7 Steps to Choosing a Watch
In the age of smartphones, nobody needs a watch. Why, then, is the industry thriving?
I think Fiona, my fifth grade crush would know. I was invisible to her until I started wearing a watch. In her eyes my new Casio Databank Calculator Watch made me a new man, a mature gentleman that appreciated the gratification of dressing well. Or, at least I made her laugh, showing her how you could type out “boobies” holding the watch upside down.
For a long while I stopped wearing a watch. Then, while traveling across Turkey with my girlfriend (soon-to-be wife), she bought me a watch for my birthday in one of the back alley shops in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. It was the Hublot Skull Bang, a badass piece that I still wear often.
I’ve collected more pieces since then, and now I can’t remember how I lived without a watch. Welcome to that world. Let us help you choose your piece.
What to look for when buying a watch
We can classify watches into 3 broad categories, based on price:
Basic: Priced under $100, these babies will tell you the time and maybe spell out “boobies”, but nobody will confuse one for a beautiful, quality timepiece. The most well known brands in this category include Casio, Timex, and Swatch.
Mid-level: A watch that costs anywhere from $100 to $1,000 begins to show more than the time. These models are like art, not just a utilitarian handcuff, and still affordable to the average human. Most good watches are created with loving care by brilliant designers who know that wearing a beautiful watch elevates your lifestyle.
- Luxury: anywhere from $1,000 and up. Some handcrafted watches can exceed 2 million dollars. They won’t keep time much better than less expensive models, but they sure do look good. Too often, luxury watches are purchased in a vain attempt to broadcast the wearer’s status. Buy a watch because you love it, not to impress your friends and enemies.
2) Dial: Analog or digital?
When you know your budget, ask yourself how you want your watch to speak to you.
Digital watches show the time with standard numerals on a digital display. It’s easy to read, and typically seen as sporty and functional, and less formal.
Analog watches use hour, minute, and sometimes second hands to show the time in the way a sundial would. Expect to see roman numerals or markings on the watch face. Right or wrong, analog faces are seen to be more refined.
3) Dress or sport?
Sport watches are preferred where the watch is exposed to more wear and tear. Think: hiking, working outdoors, and (you guessed it) sports. Do not assume a sport watch is automatically more durable than a dress watch. The sport vs. dress decision boils down to what’s more suited to your current attire.
Dress watches will look great with a suit or out sippin’ gins on a Saturday night. It’s a cruel world, but if you want to be taken seriously, please don’t wear a sports watch to a job interview, unless you want to be a personal trainer.
4) Movement: mechanical or quartz?
The guts or the engine of a watch is called its “movement.” It keeps time, moves the hands, and runs the calendar.
Mechanical movements are built around a wound-up spring that stores energy that is transferred to the gears that literally makes the watch tick. Some mechanical watches need to be wound by hand, while others include an ingenious oscillating weight (the rotor) that produces power when you move.
Quartz movements store no mechanical energy. Instead, a tiny synthetic crystal, powered by a battery, vibrates to keep a watch on time. The vast majority of watches use this technology because it’s accurate, durable, and cost-effective.
5) Crystal type
The crystal is the case that covers the face of the watch, and protects the hands and other features.
Plastic or acrylic crystals are cheap, but they crack and scratch easily. The scratches can be buffed out, but will you repair a $50 watch?
Mineral Glass, as the name suggests, is made of glass. You can scratch it if you don’t take care of it, but the crystal can be easily replaced. Plus, it doesn’t shatter or chip as easily as synthetic sapphire.
Synthetic Sapphire is the second hardest element after diamond, and so these crystals are extremely scratch resistant. Paradoxically, they can chip or shatter easier than mineral glass if you hit them the wrong way, which is expensive to replace, but that’s rare.
Watchbands are commonly made from just a few materials, depending on the price and style of the watch:
Plastic or rubber bands broadcast a more casual style. Rubber isn’t terribly flexible, and some people complain that get sweaty and chafed under there. Plastic can easily wear out and crack. The plus? These materials are cheap, so are usually paired with basic watches.
Leather is the most common material used for watchstraps because it goes well with both dress and sport pieces. Leather won’t last as long as most metal, but it won’t add a lot to the watch’s final cost either.
Metal straps, sometimes called bracelets, can be made from anything from stainless steel to 18K gold. Stainless steel will pass the fashion test when paired with casual or formal dress, and is highly durable and tough to break. Metal has it’s limits, though: we’d recommend not pairing an 18K gold strap with jeans and your dirty v-neck.
7) Water resistance
Watch companies love to advertise that their watches are water resistant to 3 or 5 or (gasp!) 20 ATMs. Huh? This cryptic measurement is often stamped on the back of the case.
An ATM is simply short for “atmosphere”. One ATM is the atmospheric pressure at sea level. For a super fun science lesson, visit this link.
For every approximately 33 feet you descend into the ocean, you add one atmosphere of pressure. Of course you’re thinking: "Why do I care? I do not plan to dive to 100 feet, and if I were, I would leave my gold-plated Mickey Mouse on my superyacht."
Right. Well, these measurements tell you that the watch was tested under this pressure for a short time, not that you can finally shack up with your pal Spongebob. Let’s decipher the meanings:
- 3 ATM (30m/100ft): will withstand rain or a gentle splash
- 5 ATM (50m/165ft): cool to swim in a pool, but not for diving down
- 10 ATM (100m/330 ft): the bare minimum for sport diving – probably good enough for a sweaty workout too, or if you go dancing in a tropical thunderstorm
- 20 ATM (200m/660 ft): the choice of discerning deep sea divers
There's a lot more to watches, but now you've got the basics covered. Pat yourself on the back.
Strapping on my skull watch still reminds me of that road trip across Turkey with the woman I was falling for. There’s magic in carrying an intricate heartbeat on your wrist, each one tied to a chapter of life that, for me, always starts with a new watch.
Find your next watch at Rogue Refined:
Tube Watch D42 Steel
Tube Watch S42 Matte Black
Rogue Refined seeks to motivate and inspire men. We search far and wide for exceptional products that elevate men's lives.
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