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Luxury Watch Terms

Luxury Watch Terms


A significant and growing segment of the global watch market is the attraction of luxury watches. The appreciation of these timepieces, referred to as the horological hobby comes from many different sectors, from collectors to investors to those who simply want to show they have arrived in style.


If you are also fascinated by these marvels of craftsmanship and technology, you might find it helpful to understand some of the terms and concepts associated with fine watches. There are a number of factors that help define a truly high-end timepiece, and these include their cost, exclusiveness, and inner workings.

Defining Luxury

It is not by accident the term luxury has come to describe the world’s finest wristwatches and timepieces. They are both designed to appeal to, and priced so as to be affordably only by, those individuals who can afford and use only the very best. Some of the most exclusive members of this category would cost five to ten years income from many average workers. Accordingly, they considered luxuries, as they are far from any definition of “necessary” to simply tell time. In fact, these works of art actually play a role defining the concept of luxury items.

Many consider the exclusiveness of a timepiece as even more important in defining it as luxury than the price. A luxury watch will always be part of a highly limited production run, and it will carry an inherent value due to its timeless styling and high content of hand crafting. Thus the price is more than a marketing ploy, as it reflects the exceptionally high level of engineering and personalized attention invested in each timepiece. A luxury watch reflects a multi-generational perspective for a purchase, not one of short-term fashion trends.

A Few Key Terms

Generally speaking, the more complicated a luxury watch, the more expensive and desirable it is. A complication is any feature added beyond the simple telling of time. While there are a number of potential complications, two of the more popular actually assign an additional descriptive name to a timepiece:

  • The chronograph is a watch that has a stopwatch function in addition to the timekeeping. You want to look for the analog stopwatch, with separate sweeping hands.
  • Tourbillions are watches with a clever built-in rotating mechanism designed to keep s gravity from influencing the timepiece in different orientations.

Other popular complications include the perpetual calendar (shows the right date without having to change months) and dual-time/dual-date functions.

If you are serious about fine timepieces, you will want to understand what the acronym COSC signifies. The French version of the name for the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute is the source of these letters, and it indicates something of the FDA of timepieces.

However, the testing and certification by this standards group is voluntary. The manufacturers of the finest timepieces submit individual watches to the Institute for 15 days of rigorous testing, which includes multiple positions and temperatures. Successful results provide a piece with its own COSC serial number and the right to be called a chronometer. You’ll want to understand these serial numbers, as they indicate the quality of an individual piece.

These are just a few of the terms you will want to be comfortable with, and we hope they whet your appetite to learn more about the pleasing field of horology. If you are already hooked, talk to your jeweler about BASELWORLD. It’s the Disney World for everyone who appreciates fine timepieces, and you may just want to find a way to attend some spring.


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