If you want to buy a watch, there are literally thousands of different choices out there. The style and design of a watch that is selected are highly subjective. Your personal taste, intended use, and budget will all factor into the final decision. If you are unsure of what factors are important in your decision this Watch Buying Guide is for you!
1. Establish your Budget
The first step to buy a watch is to set a budget. A watch can be worth between $10 and $1,000,000. It is best to know how much you want to spend before shopping for a watch.
Every expensive watch is beautiful, that’s a fact… but not all beautiful watches are expensive!
2. The Movement
Movement refers to the design of the watches inner workings or how time is kept with the device. Common movements can either be digital, automatic, quartz, kinetic or hand wound. The hand wound movement listed is less common as hand winding requires constant maintenance and is less desirable by modern standards. Digital watches are electronic and do not often have moving parts as quartz, automatic and kinetic movements do. Quartz movements are by far the most accurate second only to digital watches in keeping time. Automatic and kinetic movements are notoriously inaccurate however, the higher quality the movement the more accurate they can be. For example, the well known luxury brand Rolex uses automatic movements in its time pieces that are very accurate.
It is important to note that even the most expensive automatic watch is not as accurate as even the cheapest quartz movement. Kinetic movements act as automatic movements except they are often equipped with devices to store energy to keep the watch powered even if the wearer is not moving or if the watch has been taken off.
3. Type of Display
A watch is called “analog” when it has moving hands to show you the time. This type of display can be powered by automatic, quartz, kinetic or hand wound movement. This is the most common type of display.
A watch that shows the time using numbers displayed on a screen, not hands. This type of display is powered by an electronic chip inside the timepiece.
4. The Crystals
The material covering the face of the watch is called the crystal. Crystals are made from a variety of materials depending on the brand and style of watch. Many digital watches for example have plastic based crystals while many analog watches have mineral glass based crystals. Higher end watches typically have synthetic sapphire crystals while some mid-range brands such as Seiko have proprietary crystal materials like Hard-lex. All of these materials have varying degrees of hardness and some are more scratch resistant than others. If you want a watch crystal that is more durable, a proprietary material or synthetic sapphire is the way to go.
When you go buy a watch, you will notice they come in many different materials. Pieces are commonly made from stainless steel, gold, titanium or silver. Some sellers use marketing ploys to make buyers unaware that a piece might not be of a genuine material. For instance, the term Gold GEP or gold electroplated means that the piece is not made of real gold. This refers to a plating, which is also not real gold, that is covering a base metal of stainless steel. This will fade over time revealing the base metal.
The material that a watch is made from has little to do with its value however; it may be advertised as such. The real value of a watch lies in the quality of its movement. There exist some very low quality watches made from real gold that are not worth their price. In contrast, there are very high quality watches made from stainless steel that are extremely valuable. Long story short, do not let the material of a time piece be the leading factor in your decision to buy it.
It is important to not get too caught up in the type of band a watch has as this is the most easily changeable feature. It is also important to note that a watch band has little to do with the overall value of a time piece. In fact, like mentioned previously in step 6, the materials a watch is made of have little to do with its value. If you plan to wear your watch in all sorts of scenarios or in wet conditions, a metal or synthetic material is a better choice. Leather or micro fiber bands do not respond well to water. After market watch bands can easily be purchased and swapped out.
A watch can be equipped with many features: Alarm, Altimeter Calendar, Chronograph, Slide Rule, Solar, Water Resistant, GPS, Touchscreen, Heartbeat Sensor… the list is almost endless. For example, The Nixon Lodown TI Tide Watch is a surfing watch that features custom digital movement with pre-programmed tide charts of 200 beaches for the next 15 years. Make sure you know which features are important to you before making any purchase.