Luxury watches have been used for centuries to denote the high status of their owners. Perhaps cellphones and digital time-keeping devices have usurped the place of traditional watches for many, but style and taste live on in luxury watches from brands such as Rolex, Baume & Mercier, IWC, Breitling, and Tag Heuer. Watch aficionados still treasure every fine detail that goes into handcrafted watches.
If you’re a new fan of luxury watches, here’s a glossary of terms to familiarize yourself with:
Aftermarket: A term used to denote parts not from the original watch manufacturer. Non-original parts may or may not devalue the watch.
All Original: Denotes all watch parts come from the original manufacturer.
Aperture: This is a tiny opening on the dial, providing additional indication (month/day).
Automatic Movement: A mechanical movement powered by the energy from the moving the watch.
Band: Attached to head on both ends, wraps around the wrist. Different materials have different names. Bracelets denote metal bands; leather/rubber/fabric bands denote straps.
Bezel: A ring-shaped piece surrounding the dial and joining the case to the crystal. Typically they are stationary, though some may be rotated by hand.
Caliber: Specifies the configuration and size of watch movement.
Case: A shell that holds the movement, dial, hands, crystal, and bezel.
Case Back: Back face of case that can be removed to provide access to the movement.
Chronograph: A watch complication that enables the user to measure short stretches of time using a separate timer.
Chronometer: A high-precision movement that has been given certification by Switzerland’s Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC). They test the movement for accuracy in several positions across a range of temperatures.
Clasp: Located where the two sides of the bands come together and are clasped by the buckle.
Complication: Any extra watch functions that aren’t related to showing hours and minutes.
Crown: Known also as a “winder,” this smaller dial lets the user set the time by winding the movement.
Crystal: Protective clear cover that allows the user to read the dial and hands; mostly made of plastic, glass, or synthetic sapphire.
Custom: Refers to parts or adjustments on the watch that were not affixed by the original watch manufacturer. May or may not devalue watch.
Dial: Also called the “face”; where hours, minutes, manufacturer, model, and any sub-dials are displayed.
Dual time: The ability to show two different time zones in varying formats.
Flip Lock Clasp: Outer clasp that folds over regular locking mechanism to give extra security.
Hidden Clasp: A clasp on bracelets that folds over in a way that is continuous with the links of the bracelets so it’s hidden.
Jewels: Part that forms the bearings on mechanical or automatic watches. More jewels usually means better movement.
Kinetic: Watches that use the user’s body to power the movement, rendering batteries unnecessary.
Lugs: Tiny projections found on the case that attach the head to the strap or bracelet.
Mechanical Movement: Type of movement using a hand-wound spring to power the watch.
Movement: This is the complex ensemble of parts that make the watch run, a little like the engine in a car. There are three main types: battery-powered quartz movements, self-winding mechanical movements or hand-wound mechanical movements.
Papers: Warranty papers or card that guarantee the watch is covered by the manufacturer. Commonly mistaken as proof of the watch’s authenticity.
Perpetual Calendar: When the watch automatically resets at the conclusion of the month or year.
Plating: Predominantly referring to yellow tone watches; says which watch pieces aren’t solid karat gold, but rather a base metal with gold plating.
Quartz Movement: When a watch tells time using the combination of a paper-thin piece of synthetic quartz and the watch battery. Nearly 95 percent of watches are quartz.
Self Winding: Movement is automatic, but must still be wound after non-use; the watch doesn’t wind itself.
Skeleton: Term indicating movement is visible partially or entirely from the front or back of crystal covering.
Sub Dial: Smaller dials inside the main dial with their own hands. Can perform a variety of other functions.
Sweep Hand: The second hand seemingly sweeping around the dial, a sign of automatic movement.
Tachymeter: Numerals on the bezel that measure distance moved in a specified time period.
Value: Value may indicate price or enjoyment of wearing the watch. Also reflects relative price in comparison to other pieces.
Watch Winder: Device used by the motor that can rotate on a scheduled or constant moment to mimic the motion necessary to keep the automatic movement going without winding itself down.