Basic Watch Terminology To Find The Best Watch For You

There are many watch designs and styles. Watch designs can include a variety of functions. How many and what type depend on the watch design you select. No matter what type of watch you select, when you start looking it is useful to know some basic watch terminology. Most product descriptions will refer to different parts of a watch. Here are basic parts of a watch with their descriptions.

Automatic and mechanical watches have a limited number of functions that can be performed. Space for moving gears inside an automatic or mechanical watch is limited. Gears need room to move and interact with other gears. Typically, when looking at this type of watch, you are viewing the watch more for its style and how it highlights your demeanor.

As always, for any watch you need to read the instructions and know the basic watch terminology to use or set the different functions of the watch. This is helpful so as to not inadvertently damage your watch investment.

Parts of a watch image


Crystals are a crucial component of watches. They should allow for clear viewing of the face of the watch, its hands and subdials. They protect the interior from outside elements by keeping dust, dirt and other particles from settling inside. Since the crystal takes some of the hardest hits they can be made from different materials.

The four main materials that crystals are made from are plastic, glass, mineral glass, and synthetic sapphire. Plastic and glass crystals are the most common. These two materials can be custom cut, shaped, and trimmed to fit different styles of watch cases.


The crystal protects the front of your watch, the case protects the back. It houses and protects the inner mechanisms that powers the watch’s movements. Durability is of utmost importance so form typically meets function.

There are several different materials used when creating these protective items for your watch. The most common watch cases are stainless steel for business casual, plastic for activewear, and precious metals like gold or silver for fashion.


There are many different types of watch bezels, each with its own purpose. Some are simple plain bands that frame just the face. Others have engravings or decorations to make them more interesting.

There are also functional rings that can rotate either direction while others only move in one or the other. The bezel also acts as protection for the crystal to protect it from scratches and chips.


A pusher controls some functions of the watch. It is a button on the side of a watch that controls other functions that the crown does not control. Together with some of the mechanics inside the pusher controls things the date or a chronograph.

The pusher design varies depending on on the style of the watch. It can either be just one or two and often sits beside or on each side of the watch crown. Some watches might have an additional pusher on the opposite side of the watch to control a chronograph.


The crown is the little knob that sits on the side of your watch. It is the command center of time. Its function and how to use it can vary depending on the style or type of watch. You use the crown to set hours, minutes, and seconds into the correct time. On mechanical watches it is used to wind up your watch to keep it running.

It is always best to check the watch’s instructions for the correct way to wind up your watch. You want to be sure to not damage your watch by winding too far, or not wind it enough so that it runs down too quickly.

Date Display

Some watches display the date in a separate box. This frees up some space on the dial (face) to allow for the subdials.

Dial (Face)

A watch’s dial is the flat surface just below its crystal. It is the expressive part of the watch. Besides displaying the time, it adds personality to the watch. It is the part of the watch that is immediately seen when looking at a watch.

Its aesthetics can vary widely by having different colors and styles. Some faces are see through so that you can view the internal workings of the watch. Other faces display subdials that are used for different functions.

Traditionally, mechanical and automatic watches have hours and minute markers displayed. Digital watches have a numeric display of the time.

The type or style of the watch face you prefer depends on how much information you want displayed. It can vary widely. Oftentimes, the face is a fashion statement.

Watch band

The watch band secures your watch to you. There are other methods to attach your watch. A bracelet or strap are alternatives.


The lugs can also be called horns. These small metal pieces are used to attached the watch case to the watch band, straps, or bracelet.

Sometimes it is fun to change your style by deciding to change the watch band, strap or bracelet. A lot of times this is best done by a jeweler. If you do it yourself, you need to be certain that you measure the width of your watch’s lug correctly to get the correct size.


It is not only the dial of a watch that helps to track time on your watch. Subdials have different functions. The number and type of subdials is determined by your fashion statement and the functions you need.

Subdials can be used for a variety of reasons. They could be used to keep a second time zone or show phases of the moon. More common uses are to track lapsed seconds or as calendars.

Minute Marker

Minute markers do not appear on every watch. Typically they are shaped like little dashes between the hour markers. Some watches have these on their bezel.

Hour Marker

When it comes to hour markers no two watches are alike. There is a wide range of styles and types. How they are placed on the watch can make the face look cluttered or difficult to read.

The most common forms of markers are Arabic and Roman numerals. The face might have all of the numbers or just a few. Plain markers or rhinestones or jewels are frequently used to fill in missing numbers.

Regardless of what design you decide on, be sure that it is easily readable.

Hands (Hour/Minute/Second)

The hands on an analog watch allow you to tell what time it is. After the face (dial) it is one of the easiest parts to recognize. The watch hands point to the hour markers. Usually the hour hand is longer than the minute hand. Watches might also have a second hand.

The hands are set by the crown and controlled by the internal mechanics of the watch. The hands move over the dial (face) and point to the hours and minutes.

Why know Watch Terminology

Just like in any profession, knowing the basic watch terminology can help you. This not only helps when reading product descriptions, but also helps when describing what your needs might be.

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Article Name
Basic Watch Terminology
When you are planning to buy a watch, you should know some of the basic terminology. This will help you decide what to buy.

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