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Some essential watchmaking words – and their explanations


What you need to know about Steven Hale

With this list of terminology popularly used by expert watchmakers when describing timepieces, their parts and functions

Automatic Movement

A mechanical movement that needs no winding because the automatic mechanism winds the mainspring every time the watch moves.

Automatic Watch

A watch whose mainspring is wound by the movements or accelerations of the wearer's arm. A rotor turns and transmits its energy to the spring by means of a mechanism originally invented in Switzerland in the 18th century.


This is a French word meaning a watch movement (not including the dial and hands) that is incompletely assembled.


A precision watch tested in various temperatures and positions so as to match accuracy standards set by an official Swiss institute.


A watch functions in addition to timekeeping. For example, a minute repeater chime, split-second chronograph, tourbillon (See below) or perpetual calendar.


Button on the outside of the case used to set the time and calendar. In the mechanical watches, it is also used to wind the mainspring.


A French word for a movement blank – that is to say an incomplete watch movement sold as a set of loose parts. These comprise the main plate, bridges, train, winding and setting mechanism, and regulator. However, the timing system, escapement and mainspring are not parts of the ébauche.


A mechanism that alternately checks and releases the gear train by a fixed amount and transmits a periodic impulse from the spring to the balance wheel


The visible side of the watch containing the dial. Most faces contain Arabic or Roman numerals to indicate hours. When Roman numerals are used, it is traditional to use IIII, rather than IV, to indicate 4 o'clock. 

Gear Train

The system of gears transferring power from mainspring to escapement. 


The driving spring of a watch, situated in the barrel.


A device that chimes the time when the wearer pushes a specific button.


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’.

Sweep Seconds-hand

A seconds-hand that mounted in the centre of the watch dial. 


A device on a chronograph watch that measure the speed at which the wearer has travelled over a measured distance. 


A device in a mechanical watch that eliminates timekeeping errors caused by the slight difference in the rates at which a watch runs in the horizontal and vertical positions. The tourbillon comprises a round carriage (or cage) holding the escapement and the balance. It rotates continuously once per minute.

What our customers had to say

"My great grand-father's Breguet was given to me by my father for my 21st birthday. 30 years later, post restoration by SHWR, it is in far better shape than I have ever seen it. SHWR's craftsmanship is immaculate. The firm is polite, professional and honest. Outstanding - I cannot recall another occasion when I have been so favourably impressed."


What our customers had to say

"I have just had my 1934 Rolex Oyster repaired. From start to finish I had full confidence in every one I had contact with at Steven Hale. They have been very efficient in identifying the problems at the initial examination and dealing with them as promised. There were no nasty surprises and unexpected complications along the way. Because of the age of my watch, spares are not available, and new parts have had to be made - all very expertly done. They even polished the gold case and my 86yr old watch now looks as good as new. You can certainly trust these people with your precious timepieces."


What our customers had to say

"Fantastic job repairing a family heirloom pocket watch which will now return home to Namibia.
The service was superb with detailed repair and service quote. Communication throughout was equally great leaving you with the confidence that you watch is in the best possible hands."


What our customers had to say

"I had bought a 1970s Pepsi GMT at auction and it needed some work. The lume on the hands was breaking up. Rolex UK wanted some hilarious price and threatened to replace the hands with new ones if their work failed - all at my expense of course. Steven Hale and co managed to repair the hands and maintain the original patina of the 40 plus year old watch which was of course crucial! Highly recommended."


What our customers had to say

"These are watch lovers and it shows. Their meticulous craftsmanship and expertise make them unique in London and I suspect that only in Switzerland may their equivalents be found. The experience of Steven Hale Watch Restoration begins with the talented and charming individuals who are client facing in South Molton Street and who instil a confidence that is consequently fully fulfilled. This firm represents unequalled talent in its field as well as exceptional client service. I have seldom recommended anyone with greater conviction."