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The Guide: Understanding Watch Terminology

Categories Watches

What’s the difference between a face and a dial, a chronometer and a chronograph? Here are the tricky timepiece terms you need to know…

1. Automatic Movement

Look ma, no hands – at least for winding because the watch’s rotor, part of the automatic mechanism, winds the mainspring whenever you move your hand.

2. Bezel

The metallic ring – usually made of steel, gold plate or gold – that surrounds the watch face.

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Fluted bezel on the Omega Globemaster

3. Chronograph

Basically this is a stopwatch — often a separate digital display or additional seconds hand (or hours hand or some other counter) on the watch face — that can be easily started and stopped to time an event.

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Breitling Colt Chronograph Blacksteel

4. Chronometer

A watch tested in different temperatures and under different conditions so as to meet the accuracy standards set in Switzerland.

5. Crown

The button on the outside of the watch case that’s used to wind mechanical watches and set time and other functions on automatic mechanism timepieces. Also called a winding stem.

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Rolex crown

6. Dial

This is the display, usually circular, bearing the Arabic or Roman numerals or other marks to signify the minutes and hours of the clock.

7. Face

This is the entire visible side of the watch comprising the dial and hands.

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Face of the Seiko Astron GPS Solar

8. Manual Wind

A watch that needs to be hand-wound daily by the crown. Winding tightens the mainspring, which then slowly unwinds in an even motion, driving the timepiece’s movement.

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Eterna Super KonTiki

9. Movement

Either mechanical or quartz, this refers to the innards of the watch that keep time and drive the watch’s hand or display.

10. Quartz Crystal

Synthetic quartz oscillates (or vibrates) 32.768 times a second. In a quartz watch, a battery sends electricity to the quartz crystal through a circuit, using the vibrations to generate electric pulses which power either an LCD display or drive a small motor which turns the watch’s gear wheels for second, minute and hour functions.

11. Skeleton Case

A watch whose case is transparent either front or back so you can enjoy viewing the watch’s movement.

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Cle de Cartier skeleton watch

12. Swiss Made

A watch qualifies as Swiss Made if its movement was assembled, started, adjusted and controlled by its maker in Switzerland. Such watches should have the Swiss A.O.S.C. (Certificate of Origin) mark.

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Tudor Heritage Black Bay

13. Tourbillon

A tourbillon is a round cage holding an escapement and balance that rotates once every 60 seconds. It’s found in a mechanical watch and used to eliminate timekeeping errors caused by the tiny variations caused when a watch is run in horizontal and vertical positions.

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Flying tourbillon in the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 02T