Your handy watch guide: Understanding terminology

Don’t know a chronograph from a tachymeter? Don’t fret, here are all the timepiece terms you need to know. 

While picking a watch, the brand certainly does matter. But also need to understand its various functions to see if this is really the watch for you and to make best use of it. We help you get a basic understanding of watch terms, parts and jargon.

Altimeter
This is a handy tool for climbers, aviators, and mountaineers. The altimeter measures altitude, the height above sea level. It records ascent and descent by responding to changes in barometric pressure

Aperture
This refers to small openings on the dial that give certain details, like date, day, month, moon phase, etc.

Automatic watch
It is a mechanical watch wherein the main spring is automatically wound by the natural motion of the wearer’s arm, thereby providing energy for the function. It is also known as a self-winded watch as it does not require manual winding.

Bezel
A bezel is the metallic ring that surrounds the crystal on the watch face. It’s basic purpose is to measure time increments. Some bezels rotate in one direction or two, while others are fixed.

Caliber/Calibre
Caliber refers to the position and size of the wheel train and barrel among other components. Presently, the term is used to talk about the watch movement or its origin.

Chronograph
A basic chronograph watch has an additional second hand that can be started, stopped, and returned to zero by pressure on the stem. It is basically a stop watch that shows elapsed time and usually has its own separate display.

Complication
This is when a watch does more than just tell the time. The additional features like chronograph, alarm, perpetual calendar, moon phase, tourbillion, etc are called complications.

Dual time watch
As the name suggests, a dual time watch show both the local time and that in another time zone. Some watches have a smaller dial that showcases the second time, while others have an additional hand.

Duo display
Popularly known as AnaDigi, duo display shows time through both an analogy display, with hour and minute hands, and digital display, with numbers.

Liquid crystal display
LCD watches display the number continuously through the use of a liquid that is encased between two plates. The numbers are made up of seven lines that come together to form the number eight when fully lit.

Mechanical movement
A watch that has mechanical movement functions without any outside electrical support. The watch functions by winding of the main spring, whether it’s done manually or automatically.

Moon phase
Watch designers get really creative when it comes to this display on the watch dial. The moon phase feature indicates the current phase of the moon. It takes 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes for a full lunar cycle.

Nato-style strap
Also known as G-10, this strap is a nylon pass-through strap that has a fixed metal buckle and two metal rings. First commissioned by the British Ministry of Defense in 1973, the strap is sturdy and reliable and a favourite among watch aficionados.

Perpetual calendar
This feature is a calendar that shows day, date, month and leap year cycle. Some watches may also display the moon phase and year.

Quartz movement
This is at the opposite end of a mechanical movement. A quartz movement needs a battery to function. The watch has a quartz crystal that oscillates when a current is applied, creating the movement. Synthetic quartz oscillates 32.768 times a second.

Sapphire crystal
This is a very hard, scratch resistant material that is used for watch dials. This crystal comes close to diamonds when it comes to hardness, which is why it’s the ideal material for a watch that’s subjected to everyday wear and tear.

Tachymeter scale
Mostly found in chronograph watches, this scale measures speed over a particular, specified distance.  You start the chronograph at the starting point and stop it at the finish point to get the speed. The speed is usually displayed in units per hour.

Tourbillion
A complicated feature, a tourbillion is found in mechanical watch. It a system that holds the escapement in a rotating cage. This is done to eliminate any errors that might occur because of the wearing turning the watch in different directions (which usually lead to tiny variations).