Watch Buying Guide

No one is actually certain who created the first watch, but everyone knows how hard it is to be without one.

Timepieces have been made and worn for over 500 years, with watches having evolved from portable spring‐driven clocks. The first watches were worn as pendants or carried in pockets. Today, watches are everywhere – on phones, computers, tablets. But nothing can compare to the style and sophistication of that timeless timekeeper – the wrist watch.

Watches are commonly seen as a functional item needed in everyday life, however they are increasingly appreciated as forms of jewelry or collectible works of art. As a result, there are many different types and prices of watches from the simple and inexpensive to the ornate and pricey. With such a wide variety of choices it's easy to become overwhelmed, so we will explore the basics of buying a watch. We will consider several different types of watches, look at watch features and conclude with some tips on purchasing the best watch for your needs.


Watch Displays

A watch's display is an important component to the look and feel of every watch, especially when worn as jewelry.

  • Analog – Analog is a traditional look that displays the time using hour and minute hands. A sweep second hand may be used to track the seconds.
  • Digital – Digital shows the time in a numerical form. Digital displays are very clear and easy to understand, and are used in many children's watches.
  • LCD Display – Liquid‐crystal Display (LCD) watches feature a digital display where the numbers are formed in a liquid layer enclosed between a pair of clear crystals.
  • Ana‐Dig – Analog/Digital watches combine both an analog (hour and minute hands) and digital (numeric) display.

Watch Appearance

Beyond the many types of movements and displays, there are a number of aesthetic components to every watch that dramatically impact the appearance and desirability of this popular form of jewelry. Some of the most important include:

Watch Finish – The finish of a watch is normally deemed as one of the most important when selecting a watch, because it dramatically impacts the jewelry's appearance. Even so, the idea of finish is frequently more complex, in that the internal finish also affects the timepiece's dependability and sturdiness. The visual finish of a watch – the dial, case, strap, and buckle – is what the average person sees, and there's a vintage saying among watchmakers that, in selling a watch, one need only sell the dial. The external finish of a watch is crucial and the excellent watch should be beautifully finished, but the finish of these external parts alone cannot warrant the cost of a costly watch. In truly excellent watches, the external components are a small part of the finishing that goes into the watch.

Watch Movement – Although the movement plays a key role in the functionality of a watch, it can play a big part in is appearance. While the movement is often hidden from view in most watches, there are some that employ a skeleton movement which adds both interest and value to watches. As the name implies, a skeleton movement uncovers the inner working of the watch allowing the wearer to see the various mechanical components of the watch as it operates. For many, this borders on wearable art and from a jewelry perspective this feature adds a level of interest that most pieces simply don't have. Learn More About Watch Movements

Watch Band – Overlooked by many when considering a watch, the watch band is perhaps the most visible component to a watch and one that can truly turn the timepiece into an interesting form of jewelry. Learn About Different Types of Watch Bands


Common Watch Features

All watches measure time by providing the hour and minute, but beyond that watch features can be quite diverse. While displaying the current date, day of the week and seconds seem fairly common, there are also many additional features that you may want to consider when selecting a watch. Functionalities beyond basic time keeping are known as "complications," and a watch that has one or more functions beyond basic functionality is considered a 'complicated watch.' Popular 'complications' for non‐digital watches include:

  • Audible Alarm – This complication used to be available only on more expensive watches. It is a common feature on digital watches today.
  • Chronograph – The ability to function as a stop‐watch.
  • Moon Phase – Displays the lunar phase.
  • Tourbillon – A device used to counter the effect of gravity, said to improve accuracy.
  • Perpetual Calendar – A continual calendar that needs no adjustment

Digital watches include their own unique set of 'complications' including:

  • Calculator – A self‐contained mathematical calculator, common on digital watches.
  • Heart Rate Monitor – A receiver that monitors heart rate during athletic workouts.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) – A locational system using satellite technology.
  • Digital Camera – The ability to take and store photographs.
  • Phone/Email – There are certain watches that are designed to connect to the internet, allowing the wearer to use a phone or even check email.

The uses for a watch can be as diverse as each person that wears them, so it's important to consider what types of functions you may want when selecting a watch.


Waterproof or Water Resistant

Water resistance is an indication of the degree to which a watch can withstand exposure to water. A static pressure test is used to assess leakage and the result is then expressed in bars, atmospheres or meters. Since this test is performed only once on newly manufactured watches, a watch's ability to withstand water can be expected to degrade over time. However, watches used in more demanding environments, like a diving watch, are subjected to much more strenuous testing and must meet established guidelines.

Waterproof – Technically, no watch is truly "waterproof". Even divers watches, which are held to an extremely high water‐resistant standard, are not officially referred to as waterproof. They are, however, water resistant to a deeper depth and pressure.

Water resistance should be spelled out clearly on a watch product display. Use caution when wearing a watch around water, and follow the water guidelines carefully.


Watch Care

Watches are considered jewelry and should be cared for as such. Here are a few basic watch care guidelines:

  • Clean your watch regularly with a soft cloth to remove dirt and oils. Water and mild soap maybe be used to clean metal bracelets.
  • Avoid exposing your watch to extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Even water‐resistant timepieces should not be worn in a hot tub or shower.
  • Chlorine, perfumes and other chemicals may damage watch finishes and sealants. This is especially true for rubber, leather or exotic watchbands.
  • Always rinse a water‐resistant watch off in fresh water after swimming or snorkeling to remove any salt or sand.
  • Always keep the watch case away from magnets as they can damage the movement of quartz watches.

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