A watch can have hundreds to thousands of parts. Sounds exhausting or intimidating? I got you, friends. The first time I took interest in wristwatches, the feeling of overwhelm was no joke. There’s a huge number of parts of a wristwatch that I’ve never heard of.
If you’re here, then you want to dig a little deeper about a watch, right? Maybe you want to service your watch’s broken yet unfamiliar parts, or talk to a friend who is an avid fan, or just learn a thing or two about a watch. Regardless of the purpose, you’re always welcome to the club.
Moving on, let’s take a look at the basic nine parts of a wristwatch every beginner needs to know.
1. The foundation of a watch – case
The case is the outer part of a watch that protects the inner workings and maintains a watch’s basic shape. As the foundation of parts of a wristwatch, a case should be solid. It can be made from malleable materials; chemical elements, ceramics, and plastics. A high-end watch usually uses excellent chemical elements or metals such as stainless steel, bronze, gold, titanium, tantalum, and platinum. Each material has its pros and cons. For example, a ceramic case is extremely resistant to scratch, corrosion, and fading. Yet, it’s prone to shatter if it hits a hard surface.
Also, the case comes in different shapes (any possible type of shape). The most common ones are round and square. However, there are watch brands that produce a watch’s case in a triangle, rectangle, hexagon, tonneau, and many more. You name it.
2. The top ring – bezel
The bezel is the top ring around the crystal. It is to hold the crystal and the mid-case in place. A bezel is mostly made from metal and ceramic.
Have you ever heard of a rotating or fixed bezel? A rotating bezel (anti-clock or clockwise) serves to count or tell something; elapsed time, countdown, speed, distance, GMT, heartbeat rate, compass, and many more. Rotating bezels are common in diving watches. Oftentimes, a diver sets the bezel to inform the time when they’re almost out of oxygen.
On the other hand, a fixed bezel often comes with an inscribed scale as in a watch with a tachymeter function. It only provides an indicator to which the watch second hand would point out to determine speed. In another case, some fixed bezel is also introduced with different designs like fluted, two-tone, and gem-setting that could be easily spotted in a Rolex oyster.
3. The protective barrier – crystal
Something protective and transparent on top of a dial, that is the crystal. Three main types of crystal in a watch are acrylic crystal, mineral crystal, and synthetic sapphire crystal.
The acrylic crystal (a specialized form of plastic) is flexible, lightweight, and shatter-resistant yet prone to scratch. The mineral crystal is the most common one for a watch. It is more resistant to scratch and impact than acrylic. A high-end watch mostly uses synthetic sapphire crystal. It has the most clarity and is the most resistant to scratch. Though durable as the second hardest crystal, it can shatter after receiving extreme pressure or impact.
4. The winding and directive part – crown
The crown on a watch is the small knob, mostly placed at the 3 or 4 o’clock position. All crowns are used to adjust the time; the hour, minute, or even second. On mechanical watches, a crown also functions to wind the watch in a clockwise position. In addition to that, the watch crown could have a bit more complicated function. If a watch is featured with more complex complications, such as setting the moon phase or running a stopwatch, it will be operated using the watch crown.
5. The case and strap attachment – lugs
Lugs, also known as the watch horns, are the 4 protruding metal pieces attached to a watch’s case. It is to hold the bracelet, band, or strap using metal spring bars. This part of a wristwatch might seem trivial but not when you are about to change your watch band or bracelet.
The watchmaker would always put the information about the lug-to-lug size. You need to consider this size before choosing a new strap as it needs to have the same size as the lug-to-lug size. It’s not about the watch case diameter but it’s about the lug when it comes to a new strap.
6. To hold around the wrist – watch band
A watchband is called either strap or bracelet. The strap is used when the materials are textile material, rubber, leather, or non-metal material, while the bracelet is the metal-linked watch band. The watch band functions to hold the parts of a wristwatch to your wrist.
This part is crucial to match your personal style. If you want to appear more formal, then a black or brown leather strap is the fittest choice for you. In contrast, a metal bracelet is suitable for a casual and active lifestyle as it is durable and resistant to sweat and dirt.
7. The watch’s face – dial
The dial puts the time on view – a flat surface underneath the crystal where the indices and some other compilation sit. Seen through the crystal, a dial shows the hands (the indicators) and markings of hours, minutes, and seconds. Every watchmaker can be exceptionally creative in creating a fascinating dial. There are lots of designs, decorations, colors, and supplementary functions on a dial.
The choice of materials also varies in number. The most common is plated brass, while the oldest is enamel dials in the 17th century. There are some luxury watch brands that use exotic materials. For example, Jaquet Droz uses quail eggshell, while Rolex President with burl wood.
8. To make the watch tick – movement
The movement, known as a caliber, refers to the all inner working mechanism of a watch. It is the system that drives the watch to tick. There are two dominant types of movement; mechanics and quartz.
A mechanical movement uses the power from a wound spring; manual-winding or self-winding (automatic). For mechanical watches, there is a power reserve that stores energy for mainly 40 hours. Thus, it’s essential to wind the watch regularly. Whereas a quartz movement uses the power from a battery. There is no need to regularly wind or wear the watch. You can just replace the battery if the energy is out. Quartz watches are more accurate and affordable than mechanical ones.
9. Supplementary functions – complications
Basically, complications are any supplementary functions besides telling the time; hours, minutes, and seconds. The simplest complications are day-date and calendar displays. Other complex complications include the moon phases, tachymeter, planetarium, tourbillon, compass, and many more.
Complications as parts of a wristwatch are important in a watch for professionals. For example, an alarm watch can assist individuals who have a packed schedule to notify the set time. Another complication, the world timezone is necessary for persons related to international affairs to communicate with others in different countries.
That’s the basic nine parts of a wristwatch that you now know. With these terms in mind, you can have a smooth conversation with fellow avid fans of watches. Or, next time, I wish you can talk in a relaxed manner when you need to service the broken yet unfamiliar parts of your watch.