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Watch Education


Quartz Watches

Battery life has an average of 1-2 years.  Quartz watches do not require winding and are very accurate.

Solar Powered Watches

Watches with panels that capture light and convert it to electricity to power the quartz movement.

Kinetic/Autoquartz Watches

The weighted rotor, activated by the movement of your arm, turns a mini-generator to generate electricity which is stored in the watch battery.

Mechanical Watches

Mechanical watches require daily winding.  Experience has shown that this becomes second nature, usually wound in the morning as you start your day.

Automatic/Self-Winding Watches

Automatic watches, also known as self-winding, have a rotor which is activated by movement of your arm, winding the main spring.  These can also be hard wound.  For those who wish to keep the watch running when not being worn, you can purchase a winding box.


Calendar Watches

Calendar watches have a feature that shows the day of the month and often the day of the week and the year.  There are several types of calendar watches.  Some show the date and day of the week with subdials and analog hands.  Others have a scale on the outer rim of the watch face numbered from 1-31 for the days of the month.  Others show the day, date, and sometimes the year digitally through an aperture on the watch face.

Moon Phase Watches

Moon Phase watches have a window in a watch face that shows which phase the moon is in.  A disk beneath the window with two pictures of a moon, rotates as the moon progresses revealing gradually larger or smaller segments of the picture.


Shock Resistant

The only term acceptable in the United States to describe the ability of a timepiece to resist breakage.  The standard test for shock-resistance is the ability of a watch to withstand a drop of 40 inches on to a hardwood surface with a gain or loss of no more than 60 seconds per day.


Unlike standard screw-held balance staff jewels, this device uses spring-held jewels, which produces shock resistance.


Term applied to clocks or watches that will not be affected by external magnetic forces, such as household appliaces, etc.  With the increasing popularity of magnetic and electronic devices, buyers and sales associates should be made aware that such devices could affect the performance of a watch - especially quartz watches.


Besides water-resistance, a water-resistant watch also provides long-term protection of the internal parts from dust to dirt.


The warranty may be a deciding factor when you buy a watch.  Warranty duration is usually 2 years, but some companies provide 5 years.  Coverage is usually limited to manufacturing defects in the movement only.

Yachting and Diving

The case, crown, push buttons and crystals of a watertight watch are made in such a way that no dust or water can penetrate, providing longtime protection of internal parts.  Water-resistant watches should be tested once a year and opened only by a qualified watchmaker.  Most manufacturers avoid the term "waterproof," as no international standard has been devised.  Waterproof is not a legal term in the US.  Water-resistant watches may have the following features:

Screw-lock crown

A crown that can be screwed into the case to make the watch water tight.

Tidal watches

Indicate high and low tides.  A must for Yachtsmen.

Yacht Timer

A countdown timer that sounds warning signals during the countdown to a boat race.

Diver's Watches

Watches able to withstand water pressure to a specific depth without incurring damage.  These can have the following features:

Depth sensor/meter

A device on a diver watch that determines the wearer's depth

Depth alarm

An alarm on a diver's watch that sounds when the wearer exceeds a pre-set depth.  In most watches it stops sounding when the diver ascends above the depth.


1 atm is the pressure of 1kg/cm2 and corresponds to 10 meters in depth.


A device that determines altitude by responding to changes in barometric pressure.

Timing Watches


A watch which not only indicates the time of the day in hours, minutes and seconds, but it also equipped with an additional mechanism - operated manually by push buttons - which makes it possible to measure continuous or discontinuous intervals of time, from a fraction of a second to 12 hours.


Not to be confused with a chronograph, this term is assigned to watches that have undergone thorough and intensive testing at an official laboratory or an official institute.  A chronometer is a precision instrument and is accompanied by a certificate.


An instrument, usually a pocket watch, which only measure intervals of time and does not indicate the time of day.  A stopwatch can be incorporated into a standard watch; both the stopwatch function and the timepiece would then be referred to as a "chronograph."

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 time runs out - these are usually events such as yacht races, where the sailor must maneuver the boat into position before the start of a race.

Sweep seconds-hand

A seconds-hand that is mounted in the center of the watch dial.


Determines the distance of an object from the observer by measureing how long it takes sound to travel that distance.  Like a tachymeter, it consists of a stopwatch or chronograph, and a special scale, usually on the outermost edge of the watch face.  One use of a telemeter would be determining the distance of a storm from its observer.


Probably the most common feature on a chronograph, a tachymeter (also called tachometer) measures the speed at which the wearer has traveled over a measured distance.  The wearer starts the chronograph when passing the starting point and stops it when passing the finish.  The wearer can then read the speed in units, in this case, miles per hour, off the tachymeter side.

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.

Lap Memory

The ability, in some quartz sport watches, to preserve in the watch's memory the times of laps in a race that have been determined by th elap timer (see lap timer).  The wearer can recall these times on a digital display by pushing a button.

12 hour recorder (or register)

A subdial on a chronograph (see "chronograph") that can time periods up to 12 hours.


A device that sounds a signal at a pre-set time.

Yacht timer

A countdown timer that sounds warning signals during the countdown to the boat race.

Rotating Bezel

A bezel (the ring which holds the crystal) that can be turned.  Different types of rotating bezels perform different timekeeping and mathematical functions.

Elapsed time rotating bezel

A graduated rotating bezel used to keep track of periods of time.  The bezel can be turned so the wearer can align the zero on the bezel with the watch's seconds or minutes hand.  He can then read the elapsed time off the bezel.  This saves him having to perform the subtraction that would be necessary if he used the watch's regular dial.

Uni-directional rotating bezel

An elapsed time rotating bezel often found on divers watches, that moves only in a counterclock-wise 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 they they lock into place for greater safety.

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.

Flyback hand

A seconds hand on a chronograph that can be used to time laps or to determine finishing times for several competitors in a race.  Usually has two sweep second hands, one positioned above the other.  When the timer is running, the hands appear as one.  When the start/stop button is activated while the chronograph mechanism is running, one hand stops to record a lap time etc. and the other continues to run.  Activating the start/stop button causes the hand to return to the original position in tandem with the running sweep hand.

Auto repeat countdown timer

A countdown timer that resets itself as soon as the preset time has elapsed and starts the countdown again.  It repeats the countdown continuously until the wearer pushes the stop button.


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


A repeated water is a complication watch that indicatess the hours by means of striking gongs - a function activated by a pushpiece or slide.  There are several types of repeater watches.

Quarter-hour repeaters - This type of mechanism is designed to strike the hours and quarter-hours.  A low pitched gong is struck to indicate the hour - while quarter-hours are indicated by a low and a high note struck together.

Half-Quarter Repeaters - This type of mechanism is designed to strike the hours, quarter-hours and half-quarter hours, i.e. 7.5 minutes after the quarter-hour.  A low pitched (bass) gong is struck to indicate the hour, quarter hours being indicated by a combination of bass and treble notes, the first half of the quarter-hour by a single treble note and the second half by two treble notes.

Five-minute Repeaters - These come in two versions:  A bass note is struck to indicate the hours and a treble note for every five minutes, rather than every quarter hour.  A bass note is struck for the hours, combined bass and treble notes for the quarter-hours, and a treble note every five minutes in addition to the quarter-hour.

Minute Repeaters - watches that strike or sound the house and minutes on demand by activating a button.


Skeleton - a watch with a mechanism cut away to the minimum material by sawing and milling.  Skeleton mechanisms are often provided with fine engravings and casings.  Built in between the transparent dial and glass bottom, they create attractive, decorative watches.

Tourbillion - Device invented by A. L. Breguet in 1801 to eliminate errors of rate in the vertical positions.  It consists of a rotating carriage or cage carrying all the parts of the escapement and the balance wheel.  This ingenious mechanism corrects the small gravitational error that exists in regular watches.

Complication - a watch with more than one function (e.g. alarm, moonphase, perpetual calendar, power reserve, indicator split seconds, repeater)  This term is usually used only for mechanical watches.

Grande Complication - a masterpiece of micro engineering.  It ususally includes the maximum number of functions.  Displays hours, seconds, elapsed time, phases of the moon, and includes a split-second chronograph.  Can have 9 hands, over 950 parts, and automatic perpetual calendar programmed for 514 years.



The following are the main parts of a watch.

Watch Case - The body that house and protects the watch movement from dust, dirt, moisture and shocks.  It also gives the watch as attractive as possible, subject to fashion and to the person's taste.

Crystal - The transparent protective covering over a watch face, made of sapphire, mineral crystal, glass or plastic. 

Dial - The readable part of the watch, the face:

Analog Display - The system of indicating time figtures.  Also called Digital Display.

Numberical Display - A display that shows the time both by means of hour and minute hands (analog display) and by numbers (digital display).

Anadigi Display - A display that shows the time both by means of hour and minut hands (analog display) and by numbers (digital display).

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) - A method of displaying time in an electronic watch.  It is created when particles are rearranged by electrical excitation.  In LCD watches, time is displayed constantly.  All LCD watches have quarty movements.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) - The method of displaying time and/or other functions in an electronic watch using the phenomenon known as electroluminescence.  The time appears on the watch face of an LED watch only when a button is pressed and power is sent to the diodes.

Guilloche - A type of engraving in which thin lines are interwoven, creating a patterned surface.  Adds beauty and design to the watch.

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

Hands - Indicate the time and function

Crown - The knob used to set hands and functions

Stem - The shaft connecting the crown to the winding and setting mechanism.

Push Button - Used in complications to start and stop special functions

Watch Strap - Leather, rubber, fabric or synthetic materials

Deployant Buckle - A safety feature that protects against dropping the watch.  Allows for the look of a strap stle with the convenience of a one-piece foldover buckle-style band.

Watch Band - Either a link or expansion band made in stainless steel, gold or a combination of materials.

Integrated - A watch and bracelet in all one piece to accent a particular design

Bezel - Case ring that holds the crystal, sometimes set with precious stones.



Movement - The inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and operates the watch's functions

Caliber - Used to denote the size of a movement usually measured in lignes (2.256 mm); also used by manufacturers as "names" for their movements.

Ligne- Used to indicate the size of a mechanical movement, measured over the plate beneath the dial.  1 ligne = 2.256 mm (one twelfth of a "French inch".)

Ebauche - Literally the basic frame - commonly used for an assembled movement, without escapement, balance and hairspring and mainspring.

Mainspring - A coiled flat spring which provides the power to drive the gear train of mechanical watches.

Balance Wheel - An oscilator, which regulates or governs the speed of the movement.  A flat ring which pivots on an axle.  It must be perfectly poised.  After it has swung one way, the spring at its center reverses it and makes it swing the other way - hence the "tick tock" of a mechanical watch.  Both balance and hairspring are made of a special alloy to offset the effect of temperature changes.

Hairspring or balance spring - A very delicate spiral spring attached to arbor of balance to control oscillations.

Balance Staff - The axles on which the balance pivots.

Jewels - Used as bearings to reduce wear at points of greatest friction in movements.  Usually 17-21 jewels in mechanical watches.  By reducing friction they add years to a watch's life.  Once they were natural rubies, but now are synthetic.  Their design shape helps to hold oil at the speficic point of lubrication.

Quartz Crystal - An oscillator made of a tiny piece of synthetic quarty.  It's standard frequence is 32,768 per second. 

Hertz - Hz - The number of oscillations per second of electronic watches.

Maintenance & Service

Because of the complexity of the mechanisms, it's best to have a fine timepiece serviced by an authorized agent, equipped with genuine replacement parts and trained by the watch manufacturer.  Upon request, watch companies can provide a list of authorized service centers.  For telephone numbers of watch companies, write or fax the American Watch Guild.

When setting the time, always turn the hands in a clockwise direction.

If you need to change the time, always set the day and or date function during the day.  The day - date mechanism is activated between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am; adjusting the time during these hours can jam the mechanism.  The day-date mechanism is activated between 9 am and 12 am in some watches.

For maximum efficiency and preservation of value, a fine mechanical watch, like an automobile, needs regular checkups.  A mechanical watch should be serviced every three to four years, depending on the manufacturer's instruction.

A quartz watch should be serviced when a battery change is necessary.  Only a qualified watchmaker should open and close the watch.  Some warranties are in jeopardy if someone opens the watch other than an authorized person. 

Note:  A quartz watch will not run if the crown is not completely in.

Automatic wind watches should be hand-wound if not running or if they have been off the wrist and the mainspring has run down.  This winding builds up power to get the time-piece running immediately.  After this initial winding, the normal wrist action will wind the watch.  Gernally after wearing a full day, an autowind watch should run for 36-48 hours.