Gharmisch Glossary of watch terms

Watch glossary


Finding your perfect watch can be difficult when you encounter the number of terms that are used to describe watch functions and parts. To help you we’ve come up with a list of some of the most used terms.



A subdial on a chronograph that can time periods of up to 12 hours.


A subdial on a chronograph that can time periods of up to 30 minutes.

Analogue watch

A watch with a dial, hands, numbers or indexes that present a total display of a 12-hour time period. The analogue 12-hour display indicates time, and if integrated, day and date. 


Process of fitting all watch parts together to make the complete and finished watch.

Automatic Movement

A mechanical movement that requires no winding because the rotor, part of the automatic mechanism, winds up the mainspring every time you move the watch. Most automatic watches have a power reserve of up to 40 hours. If an automatic watch is not worn for a day or two, it stops working.


Energy source in which electrical energy is generated through the direct transformation of chemical energy.


The ring snapped on the middle of the watch-case to hold the glass in place. It also holds a decorative function.  


Metal watch strap made of single metal links.


A feature that shows the date. 


Synonym for size and type of movement. The term is used to indicate the movement’s size and reference.


The outer part of the watch. A watch case is generally made of 3 parts: the bezel, the actual case and the case back.

Case back

The backside of a watch case. It can be a snap or screw case back (for automatic watches often transparent). Case backs can be engraved with your name, company logo, single numbering, technical details etc.


A chronograph is a mechanism for measuring short time periods independently of the normal timekeeping function. The time measurement display is located at the centre of the dial.


Metallic bloc incrusted with your logo to print the dials by tampography.


Mostly referred to as chronograph counter. It’s a mechanism that shows the number of revolutions of the chronograph-hand (i.e. 1/10th or 1/100th seconds, minutes, and hours) on the dial.


The crown is used for setting the time correctly by turning the hands to correct timing. The crown is also used to change the date.


The crystal is the glass of your watch. It can be mineral crystal, K1 sapphire coated mineral crystal or sapphire crystal.

Custom made

Watches made according to your specifications. Your own brand design from scratch.


The date is shown through an opening on the watch face.


Display of the day name and the date through an opening in the dial. 


The watch face showing the time, your company logo or brand name and other functions that may be indicated by hands, marks or openings.

Digital watch

A watch that shows the time by numbers on an LCD or LED display.


(End of Life indication) Some battery operated watches have a feature that indicates when the battery is approaching the end of its lifetime. This is indicated by the second hand jumping every 4 seconds.


One of the leading manufacturers of watch movements based in Switzerland.


Carved or cut design, letters or company logos on a metal surface.


The visible part, the dial of a watch

Foldable Buckle

A foldable type of buckle/strap closing that pops open and fastens easily by pushers.

Fly-back hand

In certain chronographs a second chronograph hand is built in which can run over the first. This allows you to stop an intermediate time without interrupting the time measurement.


Water-resistant watches are equipped with gaskets to seal the case back, crystal and crown to protect against water infiltration during normal wear. It is important to have the gaskets checked every two years to maintain the water-resistance of the watch.


A GMT watch has a 2nd hour hand which completes one full rotation in 24 hours. There is a 24-hour index on the dial or bezel to read the second time zone.


Indicate the time measuring and can be adjusted by pulling the crown.


Unit of frequency. The frequency of the quartz resonator is 32’768 Hz.


Indications on a watch dial used instead of numerals.

Integrated bracelet

A watch bracelet that is incorporated into the construction of the case.


Synthetic sapphires or rubies that act as bearings for gears in the mechanical watch, reducing friction.

Laser engraving

Procedure for marking case backs, case sides, crowns or buckles by laser.

Limited Editions

A watch style manufactured in a specific amount, often numbered, and available in limited quantities.

Lugs / Horns

Side parts of the watch case holding the strap.

Lugs width

The distance between the two lugs, equivalent to strap size

Mechanical movement

A movement which has only mechanical parts and is powered by a mainspring and working in conjunction with a balance wheel. The mainspring must be wound manually.


A function which shows the phases of the moon through an opening in the dial. One lunar cycle has four phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter.

Mother of Pearl

The iridescent milky interior shell of the freshwater mollusc that is thinly sliced and used on watch dials. Various colours available whiteish, silvery grey, blackish, blueish, pinkish etc.


Mechanism of a watch that produces, maintains and processes a periodic appearance and is thus suitable for counting time. This moves the hands of the watch, the calendar, etc. Mechanical/automatic or quartz movements are the most widely used movement types.


The dials of some watches have openings through which certain indications are visible (e.g. the date, the hour, moonphase etc).

Perpetual calendar

A calendar that automatically adjusts for the months’ varying length and for leap year. Perpetual calendars, which can be powered by quartz or mechanical movements are programmed to be accurate until the year 2100.


Turning a watch into a brand watch by customizing it with a company logo, company brand name and/or other personalized text and designs.

Printing block

Metallic block (cliché containing your logo details) used to print the dials by tampography.

Private label watches

Private label watches are watches manufactured by a watch factory and to be offered under another company name/brand. Also called OEM, incentive or promotional watches.


Push buttons on the case of the chronographs and some complicated watches. They are used to operate the complications, time settings.

PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition)

A technique for coating metal. This is a special treatment for hardening/coloring the steel surface. Most common plating colors are gold, rose-gold and black.

Quartz movement

A movement which allows a watch to keep time without winding it. An electric current is used to cause a quartz oscillator to vibrate, normally 32’768 Hz per second. The power comes from a battery that must be replaced about every 1.5 years.


Ronda, the second largest Swiss movement manufacturer (after ETA).

Rotating Bezel (turning bezel)

A bezel /ring on top of the watch case that can be turned. Different types of rotating bezels perform different timekeeping and mathematical functions.


In an automatic wristwatch, the rotor is winding up the mainspring through the movement of the watch whilst wearing it. It is a segment made of metal, which turns freely and in both directions. It can be branded.


In watchmaking, jewels made of synthetic ruby. They are used in sensitive parts of the machinery to reduce friction. They help the movement of the watch stay accurate.

Sapphire Crystal

A crystal made of synthetic sapphire. It possesses the characters of high hardness and high scratch resistance.

Screw-down crown

A crown that can be screwed into the tube of the case to make the watch highly water-resistant.


Sellita, is an independent Swiss company specialized in assembling “Swiss Made” mechanical automatic watch movements.

Small second hand

A hand which shows the seconds on a sub-dial.

Split Seconds Hand

Actually two hands, one a flyback hand the other a regular chronograph hand. When the wearer starts the chronograph, both hands move together. To time laps or different finishing times, the wearer can stop the flyback hand independently while the regular chronograph hand keeps moving.

Stainless Steel 316L

An extremely durable metal that is virtually immune to rust, discolouration and corrosion. It can be re-finished by any jeweller and will not oxidize or turn black.

Stainless steel finishings

The following finish can then be applied to achieve the desired aesthetic appearance.

  1. Brushed finish
  2. Satin finish
  3. Matte finish (brushed but smoother than No.1)
  4. Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) in gold, rose-gold, black, etc.


Watch strap can be made of cow leather, rubber, textile or metal.


The material used for hands and dial indexes to become visible in the dark.

Sweep second hand

A second hand that is mounted in the centre of the watch dial.

Swiss Made

A seal of quality that officially certifies the origin of the watch. For a watch to be considered "Swiss Made", 60% of the production costs of the watch and the movement must now be incurred in Switzerland. The reputation of Swiss watches is known all over the world. Know-how, high quality, aesthetic ability, technical innovation: the designation Swiss made reflects all this and much more.


You can find a tachymeter on some chronograph watches. This is a feature used to measure speed per hour on a scale on the dial or on the bezel. The distance based on 1000 meters.


The “space-age” metal, often used with a silver-gray appearance. Because it is 30 percent stronger and nearly 50 percent lighter than steel it has been increasingly used in watchmaking, especially sport watch styles. Its resistance to saltwater corrosion which makes it particularly useful in diver’s watches. Hypoallergenic.


A watch that combines two metal colours i.e. yellow gold and stainless steel.


Describes the ability of a watch to resist water penetration.

Water Resistant 3 atm or 30 m
Suitable for everyday use. Splash/rain resistant. Not suitable for showering, bathing, swimming, snorkelling, water-related work, fishing, and diving.
Water Resistant 5 atm or 50 m
Suitable for everyday use, showering, bathing, shallow-water swimming, snorkelling, water-related work, fishing. Not suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 10 atm or 100 m
Suitable for surfing, swimming, snorkelling, sailing and water sports. Not suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 20 atm or 200 m
Suitable for professional marine activity, serious surface water sports and skin diving. 
Water Resistant 30+ atm or 300+ m
Suitable for scuba diving at depths not suitable for saturation diving.