Timepiece Education

Grand Rapids Watch Jeweler

We put together this visual guide to help you better understand and care for your timepiece.

Whether you have a Rolex, Omega, Seiko, or other brand, you can trust our jewelry store in Grand Rapids, Michigan to take excellent care of your watch. Call Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry to learn how our jeweler is able to repair and maintain fine watches.

Paul Medawar Timepiece Education

The Movement

The part of the watch that makes the watch “move” or function. The movement of a watch can be compared to a car engine; without the engine, a car will not run. There are 4 types of movements: manual, automatic, quartz, and auto-quartz. Manual and automatic movements are mechanical, which means they are both made up of only mechanical parts like gears and springs. Quartz and auto-quartz have an electrical circuit and require a battery to run, but they may also have some mechanical parts.

Mechanical watches are far more expensive than battery-powered watches because they are much more labor intensive to build. Even though battery watches are inherently more accurate, almost all collectors and connoisseurs prefer manual or automatic as these movements represent the accumulation of almost 600 years of refinement, expertise, and craftsmanship.

  • Manual Movement: Often called hand-wound movement, the manual movement is the oldest type of watch movement being made; it dates back to the 16th century. Manual movement watches requires daily winding in order to work.
  • Automatic Movement: Automatic, or self-winding, movement watches contain a mechanical movement first marketed in the beginning decades of the 20th century. While it is being worn on the wrist, it will eliminate the need for daily hand winding.
  • Quartz Movement: A quartz watch uses a battery for its source of power and does not need winding like a mechanical watch. This type of movement is the most accurate currently being produced.
  • Auto-Quartz Movement: A combination of the automatic movement and the quartz movement. The winding of the crown or the spinning of the motor charges a capacitor that gives the watch power.

The Crystal

The crystal is the “glass” that protects the watch face from the elements; it acts as the cover on the front of the watch. When it comes to watches, there are three types of crystals that are being used. Below is a description of each type:

  • Synthetic Sapphire: Sapphire is known as the second hardest known element right after the diamond. This extremely scratch resistant crystal has exactly the same chemical composition of natural sapphire, but at a fraction of the price. However, this crystal can chip or shatter if impacted. If this occurs, microscopic particles of sapphire can get into the movement and act as an abrasive and can cause much damage. Being the most expensive type of crystal, sapphire can cost several hundred dollars to replace. The majority of watches imported from Switzerland have sapphire crystals. (Mohs’ scale: Diamonds-10, Sapphire-9).
  • Mineral: Crystals made of mineral are simply made of glass. These crystals have been used in watch-making for hundreds of years primarily because there was no alternative until the 20th century. Mineral crystals are relatively easy to scratch and the scratches cannot be buffed out. However, mineral crystals are inexpensive in comparison to sapphire crystals and can cost less than one hundred dollars to replace if damaged. (Moh’s scale: Diamonds-10, Mineral-7).
  • Acrylic: The most affordable type of crystal, but also the most prone to scratching and may crack if impacted. Minor scratches on acrylic can be buffed out and it can also be molded into elaborate shapes, while sapphire and mineral crystals cannot. Acrylic crystal is also a nice way of saying plastic.
  • APERTURE

    A small opening (also called a “window”) in the dial that displays certain information, such as the date, day, month, or moon phase.

  • JEWEL

    Small sapphires or rubies located on the movement that reduce friction by acting as bearings for gears in a mechanical watch.

  • BEZEL

    Usually made of metal, the bezel is a ring around the crystal on the top portion of a watch that holds the glass or crystal in place.

  • LUG

    Sometimes referred to as horns, lugs are projections on the watch case that are used to secure the strap or bracelet to the watch case.

  • CASE

    The container that protects the watch movement. Cases are available in many shapes, such as round, square, oval, tonneau, and rectangular.

  • MOVEMENT

    Acting like an engine, a movement is the inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and powers the watch’s functions.

  • CROWN

    A button on the outside of the watch case used to set the time and calendar. On mechanical watches, it is also used to wind the mainspring.

  • PUSHER

    Button(s) located outside of the case that control specific functions of the watch. Pushers are most commonly found on watches with a chronograph.

  • CRYSTAL

    Made of glass, plastic, or synthetic sapphire, the crystal is a transparent cover that protects the watch dial and reduces glare.

  • ROTOR

    Attached to the watch movement, the rotor rotates freely to wind the mainspring and store power in automatic timepieces.

  • DIAL

    A plate, with a metal base and visible through a crystal, that carries certain indication, such as the hours, minutes, and sometimes seconds.

  • STRAP

    A strip or band of leather or rubber that holds the watch to the wrist. It must be non-metal to be considered a strap–a metal version is a bracelet.

  • HAND

    Indicators that move over the dial to point at the hour, minute, or second. Watches generally have three hands to show the hours, minutes, and seconds.

  • SUBDIAL

    A small dial placed inside the main dial on a watch’s dial that gives information not provided by the main watch dial, such as a chronograph.