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Glossary of Watch Terms

Glossary of Watch Terms



Glossary
Alarm
The watch alerts you with beeps at pre-set time(s).

Altimeter
A function that provides altitude by responding to changes in barometric pressure, commonly found in pilot watches. Note that inside a pressurized airplane cabin, the altimeter will register as if on land.

Analog
A watch that shows the time using hour and minute hands.

Analog-digital Display
A watch that shows the time by means of hour and minute hands (analog display) as well as by numbers (a digital display).

Analog Quartz
The most commonly-used term in referring to any analog timepiece that operates on a battery or on solar power and is regulated by a quartz crystal. 

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, Boulder, 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 Watch
A watch whose mainspring is wound by the movements or accelerations of the wearer's arm. On the basis of the principle of terrestrial attraction, a rotor turns and transmits its energy to the spring by means of an appropriate mechanism. The system was invented in Switzerland by Abraham-Louis Perrelet in the 18th century.

Automatic (or Self-winding)
This term refers to a watch with a mechanical movement (as opposed to a quartz or electrical movement). The watch is wound by the motion of the wearer's arm rather than through turning the winding stem. A rotor that turns in response to motion winds the watch's mainspring. 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.

Baguette
Ladies style watch with a thin, elongated face; usually rectangular in shape but may be oval. 

Bangle Bracelet
A type of bracelet found on some ladies watches that are of fixed size and rigid.

Battery Reserve Indicator
Some battery-operated watches have a feature that indicates when the battery is approaching the end of its life. This is often indicated by the second hand moving in two second intervals instead of each second.

Base Metal
Any non-precious metal. 

Battery
Device that converts chemical energy into electricity. Most watch batteries are silver oxide type delivering 1.5 volts. Much longer-lasting lithium batteries are 3 volt. 

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

Bezel
The ring that surrounds the watch dial (or face). The bezel is usually made of gold, gold plate or stainless steel.

Bi-directional Rotating Bezel
A bezel that can be rotated either clockwise or counterclockwise. These are used for mathematical calculations such as average speed or distance or for keeping track of elapsed time.

Bracelet
Flexible metal band consisting of assembled links, usually in the same style as the case. detachable links change the length of the bracelet.

Brass
Copper and zinc alloy used to make the main plate and bridge wheels in the movement.

Buckle
Usually matching the case, it attaches the two parts of the leather strap around the wrist.

Built-in Illumination
Lighting on a watch dial that allows the wearer to read the time in the dark.

Button
Push piece controls, usually at 2 o'clock and/or 4 o'clock on the dial to control special functions such as the chronograph or the alarm.

Cabochon Crown
A rounded semi-precious stone or synthetic material usually black, fitted into the watch crown as an ornament.

Calendar
A feature that shows the date, and often the day of the week. There are several types of calendar watches. Most calendar watches show the information digitally through an aperture on the watch face. Some chronograph watches show the information on sub-dials on the watch face.

Carat (karat)
Unit of gold fineness (and gemstone weight). Pure gold is 24k. 18k gold is 75% pure.

Case
Container that protects the watch-movement from dust, damp and shocks. It also gives the watch as attractive an appearance as possible, subject to fashion and the taste of the public.

Chronograph
Watch or other apparatus with two independent time systems

Chronometer
Technically speaking, all watches are chronometers. But for a Swiss made watch to be called a chronometer, it must meet certain very high standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control (C.O.S.C.). If you have a Swiss watch labeled as a chronometer, you can be certain that it has a mechanical movement of the very highest quality-- undergone a series of precision tests in an official institute. The requirements are very severe

Clasp
The attachment used to connect the two ends of the watch bracelet or strap around the wrist.
Deployment Buckle - A three-folding enclosure, which 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
Hook Lock - Two separate units each fitting on either end of the bracelet which allows the watch to be laid out. One end of the closure hooks onto the other to secure the two ends of the bracelet.
Jeweler's Clasp - A closure that is generally used on better bracelets. Also allows it to lie flat.
Sliding Clasp - Also a hook type method but allows for easy sizing of the bracelet by sliding up.
Twist Lock - A closure similar to Jeweler's Clasp used on ladies jewelry bracelets.

Countdown Timer
A function that lets the wearer keep track of how much of a pre-set 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 all kinds of race.

Crown
Also called a stem or pin, a crown is the knob/button on the outside of the watch case that is used to set the time and date. In a mechanical watch the crown also winds the mainspring. In this case it is also called a "winding stem". A screw in (or screw down) crown is used to make a watch more water resistant. The crown actually screws into the case, dramatically increasing the water-tightness of the watch.

Crystal
The clean cover over the watch face. Three types of crystals are commonly found in watches. Acrylic crystal, a plastic, is inexpensive and shallow scratches can be buffed out. Mineral crystal is comprised of several elements that are heat treated to create unusual hardness that aids in resisting scratches. Sapphire crystal is the most expensive and durable, approximately three times harder than mineral crystals and 20 time harder than acrylic crystals. A nonreflective coating on some sport styles prevents glare.

Depth Alarm
An alarm on a divers' watch that sounds when the wearer exceeds a pre-set depth.

Depth Sensor/depth Meter
A device on a divers' 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 face or through a digital display.

Dial
The watch face (plate of metal or other material). Dials vary much in shape, decoration, material, etc. The indications are given by means of numerals, divisions or symbols of various types.

Digital Watch
A watch that shows the time through digits rather than through a dial and hands (analog) display

Divers Watch
A watch that is water resistant to 200M. Has a one way rotating bezel and a screw-on crown and back. Has a metal or rubber strap (not leather). Has a sapphire crystal and possibly, a wet-suit extension.

Eco-drive
A name for a patented power mechanism found on some Citizen watches. This mechanism uses ordinary light to keep a rechargeable battery powered for watch operation. This technology is very sophisticated allowing some watch models to remain powered for up to 5 years in the dark. Watches with Eco-Drive technology will never need to have the battery replaced.

Elapsed Time Rotating Bezel
A graduated rotating bezel used to keep track of elapsed time. The bezel can be turned so the wearer can align the zero on the bezel with the watch's seconds or minutes hand. After a period of time passes, you can read the elapsed time off the bezel. This saves you having to perform the subtraction that would be necessary if you used the watch's regular dial.

Electroplating Process
Process of covering metal articles with a film of other metals. The article is immersed in a chemical solution; electric current (D.C.) flows through the solution from a piece of metal (anode) to the article (cathode), depositing metal thereon by electrolysis. metals which can be used for plating are

Glass (crystal)
Thin plate of glass or transparent synthetic material, for protecting the dials of watches, clocks, etc.

Gold
Yellow precious metal which is stainless and very malleable. Used in alloys to make jewelry, bracelets and watches. The portion of gold in the alloy is indicated in carats (k).

Gold Plated
A layer of gold electroplated to a base metal.

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

Jewels
Synthetic sapphires or rubies that act as bearings for gears in a mechanical watch. The jewels reduce friction to make the watch more accurate and longer lasting. Generally made of synthetic material, except for the precious or semi-precious stones (ruby, sapphire, garnet) which are sometimes used in "de luxe" watches.

Kinetic
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, mens models will store energy for 7-14 days without being worn. Ladies models store energy for 3-7 days. Of course, if the watch is worn every day the capacitor is continually recharged. The watch alerts you to a low capacitor charge when the seconds hand starts to move in two second intervals

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

Liquid-crystal Display (lcd)
A digital watch display that shows the time electronically by means of a liquid held in a thin layer between two transparent plates. All LCD watches have quartz movements

Lugs
Projections on a watch face to which the watch band or bracelet is attached.

Luminous
self illuminating paint used on hands and markers.

Measurement Conversion
A feature, usually consisting of a graduated scale on the watch's bezel, that lets the wearer translate one type of measurement into another-miles into kilometers, for instance, or pounds into kilograms.

Mechanical Movement
A movement powered by a mainspring, working in conjunction with a balance wheel. Most watches today have electronically controlled quartz movements and are powered by a battery. However, mechanical watches are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

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

Mineral Glass
Watch glass that has been tempered to increase its scratch resistance. 

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. 

Mother-of-pearl
Iridescent, milky interior shell of the fresh water 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.

Movement
The inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and moves the watch's hands, calendar, etc. Movements are either mechanical or quartz.

Perpetual
A type of calendar that automatically adjusts for months of different lengths and indicates February 29 in each leap year.

Plating
Coating a metal base with another metal. In watch making a stainless steel base is coated with gold seven to 20 microns thick.

Platinum
One of the rarest precious metals, platinum is also one of the strongest and heaviest, making it a popular choice for setting gemstone jewelry and watches. It has a rich, white luster, and an understated look. Platinum is hypoallergenic and tarnish resistant. Platinum used in jewelry and watches is at least 85 to 95 percent pure. Many platinum watches are produced in limited editions due to the expense and rarity of the metal. 

Polished
Brilliant metal surface obtained on the watch-case with fine abrasive.

Power Reserve Indicator
A feature that shows when the watch will soon need a new battery or winding. A battery reserve indicator on a quartz watch informs the wearer when the battery is low. Often this is indicated by the seconds hand moving at two or three-second intervals. Seiko's Kinetic watches are quartz watches that do not have a battery (see Kinetic). When a Seiko Kinetic needs to be wound, the seconds hand will also move in two second intervals.

Quartz Movement
A movement powered by a quartz crystal. Quartz crystals are very accurate. They can be mass produced which makes them less expensive than most mechanical movements which require a higher degree craftsmanship.

Rotating Bezel
A bezel (the ring surrounding the watch face) that can be turned. Different types of rotating bezels perform different time keeping and mathematical functions.

Sapphire
Synthetic corundum crystal with a hardness second only to diamond. Transparent sapphire is used for scratch-proof watch glasses.

Screw Down Locking Crown
A crown which aids water resistance by sealing the crown against the case. The seal is achieved by the matching of a threaded pipe on the case with the crown's internal threads and gasketing while twisting the crown to lock it into place.

Second
Basic unit of time (abbr. s or sec), corresponding to one 86,000th part of the mean solar day, i.e. the duration of rotation, about its own axis, of an ideal Earth describing a circle round the Sun in one year, at a constant speed and in the plane of the Equator. After the Second World War, atomic clocks became so accurate that they could demonstrate the infinitesimal irregularities (a few hundredths of a second per year) of the Earth's rotation about its own axis. It was then decided to redefine the reference standard; this was done by the 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1967, in the following terms

Second Time-zone Indicator
An additional dial that can be set to the time in another time zone. It lets the wearer keep track of local time and the time in another country simultaneously.

Shock Resistance
As defined by U.S. government regulation, a watch's ability to withstand an impact equal to that of being dropped onto a wood floor from a height of 3 feet.

Slide Rule
A device, consisting of logarithmic or other scales on the outer edge of the watch face, that can be used to do mathematical calculations. One of the scales is marked on a rotating bezel, which can be slid against the stationary scale to make the calculations. Some watches have slide rules that allow specific calculations, such as for fuel consumption by an airplane or fuel weight.

Solar Powered
A watch that uses solar energy (from any light source) to power the quartz movement.

Stopwatch
A watch with a seconds hand that measures intervals of time. When a stopwatch is incorporated into a standard watch, both the stopwatch function and the timepiece are referred to as a chronograph.

Strap
A watch band made of leather, plastic or fabric.

Sub-dial
A small dial on a watch face used for any of several purposes, such as keeping track of elapsed minutes or hours on a chronograph or indicating the date.

Tachometer
(aka. "Tachymeter") A feature found on some chronograph watches, measures the speed at which the wearer has traveled over a measured distance. In watchmaking, a timer or chronograph with a graduated dial on which speed can be read off in kilometers per hour or some other unit (see "timer").

Tank Watch
A rectangular watch designed by Louis Cartier. The bars along the sides of the watch were inspired by the tracks of tanks used in World War 1.

Timer
Instrument used for registering intervals of time (duration, brief times), without any indication of the time of day.

Titanium
The "space age" metal, often with a silvery-gray appearance. Because it is 30 percent stronger and nearly 50 percent lighter than steel it has been increasingly used in watch making, especially sport watch styles. Its resistance to salt water corrosion makes it particularly useful in diver's watches. Since it can be scratched fairly easily, some manufacturers use a patented-coating to resist scratching. Titanium is also hypo-allergenic.

Two-tone
A term use to indicate that a watch has both "silver" and "gold" tone color which may or may not be genuine gold or silver.

Unidirectional Rotating Bezel
An elapsed time rotating bezel (see "elapsed time rotating bezel"), often found on divers' watches, that moves only in a counterclockwise direction. It is designed to prevent a diver who has unwittingly knocked the bezel off its original position from overestimating his remaining air supply. Because the bezel moves in only one direction, the diver can err only on the side of safety when timing his dive. Many divers' watches are ratcheted, so that they lock into place for greater safety.

Water Resistant
The ability to withstand splashes of water. Terms such as "water resistant to 50 meters" or "water resistant to 200 meters" indicate that the watch can be worn underwater to various depths.

World Timers
A watch with a dial that indicates up to 24 time zones around the world, usually found on the outer edge of the face or sometimes on the bezel. Time zones around the world are indicated by major cities 



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