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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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Sapphire Crystal

Synthetic sapphire crystal is a virtually scratchproof material with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale which means only a diamond is harder. The material is known to gemmologists as aluminium oxide or corundum, can be colourless (corundum), red (ruby), blue (sapphire) or green (green sapphire). It is “grown” using a method invented by Auguste Victor Louis Verneuil in 1902 whereby a process that usually takes a thousand years to complete is accelerated to just a few hours, hence the use of the term synthetic. Unsurprisingly, sapphire crystal has become the material of choice to protect the dials of all high end modern wristwatches including all Christopher Ward timepieces.


Graduation on a measuring instrument, showing the divisions of a whole of values, especially on a dial, bezel. The scales mostly used in horology are related to the following measuring devices: tachometer (indicating the average speed), telemeter (indicating the distance of a simultaneously luminous and acoustic source, e.g. a cannon-shot or a thunder and related lightning), pulsometer (to calculate the total number of heartbeats per minute by counting only a certain quantity of them). For all of these scales, measuring starts at the beginning of the event concerned and stops at its end; the reading refers directly to the chronograph second hand, without requiring further calculations.

Screw Balance

Before the invention of the perfectly weighted balance by use of a smooth ring, balances were fitted with weighted screws to get the exact impetus desired. Today a screw balance is a subtle sign of quality in a movement due to its costly construction.

Second Time-Zone Indicator

An additional dial that can be set to the time in another time zone. It lets the wearer keep track of local time and the time in another country simultaneously. See also GMT and world time


A circular sector, also known as a “pie piece”, is the portion of a circle (or dial) enclosed by two radii.

Self-Winding (Automatic)

A watch whose mechanical movement is wound automatically. A rotor makes short oscillations due to the movements of the wrist. Through a series of gears, oscillations transmit motion to the barrel, thus winding the mainspring progressively.

Shockproof or Shock-Resistant

Watches provided with shock-absorber systems (e.g. Incabloc) help 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.


Part of a mechanism moving with friction on a slide-bar or guide.

Small Second

Time display in which the second hand is placed in a small subdial.

Solar Time

The time standard referred to the relative motion of the Earth and the Sun governing the length of day and night. The true solar day is the period measured after the Sun appears again in the same position from our point of observation. Due to the non-uniform rotation of the Earth around the Sun, this measure is not regular. As an invariable measure unit, the mean solar day corresponds to the average duration of all the days of the year.


The time when the sun is farthest from the equator, i.e. or the Northern Hemisphere on June 21st (Summer solstice) and December 21st (Winter solstice).

Split-Second Chronograph

Also known in the watch industry by its French name, the rattrapante. A watch with two second hands, one of which can be blocked with a special dial train lever to indicate an intermediate time while the other continues to run. When released, the split-seconds hand jumps ahead to the position of the other second hand. Both the C3 Malvern and C4 Peregrine have this useful function.

Spring Barrel

The spring barrel contains the mainspring. It turns freely on an arbor, pulled along by the toothed wheel generally doubling as its lid. This wheel interacts with the first pinion of the movement’s gear train. Some movements contain two or more spring barrels for added power reserve.


A watch with a seconds hand that measures intervals of time. When a stopwatch is incorporated into a standard watch, both the stopwatch function and the timepiece are referred to as a chronograph.


Traditional device (now obsolete) provided with a finger piece fixed to the barrel arbor and a small wheel in the shape of a Maltese cross mounted on the barrel cover, limiting the extent to which the barrel can be wound.


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. See also Luminescent.

Sweep Second Hand

A centre second hand, i.e. a second hand mounted on the centre of the main dial

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Tachometer or Tachymeter

A scale on the dial, flange, or bezel (as in the case of our C70 British Racing Green series) of a chronograph that, in conjunction with the second hand, gives the speed of a moving object. A tachymeter takes a value determined in less than a minute and converts it into miles or kilometres per hour. For example, the wearer could measure the time it takes a car to pass between two mile markers on a road. When the car passes the second marker, the second hand will be pointing to the car’s speed in miles per hour on the tachometric scale.


Quartz watches split time by exploiting the electromechanical phenomenon known as Piezoelectricity. When a continuous electrical current runs through it, the quartz crystal starts resonating at a constant frequency. Crystal oscillators for watches are manufactured to vibrate at 215Hz (32,768 Hz), a frequency that will then be halved 16 consecutive times by a processor to obtain the second (unit of time). The problem with quartz crystals is that they are easily affected by temperature: they tend to vibrate faster in heat and slower in cold. As a consequence, quartz watch can have between -10 to +15 sec. variations per month. Bearing in mind that mechanical watches can variate by -10 to + 15 sec. per day, the quartz oscillator is still far more accurate than the anchor escapement found in mechanical watches. The solution ETA engineers found was to add a thermometer that constantly feeds information to the processor, allowing it to compensate for errors caused by temperature. As a consequence, movements using this technology can be accurate to -10 to +15 sec. per year. This move by Christopher Ward to use a super-accurate quartz movement and to get it certified shows their commitment to using the best movements available for their timepieces.

Time Zones

The 24 equal zones into which the surface of the Earth is conventionally divided, each limited by two meridians. The distance between two adjacent zones is 15º or 1 hour. Each country adopts the time of its zone, except for countries with more than one zone. The universal standard time is that of the zero zone, the axis of which is the Greenwich meridian.


Titanium is an environmentally friendly, natural metal that is 40% stronger and 30% lighter than stainless steel. It is hypoallergenic because it is nickel-free. It is perfect for water sport enthusiasts as it is extremely resistant to salt water and other forms of corrosion and able to withstand extreme temperatures. Many titanium watches are further enhanced with a glass coating for increased scratch resistance.


Particular shape of a watchcase, imitating the profile of a barrel, i.e. with straight, shorter, horizontal sides and curved, longer, vertical sides.


A technically demanding device invented by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1801 to compensate for the interference of gravity on the balance of a pocket watch, thus improving its rate. In a tourbillon (from the French word for whirlwind), the entire escapement is mounted on an epicyclic train in a “cage” and rotated completely on its axis over regular periods of time, usually once a minute. This superb horological highlight, whilst being completely unnecessary for a wristwatch, is seen as a sign of technological know-how in the modern era. One day we may decide to commission our own CW tourbillon and have had early conversations with a bespoke manufacture of haute horologie. Watch this space.


Slightly radioactive material that collects light energy and is used to coat hands, numerals, and hour markers on watch dials in order to make reading the time in the dark possible. Watches bearing tritium must be marked as such, with the letter T on the dial near 6 o'clock. It is gradually being replaced by nonradioactive materials such as Superluminova and Traser due to medical misgivings and expected governmental regulation of its use.


A term use to indicate that a watch has both "silver" and "gold" tone color which may or may not be genuine gold or silver.

Uni-directional Rotating Bezel

A rotating bezel, often found on divers’ watches, that moves only in a counterclockwise direction and makes it easy to measure elapsed time. It is particularly useful for divers so they cannot accidentally rotate it in the wrong direction, which could cause them to miscalculate their dive times. Because the bezel moves in only one direction, the diver can err only on the side of safety when timing his dive. Many divers’ watches are ratcheted, so that they lock into place for greater safety.

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