Every community or culture has a specific language, filled with phrases and words that are familiar to those on the inside—but perhaps a little perplexing to those just listening in. The watch community is no different with watch lingo that can be difficult to understand if you’re not well-versed in the jargon. And this is in addition to the wide world of watch nicknames, many of which we’ve covered previously.
If you’re looking to brush up on your watch-speak, read our handy guide to watch slang for an explanation of some of the more common terms you’ll hear in watch circles.
WIS, Watch Nerd, Watch Snob, Newb
The terms WIS, Watch Nerd, Watch Snob, and Newb are used to describe people who are into watches.
A Watch Idiot Savant, or WIS for short, refers to a person who is highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable in watches. A WIS loves to nerd out about watch details, from the design to the movement—and everything in between. When they’re not buying watches, they’re reading about them, discussing them on watch forums, or browsing online shopping sites to see which models to add to their wish list. Other similar terms for WIS include Watch Nerd and Watch Enthusiast.
A step beyond a WIS is a Watch Snob, which is defined as a watch enthusiast with strongly held beliefs. Generally speaking, Watch Snobs don’t like quartz movements, think in-house movements are better than outsourced ones, and favor only a handful of high-end brands as “true watch manufacturers.”
On the other end of the spectrum is a Newb or Newbie, which is a person that has just discovered an interest in watches. Like any beginner, a Newb will not know much about watches at first (and will likely make mistakes) but if they stick to the journey long enough, they may soon find themselves firmly in the WIS camp.
Manufacture, AD, Pre-Owned, Grey Market
The terms Manufacture, AD, Pre-owned, and Grey Market, describe various watch sources. A Manufacture (French for manufacturer) is the brand that makes the watch—think Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, Breitling, Panerai, and so on.
Sometimes a Manufacture owns and operates a few stores (for example, Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva, London, and Paris) but they mostly rely on a vast global network of brick-and-mortar authorized dealers (or ADs) to sell their watches around the world. Even if you see a Rolex-only branded boutique somewhere, Rolex does not own it—it is owned and run by a company that is authorized to do so. The Manufacture supplies watches to the AD at wholesale prices and the AD sells them to the end consumer (complete with warranties and guarantees) at retail prices. This is the most traditional manner to purchase a high-end watch, although that is changing now.
As its name suggests, a Pre-Owned watch dealer specializes in selling secondhand watches. They generally have no ties to the Manufacture and source their goods from people that want to sell their personal watches. Pre-owned dealers purchase unwanted watches directly from people, service them, and resell them to other people. While Pre-Owned dealers often offer their own guarantees and warranties, these are not official ones offered by the brand.
In between the AD and the Pre-Owned dealer is the Grey Market watch dealer. Grey Market dealers generally sell unworn/new watches but they are not authorized by the Manufacture to do so. Grey Market dealers source their watches via under-the-table agreements (usually with ADs) and resell them to end-consumers. Grey Market dealers traditionally sold slow-moving watches at heavily discounted prices; however, since the secondary market is booming right now, plenty of Grey Market dealers are getting their hands on the hottest watch models (before end-consumers) and reselling them at sky-high premiums.
Daily Driver, Beater Watch, GADA Watch, Desk Diver, Fashion Watch, Grail Watch
The terms Daily Driver Watch, Beater Watch, GADA Watch, Desk Diver, Fashion Watch, and Grail Watch are used to describe general watch categories.
Daily Driver and Beater Watch are interchangeable. These are names given to watches worn daily and the wearer isn’t too careful with them.
A GADA watch stands for “Go Anywhere, Do Anything” watch, which as the name implies, is a timepiece that can be worn basically all the time and for just about any occasion. While GADA watches will differ depending on personal taste, some common parameters include a simple dial, a comfortable bracelet, an easy-to-match colorway, and water resistance of at least 100 meters.
A Desk Diver is a nickname given to a dive watch that will likely never go diving. For instance, most people don’t buy a Rolex Submariner to go on a dive—they buy it because it’s a great-looking watch and a status symbol.
The watch community uses the (derogatory) term Fashion Watches for watches that are branded with high-end designer names that don’t have a long history of making watches (for example, Michael Kors, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Armani) or popular mass-produced direct-to-consumer watches that claim to be luxury but aren’t (for instance Daniel Wellington, MVMT, and Filippo Loreti.)
The term ‘Grail Watch’ (as in ‘Holy Grail’) refers to a watch collector’s ultimate collection piece. Such a watch may be extremely difficult to acquire due to limited availability or a prohibitively high cost, such as with Rolex or Patek Philippe. As such, some collectors may spend years or even a lifetime hunting for their grail watch.
NOS, Mint, Slider, Unworn, Correct, Factory, Modding, Frankenwatch, Iced, Bustdown
The terms NOS, Correct, Modding, and Frankenwatch all have to do with the condition of a watch.
NOS is short for New Old Stock watches and describes a watch that is vintage or discontinued from the brand’s catalog but has never been worn.
The word Mint is used to describe a pre-owned watch that looks new, or close to new (maybe a tiny hairline scratch but nothing more than that). Some sellers and dealers are a little loose with this term, so make sure you do your homework before accepting a used watch as “mint” condition. Similarly, a Slider is a watch that can pass for brand new.
Alternatively, an Unworn watch is just what it sounds like – a pre-owned watch (because you’re not buying it from an authorized dealer) that has never been worn before. This is as close to new as you’ll get.
The word Correct is used to state that an older watch has all original parts or at least, replacement parts that are identical to what would have been original to the watch when it was made.
Modding is the practice of modifying watches with custom parts to express creativity or personal style. The watch modding community is a popular one and members love to show off their creations.
A Frankenwatch is a type of modded watch but the intent is generally different. Frankenwatches are usually patched together using parts of different watches – a dial from here, a bracelet from there, a bezel from somewhere. The problem arises when a seller tries to pass a Frankenwatch off as an all-correct piece (when it isn’t) to sell the watch at a higher price.
The terms Bustdown, Bust Down, Iced, or Iced Out refer to an original luxury watch that’s customized with aftermarket diamonds and other gemstones. This is the opposite of a Factory diamond watch. A full diamond pavé watch (whether Factory or aftermarket) is sometimes called a Chandelier watch.
Hype Watch, Sleeper, Heavy Hitter, Dog,
The terms Hype Watch, Sleeper, and Dog refer to a watch’s popularity and investment potential. Whether we like it or not, certain watches have become attractive to non-enthusiasts because of the possibility to make some money when reselling them.
With that said, Hype watches are those that are so exceedingly popular that they’re virtually impossible to buy from retail and can only be acquired via the secondary market by paying enormous premiums. Think Rolex sports watches, Patek Philippe Nautilus and Aquanaut, or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore.
Conversely, a Sleeper is a watch that’s not currently popular but has the potential to become in demand in the near future. These are also sometimes called Future Classics. The yellow gold Daytona with a green dial (nicknamed the ‘John Mayer’) is a perfect example of a past Sleeper (no one paid attention to it when it was released in 2016 as everyone was too busy looking at the stainless steel Daytona with a black ceramic bezel) that has transformed into a Hype watch thanks to a very famous John Mayer YouTube video talking about it.
A Heavy Hitter generally refers to a super impressive watch, whether it’s because of its particular brand and model, complications, price point, or design. A heavy hitter watch is one that commands attention and costs tons of money.
A Dog is a watch that is very difficult to sell given its lack of popularity and demand.
ISO, WTB, NTB, FS, FSOT, WTT, FSO, FTO, NIB, LNIB
The acronyms ISO, WTB, NTB, FS, FSOT, WTT, FSO, FTO, NIB, and LNIB are generally used when selling, buying, or trading watches. You’ll typically see these on watch sales sites and online forums.
ISO is short for “In Search Of,” which is used when someone is hunting for a specific watch. Somewhat related is WTB, which stands for “Want To Buy” and is generally used when someone is ready to put an offer on a watch if it becomes available for sale. This is sometimes said as NTB or “Need To Buy.”
FS stands for “For Sale,” which is self-explanatory but there’s also FSOT, which stands for “For Sale Or Trade,” meaning the seller is open to trading the watch for another one if the right one comes along. Then there’s “WTT,” which stands for “Want To Trade.”
Some acronyms will state certain parameters such as FSO (For Sale Only) and FTO (For Trade Only).
NIB stands for “New In Box” while LNIB is short for “Like New In Box.” Again, remember there are no hard and fast rules for these terms so just make sure you do the necessary research before pulling the trigger on any sale so there are no surprises when you receive your watch.
Full Set, Complete Kit, Naked,
The terms Full Set, Complete Kit, and Naked are again generally used when buying and selling watches.
A Full Set describes a watch that’s being sold with all the original paperwork, packaging, and accessories. This is sometimes also described as Full Kit, Complete Kit, Complete Set, and so on.
The opposite of a full set is a Naked watch, which refers to only the watch being sold with nothing else.
Buyers and sellers have different definitions of what makes a “Complete Set;” some include brochures, tags, bags, and the like while others don’t. Ask plenty of questions if you’re unsure of what’s included in the set.
Lume, Tropical, Patina, Fauxtina
You’ll hear the terms Lume, Tropical, Patina, and Fauxtina when discussing dials.
Lume is short for luminescence or luminous material, which is what makes some watch dials glow in the dark. There are different types of lume including radioactive radium, old-school tritium, modern SuperLuminova, and more.
If a dial has gone Tropical, it means that it has transformed in color due to long-term exposure to sunshine (and sometimes salty water.) Apparently, watches that spent plenty of time in sun-drenched locations (such as tropical spots near the equator) had a greater likelihood of transforming colors—hence the descriptor Tropical dial.
Patina refers to the natural aging seen on vintage watches in the form of faded dials and/or lume plots that have taken on a darker hue. While outsiders often see this discoloration as signs of decay, for watch collectors, patina can be a good thing. If the patina is natural and symmetrical, it gives the watch a fantastic lived-in glow that you can’t replicate with modern watches. Yet, some modern watches do try and replicate that retro vibe with a practice known as Fauxtina, which is the deliberate darkening of lume to evoke a vintage look.
Watch Meetups, GTG, Wrist check, Wristshot, Wrist Roll, Sexpile
Watch Meetups or Get Togethers (GTG) are private events where enthusiasts gather to revel in their fascination with all things watches. Not only do attendees wear timepieces that they want to flaunt to other obsessives but they can also bring a case of watches so everyone has a stack of models to look at and hold in hand during the gathering.
Since watches can be rare, expensive, and highly collectible, GTGs are generally invite-only private affairs. Plus, depending on how serious the event is, sharing the time and location before or during the event is usually not permitted for security reasons.
A Wrist Check is what it sounds like—telling everyone what watch you’re currently wearing on your wrist. Similarly, a Wristshot is a picture of a watch (that you’re probably going to share on social media) while a Wrist Roll is a short clip (again, to post online) that starts with a shot of the clasp and sees the arm turn slowly to finally reveal the face of the watch. Lastly, a Sexpile is a nickname given to a big ol’ stack of luxury watches (usually photographed for sharing post-event)—the more expensive and coveted the watches, the better!
Whether you’re a Newb, Nerd or Snob, understanding the lexicon of watch people gives you a greater understanding of the culture. New jargon comes up every once in a while, and if it sticks, you start to see it pop up in all corners of the watch world. Are there any watch-related terms that you’re unsure of? Ask us anything in the comments below and we’ll help you decode it!
I rarely wear watches, but I have a good collection of character and Russian watches acquired over time. I like obscure European and foreign character watches – French in particular. I love and have several Raketa watches from Russia and I have watchbands to complement all the watches. I am still trying to reband (from Straps) a new Woodstock watch I just found and now with this list I can understand watch jargon. I admire and enjoy $$$$$ watches but have no desire to buy one. BUT….I would not turn down a Cartier tank as a gift; but that’s about shape and style. Some of my older watches need repair – and I think it will cost more than. I paid for the watch itself. And I like red watch straps. Go figure…
And very happy to hear from people with simila rtastes and interests.
Other terms. Field watch and Tool watch.
So, all these definitions and you missed one of the first: “AD”. I see it all the time but I’m clueless….
You missed it….
“…..but they mostly rely on a vast global network of brick-and-mortar authorized dealers (or ADs) to sell their watches around the world.”
WIS by Timezone! That was sometime in 1997. Time really flies. Thanks for bring back good memories.
If you really want to see how and why terms are applied, if I may, go to YouTube and watch (no pun intended) some of the best “watch nerds” like The Urban Gentry, Just One More Watch, Random Rob, Teddy Baldasarre and Long Island Watch for the very best in “watch nerdery” entertainment.