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A-Z of Horology, Pt 1

In a quest to deliver more knowledge, we’d been racking our brains to come up with something useful … it’s all very well telling you why I would or wouldn’t buy a Rolex, how technically advanced the Citizen Red Arrows is, but what about all of those terms that you may get to hear and wonder what they mean? So … here it is; an A-Z of popular watch terms that you may already know, or may find something useful. Part one deals with everything from A right through to M. Let me be honest … figuring out a full A-Z list isn’t as easy as it sounds, so I’ve included some brands as well, just to make it the full, proper, A right through to Z.

A is for Automatic

All watches have movements – it’s the mechanical gubbins inside the watch, that actually keeps the time and regulates the hands, they generally come in three different types: Automatic, Quartz or Manual. An automatic movement is the purest for many collectors or horolophiles (thanks to the engineering), and it simply means that the watch is automatically wound with the movement of your wrist.

An automatic watch movement

B is for Breguet

Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the Tourbillon watch, he also made the most complicated watch (for the time – 1782) for one Marie Antoinette. The Breguet company is still making its famous Tourbillon watches, still for the very rich and powerful.

C is for Chronometer

Not to be confused with a chronograph (which is essentially a stopwatch), the chronometer is a mechanical watch built to super precision standards. The precision means accuracy, which can then be certified by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC), allowing the watch maker to use the ‘Chronometer’ label.

D is for Dive Watches

Diving watches used to be set apart from their regular counterparts because they were often big and bulky – they needed the extra robustness to sustain the pressures whilst underwater. Today, there is a trend for big watches, even the regular offerings are bigger than in previous decades, so a dive watch doesn’t stand out so much, but a genuine diver should be rated to at least 500 metres, have a gas-escape valve and be fitted on a rubber strap, or NATO strap at the very least.
Seiko Diver - more than a fashion statement

Seiko Diver – more than a fashion statement

E is for Escapement

The component in a mechanical watch that sends the power to the movement by driving the balance wheel at a set rate. It’s the escapement that’s responsible for creating the ‘tick’ in your buy zolpidem ambien 10mg ticker.

F is for Face

A rather obvious one, but all watches must have a face. It’s the bit behind the crystal where all the indices are, or manufacturers logo, or styling elements. Some watches have a mother of pearl face, others may have inset diamonds, or they could just be plain metal.

G is for GMT

Technically, GMT stands for Greenwich Mean Time, so quite how it got to Switzerland is a mystery, but any watch labelled as GMT just means that it’s capable of tracking two time zones at once. The ‘GMT’ was originally developed by Rolex back in the 1950s.

H is for Horology

As a horolophile, you’ll already know that Horology is to do with the art of clock or watch making. As time has gone by, the definition is a little less … structured. It’s more than acceptable to say that horology is a pastime, even though you may not be a clock maker – it just means that you have a strong interest in the subject of watches and time-pieces.

I is for Indices

See those little markers on the outer edge of the watch face – the ones that mark the hours … they’re called Indices. Higher end watches usually have separate indices attached, the more … high street … will have them printed on.


J is for Jewels

Not the type of jewels that you’d find on the exterior of the watch, these aren’t for show-y purposes, but rather as an aid to accuracy – synthetic jewels are used to lessen the drag-coefficient in certain parts of the movement, the more jewels, generally the higher quality the watch.

K is for Kienzle

Kienzle are Germany’s oldest watchmaker – founded in 1822. Still producing watches today, still based in Germany.

L is for Luminous

Luminous hands have been fitted to watches since the early 1900s, although back then they were using Radium, the amount used caused difficulties, especially for those people painting the hands. Today there are some synthetic materials used, although you may find that Tritium is still a popular coating for the night time glow.


M is for Miniaturisation

Of course, none of the watches we know today would be possible without the ability to manufacture the parts in miniature scale – some parts of watch movement can be smaller than a grain of sand, while we regularly see screws that are half the size of a grain of rice … miniature components engineered to thousandths of a millimetre.

Part 2 – N through to Z coming soon.

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