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Watch Glossary

Watch Glossary


Altimeter – Measures altitude above sea level. A useful addition to watches used for aviation, climbing and walking.

Anti magnetic – the use of anti or non magnetic compounds in the movement, to ensure the watch is not affected by magnetic fields.

Automatic Winding – A rotating weight set into motion by moving the wrist winds the spring barrel via the gear train of a mechanical watch movement. There are unidirectional and bidirectional winding rotors, depending on the type of gear train used.


Balance Spring – The mainspring of a mechanical watch that causes the oscillating of the balance wheel. This regulates the timekeeping.


Caliber – A term similar to type or model that refers to different watch movements.


TAG Heuer Men's CAV511A.BA0902 Grand Carrera Chronograph Calibre 17 RS Watch

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Chronograph – Describes watches that not only show the time of day but also certain time intervals via independent hands, that may be started or stopped at will.


Audemars Piguet Chronograph Mens Watch 25987BC.OO.D002CR.02

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Chronometer – A chronometer is an especially accurate watch (one with a deviation of no more than 5 seconds a day for mechanical movements). Chronometers are usually supplied with an official certificate from an independent testing office, such as the COSC (the official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute).

Complication – Any function that a watch performs in addition to timekeeping is known as a complication. For example a chronograph or a tourbillon.

Crown – The crown is used to wind and set a watch. A few turns will get an automatic watch working, while a manually wound watch will need to be fully wound by the crown. Some sports watches may have a screwed down crown which can be tightened to prevent water entering during extreme water sports, such as diving.


Day/Night Indicator – A band that is shaded or coloured to denote which timezones are in daytime of night time.

Dual Timer – A watch showing both local time and the time in at least one other timezone.


Zenith Captain Dual Time Silver Dial Brown Leather Mens Watch 18.2130.682/02.C498

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Escapement – The combination of the balance, balance spring, pallets and escape wheel, a subgroup which divides the impulses coming from the spring barrel into small accurately portioned doses. It guarantees that the gear train runs smoothly and efficiently.


Flyback Chronograph – A chronograph with a special dial train switch that allows the chronograph movement to be reused immediately after resetting the hands. It was originally developed for particular timekeeping uses such as those required in aviation, which require the measurement of time intervals in quick succession.


Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Chronograph Mens Watch 86206040523C714

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Gear Train – A mechanical watch’s gear train transmits energy from the mainspring to the escapement. The gear train is comprised of the minute wheel, the third wheel, the fourth wheel and the escape wheel.

Grand Complication – This is a watch that has at least three complications (or functions) over and above timekeeping.


Horology – the study and science of measuring time. In addition the crafting and building of watches.


Jewel – To minimise friction and wear, synthetic rubies are used on the tips of a movements rotating gear wheels.


Mainspring – The mainspring is located in the watch’s spring barrel. When tensioned, the mainspring stores energy which is passed on to the escapement via the gear train as the tension relaxes. Therefore it essentially provides power for the movement of a mechanical watch.

Mechanical Movement – The mainspring, once wound up manually, drives a mechanical watch by providing a slow release of power to a set of small cog wheels.

Minute Repeater – an acoustic signal is given by the watch to denote the hours, quarter hours and minutes elapsed since midday or midnight. The sound is created by hammers and gongs, with different tones used for the hours, quarter hours and minutes.


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Moonphase Complication – This function enables the watch  to display the changing phases of the moon during the year. It’s part of the calendar function for watches with this complication and is a visual characteristic of the watch.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre Chronograph Rose Gold Watch 6042521

Amazon18kt rose gold case with a brown leather strap. Fixed 18kt rose gold bezel. Silver dial with gold-tone hands. Minute markers around the outer rim. Dial Type: Analog. Date sub-dial. Mechanical movement. Scratch resistant sapphire crystal. Pull / push crown. Case diameter: 40.5 mm. Round case shape. Double folding 18kt rose gold clasp. Water resistant at 50 meters / 165 feet. Functions: hour, minute, second, jumping-second, date, moon-phase (north and south), central hours, minutes and seconds, power reservem chronograph: concentric hours and minutes, minute indicator, seconds, jumping seconds, chronograph power reserve. Luxury watch style. Watch label: Swiss Made. Jaeger LeCoultre Duometre a Quantieme Lunaire Silver Dial Mechanical Mens Watch Q6042521.


Movement – The engine that drives the watch. This is the motor that enables the watch to carry out various functions and allows it to keep time.


Perlarge – This term is used to describe the surface decoration comprising of an even pattern of partially overlapping dots.

Perpetual Calendar – The calendar function of the watch automatically makes allowances for the variations in the lengths of months and takes into account leap years.



Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Split-Second Chronograph Mens Watch 5004P-033

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Plate – This supports the gear train. It is a metal platform and usually incorporates the dial and carries the bearings  for the primary pinions of a gear train. The back side of a plate will have screwed in bridges and bars.

Power Reserve Indicator – Provides the wearer with details of the remaining energy their watch still has in reserve. This function is particularly useful in manually wound watches. Mechanical watches only contain a certain amout of power in reserve.  A modern automatic watch, once fully wound will contain between 36 and 42 hours of energy, before needing to be wound again.


Girard Perregaux Vintage 1945 18kt Rose Gold 18kt Rose Gold Mens Watch 25850-5-52-1171

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Pulsometer – A scale on the watch, that can appear on the flange, bezel or dial, that is used with the second hand to measure a pulse rate.


Qualite Fleurier – This is a certification of quality, established in 2004 by several luxury watch manufacturers. Watches that carry this certificate must  comply with five criteria. These criteria include, COSC certification; excellent finishing; the passing of a number of tests covering robustness and precision and being 100% Swiss made (excluding the raw materials). The manufacturers responsible for setting up the certificate are: Chopard, Bovet Fleurier, Parmigiani Fleurier and Vaucher.

Quartz crystal –  A quartz movement watch contains a synthetic quartz crystal. The crystal oscillates at the rate of 32.768 hertz when it is presented with an electric current. This effectively regulates time by partitioning it into equal segments. The electric current is provided by a battery or capacitor. Arguably a quartz movement is more accurate than a mechanical movement.


Rattrapante – The French name for a split-seconds chronograph. Rattrapante is the term often used in the watch industry to denote a watch which has this complication.



Retrograde Display – This type of display shows the time in a linear format – so basically from side to side – rather than in a circular format. The hand of the watch moves from left to right along an arc and then instantaneously jumps back to the other side.


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Rotor – The rotor winds the mainspring in an automatic watch. This winding motion can be unilateral or bilateral depending upon the caliber.


Sapphire Crystal – Mainly used on the front and back of watches, however in some cases has also been used on plates within the movement. The sapphire crystal used in watches is synthetic  (aluminium oxide) and is virtually scratchproof, transparent and protects the face of the watch.

Skeleton Case – A watch case that is transparent, allowing visibility of the watch movement.

Split-Seconds Chronograph – This type of chronograph is distinguished by the presense of two second hands. One of the hands can be stopped with a special lever to signify an intermediate time, while the other hand continues running.When the split-seconds hand is released, it jumps ahead to the same position as the other second hand. Note the French name for such a watch is rattrapante.

Swiss AOSC – In order to have this certificate, a watch must have been assembled in Switzerland and must contain components that originated in Switzerland.


Tachymeter – Markings or a scale on the outside of the watch which used in conjunction with the second hand, allow the wearer to measure the speed over a known distance. The value determined can be converted into miles or kilometers per hour.


Zenith El Primero Silver Dial Brwon Alligator Leather Mens Watch 65.2051.4035/69.C713

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Tourbillon – originally developed to compensate for the influence of gravity on the balance of a watch, a tourbillon device is designed to eliminate the minute differences in the rate a watch runs at when it is positioned vertically or horizontally. The balance and escapement are mounted on  a cage. The cage rotates on its axis over a regular period of time.


Cartier Tortue Tourbillon Limited Edition Chronograph Single Push Piece 18kt Rose Gold XL Mens Watch

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Vibration Frequency (VPH) – This denotes the frequency at which the balance oscillates, measured in hertz (Hz) or vibrations per hour (VPH). The oscillation of the balance is caused by the spring. Most modern watches have a vph of 28,800 (4 Hz). The Zenith El Primero was the first movement to have a vph of 36,000 vph (5 Hz).



Water Resistance – Determines the pressures a watch is able to withstand measured in increments of one atmosphere (atm or bar, equivalent to 10 meters of water pressure).


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