Professional Jeweler Archive: Timepiece Glossary

June 2000

Timepieces: Data & Statistics


Timepiece Glossary

With more advanced focus, we define the terms you use daily at the sales counter


These definitions and those in upcoming installments are more advanced than the basic definitions in last year’s series (Professional Jeweler, May-October 1999). As more retailers sell sophisticated timepieces, terminology can sometimes move ahead of your sales training.

These terms will help you prepare for customers’ questions about the new line of chronographs and perpetual calendars watch vendors have introduced this year.

Likewise, knowing the occasional Swiss term for a particular function accords you the professional stature you’ve worked hard to achieve.

All definitions are from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, which uses the famed Berner Watch Dictionary as its source.

Aperture Small opening. Some watch dials have apertures that give certain indications, such as date or hour.

Appliqué Numerals or symbols cut from metal sheet and attached to a dial.

Assembling Process of fitting together the components of a movement. Formerly done all by hand, this operation is now largely automated.

Assortment French term for the parts used to make an escapement.

Automatic Watch A watch with a mainspring wound by the movement or acceleration of the wearer’s arm. Thanks to gravity, a rotor turns and transmits energy to the spring. Abraham-Louis Perrelet invented the system in Switzerland in the 18th century.

Balance A moving part, usually circular, that oscillates about its axis. The hairspring coupled to the balance makes it swing, dividing time into exactly equal parts. Each back-and-forth movement (the tick-tock heard in a watch) is called an oscillation. One oscillation is composed of two vibrations.

Bar, Lug A thin metal rod fixed between the horns of a watch case so it can be attached to the strap or bracelet.

Barrel A thin cylindrical box containing a watch’s mainspring. The toothed rim of the barrel drives the train.

Bridge Part fixed to the main plate to form the frame of a watch movement. The other parts are mounted inside the frame (part of the ébauche).

Calibre Originally this referred to a watch movement size, but now it denotes a type of movement (men’s calibre, automatic calibre, etc). When a calibre number is accompanied by a manufacturer’s mark, it indicates origin.

(Watch) Case A container that protects the watch movement from dust, moisture and shock. It’s also a main factor in the watch’s appearance.

Casing Process of inserting and fixing a watch movement into its case.

Chablon French term for a watch movement (not including the dial and hands) of which all or part of the components are not assembled.

Chronograph Watch or other apparatus with two independent time systems: one indicates the time of day, the other measures brief intervals. Counters registering seconds, minutes and hours can be started and stopped as desired to measure the exact duration of a phenomenon. Not to be confused with the timer, the stopwatch and the chronometer.

Chronometer A watch that’s undergone precision tests in an official institute. Requirements are strict: a few seconds per day in the high and low temperatures (for mechanical watches) and in positions ordinarily encountered.

Crown Knurled knob on the outside of a watch case used to wind the mainspring, set hands to the right time and correct calendar indications.


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