Vocabulary for aspiring watch collectors and connoisseurs.

As previously discussed, Proof of Work makes the world go ’round. In the world of collecting, that means connoisseurship, which means learning the secret codes that will provide you entrée into the world of elite enthusiasts and collectors. For your consideration, here are a few important codes (vocabulary) for the the endlessly fascinating world of mechanical wristwatches (in alphabetical order):i

Alarm: a type of mechanical watch that can be set to ring at a given time, serving as an alarm clock.


Anglage: also called “bevelling” or “chamfering,” a type of movement finishing at the edges of a part, usually at 45 degrees to the vertical and horizontal surfaces. The creation of two such surfaces in an inward facing direction is considered to be the most difficult and therefore the highest standard of finishing, and is the hallmark of independent, low-volume, handmade watchmaking.


Annual calendar: a complication that displays day, date, and month and adjusts for the varying lengths of each month, adjusting the dial-side displays accordingly but doesn’t adjust for February 29th

Patek 5726 Nautilus Annual Calendar

Arabic: a type of marker (indices) characterised by numerals in the style of standard western numbers.


Archive papers: manufacturer-supplied guarantees of authenticity provided to watches after the original sale, particularly on vintage timepieces.

Patek 2526 archive papers

Automatic: a type of mechanical watch movement with a rotor that winds the mainspring as the wearer moves about, eliminating the need for regular manual winding

Patek 2526 automatic

Balance wheel: the regulating part of the movement that receives continuous energy from the escapement, provides this energy to the hands in a regular fashion, and is controlled by the hairspring to ensure continuous and normalised oscillation. Invented by Christian Huygens in 1675.


Baseplate: the structural foundation of the movement to which the gears, jewels, pinions, and springs are anchored.


Bezel: the front of the case that surrounds the dial, may contain additional information such as tachymeter scale or dive timer

A Lange Bezel

Black polishing: also called spéculaire polishing, considered to be the highest and most difficult standard of polishing to achieve on a metal surface, reflects shiny at some angles and black at others.

Black polish

Bracelet: a metal multi-link attachment for the case to the wrist


Breguet: in the case of hands also called “pomme” and in such cases characterised by a hollow circle towards the end of a feuille hand. Named for Abraham Louis Bregeut, arguably the most important watchmaker of all time. Also refers to stylised arabic numerals. Also refers to a watch brand owned by Swatch Group since 1999.

patek 3939hp breguet hands numerals

Brushed: a grained pattern of metal for dials, cases, or bracelets, typically in long straight lines

patek 5235 regulator brushed dial

Case: the structure that contains the movement, dial, hands, etc. typically round, made of metal, and composed of three parts (front, middle, and back), though other shapes and materials exist. Connected to the bracelet or strap via the lugs.

patek 5531 case

Caseback: the back of the case, either solid (opaque), display (transparent), or hunter (hinged solid revealing display)


Cathedral: in the case of hands, rendered in a style reminiscent of stained glass windows. In the case of gongs on minute repeaters, the gongs loop an extra time around the interior circumference of the case resulting in a richer and fuller tone.


Certificate of Origin: manufacturer-supplied guarantees of authenticity provided to watches at the time of original (primary) sale.

patek certificate of origin

Chronograph: a complication that serves as a “stopwatch” to measure the duration of events.


Chronometer: an encased movement certified by Contrôle officiel suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) to meet certain accuracy standards, typically +6 and -4 seconds per day over a 15-day period.


Complications: functions of a watch beyond telling the time.

Patek Sky Moon Tourbillon

Côtes de Genève: also “Geneva Stripes,” a type of finishing characterised by broad sweeping scratches that not only look beautiful but also collect dust and grime produced by movement wear and tear.


Crown: a small round appendage or protrusion to the case, typically located on the right side, used to set the time/date and wind the mainspring.

Patek 5711 crown

Crystal: the viewing window attached to the front of the case by which the dial is protected but left visible, typically made of sapphire on modern watches


Dead-beat seconds: a type of mechanical movement where the second hand ticks directly from one second to the next with no intermediary ticks. Although this imitates the second hand of a quartz watch, it is one of the most challenging feats of engineering in the mechanical watch and is therefore considered by many to be highly desirable.


Dauphine: a type of hands characterised by strong angular, sword-like forms with asymmetrically long end pointing towards the dial information.

Patek 2499 dauphine hands

Deployant: (not deployment) a type of strap or bracelet with a hinge and clasp to increase security and balance on the wrist


Dial: the front of the watch where the primary information is communicated, including the time. Not called a “face,” though the typical marketing orientation of the hands at 10:09 does create a “smile” with the hands because we can’t help but anthropomorphise.

Patek 2499 black dial

Eastern Arabic: also called Arabic-Hindu or Indo–Arabic numerals, a type of marker (indices) characterised by numerals in “scribbly,” to borrow a Gob Bluth-ism.

Rolex Daytona Eastern Arabic

Enamel: a type of dial finish using glass-like material that’s applied and heat-cured to the dial substrate. Also includes cloisonné enamel and other sub-specialties of handmade dials.


Escapement: The “end” of the watch movement gear train that drives power to the hands and disks via the balance. Most watches today use a “lever” type of escapement.


Feuille: also called “leaf,” a type of hands characterised by soft tapering towards each end of the length [for image see Tachymeter]. 

Finishing: the application of additional patterns to a watch movement for both aesthetic value and to ensure durability of the movement parts [for images see Côtes de Genève and Anglage].

Flanks: the sides of the case [for image see Case].

Gem-set: refers to a dial, bezel, case, or bracelet with precious stones integrated into them.


Guilloché: a type of dial finishing similar to engraving but without removing material so that “waves” are created on the dial

voutilainen guilloche dial

Hands: radially-projecting sticks that provide information on the dial such as time, day, date, etc. [for images see Dauphine and Syringe].

Hairspring: a spiral spring that provides the restoring and rhythmically oscillating force to the balance wheel. Invented by Christian Huygens in 1675 [for image see Balance wheel].

Indices: also called “markers” or “dial furniture,” typically oriented radially around the perimeter of the dial to demarkate the hours.

Lacquer: a type of dial finish where layers of paint are applied and heat-cured to the dial substrate

Patek 5270p green dial ombre

Lugs: the projections from the case that connect to the strap or bracelet [for image see Case].

Luminous: hands or indices that glow in the dark. Originally used radium, then tritium, now commonly Super-Luminova


Mainspring: a spring that serves as the “fuel tank” of the watch and stores the reserved energy to be released at consistent intervals to power the watch.

watch components

Manual wind: a type of mechanical watch movement that requires regular application of force to the winding stem/crown to charge up the mainspring with energy.

Minute repeater: a type of chiming watch that, when activated by a slider on the flank of the case, uses two hammers and a gong to indicate the time sonically. Typically low-pitched chimes indicate hours, alternating low-high-pitched chimes indicate quarter-hours, and high-pitched chimes indicate minutes, in that order. Some minute repeaters produce low-high-pitched chimes to indicate ten-minute intervals, such as those by Kari Voutilainen and others, and these are more specifically known as a decimal repeaters.

patek 5074r minute repeater

Monopusher: also “monopoussoir,” a type of chronograph that uses the same button to start, stop, reset the chronograph function [for image see Split-second chronograph and Cathedral]

Movement: the “engine” of the watch [for image see Automatic]

Moon phase: a complication that indicates the phases of the moon [for images see Annual Calendar, Arabic, Complications, Lacquer, Sub-dial, Syringe]

Ombré: also called fumé or vignette, a type of dial finish that’s darker on the periphery and lighter towards the centre [for image see Lacquer]

Pavé: literally “paved,” a type of dial or bracelet finish where the surface is covered in diamonds and/or other precious stones

Mens Rolex White Gold Pave Dial Daytona at Time and Gems

Perlage: a type of movement finishing characterised by repeated circular patterns, typically applied to the baseplate [for image see Baseplate]

Perpetual calendar: a complication that displays day, date, and month and adjusts for the varying lengths of each month, adjusting the dial-side displays accordingly as well adjusting for February 29th every four years.


Roman: a type of marker (indices) characterised by numerals on the dial in the style of I, II, III, IV, etc. [for image see Pavé]

Rehaut: the interior elevation between the dial and the bezel underneath the crystal.


Remontoir: a constant force mechanism that acts as an intermediary to deliver constant power output to the balance from the mainspring, typically paired with a dead-beat seconds complication [image see Dead-beat seconds]

Resonance: an innovative type of mechanical movement most recently commercialised by FP Journe in which two movements are placed side-by-side in such a way as to regulate one another and improve their collective accuracy. It seems to work in practice with only moderate reliability but is upheld as one of Journe’s great innovations in the modern era.Skeletonised: a design choice where there is no dial per se and the front of the movement is revealed through the crystal.


Sidereal time: the depiction of time as based the apparently fixed position of the stars instead of the apparently fixed position of the sun (as in conventional solar time). The sidereal day is approximately 4 minutes shorter than the mean solar day of 24 hours.


Spade: a type of hand design characterised by its similarity to the playing card shape and the gardening instrument [for image see Chronograph and Split-second chronograph]

Split-second chronograph: a complication that serves as a “stopwatch” to measure the duration of events with the added ability to measure a second event simultaneously.

Patek 5959 split second

Strap: a leather, rubber, or textile piece of materials that secures the case to the wrist.

camille fournet strap

Sub-dials: smaller dials with their own hands and information, typically located at 3, 6, and/or 9 o’clock on chronographs and perpetual calendars.


Syringe: also called “baton,” a type of hands that looks like, well, a syringe.

Patek 5320g

Tachymeter: a scale along the periphery of the dial or on the bezel used to calculate and convert chronographic measurements to different units of account.

Patek 5070 tachymeter

Tang: also called pin-buckle, a type of watch strap attachment mechanism that fully separates and detaches, usually attached to a strap made of leather or textile.

Tang buckle

Tourbillon: a type of watch regulator where a cage containing the escapement rotates once per minute to counter-act the effects of gravity imposed by watches in fixed positions, particularly pocket watches but also wristwatches. Invented and patented by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1801.


Triple calendar: a complication that displays day, date, and month but doesn’t adjust for varying lengths of each month.

bao dai rolex triple calendar

Can you tell how bullish HA made me on Patek? As if I wasn’t deep enough down the rabbit hole already…


Photo credits (in order): ABTW (Patek 5520P), SJX (RRCP), author (Patek 5726), watchPool24 (Patek 5004), RolexForums (Patek 2526), RolexForums (Patek 2526), SJX (balance diagram), Monochrome Watches (Lange bezel), SJX (screws), Bulang & Sons (Gay Freres bracelet), The Keystone (Patek 3939HP), WatchBox (Patek 5235G), Patek Philippe (Patek 5531R), The Hour Glass (Patek 5227), Time and Tide (Montblanc Monopoussoir), Classic Driver (Patek 3998), Watchonista (Patek 130), Watchonista (COSC), Patek Philippe (6002R), Quill & Pad (Philippe Dufour), Deployant (Patek 5711), DIY Watch Club (crystals), Worn and Wound (Gronefeld One Hertz 1912), Pinterest (Patek 2499J), Beverly Hills Watch Company (Patek 5205R), Phillips (Patek 2499 black dial), SJX (Patek 2523 Cloissoné), University of South Florida (escapement), Watchonista (Rolex Day-Date Rainbow), Peter Chong (Voutilainen guilloché), Hightime (Patek 5270P-014), Swisswatches Magazine (Patek 5524), Encyclopedia Britannica (mainspring), Christie’s (Patek 5074R), Time and Gems (Rolex Daytona), Christie’s (Patek 3448), Millenary Watches (Rolex rehaut), WatchProSite (FP Journe Resonance), Patek Philippe (Patek 6002R), The Keystone (Patek 5959), Camille Fournet (strap), Watchonista (Patek 3974J), Hodinkee (Patek 5320G), Pinterest (Patek 5070P), Patek Philippe (tang), SJX (Patek 5016), Hodinkee (Bao Dai)

  1. The only logic to this list is that these were the words that I could think of off the top of my head. As such, this list will be updated as time progresses so feel free to bookmark and return!

2 thoughts on “Vocabulary for aspiring watch collectors and connoisseurs.

  1. […] I hope not, but my bags have always been packed just in case. What, you think I’m into crypto, watches, and tapestries by accident or coincidence? Ha. That’s just part of being the “other!” […]

  2. […] 1518 is the original perpetual calendar chronograph (see full glossary of watch connoissuer terms) […]

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