Men's Watches Buying Tips
When buying men's watches, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Brand matters – For a high quality watch, you should stick with reputable brands. The better brands are known not only as the more stylish option, but also the more durable and long-lasting. The last thing you want is to buy a generic watch that breaks after a few months of use. It's definitely worth paying more for a quality brand.
Find a watch for your outfit – Buy the type of watch that most closely matches your clothing style. A casual watch won't work for your business and formal wear, or for sports wear. The same goes for a luxury watch or a sports watch—they're designed for specific outfits. (See the section "How to Wear a Watch" for more information on pairing and wearing watches.)
Be wary of excessive luxury – Do you really need a Rolex? Unless you're a banker or work in high finance, chances are you could get away with a less expensive luxury watch. Going for the priciest watch on the market isn't recommended; always shop for a watch that suits your needs, even if it's not the most stylish choice.
Consider your lifestyle – Do you wear business suits or formal outfits regularly? If so, you'll want to consider investing in a watch that matches your professional clothing. For those who wear athletic clothes for their job (as a coach, fitness trainer, etc.), it's better to get a sports watch with all the bells and whistles that will enable you to be more effective at your job. For those who work in casual attire, a casual style is better.
Buy more than one – Though it may sound silly, you can own a few different watches. Just like you have different shoes, belts, and outfits for different purposes, you can buy a selection of 2-4 watches to match the various activities you participate in througout the week.
Get the right size for your hand – This is something many men fail to take into account when buying watches. A watch that's too large will look silly on your wrist, while a watch that's too small will often fit poorly and be uncomfortable. Find the right size—of the watch case/face as well as the wristband—for your hands, wrists, and arms.
Know your prices – If you pay less than $250 for a watch, it's known as a "consumer watch", meaning it's a watch to be used with your everyday outfits. If you pay up to $1,000 for a watch, it's known as a "brand watch" or "enthusiast watch", and it makes a statement that you have disposable income to spend on luxury accessories. Up to $10,000, and it's known as a "luxury watch", which are very exclusive and signal that you are fairly wealthy. Upwards of $10,000, and it's known as an "ultra-luxury watch", and they tend to be available only to select clientele due to their exquisite craftsmanship and peerless quality.
Don't treat watches as an investment – When buying watches, don't see them as an investment that will mature and pay you more if/when you decide to sell them. They are a utilitarian product, one meant to be worn and used. It's a totally justifiable expense to appear professional and affluent, but you need to realize that the watch is going to be worn, used, and ultimately worn out. There's no reason to buy a watch just to keep it in a fancy case on your shelf. Buy watches you're going to use, and use them!
Types of Men's Watches
There are a surprising array of men's watch styles to choose from. Each has their own pros and cons and unique features, as well as their specific style.
Diving Watch – A diving watch is designed to function in or near water, even in deep water or while diving. These watches became very popular thanks to the James Bond movies, but they have remained popular due to the fact that they are a wonderful mix of versatility, functionality, and durability.
The standard dive watch is water resistant to at least 100 meters, and they're usually made from metals like titanium or stainless steel that are resistant to rust and corrosion. Cheaper dive watches are made from rubber or silicone. Hardened mineral glass or sapphire is used to protect the watch face. The bands are usually made of metal and are longer than other watch bands, as they're designed to fit around diving suits and other diving equipment.
These watches are usually medium-sized, with luminous dials that feature large, easy to read Arabic numerals. All diving watches have a uni-directional bezel on the case that rotates counter-clockwise. This is used to let the diver know how long he's been underwater.
Field Watches – Field watches were designed for military field officers who needed reliable timepieces that were able to stand up to the rigors of combat. They tend to be durable timepieces built with a military style and feel, but are both stylish and highly functional.
The field watch usually has a smaller or medium-sized watch case, with a slimmer wristband. The case is typically made of stainless steel or titanium, and a leather or canvas strap. The face features few complications (see below) and easy to read numbers with hands that light up at night. Some have the ability to stop the second hand by pulling out the crown—useful for synchronizing the watch to other timepieces or reference signals.
Dress Watch – Dress watches became popular in the early 20th Century among well-to-do men who wanted to pair luxury timepieces with their elegant outfits. These watches are a mix of sophistication and simplicity, with a subtle elegance that is both understated and attention-getting. They are the opposite of flashy Rolex watches, but scream luxury and class.
The dress watch tends to be slimmer and smaller than other watches, allowing you to slip it in and out of dress shirt cuffs. The cases come in square, circular, and rectangular styles, often made from luxury metals like gold, silver, or platinum. The bands are always leather, so some come with the option of using a metal band.
The watch face itself is fairly simple and free of complications, with hour displays that feature either Roman or Arabic numerals or saber-style indexes. Some will have the day/date or moon display, but most will have simply the hour, minute, and second. It's all about simplicity with dress watches!
Pilot Watches – Since the early 1900s, pilot watches (also known as "aviator watches") have been a popular item among men looking for the perfect blend of functionality and style.
Pilot watches come in a broad range of styles, but they tend to have medium to large-sized cases, leather bands that are longer than average (to fit around a flight jacket cuff), and an oversized dial with easy to read numbers, luminous hands, and few complications (usually the date, and sometimes a chronograph). The numbers are designed to be visible even in the dark cockpit environment or while flying at night.
Tactical Watch – Tactical watches were designed with military use in mind, but they're of.ten used by law enforcement agencies due to their versatility and toughness.
Tactical watches are usually made from metal like stainless steel or titanium, though often covered with a layer of silicone or rubber to prevent them from reflecting. The face is covered with sapphire, a scratch- and shatter-resistant material.
The hands tend to be larger and glow in the dark, as are the numerals (typically Arabic) and hour marks. They usually are water-resistant up to 30 meters, and come with an array of complications: day/date, chronograph, 24-hour clock, and more. They are highly versatile and are made to be as accurate and reliable as possible.
Racing or Driving Watch – Since the 1930s and the birth of car racing, there have been watches designed for men who love fast cars. Rolexes are technically driving watches, as are TAG Heuer timepieces.
These watches tend to be medium to large, with a stainless steel case able to survive accidents. The bands are either made from leather or steel, and will typically be of medium thickness.
The face has a large dial, usually with clear, easily legible Arabic numerals and bright colors that contrast each other for easy reading. Complications on the watch typically include the day/date and a chronograph, though some racing watches are designed without complications.
Sports Watch – Sports watches are almost digital, as that provides for greater flexibility and more features for active and outdoor use. Though they're not as stylish or "luxurious" as some of the other watches on this list, they're no less useful.
Most sports watches are made from durable rubber or silicone, which is sweat-resistant and water-resistant. They tend to have a medium to large case and a thick band, and a lot of features: from luminous dials to compasses to altimeters to GPS positioning to heart rate monitoring. They also come with the typical features: day/date, alarm clocks, and chronographs. They're the most versatile of the watches, though the least "dressy" or "showy" of the bunch.
Mechanical vs Automatic vs. Quartz Watches
Most of us take it for granted that our watches are powered by a battery that keeps everything ticking along automatically. However, many luxury watches are made WITHOUT batteries, instead using a mainspring system that must be wound in order to stay accurate. Some are mechanical, meaning you have to wind them up by hand, while others are automatic and self-winding.
Below, we'll take a look at a few of the things that make these two watches so popular, and list the pros and cons of each:
There's something elegant about the pedigree of a mechanical watch. The act of winding brings back memories of the days when men were elegantly dressed .and watch enthusiasts love these timepieces.
Some of the pros of mechanical watches include:
- Never run out of battery life. You're doing the winding yourself, so there's no watch battery involved.
- Create an elegant ritual. It just feels classy to wind your watch at the end of the day!
- Smoother hand movement. Because the spring is unwinding, the second hand moves at a smooth, steady pace rather than the tick, tick of an automatic watch.
On the downside:
- If you forget to wind your watch at the end of the day, it will lead to inaccurate timekeeping.
- Mechanical watches are very sensitive to their environment, and they can be more easily damaged.
- They're pricey—expect to spend no less than $500 for a reliable mechanical watch.
- Accuracy suffers. Even if you wind your watch at precisely the same time every day, it will ultimately end up losing accuracy VERY slowly. You need to take it into a jeweler's every 5-10 years for maintenance, such as replacing the winding spring.
Also known as "self-winding watches", these are timepieces that use the same mainspring system but the movement of your hand/arm throughout the day winds the spring for you.
The pros of automatic watches include:
- No battery required. Once again, these watches use kinetic power (movement) to wind the springs, so there's no need to use or replace a battery.
- No winding needed. The movement of your body will wind the watch for you, keeping it accurate.
- Smooth movement. Because of the mainspring, the second hand moves slowly rather than the tick, tick of a quartz-powered watch.
- More accuracy. As long as you keep moving, the watch will be automatically wound, meaning it will tend to be more accurate than a mechanical watch as long as you wear it.
The downsides of automatic watches include:
- They're sensitive to the environment. Any dust, debris, or even a shock can ruin or throw off the inner workings.
- They must be stored in a watch winder. In order to keep the timepiece accurate, you have to buy and use a watch winder for your automatic watches. Watch winders keep the watch moving in small, circular motions that produce sufficient kinetic energy to wind the watch.
- They will require more tune-ups than mechanical watches. They're also more prone to losing accuracy than mechanical watches since they're reliant on the inner rotor to wind the mainspring.
- They cost more than your average watch, and often more than a mechanical watch. They tend to be luxury and collectors' items.
The vast majority of the watches available on the market today are quartz-powered, meaning they use electricity from a small battery to run through a piece of quartz. This produces 32,768 vibrations per second, and a circuit measures the vibrations and translates it into a pulse, which pushes the second hand forward.
Pros of quartz watches include:
- Accurate timekeeping. By far, quartz is the most accurate method of keeping time.
- Little to no maintenance required. All you have to do is change the battery when it runs low, and the watch will keep on ticking accurately.
- Better durability. With fewer moving parts than a mainspring-powered watch, there's less risk of damage from shock, dirt, debris, and other environmental factors.
- Inexpensive. You can find quartz-powered watches as cheap as $1.
On the downside:
- There's that irritating tick, tick sound. Quartz-powered watches don't have the same smooth movement as mainspring watches.
- They lack the romanticism of mechanical and automatic watches. The technology of yesteryear (mainsprings) makes the timepieces much more elegant than cutting-edge quartz technology.
The term "complications" refers to the additional features built into the watch face.
All watches come with the standard minute and hour hands, as well as the 12 hour marks (saber-style lines, Roman or Arabic numerals, or a combination of both). Some watches also feature a second hand.
However, some watches also have extra features, including:
- Day of the week and date of the month display
- Moon phase display
- Power reserve indicators
- Chronograph, another second hand or multiple sub-dials that serve as a stopwatch
- Altimeter, which displays the height above sea level
- Dual time, a sub-dial that displays the time in another time zone
- Duo display, or "AnaDigi" display, which features both digital and analog timekeeping
- Tachymeter, which measures average speed and distance
These extra features are all called "complications" when integrated into an analog watch.
How to Wear a Watch
The art of wearing a watch is a surprisingly complex one. You could just slip any type of watch on with any suit, but it takes a true man to know how to pair the right watch with the right outfits.
Let's take a look at each type of watch to find out what outfits it can pair with:
Dress Watch – The name makes it pretty clear: wear this watch when you want to dress to the nines!
The dress watch is the only watch suitable to pair with a tuxedo or black tie/white tie formal wear. Because of the elegance of the outfit, you want to match it with the simplicity of the dress watch.
However, dress watches can be worn with business formal, business casual, and even nicer sharp casual outfits (such as golfing clothes). They don't pair with a T-shirt and jeans or sportswear, but they can match anything from a polo and slacks to dinner outfits.
Diver's Watch – The all-metal design of the diver's watch makes it an excellent pairing with business formal wear, including an elegant three-piece suit. However, it can be used to dress down, including with business casual, sharp casual, and even sports and casual wear. Because the watch is durable, it will survive heavy activity—from water sports to hiking to gym use. However, it's better when paired with the more professional outfit styles.
Pilot Watch – Aviator watches have a much more casual appearance than diver's watches, and their larger size makes them better-suited to casual—sharp casual, business casual, and general casual—outfits. They are not suitable for formal business wear, and definitely not for formal/dinner wear.
Watches with the steel band are better for sharp and business casual, while leather bands are better for sharp and general casual.
Field Watch – Field watches are one of the most versatile styles of watch, and they are great for everything from active sportswear to sharp casual to business casual. Men who don't dress in a suit all that often will find that a field watch is the best purchase, as it's versatile enough for everything from jeans and a T-shirt to khakis and a sports coat.
Racing/Driving Watch – These flashy, bold-looking watches are intended to be worn very visibly, so there's no sense covering them up with long-sleeved shirts or sports coats. Wear racing/driving watches with sharp and general casual outfits.
Tactical Watch – Tactical watches are generally intended to be worn with military or law enforcement uniforms, though they are also good for general casual use. However, for military or law enforcement personnel, they can be worn with business formal outfits as a nod to their profession even while off duty.
Sports Watch – Sports watches are intended to be used with general casual outfits, though many people like to pair them with sharp casual attire to achieve a sleeker, sportier look. In some instances, sports watches may be worn with business casual outfits as well.
When wearing and pairing your watch, here's what you need to remember:
- Leather complements leather. Black watch band, black belt and shoes. Brown watch band, brown belt and shoes.
- Rubber watch bands are only for sports and casual occasions. If you're going to wear a sports watch with sharp casual or business casual, make sure it has a leather band.
- Metal complements metal. Gold watch, gold belt buckle. Silver watch, silver belt buckle.
- Black is more formal than brown. When it doubt, choose a black leather watch band.
- Wear the watch on your non-dominant hand. For most people, this means on their left wrist.
- Get the right size. For men with 6-7 inch wrists, find a case diameter between 38 and 42 mm wide. For men with wrists larger than 7 inches, opt for 44 to 46 mm cases.
- Set it at the right place. The watch should sit at the tip of the ulna (the bone sticking out of your wrist).
- Inside the cuff. The watch is always worn on your wrist, covered by your cuff. The watch will only peek out when you bend your arm.