If you’re just starting to collect watches, you may come across some unfamiliar terminology as you research various watch options or makers — and for good reason: watches are just about one of the most technical pieces of jewelry that you can collect. These terms can be a little bit intimidating, but just because the watchmaking business comes with a lot of technical terms, that shouldn’t scare you off from collecting gorgeous timepieces. All you need to do is familiarize yourself with some of the most important watch terms to know, and not be afraid of continuing your education. Even longtime watch collectors are still learning watch terminology and more information about the watchmaking business and timepiece industry as a whole.
To get you started, here are some of the most basic terms.
Types of watches
As you begin shopping for watches, you’ll realize that shopping for a watch isn’t just merely shopping for a watch. There’s a vast number of types of watches available for your perusal.
Often, watches are categorized by how they operate or what features they offer.
Quartz Watches: A watch that does not require winding and runs off a battery.
Automatic Mechanical Watches: Watches that must be wound, but that wind automatically as you move throughout the day, meaning you have to do very little actual winding work on your own.
Manual Mechanical Watches (Sometimes Referred to as “Hand Wound”: Watches that must be wound, but that do not wind automatically as you move throughout the day, meaning you will have to set aside time to manually wind your watch as needed.
Analog Watch: A watch that shows a traditional clock face with hour and minute hands, versus a digital display of numbers that correlate to the hour and minutes.
Ani-Digi Watch: A watch that shows both an analog clock and a digital display in one watch face.
Digital Watch: A watch that shows the time in Arabic numerals that correlate to the hour and minutes. Sometimes called an LCD or Liquid Crystal Display watch.
Chronometer Watch: A watch that has been independently tested by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, a process wherein watches are tested for accuracy via both positioning and temperature tests.
Chronograph Watch: A chronograph watch indicates the time of day in hours, minutes and seconds, but also allows you to measure intervals of time separately, from seconds to up to 12 hours.
Dive Watch: A dive watch, as you could likely pick up from the name, is made with water resistance in mind, but do note that a water-resistant watch must meet certain specifications in order to be truly considered a dive watch (and not merely water resistant). A dive watch must be water resistant to great depths, include a unidirectional rotating bezel and be illuminated. (Also, it’s worth noting that if a watch is advertised as “waterproof,” you’re likely being scammed; no watch can ever be truly w waterproof and the term is technically prohibited.)
Shock-Resistant Watch: Much like a dive watch, a shock-resistant watch must meet certain criteria to truly be considered shock resistant. It should have the ability to withstand a drop from a height of three feet, landing on a wooden surface.
Swiss-Made Watch: Similarly, a Swiss-made watch must meet certain requirements to be considered truly “Swiss made.” The watch should be assembled, started, adjusted and controlled by a Swiss manufacturer. The watch will bear a Swiss AOSC, or a mark that identifies it as such.
Hybrid Smartwatch: A watch that offers a quartz-powered analog face, but also extra “smart” features, such as step tracking or cell phone notifications.
World Timer Watch: A watch that can be set to show time across 24 time zones and 24 global locations.
Dual Time Watch: A watch that shows two time zones in one watch face. The way that the two time zones are displayed differs depending on the style and maker.
Anti-Magnetic Watch: A watch that uses certain alloys within the watch mechanics, allowing it to not be affected by magnetic fields emitted by common technology such as cell phones or televisions.
Retrograde Watch: A watch that shows time in a linear format versus circular. The hands move along the line in an arch before returning to the beginning of the arch
Once you’ve determined the right kind of watch for you, you’ll want to be able to discuss the various parts and pieces of your watch, whether you’re simply speaking to the watch seller or a fellow watch collector, or you’re seeking repairs or maintenance.
Bezel: The metal or ceramic ring that surrounds the watch crystal, on the exterior edge of the watch. Some are decorative, while some are functional, measuring different units.
Watch Crystal: The cover for your watch face.
Case Back: The watch’s backing, which can be removed. Sometimes, the case back is clear or transparent, allowing you to see the inside of the watch; these case backs are referred to as “exhibition case backs.” A skeleton watch often features an exhibition case back, as well as transparent materials on the front of the watch, for a more complete, exposed look.
Crown: The knob on the side of the watch case, which you can use to wind or adjust your watch as needed. Sometimes, this is also called a winding stem.
Dial: Another name for the watch face.
Auxiliary Dial: A dial that shows additional information on your watch face, beyond the time. These are often found on chronographs or dual time watches.
Aperture: A small window carved into the watch face, to show additional information (such as the date).
Cyclops: A magnified part of the crystal, often set over the aperture, to help you better read the finer print often used there.
Other helpful watch terms
Horology: The science of measuring time.
Haute Horlogerie: A French term for “high watchmaking” — similar to haute couture.
Power Reserve: The amount of time a mechanical watch can run after a full winding. This power reserve can range from fewer than two days to several days at a time. The more power reserve your watch has, the more expensive it likely is.
Winder: A tool that winds your automatic mechanical watch while you’re not wearing it, so that it’s always equipped with a full power reserve.
Beat: The sound of the watch ticking, usually at a pace of about 1 beat per 1/5 of a second. The sound is created by the watch’s inner workings.
Need to know more? The yamron team is here to help
The watch business and timepiece industry is filled with specialist jargon that can be intimidating to the new watch collector. However, with a little work and a bit of brushing up on your horology knowledge, you can walk into your next appointment with a fine jeweler with confidence.
Wherever you are on your watch-collecting journey, the Yamron team can assist not only with introducing you to the complex and wonderful world of watches, but also helping you find the perfect watch to launch, or add to, your collection.