The watch's movement is the mechanism it uses to keep time, which can be broken down into two main groups: Quartz and Mechanical.
Mechanical movement requires winding to power itself, and is less accurate than quartz but does not require batteries. A spring is wound up by hand, which then unwinds itself in a controlled manner to move the watch’s gears in regular intervals.
The timing function in a Quartz watch relies on the mineral’s unique vibrational quality – when an electric current passes through, it oscillates at a precise frequency. A circuit counts the vibrations and sends an electric pulse at regular intervals to move the gears (exactly 32768 vibrations are equal to one second). A quartz watch is extremely accurate, but requires a power source.
Automatic movement is essentially a mechanism that features an eccentric weight (winding rotor) that utilizes the wearer’s natural wrist movement to keep the mainspring tense in a mechanical watch, or charge a battery in a quartz watch. This eliminates the need for regular winding or battery changes.
The crystal is the clear material enclosing the watch dial, fixed to the case underneath the bezel. It can also be referred to as the dial window or glass. The most common materials used are acrylic, glass, and synthetic sapphire. With clarity and scratch resistance being the most desirable qualities for a watch crystal, synthetic sapphire is the best option – it's transparent to wavelengths of light well beyond what our eyes can discern, and has a value of 9 on the Mohs hardness scale (one below diamond).
The watch case accounts for most of the visible surface of the watch, aside from the band. For this reason, the material should be both strong and aesthetically pleasing. Stainless steel is the most common material used for a case, as it’s resistant to dents and scratches and has a smooth, shiny surface (when polished). Most often, when precious metals are used to create a watch case, they're plated over stainless steel.
The backing of the watch goes unseen for the most part, and is often appreciated as such. For this reason Screw-in and Pressure Fit backs are preferred to backs with exposed screws. Manufacturers suggest taking your watch to a professional for servicing, but for battery changes it does help to know which type of backing you have as removing it can be tricky – this information will be provided in the instructions provided.
The information displayed on the dial is collectively referred to as the Markers, and can sometimes be referred to by the terminology in the graphic above. Make note of it if you’re going for a specific style.
The hour and minute hands on the watch also vary in style, and for the most discerning customers the names of the hands may come in handy while searching for the perfect time piece.
Dial colors and materials vary and can greatly affect the overall appeal of a watch, with manufacturers often making the same model with different colored dials to suit your personal taste. Mother-of-Pearl is one of the more common dial materials found, enjoyed for its subtle rainbow light refractions. High end watches with precious metal cases will often fashion the dial from the same material.
The bezel is the rim that runs around the face of the watch fixing the crystal to the case. It can also serve a multitude of functions: a Slide-Rule bezel is usually marked with mathematical rules that allow the wearer to perform navigational and other calculations, a Tachymeter allows you to calculate your speed based on travel time over a fixed distance, and a Unidirectional bezel is usually used by divers to keep track of elapsed time underwater. A fixed bezel is often opted for by wearers for its simplicity, compared to the busier appearance of functional bezels. Some manufacturers offer Interchangeable bezels that allow you to change the appearance and function whenever needed.
The band is an important consideration when buying a watch, as aesthetics, function, and comfort should all be taken into account. It can be divided into two main categories: Straps and Bracelets. Bracelets are essentially bands fashioned from metals (often the very same as the case). Bracelets are naturally heavier than straps, but provide a coherent appearance matching the case material. Straps are much more varied in their material and appearance options, the most common being leathers of all sorts (alligator, ostrich, calfhide, etc). Sport and diver’s watches often utilize manmade materials such as nylon/acrylics and even rubber, as they are durable and won’t degrade after being exposed to sweat and harsh weather. The right combination between a watch and a strap material is a careful consideration that every manufacturer takes into account, but is still entirely subjective. The options are endless.
The lugs are simply the protrusions from the top and bottom of the case that the band attaches to. It is important to know their location when shopping for an alternate or replacement band for your watch, since the measurement of space between the two lugs will determine the width you’re looking for.
The clasp, while usually hidden on the inside of the wrist, holds it all together. A Buckle clasp is the most common, not unlike what you’d find on a belt.
Water Resistance and Waterproof are not interchangeable terms. Generally, Water Resistant means that the watch should not be fully submerged in water, while Waterproof means that to a specified degree, the watch can be submerged.
|Water Resistant||Sweat, splashes, hand washing, etc.|
|30m or 3Atm||Can be submerged but not suitable for swimming.|
|50m or 5Atm||Surface level swimming.|
|100m or 10Atm||Low depth diving, snorkeling, and swimming.|
|200m or 20Atm||Scuba Diving|
|Helium Valve Watches||Suitable for deep sea diving and exploring.|
Helium valves do nothing to actually seal the watch and make it more waterproof than another, but their function allows for atmospheric pressure to be adjusted safely as depth changes, thus preventing the case or dial window from exploding (particularly when surfacing, as pressure changes are dramatic).
Watches are NOT suitable for hot baths, saunas, heavily chlorinated water, perfume or hairspray – the gaskets can degrade, as they are not necessarily designed to resist heat and harsh chemicals.
Warranty information will be provided to you by the manufacturer, and often includes a period of time the piece can be returned for refund. As a general rule of thumb, manufacturers do not recommend servicing your own watch and will provide specific instructions for care and general maintenance. In most cases, a piece that has been serviced by anyone other than a professional will have its warranty voided.