An acrylic crystal is a plastic crystal. This type of crystal has the advantage of flexing rather than shattering on impact, does not produce much glare under bright light, and is easily polished. It is however soft compared to other crystals, and is prone to scratches. Typically found on vintage or digital watches.
An automatic watch is a mechanical watch with a self-winding feature. This is achieved via an oscillating mass (rotor) which rotates to wind the mainspring. Automatic watches are among the most sought after by collectors for their craftsmanship, even though they are considerably less accurate than quartz watches.
Refers to the representation of time on a watch dial by means of hands pointing to hours, minutes and seconds.
A Battery is the power cell of a quartz or digital watch. Various chemistries have been used over the years, including Silver Oxide, Lithium, Alkaline, and Mercury. Rechargeable batteries are also used in some types of watches. Those are typically referred to as Capacitors.
The bezel is the topmost ring of the watch surrounding the crystal of the watch. A bezel may be fixed for decoration purposes or rotating for functionality. Vintage rotating bezels are typically bi-directional, while modern rotating bezels may be unidirectional.
A chronograph is a mechanism for measuring short time spans independently of the normal timekeeping function (many mechanical chronographs measure up to 12 hours with indicators for seconds, minutes and hours). Chronograph mechanisms are typically found in higher-end watches, and are more expensive to service due to their complexity.
The crown is the main knob typically located at 3 o'clock. It is used for winding and/or setting the watch. Some higher-end sports watches may be equipped with a screw-down crown, which facilitates superior water resistance for water sport activities.
The crystal is the clear cover over the dial. It is also typically referred to as the glass. Various materials may be used for the crystal, including acrylic (plastic), mineral (glass) and synthetic sapphire.
The dial is the face of the watch located beneath the crystal, and is usually marked with numbers or markers which the hands point to in order to tell the time. Dials can be very simple (sometimes with no markers at all), or extremely complex (as with chronograph watches). Dials may also be decorated with patterns or in some cases precious stones.
As opposed to an analogue display, a digital display represents time in digits. Typically achieved using LCD (liquid crystal) displays, though LED (light-emitting diode) displays have also been used in the past. Some modern quartz watches are equipped with both analogue and digital components.
The escapement in a mechanical watch refers to a combination of parts including the anchor, pallets and balance wheel, which translate the power of the mechanism into regular timekeeping. The escapement is responsible for the familiar ticking sound of a mechanical watch.
In a mechanical watch and some quartz watches, jewels (usually synthetic ruby) are used as bearings for components subject to constant motion. They are not valuable in the monetary sense, but they are valuable in preventing wear and allowing a timepiece to function precisely over a long period of time.
A watch operated by an oscillating quartz crystal which draws power from a small battery. Oscillating at 32,768 times per second, an electronic circuit divides this oscillation into precise increments of 1 second or less. Used in both digital and analogue watches. While historically quartz watches have been derided by purists as disposable, they are nonetheless extremely accurate.
A general reference to a sub-dial, which is usually a dial within the main dial of a watch. A good example is a chronograph watch, where there may be separate registers for the chronograph minutes and hours. Some watches may also have registers with pointers showing seconds, day and/or date.
The oscillating mass which winds an automatic movement. A rotor is typically free to rotate a full 360 degrees, and may wind the watch when it is rotating in one direction, or in both directions through the use of reverser wheels and gears. In some watches the rotor is used to generate electrical energy to re-charge an onboard capacitor rather than a mechanical spring.
A synthetic sapphire crystal is the crystal of choice for most high-end luxury watches and watch collectors. It is very hard (9 on the Moh scale) and therefore scratch-resistant. It is however prone to chip and shatter under extreme force, cannot be polished, and is costly to replace once damaged.
Describes a watch that has certain components of the movement protected by shock absorbing devices (typically the escapement of the movement, specifically the balance staff).
A scale used to measure units per hour typically found on the bezels of chronograph watches. An event is timed by using the chronograph seconds hand. The hand is stopped when the event ends and the hand will point to the number of units per hour that could be achieved.
Due to gravity, a mechanical watch may gain or lose time depending on its position. A Tourbillon is a complex system of micro engineering which enables the escapement of a watch to rotate on its own axis, ensuring it is always in the same position. This serves to cancel out the variations caused by gravity. Tourbillon systems are very expensive, and are only found on some of the most high-end of luxury watches.
A radioactive isotope of hydrogen used in vintage luminous compounds which give watch dials and hands their glow-in-the-dark properties. Many watch dials will show a small T at the bottom to indicate the use of tritium. The half-life of tritium is 12.32 years, thus it will lose its ability to provide illumination as time passes. Tritium is now largely replaced by non-radioactive organic compounds.
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