Watch Buying Guide – All You Need to Know
‘Time and tide wait for no man’. This is an old saying that holds true even today. Actually, it is especially relevant today. In an era of fast machines and faster technological gadgets, the fastest moving entity is time. Though we cannot conquer time, we can at least keep track and keep up with its pace. Watches are those marvelous machines in miniature that help us make the most of every day, efficiently.
Watch – the ultimate Time machine
The earliest historical record of any device used to indicate time was 3500 B.C. Ancient Egyptian builders constructed tall columns that cast shadows and helped people estimate the hour of the day. These sun dials were followed by the water clocks developed by the Chinese.
Though the working mechanism of a clock was created, and several models of clocks were built all over the world, it was only in 1510 that the first pocket watch was invented. The master mind behind this innovation was a German, Peter Henlein, who is regarded the father of modern age watches and clocks.
The initial objective of a watch was to regulate religious prayers. Now, watches are the devices that regulate our daily lives! Men and women use watches every day. But there are facts that we don’t know about watches. Familiarizing ourselves with these facts can help us choose a watch that could be a timeless timepiece.
Classification of watches
Watches are probably the most common of the accessories used by men and women, alike. But when it comes to choosing the watch that best fits your requirement, many questions arise. We have so many unanswered queries like – which is the best watch to buy, what are the most important features to look for in a watch, the difference between an automatic and a quartz watch, etc.
There are so many models, brands and styles of watches available in the market today that it is easy for one to get totally confused and lost in the profusion of information… To make it a little easier, here is the classification of watches and a simple explanation for some of the complicated terms used in the watch industry.
Based on external features, watches are categorized into dress watches, designer watches, and sports watches. We shall see details of each of these types in the section dedicated to Styles of watches.
The external shell of the watch can be of many materials such as plastics, resins, stainless steel, base metal like brass, gold plated base metal, and gold filled precious metals.
Depending on the overall design and cost of the watch, crystals may be of plastic, mineral glass, or synthetic sapphire.
The strap is the defining piece of the watch. It can be made of plastic, rubber, specially developed metals like tungsten carbide or titanium, other base metals, precious metals, exotic skins of animals and leather.
The dial can be digital or analog ( with Roman or Arabic numerals).
Colors can be of rainbow dyes, cartoon characters, car manufacturers, favorite sports teams, etc.
Jewels or stones like ruby and emerald (mostly synthetic), are used in watches to reduce friction between the moving gear trains. A 17 jewel watch is considered to be “fully jeweled” mechanical movement, and 56 jewels is regarded a quality watch.
Merely a mark of ‘Water Resistant’ on your watch does not mean you can splash into any water body, with your watch on! You have to learn to decipher the fine print. Here is a guide of interpreting water resistance of watches and the conditions they can withstand.
3atm (30m or 100ft): rain, gentle splash
5atm (50m or 165ft): swimming, splashing in pool, but not diving
10atm (100m or 330ft): minimum for sport diving
20atm or more: for deep sea diving
The Standard functions would be the display of hours, minutes, and seconds. There are watches with more complex functions like the calendar, temperature, automatic and mechanical chronograph, chronometers, GPS, and time zone indicator.
Based on the movement of internal mechanism, there are several options available.
- Mechanical chronographer (manual and automatic) has to be wound automatically through natural motion of the wrist.
- Quartz chronographer does not need winding, but requires periodic replacement of battery.
- Eco drive movement Thermo watches work using the temperature difference between the wearer’s arm and the surrounding atmosphere as the power source. They were first introduced in 1999 by Citizen.
- Lithium Iodine (LID) watches have special titanium lithium-ion secondary battery that gets charged by an amorphous silicon solar cell placed behind the dial. This secondary could operate without further charging, from 30 days and up to 8 years.
- Automatic Quartz or Kinetic watch movements are a combination of self- winding rotor mechanism with a quartz crystal as its timing element.
What are the important features?
Price of the watch
Deciding on the amount of money you are willing to spend on your watch will greatly influence the choice of watch. There are watches in a wide range of prices.
- Very costly watches are $1000 and higher. They are made of precious metals (gold plated or platinum), tungsten carbide or titanium. They have sapphire crystals. Formal and Designer watches fall in this category. eg. Omega, Rolex
- Less expensive watches range between $300-$700. They are usually automatic quartz and have straps of Stainless steel, leather, titanium, and carbon fiber. They have crystals of mineral glass. They can be used on casual occasions. g. Orient, Botta Design
- The least expensive watches cost $60-$200. They are quartz watches. They are predominantly made of plastic and resin, and base metals. They use plastic crystals. Most sports and fashion watches are quartz watches. Swatch watches
Once you have decided on the budget, all other choices and preferences will fall in place. You can decide about the style, brand, the right size, water resistance, life expectancy of the watch, and its maintenance requirements.
What are NOT important features?
Most of the advertisements for watches make it a point to exaggerate the features of a watch, as well as make false claims. Here are some of the features that have been given undue importance.
- Movement of the watch refers to the internal working of a watch and it doesn’t matter to the customer at all.
- The number of jewels in a watch does not add any value to the watch. Most of them are synthetically manufactured. So, there should be no increase in price, by citing the ‘jewels’.
- Important! Contrary to popular belief and claims of most of the ad campaigns, a majority of the watches are NOT hand crafted in a quaint village of Switzerland. In fact, only very few are, and those cost over $20,000. A majority of watches are mass manufactured in factories.
Terms you should know
Stones or Jewels
As you can see from the image above, a watch works with the help of several gear trains. When these metal spokes are in contact continuously, there is noticeable wear on the metals. In order to reduce friction at the points of maximum wear, watchmakers looked for materials stronger than the metals used. Jewels were the obvious choice. As diamonds are very expensive, rubies and emeralds are preferred. They are cheaper and can be manufactured synthetically.
Stones and jewels are used at pivotal points of the gear train and anti-shock settings to reduce friction. In the past, jewels and stones were obtained with difficulty. So, the amount of jewels was an indicator of quality. With the advent of synthetic materials, jewels used in a watch are no longer expensive.
This is nothing but a general term for all the bits, crystals, gears and other parts that make the watch work.
A movement that is powered by a battery and is regulated by the oscillations of a quartz crystal. It is more accurate than other type of watch.
Any function of the watch that goes beyond the basic function of time -keeping is called a complication. It could have an annual calendar, a time -zone indicator, night-vision feature, distance and altitude calculator, or something as simple as a stop watch. So, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!
Styles of Watches
All the points discussed until now are relevant to all watches, for men and women. However, when the focus comes to style, watch choices are very different, like cheese and chalk. So, we have dealt with them in separate sections. And to defer from the standard norm, let’s look at ‘Men’s first’!
Styles of Men’s Watches
Whether it is a smart and sleek sports watch or a glittering gold plated watch, the time machine on a man’s wrist can tell a lot about his lifestyle and personal taste. In fact, a man’s lifestyle decides his watch. It’s all in his hands, really!
Let’s take a look at the popular styles of men’s watches.
The term refers to watches worn with suits and other such attire, on formal occasions. They are usually traditional pieces with metal or fine leather straps and large faces that are designed to give a look of sophistication. A dress watch should ideally be simple and elegant, with a touch of class.
Worn by sportsmen and athletes around the world, these are simple and functional watches that are also light weight. Whether you are trying to navigate your way on a steep, mountainous terrain or riding high waves while surfing, these high -performance sports watches are indispensible.
They are a veritable boon to fitness enthusiasts also. With a good sports watch in possession, they will never again have to interrupt their intense training session for resetting their lap time or recalibrating the GPS again.
A good sports watch can help a sportsman improve his performance
There is no limit to the different types of watches in the market, designed for casual wear. Thet are made of a variety of materials, colors, and shapes. Take a look at these.
Styles of Ladies’ Watches
A watch is twice as useful to a lady as it is to a gentleman. A beautiful and well-crafted watch can tell the time, and can serve as a stunning fashion accessory – a bracelet. Naturally, this potential was soon tapped by the industry, and they have provided women with a whole gamut of choices.
There are many shapes of dials, materials for straps, no dearth of colors for straps and dials, a variety of jewels to embellish the watch with, crystals, metals, and stones to enhance the finish of the watch, and innumerable contemporary materials to experiment with…the list is endless. And we haven’t even mentioned the scores of designer brands available! As the saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, so take a good look at this collection of pictures before you venture into a shop.
Tips for buying watches
- The most prestigious watches are available only in stores of authorized dealers. So, you can check the models available online, but always purchase branded and expensive watches only in retail shops. This will also facilitate the exchange or return of a watch, if it is found unsuitable or is damaged in any way.
- Choose the size of watch according to your personality and stature. If you have a big build, go for a watch with a large face. If you are petite, a watch with a compact face will suit you better.
- A Stainless steel strap lasts longer than leather, and costs very much lesser. If you are looking for a watch to be worn daily, a versatile Stainless steel one is a better choice.
- A mechanical watch can last for many years. Quartz watches have limited life, chiefly because their parts cannot be repaired, and can only be replaced. So, their life is dependent on the availability of their parts.
- People who are prone to skin allergies should avoid wearing watches that have straps made of nickel
Maintenance required for Watches
- Mechanical (manual and automatic) watches are required to be serviced and cleaned according to the recommendations of the manufacturer or at least every three years.
- Quartz watches that are operated by battery need to be serviced when the battery is replaced every 2-5 years, depending on the type of watch.
- Lithium Iodine batteries (LID) watches have a lifetime of ten years.
Famous Brand names
There are many prominent watch makers known for their unique designs and sterling quality and impeccable finish. Understandably, their name tags come with a hefty price.
Here are some of the brands whose watch making skills have produced timepieces that exude beauty and style!
Chopard, Tag Heuer, Omega, Rolex, Piaget, Hublot, A. Lange & Sohne, Marc, Fossil, Cartier, and Blancpain. Most designer wear labels also have their own brand of watches, like Micheal Kors, Calvin Clein, Nike, and Adidas.
Beware of fake watches
Luxury watches of big brands typically cost millions or at least several thousand dollars. Such watches are crafted for a niche market. For the vast majority of humanity who cannot afford them, there is a chance to fulfill their dream of adorning their wrist with a luxury watch. They can buy a replica of the desired watch.
Replica watches are designed to grant you that fleeting moment of euphoria, when you see the name of the brand on your wrist. They are usually manufactured with materials that look similar to the original, but there is a lot of compromise on the quality and also the finish. And it clearly shows. The materials used are visibly of poorer quality. So, all the sparkle fades away slowly, but steadily, with time. And so will your enchantment with fake watches!
Here are some guidelines to identify an original luxury watch (in this case, Rolex), from a fake.
- Check the serial number and model number. These numbers will be between the six-position and twelve position, in a genuine Rolex.
- ‘Is the movement reference in line with the piece?’ A good watch maker will be able to check it out for you.
- Look at the gold parts of the watch. Since the 70s, Rolex has only used solid gold whenever the design called for the use of gold. So, if the watch seems to have scratches or if it is not uniformly golden, it must be a fake.
- Check the printing on the dial. It must be perfect.
- Check all stamps and stampings on the watch.
Smartwatch is a computerized watch with highly enhanced functionality that goes beyond mere time keeping. Most of them run mobile applications, and some of them even run operating systems. They often serve as mobile media players and feature all mobile phone capability.
Smartwatches include devices such as camera, accelerometer, altimeter, GPS, compass, chronograph, and calculator. Some have Sports watch features like training programs(as interval), Lap time, speed display, GPS tracking unit, route tracking, heart rate monitoring, Cadence sensor compatibility, and compatibility with sport transitions. Some of the popular smartwatches are Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony Smartwatch, Motorola Motoactv, HOT watch, and the latest being, the Apple watch.
Some day perhaps, you may decide to walk into a watch store, use all the information given in this guide, and buy a watch you’d cherish for life….only time will tell. Until then, watch out!