Buying a watch is always a thrilling time. But considering all the options available, the wide range of brands and designs on the market, you might feel overwhelmed. Be it for yourself or as a gift, you’re probably asking yourself how to choose the right watch? What should you take into consideration before buying a watch? What type of watch do you need? Want? Way too many questions that might leave you puzzled, not to mention the daunting technical jargon. But fear no more, we made you a watch buying guide to help you find the right watch, the one that will fit you perfecctly. Here are some things to consider when buying a watch.
The two golden rules
Rule n°1 :
Buy a watch for yourself, and no one else. People giving you their opinions will not wear the watch, let alone pay for it, but you will. Avoid being influenced by people that might shift you away from your own standards to gear you towards their own choices. Avoid trying to follow trends or buying popular items and must-haves just for the sake of it. Make your own selection, online as well as at your local distributor. Nothing will compare to the feeling of a watch on your wrist. Some might turn out to be disappointing while other might surprise you even though they were not at the top of your list. Keeping that in mind, we advise not to buy a watch online or without trying it on first, unless you’re into Warren Buffet’s heir or into gambling.
Rule n°2 :
Take the time to choose a watch. As French politician Georges Clémenceau said “the best part of love, is when you’re going up the stairs”. Well, watchmaking is, kind of, the same. The hunt for your watch is a thrilling moment. Start with a blank page, do not limit yourself and start making the list smaller until it boils down to a few pieces that make your heart skip a beat. Also bear in mind that it’s quite an investment, so try not to be rash or you might quickly grow out of the watch. Then pleasure will turn into disappointment and you’ll end up storing it in a drawer before reselling it.
A watch can say quite a lot about you and the image you’re trying to project. This is no trivial matter, it’s an extension of your inner self and an expression of your style.
Start by selecting many watches and take a break. Allow yourself some time before coming back to it. Make sure you’ve looked at enough brands and models to see if you’ve not missed something or to confirm what you already thought. Do not limit yourself to well-known and heavy-marketed brands only. There are many interesting pieces to be found off the beaten paths. And if you end up buying one, you’ll find satisfaction in knowing you’ve watch that few people have.
Let’s talk finance (the sensitive part)
Let’s start with the good news for watch enthusiasts: after years of constant rises (most likely at a faster rate than your income), prices tend to level off and some brands even try to cater to a larger audience by offering new and more affordable watches.
But the pleasure of buying a watch is not about the price. I’ve seen people happier about their latest thousand-euro watch than some that spent ten times more on a piece. I’ll refer you to the two golden rules above. A watch you’ve chosen by following your gut after careful consideration will always bring you joy. The other way around might not feel the same way.
Should I budget and stick to it?
It depends. On your relationship with your banker of course, but also because it is a non-essential luxury item and a purchase aside from daily rationalism, all about pleasure and passion. Thus it might not have a price or a motive. I will, however, apply a rule which is valid for any non-vital need: do not take on debts to buy your perfect watch, the same way you should only spend money you don’t need on the stock market. If you end up having to resell the mighty watch to feed your kids, you will probably face a significant depreciation in its value.
If the horological love of your life remains out of your reach, you still have a chance on second-hand markets, provided among others by those who might not have listened to my previous advice. Used watches are more affordable than new ones (depending on condition and quotation), but beware of offers that seem too good to be true tough. Always favor known professionals and people with good track records over classified ad sites. Remember : buying a watch is also buying the seller.
About your physique
Buying a watch that fits you
Beyond issues of money or style, you should to take your physique into account when buying a watch. It is easy to let oneself dream when coming across a beautiful piece, but it is not because the watch looks great that it will look great on you! You have to choose your future watch according to your physique and especially the size of your wrist.
If you take a watch that is too small, you will look like you borrowed it from your little sister. If you take a model too large you will look like you’re trying to compensate for something or like the son who tries his father’s way-too-large suit. You were probably cute back then but you’re not eight years old anymore, so you might want to avoid looking like someone that just came out of a water aerobics class and forgot to take off their weighted straps.
The size of the watch
You have to take the size of the case into consideration. It must be the size of your wrist, lugs included (these are the parts of the case where you attach the strap). If you can, help yourself with a mirror or take a photo of your wrist to get a better feeling. If you cannot, then take the time to look up the dimensions of the watch and compare them to the width of your wrist, you do not want any unpleasant surprises later. The ideal is still to be able to wear the watch to get an idea. The feeling is important as some models can be deceiving and appear bigger or smaller than they actually are, due to features such as the opening and the color of the dial for instance.
A small watch will usually have a diameter under 38mm. An average watch will be between 38 and 42mm and a large one will exceed 42mm (some even go beyond 50 …). Also, you should make sure that the watch is comfortable to wear, that the materials suit your skin and that the weight is adequate (some like them heavy, others light).
What about my style then?
You’ve found a model that suits your physique, it’s already a first step. But you still have to think about your style and your personality. After all you buy a watch for yourself and not for other people, so take a model that suits you. It would be a shame to regret an inadequate purchase especially when spending large amounts.
Sure, everyone’s taste is different but you still need to be consistent. If your style is rather discreet you might feel uncomfortable wearing a showy watch. Likewise, if you have a more laid back style, it might be better to choose a sportier watch or a diving watch fitting your style rather than a dress watch that might contrast. Assess your style and choose accordingly.
What are you going to do with that watch?
In addition to your style you should also take into account the kind of stuff you’re going to do with your future watch. When will you be wearing it and what will you put it through? Some pieces are more suited to certain activities, it would be weird to go to the beach with a dress watch or to the ambassador’s receptions with a 1000m diver watch the size of a cooking pot.
Choose according to your lifestyle
Will you wear it for an event only or on an everyday basis? Are you looking for an evening watch? A watch for the office? If you take a watch for your job, make sure it fits your work environment. Is it rather formal? In this case opt for a classy, dressed and sober model for a touch of subtle elegance. The watch should be thin enough to slip easily under a shirt sleeve. If too big it could get in the way and look neglected or boastful.
If you intend to wear it often, play sports or do DIY stuff with it, you’d better choose a sturdy piece. Mechanical watches do not like to be shaken in general but some are more resilient than others. Look at the glass of the dial as well, you do not want to break or scratch it during a workout. If you intend to do water-based activities, turn to a diving watch or at least one that’s waterproof enough (over a 100m would be better). If you are the adventurer kind, you may prefer the military style or pilot’s watches. Perhaps will you need a chronograph to measure your performances? (Or to cook boiled eggs, it’s up to you). Those are the kind of question you should ask yourself before buying a watch.
I love this watch, but the strap…not so much
First off, know that the bracelet of a watch does not have to influence your purchase. If you like the style of a watch but not its bracelet, or the other way around, do not make a decision according to it. A bracelet can be changed relatively easily to suit to your desires, so be sure to choose a watch you like, even if you have to buy another bracelet to go with it. Learn more about the different types of bracelets and the things you should consider when buying one.
The heart of the watch: the mechanism
There are many types of watch and mechanisms. We’ll talk make a difference between mechanical watches (either with manual or automatic winding) and quartz watches. Each have their own upsides and downsides and you should keep in mind the previous questioning about your budget, physique, style and activities.
The grandeur of mechanical watches
Mechanical watches are prized by watch enthusiasts. They possess an additional soul thanks to the more or less complex movements that give them life. They may look a bit old-fashioned to your 14-year-old nephew (he only cares about his smartphone anyway), but watchmakers go to great lengths to innovate and to design fascinating mechanisms. The extra work to create the mechanism adds an intangible value to the mechanical watch.
A mechanical watch is often an investment and must be treated as such. The finishing touches, materials used and the type of mechanism will determine the price of the watch (as well as the marketing, let’s not kid ourselves). If manufacture movements tend to cost more (because their are designed and developed in-house), some brands use external calibers (ETA, Sellita …) which are often simpler and manufactured in large series, thus cheaper and used to offer less expensive models.
We will distinguish two categories among mechanical watches. Hand-wound watches, which will stop if not wound up regularly (after 48 hours most of the time, but some pieces can go well beyond). The automatic-winding watches (also known as self-winding) are wound up by the natural movement of the wrist which activates a rotor in the heart of the watch. Less precise than quartz watches, however, mechanical watches have much more charm, nobility and watchmaking value.
While they might not have the same charm and appeal as mechanical watches, Quartz watches outbalance them on accuracy, sturdiness and price. Complex functions such as the chronograph, calendar or even an alarm are much easier to implement on a quartz watch for a fraction of the cost. This is what makes them interesting and also why they nearly killed mechanical watchmaking in the 1970s, which took more than 20 years to recover and become attractive again.
Which features and complications?
High-end watches feature many complications. Some are mostly esthetically pleasing, other are more practical. Are you looking for a watch that gives you more information than time only? If yes, you should lean towards models that feature the date, a moon phase, an annual or even a perpetual calendar if time obsesses you. A chronograph will fit sports enthusiasts. For frequent travellers, a GMT will allow you to follow two separate time zones, or even up to 24 with “world-time” models. These watches will prevent you from calling a business partner outside of office hours or waking up your family in the middle of the night.
As far as aesthetic complications are concerned, you might want to look for tourbillons watches (provided you have the means to do so), jumping-hour watches for a slightly different display of time, single-hand watches if you’re into vintage and do not mind approximations, or even skeleton watches if you want to observe the hypnotic movement that gives life to your piece. Consult our detailed glossary to learn more about complications.
That’s it, I’ve made my choice! Where do I buy my precious watch then?
Your mind is set on a particular piece but you are wondering where to buy it? We advise to stick to the websites and shops of brands or recognized and reputable resellers to be sure of what you will get. Unless you really know about watches, avoid online auction sites and non-specialized classifieds sites. They are full of unpleasant surprises for the layman (be it fakes and counterfeits or watches in poor condition).
If you still want to try your luck on second-hand markets, make sure you collect as much information as possible about the watch you are looking for, look at it from all angles and on many different photos to find potential clues. Also look up for the name and number of the caliber, sometimes counterfeits are very well done on the outside and the only way to find it out is to open them. For more details, we will soon offer you a guide on the 5 things you should know before buying a used watch.