watches buying

Watches Buying Guide: From Wrist to Wallet

Imagine having the world of horology at your fingertips, where understanding each tick and tock of a watch becomes second nature, and navigating the intricate world of timepieces feels like a familiar path rather than a labyrinth. The allure of watches extends beyond their ability to tell time – they’re pieces of wearable art, emblems of personal style, and in some instances, investments that appreciate over time. However, the vast landscape of options can be daunting. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide, just for you. Time waits for no one, so let’s dive right in, shall we? Our journey into the fascinating world of watches starts now. Embrace the tick-tock, for every second counts!

Watch Terminologies

For any aspiring horologist or watch enthusiast, understanding key watch terminologies is crucial. Let’s delve into some of these important terms:

  • Dial: This is the face of the watch, where you’ll see the hands, indices or numbers, and possibly other functions depending on the watch’s complications.
  • Case: The case houses the watch’s movement and dial. It can come in various shapes, like round, square, or rectangle, and be made of different materials, such as stainless steel, gold, ceramic, or titanium.
  • Lugs: These are the projections on the watch case that attach it to the bracelet or strap. Lugs can vary in shape and size and play a role in how the watch fits on your wrist.
  • Crown: The crown is a knob on the side of the watch case. It’s used to set the time and date and, in mechanical watches, wind the mainspring.
  • Movement: Also known as a “calibre,” it’s the mechanism that powers the watch. Movements can be mechanical, automatic, or quartz.

Anatomy of a Watch

Tudor Black Bay dial bezel

To truly appreciate the craft of watchmaking, it helps to understand the key components of a watch:


Rolex Movement 3230

The movement is the engine of a watch that drives the hands around the face and powers any additional complications. There are primarily three types of movements:

  • Mechanical: These movements are the oldest type of watch movement and are powered by a wound spring, also known as a mainspring. As the spring unwinds, it releases energy to power the watch.
  • Automatic: Also known as “self-winding,” automatic movements harness energy through the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. This motion winds the mainspring, which stores energy to power the watch.
  • Quartz: Quartz movements are powered by a battery. They’re highly accurate and require less maintenance than mechanical or automatic movements. The battery sends an electrical signal through a small quartz crystal, which oscillates at a precise frequency to keep time.


The caliber refers to the specific model or type of movement within a watch. The term can be traced back to the tradition of naming the movement after its diameter or “caliber.” In modern usage, it typically indicates the design, function, and origin of the movement. High-quality calibers are a hallmark of premium watch brands and speak to a watch’s overall value.


In horology, “complications” refer to any features in a watch that go beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. Here are a few examples:

  • Date Function: This complication displays the current date and can vary in complexity, from simple date windows to more advanced annual or perpetual calendars.
  • Chronograph: Essentially a stopwatch, a chronograph can measure continuous or discontinuous intervals of time. Chronographs are common in sport and aviation watches.
  • Moon Phase Display: This feature shows the current phase of the moon as visible from Earth. It’s a complex complication that adds to the visual appeal of the watch.
  • Perpetual Calendar: This is one of the most complex horological complications. It displays the date, day, month, and year, and adjusts for short and long months as well as leap years.

Types of Watches

The world of watches offers a wide variety of types, each serving a unique purpose or style. Here are some you may encounter on your horological journey. For a more detailed understanding, you can visit our post on Watch Types & Styles.

  • Automatic Watches: These watches are powered by the natural movement of the wearer’s wrist. When worn regularly, they can keep time accurately without the need for manual winding.
  • Quartz Watches: Quartz watches are powered by a battery and a tiny piece of quartz crystal. They are highly accurate, affordable, and require minimal maintenance.
  • Mechanical Watches: Mechanical watches are powered by a coiled spring called a mainspring and must be wound by hand. They’re treasured for their intricate craftsmanship and tradition.
  • Dress Watches: Dress watches are elegant and timeless, designed to complement formal attire. They are typically slim and understated with few complications.
  • Dive Watches: These are robust timepieces designed to withstand underwater activities. They are characterized by their water resistance, luminous dials, and rotating bezels.
  • Smartwatches: Smartwatches are digital watches equipped with various smart capabilities like fitness tracking, GPS, call and message notifications, and more.

Material & Size: The Aesthetics of Watches

The materials used in a watch significantly contribute to its aesthetics, weight, and durability. Here are some popular materials:

  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is durable, corrosion-resistant, and offers a great balance between luxury and practicality.
  • Ceramic: Ceramic watches are light, scratch-resistant, and can withstand high temperatures. They are often seen in a variety of colors.
  • Gold: Gold, especially yellow and rose gold, gives watches a luxurious and classic appeal. It’s often used in high-end, luxury watches.
  • Titanium: Titanium is stronger and lighter than stainless steel. It’s hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant, making it suitable for dive watches.

The size of a watch is crucial not just for fit, but also for its aesthetics on your wrist. Looking to enhance your wrist size for a better fit? Discover tips in our guide on how to Get a Bigger Wrist. Key considerations include:

  • Case Diameter: The diameter of the watch case impacts how the watch fits. Standard men’s watches are typically around 38-46mm, while women’s watches are often 26-36mm.
  • Case Thickness: The thickness of the watch can affect how it sits on your wrist. Dress watches tend to be thinner, while sports and dive watches are usually thicker due to their robust build.
  • Strap Size: The strap or bracelet size should fit comfortably around your wrist. It’s usually adjustable to ensure a perfect fit.

Finally, the ‘watch glass’ or ‘crystal’ protects the dial and is made from materials such as:

  • Acrylic: Acrylic is plastic and tends to be found on more affordable watches. It’s not very scratch-resistant but can be polished easily.
  • Mineral Crystal: Mineral crystal is a type of hardened glass that’s more scratch-resistant than acrylic.
  • Sapphire Crystal: Sapphire crystal is the most scratch-resistant and durable. It’s used in many high-end and luxury watches.

The Craftmanship Behind Watches

Zenith Defy Classic elite movement

The creation of a watch is a beautiful marriage of science and art, a testament to the mastery of human skill and ingenuity. Brands like Tudor balance affordability with this impressive craftsmanship, which you can learn more about in our detailed review: Are Tudor Watches Good?. Understanding the craftsmanship behind watches can greatly enhance your appreciation for these wonderful pieces of wearable art.

Design & Conceptualization

Creating a watch starts with an idea or a vision. Watch designers conceptualize a timepiece’s aesthetics, keeping in mind its intended function, potential wearers, and the brand’s heritage. Sketches are drawn, 3D models are built, and prototypes are created to bring the vision to life.

Movement Construction

The heart of any watch is its movement. It’s the mechanical engine that powers the watch. Skilled watchmakers assemble numerous tiny parts—gears, springs, plates—into a coherent whole that can keep time accurate. This requires incredible precision and patience. Whether it’s a straightforward three-hand movement or a complex tourbillon, each part plays a crucial role in ensuring the watch functions correctly.

Case Making

The watch case protects the movement and contributes significantly to the watch’s aesthetics and durability. Casemaking involves multiple steps—cutting, shaping, drilling, polishing—that requires skilled craftsmanship. The materials used, whether it’s stainless steel, gold, titanium, or ceramic, each bring their own challenges and require specialized techniques to work with.

Dial Making

The dial is the face of the watch, what you look at most often. Dial making is an art unto itself. From choosing the right color and finish, crafting the indices and numerals, to perfectly aligning the hands, creating a beautiful and legible dial takes great skill.

Finishing & Assembly

Once all the parts are made, they need to be assembled and finished. This involves numerous steps, from installing the dial and hands, casing the movement, and attaching the strap or bracelet, to the final polishing and quality control. Each step requires meticulous attention to detail, ensuring that the finished product is nothing short of perfect.


The more complications (functions) a watch has, the more intricate its craftsmanship. From chronographs and moon phases to minute repeaters and perpetual calendars, each complication requires additional parts, precision, and time to assemble.

Quality Control

Finally, a high-quality watch must pass rigorous quality control tests. These tests assess accuracy, water resistance, and overall build quality. Only once a watch passes all these tests can it be said to truly embody the high level of craftsmanship that watchmaking requires.

When you strap on a watch, you’re not just wearing a timepiece. You’re wearing months, if not years, of dedicated craftsmanship, human ingenuity, and centuries-old tradition on your wrist. That’s the real beauty of watches.

Determining Your Watch Budget: From Affordable to Luxury

Choosing to purchase a timepiece is an exciting decision, but it’s essential to consider your budget. Watches can range from affordable yet reliable pieces to high-end luxury items commanding a significant price. To make the best decision, set a budget range before starting your watch hunt. If you’re interested in luxury watches but are mindful of your budget, consider exploring our curated selection of budget luxury watches. Here, we will guide you on how much you might expect to spend on your new timepiece.

The Budget-Friendly Zone: Value and Quality

For those just stepping into the world of horology, it’s possible to find excellent watches that won’t break the bank. Automatic watches offer a great starting point. Visit our post on Best Affordable Automatic Watches for a list of timepieces that offer great value and mechanical intrigue.

Swiss watches are often associated with luxury, but there are Swiss-made pieces available at more accessible prices. Our post on the Best Affordable Swiss Watches explores these options.

Mid-Range: A Step Up in Craftsmanship and Brand Heritage

If your budget is somewhat flexible, consider mid-range watches. These timepieces often offer better materials, more intricate designs, and enhanced durability. You might even start seeing watches with interesting complications like chronographs. Check out our Best Chronographs: From Budget to Luxury post for some fantastic options.

Luxury: High-End Craftsmanship, Exclusivity, and Investment

At the top end of the price range, you’ll find luxury watches. These aren’t just timekeepers; they’re heirlooms and status symbols, renowned for their exquisite craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and exclusivity. Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet reign in this space.

Interestingly, luxury watches can also serve as investment pieces. Some models, particularly from iconic brands, can hold or even appreciate in value over time. Our “Do Rolex Watches Hold Value?” post explores this topic in more detail.

Investing in a watch is about more than just telling time; it’s about expressing personal style, appreciating craftsmanship, and sometimes even making a wise investment. By understanding what’s available within different price ranges, you can make an informed decision that aligns with both your budget and your desires.

Men’s Watches Buying Guide

Understanding Men’s Watch Styles

The style of a watch significantly influences its overall aesthetic and where it’s best worn. Some common men’s styles include:

  1. Dress Watches: These are elegant timepieces perfect for formal occasions. Their design emphasizes simplicity and sophistication. Brands like Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre excel in this category.
  2. Sports Watches: Rugged and durable, sports watches are designed to withstand the elements. Dive watches, racing watches, and pilot’s watches fall into this category. Consider brands like Rolex and TAG Heuer for sporty watches.
  3. Casual Watches: For an everyday watch that pairs well with casual attire, look for watches with a simple, unfussy design. Seiko and Citizen offer excellent casual watches.

Size Matters for Men’s Watches

Men’s watches typically have larger cases and wider straps. While the average case diameter for men’s watches is around 37-39mm, modern tastes have pushed the standard towards 40-44mm. However, the best size depends on your wrist size and personal preference. Remember that a well-fitting watch not only looks good but also offers optimal comfort.

Popular Brands for Men’s Watches

Several brands have established themselves as favorites in the world of men’s watches. Rolex is synonymous with luxury and prestige, while TAG Heuer is known for its sporty chronographs. For sophisticated dress watches, consider brands like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. If you’re looking for excellent value, check out brands like Seiko, Citizen, and Tissot.

Women’s Watches Buying Guide

Understanding Women’s Watch Styles

The universe of women’s watches is rich and varied. Some popular styles include:

  1. Dress Watches: These elegant timepieces, often adorned with jewels or made from precious metals, are perfect for formal or evening wear. Brands like Cartier and Chopard are known for their beautiful dress watches.
  2. Casual Watches: Casual watches for women come in a plethora of designs, colors, and materials. They are best suited for everyday wear. Brands like Timex and Fossil provide a wide variety of casual watches.
  3. Sports Watches: Women’s sports watches combine durability and style. They’re perfect for an active lifestyle, featuring functionalities like timers and water resistance. Consider sports watches from brands like Garmin and Casio.

Size and Design Elements in Women’s Watches

Women’s watches traditionally have smaller case diameters, around 26-29mm, but larger watches have become increasingly popular. Additionally, women’s watches often feature design elements like gemstone embellishments, unique case shapes, and a wider variety of strap materials. Remember, the watch should match your personal style and fit comfortably on your wrist.

Popular Brands for Women’s Watches

Several brands excel in crafting women’s watches. Cartier is a favorite for their elegant designs and use of high-quality materials. On the luxury end, brands like Chopard and Chanel offer timepieces that double as stunning jewelry. For more affordable options without sacrificing style, consider brands like Michael Kors and Anne Klein.

Navigating Water Resistance in Watches

dive watch water

Water resistance is an important factor when choosing a watch, especially if you plan to wear it while swimming, diving, or even during regular handwashing.

Understanding Water Resistance Ratings

Water resistance in watches is typically indicated in meters (m) or atmospheres (ATM). However, these ratings can be misleading. A watch with a 30m water resistance doesn’t mean it can be used for diving up to 30 meters deep. Instead, it signifies that the watch can withstand splashes from washing hands or light rain.

For swimming or snorkeling, look for watches with a water resistance of 100m. If you’re into scuba diving, consider timepieces with a rating of 200m or more.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Over time, the seals that provide water resistance can degrade. Regular maintenance and pressure tests can ensure that your watch remains water-resistant.

Watch Care: Ensuring Longevity of Your Timepiece

Proper care and maintenance of your watch can help it last for years, even generations. Here are some steps to consider:

Regular Servicing

Just like a car, a watch needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. The complexity of the watch and the type of movement will determine how often it needs to be serviced, but a general rule of thumb is every 4-5 years.

Careful Cleaning

Cleaning your watch helps maintain its appearance and functionality. Wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove dirt and sweat. For water-resistant watches, you can use warm soapy water and a soft brush, but make sure the crown is fully pushed in or screwed down.

Proper Storage

When you’re not wearing your watch, it’s best to store it in a dry, cool place out of direct sunlight. A watch box or case can help protect it from dust and scratches.


What should you look for when buying a watch?

When buying a watch, consider these key factors:
Purpose: Identify why you need a watch. Is it for daily wear, special occasions, or a specific activity like diving or flying?
Movement: Decide between quartz, mechanical, or automatic movements based on your preference for precision, maintenance, and style.
Size: Make sure the watch fits your wrist comfortably and is in proportion with your body size.
Material: The material used in the watch impacts its durability, weight, and look. Common materials include stainless steel, gold, ceramic, and titanium.
Budget: Determine your budget. Watches range from affordable to luxury, and knowing your budget can help narrow down your options.

How do I choose a luxury watch?

Choosing a luxury watch involves consideration of the following:
Brand Heritage: Luxury watches often come from brands with rich history and excellent craftsmanship.
Quality of Movement: Luxury watches typically house high-quality, often in-house developed, movements.
Materials: Premium materials such as gold, platinum, and high-grade stainless steel are commonly used.
Craftsmanship: Attention to detail, finishing, and hand-made elements can add to the luxury watch’s value.
Resale Value: Some luxury watches retain or even appreciate in value over time.

Which are the best watches to buy?

The “best” watch depends on your individual needs, style, and budget. Some popular options include:
Budget-Friendly: Seiko 5 Series, Orient Bambino, Citizen Eco-Drive.
Mid-Range: Tissot Powermatic 80, Longines HydroConquest, Tag Heuer Carrera.
Luxury: Rolex Submariner, Patek Philippe Calatrava, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

How many watches should you own?

The number of watches one should own really depends on personal preference and lifestyle. If you’re just starting out, one versatile watch that suits most of your needs might be sufficient. For others, having a small collection of watches for different occasions and activities might be more suitable. This can include a dress watch for formal events, a casual watch for everyday use, a sports watch for outdoor activities, and perhaps a luxury watch for investment or heirloom purposes.

Conclusion: The Art of Time in Your Hands

Watches are more than just tools for telling the time; they are reflections of personal style, craftsmanship, and history. Understanding the intricacies of watches can enhance your appreciation for these marvelous instruments of timekeeping and aid in your journey of choosing the perfect timepiece. Whether you’re a seasoned watch enthusiast or just beginning your horological journey, remember that the essence of a watch is not merely about timekeeping—it’s about time well spent. Make your choice count, for every second matters.

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