Glossary of technical terms

These are some of the major terms we use in the cataloguing of our watches. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us on 01584 877948 or email

The following abbreviations in our cataloguing text refer to: [M] Movement [D] Dial [C] Case [S] Signatures [B] Bracelet


Manual – The majority of our watches have hand-wound movements which require daily winding when in use. When fully wound and depending on the watch, the running time is typically between 30 and 40 hours.


Automatic – Watches listed as automatic have a mechanism inside them that will ensure the watch is automatically kept wound while the watch is worn. If you aren’t wearing the watch every day, then you will need to give it a wind to get the movement going. The majority of automatic watches have a rotor which travels around the circumference of the watch movement. Bumper automatic watches have a rotor that travels around two-thirds of the movement’s circumference, buffering forwards and backwards against coiled springs (see illustration above).


Calibre – This is the identifying pattern number for a watch movement – the ‘workings’ themselves. This number is often (although not always) stamped to the movement plate, often close to or under the balance.


Ebauche – The ‘blank’ movement before finishing – many watch companies did not manufacture their own ebauches and bought these in before finishing the movements themselves in-house.


Jewels – Good quality mechanical watches are jewelled. The jewels themselves are almost always synthetic rubies. These ‘rubies’ are extremely hard wearing and act as ‘sinks’ or ‘reservoirs’ into which a small droplet of oil is held to lubricate the pinions inside the watch movement. Jewels are also used to provide strength within the watch’s ‘escapement’ – the pallets of the lever for example which constantly make contact with the escape wheel. Without these jewels, metal would grind against metal leading to heavy wear. Typically, a good quality manually wound vintage watch will have a minimum of 15 jewels, higher grade movements will have 17 or 18 jewels (although this is not a maximum). Automatic movements will often have additional jewels in their automatic ‘rotor’ systems and therefore such watches can have over 20 jewels.


Lever escapement – The escapement of a watch controls the release of power from the movement’s mainspring. The lever escapement is found in the vast majority of mechanical wristwatches.


Balance/Regulator/Shock resistance – Every mechanical watch has a balance which, together with the watch’s escapement, controls the speed at which the watch runs – above the balance is the balance cock, a metal bridge that almost always has a regulating index to speed up or slow down the movement. Above the centre of the balance is the so-called ‘end-stone’ this is the jewel which caps the balance pivot and, in some watches (as in that shown to the left) there is a shock resistance ‘spring’ which helps to absorb shocks to the watch.


Geneva stripes – also known as Damascened, these are wave form patterns which cover the backplate of a movement and a purely decorative. Such high quality finishing is usually only found in the highest quality wristwatches.


Dial – The dial is the face of the watch on which the time itself is indicated. The base of the dial is usually metal although enamel dials can also be found.


Subsidary seconds – This is a small dial that displays a seconds hand. The subsidiary seconds dial is usually, but not always, at the 6 o’clock position. The subsidiary seconds is sometimes referred to as Constant seconds, especially when found on a chronograph dial.


Centre seconds – A centre seconds hand is mounted directly above the minute and hour hands at the centre of the dial.


Arabic numerals – These are the standard text numbers that you’d expect to find on a computer keyboard.


Cross-Hair Dial – A term used to describe a thin cross sectoring a dial


Crown – A crown is used for winding and setting the watch and is invariably at the 3 o’clock position.


Cyclops – Magnifying window usually above a date aperture.


Bezel – The bezel holds the watch’s crystal or glass in place.


Lugs – The lugs protrude from the watch case and are joined to one another by either a removable spring lug pin or a fixed bar, both of which hold the watch strap/bracelet/band in place.


Buckle – Buckles are usually standard pin fasteners similar to those found on belts.


Chronographs – Chronographs are essentially normal time telling watches with the addition of a stop watch. Registers – and ‘subsidiary’ dials on chronographs will usually record time elapsed in minutes and sometimes hours as well. We provide extra instructions to guide you through their use and explain the sometimes complex calculating scales you find on them.


Triple calendar – A watch that displays the days of the week, date and months of the year.

Glass/Crystal – The majority of vintage watches have synthetic glasses and are often made from materials such as hesalite. Sometimes watch glasses are referred to as crystals, however, this terminology is usually generic and can be used to refer to glass as well as synthetic materials.

Case backs Snap-on – a friction fitted case back which attaches to the main body of the watch case. This is usually removed with a specialist case knife. Screw-downa case back with a threaded lip which screws down onto the main body of the watch. This is usually removed with a specialist ‘key’ and vice. Screwed down these case backs have small screws which hold the case back onto the main watch body. Hingedsome early wristwatches were made with hinged backs that unclip and fold away from the main body of the watch. Sizing – Please note that diameters and widths of watches will exclude winding crowns. Lengths will generally include the length of the lugs (the part that holds the strap) unless otherwise indicated. Bracelet lengths, where relevant, give a rough indication of the total length of the watch as worn around the wrist. It’s a good idea to measure out the size of any watch you like the look of on the website and perhaps compare the dimensions to one you already have – it’s surprising how hard it is to get a sense of the scale of watches from a photograph. It is difficult to give precise depth measurements of watch cases as bevelling/chamfering to the edge of cases mean that the depth may vary across the surface of a watch. Bear in mind that the height of the crystal/glass can greatly alter the depth of a watch.

Waterproof – You may notice in some of the photographs that some watch cases are engraved ‘Waterproof’. Whilst these watches would originally have been water resistant and we have re-sealed them as best we can, they are not guaranteed waterproof and we advise against immersing any of our watches in water. Please note that we do not guarantee the watches against any water ingress.