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Watch Words

A glossary of timely terminology

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Analog watch: A watch with a dial, hands, and numbers or markers that present a total display of 12-hour time span. Analog digital refers to a watch that has both a digital display and hands of a conventional watch.

Automatic movement: A mechanical movement that requires no winding because the rotor, part of the automatic mechanism, winds the mainspring every time you move your hand. The first automatic movement was invented in Switzerland by Abraham-Louis Perrelet in the Eighteenth century. When fully wound and left to sit, most automatics have up to 36 hours of reserve power. Mechanical movements are accurate within one minute each day. Automatic movements have gained in popularity the last few years especially with watch connoisseurs and are considered to be Switzerland's mechanical answer to the popularity of the no-winding-needed quartz movements that are standard in Japanese watches.

Bezel: The surface ring on the watch that surrounds and holds the crystal in place. A rotating ratchet bezel can be moved in some sport watches as part of the timing device. If rotating bezels are bi-directional, able to move clockwise or counter clockwise, they can assist in calculations of elapsed time.

Bracelet: A type of watch band made of elements that resemble links.

Caliber: A term often used by Swiss watchmakers to denote a particular model type, such as Caliber 48 meaning model 48. More commonly, the term is used to indicate the movement's shape, layout, or size.

Cambered: Often used in referring to a curved or arched dial or bezel.

Case: The metal housing of a watch's parts. Stainless steel is the most typical metal used but also titanium, gold, silver and platinum could be used. Less expensive watches are usually made of brass and plated with gold or silver.

Caseback: The reverse side of a watch case that lies against the skin. May be transparent to allow viewing of the inner workings of the watch or be solid. Most manufacturers engrave casebacks with their name, water and shock resistance, case metal content and other details.

Chronograph: A multifunction watch with two independent time-keeping systems, which allows one to be stopped to measure discrete intervals. Most commonly used for a stop-watch function, chronographs have become the most popular watch complications in the world. Most have two or three subdials, or minidials, for measuring minutes, hours, days, etc. Most chronographs are started and stopped via push buttons located on the side of the case, usually adjacent to the crown. One button is used to start the time, another to return the hand to the 12 o'clock position. Other features available on chronographs include split seconds for measuring two or more intervals of time; a tachymeter, to measure speed over a distance; and a telemeter, to measure distance from an object by how long it takes sound to travel. Once offered solely on larger men's styles, chronographs now are being offered in smaller women's sizes, too.

Chronometer: This term refers to a precision watch that is tested in various temperatures and positions, thus meeting the accuracy standards set by an official institute in Switzerland. Most watch companies provide a certificate with your chronometer purchase.

Complication: A watch with other functions besides basic timekeeping. For example, a chronograph is a watch complication. Other complications coveted by watch collectors include: minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar, or split second chronograph.

COSC: The official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute that puts every chronometer watch through a rigorous, 15-day testing procedure to verify the watch's precision.

Crown: The knob extending from the case that is used to set the time, date, and functions. Most pull out to set the time. In water resistant styles, the crowns should screw down to seal the opening.

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

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