Glossary of Watch Terms


Automatic High Precision – our latest movement. A swinging rotor drives a mini-generator. Its electric power is stored in a capacitor, which supplies energy to the quartz-controlled integrated circuit.

Servo-controlled motor drive. The system, integrated in the circuit, lengthens the duration of motor impulse when the mechanism meets resistance (during date-change for example) and reverts to the normal duration when the resistance ends. The technique increases battery life by 30%.

vibrations of the balance per hour. Two vibrations make the well-known tick-tock sound of the mechanical watch, known as one oscillation.

Refers to rate constancy of a watch, not only on whether it is showing the exact time. A watch gaining or loosing exactly the same amount every day is considered accurate.

Acrylic crystal
Sometimes referred to as Hesolite, an acrylic crystal is composed of plastic composite that is generally less expensive and less durable than a sapphire or a mineral crystal. Benefits of an acrylic crystal are that it flexes rather than shatters on impact. It also produces little glare under bright light and can be polished easily.

Tuning the balance as close to true time as possible in five different positions, in cold and heat and at low amplitudes. To adapt, to fit; to adjust into proper working order.

Watch fitted with a ringing mechanism that is automatically released at the required time.The watch alerts you with beeps at a pre-set time.

All-or-nothing piece
In repeater watches, a device that releases the strike only when the rack is pushed all the way home.

Function that provides altitude by responding to changes in barometric pressure, commonly found in pilot watches. Inside a pressurized airplane cabin, the altimeter registers as if on land.

Amplitude (Vibration)
Angle of oscillation for the balance.

The degree of swing in a balance-wheel or pendulum.

Analog or Analogue – 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).

The anchor, sometimes referred to as Swiss anchor helps perform the final part of the mechanical process in a mechanical watch in order to divide the seconds and provide accurate timekeeping. Moving side to side, the anchor allows the final wheel (escape wheel) to rotate one cog at a time. This process produces the ticking sound of a mechanical watch.

Annual Calendar
A watch showing the day, date month and 24 hours, adjusting automatically for short and long months. The calendar needs setting only once a year – at the end of February to the 1st of March.

Antimagnetic watches
Watches not, or hardly, affected by magnetic fields. For the balance springs of the balance non-magnetic nickel alloys are used.

The movement of a mechanical watch can be thrown off balance if it comes in contact with a strong magnetic field; Magnetism is common in loudspeakers, televisions, refrigerators, cars, etc. etc. and these days most watches claim to be anti-magnetic. This is achieved by using alloys for certain parts, among them the balance wheel and escape wheel. Electronic watches are not susceptible to magnetism.

Antireflection, Antireflective
Superficial glass treatment assuring the dispersion of reflected light. Better results are obtained if both sides are treated, but in order to avoid scratches on the upper layer, the treatment of the inner surface is preferred.

Small opening through which a display can be seen.. The dials of some watches (in French: montres à guichet) have apertures in which certain indications are provided (e.g. the date, the hour, etc).

Applied Numerals
Raised metal characters attached to dial

Applique or applied chapters are numerals or symbols cut out of a sheet metal and stuck or riveted to a dial.

Process of fitting together the components of a movement. This was formerly done entirely by hand, but the operations have now been largely automated. Nevertheless, the human element is still primordial, especially for inspection and testing.

French term for the parts used for making an escapement.

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.

Authorized Dealer
A watch seller who is officially sanctioned by the manufacturer. Watches that they sell will have full manufacturer warranties. Also, should you have any difficulties with an authorized dealer, you have the option to get the manufacturer to intervene on your behalf. Also see Unauthorized Dealer below.

Auto repeat timer
A feature that allows for continuous operation of a countdown timer. If timer function is set at one hour and started, it will countdown to zero, beep with a warning signal and immediately return to the preset time and start the countdown again. This would continue until stop button is pushed.

See Automatic

Automatic (watch)
Synonym for a watch with automatic winding. 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. For more detail, see the two types, Bumper Automatic and Rotor Automatic.

Automatic 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.

See Automatic winding

Figures, placed on the dial or case of watches, provided with parts of the body or other elements moving at the same time as the sonnerie (s.) strikes. The moving parts are linked, through an aperture on the dial or caseback, with the sonnerie hammers (s.) striking a gong.

Auxillary Dial
Small dial showing seconds only, up to one minute, usually at the six o’clock position.

Leave a Comment

Powered by The Sometimeago Vintage Watch Experience Centre | All Rights Reserved