Anatomy Of Mechanical Watches

Watch History

Wristwatches have been around since the 1700s, when nurses wore watches on bracelets or armbands to keep them out of the reach of babies and children. But even before that, people were affixing timepieces to their wrists. In 1571, Queen Elizabeth received a watch attached to a bracelet from her friend Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. In 1623, mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wore his pocket watch on his wrist. Wristwatches remain a popular statement today. There are so many watch collectors that special watch clubs are common in many neighborhoods. Vintage watches also are selling for record prices.

Watch Anatomy

Fine timepieces are made up of several components, expertly designed and assembled by highly skilled watchmakers. These components, listed below, work together to create the form and function of your unique watch.

CaseThe case holds the movement, protecting it from the elements and wear and tear. It can be made from different metals, and available in many shapes (see Case Shape below).
DialThe dial is a plate with a metal base which indicates the hours, minutes and sometimes seconds.
SubdialA small dial placed within the main dial that provides additional information, such as a chronograph.
StrapThe band of leather or other non-metal material that harnesses the watch to the wrist. When made of metal, this band is called a bracelet.
LugAlso called horns, lugs are used to secure the strap or bracelet to the case.
PusherCommonly found on watches with a chronograph, the pusher is a button located outside the case which controls specific functions, such as setting the date.
CrystalOften made of glass or synthetic sapphire, this transparent cover protects the watch dial and reduces glare.
HandsIndicators that move over the dial and point to the hour, minute or second. Watches usually have three hands, one for each indicator of time.
CrownA button on the outside of the case used to set the time and calendar. On mechanical watches, it also is used to wind the mainspring.
Exhibition Case (Back)The back of the watch case fitted with a clear mineral or sapphire crystal, which shows the movement finishing.
MovementLike an engine, this is the inner mechanism of a watch that keeps time and powers its functions.
RotorOn automatic watches, this is an oscillating weight attached to the movement that winds the mainspring.
BezelOften made of metal, this is a ring around the crystal that holds the crystal in place.

Watch Case Shape


The case holds the movement, protecting it from the elements and wear and tear. The case is available in many shapes, including round, square, oval, rectangular, tank, carre, carage, tonneau and asymmetrical. It can be made from different metals, including platinum, 18K gold, 14K gold, gold plate, stainless steel, titanium, ceramic, tantalum, tungsten carbide, PVD or diamond-like carbon.

Watch Dial


The dial is the face of the watch. There are many different ways a dial can be marked, including the following:

Arabic & Stickfeatures both numerals and stick indicator markers.
Arabicfeatures only numeral indicator markers.
Stickfeatures only marks or dots, no numerals.
Roman & Stickfeatures both Roman numerals and stick mark indicators.
Romanfeatures only Roman numeral mark indicators.
Californiafeatures half Roman and half Arabic numerals.
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