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From ‘alarm watch’ to ‘zodiac’…

The following pages are a glossary of terms associated with horology, watches and watchmaking.

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Alarm Watch

A watch provided with a movement capable of releasing an acoustic sound at the time set. A second crown is dedicated to the winding, setting and release of the striking-work; an additional center hand indicates the time set. The section of the movement dedicated to the alarm device is made up by a series of wheels linked with the barrel, an escapement and a hammer striking a gong or bell. Works much like a normal alarm clock.


The maximum angle by which a balance or pendulum swings from its rest position. Each swing in either direction is called a “beat”. Amplitude is the number of degrees of rotation of the beat. Amplitude is higher, typically in the range of about 270 to 315 degrees, when a watch is lying flat or in the “dial up” or “dial down” position. Amplitude usually falls when the watch is in a vertical position, primarily due to increased friction.

Analog or Analogue

A watch displaying time indications by means of hands.

Analog Quartz

The most commonly-used term in referring to any analog timepiece that operates on a battery or on solar power and is regulated by a quartz crystal.

Annual Calendar

A watch that automatically adjusts for the different lengths of each month of a year in the calendar module of a watch. This type of watch usually shows the month and date, and sometimes the day of the week and the phase of the moon. It must be adjusted once a year.


Mechanical movements can be influenced by the magnetic fields often found in common everyday places. This problem is generally countered by using anti- or nonmagnetic components in the movement as in the eta 2824-2 which we use for the Malvern Automatic.

Anti-reflection, Anti-reflective

A film created by steaming the crystal to eliminate light reflection and improve legibility. This film can scratch quite easily so at CWL we choose only to use this treatment on the inside of the crystal glass although Dubey and Schaldenbrand are unusual in that they prefer to coat both sides of all their wristwatches.


Bearing element of a gear(s) or balance, whose ends, called pivots, run in jewel holes or brass bushings.

Atmosphere (ATM)

Unit of pressure used in watch making to indicate water-resistance. ATM can be expressed in different ways: 10 ATM = 10 bars = 100 metres.

Atomic Time Standard

Provided by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Time and Frequency Division, Boulder, Colorado, atomic time is measured through vibrations of atoms in a metal isotope that resembles mercury. The result is extremely accurate time that can be measured on instruments. Radio waves transmit this exact time throughout North America and some “atomic” watches can receive them and correct to the exact time.


A watch whose mechanical movement is wound automatically. A rotor makes short oscillations due to the movements of the wrist. Through a series of gears, oscillations transmit motion to the barrel, thus winding the mainspring progressively.

Automatic winding

A rotating weight, set into motion by moving the wrist, winds the spring barrel via the gear train of a mechanical watch movement. Automatic winding was invented during the pocket watch era in 1770 by Abraham-Louis Perrelet, who created a watch with a weight swinging back and forth (that of a pocket watch usually makes vertical movements contrary to a wristwatch). The first automatic – winding wristwatches, invented by John Harwood in the 1920’s, utilised so-called hammer winding, whereby a weight swung in an arc between two banking pins. The breakthrough automatic winding movement via rotor began with the ball bearing Eterna-Matic in the late 1940’s, and the technology hasn’t changed fundamentally since. The Eterna-Matic is the grandfather of our own automatic movements. Eterna became ETA and is now owned by The Swatch Group.


Figures, placed on the dial or case of watches, provided with parts of the body or other elements moving at the same time as the sonnerie strikes. The moving parts are linked, through an aperture on the dial or caseback, with the sonnerie hammers striking a gong.

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Ladies style watch with a thin, elongated face; usually rectangular in shape but may be oval.


Oscillating device that, together with the balance spring, makes up the movementh’s heart in as much as its oscillations determine the frequency of its functioning and precision.

Balance Spring

Component of the regulating unit that, together with the balance, determines the movement’s precision. The material used is mostly a steel alloy (e.g. Nivarox, s.), an extremely stable metal compound. In order to prevent the systemh’s center of gravity from continuous shifts, hence differences in rate due to the watch’s position, some modifications were adopted. These modifications included Bregueth’s overcoil (closing the terminal part of the spring partly on itself, so as to assure an almost perfect centering) and Philips curve (helping to eliminate the lateral pressure of the balance-staff pivots against their bearings). Today, thanks to the quality of materials, it is possible to assure an excellent precision of movement working even with a flat spring.

Bar or Cock

A metal plate fastened to the base plate at one point, leaving room for a gear wheel or pinion. The balance is usually attached to a bar called the balance cock.


Component of the movement containing the mainspring, whose toothed rim meshes with the pinion of the first gear of the train. Due to the fact that the whole movement – made up of barrel and mainspring – transmits the motive force, it is also considered to be the very motor. Inside the barrel, the mainspring is wound around an arbor turned by the winding crown or, in the case of automatic movements, also by the gear powered by the rotor.

Base Metal

Any non-precious metal.


Device that converts chemical energy into electricity. Most watch batteries are silver oxide type delivering 1.5 volts. Much longer-lasting lithium batteries are 3 volt.

Battery Life

The minimum period of time that a battery will continue to provide power to run the watch. Life begins at the point of manufacture when the factory initially installs the battery.

Battery Reserve Indicator

Some battery-operated watches have a feature that indicates when the battery is approaching the end of its life. This is often indicated by the second hand moving in two second intervals instead of each second.


Part on which a pivot turns, in watches it is represented mostly by jewels.


Chamfering of edges of levers, bridges and other elements of a movement by 45º, a treatment typically found in high-grade movements.


Top part of case, often in a shape of the ring surrounding the watch face, sometimes holds the crystal. It may be integrated with the case middle or may be a separate element. It is snapped or screwed on to the middle. The bezel typically has markings to indicate time zones, elapsed time (such as for scuba diving) or various other functions.

Blued Screw

Swiss watch making tradition dictates that a movement should contain blued screws for aesthetic reasons. Polished steel screws are heated, or tempered, to relax the steel, turning it a deep blue colour in the process. All Christopher Ward movements use the chemically induced version that ensures an even colour every time.


A metal band attached to the case. It is called integral if there is no apparent discontinuity between case and bracelet and the profile of attachments is similar to the first link.


Structural metal element of a movement – sometimes called cock or bar – supporting the wheel train, balance, escapement and barrel. Each bridge is fastened to the plate by means of screws and locked in a specific position by pins. In high-quality movements the sight surface is finished with various types of decoration.

Brushed, Brushing

Topical finishing giving metals a line finish, a clean and uniform look.


Usually matching the case, it attaches the two parts of the leather strap around the wrist.


Push piece controls, usually at 2 o’clock and/or 4 o’clock on the dial to control special functions such as the chronograph or the alarm

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Any kind of precious stone, such as sapphire, ruby or emerald, uncut and only polished, generally of a half-spherical shape, mainly used as an ornament of the winding crown or certain elements of the case.

Calendar, Annual

The automatic allowances for the different lengths of each month of a year in the calendar module of a watch. This type of watch also usually shows the month and date, and sometimes the day of the week and the phase of the moon.

Calendar, Full

Displaying date, day of the week and month on the dial, but needing a manual correction at the end of a month with less than 31 days. It is often combined with the moonphase.

Calendar, Perpetual

This is the most complex horology complication related to the calendar feature, as it indicates the date, day, month and leap year and does not need manual corrections until the year 2100 (when the leap year will be ignored).


The Calibre term refers to each different type of watch movement e.g. ETA 2824-2. Watch movements come in various shapes to fit different case styles, such as round, tonneau, rectangular, rectangular with cut corners, oval and baguette. It is described in terms of its casing diameter, measured in lignes or millimetres. The round calibre is the most commonly encountered.


An element in the shape of a hollow cylinder, sometimes also called pipe or bush, for instance the pipe of the hour wheel bearing the hour hand.

Carat (Karat)

Unit of gold fineness (and gemstone weight). Pure gold is 24k. 18k gold is 75% pure.


Device similar to the tourbillon, but with the carriage not driven by the fourth wheel, but by the third wheel.

Carriage or Tourbillon Carriage

Rotating frame of a tourbillon device, carrying the balance and escapement. This structural element is essential for a perfect balance of the whole system and its stability, in spite of its reduced weight. As today's tourbillon carriages make a rotation per minute, errors of rate in the vertical position are eliminated. Because of the widespread use of transparent dials, carriages became elements of aesthetic attractiveness.


Container housing and protecting the movement, usually made up of three parts: middle, bezel, and back. The most common case shapes are:
• Round
• Square
• Tonneau

Center Second Hand

A sweep second hand, i.e. a second hand mounted on the center of the main dial.


The minute wheel in a going-train.


Hand-made treatment of the dial or case surface. The pattern is obtained by hollowing a metal sheet with a graver and subsequently filling the hollows with enamel


Hour-circle, i.e. the hour numerals arranged on a dial.


Striking-work equipped with a set of bells that may be capable of playing a complete melody. A watch provided with such a feature is called chiming watch.


the time elapsed on a piece of paper, with the help of a pencil attaché to a type of hand. We use the term today to describe watches that show not only the time of day, but also certain time intervals via independent hands that may be started or stopped at will as in the C4 Peregrine shown here.


A high-precision watch. According to the Swiss law, a manufacture may put the word "chronometer" on a model only after each individual piece has passed a series of tests and obtained a running bulletin and a chronometer certificate by an acknowledged Swiss control authority, such as the COSC.

Circular Graining

Superficial decoration applied to bridges, rotors and pillar-plates in the shape of numerous slightly superposed small grains, obtained by using a plain cutter and abrasives. Also called Pearlage or Pearling.


The attachment used to connect the two ends of the watch bracelet or strap around the wrist. Deployment Buckle - A three-folding enclosure, which secures the two ends of the bracelet and allows enough room for placing the watch on the wrist when fully deployed. When closed, the buckle covers the two-piece folding mechanism. Hook Lock – Two separate units each fitting on either end of the bracelet which allows the watch to be laid out. One end of the closure hooks onto the other to secure the two ends of the bracelet. Jeweller's Clasp - A closure that is generally used on better bracelets. Also allows it to lie flat. Sliding Clasp – Also a hook type method but allows for easy sizing of the bracelet by sliding up. Twist Lock – A closure similar to Jeweler's Clasp used on ladies jewelry bracelets.


A kind of enamel work - mainly used for the decoration of dials - in which the outlines of the drawing are formed by thin metal wires. The colored enamel fills the hollows formed in this way. After oven firing, the surface is smoothed until the gold threads appear again

Clous de Paris

Decoration of metal parts characterized by numerous small pyramids.


A metal plate fastened to the base plate at one point, leaving room for a gear wheel or pinion. The balance is usually attached to a bar called the balance cock.


Decoration with a spiral pattern, mainly used on the barrel wheel or on big-sized full wheels.


Part of chronograph movements, governing the functions of various levers and parts of the chronograph operation, in the shape of a small-toothed steel cylinder. It is controlled by pushers through levers that hold and release it. It is a very precise and usually preferred type of chronograph operation.


Additional function with respect to the manual-winding basic movement for the display of hours, minutes and seconds. Today, certain features, such as automatic winding or date, are taken for granted, although they should be defined as complications. The main complications are moonphase, power reserve, GMT, and full calendar. Further functions are performed by the so-called great complications, such as split-second chronograph, perpetual calendar, tourbilon device, and minute repeater.


Pusher positioned on the case side that is normally actuated by a special tool for the quick setting of different indications, such as date, GMT, full or perpetual calendar


Abbreviation of “Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres” the most important Swiss institution responsible for the functioning and precision tests of movements of chronometers. Tests are performed on each individual watch at different temperatures and in different positions before a functioning bulletin and a chronometer certificate are issued, for which a maximum gap of -4 to +4 seconds per day is tolerated. With fewer than 3% of all watches receiving this level of certification, it is easy to understand why chronometers are so highly valued by watch aficionados and collectors.

Côtes Circulaires

Decoration of rotors and bridges of movements, whose pattern consists of a series of concentric ribs.

Côtes de Genève

Decoration applied mainly to high-quality movements, appearing as a series of parallel ribs, realized by repeated cuts of a cutter leaving thin stripes.

Countdown Timer

A function that lets the wearer keep track of how much of a pre-set period of time has elapsed. Some countdown timers sound a warning signal a few seconds before the time runs out. These are useful in events such as certain kinds of races..


Additional hand on a chronograph, indicating the time elapsed since the beginning of the measuring. On modern watches the second counter is placed at the center, while minute and hour counters have off-center hands in special zones, also called subdials.


The crown is used to wind and set a watch. A few simple turns of the crown will get an automatic movement started (as with the Malvern Automatic and Aviator models), while a manual watch is completely wound by the crown. The crown is also used for the setting of various functions, almost always including at least the hours, minutes, seconds and date. A screwed down crown like the one on the C11 Makaira Pro can be tightened to prevent water entering the case or any mishaps while performing extreme sports like diving.

Crown Wheel

Wheel meshing with the winding pinion and with the ratchet wheel on the barrel-arbor.


The clean cover over the watch face. Three types of crystals are commonly found in watches: acrylic crystal, mineral crystal and sapphire crystal.

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