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From ‘alarm watch’ to ‘zodiac’…

The following pages are a glossary of terms associated with horology, watches and watchmaking.

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Incabloc is a shock-absorber system used in mechanical watches which helps prevent damage from shocks to the balance pivots. Thanks to a retaining spring system, it assures an elastic play of both jewels, thus absorbing the movements of the balance-staff pivots when the watch receives strong shocks. The return to the previous position is due to the return effect of the spring. If such a system is lacking, the shock forces exert an impact on the balance-staff pivots, often causing bending or even breakage. Most mechanical watches made in Switzerland today use the Incabloc system.



To minimise friction, the hardened steel tips of a movement’s rotating gear wheels (called pinions) are lodged in synthetic rubies (fashioned as polished stones with a hole) and lubricated with a very thin layer of special oil. These synthetic rubies are produced in exactly the same way as sapphire crystal using the same material. The movement of a quality watch has between 15 and 21 jewels.

Jumping Hour

Feature concerning the digital display of time in a window. The indication changes almost instantaneously at every hour.

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Refers to the Seiko line of Kinetic watches. This innovative technology has a quartz movement that does not use a battery. Movement of the wrist charges a very efficient capacitor which powers the quartz movement. Once the capacitor is fully charged, men’s models will store energy for 7-14 days without being worn. Ladies models store energy for 3-7 days. Of course, if the watch is worn every day the capacitor is continually recharged. The watch alerts the owner to a low capacitor charge when the seconds hand starts to move in two second intervals. Some of Seiko’s Kinetic Watches have See-Thru CaseBacks, that use a clear, Hardlex crystal watch back to enable the wearer to view the kinetic movement.

Kinetic Auto Relay

A Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay watch is powered by human movement, however when it senses inactivity for three days, it puts itself into suspended animation to conserve energy. It can be re-activated with a few shakes of the wrist. It automatically resets itself to the exact time after to up to four years of dormancy.

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Lap Timer

A chronograph function that lets the wearer time segments of a race. At the end of a lap, the timer can be stopped, which then returns to zero to begin timing the next lap.

Leap-Year Cycle

Leap or bissextile years have 366 days and occur every 4 years (with some exceptions, Calendar, Gregorian). Some watches display this datum.


Ancient French measuring unit maintained in horology to indicate the diameter of a movement. A line equals 2.255mm. Lines are not divided into decimals; therefore, to indicate measurements inferior to the unit, fractions are used.

Liquid Crystal Display or LCD

A digital watch display that shows the time electronically by means of a liquid held in a thin layer between two transparent plates. All LCD watches have quartz movements.


To reduce friction caused by the running of wheels and other parts. There are points to be lubricated with specific low-density oils such as the pivots turning inside jewels, the sliding areas between levers, and the spring inside the barrel which requires special grease, as well as numerous other parts of a movement.


Double extension of the case middle by which a strap or bracelet is attached. Normally, straps and bracelets are attached with removable spring bars.

Luminescent or Luminous

Having the property to emit light rays. Christopher Ward watches use Super-LumiNova, a photo-luminescent non-radioactive material with a long period of phosphorescence. It reaches up to 100 times the brightness of Tritium. Tritium was the original, radioactive, substance used to coat hands, numerals and hour markers on watch dials to make reading the time in the dark possible. This type of phosphorescent pigment, often called lume, operates like a light battery. After sufficient activation by sunlight or artificial light, they glow in the dark for hours. This activation and subsequent light emission process can be repeated again and again, and the material does not suffer any practical aging. LumiNova is a registered trademark of Nemoto and Co. Ltd.

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The mainspring, located in the spring barrel, stores energy when tensioned and passes it on to the escapement via the gear train as the tension releases. Today, mainsprings are usually made of Nivaflex, an alloy invented by Swiss engineer Max Straumann in the early 1950’s. This alloy basically comprises of iron, nickel, chrome, cobalt and beryllium.


A mechanical movement that is wound by hand using the winding crown. The motion transmitted from the user’s fingers to the crown is forwarded to the movement through the winding stem, from this to the barrel through a series of gears and finally to the mainspring.


Most experts agree that the term, which is from Latin and means “made by hand” should be used for a company that manufactures at least one calibre, or extremely important parts of it such as the base plate, on the premises. While ten years ago this constituted only a handful of companies in Switzerland and Germany today’s competitive market has forced a number of others to invest in developing their own movements. ETA is without doubt the largest manufacture (horologists prefer using French) and, at present, Christopher Ward uses them exclusively for all our automatic movements.

Marine Chronometer

A large-sized chronometer watch enclosed in a box (therefore also called box chronometer) mounted on gimbals and used on board ships, to determine the respective longitude.


The mean time of the meridian of the Greenwich Observatory, considered the universal meridian, is used as the standard of the civil time system, counted from midnight to midnight.

Mechanical Movement

A movement powered by a mainspring, working in conjunction with a balance wheel. Most watches today have electronically controlled quartz movements and are powered by a battery. However, mechanical watches are currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. (see also Movement term below)

Military Time or 24hr Time

When time is measured in 24-hour segments. To convert 12-hour time into 24-hour time, simply add 12 to any p.m. time. To convert 24-hour time into 12-hour time, subtract 12 from any time from 13 to 24.

Mineral Crystal or Mineral Glass

Watch crystal that has been tempered (heat treated) to increase its hardness and scratch resistance.

Minute Repeater

Mechanism indicating time by acoustic sounds. Contrary to the watches provided with en-passant sonnerie devices, that strike the number of hours automatically, repeaters work on demand by actuating a slide or pusher positioned on the case side. Repeaters are normally provided with two hammers and two gongs: one gong for the minutes and one for the hours. The quarters are obtained by the almost simultaneous strike of both hammers. The mechanism of the striking work is among the most complex complications.

The minute repeater feature was very much in vogue before displays became common to allow people to know the time in the dark. They are also useful for the visually challenged. Today in many watches it is a feature that adds to the novelty of the watch.

Mono (Single) Pusher Chronograph

A chronograph watch that works by using a single button. The majority of stop watches need two buttons, one to start and stop and another one to reset. A Mono Pusher complication manages to do all three operations on the same button.


A function available in many watches, usually combined with calendar-related features. The moonphase disc advances one tooth every 24 hours. Normally, this wheel has 59 teeth and assures an almost perfect synchronization with the lunation period, i.e. 29.53 days (in fact, the disc shows the moonphases twice during a single revolution). However, the difference of 0.03 days, i.e. 44 minutes each month, implies the need for a manual adjustment every two and a half years to recover one day lost with respect to the real state of moonphase. In some rare cases, the transmission ratio between the gears controlling the moonphase are calculated with extreme accuracy so as to require manual correction only once in 100 years.

Mother of Pearl

Iridescent, milky interior shell of the fresh water mollusc that is sliced thinly and used on watch dials. While most have a milky white lustre, mother-of-pearl also comes in other colours such as silvery grey, grey blue, pink, and salmon.


The entire mechanism of a watch. Movements are divided into two great families: quartz and mechanical; the latter are available with manual or automatic winding devices. “Anatomically speaking” the movement comprises the Ébauche, the regulating parts and other components (springs, jewels, pivots, pinions, screws, shock-absorbers, etc.).

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Trade name (from the producer’s name) of a nickel iron alloy, resisting magnetization, used for modern self-compensating balance springs. The level of this material is indicated by the numeral following the name in decreasing value from 1 to 5. As a trade name, Nivarox is a German acronym for “Nicht variabel oxydfest” (G.) or “Non-Variable Non-Oxidizing” (E.). The Nivarox alloy is a used mainly in the watch industry, but also in certain medical equipment and surgical instruments.

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