Thursday, August 3, 2017

The ABCs of Watch Terminology, Part 1

We often have customers ask us questions, such as “Is it a dial or a face?” or “What do you call the stem on the watch at 3 o’clock?” The truth is, watch terminology can be daunting, and while many connoisseurs and watch lovers have the terms down pat, newbies to the art of loving watches may not. For this reason, today we bring you a simple glossary of terms that define the “look” of a watch.


Photo courtesy of Wostep (Watchmaking School) shows case, dial, hands and crown.

A complete watch consists of a case, hands (sometimes), dial (sometimes), crown, glass or sapphire cover, case back and a movement inside. Sure, there are more parts, but these are the basics.

Case. The outer metal casing (usually in steel, titanium, ceramic or a noble metal) that holds the watch movement inside, along with the dial, etc. This may seem obvious, but some of our customers call it the “head of the watch,” while others call it “the actual watch.”

Crystal. This is the clear protective covering that enables one to view the time. Most crystals are made of hardened mineral glass or sapphire, but in inexpensive watches, there is also a plexiglass or plastic material for the crystal.


Bezel. On some watches, the outer ring that surrounds the dial is referred to as the bezel. Sometimes the bezel is made of the same material as the case, but often, especially in sports watches, it is created of different materials, such as aluminium or ceramic. Some bezels may indicate dive time or some other measurement — and they are usually able to rotate either unidirectionally or one way, depending on the function of the bezel. In dress watches, the bezel is often adorned with diamonds or gemstones.


Caseback. Every case has a back. That back is usually made of the metal that the case is made of, or it is made of the material the crystal is made of. In luxury watches, transparent sapphire casebooks allow for viewing of the complex mechanical movement inside.

Crown. Often referred to as the stem, the crown (typically, but not always, at 3:00 on the case) is used for winding a mechanical watch and for setting the time and date (if there is one).

Lugs. Lugs are the part of the case watch that protrude from the case and attach it to the bracelet or strap. Often referred to as case-to-bracelet attachments, lugs are sometimes integrated into the case.

Metal Strap

Strap/Bracelet. The word strap is generally used to refer to fabric, leather, rubber, canvas, silk or other material. The word bracelet is usually used to refer to a “strap” made of metal. So, the steel, gold, titanium, etc., that wraps around the wrist is a bracelet. Most bracelets are made of multiple rows of links, or are woven mesh designs referred to as Milanese.


Dial. Often called a face (and not incorrectly), the dial of the watch is where the numerals, markers hands and sometimes other information is placed. Not all watches have a dial. Skeletonized watches, for instance usually skip the dial and display the hands in an unobtrusive way so that one can see right through the watch and into the movement.

Hands. The hands point to the hours, minutes or seconds. Not all watches use hands to indicate the time. In the luxury watch world, some watches display time linearly, through apertures or via satellites.

These are the basics of every watch. There are a host of other terms we can explain, but we will hold that post for a later time. In the meantime, stop in any time to talk watches with us.


from Hamilton Jewelers