Watch Movements & Luxury Watch Parts

lifestyle image of woman holding Rolex Hulk watch with watches in background at FASHIONPHILE

It’s pretty hard to imagine a world without a timekeeping device on hand.

Long ago there were sundials and hourglasses. Today we have our phones, our digital clocks, and of course, we have our watches. You can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their watch. A Fitbit? That person might care about the time, but probably cares more about monitoring their sleep cycles and tracking their steps. Or someone wearing advanced wearable technology such as a smartwatch? That individual likely loves having everything accessible to them with just a touch of a button. Then there are luxury wristwatches. Anyone sporting a luxury wristwatch is likely someone who is ultra-luxe savvy and understands the history as well as the level of investment that watches carry.

All in all, watches have become not only a tool we all depend on but an expression of personality and taste. There’s more than meets the eye with luxury watches. More than just telling time; it’s how it tells time. A watch is a complex device with so many vital parts working together in unison. In this beginner’s guide, we’re sharing what those luxury watch parts are, how the different watch movements work, and more. So, next time you find yourself at some soiree discussing watches, let this guide be your source for sounding more well-versed in watch anatomy. Hey, you may even teach your counterparts something.

Defining Luxury Watch Parts

Let’s first nail down the ‘101’ of watch anatomy. Translation: this is the lingo watch experts use to reference the various features or parts of a watch.

design graphic that shows the anatomy of a luxury watch pointing to the different parts FASHIONPHILE

This term is a no-brainer. This refers to the metal links that hold the watch in place and secure the watch to your wrist.

Note: if it is leather, this part of the watch is referred to as a strap.


This term refers to the outer ring that wraps around the crystal covering of the watch, holding everything in place. You may notice some interesting details here, such as fluted bezels (seen on many Rolex watches), and precious stones.


This term refers to the unit of the watch that contains both the movement and the dial.


This part of the watch winds the watch setting, the time, and the date. It is located at the outer edge of the watch case.


This term refers to the back of the case. Typically no one sees this area except the wearer, but there are a lot of interesting elements to this part. More on that another time.


This term refers to the transparent covering that the bezel holds in place. If it is a luxury watch, this part is usually made with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.


This is also known as the “face” of the watch. Coming in many colors, this is the part of the watch that you look at to tell the time.


These are the parts of the watch that point to the hour, the minute, and the second.


This refers to the numbers or the symbols on the face of the watch that indicates the time. Often you will see numbers, lines, or roman numerals.


This is the part of the watch right above and below the watch case, that secures the watch to the bracelet/ strap.


This refers to the logo that is positioned on the face of the watch, indicating the brand and manufacturer.


Watch movements refer to the type of “engine” that keeps the watch ticking, or moving, to display the time on your wrist.

Watch Movements & Types

As you can tell, there are so many unique parts to a watch. But one of the most important parts (and one you should care about) is movement. There are two types of watch movements: mechanical and quartz.


Understanding How Mechanical Movements Work

A watch with a mechanical movement must be wound. There are two ways a mechanical watch can be wound: either manually or automatically (otherwise known as self-winding). In automatic watches, energy is generated by the wearer’s daily motions. All the more reason to keep wearing your automatic watch if you have one!

product image of Rolex watch FASHIONPHILE
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust Watch

Shopping tip: When shopping for watches on FASHIONPHILE, our product description lets you know which movement the watch contains. We also provide all measurements for you. Arguably most important, the circumference. Before purchasing a watch, it’s a good idea to measure your wrist with a measuring tape to notate your wrist size. Depending on which kind of watch you are eyeing, watches with metal bracelets can be adjusted by adding or removing links; watches with a leather strap can be adjusted using the holes provided.

Understanding How Quartz Movements Work

A watch with a quartz movement relies on a battery to keep the watch ticking. This is the more accurate movement of the two. And for those who don’t really care about the logistics behind the mechanics of the watch, one with a quartz movement can (in some cases) also be the more affordable option. When the battery dies after a couple of years, you can just replace it with a new battery.

product image of Cartier Tank watch FASHIONPHILE
Cartier Tank

At the end of the day, why do watch movements matter? Watch movements don’t necessarily connote a lesser or more superior quality. It’s all about the “engine” of choice. And in a lot of cases, it’s really about how the two types of watches tick. For example, the Cartier Tank variants with quartz movements do not have a seconds hand, so there is no visible difference between an automatic and a quartz movement.  Choosing your watch movement, as well as what’s aesthetically pleasing to you, is 100% a personal preference.

Knowing the anatomy of a watch can generate so much more appreciation for luxury watches, and why they continue to hold tremendous value still to this day. Curious to learn more? Our process for authenticating luxury timepieces is a must-read.
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