There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to choosing a watch and the selection can be overwhelming. When choosing a watch, you should take into account the brand and style of watch, which shape and dial suits you best, which movement you prefer and which additional functions you need.
1. Determine your Purpose
Simply speaking, why do you want a watch? Just to tell time? Probably not - most people have at least one secondary purpose in mind:
- Fashion accessory: Watches are now considered a form of jewellery and there are some stunning pieces available that are inlaid with gems, or simpler less expensive ones with modern styling and colored bracelets.
- Precision tool: Do you dive or fly, would you actually have use for a telemeter or split-second chronograph? Think of the tools that could make your life easier.
- Indestructible accessory: Is your life a torture test on everything you wear? Space-age materials like aircraft steel and titanium, and shock-resistance cases and movements can guarantee that your watch will tell time through any abuse.
- Heirloom: Are you looking to buy a future antique for your grandchildren? Certain classic, well-established Swiss brands have proven track records for timeless designs and value appreciation.
- Gift: If it's going to be given to someone else, try to put your own opinions aside and think about what your recipient would really like or need.
2. Choose a Style of Watch
When you’re choosing a watch, decide which style best suits the occasion or your lifestyle. Watches can be simply classified into three styles:
- Fashion Watch: A watch that is more than just a timepiece – an accessory that tells the time. A true reflection of your personality and lifestyle. With many prestigious watch brands introducing designs straight from the catwalk, there has never been a better time to buy a fashion watch.
- Dress Watch: A dress watch has a certain look and feel that makes it easy and comfortable to wear. Clean styling, elegant lines combined with precision timekeeping. With a wide choice of elegant bracelets and fine leather straps, a classic watch is ideal for day and evening wear.
- Sports Watch: A sports watch is for the sportsman or woman who demands a watch that is tough and has specific functionality without compromising on style. Whether you're a diver or an athlete, whether you need a chronograph or a high level of water resistance, there’s a sports watch that’s right for you.
If your lifestyle revolves around the corporate world and you want a watch that projects a professional image, consider a classic dress watch with a timeless design. For a traditional look, choose a small square or rectangular dial with a leather strap. For a look with a modern edge, select a large round dial with a two-tone metal bracelet combining steel and gold.
If you're looking for more of an accessory or special occasion watch to be worn in formal settings, you might consider an elegantly refined timepiece. The natural choices are solid gold or platinum. For added drama, select a watch set with diamonds or other precious stones that serves not only as a timepiece but also as a beautiful piece of jewellery.
3. Choose a Movement
A watch’s accuracy and reliability are determined by its movement. There are four basic watch movements:
- Mechanical: The traditional movement, consisting of a coiled main spring with a regulatory system or balance. The spring is wound up manually via the winding stem.
- Automatic: An automatic watch has a movement similar to a mechanical watch, but it 'self winds' using the movement of the wearer. The winder is retained as a feature so that the time and date can be altered manually, when necessary.
- Quartz: A module powered by a synthetic crystal, made to oscillate by an electric current supplied by a tiny battery. A very precise and accurate time measurement.
- Seiko Kinetic Auto Relay: An innovative movement of micro-electronics that responds to the wearer's wrist action to store energy, maintaining quartz accuracy. The watch "sleeps" to conserve energy if not worn for 72 hours but wakes up when shaken and immediately returns to the correct time. Developed by Seiko.
4. Choose your Materials
Case materials vary. These include plastic, resins, stainless steel, base metal (usually brass), gold-plated base metals and precious metals. Check either the back of the watch case or the documents accompanying the watch for the disclosure of metallic content. Plastic and resin composites generally are the least costly and are found primarily in fashion and sport watches. Quality sport watches are usually cased in steel or titanium.
Prices of gold-plated watches vary depending upon the thickness of the plating, which is measured in microns. Gold plating can range from 2-microns thick to 30-microns and more. Precious metals used on watch cases include 9ct or 18ct gold, sterling silver and, in some very high-end watches, platinum.
The crystal, which is the glass-like covering designed to protect the dial of the watch, is either mineral glass or synthetic sapphire. Sapphire crystals are more expensive than mineral glass, are not only sturdy, but also highly scratch-resistant.
Bracelets can also influence watch prices considerably. There are straps made of plastic, rubber, leather and exotic shark and crocodile skins. Similarly, metal bracelets can range from inexpensive base metals to precious metals. Rubber, steel, and titanium are the most resistant to water.
5. Choose your Functions
If you enjoy sports and outdoor activities look for a water resistant model with a stainless steel, hard plastic, or titanium bracelet that will withstand rigorous activity and various weather conditions.
Water resistance is measured in bars or atmospheres, which are equivalent units of pressure. Watches are tested to endure these pressures for a certain period of time - they aren't necessarily guaranteed to stay safe underwater for weeks at a time.
Manufacturers often convert water resistance to a number of feet or meters. Normally, terms of depth imply that a watch will remain resistant at that depth in still conditions. Vigorous underwater activity increases the danger of leakage and it’s wise to compensate with a deeper rating.
The following is a general guideline:
- 3 ATM (30 m or 100 ft): rain, gentle splash
- 5 ATM (50 m or 165 ft): swimming, sailing, surfing.
- 10 ATM (100 m or 330 ft): sustained snorkeling, light sport diving
- 20 ATM (200 m or 660 ft) or more: serious diving
If you're a sports-enthusiast, think about a chronograph - a watch that features a stopwatch function.
Watch measurement functions (in addition to the hours, minutes and seconds) are referred to as "complications." The best-known complication watches are calendar watches, the most common of which display only the date. There are also chronographs with a center second hand which can be started, stopped and brought back to zero using one or two push-buttons on the side of the watch.
Other additional functions include second time zone indicators, alarms, moon phase indicators, perpetual calendars and sophisticated tachymeters and telemeters. These features naturally add to the price of a watch