A New Watch Wearer’s Guide to Watch Terminology

Here is a quick guide to some of the most common watch-wearing terms for you to learn as you look for your dream watch

A New Watch Wearer’s Guide to Watch Terminology

At last, you have determined that you are too mature and too fashionable to continue checking your phone to know what time it is. Finally, you have decided that it is time to purchase a wristwatch.

But, which watch should you invest in? That largely depends on what you are going to be using your watch for and which features you value in your watch. Yet, when you start to delve into the details of different watches, you might be dismayed by what you find. The world of watches is wide, and the terminology can be perplexing. Here is a quick guide to some of the most common watch-wearing terms for you to learn as you look for your dream watch:


The face of the watch is essentially what you look at when you are checking the time. Also called the dial, the face contains the hands, the time markers, the brand’s logo and any complications — more on those later. Faces offer the most opportunity for watchmakers to experiment with design, so you can find faces in all sorts of styles, from minimalist to ornate. When it comes to the look of the face, your preference is most important.

The face is protected by a cover of glass, though if you are in the market for authentic watches, you probably do not want regular glass, which is prone to scratching, chipping and shattering. Instead, you should prefer sapphire glass, which is among the hardest glasses available for watchmaking, or else crystal or mineral glass, both of which are more durable than typical glass or plastic.

A New Watch Wearer’s Guide to Watch Terminology


The movement is what drives the hands of the watch. You might be accustomed to working with digital devices that rely on rechargeable batteries to function, but most high-end watches are driven by mechanical movement, which do not include batteries at all. The oldest form of watch movement is manual movement, which requires you to wind the gears periodically to keep the watch hands moving. However, the latest and greatest form of movement is automatic, which uses a clever system of springs and rotors to capture the movements of your wrist and keep the gears moving on time.

If your watch budget is limited, you might opt for a quartz watch. These watches contain a battery, which is hooked up toa piece of quartz crystal. The crystal has a set resonance, which keeps the watch hands ticking at the right interval to maintain reliable time. The downside of quartz is that you will eventually need to replace the battery, and the ticking of the hands can be distracting if you are sensitive to sound and motion.


The main body of the watch is called the case, which holds the face and the movement in one tidy package. The material of the case matters significantly to the longevity of the timepiece. At the very least, you should invest in a watch that has a case made from high-quality stainless steel, which will be resistant to scratches and moisture and unlikely to cause any allergic reaction on your skin. If you have budget to spare, you might be more satisfied by watches made from titanium or ceramic, which are even harder and even more durable while remaining lightweight. Generally, it is not advisable to invest in watches made from any kind of metal alloy — which includes brass, steel or gold — which will likely corrode and discolor in time, and plastic watches are equally short-lived.

A New Watch Wearer’s Guide to Watch Terminology


As you might expect, the strap is the component that holds the watch case to your wrist. Straps can come in all manner of materials, from leather to canvas to rubber to metal. Quality watches tend to allow you to switch out your strap to achieve different looks depending on the style of your outfit and the feel of the season. You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different straps to find a material that achieves your desired comfort and appearance.


Complications are other functions of a watch besides telling time. As watchmakers became proficient at creating timepieces that could accurately tell the time by second, minute and hour, many began experimenting with including other time-telling tools. Thus, some watches include chronographs, which are additional dials that can be used as stopwatches, and other watches include gauges for the calendar day or the moon phase. Complications can be fun and add character to your watch, but some wearers prefer not to have too much information cluttering up their timepiece. You can decide for yourself which (if any) complications to include in your watch.

Buying your first adult watch can feel like a momentous occasion, akin to buying your first car or your first home. Once you master the terminology of the watch industry, you will be prepared to pick a timepiece that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

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