There’s nothing better than a wristwatch you can enjoy wearing everyday. But if you’re a beginner who is new to the watch world, finding your perfect everyday watch can be a bit overwhelming. Watchmaker terminology, in particular, is admittedly a bit confusing. If you’re not familiar with terms like “watch crystal” or “watch crown,” it can be hard to know what these refer to, let alone which variety you’d prefer your watch. So, to help beginner watch and watchmaking enthusiasts better understand a watch’s parts, we’ve put together this simple guide to watch anatomy. Read on to see the definition of some common watch terms and to learn what you should look for in these different elements of a watch.


A Beginner’s Guide to Watch Anatomy: A Watch’s Parts

Movement

Definition: A watch’s movement is the mechanism that allows it to keep time. There are two broad categories of watch movements: quartz watch movements (these are electronic and run on a battery) and mechanical watch movements (non-electronic movements that do not require a battery). Mechanical movements are powered either by winding (this is called a hand-wound watch movement) or by the movement of your wrist (this is called an automatic watch movement).

How to Pick Your Movement: Whether you’d prefer a quartz movement or a mechanical movement comes down to personal preference. However, price often comes into play when individuals decide between these movements. Quartz movements are considerably less expensive than mechanical movements, so they’re often a good choice if you’re on a budget or if you simply don’t want to invest in a mechanical watch.

Then, within the mechanical watch movement category, you have your choice of an automatic or a hand-wound movement. Hand-wound movements are more reliable than automatic movements, but they do require winding. Automatic movements do not require any winding but they must be worn every few days to stay accurate. When deciding between a hand-wound vs. an automatic movement, consider which would best fit your lifestyle.

Crystal

Definition: “Watch crystal” is the term for the clear material that covers and protects your watch’s face. This watch part can be made from many materials. Some common types of crystals include synthetic sapphire crystals, mineral crystals, and acrylic crystals. All varieties of crystals can be either domed or flat, which changes the aesthetics of a watch. Crystals are surrounded by the watch bezel, which can either simply hold in the crystal in place or also feature functional elements (as with a rotating bezel).

How to Pick Your Crystal: You should pick your watch crystal based on the look and performance you want from your watch. Sapphire crystals, often featured on luxury watches and finely made Swiss watches, are exceptionally clear and scratch resistant. Then, mineral glass is quite clear and is excellent at absorbing impact. Acrylic crystals are more prone to scratching but many people are drawn to their vintage look. As far as domed vs. flat goes, for every type of crystal, we generally recommend selecting the shape that has a look you prefer. Whether a crystal is domed or flat primarily affects the style of a timepiece, rather than its performance.

Crown

Definition: A watch’s crown is the small knob that rests on the side of a watch. This knob is used to set the time of your watch, as well as its day or date function (if your watch has it). A watch crown may be flanked by watch pushers in watches with additional functions, such as those with stopwatch chronograph functions.

How to Pick Your Crown: There are two types of watch crowns: standard and screw-down. Standard crowns are excellent for most needs, but this type of crown is less water resistant than a screw-down crown. If water resistance is a priority for you, you may prefer a screw-down crown.

Case

Definition: A watch’s case is the container that holds the watch movement. Cases can be made of many materials, such as stainless steel, gold, resin, or plastic. Then, they can come in different shapes, such as round, tank, or tonneau. Watch cases come in numerous different sizes as well, though a standard range for men’s watches is around 38mm to 42mm, since this is often a comfortable size range for the wearer.

How to Pick Your Case: You should consider three things when selecting a watch case: its size, its material, and its shape. For size, you want to select a size that is comfortable to wear for your unique wrist. If you aren’t sure what size would be comfortable for you, it’s a good idea to try on watches with varying case sizes to see what feels best. Then, for material, you’ll want to select a material that works for your lifestyle. For example, if you’re looking for something more rugged, stainless steel and titanium are good options. Or if you want something more luxe and aren’t as concerned about scratching, you may prefer a precious metal like gold. Lastly, for shape, know that watch case shape is mostly a style concern, though it can also affect how comfortable the watch is for the wearer. So consider both style and comfort when evaluating different watch case shapes.


Watch Face (Dials, Hands, and Markers)

Definition: A watch’s face is the area you look at to tell the time. The standard elements of a watch face are its dial, hands, and hour markers. The dial is the flat plate that makes up the base of the watch face. The hands are the moving indicators that point to hour, minute, and second markers. The hour markets are symbols or numbers (these can be arabic or roman numerals) that denote the hours on the watch.

In addition to these standard dial elements, a dial can contain subdials (as seen on chronograph watches and perpetual calendar chronograph watches), day or date elements, power reserve indicators, and moon phase elements. Then, most watches that contain a tourbillon often also display the tourbillon on the watch dial.

How to Pick Your Watch Face: When selecting a watch face, you want to think about both functionality and style. The layout and design of a timepiece’s watch face can make it easier or harder to read. Then, all of the elements of a watch face greatly affect its style. Consider what you’re looking for in terms of functionality and style, then choose your watch face accordingly.

Straps

Definition: A watch’s strap is the band that affixes it to your wrist. Metal watch straps are also called watch bracelets. Watch straps attach to your watch via pins between the watch lugs.

How to Pick Your Watch Strap: There are three things to consider when selecting a watch strap: comfort, functionality, and style. There are many different types of watch straps you can choose from and each varies in functionality, style, and comfort. Some common types of watch straps are leather straps, metal straps, and nylon NATO straps. Leather straps are the most common strap choice, thanks to their comfortability and classic look (fitting for casual, upscale, or office wear). Then, metal straps are another popular option, due to their versatile style and high durability. Lastly, NATO straps are popular for their sporty and casual look, as well as for their lightweight feel and durability.