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If you don't wear a watch, now is the time to consider it. Sure, you may have a smartphone to tell you the time, and there may be a clock on the wall. But watch-wearing is more than that. It's a statement about who you are. What you choose to put on your wrist can say anything from "I don't care" to "I value what others think of me." After all, if you don't think looking good is important, how can you expect others to take you seriously?
If you wanted to become a watch wearer, or you already wear one but know nothing about your timepiece, the amount of information available likely seems daunting. But don't let that stop you. Watches provide men with excellent style options - options that the big and bulky smartphone you have shoved in your back pocket will never give you - as well as numerous other benefits.
Why Should You Wear a Watch?
You are probably thinking, why should I add a watch to my wardrobe, when I have my phone? Isn't a watch an obsolete tool, like landlines or rabbit ears? It may seem that way, but that isn't the case at all.
A cell phone is a hunk of plastic, metal, and glass that can do a lot for you, including tell time. A quick glance at your wrist when someone asks for the time is much classier than whipping your cell phone out of your pocket -- a move that is sure to make you look like a fool by comparison. It's also considered rude in many circles to pull out your phone during a conversation. It's never rude to check your watch unless you do it repeatedly.
Also, your watch battery will last months or even years. Compare that to your smart phone's eight hours. Watches are far more dependable. They won't leave you hanging at the end of a long day. You can also check the time on your watch in places where doing so on your phone would be considered inappropriate, like at a funeral or a wedding.
A boy looks at his phone to tell time. A man checks his watch.
Beyond that, a good watch is something you treasure. It's a work of art. You can pass a beautiful timepiece down to your children. You'll be lucky to keep a smartphone for two years before it's obsolete or dead.
A fine watch is also one of the few fashion accessories most men will wear beyond a wedding ring. So if you make the right choice to wear one, a quality luxury watch is an excellent investment not just for yourself but for those to whom you will inevitably pass it when you're gone.
Watch Movements and Complications
When you begin to look into watches, two words are going to come up a lot: "movements" and "complications." But there's no need for these rather basic terms to be complicated. Here we will explore what these terms mean and how they will impact your watch buying adventure.
A "movement" is a term that describes not only how a watch's hands move around its face, but the way the inner mechanisms create the effect. There are three watch movements you need to know: mechanical, automatic, and quartz. All of these have pros and cons, and all of them are important because they are the very heart of your timepiece. Movements are, after all, how your watch works and keeps time.
Mechanical watches are true classics powered by mainsprings, cold metal wires, which are wound by hand. Thanks to precision craftsmanship, the mainspring slowly unwinds and sends the second hand in a smooth, sweeping motion around the watch face. This is your granddaddy's watch, for all intents and purposes, in its internal design. In fact, it's his granddaddy's watch. It will probably be your great grandchildren's watch if your kids take care of it and theirs do too.
Pros & Cons
The first pro that we should mention about mechanical movement watches is also a con. They need to be wound by hand. This means that they do not require batteries. It also means that you need to remember to wind it. How often depends on the quality and size of the mainspring. As a general rule, most mainsprings will keep your timepiece ticking for two days without winding. But winding a watch can be incredibly satisfying, so this might be right up your alley.
Another perk of mechanical movement watches is that a watchmaker spent hours fine-tuning your timepiece, so it works perfectly. While this is a beauty no one will see, you know all about it. Part of a hand-wound watch's appeal is knowing that it is unique. Unfortunately, all those precisely-tuned inner mechanisms are also extremely susceptible to the environment around you. Dust, magnets, shocks, and moisture can all spell doom.
Also, mechanical movement watches are not nearly as accurate as others types. They will require regular tuning. And the distinction of owning a special, finely-tuned watch can be costly, with good mechanical watches generally costing more than $500.
Automatic Movement Watches
Automatic movement or self-winding, watches are much like mechanical movement watches with a mainspring for power as well. They also use an intricate series of gears to move the watch hands around the face. But if the idea of remembering to wind your watch is something that doesn't appeal to you, you'll be happy to know that you won't need to wind these.
Your movement throughout the day will instead wind the mainspring for you. All you need to do is sit back and wear your beautiful timepiece. This works thanks to a small weight known as a "rotor" that moves as your wrist moves. You don't have to worry about over-winding, though. A slipping clutch will prevent that from happening.
If you're not wearing your self-winding watch, you will want to put it in a watch winder, a device that moves your timepiece in a circular motion, so it stays wound. If you don't do this and your watch "dies," you will need to set the time the next time you wear it. This will be especially annoying if your watch has a date display or other features.
Pros & Cons
Once again, no batteries are needed. You may lose the charm of winding the watch yourself, but that aspect of a mechanical watch may have been problematic for you. Aside from that, much is the same. The inner workings of an automatic timepiece are just as sophisticated as a mechanical watch. They are also just as expensive.
One major drawback as we mentioned is the need to store your automatic watch in a watch winder. Fortunately, these are relatively inexpensive. You will also need to take your watch in for a tuning occasionally, or it will lose accuracy over time.
Most watches you encounter these days are quartz. Instead of being powered by a mainspring, quartz movements use electricity from a small battery housed within the case. A small quartz crystal channels the energy produced and vibrates 32,768 times per second. The pulses created move the second hand on the watch in a distinctive "tick tick tick tick" motion.
Pros & Cons
Quartz watches are very cost effective. While they lack the mechanical intricacy of automatic and mechanical movement watches, you can get a very nice one for a reasonable price. Since quartz watches have fewer moving parts than watches featuring other movement types, they can take more of a beating. Quartz watches are also far more accurate than the others.
Unfortunately, a quartz watch will lack the panache of the others. There's less of a story behind them. You can find quartz watches that look nice, but they're just watches. They're not the works of art that are those with more elaborate mechanical setups.
If an automatic movement and quartz watch were to have a baby, they would produce a kinetic watch. Kinetic watches use batteries that stay charged by wearing it. Like an automatic watches, these have weighted rotors that spin and keep the watch charged. They turn the movement into electricity through an internal dynamo and can store enough power to last six months.
Pros & Cons
Kinetic watches are just as accurate as Quartz, but still, lack the sophistication of automatic and mechanical movement watches. While you won't have to change the battery, you will still have to wear a kinetic watch to charge it -- although you have more freedom if you want to take it off for a day or even a week.
These are great options for people who never remember to buy watch batteries when they need them.
Solar watches will capture rays from the sun via photovoltaic cells on the watch face. The face converts the rays into electricity and stores it inside a power cell. Past that, solar watches function much like quartz watches. These watches can run forever if they are exposed to a bright enough light. And yes, any light can charge them if it is bright enough.
Like kinetic watches, solar can charge enough energy to power the watch for up to six months.
Pros & Cons
One major perk of solar watches is that your battery will never die unless you try to kill it. You don't need to charge the battery frequently, and, as was mentioned, the power reserve can last up to six months. If you're eco-conscious, the idea of using solar energy to power your watch is very appealing. Solar watches, however, can be much more expensive than quartz watches. You will also need to change the capacitor every 7-10 years.
Spring Drive Watches
Spring drive watches are like a marriage between quartz accuracy and automatic movement watches' self-winding mechanism. Like an automatic, these have a mainspring that stores potential energy. You'll also find a rotor that is used to wind the mainspring. Where spring drive watches differ is that they use a Tri-synchro regulator to keep time.
Spring drive watches use an integrated circuit coupled with a quartz crystal to maintain better accuracy than automatic watches could dream of. The watch uses electromagnetic force to slow the second hand as needed.
Pros & Cons
One major perk is that this is a revolutionary watch movement and you get to own it. But that prestige comes at a cost. Spring drive watches are much more expensive than automatic and quartz watches. As we previously mentioned, these are highly accurate and have a true sweeping hand. But you might find the cost to be off-putting.
A basic wristwatch will tell time. But more complex watches had "apps" long before smartphones were a thing. Some display moon phases. Others display the date. You'll even find alarms and stopwatches, power reserve indicators, and repeaters (a feature that chimes the hour and minutes displayed on your watch face at the push of a button). These are called "complications."
The chronograph (a fancy word for "stopwatch") is probably the coolest complication available on watches. You will usually see three small dials, or subregisters, within the main dial of the watch. On the side of the watch case, you will see two buttons. One will start or stop the chronograph. The other will reset it. It's much, much cooler than the timer app on your cell phone.
Some chronographs work with a tachymeter, which you can use to calculate speed, distance, and even fuel consumption if you know what you are doing. It requires a lot of math, but who says being sophisticated is easy?
Types of Watches
There are a lot of watch types available to men who want to keep time and look good doing it. Some are meant for more formal occasions. Others you will want to wear as part of your everyday ensemble. Since a watch is one of the few options men have to enhance our image, understanding what is available is an integral part of watch buying.
As the name implies, dress watches are to be worn to more formal occasions. Men began wearing dress watches in the early 20th century when some chose to abandon the traditional pocket watch in favor of a timepiece worn on the wrist. Dress watches are typically thin so that one can easily slip them under a dress shirt cuff.
They may be circular, rectangular, or square. Higher-end dress watches are made from precious metals like gold, silver, or platinum. Bands will almost always be leather. Dress watches are all about simplicity. You won't find them loaded with complications and the face will generally display simple hour indexes.
Dress watches pair with anything from a business suit to a sharp casual outfit, but you won't want to be caught dead wearing one with a t-shirt and jeans.
Want to go "full James Bond?" Wear a dive watch. No matter which actor has played 007 over the years, the character has been seen sporting a dive watch in every movie. And why not? One incredible perk of this watch type is that they are water resistant up to at least 100 meters. You don't have to worry about forgetting to take it off before a shower or getting it a little wet in the rain. You can even wear it while swimming.
The bands of dive watches are typically made with corrosion-resistant metals like titanium or stainless steel. You will also see rubber or silicone bands, though many feel that those lack class. Dive watches will typically be medium-sized and feature bold Arabic numerals to make them easy to read. Aside from the date, these watches generally have few complications.
These watches are great for a day at the beach but are suitable for everyday wear -- whether you are pairing your watch with casual or business casual clothing or even a suit.
One of the first aviator watches was made for a pilot friend of Louis Cartier in the early 1900's, but watches have been part of aviation since the first plane took flight. The real revolution in aviator watches occurred in the 1940's when Swiss company Breitling put their signature chronograph on a watch so pilots could determine their speed, distance, and fuel consumption by looking at their wrists.
Pilot watches do not have a distinct style/ However; they are typically medium to large with clean, legible white numbering and black dials to make them easy to read in the dark. Bands are often -- but not always -- made of leather, and they often include a date as well as chronograph complications
These watches are most definitely not means for black tie affairs or other formal occasions. Aviator watches are great for casual wear, however. While stylish, these watches pair best with a shirt and jeans.
One significant feature of racing watches is that they are flashy, which makes them best suited for casual wear.
In the 1930's Rolex made a smart business decision. Since accurate timekeeping is important in racing, the company outfitted top drivers with their Oyster watches, inexorably tying wristwatches to car racing forever. Not to be bested, TAG Heuer added a chronograph and tachymeter to their watches and by the 1950's these features became standard on racing watches.
Racing watches are typically medium to large with bright, contrasting colors and clear Arabic numerals to make them easy to read. Cases are usually stainless steel to add durability. Sometimes you will also find the date on the face of the watch.
You'll want to wear a field watch when doing outdoor activities, though they can also be suitable for business casual or casual attire. If you live a rugged or semi-rugged lifestyle and don't wear suits generally, a field watch is an excellent decision.
Field watches descended from the World War I "trench watch," which manufacturers designed for officers who needed to tell time at night to coordinate attacks better. They were also exceptionally durable while remaining stylish. Today, field watches remain rugged, elegant, and functional with a military-like style.
Field watches are typically small to medium, as they are meant to not get in the way. The dial is usually white with black numbering or the reverse, and the hands light up to enable you to check the time in the dark. The case is usually stainless steel or titanium. They also feature the ability to stop the second hand by pulling out the crown. This makes it easy to synchronize watches whether you are strategizing for battle or any other reason. Bands will usually be canvas or leather, as metal will likely scratch if things get a little rough.
Hate the idea of giving up your smartphone but still want to get into watch fashion? Pick up a smartwatch. These are generally pretty pricey and allow you to answer your phone and read your text messages without pulling out your phone.
The watch face can be customized to look however you want it to, which is pretty cool. Many also include GPS and heartbeat sensors to allow them to function as fitness watches. Unfortunately, you will need to charge the watch every few days or more often. While smartwatches have a variety of useful functions and allow you to access many functions of your phone without taking it out of your pocket, the low battery life is a huge turnoff for many.
Mechanical Skeleton watches are for the artist in you. The face or back of the watch reveals all the moving parts for something that is truly beautiful. All the non-essentials are often cut away so you can see the gears turning on the inside. Skeleton watches will often feature a metal band, but designs vary.
These can look good with anything, but will best pair with business casual or formal business attire.
How Should a Watch Fit?
You might assume that if you can get a watch to fit on your wrist, you're golden. But it's a little more complicated than that.
The first thing you will want to do is measure your wrist. If your wrist is 6 to 7 inches in circumference, you will probably want a 38mm-42mm watch case. Does your wrist size larger? If it does, you will want to choose a case from anywhere between 44mm to 46mm. If your wrist is six inches or less in diameter, you will want to look at watch cases between 34mm and 36mm.
Watches are not meant to be worn loosely. Your watch bracelet should be professionally sized, with straps worn snugly on the wrist, so it does not slip. Whether too loose or too tight, you will want to change it to something more comfortable. Typically, the band of your watch should be about half the diameter of the watch case. A 21mm would best accompany a 42mm watch to a 22mm band.
You will also want to consider whether you will be wearing your watch with or without sleeves. This is because watches worn with sleeves look better smaller on the wrist. Typically, you will want something in the 39-41mm diameter range. If you are not wearing sleeves, you will want to go with a watch that is larger in diameter. You also want to ensure that the watch's lungs do not extend past the edges of your wrist.
Many watch brands provide "lug to lug" measurements, so you can guesstimate how well one will fit on your wrist. But just like with a suit jacket or a pair of pants, the only truly good way to know whether it is the right fit is for you to try it on and see for yourself.
Bracelets or Straps?
Watch bracelets look great, but it is difficult to ensure a perfect fit. While some watches and watch bands offer you the ability to "micro-adjust" for comfort, accomplishing the right fit is difficult. Watch straps provide you with more flexibility in sizing, as many are slightly flexible or elastic. Finding the best fit for you is much easier than with a bracelet.
It all comes down to what works best for you. Whether you choose a bracelet or a strap, the important thing is that your watch doesn't slide on your wrist.
Watch Pricing: How Not to Get Ripped Off
Buying watches online is more popular than ever, which means the risk of buying a counterfeit watch is higher than ever. You will often find watches that resemble the real thing, but that is not made of quality materials or have incorrect logos and face details. Some fake watches will have the wrong parts altogether despite being misrepresented as the real thing. Sometimes features or complications are missing, or just don't work. Often, it seems like a great deal at the time -- but if you see yourself getting a discount more substantial than 20-25%, you should probably be suspicious.
These differences are easier to spot in person than online, so you must take extra precautions in the digital world.
First off, you will want to buy from Authorized Dealers. Many watch manufacturers only allow certain companies to sell their watches on the internet. If you are looking at a website that is not an authorized dealer for a brand, you may be buying from someone whose sources are questionable.
Research sellers. Make sure that you are buying from someone with a good reputation. In the digital age, it is easy to learn if a website or reseller is shady. If you can't find a high number of positive reviews, there is no harm in looking elsewhere even if it means paying a little more. A quality watch may cost as much as your smartphone, so it's worth it to do your due diligence.
Under no circumstances should you trust a street dealer or pawn shop to provide you with quality items. There's always a chance you will find something decent, but it's far more likely that you are going to get ripped off.
Buying a watch -- especially your first one -- is an adventure. Knowing what to look for when you first go in to buy a watch, as well as what not to do, will help you have a great time. And it will help you find that perfect watch for your style.
Be careful, though. Once you know the feel of a perfectly-fitted timepiece and once you start getting a stream of compliments on the elegant choice you made, watch wearing can be an addictive fashion-related hobby. Similar to opening a bag of potato chips: once you eat one, you really can't stop.
Of course, when it comes to looking good, that's not necessarily a bad thing.