How does one break into the confusing, esoteric world of watch nerdery? Our column, “How to Be a Watch Guy,” aims to answer all your new watch guy questions, and help you navigate the always exciting — but sometimes intimidating, complicated, and pricey — world of watches.
If terms like “sexpile,” “quartz crisis,” and “Rollie” leave you scratching your head, you’re not yet a full-blown “WIS.” What the hell does that mean? Don’t worry, you’ll soon be fluent in watch slang with the help of this handy reference.
For those new to the scene, the watch enthusiast community is welcoming (Editor’s Note: Is it, though?), but might sometimes feel like a foreign country complete with an associated linguistic barrier. The language of watches is vast and colorful, incorporating historical knowledge, technical terms, nicknames of Seiko and Rolex models, hashtags and memes…even reference numbers of specific Rolex and Patek Philippe watches enunciated with relish by nerdy collectors.
There are also plenty of examples that linguistically qualify as slang. Some of it is shared with other niche and collector communities that speak of “flipping” (reselling), “modding” (aftermarket modification or customization), “iced-out” models (covered in diamonds), etc. However, watchnerds also have a lingo that’s all their own.
Below is a glossary of basic terms that can loosely be called slang and which are mostly specific to watches. Arm yourself with a few of these and tackle your next watch meetup with confidence.
Watch Slang For Dummies
AD: n. Abbreviation of “authorized dealer.” Authorized dealers have an official relationship with watch brands which allows them to offer manufacturer warrantees, but also entails certain limitations such as restrictions on pricing. Used in contrast to the many other options available to modern consumers for acquiring watches. Example: My local AD got its Rolex license pulled for discounting older models down 15%.
Batman: adj. Refers to a blue and black bezel on a GMT watch. Similar use and origin as the more popular Pepsi below. Example: I prefer the Batman GMT to the Pepsi ’cause I like to think of myself as a superhero.
Beater: n. Any watch you don’t need to worry about getting scratched, damaged or even destroyed. Usually contrasted with more expensive watches that are pampered and saved for more formal and less rigorous situations. Example: My 5711’s at home; this cheap-ass Timex is just my weekend beater.
Correct: adj. Denotes a watch, typically vintage or pre-owned, whose parts aren’t necessarily all from that exact example, but that all come from the exact same reference. Example: Tim freaked out when he found out the handset on his Memovox was from a later reference and not correct for the E855.
Cyclops: n. A small, bubble-like magnifier some watchmakers place on the crystal over the date window. A controversial design element. Example: Your old Sea Dweller is cool and all, but I prefer the cyclops on my Sub.
Desk diver: n. 1) A dive watch not used for actual diving and instead worn by an office worker. 2) The wearer of such a watch. Example: I know this watch is just gonna end up a desk diver, but having 1,000m of water resistance ups my masculinity quotient.
Fashion watch: n. Refers to watches with a primary function as a fashion accessory, aimed at the general consumer rather than the enthusiast. Often the term is derogatorily applied to inexpensive watches by brands that don’t primarily make watches, or with a history of making other items, especially apparel. Example: Walking past all those cheap fashion watches at the mall just makes me sad.
Fauxtina: n. Portmanteau of “faux” and “patina.” A weathered, aged or vintage look that’s been created artificially and intentionally applied to a product. Example: The fauxtina doesn’t bother me. The shitty design bothers me.
Frankenwatch: n. A “Frankenstein watch.” In reference to second-hand and vintage watches, a watch that has been repaired or modified using parts not from the original watch — or even the original manufacturer — usually devaluing it in comparison to an all-original or even an all-“correct” (see above) example. Example: It looked like such a cool find, but then it turned out to be a Frankenwatch when I opened up the case back.
Grail: n. A watch, usually rare or significantly out of financial reach, which one aspires to own. Used by collectors of other items but very common among watch enthusiasts. Example: An A-series Royal Oak is Jim’s grail, but he’s gonna have to settle for a G-Shock since he’s only 17.
Hammy: n. A Hamilton watch. Example: I don’t care about your fancy-ass minute repeater — my Hammy looks dope and it was only $500. Joke’s on you.
In-house: adj./adv. Describes something produced by the brand that sells it, rather than something that’s sourced from an outside supplier. Can apply to full watches, watch movements, or other components. Not really slang, but an important term. Example: Why the hell are you worried about it having an in-house movement — did Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman” have an in-house movement?
Lume: n. Abbreviation of “luminant” or “luminescent paint.” Refers to glow-in-the-dark material used to illuminate watch hands and indices for low-light legibility. Example: The lume on your SKX is so bright I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.
NOS: adj. Abbreviation of “new-old-stock.” Describes vintage or out-of-production watches that were never sold and remained as inventory in their original, unworn condition. Also applies to watch components. Example: The watch may be 50 years old, but it’s NOS, meaning that if you want it, it’ll cost you your first-born child.
Pepsi: adj. Usually “Pepsi bezel.” Similar use and origin to Batman above. The 24-hour bezel of a GMT watch that’s colored half-red, half-blue to signify daytime and nighttime hours. Originating with the Rolex GMT Master but now also used to refer to any such colorway. (A Coke bezel is black and red.) Example: Those old aluminum Pepsi bezels looks sick when they’re faded — the new ceramic ones will never look that cool.
Paneristi: n. Collectors of Panerai watches. Example: Sylvester Stalone knows that he can call upon the Paneristi if he ever gets into a serious fix.
Patina: n. An aged, weathered look that results from an aging or exposed material. In watches, it can refer to luminous paint that has turned yellow with time, for example, or a dial that has changed color. Example: Doris, your Speedmaster has “patina.” Your husband is merely “old.”
Quartz crisis: n. An event beginning in the 1970s in which new technology nearly destroyed the traditional mechanical watch industry, and indeed killed many prominent brands. The technology uses quartz crystals for timekeeping and batteries for power, resulting in mass-produced watches that are inexpensive, but more accurate than mechanical watches. While a “crisis” for the watch industry, it can also be called the “quartz revolution.” Example: Man, after the Quartz Crisis killed that brand, it should’ve stayed dead.
Rollie: n. A Rolex watch. Example: What’s that dude thinking, putting a Rollie on a rubber strap?
Sexpile: n. A bunch of highly desirable watches, grouped together usually on a table, generally so that their owners can take a picture of them. (No, really.) Example: There I was, staring at a sexpile of other people’s vintage Pateks, and wondering where I’d gone wrong in life.
Sharp: adj. Describes a case that maintains its original, well-defined angles rather than those that have been dulled due to polishing. Example: I was able to locate my Rollie among a sexpile of nearly identical watches because it was the only one that was unpolished and still sharp.
Speedy: n. An Omega Speedmaster. Example: He bought his Speedy at the local PX when he was stationed in Germany, and now it’s worth a small fortune.
Tropical: adj. Describes a vintage watch dial and/or bezel that has faded due to years of exposure to the sun. In particular, it refers to black dials that have taken on an earthy brownish hue. (A ghosted bezel is one that has similarly faded to gray.) Example: Back when I was a kid, we called that “damaged” — now they call it “tropical” and charge a premium.
WIS: n. Watch Idiot Savant. Someone who knows way more than is normal or reasonable about watches. Used in a self-deprecating way in reference to oneself and fellow watch enthusiasts. (You are now on your way to becoming one.) Synonym: watchnerd. Example: I divorced my husband after he became a WIS and began speaking to our children exclusively in reference numbers.
Wrist check: n. When watch enthusiasts share with each other what watch they are wearing at the moment. Example: They forgot the wristcheck on the podcast and now the suspense is killing me.
Wristshot: n. A picture of a watch being worn on the wrist, often for posting on social media. Example: He used to talk about his feelings, but now he just sits in his office taking wristshots to post on Instagram.