Master Your Language
We come to an end of our small A – Z of Watches and the mysterious language of watch making
Glossary by John Galt Photography by Andy Barnham
Tachymeter: A device on chronograph watches that measures the speed at which the wearer has traveled over a measured distance. Normally present around the outer edge of the dial or bezel.
Tank Watch: A rectangular watch designed by the infamous Louis Cartier. The bars along the sides of the watch were inspired by the tracks of tanks used in World War I.
Telemeter: Determines the distance of an object from the observer by measuring how long it takes sound to travel that distance. Like a tachymeter, it consists of a stopwatch, or chronograph, and a special scale, usually on the outermost edge of the watch face.
30-Minute Recorder (or register): A sub-dial on a chronograph that can measures periods of up to 30 minutes.
Timer: Used for registering intervals of time (durations or brief times), without any indication of the time of day.
Titanium: The “space age” metal often made with a silver-gray appearance. Because it is 30 per cent stronger and nearly 50 per cent lighter than steel it has been increasingly used in watchmaking, especially sport watch styles. Its resistance to salt water corrosion makes it particularly
useful for diver’s watches. Since it can be scratched fairly easy, some manufacturers use a patented-coating to resist scratching. Hypoallergenic as well.
Tonneau Watch: A watch shaped like a barrel, with two convex sides.
Tourbillon: A device in a mechanical watch that eliminates timekeeping errors cause by the slight difference in the rates at which a watch runs in the horizontal and vertical positions. The tourbillon consists of a round carriage, or cage, holding the escapement and the balance. It rotates continuously once a minute.
Tritium: An isotope of hydrogen that is used to activate the luminous dots or indices on a watch dial. The radioactivity that is released in this process is so slight that it poses no health risks.
Two Tone: A watch that combines two metals, usually yellow gold and stainless steel in the case of fine watches.
12-Hour Recorder: A sub-dial on a chronograph that can time periods of up to 12 hours (usually coupled with 30-minute timer).
Uni-directional Rotating Bezel: A rotating bezel, often found on divers’ watches, that moves only in a counterclockwise direction. It is designed to prevent a diver who has unwittingly knocked the bezel off its original position from overestimating his remaining air supply. Because the bezel only moves in one direction, the diver can err only on the side of safety when timing his dive. Many divers’ watches are ratcheted, so that they lock into place for greater safety.
Vibration: Movement of a pendulum or other oscillating element, limited by two consecutive extreme positions. The balance of a mechanical watch generally makes five or six vibrations per second (i.e. 18,000 or 21,600 per hour), but a high-frequency watch can make as much as seven, eight or even ten vibrations per second (i.e. 25,200, 28,800 or 36, 000 per hour).
Waterproof: A very misused term. No watch is fully 100 per cent waterproof whatever manufactures say.
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Water Resistance: A Water resistant watch can handle light moisture, such as rain or sink splashes, but should not be worn swimming or diving. If the watch says it can be submerged in water, it must state at what depth it maintains water resistance to, i.e. 50 meters or more on most sport watches. Below 200 meters, the watch may be used for skin diving and even scuba diving depending upon the indicated depths.
White Gold: Created from yellow gold by incorporating either nickel or palladium into the alloy to achieve a white color. Most watches made of white gold will be 18k.
Winding: Operation consisting of tightening the mainspring in a watch. This can be done by hand (by means of the crown) or automatically (by means of a rotor, which is caused by the movements of the wearer’s arm to make it swing).
Winding Stem: The button usually on the right side of the watch case used to wind the mainspring. Also called a “crown”.
World Time Dial: Usually placed on the outer edge of the watch face that tells the time of up to 24 time zones around the world. The time zones are represented by the names of cities printed on the bezel or dial. The wearer reads the hour in a particular time zone by looking at the scale next to the city that the hour hand is pointing to. The minutes are read as normal. Watches with this feature are called “world timers”.
Yacht Timer: A countdown timer that sounds warning signals to signal the countdown to the start of a boat race or regatta.
Yellow Gold: The traditionally popular gold used in all gold, stainless steel, or other precious metal combinations. Yellow gold watches may be found in 14k or 18k. As found from most European manufacturers.
Many thanks to William&Son