Guide to Watch Buying – Part Four

Jan 03, 2011

Our guide to watch buying concludes with part four, which takes a look at repeaters, multi-function watches, the interior and exterior of a watch, and finally, its maintenance and service.



repeater watch is a complication watch that indicates the hours by means of striking gongs- a function activated by a pushpiece of slide. There are several types of repeater watches:

Quarter-Hour Repeaters – This type of mechanism is designed to strike the hours and quarter-hours. A low-pitched gong is struck to indicate the hour, while quarter-hours are indicated by a low and a high note struck together.

Half-Quarter Repeaters – This type of mechanism is designed to strike the hours, quarter-hours and half-quarter hours, i.e. 7.5 minutes after the quarter-hour. A low-pitched (bass) gong is struck to indicate the hour, quarter-hours being indicated by a combination of bass and treble notes, the first half of the quarter-hour by a single treble note and the second half by two treble notes.

Five-minute Repeaters – These came in two versions:
A bass note is struck to indicate the hours, and a treble note for every five minutes, rather than for every quarter-hour.
A bass note is struck for the hours, combined bass and treble notes for the quarter-hours, and a treble note every five minutes in addition to the quarter-hour.

Minutes Repeaters – Watches that strike or sound that hours and minutes on demand by activating a button.


Skeleton – A watch with a mechanism cut away to the minimum material by sawing and milling. Skeleton mechanisms are often provided with fine engravings and casings. Build in between the transparent dial and glass bottom; they create attractive, decorative watches.

Tourbillon – Device invented by A. L. Breguet in 1801 to eliminate errors of rate in the vertical positions. It consists of a rotating carriage or cage carrying all the parts of the escapement and the balance wheel. This ingenious mechanism corrects the small gravitational error that exists in regular watches.
Complication – A watch with more than one function (e.g. alarm, moon phase, perpetual calendar, power reserve indicator, split seconds, repeater). The term is usually used only for mechanical watches.

Grande Complication – A masterpiece of micro engineering. It usually includes the maximum number of functions. Displays hours, seconds, elapsed time, phases of the moon, and includes a split-second chronograph. Can have 9 hands, over 950 parts, and an automatic mechanical perpetual calendar programmed for 514 years.


The following are the main parts of a watch:

Watch Case – The body that houses and protects the watch movement from dust, dirt, moisture and shocks. It also gives the watch as attractive appearance as possible, subject to fashion and to the person’s taste.

Crystal – The transparent protective covering over a watch face made of sapphire, mineral crystal, glass or plastic.
Dial- The readable part of the watch, the face:

Analog display – The system of indicating time using hands and a dial.

Numerical display – The system of indicating time figures. Also called Digital Display.

Anadigi display – A display that shows the time both by means of hour and minute hands (analog display) and by numbers (digital display).
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) – A method of displaying time in an electronic watch. It is created when particles are rearranged by electrical excitation. In LCD watches time is displayed constantly. All LCD watches have quartz movements.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) – The method of displaying time and/ or other functions in an electronic watch using the phenomenon known as electroluminescence. The time appears on the watch face of an LED watch only when a button is pressed and power is sent to the diodes.

Guilloche – A type of engraving in which thin lines are interwoven, creating a patterned surface. Adds beauty and design to the watch.

Subdial – A small dial on a watch face used for any of several purposes, such as keeping track of elapsed minutes on a chronograph or indicating the date.

Hands – Indicate the time or function.

Crown – The knob used to set hands and change functions.

Stem – The shaft connecting the crown to the winding and setting mechanism.

Push Button – Used in complications to start and stop special functions.

Watch strap – Leather, rubber, fabric or synthetic materials.

Deployant buckle – Safety feature protects against dropping the watch. Allows for the look of a strap style with the convenience of a one-piece fold over buckle style band.

Watch band – Either a link or expansion band made in stainless steel, gold or a combination of materials.

Integrated – Watch and bracelet in all one piece to accent a particular design.

Bezel – Case ring that hold the crystal, sometimes set with precious stones.


Movement – The inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and operates the watch’s functions.

Caliber – Used to denote the size of a movement usually measured in lignes (2.256 mm); also used by manufacturers as “names” for their movements.

Ligne – Used to indicate the size of a mechanical movement, measured over the plate beneath the dial. 1 ligne= 2.256 mm (one twelfth of a “French inch”.)

Ebauche – Literally the basic frame; commonly used for an assembled movement, without escapement, balance and hairspring and mainspring.
Mainspring- A coiled flat spring which provides the power to drive the gear train of mechanical watches.

Balance wheel – An oscillator, which regulates or governs the speed of the movement. A flat ring which pivots on an axle. It must be perfectly poised. After it has swung one way, the spring at its center reverses it and makes it swing the other way- hence the “tick tock” of a mechanical watch. Both balance and hairspring are made of a special alloy to offset the effect of temperature changes.

Hairspring or balance spring – A very delicate spiral spring attached to arbor of balance to control oscillations.
Balance staff- The axle on which the balance pivots.

Jewels – Used as bearing to reduce wear at points of greatest friction in movements. Usually 17-21 jewels in mechanical watches. By reducing friction they add years to a watch’s life. Once they were natural rubies, but now are synthetic. Their design shape helps to hold oil at the specific point of lubrication.

Quartz crystal – An oscillator made of a tiny piece of synthetic quartz. Its standard frequency is 32,768 times per second.

Hertz – Hz- The number of oscillation per second of electronic watches.


Because of the complexity of the mechanisms, it’s best to have a fine timepiece serviced by an authorized agent, equipped with genuine replacement parts and trained by the watch manufacturer.

When setting the time, always turn the hands in a clockwise direction.

If you need to change the time, always set the day and/ or date function during the day. The day-date mechanism is activated between the hours of 11PM and 3AM; adjusting the time during these hours can jam the mechanism. The day-date mechanism is activated between 9PM and 12AM in some watches.
For maximum efficiency and preservation of value, a fine mechanical watch, like an automobile, needs regular check-ups. A mechanical watch should be serviced every three to four years, depending on the manufacturer’s instruction.

quartz watch should be serviced when a battery change is necessary. Only a qualified watchmaker should open and close the watch. Some warranties are in jeopardy if someone opens the watch other than an authorized person.

NOTE: A quartz watch will not run if the crown is not completely in.

Automatic wind watches should be hand-wound if not running or if they have been off the wrist and the mainspring has run down. This winding builds up power to get the time-piece running immediately. After this initial winding, the normal wrist action will wind the watch. Generally, after wearing a full day, an auto wind should run for 36 to 48 hours.

As a proud member of the American Watch Guild, King Jewelers would like to thank editors of CHRONOS magazine and the American Watch Guild for providing the following information.

For more information, please visit and


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