Defining Time: Watch Definitions and Terms A Complete Guide

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Watches, in their many forms and complexities, have been with us for centuries. Behind their exquisite craftsmanship lies a world of precise terminology and watch definitions, making watch appreciation and understanding both an art form and a science. In this article, we’ll unravel the intricate language of watch definitions, equipping you with the knowledge to decipher the terminology used by watch enthusiasts and collectors. Whether you’re completely new to this field and just trying to find out how to get into watches or just want a concise summary of terms you already know, this list is for you. This knowledge will help you ask the right questions and look for the important details when purchasing your next timepiece.

We’re going to separate these watch definitions into various sections so that you can find what you’re looking for easily. First up, we’re going to take you on a deep dive through the anatomy of a watch.

1. Anatomy and Components of a Watch Definitions

Understanding watch components is an important part of making a purchase. Before buying a watch, you want to read as many reviews and third-party opinions as you can. As you do your research, you will come across descriptions of various watch parts. You’ll also want to be aware of these watch definitions in case you ever need a replacement part or repair. Here are some of the key watch definitions you should know:

  • Case: The outer shell that encases the movement and dial.
  • Movement: The internal workings and gears of the watch that make it operate and tell correct time.
  • Dial: The watch face, displaying the time and other data depending on the watch.
  • Hands: The pointers indicating hours, minutes, and sometimes seconds.
  • Crown: A knob used for winding the watch, setting the time, and adjusting functions.
  • Crystal: The transparent cover protecting the dial.
  • Bezel: A ring surrounding the dial, often used for calculations or as an aesthetic element.
  • Case Back: The underside of the case, sometimes transparent for viewing the movement.
  • Lugs: Projections on the case to which the strap or bracelet is attached.
  • Strap: The band that secures the watch to the wrist.
  • Buckle: The part of the strap where the two ends connect to each other, a.k.a clasp
  • Aperture: A small window on the watch dial to display extra information, like the date
  • Complication: Any feature on a watch beyond telling time. Examples include date displays, moon phases, and chronographs.
  • Pusher: A button on the side of the watch to activate complications, such as a stopwatch (watches with built-in stopwatch complications are called chronographs as we will see later…)

Movement Types

The three main types of movement you should know are mechanical, automatic, and quartz. Mechanical watches utilize a spring that must be wound up by the user in order to continue telling time. The spring is connected to an intricate system of moving gears that allow the watch to tell time. Complications like day-date displays require even more precision. Automatic watches are similar, but they take advantage of the natural hand movements of the wearer to stay wound. Read more about hand wound mechanical watches or automatic watches on our site.

Quartz watches use a battery to rapidly vibrate a piece of quartz. Since the vibrations are consistent, this is how the watch keeps track of time. Mechanical and automatic watches tend to be less accurate than quartz, yet more expensive. This is because they require a much higher level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Quartz movements are the go-to for affordable watches whereas mechanical/automatic dominate the high end luxury market.

A diagram of a watch showcasing the parts defined earlier

2. Complications of a Watch Definitions

We already covered what a complication is. Now let’s look at some popular complications you can find in watches. Complications can add serious luxury and elegance to a watch, as well as having real functionality. Some may still just want a plain old watch, and that’s totally fine. Buy what you like. But complications can give a watch some extra character.


A watch with a stopwatch function. A chronograph can be genuinely useful in many situations. Need to time a race or see how long it takes to go from here to there? If you’re wearing a chronograph watch, you can do it right on your wrist. The sub-dials can also exude luxury and class.

As part of our study of watch definitions, we thought some examples might help. This Bulova Men’s Marine Star ‘Series B’ is a quartz chronograph watch example. This stainless steel chronograph can measure up to 1 hour and includes other complications like a calendar. We chose this example to show how a complication can combine the best of both worlds: form and function together. Visit the link to see how the watch definitions we discussed are being used in the description.

We threw this example in to show that a chronograph does not need to break the bank. This Timex Men’s Expedition Field Chronograph Watch has a stopwatch that measures up to 30 minutes and includes a tachymeter, which we will cover soon. With over 5,000 reviews and 4.4 stars on Amazon, it’s clear customers enjoy this chronograph. Like we said though, buy what you like as this watch may appear a little too busy and convoluted for some.


A tachymeter on a watch with a chronograph is used to measure speed. Look at that Timex above. See how on the outer bezel there is a tachymeter label with decreasing numbers as you go clockwise. Start the chronograph with the second hand at zero, travel exactly one mile in your boat or car, and the tachymeter will tell you how fast you went in miles per hour. Just look at where the second hand stopped and take note of the tachymeter marking at that point. How often you actually use this feature depends on your lifestyle, but a tachymeter can be a sign of exquisite craftsmanship as well as adding a sense of character and utilitarianism to your wristwatch.

Perpetual Calendar

This complication refers to a watch that has a calendar display that displays the day of month, accurately accounting for the differences in month length. It is engineered to know if a month has 28, 30, or 31 days. Amazingly, they even account for leap years, meaning you never have to adjust most models until the year 2100. Perpetual calendar watches are testaments to craftsmanship and attention to detail. For those who appreciate fine engineering and detail-oriented design, a perpetual calendar watch may be the choice for you.

A Watch with it All

This Japanese Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Sport Casual Brycen Chronograph Watch brings together all of the complications we have mentioned in a single fashionable piece. With a chronograph, tachymeter, and perpetual calendar complication, this watch is feature-full while still maintaining an elegant look. This watch is made of Citizen’s patented Super Titanium™ material, making it insanely lightweight and durable. As of posting, this watch is 40% off(!) on Amazon. This watch shows you can enjoy great complications in a well-built, reliable body for a reasonable price. Take a look, notice the various complications and terms we discussed. Use your newfound knowledge to consider whether or not it is the right piece for you.

Quick Mention: Moon Phase Watches

Another example of solid worksmanship in watches is the moon phase complication. The perpetual calendar often paves the way for watches to accurately track the lunar cycle. This feature will help your watch stand out from the rest by providing you with a sleek and unique complication beautifully displayed in your dial.

This piece from Fossil is a cheap way for you to get that moon phase complication on your wrist without slitting them with the cost. It is a Fossil Neutra Chronograph. We chose a budget-friendly option from a reputable and popular brand to show that these complications are accessible to all. You can see the stunning moon phase sub-dial being beautifully integrated in the main dial. With great reviews, this watch is ideal for those who appreciate the details, but only for a reasonable price.

3. More Important Watch Definitions

In addition to the anatomy and complications of a watch, there are other important terms to be mindful of.

Accuracy: The degree to which a watch keeps time, often measured in seconds per day. For many cheaper mechanical watches, an accuracy of within 25-30 seconds per day is fairly decent and acceptable. Once you start getting into the upper stratospheres though, you should expect better than that. Many of the top brands are accurate within 5 seconds/day. Note that this is referring to mechanical and automatic watches. Quartz watches are even more accurate than this.

Power Reserve: The amount of time a watch can run without winding or wearing.

Hacking Seconds: A feature that stops the second hand when setting the time. Could be useful for setting accurate times.

Beat Rate: The number of vibrations (ticks) per hour, usually 21,600 or 28,800 for mechanical watches. The higher the number, the more accurate the watch. However, a higher beat rate can have an adverse effect on the power reserve.

Horology: The study / art of watchmaking.


The world of watches is a tapestry woven with technical expertise, artistry, and tradition. Understanding the terminology and definitions associated with watches not only enhances your appreciation of these timepieces but also empowers you to make informed choices when buying or collecting. That is our mission here at Sold Corp. We want to provide real consumer advice. That is why we choose affordable options to recommend our readers. If you want to see more affordable watches, read our list of the Best Affordable and Cheap Watches for Men. Thank you for reading. We hope this expanded your knowledge or sparked your interest.

-SOLD Corp Team


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