Watch: A Short Guide to Style

However impressive a watch’s features and functions, its design is what often makes a sale.

One element of style is case shape. Most cases are round. Those that aren’t fall in the broad category of shaped or form cases. These include the rectangular case; the square (sometimes called “carre,” pronounced “care-AY,” the French word for “square”); oval; tonneau (pronounced “ton-OH”), whose vertical sides are curved outward so the case looks like a barrel (tonneau means “barrel” in French); and cushion (a square or near-square with slightly rounded corners and sides, sometimes also called a “TV screen”).

Many watches come in two sizes, small for women and large for men. Some also have a mid-sized model for women who like larger watches or for men with small wrists.

In recent years, the trend in men’s watches has been toward much bigger cases. Many are 40 millimeters or more in diameter – sizes that would have seemed freakishly large just a decade ago. Women, too, are wearing larger watches and some now sport men’s models.

Watch crystals can also be a design element. Some are domed or bombe (pronounced “bom-BAY,” French for “convex”). Others are faceted, like prisms. Some are tinted.

Watch cases and metal bracelets can have a polished finish, meaning a shiny one, or a brushed, or matte, finish. On many watches, polished and brushed finishes are juxtaposed to create contrast.

Watch dials come with a variety of finishes and other decorative elements. A guilloche (pronounced “gee-oh-SHAY”) dial is one that has been mechanically engraved with a pattern – scallops, wavy lines, concentric circles, what have you. It’s also called an engine-turned dial.

Some watches have sun ray dials, so named because a pattern of straight lines appears to emanate from the dial’s center when the watch is moved. It is sometimes called by its French name, a soleil (pronounced “so-LAY”) dial. “Soleil” is French for “sun.”

Another watch-dial finish is called clous de Paris (pronounced “CLEW de pa-REE”), which consists of tiny pyramids placed in rows. “Clous” is French for “nails” or “rivets.”

Some dials are silvered, meaning that they’re covered with a thin layer of silver.

Others are enameled, or coated with a glossy, opaque substance. Enamel dials can be plain white or any other color.

Mother-of-pearl dials, used chiefly on women’s watches, are made of the inside layer of certain seashells. They have a lustrous, opalescent look and are sometimes dyed pastel colors.

Some mechanical-watch dials are completely transparent so the wearer can see the movement working. These watches are called skeleton watches.

The markers on the dial are also a design element. Some watches use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) to mark the hours. Others use Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc). Some use no numerals at all, just plain markers called indices (the plural of index). Many watch dials are decorated with a ring just inside the hour markers. It’s called a chapterring.

There are a wide variety of watch hands. Some of the most common shapes are lozenge (shaped like an elongated diamond); feulile, (pronounced ‘FOI” – pointed at both ends and thickest in the center); baton (having the same width the entire length, like a pencil); Breguet (with a small, hollow circle near the tip, pronounced “BRE-GAY” and named after the famous 18th-century watchmaker who invented the style); and dauphine (pronounced “doe-FEEN” – thickest at one end, then tapering to a point at the tip, like an elongated triangle.)

A few words on watch-bracelet styles: Most metal watch bracelets are composed of links that make them supple enough to fit tightly around the wrist. Some link bracelets are integrated bracelets. In this type of bracelet, the links fit with the watch lugs – the metal projections on the watch case to which the bracelet is attached – in such a way that bracelet and case look like a single unit.

Many straps and bracelets are fitted with deployant (pronounced “de-PLOY-ant”) buckles, so named because they fold in on themselves (“deployant” is French for “unfolding”), creating a snug fit when the wearer closes the clasp. If the buckle folds in from both ends, it’s called a butterfly buckle.

Some bracelets, almost exclusively on women’s watches, are bangle bracelets. They’re made of a solid piece of metal, or, occasionally, rubber, and fit more loosely than link bracelets.