In today’s online world, we are constantly bombarded by watch photos and ads, usually with captions filled with acronyms and specific terms describing the timepiece in question. If you are at all confused as to what these mean, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will try to walk you through the most common acronyms found on watch advertisements and terms used by watch sellers, and hopefully put any doubts to rest.
What is the difference between sapphire or glass and plastic/acrylic crystals?
Sapphire crystals are typically found on newer watches (for Rolex, post-c.1987) and feature greater scratch resistance than plastic/acrylic crystals. These crystals can be identified because they are typically flatter and more flush with the case than the more bulbous or curved plastic crystals. Additionally, some people can tell the difference by feel: a sapphire or glass crystal will be cold to the touch, whereas a plastic/acrylic crystal is typically closer to room temperature. Though more scratch resistant, there are several drawbacks to sapphire crystals: 1) When a sapphire crystal is scratched, the scratch cannot be buffed out, and the crystal must be replaced. 2) If dropped, a sapphire or glass crystal is more prone to shattering than a plastic crystal, which will more typically just crack. If a crystal shatters, shards can scratch a dial, or potentially enter a movement and cause havoc in the gears.
The vast majority of wristwatches produced before the 1990’s will have a plastic or acrylic crystal, although some will have glass, which is similar to sapphire, though without its scratch resistant properties. In any case, some people prefer the vintage aesthetics of a more curved, plastic crystal, to the more flat sapphire material.
How do I remove scratches from plastic/acrylic crystals?
Unlike a sapphire crystal, a plastic/acrylic crystal can be polished many times before it needs to be replaced. If brought in to Second Time Around Watch Company, we can quickly polish a plastic/acrylic crystal with our polishing machine while you wait.
How do I remove scratches from the case of my watch?
To remove scratches from the case of a watch, it must be polished, which will typically remove metal. A hand detail/polish with a cloth will typically remove less metal than a polishing machine, but because some metal will always be removed, it is typically advisable to wait as long as possible before polishing your wristwatch. That said, if requested, a polish is complimentary with any full service from Second Time Around Watch Company.
What is a ‘movement’?
A movement is the mechanical workings of a watch, excluding the case and dial. Typically in the case of vintage wrist and pocket watches, the movement will not be visible.
What is a complication?
A complication is an additional function, added to a wristwatch, beyond the standard time keeping of hours, minutes, and seconds. Some examples of complications include a calendar function, a chronograph function, or a moonphase complication.
What is a chronometer?
A chronometer is defined by the non-profit Swiss foundation Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) as “a high-precision watch capable of displaying the seconds and housing a movement that has been tested over several days, in different positions and at different temperatures, by an official neutral body (COSC).” To the average consumer, the most important thing this means is that when tested, a mechanical wristwatch was accurate to within the specified + or - seconds per day applicable at the time of the watch's production.
What is a chronograph?
A chronograph is a wristwatch with an additional complication which allows for the timing of events. This is typically accomplished with several “pushers”, or buttons on the case which start, stop, or reset the separate timing mechanism. Time is typically recorded through a center-sweep seconds hand and one or more subdials that maesures minutes and hours. Typically these watches were only meant to time events of short duration, and leaving them running can cause unnecessary wear to the mechanism.
What is a Perpetual Calendar?
A perpetual calendar complication is a very advanced version of the typical date window display on a standard wristwatch. These watches account even for leap years.
What is a Triple Date?
A watch with a triple date complication tracks the date (numeral), day of the week (Monday-Sunday), and the month of the year. Unlike a perpetual calendar, these watches will need to be manually adjusted at the end of every month with fewer than 31 days.
What is a Moonphase?
A moonphase is a watch with an additional complication which displays the daily phases of the moon as it waxes and wanes over the period of its monthly cycle.
What is a Tourbillion?
A tourbillion was initially developed for pocket watches to balance out the effects of gravity. It involves placing the escape wheel, escape lever, and balance wheel in a cage which rotates as part of the escapement process. Under these circumstances, the escapement of the watch movement never spends a significant amount of time in any one position.
What is a repeater?
A repeater is a watch which chimes a specific number of times to aidibily tell the time when activated typically by sliding a lever or pushing a button. There are several varieties of repeater, named by the smallest unit of time which their chimes indicate: quarter (of an hour), half-quarter (of an hour), five-minute, or minute.
What does gold filled mean?
If a watch is “gold-filled”, it means that gold was heated and applied to the case of the watch via a heating process. This technique predates electroplating, and results in a thicker layer of gold than most other plating methods. It is not typically used with watches today.
What is electroplating?
Electroplating is a method of applying metal to the exterior of a watch via electric currents to evenly cohere a metal coating to a surface. It is a thinner coating than via gold-filled.
What metals are watch cases made of?
Some common case metal types: Chrome, Base Metal, Gold / Rose Gold / White Gold / Yellow Gold, Nickel, Platinum, Stainless Steel, Silver / Sterling Silver, Titanium
What does the “K” in “14K” mean?
Because pure gold (24K) is extremely soft, it is mixed with other metals to increase hardiness, durability, and resistance to everyday wear. It is therefore made in various “karats” (K), which are proportions of gold. In wristwatches, these are typically 9K, 14K, or 18K gold.
What is a hack feature?
A hack feature is one which stops the running seconds hand of a watch so that, when setting the watch, you will be able to precisely sync your wristwatch to another timekeeping device.
What are jewels in a mechanical watch? Are more jewels better?
Watch jewels are simply bearings, which are used to decrease friction and wear in the movement of a watch. Though “jewels” were originally created by a process of piercing precious gems, since the early 1900s, most jewels are synthetically-created rubies or sapphires, which have very little inherent value.
A higher jewel count does not necessarily make one watch better than another. Typically most modern mechanical wristwatches will have at least 17 jewels, but more or fewer jewel counts are not uncommon. A watch with a higher jewel count will usually have more complications and more working parts. A higher jewel count watch may in general be more accurate (although probably not terribly noticeably), but it is also similar to a sports car: because there is more going on internally, it should generally be serviced more often.
What is a watch winder? Do I need one?
Watch winders were created to mimic the movement of your wrist, by gradually rotating an automatic wristwatch in a stationary position, in order to keep the watch fully wound. If an automatic wristwatch is on a watch winder, its power reserve will not run down and it will not have to be reset. A Quartz or manual-wind movement will not benefit from a watch winder.
At Second Time Around Watch Company, we recommend against the use of watch winders unless they rotate your watch FULLY 360-degrees. The reason for this is that there is oil in a watch, and if your watch winder only spins in one or two directions, the movement will not be evenly lubricated, and certain parts of the watch will wear faster than others. For this reason, we do not sell watch winders, and recommend winding your automatic timepiece through normal wrist-wear.
What is shock resistance? Do older watches have it?
In mechanical watches, shock resistance technology was not common until the 1950s. When dropping an older timepiece, it was not uncommon for the balance staff, which holds the balance wheel, to break. Originally, most vintage watches were built to withstand an approximately three foot fall on a raised wooden surface. Now that these timepieces are much older, their parts may be rare, costly, or not readily available to replace. Though a watch may appear completely intact after a drop or bang, damage may be much more extensive internally. Even a slight bang can cause serious damage if impact occurs at the right angle. Shock resistance technologies, which typically hold the balance wheel via spring suspension, have only gotten better with time.
What does the term "triple signed" mean?
When we mention in our descriptions that a watch is "Triple Signed", we are describing a watch that has been "signed" (i.e., stamped with the name or trademark of its manufacturer) on its movement, case, and dial. As a general rule, most watches that we sell are "Triple Signed".
"Double signed" or "single signed" refers to a watch that is signed only on the case and movement, or dial, movement, or case alone. During the first half of the 20th Century, it was not uncommon for watch manufacturers to import encased watch dials and movements into the United States and case them in American "contract" cases in order to avoid high tariffs on gold and platinum watch cases made in Switzerland. Although watches with unsigned cases may be original, they typically are not as desirable as factory-cased and factory case signed watches.