In order to create a fine and well-tuned timepiece, there are a number of different components that must be designed, created, and finally, assembled by incredibly skilled watchmakers. Although there are several watchmakers and styles of wrist watches to choose from, they all will have the basic elements of what makes a watch. Watch anatomy is important as knowing the basic outer parts of a wrist watch will not only help you understand more of its technical makeup, but will also help you when the time comes to select the style that best fits you.

Omega Planet Ocean



The case is the part of the watch anatomy that protects the watch movement and holds the internal working parts of the watch. Because there are so many styles of watches available, cases will be available in many shapes and finishes. Some examples of finishes would be high-polish, smooth, or matte.

Most cases are made of stainless steel. This is due to the durability of the metal and that it won’t tarnish. There are also watches that have cases made of other metals such as gold or platinum and for sports watches, you may see a case made of plastic. There are even cases made of different types of wood. When it comes to cases, there are plenty of options to fit your own personal style and needs.


Lugs are the small projections from the case that are used to connect the case to the strap or bracelet. They are located at 12 and 6 positions and are also sometimes called horns. They are drilled either in the inside or completely through to accommodate spring bars, which are used to actually hold the strap in place.

The distance between two lugs is measured in millimeters and is what determines the size of a watch strap. This is important to know if you plan on getting a replacement strap or if you’re looking for a certain size strap.


This is a small knob located on the outside of the case at the 3 position. It is typically used to change the time, but depending on the style of watch it could also be used to change the calendar date and day.

On a mechanical watch, the crown is used to wind the mainspring while a water-resistant watch can be wound down into the case for protection. Luxury watch crowns can be customized with embellishments such as precious gems or other decorations.


The strap, or buckle, depending on who you ask, is what is used to secure the watch to your wrist. There is a huge amount of options available when it comes to the customization of the strap. There are leather straps that are made from common materials to more exotic materials such as crocodile skin.

Other materials can be used for straps as well. For example, nylon and rubber straps can be used to make a watch sportier. If a strap is unwanted altogether, a metal bracelet can used instead as most watches allow the two to be interchangeable.


The hands are an important part of watch anatomy as the indicators that move around the dial are used to inform you of what time it is. Generally, there are going to be three different hands on your watch. In most cases, the hour hand will be shorter and will indicate what hour it is. The minute hand is usually longer and will move each minute to the next minute indicator after a minute. The second hand is usually about the same size of the minute hand and is used to indicate seconds of a minute.

Depending on the style of the watch, you may see a subtle or not so subtle design to them.


The bezel is the outer ring of the case that is found around the crystal as it holds it in place. Bezels can come in many styles so it’s not uncommon to see them differ from watch to watch. They can also be embellished with gemstones or be made with a different metal from the case. They also can have features to them such as rotating or being marked with Greenwich Mean Time numbers.


The crystal is actually made of plastic, glass, or synthetic sapphire. It is a transparent cover that allows the wearer to see the time while it protects the watch dial from dust, dirt, and other particles.


Visible through the crystal, the dial is a plate with a metal base (in most cases) that has the hours, minutes, and seconds indications. From an aesthetics standpoint, this is one of the most expressive parts of a watch.

There are several color options and number styles that can be used. For example, would you prefer a blue face with gold Roman numerals? Or how about a minimalist look with a simple interface using only stick bar markers?


This is a small opening that is also simply known as a “window” in the dial. It is used to display other information such as date, day, month or moon-phase.

Sub Dial

A small dial that is placed inside the main dial of the watch. The sub dial is used to provide information that is not provided by the main dial.

For example, on a watch that also keeps track of the day and date, you would find this information on the smaller sub dial.


Watch features are called complications. Basic watches will only tell time, but “complicated” watches will go beyond just telling time.

Depending on movement type watch complications will vary and they are most often found on the bezel or the dial. An example of a complication would be a date aperture or a dial aperture. Secondary time dials, battery and power reserve indicators are also examples of complications.

Wrapping Things Up

You don’t have to be a jeweler or a watchmaker to know watch anatomy. After reading this, you should know the outer parts and how they combine to make up quality timepiece. Hopefully this article helped to explain the purpose of each component and will be of use to you when are looking to buy your next timepiece.

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Jim-kelly · March 5, 2020 at 12:15 AM

Hi Jerry,

I really like your article .It is very instructive .I’ve wore watches my whole life buy yet i learnt some cool things about watches that i didn’t know .Thanks for the nice article .



Rick · March 5, 2020 at 4:02 PM

That was very interesting, I knew some of the parts but not all those parts. And that’s just the outside of the watch. The inside of a mechanical watch I believe would be like looking at a gear box of a car because of all the wheels having to move all those hands around. Thanks for sharing

    Jerry Strickland · March 21, 2020 at 6:10 PM

    Thanks for reading! Watches are very complex pieces of technology, but that’s what makes them so interesting!

Natalie · March 6, 2020 at 7:41 AM

Hi, Jerry,

I really thought you are a watchmaker, this is how well you have explained every part of a watch here.

I am in love with watches too, I enjoy receiving them as a present even though there is a common superstition in this respect, that a watch given as a present could lead to separation.

What do you personally think about that?

I would appreciate your feedback.

Best Wishes,

    Jerry Strickland · March 21, 2020 at 6:12 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I have actually never heard that saying or superstition before. Very interesting! My wife has gifted me several watches throughout our relationship and we’re still together, so hopefully the saying is always true!

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