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The only luxury dictionary you need: Watch words to live by


by John Wallis

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October 23. 2018 - by John Wallis

Discovering the joy of watches can be a minefield of difficult terminology. Like many niche fields, people who already know all about watches may assume you do too. Never fear: here to help you tell your chronographs from your chronometers is the official Chronext A-Z of watches!


Automatic

Aka Self-Winding: Any watch or movement with a rotor that recharges the mainspring, allowing it to run indefinitely without being wound by the wearer.

Analog display

Time shown via a traditional hour and minute hand, as opposed to a digital display.

Annual calendar

A function typically showing the day, date and month that needs to be reset only once per year at the end of February.

Balance wheel

A crucial regulating component within a watch's movement that advances the gear train at a precise rate.

Bezel

A band added around a watch's dial crystal to protect the case or provide other functionality.

Bracelet

A metallic strap that secures a watch to the wrist.

Chronograph

A watch equipped with a duration-measuring function, aka a stopwatch.

Chronometer

Once a type of instrument for navigation at sea; now applied to watches that have been C.O.S.C.-certified.

Cyclops

A small lens added to a dial crystal to magnify a specific display element - normally the date.

Crown

The turning mechanism on the side of the case that allows the wearer to wind and set the watch.

Case

The typically metallic exterior of the watch, housing the timekeeping component within.

Caseback

The non-display side of the watch, which rests on the wrist. Sometimes fitted with crystal to allow a view of the movement.

Dial

The main visible display of the watch, where the time is read.

Deployment clasp

A mechanism for opening and closing a watch's bracelet to put it on and take it off the wrist.

Escapement

Alongside the balance wheel, this is a core part of a watch movement that transfers energy discreetly from the mainspring to the timekeeping mechanism.

Frequency

The rate at which the watch's balance wheel oscillates. Higher frequencies are usually more desirable.

Function

Measurements or abilities provided by the watch, from telling the time to chiming the hours.

Gasket

A traditionally rubber element used to seal the watch, keeping out water, dust and other undesirable materials.

GMT

Greenwich Mean Time - often shorthand for a watch that shows the time in two different timezones.

Horology

The study of timekeeping and watchmaking.

Helium Escape Valve

Found on diving watches, it allows helium out during decompression instead of damaging the watch. Rarely required in practice.

Hand-wound

The opposite of automatic: any watch that must be manually powered to keep from stopping.

Hour markers

The indexes around a watch dial that display the time in conjunction with the hands.

Jewels

Usually synthetic crystals used in a watch's movement for their low friction and high durability.

Lugs

Extensions on either end of the watch case that allow a strap to be attached.

Manual wind

See: Hand-wound.

Movement

Aka a "calibre", the movement is the primary device of the watch kept inside a case. It is the assembly of components that tells the time.

Mainspring

A coiled strip that acts as the power source in a mechanical watch.

Perpetual calendar

A function typically showing the day, date and month that theoretically needs to be reset only once a century.

Power reserve

The amount of time before the watch runs out of power. Also a type of visual display showing how much remains.

Rotating bezel

A bezel that can be turned around the dial, usually for computing purposes or recording elapsed time.

Rotor

A free-turning weight, added to a movement, that recharges the mainspring as it spins via a ratcheting mechanism.

Swiss-made

A legally defined label granted only to watches that meet certain criteria of sourcing and assembly in Switzerland.

Sapphire crystal

A synthetic form of hardened glass commonly used to protect the dial.

Slide rule

A chart typically added to a rotating bezel that provides analogue computer functionality.

Tourbillon

A cage for the escapement theoretically intended to increase precision by negating the effects of gravity.

Titanium

A type of metal harder and lighter than steel, sometimes used for luxury watch cases.

Uni-Directional Rotating Bezel

A bezel that can only be turned in one direction to prevent accidental slippage.

VPH

Vibrations Per Hour - the unit of measurement for a watch's frequency. Aka BPH (Beats Per Hour).

Water resistance

A measure of how much water pressure a watch is able to withstand safely.

Watch winder

A watch accessory device used for hands-free winding.

Yacht timer

A rare complication used to time the start of regatta sailing events.

Zones (time)

We had to find something with a Z, didn't we? A timezone is a geographical segment of the world in which the official time is standardised. 

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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