With the Baselworld fair fast approaching, and watch experts around the world heading to the vibrant city that sits on Switzerland’s northern border, we thought what better time to explain a selection of those head-scratching terms that those in the watch industry reel off so fluently.
The term bezel refers to the ring located around the dial of a watch and is often made of gold or stainless steel. Movable bezels can serve other functions such as tracking elapsed time. However, bezels can also be fixed, or can only be spun counter clockwise to prevent accidental changes when divers time themselves underwater.
A chronograph is simply the combination of both a stop watch and a display watch. Chronographs are one of the most popular watch types on the market today but are at the same time the most misunderstood. Put simply, the chronograph is what we would call a timer – an additional benefit to your traditional watch.
The chronometer when labelled on a Swiss-made watch indicates that it is COSC-certified and has been tested and verified to assert that it meets very precise and specific standards.
Complication refers to any feature in a mechanical timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. A timepiece indicating only hours and minutes is otherwise known as basic movement. Common complications in commercial watches are day/date displays, alarms, chronographs, and automatic winding mechanisms.
Cosmograph is a term international Swiss watch brand Rolex coined. These watches have all the functions of the chronograph but feature the tachymeter scale on the watch bezel (more on those below).
The moon phase complication on a mechanical watch is usually accomplished with a disc displayed on the watch face that indicates the current phase of the moon. This feature is almost whimsical in look and ability.
Also known as a caliber, the movement is the mechanism of the watch. These can be either mechanical or quartz mechanisms. Additionally, within mechanical movements you will find automatic and manual versions. All three movement types are defined below.
An automatic watch features a mechanical movement that requires no winding. Instead the rotor, as part of the automatic mechanism, winds the mainspring every time your hand moves. Most automatic watches have a power reserve of up to 36 hours.
A manual movement requires the wearer to wind the watch by way of the crown every day in order for it to run. This motion is forwarded through the winding stem to the barrel and then onto the mainspring.
Quartz movement uses the vibrations of a tiny oscillating quartz crystal to maintain time accuracy through sophisticated electronic circuitry. Although originally quartz movement watches were powered through a battery that required changing every 1.5 years, more modern creations allow the mechanism to recharge itself without ever relying on battery replacement.
Inside an Oyster watch you will find the half-moon-shaped weight of the perpetual rotor that pivots on a central axis; a self-winding system invented by Rolex in 1931. It converts and captures even the slightest movement from the wearer into energy that can then be stored to power the watch.
A skeleton watch or dial is where various parts of the movement of the watch are visible, through either the front, back or through a small cut outlining the dial, which reveals its mechanical elements.
The tachymeter has the ability to compute a speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed. It is most commonly used in the watch industry to measure the speed of a car over a specific distance. You can find the tachymeter on the bezel of a chronograph.