacitor, rechargeable battery, or similar means to keep the watch running. So, like an automatic watch, these also must be worn regularly to keep up their electrical power reserve.


Generically, the upper part of the watch body. Specifically, it usually refers to a ring around the outside of the crystal. On jewelry watches, the bezel may contain a ring of diamonds. On sports watches, the bezel may have calibrated markings and the ability to rotate in one or two directions.

Bidirectional Rotating Bezel:

A bezel that can be moved either clockwise or counterclockwise. These are used for mathematical calculations or for keeping track of elapsed time.


A bracelet is the flexible metal band consisting of assembled links, usually in the same style as the watchcase. Detachable links change the length of the bracelet. Bracelets can be made of stainless steel, sterling silver, gold, or a combination. See also strap.

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Used to indicate a smooth round or oval convex shaped polished gemstone. In watch terminology, it describes a decorative stone set in the watch crown.


The calendar mechanism or function on a watch can consist of a date only showing in a window through to a triple calendar, showing the date, day and month. A combination of dial cut outs and pointer hands may be used. The most complicated calendar mechanisms may be mechanically programmed to show the year and months including those with less that 31 days; leap years can also be mechanically allowed for. Sometimes referred to as a perpetual calendar.

Case or Watchcase:

The metal housing that contains the internal parts of a watch. Stainless steel is the most typical metal used, but titanium, gold, silver and platinum can also be used.

Chronograph Rattrapante:

The addition of a flyback hand (rattrapante) significantly increases the potential uses for chronographs. It makes possible the measurement of split second times or timing simultaneous events of unequal duration.


A multifunction sport watch with a stopwatch function. Most have two or three subdials, or minidials, for measuring minutes and hours. When used in conjunction with specialized scales on the watch dial it can perform many different functions, such as determining speed or distance ( see "tachometer" and "telemeter"). Some can time more than one event at a time (see "flyback hand" and "split seconds hand"). Do not confuse with "chronometer" which is a timepiece that has met certain high standards of accuracy set by an official watch

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This term refers to a precision watch that is tested in various temperatures and positions, thus meeting the accuracy standards set by C.O.S.C. in

Switzerland. These watches are provided with a chronometer certifcate detailing specific test results by the C.O.S.C.


The attachment used to connect the two ends of the watch bracelet around the wrist.


Control Officile Suisse de Chronometers or Swiss Controle Officiel des Cronometres- the independent Swiss regulatory organization that rigorously tests and certifies (or fails) watch movements for chronometer status.

Countdown Timer:

A function that lets the wearer keep track of how much of a preset period of time has elapsed. Some countdown timers sound a warning signal a few seconds before the time runs out. These are useful in events such as yacht races, where the sailor must maneuver the boat into position before the start of a race.


The crown often referred to as the winding crown or winder is used for winding the watch in the case of a non-automatic, for setting the hands to the correct time and often for setting the date in the case of calendar equipped watches. On diving/sports models, the crown may be screw-down whereby it screws onto a threaded tube, which protrudes from the case of the watch. This often ensures superior water resistance.


The cover over the watch dial is called the crystal. There are three types of crystals commonly used in watches: acrylic crystal is an inexpensive plastic that allows shallow scratches to be buffed out. Mineral crystal is composed of several elements that are heat-treated to create an unusual hardness that aids in resisting scratches. Sapphire crystal is the most expensive and durable, approximately three times harder than mineral crystals and 20 times harder than acrylic crystals. A non-reflective coating on some sport styles prevents glare.

Crystal Skeleton Caseback:

Caseback made of transparent material such as hardened mineral crystal or sapphire crystal that reveals the intricate movement of the watch.

Cyclops (Magnified Window):

A small window or lens in the crystal that is added to magnify the date 2 1/2 times.

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Day/Date Watch:

A watch that indicates not only the date but also the day of the week.

Deployment Buckle (Foldover):

A three-folding enclosure that secures the two ends of the bracelet and allows enough room for placing the watch on the wrist when fully deployed. When closed, the buckle covers the two-piece folding mechanism.

Depth Alarm:

An alarm on a diver's watch that sounds when the wearer exceeds a preset depth. In most watches it stops sounding when the diver ascends above that depth.

Depth Sensor/Depth Meter:

A device on a diver's watch that determines the wearer's depth by measuring water pressure. It shows the depth either by analog hands and a scale on the watch dial or through a digital display.


The dial, often referred to as the face is usually marked with numbers or batons to which the hands point in order for the wearer to tell the correct time. Dials may be minimalist with no markers at all or extremely complex as in the case of pilots' chronographs. Dials may be decorated with patterns or in some cases with precious stones.


The display of time in numbers instead of hands on the dial. The numbers can appear in an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), which shows a continuous reading or an LED (Light-Emitting Diode), which shows the time at the push of a button.


Indication of time or other data, either by means of hands moving over a dial (analog display) or by means of numerals appearing in one or more windows (digital or numerical display); these numerals may be completed by alphabetical indications (alphanumerical display) or by signs of any other kind. Example: 12.05 MO 12.3 = 12 hours, 5 minutes, Monday 12th March. Such displays can be obtained by mechanical or electronic means.

Diver's Watch:

Divers' watches traditionally feature a graduated, rotating bezel, screw down winding crown, and caseback... must be water resistant to at least 200m or 660 feet.

Dual Time/Second Time Zone Bezel:

A rotating bezel, which can be used to display a separate time zone distinct from that shown on the dial.

Dual Time:

A watch that measures current local time as well as at least one other time zone. The additional time element may come from a twin dial, extra hand, subdial, or other means.

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Elapsed Time Rotating Bezel:

A graduated rotating bezel (see "rotating bezel") used to keep track of periods of time. The bezel can be turned so the wearer can align the zero on the bezel with the watch's seconds or minutes hand. You can then read the elapsed time off of the bezel. This saves from having to perform the subtraction that would be necessary if you used the watch's regular dial.

Elapsed Time:

The actual time taken for an object to travel over a specified distance.

Engine Turning:

Decorative engraving, usually on a watch dial.


End of Life. In quartz movement, the end of battery life is indicated by the second hand, which starts to jump every four seconds. The battery should be changed immediately.

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The visible side of the watch or the dial.


An additional hand on a chronograph which moves with the second hand but, can be stopped independently to measure an interval which can then "fly back" to catch up with the other hand. This is useful for capturing lap times without losing the ability to capture the finish time.

Foldover Buckle (Deployment):

A three-folding enclosure that secures the two ends of the bracelet and allows enough room for placing the watch on the wrist when fully deployed. When closed, the buckle covers the two-piece folding mechanism.

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A rubber or plastic ring that seals the internal works of the watch against dust, moisture and water.

GMT Timezone:

GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), also known as Zulu Time, as set to the international clock in

England, reflects, through an additional hour hand, the world time on a 24-hour scale and is used by pilots worldwide.

Gold Plating:

An application of gold over the surface of an item.

Gold, Rose Gold, Yellow Gold, and White Gold:

The only natural form of gold is yellow gold. But since gold is too soft in its pure form to make jewelry, it is normally made into an alloy by mixing it with other metals. The portion of pure gold to other metals determines the Karat rating. 24K is pure gold. 18K is 75% pure. The exact nature of the other metals used determines the color. A moderate amount of copper in the alloy creates Rose Gold. A moderate amount of palladium and nickel creates white gold.

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Indicator, usually made of a thin, light piece of metal, variable in form, which moves over a graduated dial or scale. Watches usually have three hands showing the hours, minutes and seconds.

Handwinding (Manual Mechanical):

A watch with a manual mechanical movement, which needs to be wound by the wearer using the winding crown. This winds the mainspring up which then releases its energy to power the watch.

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The bearing, endstone or pallet used for reducing friction within the movement of a watch are made of synthetic material of precious or semi-precious stones. Usually a very inexpensive form of synthetic ruby, these are used for virtually frictionless pivots or hubs at certain critical places in the watch mechanism. These jewels do not add any monetary value to a watch. It is also important to understand that more jewels does not necessarily make a better watch.

Jump Hour Indicator:

A jump hour indicator takes the place of an hour hand. It shows the hour by means of a numeral in a window on the dial of the watch. The word "jump" refers to the fact that the numerals jump from 1 to 2 to 3, etc., rather than showing intermediate times between hours as hour hands do. The minutes and seconds in a jump hour watch are read as normal from the analog hands and dial.

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Karat or K:

An indication of the purity of the metal used, expressed in the number of 1/24th of the pure metal used in the alloy. Metals such as gold are too soft in their pure state use in jewelry, so they are typically made into an alloy with other metals for strength. 24K (equal to 24/24ths) is pure metal. 18K is 18 parts pure metal mixed with 6 parts of other metals. That translates to 18/24=0.750, which is 75% pure, or 750 parts per thousand.


Refers to the Seiko line of Kinetic watches. This innovative technology has a quartz movement that does not use a battery. Movement of your wrist charges a very efficient capacitor which powers the quartz movement. Once the capacitor is fully charged, men?��s models will store energy for 7-14 days without being worn. Ladies models store energy for 3-7 days. The watch alerts you to a low capacitor charge when the seconds hand starts to move in two second intervals.

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Lap Memory:

The ability, in some quartz sport watches, to preserve in the watch's memory the times of laps in a race that have been determined by the lap timer (see "lap timer"). The wearer can recall these times on a digital display by pushing a button.

Lap Timer:

A chronograph function that lets the wearer time segments of a race. At the end of a lap, the wearer stops the timer, which then returns to zero to begin timing the next lap.

LCD Display (Liquid Crystal Display):

A digital watch display that shows the time electronically by means of a liquid held in a thin layer between two transparent plates. Followed from the earlier LED or Light Emitting Diode display of the first quartz digital watches. The LCD was preferred as it used vastly less power than the LED thus the time could be shown constantly as opposed to having to press a button for time display.


Extensions on both sides of the case where the bracelet or strap is attached.

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Magnified Window (Cyclops):

A small window or lens in the crystal that is added to magnify the date 2 1/2 times.

Manual Winding:

Refers to a watch with a manual mechanical movement, which needs to be wound by the wearer using the winding crown. This winds the mainspring up which then releases its energy to power the watch.

Mechanical Movement:

A movement based on a mainspring which when wound slowly unwinds the spring in an even motion to provide accurate timekeeping. As opposed to a manual mechanical watch which needs to be wound on a consistent basis, an automatic mechanical requires no winding because of the rotor, which winds the mainspring every time you move your wrist (see our section on automatic watch maintenance for more details).

Military or 24 Hour Time:

When time is measured in 24-hour segments. To convert 12-hour time to 24-hour time, simply add 12 to any p.m. time. To convert 24-hour time to 12-hour time, subtract 12 from any time from 13 to 24.



Watch crystal made from what is essentially a form of glass. More scratch resistant than acrylic, a mineral crystal will however scratch and is extremely difficult to polish.

Minute Repeater:

A Complication on a watch that can strike the time in hours, quarters, or seconds by means of a push piece.

Moon Phase:

An indicator that keeps track of the phases of the moon. A regular rotation of the moon is once around the earth every 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes. Once set, the moon phase indicator accurately displays the phase of the moon.


Iridescent milky interior shell of the freshwater mollusk that is sliced thin and used on watch dials. While most have a milky white luster, mother-of-pearl also comes in other colors such as silvery gray, gray blue, pink and salmon.


The means by which a watch keeps time, often including the power source. For example, a watch with mechanical movement uses a spinning balance wheel powered by a tightly wound spring, whereas a watch with quartz movement measures the vibrations in a piece of quartz and often is powered by a battery.

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O-rings are used to seal the backs of watches, which feature either a press-in back or a screw on back. They ensure water resistance. Usually also used on the winding stems of watches and in the winding crowns to protect against the ingestion of water and dust. Normally made from a rubber/plastic compound.

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A device that counts the number of strides taken by the wearer by responding to the impact of the wearer's steps.

Perpetual Calendar:

A calendar complication that adjusts automatically to account for different lengths of the month (30 or 31 days) and leap years. Perpetual calendars, which can be powered by quartz or mechanical movements, are programmed to be accurate until the year 2100.


One of the most r

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