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Illustrated Guide to Watch Styles,
Shapes, and Features

Marc Rochkind (MJ)
©1996-2008 by Marc Rochkind. All rights reserved.




While wristwatches come in almost every imaginable size, shape, color, and material, there are a few common styles that form the basis of most designs. This article attempts to define these common styles, list their distinguishing characteristics, and show one or more examples of each.

The common styles are:

  • Dress
  • Sports, including the sub-styles of:
    • Dive
    • Pilot
  • Designer
  • Jewelry

In most cases, the distinguishing characteristics I've listed aren't absolute requirements in order to say that a watch is of a particular style, but they do serve to define the prototype. For example, while one could claim that a steel watch is a dress watch, and certainly get away with wearing it for dress, that would be a variation on the classic dress watch, which is gold. Also, some non-visual characteristics may be omitted if all the manufacturer wants is to emulate the style without the underlying function. An example would be a diver-style watch with a water resistance of, say, 50 feet.

Although I've come up with a few common styles, it's not that all watches fall into one of these categories. Many watches defy classification. Rather, my point is that, of all the watches out there, some stylistic clumps have formed.

I'd like to add additional styles if they emerge from the discussions that are surely going to follow this post. Please email me if you have any suggestions. Remember, for a style to be worth mentioning, it has to have two properties:

  1. A bunch of watches are clearly based on that style, and
  2. The style is sharply distinguished from other styles.
Style Distinguishing Characteristics Examples
  • Gold (or other precious metal)
  • Plain bezel (no markings)
  • Simple dial and hands
  • No tritium or other luminosity
  • White dial (usually)
  • Strap with inconspicuous stitching
  • Thin
JLC.jpg (25971 bytes)
Grande Taille
Patek2.jpg (17705 bytes)
Patek Philippe 5010
  • Heavy bezel with markings (usually)
  • Bold or complex markings on face
  • Thick hands (usually)
  • Casual strap (e.g., padded, prominent stitching) or heavy bracelet
  • Water resistant to at least 50 meters

(Also see Dive and Pilot for additional examples)

Style-Sports1.jpg (27766 bytes)
Bell & Ross Space Two
Style-Sports2.jpg (38329 bytes)
Breitling Montbrillant
Style-Sports3.jpg (24047 bytes)
Rolex Explorer II
Dive (subcategory of Sports)
  • Water resistance at least 100 meters
  • Uni-directional rotating bezel marked 0 to 60 (req.)
  • Easily-readable black dial
  • Bracelet or waterproof strap (e.g., nylon, rubber)
Rolex-Sub2.jpg (27490 bytes)
Rolex Submariner
Pilot (subcategory of Sports)
  • Plain bezel
  • Easily-readable black dial, with Arabic numbers at most positions
  • Triangle at 12 o'clock
  • Luminous hands and dial markings
  • Anti-magnetic
IWC-MarkXII.jpg (31827 bytes)
  • Distinctive case shape
  • Bracelet or strap integral part of design
  • Named designer, also usually famous for other objects (e.g., furniture). Picture appears in product brochure.
Ikepod.jpg (25205 bytes)
Ikepod-Newson.jpg (11508 bytes)
Ikepod Seaslug (Marc Newson)
Ventura.jpg (28032 bytes)
jesse_ventura.jpg (10483 bytes)
Ventura v-matic Automatic
(Hannes Wettstein)
Xemex.jpg (24002 bytes)
Xemex-Kulling.jpg (10842 bytes)
Xemex Offroad (Ruedi Külling)
  • Heavily jeweled, usually with diamonds
Reverso-Joaillerie.gif (27146 bytes)
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Joaillerie


Here are examples of the most common watch case shapes:

Shape-Round.jpg (9004 bytes)
Shape-Rect1.jpg (7988 bytes)
Shape-OvalVert.jpg (8620 bytes)
Shape-Oval3.jpg (8677 bytes)
Shape-Tonneau.jpg (9263 bytes)
Shape-Tonneau2.jpg (6961 bytes)
Shape-Combo.jpg (11529 bytes)
Shape-G.jpg (5741 bytes)
Unusual (letter)


Here are some common watch features, beyond the normal seconds, minutes, hours and date.

24-Hour Dial Feat-24hr.jpg (4078 bytes)
Sinn 157
Feat-24hr2.jpg (6746 bytes)
Rolex Explorer II
Alarm Feat-Alarm.jpg (25779 bytes)
Revue Thommen Cricket
Annual Calendar Feat-AnnCal.jpg (22700 bytes)
Patek Philippe 5035 (calendar set once a year, on March 1)
[see "Perpetual Calendar," below]
Chronograph Feat-Chronograph.jpg (18246 bytes)
Omega Speedmaster
(Valjoux 7750 movement)
Feat-Chronograph2.jpg (19359 bytes)
Zenith Class 4
(El Primero movement)
Feat-Chronograph3.jpg (16801 bytes)
Sinn 157
(Lemania 5100 movement)
Chronometer Feat-Chronometer.jpg (2322 bytes)
Zenith Chronomaster
Feat-Chronometer2.jpg (10421 bytes)
Ventira v-matic
Day and Month (Triple Date) Feat-Day-Month.jpg (5974 bytes)
Zenith Chronomaster (date, not shown, is also on dial)
Display Back Feat-DisplayBack.jpg (19176 bytes)
Lange 1
Feat-DisplayBack2.jpg (20165 bytes)
Minerva Anniversary
Dual Time Zone Feat-DualTimeZone-Geo2.jpg (13580 bytes)
Geographic (crown at 10 o'clock turns city ring and sets subdial to that time zone)

Feat-DualTimeZone-Oris.jpg (15247 bytes)
Oris Worldtimer (2nd time zone on subdial set forward or backward with pushers)

Feat-DualTimeZone-Rolex.jpg (26384 bytes)
Rolex Explorer II
(24-hr hand stays set while main hour hand is set independently)

Helium Release Valve Feat-Helium.jpg (4539 bytes)
Omega Seamaster Professional
Moonphase Feat-Moonphase.jpg (4499 bytes)
Zenith Chronomaster
Perpetual Calendar Feat-PerCal.jpg (18250 bytes)
Patek Philippe 5040 (calendar set once) [see "Annual Calendar," above]
Power Reserve Feat-PowerReserve.jpg (12289 bytes)
Zenith Chronomaster (hand moves as watch is wound,
showing hours of power reserve)
Pulsometer (or Pulsimeter) Feat-puls2.jpg (32647 bytes)
Bell & Ross GMT (first quarter or so of tachymetre scale is marked with pulse,
assuming chronograph is operated for a count of 15 pulses)
Rattrapante (Split-second chronograph) Feat-Rattrapante.jpg (30100 bytes)
Breitling Rattrapante (both second hands start together;
pusher stops one; next push causes stopped second hand to catch up)
Repeater Feat-Repeater.jpg (18700 bytes)
Ulysse Nardin San Marco Sonnerie en Passant
(sounds hours and half-hours)
Retrograde Feat-Retrograde.jpg (23111 bytes)
Chronoswiss Delphis (minute hand jumps back to zero when it hits 60)
Skeleton Feat-SkelFront2.jpg (25973 bytes)
Chronoswiss Opus
Tachymetre (or Tachometer) Feat-Tachymetre2.jpg (24270 bytes)
Fortis Official Cosmonauts Chronograph (chronograph is operated for one
distance unit [e.g., mile, kilometer]; number indicates units per hour)
Tourbillon Feat-Tourbillon.jpg (40358 bytes)
Vacheron Constantin Tourbillon (balance mechanism
rotates to even out effects of gravity)

(35987 hits when counter was turned off on 2-June-2008)

Please mail comments to mj@basepath.com. For the real Hannes Wettstein, click here.

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