he world of timepieces, with its seemingly infinite list of moving parts and definitions, may seem intimidating to new collectors. But once you learn what makes watches tick, you’ll realize that becoming a confident buyer or seller isn’t all that complicated. Here, a list of key terms from Sotheby’s specialists to help get you started.
Aperture An aperture is a small window that displays indications such as the date, day or moon phase.
BezelA watch’s bezel is the forward-facing ring surrounding the dial.
CaseKnown as the body of the watch, the case contains all its inner workings and gears.
CrownThe crown is used to set the time and, when relevant, to wind the watch’s mainspring.
DialCasually referred to as the face or front of the watch, the dial displays the time among other possible information.
EscapementOften referred to as the heartbeat within the watch, the escapement regulates timekeeping. While hundreds of different escapements have been modified and invented over the years, the most common modern version is the lever escapement.
HandsThe watch’s hands point to the correct time or other information located on the dial.
IndexesIndexes are the markings (shapes, numbers, Roman numerals, etc.) that hands point to in order to tell time.
LugsPart of the watch’s case, lugs hold onto the strap or bracelet.
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Complication In simplest terms: A complication is something a watch does. Individual complications can include chronographs, calendars and more. If a watch has a combination of at least three different advanced functions, it’s referred to as a grand complication.
Annual CalendarThe annual calendar complication shows the day, date and month without accounting for leap years.
ChronographA chronograph is essentially a stopwatch that has the ability to measure time or an event. Within chronographs there are different variations, including the split-seconds chronograph, which can time two things simultaneously.
Day/DateThis complication indicates both the day of the week and the date of the month.
Moon PhaseThe moon phase complication gives you a visual representation of phases of the lunar cycle, either in a picture or in days.
Perpetual CalendarThe perpetual calendar complication shows the day, date and month while accounting for leap years. That’s the big difference between perpetual and annual calendars.
Power Reserve IndicatorOne popular complication is the power reserve indicator, which tells the wearer how long a watch will last or keep going before it needs to be wound.
RepeaterA repeater is a watch that can chime the time. There are different variations, including minute repeaters that strike different tones for hours, quarters and minutes.
TourbillonThe tourbillon is a special type of escapement that rotates on an axis in order to counteract the effects of gravity and thus improve accuracy in a mechanical watch. A feat to be made, it’s considered a calling card of high horology.
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Movement Mechanical or quartz, the movement is what’s inside a watch and makes it run.
QuartzQuartz watches utilize a battery or capacitor to charge and run the watch.
MechanicalMechanical watches run without batteries and can be divided into either the automatic/self-winding or manually wound categories.
AutomaticAn automatic movement is wound by the oscillating weight (known as a rotor) inside the watch that moves in unison with the wearer’s wrist.