Watches & clocks

Timepieces are one jewelry-store product that almost every consumer needs; they’re also just about the only category that consumers know y brand name.

Watches and clocks are important to U.S. consumers for more reasons than telling time. Watches are becoming important fashion accessories, while clocks are gaining importance as home and business decorations and corporate, school and association awards.

Here’s what you must know to sell timepieces intelligently.


Timepieces are either analog or digital, depending on how the time is shown.

An analog timepiece, the more common and traditional of the two, has a dial (or face) and uses hands to show hours, minutes and seconds. Secondary dials (subdials) often show other functions.

A digital timepiece shows the time with numerals on a display panel. There are two types of digital display: LED (light emitting diode), which essentially has little lights as commonly seen in clock radios, and LCD (liquid crystal display), where liquid crystal between two pieces of glass forms digits when electrical current is applied. LCDs, commonly used in watches, usually display time continuously.


A movement is the internal operating mechanism of a timepiece.

Quartz movements are the most common type and are used in analog and digital timepieces. A small battery activates a tiny quartz crystal whose rapid vibrations are changed by a microcomputer chip into energy to run the watch.

In a digital quartz movement, the chip translates the quartz vibrations into numerals on the display panel. Unlike analog quartz movements, digitals have no moving parts.

Mechanical movements use a winding stem and are driven by a mainspring connected to gears and a balance wheel. They use their own power, without the aid of a battery. A manual mechanical movement is wound by turning a knob that’s connected to the mainspring. Automatic mechanical movements, also called self-winding, are wound by the wearer’s normal wrist movement.

Mechanical movements are used only for analogs. Until the quartz revolution 30 years ago, almost all watches were mechanical, but now they represent only a small percentage of watches, mainly more expensive ones.

Here are some more facts you’ll find helpful when explaining quartz and mechanical movements to customers:

  1. Accuracy. Quartz movements generally are more accurate than mechanical, though the difference is unnoticed in daily use. The variance of accuracy (either plus or minus) for a mechanical movement is at most a few seconds a day; the variance for quartz is a few seconds a month.
  2. Batteries. Quartz movements require a battery change once every two or three years and should be replaced only with batteries designed for that timepiece.
  3. Servicing. Watches and clocks should be serviced by authorized retailers or service centers. Mechanicals should be serviced at most every two to three years. This includes lubricating parts to prevent friction and ensure accuracy. Quartz analogs should be serviced every five to six years. Quartz digitals need little servicing, unless they are worn in dirty, dusty conditions or if moisture gets inside.


Here are some of the many types of watches:

  1. Calendar watch. The date plus the day and month in more complex versions) are shown in a window on the watch face.
  2. Chronograph. A stopwatch function in a wristwatch times events in fractions of seconds. The chronograph movement may be quartz or mechanical, analog or digital.
  3. Diver’s watch. A specially constructed case withstands moisture in deep water, a screw-down crown prevents the knob from being pulled into a setting position underwater and a rotating bezel tells how much oxygen remains in the diver’s tank.
  4. Dual-time watch. Subdials show the time for two time zones. Multitimers show the time in three or four zones. World timers enable the wearer to compare home time with time in up to 24 other zones.
  5. Fashion watch. A trendy, colorful watch designed to match fashion trends.
  6. Moon phase. A window on the watch face shows the daily position of the moon.
  7. Multifunction watch. This watch includes calendar, chronograph, alarm and second time zone features.
  8. Perpetual calendar. This watch operates without adjustment for periods ranging from several decades to hundreds of years, featuring day, date, month, moon phase and (often) a leap year adjustment.
  9. Skeleton. The move exposed to view through a transparent face and caseback.
  10. Sport watch. A watch with functions designed for sports activities. Examples include diver, pilot and navigator watches.


  1. Ana-digi. A watch with both an analog dial and a digital display on its face (often sport watches).
  2. Antimagnetic. The Federal Trade Commission says a watch may be called antimagnetic if its metal parts don’t attract each other magnetically and it operates undisturbed despite daily encounter with magnets or magnetic fields near machinery.
  3. Baguette. Woman’s watch, usually rectangular with a thin, elongated face.
  4. Band. What holds the watch on the wrist. Expansion bands stretch to fit easily over the hand. Straps are made of plastic, fabric, leather, etc. Bracelets are any metallic watch band, including block style (a jeweler’s clasp lets the bracelet lie flat), link (with a fold-over buckle), mesh flexible, interwoven wire spirals in specific design) and wire mesh usually stainless steel wire bracelet that simulates mesh).
  5. Base metal. Non-precious metal used to make watch and clock cases. The FTC says any case with less than 20 microns of gold must be called base metal.
  6. Bezel. Protective rim that holds the crystal over the dial.
  7. Caliber. The diameter (or size) and factory number of a watch movement.
  8. Case. The portion enclosing the movement, on which are placed the crystal and bezel.
  9. Clasp. This connects the two ends of a watch bracelet or strap around the wrist.
  10. Complication. A horological function other than timekeeping. Complication watches usually are expensive, handmade mechanical timepieces with many functions, including chronograph, moon phase, sunrise and sunset indicators, and perpetual calendar.
  11. Crown. A small knob or button on a stem, usually found at the 3 o’clock position on a watch case. Used to wind the watch, set time or other functions.
  12. Crystal. The protective, transparent covering over the dial. May be made of plastic or mineral glass chemically tempered glass that is hardened and scratchresistant).
  13. Dial. The timepiece face.
  14. Jewels. Hard, highly polished synthetic rubies or sapphires act as bearings and reduce friction in a mechanical movement. More jewels mean less friction and more accuracy.
  15. Second hand. The “third” hand-thinner than the hour or minute hand – on the dial of an analog watch marking 60 seconds in each minute. In a mechanical watch, the second hand “sweeps” around the dial; hence, it is also called the “sweep second hand.” In a quartz analog, the hand jumps one second at a time.
  16. Shock resistant. This means a watch is protected from accidental knocks and bumps. The FTC says that to qualify for this designation, a watch must be able to withstand a 40″ fall to a hardwood surface without damage and a gain-or-loss of no more than 60 seconds per day. Watches may not be called “shock-proof.”
  17. Subdial. A small circular “face” on the watch dial showing seconds, moon phase, dual-time, day/date or other function.
  18. Tritium. Green-colored material that glows in the dark and is used sometimes on analog watch hands and hour markers and as a backlight for some LCD watches.
  19. Water-resistant. The FTC says that to qualify for this designation, a watch must withstand pressure under water at stated depths without leaking or losing accuracy.


Clock movements fall into one of four major types:

Electric, which plug into an electrical outlet for energy to run a motor.

Quartz, which operate in the same manner as a quartz watch. As with watches, there are analog and digital quartz movements.

Spring-drive (also called keywound and spring-wound), which have a key to wind a mechanical mainspring that powers the clock as it unwinds.

Weight-drive, which use the gravitational pull of heavy weights to power a mechanical movement.


Here are some of the major types of clocks. Many clocks combine several features, for example, a digital alarm desk clock.

  1. Alarm clock. A desk or table clock that can be preset to ring (buzz, chirp, beep, play a melody or even use prerecorded speech) at a specific time. A travel alarm clock is compact, often with two or more time zones.
  2. Anniversary clock. Also called year clock and 400-day clock, this type was so-named because the early models needed winding once a year. The name also has come to mean this type of clock is a popular anniversary gift. Characteristics include a glass dome and four small brass balls, or weights, rotating horizontally on a torsion spring and visible to the viewer.
  3. Carriage clock. A small, rectangular, metal-case clock, often brass, with glass-paneled sides and a hinged handle on top for carrying. These were first created 200 years ago for Napoleon, who ordered them for his officers after a tardy general almost caused him to lose a battle.
  4. Chime clock. The clock features chime mechanisms that play on the hour and, in many models, at quarter-, half- and three-quarter hour intervals. Available in mantel and wall versions, many now come with a silencing switch.
  5. Cuckoo clock. This type originated in the Black Forest of south Germany (not Switzerland as commonly assumed), which is still the primary source. The clock usually is made of wood or wood-like material, has a dial with gothic numerals and features a replica of a small house decked with leaves, stags and a bird that pops out and chirps on the half-hour and hour. The clocks usually are weight-driven.
  6. Decorator clock. Generic name for a variety of wall clocks designed to complement a variety of interiors. The clocks are usually quartz, and often are called by the name of the room where they’ll hang, such as kitchen clock.
  7. Desk/table clock. Generally designed for use on end tables or desks; usually no more than 9″ high.
  8. Digital clock. Any clock that indicates time with an electronic display of numbers rather than on a dial with hands.
  9. Grandfather clock. Also called long-case clock, tall clock and floorstanding clock, it combines detailed cabinetry with weight-driven chime movements in a wooden case 72″ to 84″ high. A grandmother clock is smaller, less than 72″ high.
  10. Mantel clock. Also called shelf clock, it’s designed to sit on a mantel, shelf or bookcase.
  11. Nautical clock. Replica of navigational devices that tells time and has navigational/nautical functions. The case usually is round and brass.
  12. Schoolhouse clock. Designed originally for early American classrooms, this type of wall clock has a round or octagonal case (usually wood) and lower pendulum cabinet.
  13. Tambour. Also called Napoleon clock, this type of mantel or desk clock supposedly is based on Napoleon’s hat (thin edges, high rounded center).
  14. Wall clock. Any clock designed to be hung on a wall.


  1. Chapter ring. Outer ring or zone on the clock face on which hours (“chapters”) are marked.
  2. Crown. Top of the clock case.
  3. Crystal. Protective, transparent covering over the timepiece’s dial. It may be made of plastic or mineral glass chemically tempered glass that is hardened and scratch resistant).
  4. Escapement. Stop-and-go control for clock wheels.
  5. Finial. A decorative ornament, usually wood or brass, on top of a clock case, especially mantel and long-case clocks.
  6. Minute track. The zone on the edge of the clock or in the center divided into 60 segments to mark the passing of minutes.
  7. Time train. Gears in a mechanical clock movement that operate the hour, minute and second hands, and (where applicable) the chime train.


The Federal Trade Commission has approved the term water resistance to indicate the amount of pressure a watch can withstand under water at specific depths without leaking or losing accuracy. (The FTC disallows the term waterproof.) Remember that not all watches are water-resistant.

The faster a watch moves in or against water (when the wearer is swimming or diving, for example), the greater the chance of exceeding design limits and causing leakage. This is most true of watches designed for minimal resistance.

Water resistance isn’t permanent. Gaskets around the crystal or stem can deteriorate, so water-resistant watches should be inspected periodically.

Here are the degrees of water resistance:

* General water-resistant watches can withstand minor moisture (rain, face washing), but shouldn’t be worn for swimming, diving, bathing or showering.

* Watches resistant to 50-100 meters can be worn for normal water activities, including bathing, showering or swimming in shallow water.

* Watches resistant to 150-200 meters are often called diver’s watches and will stand up to recreational scuba diving, swimming and snorkeling.

* Professional diver’s watches, resistant to 300-1,000 meters, can be worn for deep-water diving.