Watch parts and components: What they are and what they do

Watches are not only seen as timepieces these days. There’s more that meets the eye with luxury watches. It tells more than just the time, it’s also how it tells the time. A watch is a complex device with so many important parts working together in unison. So here’s a little guide on what those luxury parts are, how the different watch movements work and so on. Let’s sink our teeth into watch anatomy and enjoy understanding the workings of a luxury watch.


This refers to the metal links that hold the watch in place and secure the watch to your wrist. If it’s leather, this part of the watch is referred to as a strap.


This is the outer ring that wraps around the crystal covering of the watch, holding everything in place. Due to its relative size and prominent placement, the bezel has significant influence on the overall design and functionality of a timepiece. You may notice some interesting details here, such as fluted bezels, as seen on many Rolex watches, and precious stones. Because the fluted bezel on Rolex is so iconic, it has even made its way to the wall-mounted clocks located in shopping malls and airports around the world. Initially, the fluting on Rolex bezels had the function of enabling the bezel to be screwed down onto the middle case of the watch to help ensure waterproofness, however today, the fluting on Rolex bezels is purely ornamental. Fluted Rolex bezels are exclusively crafted from solid gold and serve as a mark of distinction among Rolex’s various timepieces.


This is the unit of the watch that contains both the movement and the dial. This protects them from normal wear and tear as well as the elements. They come in several shapes and materials.


This is a knob on the outside of a watch case that sets the calendar and time. It also winds the watch.


This is the transparent cover on the top of the dial or face. This is designed to protect the watch from dirt and water and reduce glare. The majority of modern Swiss timepieces have a sapphire crystal. Watch sapphire is the most expensive type of watch glass as it is incredibly hard and therefore durable. This is the best material to protect the watch dial against shock.


Known as the face, the dial is the portion of the watch that displays the time. It can come in several different colours and marker combinations. There are numerous types of dials that are made from various materials too, from enamel and crosshair that’s popular for dress watches to guilloche that has a more artistic finish and skeleton, probably the most interesting dial you’ll ever see.


The hands are the markers on the dial that indicate time. Most watches have at least three hands to show hours, minutes and seconds.

Hour marker

These are the indicators on the face of a watch that mark out the hours.


These are projections on the watch case that secure the strap or watch bracelet to the case.


This is the manufacturer’s information on the dial of the watch.


A chronograph is a stop watch. The pushers on the side are a good indicator that a watch is a chronograph watch. This tracks elapsed time when the stopwatch function is in use. If the chronograph is not active, the chronograph hand will be stationery. For this reason, most chronograph watches have a small running seconds display.


Many watches have hour markers and hands that glow in the dark. Watchmakers use a specific material to create this luminous effect. While this looks cool, it also serves a function, allowing the wearer to see in murky or dark spaces like the deep water or night skies. Today, it’s possible to have a smattering of glowing parts in a watch aside from the main markers and hands but until a few decades ago, luminosity was a feature used quite judiciously.

Exhibition case back

The movement inside of a watch is pretty intricate and let’s face it, it’s quite cool to be able to see it. An exhibition case back is transparent so that you can see the movement. It allows the wearer to appreciate the ingenuity, beauty, and craftsmanship of a watch movement. The integrity of the construction is visible and that reassurance is priceless for true watch enthusiasts.  


These are small sapphires or rubies that act as bearings for the gears to help reduce friction so they are in the movement of a watch.

Oscillating weight

The functioning of the self-winding mechanical movement is due to the kinetic energy released by the movement of the arm; such a “prodigy” is caused by the oscillating weight, a small rotor that oscillates with every movement of the wrist, effectively taking the place of the crown and spool group, a winding element present in manual winding mechanical movements.

If you’d still like to find out more, it’s always best to pop to a luxury watch store and the advisors will be able to walk you through. We’ve found that the official Rolex retailers to be some of the most knowledgeable and helpful places to visit and indulge the watch enthusiast in you.

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