A savonnette movement or watch is oriented such that the small seconds subdial is 90º off axis from the stem or crown. In most cases the crown is placed at 3:00 on the dial, so the small seconds are at 6:00. This is in contrast to the so-called Lépine arrangement, in which the small seconds are opposite the stem.
“Savonner” is soaping, and “savonnette” means bathroom soap. Therefore, the “savonette” name comes from the sleek look of the closed case, which resembles a bar of soap, or of the feel of such a watch in the hand.
Wrist watches typically place the crown at 3:00, savonette-style movements are more popular than Lépine in wrist watches, since this places the small seconds subdial at the bottom of the dial rather than at 9:00.
Watches with a spring-loaded metal cover became popular in the late 19th century. Although they emerged first in Turkey, such watches were embraced in America as “hunter” or “hunting” watches. This term became very popular in the early 20th century, and displaced “savonnette” as the popular name for a watch or movement with an off-axis small seconds subdial. Today, hunter and savonnette are considered synonyms.
Due to the evocative name, many hunter watches feature engraved nature scenes on the case. Late in the 20th century, it was common for so-called hunting watches to use central seconds or quartz movements or to lack a seconds hand completely. These are still referred to as hunter watches due to the placement of the crown at 3:00.