Watches

Your Super Easy Cheat Sheet to Watch Parts

From the case to the clasp, here are alll the parts of watches you need to know about.
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Watches have so many parts, and you’d think, as a person who owns a couple of watches, you already know all about the bits and bobs whirring and working on your thick wrist. So pop quiz: Tell us about your watch.

Er… This right here tells you the time on the moon? And this shiny part here is for checking if your hair is okay? And this button on the side is the one you press to make the watch light up? Or is it the one that makes it blow up?

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Right. It can get confusing and you can also sound like a dum-dum. To help you appreciate even more the pretty ticker on your wrist and, you know, sound believable when you show it off, we put together a super easy cheat sheet for the most basic parts of the watch—all the important bits you should know about.

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What is a watch case?

Let us begin with the cold, hard thing that kisses your wrist. Think of the case as the body of the watch and, like your fleshy sack, it holds all the parts that make this whole endeavor run. What’s interesting now is the push to create tinier and tinier parts, which, in turn, makes modern cases sexier—even thinner than a coin such as the Bulgari Octo Finissimo or the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-Thin. Also, the case is not to be confused with the next entry on this list.

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What is a watch dial?

If the case holds the mechanism, the dial reflects the data. This is what you’re staring at. This is what you interact with. This is that recessed pool where you can read what you want from a watch: the time (and other information if it’s a complicated watch). In that sense, it is like a face that you read—hence, it is also called the face. The dial is where stylistic expression is applied as it can appear in many forms: clean, brilliantly colored, patterned (the guilloche or tapesserie dial), naked (the skeleton), or decorated (the marquetry).

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What are watch hands?

At the very least, a watch has two or three hands to denote (or point to) the hour, minute, and second, with the hour hand as the shortest and the seconds hand as the longest. Hands can come in a variety of styles, from long sticks to blunt rectangles, sword-shaped to arrow-ended. Of note, some vanguard watches have fewer or no hands at all like the IWC Pallweber or the Gucci Grip. Having said that, we’d like you to support watches with hands because anecdotal reports say kids these days don’t know how to read time in this traditional way. #holdhandswithwatcheswithhands

What is a watch bezel?

A halo, a perimeter, a border—you can think of the bezel as that strip that surrounds and secures the cover of the dial (the crystal), as well as connects to the lugs (more on that below). Apart from its primary purpose, watchmakers have bestowed upon the bezel useful functions, including, among others, indicating a different time zone or measuring racing times.

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What is a watch crown?

Found on right the side of the case, the crown is just a fancy name for the knob that you turn to set the time or, in more-than-basic watches, the calendar. It can also be an opportunity for decoration such as the blue sapphire crowns of Cartier.

What is a watch caseback?

Simply put, this is the back of the case or the reverse of the case (or the watch surface that touches your skin). Interestingly, the caseback has become a space to flex for watchmakers. Though you can’t see it, its flat surface can be ornamented with highly decorative engravings. These secret adornments can also be sentimental like, say, a short note to remind you of the giver of the watch: “11/31/98. To my love, Chucky. xoxo Tiffany.”

What are watch lugs?

The watch needs something to connect the case to the strap, and these two protrusions, which are like horns jutting out of the case, are just that. It’s a simple job, and you may not give watch lugs more thought, but know that, when buying a watch, more considered lugs are shaped finely for comfort.

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What is a watch strap?

It’s the long thing that wraps around the wrists. There was a time when a watch case was attached to a chain, and the whole drama was pulling it out of your pocket and realizing, "Crikey, I'm late!" And then someone (some say it was Cartier) had the bright idea of attaching the case to a strap to make time reading hands-free. Today, there are watch straps (leather) and watch bracelets (metal). What to choose? That’s all down to preference.

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What is a watch clasp?

Of course, you need a knot to tie it all together. The buckle or clasp is the mechanism that secures the million-peso machine on your person so that, when you’re gesticulating wildly to make a point, it won’t fly away. Buckles are used in leather straps, while clasps—deployant, push-button, or fold over—are found in bracelets.  

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Clifford Olanday
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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