Top Parts Of A Watch You Should Know

Knowing your way around the parts of a watch will come in handy when choosing out your next timepiece.

Here we will help you understand the outer parts of a watch. As well as the main elements of the inner parts of a watch.

Parts Of A Watch

Outer Parts Of A Watch

These are the top outer parts of a watch that you should know. The basic parts of a watch that you might find on the majority of your watches that you own.

Check out our diagram first below of the outer parts of a watch. Then we have a further few outer watch parts also listed below like subdial, caseback, and exhibition caseback.

Parts of a watch diagram

So keep scrolling to learn about each watch part.

1. Case

The case of a watch is what keeps your watch’s movement and dial protected. It’s the housing of your watch. It acts like your watch’s skin.

The case comes in many different shapes and sizes. The watch’s case also comes in many materials, like stainless steel for example.

Learn more about the different types of case shapes in our guide.

2. Bezel

The bezel of your watch is the ring that holds the crystal in place. That is your bezel’s primary purpose.

Every watch has a bezel. However, some bezels are stationary. While bezels on dive watches, for example, can move (like the Rolex in the diagram).

These dive watch bezels can move in one direction (unidirectional) or two directions (bidirectional). The function is so a diver can calculate how long they’ve been underwater for.

3. Dial

The dial of your watch is where the time is displayed. On an analog watch (traditional watch) the dial consists of the hands and the hour markers.

The dial is also referred to as the face. Like the face of a clock.

4. Crystal

The crystal of your watch is the clear portion that covers the dial of your watch. This crystal protects the dial.

The crystal can be made from sapphire, synthetic sapphire, glass, or plastic. 

Sapphire crystal is the most sought after crystal to protect your watch’s dial. As this crystal is very strong and also scratch resistant. However, it’s more expensive.

Mineral crystal is a cheaper option. It is a glass crystal that has been treated with chemicals or heat to help prevent scratches.

5. Date Window

A date window is very common on watches nowadays. It is used to display the date on the dial of your watch.

It’s most common to have the date window in the 3 o’clock position of your watch. This is due to most people wearing their watch on their left hand side. Ensuring the date will peek out from under your sleeve.

The date window was the first complication ever featured on a watch. A complication refers to any function of your watch in addition to telling the time.

6. Hour Markers/Indices

The hour markers on your watch are used to represent the hours around the dial.

Hour markers can also be referred to as indices.

Hour markers can come in many different styles. Including Roman Numerals, Arabic Numerals or Arrow Markers (as seen at 12 o’clock on the Rolex in the diagram) etc.

Learn more about the different types of hour markers/indices you’ll find on your timepieces.

7. Hands

The hands on your watch move around the dial. They point to the hour markers in order to indicate the time.

A watch commonly has two or three hands. This includes an hour hand, a minute had, and a seconds hand.

However, a watch can also have four hands. The fourth hand can be used to indicate the UTC or another timezone. You’ll see a fourth hand on GMT watches.

There also are watches who only have one-hand, on a 24-hour dial. Often referred to as single-hand watches. They offer a more relaxed way of telling the time. 

8. Crown

Photo of a close-up of a crown
Close-up of a crown on a watch

The crown of your watch is the little knob usually on the right side of the watch’s case.

In mechanical watches, the crown is used to wind the mainspring which powers your watch.

Your watch’s crown is also able to set the time and the date (if your watch has a date complication).

The crown can also stop the movement of your watch (known as hacking). 

Learn more about the crown of your watch in our guide all about watch crowns.

9. Lugs

The lugs of your watch are used to secure your watch’s bracelet or strap to the watch case.

They are sometimes called horns.

You’d measure the lug width of your watch to find out how wide your watch band needs to be to fit between the lugs.

10. Bracelet/Strap

A watch bracelet or a watch strap is the band of material that secures your watch to your wrist.

A watch bracelet is made of metal. While a watch strap is made of a non-metal material like leather, rubber, silicone, nylon etc.

Bracelets and straps of a watch have different types of clasps to fasten them with. Learn about some of the most common clasps you’ll find on watches.

11. Subdial

Photo of a watch with a subdial
Subdial on a watch

A subdial is a mini dial that sits on the dial of your watch. You can have more than one subdial on your watch.

Subdials are used for different functions. For example, they are used to track seconds, another time zone, or the phases of the moon.

Subdials are most associated with chronographs. A chronograph is a watch with a stopwatch function and they will typically have two or three subdials. Learn how a chronograph works.

Subdials are also called auxiliary dials.

12. Caseback

Photo of a watch with its caseback taken off
Caseback taken off a mechanical watch

Every watch you own has a caseback. 

The caseback is simply the back of your watch. The caseback is what keeps the inside parts of your watch safe and all together. 

13. Exhibition Caseback

Photo of a watch with an exhibition caseback
Exhibition Caseback

An exhibition caseback is a caseback that is clear. Which will allow you to look through it and see your watch’s movement at work.

An exhibition caseback can also be called an open caseback or a see-through caseback.

Inside Parts of a Watch

Here we will focus on the inside parts of a mechanical watch. 

However, we are only going to outline the 4 main inner parts of a watch that you need to know.

These parts make up the mechanical movement that power your watch.

Tissot, a leading affordable Swiss watch brand, made a great video explaining the 4 main parts of a mechanical watch movement.

  1. The Barrel – These watch parts store the energy
  2. The Gear Train – These watch parts transmit the energy
  3. The Escapement – These watch parts distribute the energy
  4. The Balance Wheel – These watch parts regulate that energy

1. The Barrel

Energy to power the mechanical watch is stored in the barrel. This energy is formed by tightening the long spring (called the mainspring), which is inside the barrel. 

The mainspring can be tightened in two ways in a mechanical watch:

  • First, by turning the crown. This is the manual way of doing this. These mechanical watches are known as Manual watches.
Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source : Tissot Mechanical Watch video
  • Secondly, by having a rotor inside. The rotor will tighten the mainspring. This is done though the movement of you wearing the watch. These mechanical watches are called Automatic watches.
Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source : Tissot Mechanical Watch video

Learn more about the differences between manual and automatic watches (along with quartz watches too).

2. The Gear Train

The wound mainspring unravels and releases this stored energy to the wheels. Causing the wheels to turn. This transmits the energy.

The wheel train (or simply train) is the gear train inside a mechanical watch movement. 

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source : Tissot Mechanical Watch video

A wheel in the gear train is what is used to display the time. The hands of your watch are placed on this specific wheel.

3. The Escapement

This energy flowing from the barrel to the spinning wheels needs to be regulated. This is where the escapement comes in.

The escapement works to transform this energy into a ‘tick-tock’ movement.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source : Tissot Mechanical Watch video

4. The Balance Wheel

The balance wheel, and its regulated oscillations, is what gives your watch its accuracy.

Oscillations mean the back and forth movement at a regular speed.

The balance spring at the center of the balance wheel, is the beating heart of your watch. This balance spring must be protected from magnetic fields or shocks.

Because without this super thin balance spring. Your mechanical watch would not run correctly.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source : Tissot Mechanical Watch video

You can learn more about all the watch terms you should know in our watch term glossary.

To Sum Up

Knowing the main parts of a watch is essential to understanding how your watch works on the inside and on the outside.

Want to learn more?

Why not check out our educational section dedicated to helping you understand the world of watches.