Intimidating.That word best defines how buying a watch can be a nerve-racking experience for the first-time buyer of a luxury watch, or any person not that familiar with watchmaking for that matter. The fancy terms, the cryptic language - the world of horology can be a fascinating yet overwhelming place indeed! Feel free to take a look at our definitive glossary of watch terms if you need - and don’t feel bad if you do!
To help you navigate your next watch purchase, Anytime Watches has put together this Ultimate Guide to Buying a Men’s Watch just for our visitors who would like to know more about watches and the art of buying a men’s watch. Take your time to read through it. It was written just for you.
Why Do Men Love Watches So Much?
For a man, a watch is a talisman, a token, an emblem and a status mark - all in one. In a fascinating December 2009 article entitled Why Are Men Obsessed with Watches?, the UK’s Guardian newspaper provided a host of reasons, which included the fact that it’s a numbers game - after all, men make up the vast majority of the $40-plus billion watches sold annually. It was the quartz revolution of the 1970s that actually forced the luxury watch industry to re-examine itself and really discover why men loved watches. Watchmakers came to the collective decision that watches “would be mini-masterpieces that showcased extreme craftsmanship, represented tradition, incorporated technology and embraced innovation. They would effectively be a Savile Row suit, Ferrari sports car, Mayfair members club and Nasa spaceship rolled into one package that could sit neatly on your wrist,” claimed the Guardian.
It’s rather stating the obvious: Watches are aspirational for men, like few other things are. It allows a man to strive and to reap (and show off) the fruits of that striving. Watches are a perfect conduit for the competitiveness that is innate in most men. As the Guardian article noted, “Whether it cost £50 or £5,000, men clock the watch [nifty pun there] in the same way some women might take note of another's shoes. It's what we do”. Watches are also the most acceptable forms of ‘jewellery’ that a self-respecting man can wear. As the Guardian quips, “Watches are the acceptable face of male jewellery: bangles can be iffy, signet rings dodgy, ear studs a no-no and gold chains risible. A [luxury watch], however, whether it's gold, platinum or stainless steel, is viewed as wholly acceptable”.
Ultimately, there is an allure to watches, as if they have a certain magic about them. And most men are drawn to that. The Wall Street Journal, in a 2014 article entitled Do Men Still Crave Status Watches?, quoted a watch lover who said this about expensive luxury watches: “For guys who have a passion for watches it’s like a secret handshake”. Few things, for example, match the allure of watches that were once worn by famous men. Three famous instances of this include: (1) The Longines worn by Albert Einstein, which was a nondescript 14-karat watch of minor horological consequence that was engraved to him on the caseback, but which nevertheless sold for $596,000 at Antiquorum’s New York auction house in 2008. (2) Iconic actor Steve McQueen was well-known as an avid watch collector, and the TAG Heuer square watch he wore whilst filming the 1971 motor racing film Le Mans sold at auction in 2012 for $799,000. (3) Even more remarkable was when Mahatma Gandhi’s pocket watch (and which no longer even worked, please note) was sold, along with his wire-rimmed glasses, sandals and a bowl he frequently ate from, in 2009 for more than $2 million! Now do you doubt the sheer magnetic power that watches seem to have for men?!
What to Look Out for When Buying a Watch?
Men seek different things when deciding to buy a watch, or ‘upscale’ to a more expensive, luxury watch. But, as with so many things relating to watches, it’s a series of questions, questions, questions. Anytime Watches brings you some of the more important things that you need to consider when buying your watch. Here we go:
Don’t forget style. Before you even commence the task (art?) of buying a new watch, try and have an idea of what style (or styles) of watch you think you’d like. Read more below on the different styles and types of watches for men that there are so as to acquaint yourself with the many different types and styles of watches that are available for the discerning man.
There are some technical aspects about watches that you absolutely must consider when buying a watch. First and foremost, there is the watch’s movement. If possible, go Swiss! Switzerland is justifiably famous for making high quality watch movements. Japan does also make good movements, but they’re not as respected as those made by the Swiss. Generally, Chinese movements are considered rubbish or below-par. Then there is the crystal, i.e. the glass that covers the face (or dial) of the watch. Sapphire crystal is the preferred choice of luxury watchmakers. There is a reason for that: Shattered sapphire crystals are relatively rare and typically only occur with a very harsh impact. The better the watch, the thicker the sapphire crystal will be, and thus, less likely to break. Sapphire crystals are incredibly scratch-resistant too. They are far superior to mineral crystals, and infinitely superior to the cheapest of crystals used in watchmaking, acrylic crystals.
The construction of the watch is also a very important factor to be considered. For example, steel watches should be made from grade 316L stainless steel for the most part. Plus, the watch case and bracelet links should be solid pieces of metal, rather than folded metal or anything that feels hollow. This is quite easy to determine upon inspection of the watch. When inspecting a watch with a metal bracelet, remember this: Cheaper watches with metal bracelets still have what is called a single locking clasp. This is the type of bracelet that literally just snaps or clicks into place. The best metal bracelets have what are known as double or triple locking clasps.
As for the watch having a ‘solid feel’, these are five really simple tests that you can do when choosing a watch: (1) Check to see how well the strap or bracelet fits to the case. There should be little to no ‘wiggle’ room. (2) Put the watch on your wrist and see how well the clasp or buckle operates; they should be smooth with a nice, crisp opening and closing action. (3) A watch should never feel too flimsy or poorly sized - ever! (4) If the watch has a rotating diver's bezel, twist it around and see how much movement it gives in a resting position. (5) A good watch should make little to no noise when shifting around briskly on your wrist.
Name prestige is key. Yes, it does seem rather obvious that a quality or luxury watch should have prestige befitting of the brand, but this factor should still be checked. An easy way to determine that? The signed crown and buckle / clasp is a dead giveaway. ‘Signing’ on a quality watch can vary, but better watches usually use some type of light laser engraving. More expensive luxury watches have logos and graphics done in relief (i.e. raised, rather than etched into the metal). There are typically four places on a good quality (including high luxury) watch where you would like to see the name of the watchmaker: (1) The face of the watch (the dial); (2) the caseback; (3) on the crown; and (4) on the deployant clasp or strap buckle. These are also known as ‘signed’ crowns or buckles/deployant clasps.
Importantly, try your utmost to educate yourself. Find out more about quality, luxury watches, including right here on the Anytime Watches website - trust us, it will be worth it for you. And, ultimately, please remember that whatever watch you buy for whatever the reason, it needs to be enjoyed. You should buy a watch that you know you’ll love to wear, even if only once in awhile or on special occasions, and whatever its cost - otherwise, don’t bother. It really is that simple!
‘Movement’ - you will come across that word again and again when studying and buying watches. The watch world seems obsessed with it! So, what is a watch’s movement? It is best defined as the inner mechanism of watch that keeps time and moves the watch's hand, calendar, etc. Think of a movement as the ‘engine’ of a watch.
There are various types or moments, but they are generally divided into either mechanical or quartz.
Let’s start with the traditional movement, the mechanical. With a mechanical watch, if you don’t wind it, it doesn’t work - simple! With a mechanical watch there is a type of synergy or ‘symbiosis’ between watch and wearer-owner. A mechanical watch uses a mechanical movement in order to keep time. A mechanical watch is comprised of five components: energy (e.g. the winding mechanism); wheels (that transfer the energy); escapement (that controls energy released); the controller (with its balance assembly) and the time indicator (the dial). Mechanical watches require more care and cleaning than do quartz watches, and do become inaccurate if not regularly wound. But their nostalgic appeal continues - for their superb craftsmanship and as an enduring status timepiece. Why else would the world’s best watchmakers continue making these movements based on technology that is hundreds of years old?!
There are automatic mechanical watches, in which the mechanical movement requires no winding because the rotor, part of the automatic mechanism, winds the mainspring every time you move your hand. When fully wound and left to sit, most automatic watches has between 36-80 hours of reserve power. Mechanical movements are usually accurate within -5/+20 seconds per day. Automatic movements have gained in popularity in the last few years, especially with watch connoisseurs and aficionados. They are considered to be Switzerland's mechanical answer to the popularity of the no-winding-needed quartz movements that are standard in Japanese watches.
It is no secret that quartz watches are more accurate than mechanical watches, which is why they have dominated the watch industry since the 1970s. It’s not an exaggeration to say that quartz revolutionized the watch industry - and changed it forever. Watchmaking costs dropped dramatically thanks to quartz. A quartz movement powers itself by means of a battery which sends an electrical current through a tiny (usually synthetic) quartz crystal, electrifying the crystal to create vibrations. These vibrations cause the movement to oscillate, which drives the watch’s motor.
In-house movements, and which are sometimes called manufacture or proprietary movements, are those movements which are made by a watchmaker itself. These movements are very costly to manufacture and are the result of years of research and development (R&D), which is why high-end brands with their own movements make a big deal out of it - with prices to match.
Ana and Digi - Ladies? No, Watches...
‘Analogue’ and ‘digital’ - you will also come across these terms again and again when looking for watches. So, what exactly do they mean? Analogue denotes a watch that has moving hands and hours marked 1 to 12. An analogue watch is the image that most of us conjure up in our minds when we think of the word ‘watch’. An analogue watch indicates time by means of mechanical structures (the movement) within the watch. A digital watch, by contrast, uses electronic means, such as liquid crystal and LED, by which to indicate time. The first digital watch was released in 1970. So, whilst analogue watches are considered traditional and denote legacy, digital watches clearly denote that which is modern, even futuristic. Both have their enthusiasts, including in the high-end watch market. ‘Analogue-digital’ rather evidently refers to a watch that has both a digital display and the hands of a conventional analogue watch.
Men’s Watch Types
Finally, there is an impressive array of watch types for men. Here are the more typical types / categories (in alphabetical order) that are available:
The Aviator Watch
Also known as pilot watches. This distinct watch usually has a bezel and slide rule, which was vital for pilots in the days before electronic navigation became the norm. Most aviation timepieces have a black face with luminous numerals and dial - once again, a nostalgic relic of when aviators needed to use them in the dark.
The Casual (or Fashion) Watch
The terms ‘casual’ and ‘fashion’ for men’s watches could be considered interchangeable, in that these are watches that can be used during more casual, informal occasions. These watches tend to combine a lot of style with some functionality. A fashion watch may have a well-known fashion brand name attached to it (like a watch made by Calvin Klein, as we have available here on Anytime Watches), and can also be worn for more ‘dressy’ occasions.
The Diving Watch
This watch is purpose-made to work in the depths of the ocean. A diving watch is characterised by its rugged construction, luminous dials and hands, and unidirectional bezel. It sits atop of the case, and is used to tell the diver how much immersion time he has left.
The Dress Watch
This is the most ‘jewellery-like’ of timepieces. A dress watch tends to be understated, usually with numerals, a simple dial and a lack of adornments or complications. It is usually attached to a leather strap, and should ideally be thin so that it can be ‘unnoticed’ under the wearer’s cuff until he needs to use it - and flaunt it.
The Driving Watch
Driving watches, which are the epitome of masculine adventure and speed, usually have a chronograph complication. This stopwatch feature has its origins in motor-racing, whilst some even have a tachymeter on the bezel, so as to measure speed. These watches usually come with extra buttons on the side, which are visually appealing to the wearer of this type of watch.
The Sports Watch
The most important feature of a sports watch is that of timekeeping. Usually rugged and solid in look and construction, these watches can incorporate a host of different features and functionality, ranging from heart rate monitors to altimeters, barometers, compasses and GPS tracking.
Here are some more examples of watch types you may come across, including those according to their special functionalities or even shapes:
- Calendar Watch: A watch that shows the day of the month, and often the day of the week and the year.
- Simple Calendar: This watch only displays the date, doesn't take account of the varying lengths of months and must be reset by hand at the end of each month.
- Annual Calendar: This watch takes account of month length, except when February turns to March (owing to the issue of leap years, i.e. a year with February 29th every four years).
- Perpetual Calendar: This is a calendar mechanism that automatically adjusts for the unequal lengths of all 12 months, including leap-year February months (as opposed to an Annual Calendar which does not).
- Perpetual Secular Calendar: This is a very rare watch that keeps track of which years are not leap years, as is the case with 2100.
- GMT Watch: Also known as a dual Timer or dual time zone watch: As the name indicates, this watch tells time in two locations around the globe.
- Lepine Watch: This is a pocket watch without a cover, and is characterized by having a winding stem at 12 o’clock.
- Repeater Watch: A complicated watch that chimes out the current time when the wearer pushes a button.
- Retrograde Watch: This watch does not display the function in a circular fashion, as we normally expect a watch to be. Rather, it sets out the functions in a linear manner. So, instead of the hands going round in a circle, they travel along an arc. When the hands reach the end of the arc they jump back to the beginning.
- Tonneau Watch: This is a watch with a barrel-like, convex shape, i.e. squared at the bottom and top of the case with sides that seem to ‘bulge’ out.
- World Time Watch A watch that can display the current time in any time zone in the world. The names of cities at different time zones are printed on the dial. The hour in a particular zone can be read by looking at the scale next to the city that the hour hand is pointing to. The minutes are read in the normal way.
Talk about choices…
Intimidated yet? There’s no point in that - just embrace the horologist within you! Because there are few things more captivating, amazing and engaging than the world of men’s watches. Which will only make it easier and easier for you...