Watch Education

Watch Buyers Guide

From big bold design to delicate pieces, watches show an individual�s personality and come in many types. When considering the purchase of a watch, it�s helpful to understand the basic types of watches to appreciate the benefits and drawbacks of each. To start, let�s consider the basics of watch movements and displays.


A watch movement is the mechanism that measures the passage of time and displays the current time and sometimes other information. They can be entirely mechanical,electronic or a mix of the two. For the purpose of this review, we’ll only look at mechanical and electronic watch movements.


A mechanical watch movement is the original method developed to power wristwatches and appreciated by many for their detailed craftsmanship as well as aesthetic appearance. Mechanical movements use an escapement device, which enables the gradual release of stored energy to power the timepiece. Energy can be stored in several different ways, such as a spring that is manually wound, a self-winding mechanism driven by the movement of the wearer, a battery or others.


An electronic watch movement has few if any moving parts and employs energy created by the interaction of small crystals to power the watch. The resulting resonance created by the crystals creates a specific and highly stable frequency to accurately pace the timekeeping mechanism. Electronic watches are frequently called quartz watches and most of these movements drive mechanical hands even though the movement itself is electronic. Since electronic movements require electricity to operate, many watches with electronic movements have batteries.


A Watch’s display is an important component to the look and feel of every watch, especially when worn as jewelry. Watches can display time and related information using two primary methods, analog and digital. Traditionally, watches have displayed the time in analogue form, with a numbered dial upon which are mounted at least a rotating hour hand and a longer, rotating minute hand. Analog display of the time is nearly universal in watches sold as jewelry or collectibles, and in these watches, the range of different styles of hands, numbers, and other aspects of the analogue dial is very broad. Digital display, on the other hand, is often primarily used when the timepiece is used as a timing device. Generally considered more exact, digital displays can measure time with great precision and are perfect for exact timekeeping, including everything from timing industrial processes to athletic events. Although incredibly useful, digital displays require less craftsmanship to manufacture and are considered less attractive, so they are seldom offered in watches worn as jewelry.


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:


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.


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. Although there are many brands that employ various types of watch bands to achieve interesting looks. Here are some of the most frequent types of watchbands:


Brass – Brass is often used as a base metal for watch bands. Base metals, which can mean any non-precious metal, can be finished with plating that gives the band the look and feel of gold, silver or even black. Both cost-effective and fashionable, brass has been used to create jewelry since ancient times. Brass is mainly a mixture of copper and zinc and radiates a lovely warm reddish-copper glow. Brass items also generally contain nickel, aluminum and occasionally tin, so those with sensitivity to nickel may find brass jewelry difficult to wear. Items made with brass are usually exquisitely detailed. One drawback to brass is its propensity to change color. A coating of oil can usually prevent brass from turning.


Ceramic – Ceramic watch bands are popular for many reasons. Ceramic carbide is a man-made product – not the ceramic usually found in stoneware or pottery. Industrial ceramic carbide is extremely durable and nearly impossible to scratch and can be manufactured in a wide variety of colors. Ceramic carbide is also a material that people with metal allergies and sensitive skin can enjoy since it is completely hypoallergenic.


Gold – The literal “gold standard” of watch bands, most high-end watches feature a bracelet fashioned of 10K, 14K, or even 18K gold. When buying a gold watch, look for a stamp with a karat mark, the manufacturer’s registered trademark and the country of origin.


Leather – The classic leather watch brands are always a popular option because they are very simple, comfortable, and stylish.


Military – Crafted from a variety of materials military watch bands can offer bothacasualand sophisticated look.


Resin – Tough, durable and available in many colors, resin watch bands are a stylish and sporty look. Resin is a high-impact plastic that can be used as an inset or accent on each bracelet link, or to create the complete watch band. Resin is easy to care for, usually requiring only a wipe down with a soft cloth.


Rubber – Soft yet surprisingly durable, rubber watch bands are a great option for the person on the go. Typically used with sport watches or for children’s watches, rubber watch bands can be manufactured in a variety of colors and textures.


Stainless Steel Bracelets � Considered durable and long lasting, stainless steel watch bands are popular with both men and women. Easy to wear and take off, they offer flexibility by matching formal and informal attires, much like other forms of jewelry.


Titanium – Titanium is commonly used these days as watch bands or bracelets for sports watches. Light and durable, these bands are an obvious choice for many divers’ watches.


Exotic – Growing in popularity, exotic watchbands can be crafted from materials like alligator, pigskin, shark or sheepskin. Offering an interesting look and story, exotic watchbands can often elevate a fairly ordinary watch into an interesting jewelry piece that adds interest to any wardrobe.

Common Features

All watches measure time by providing the hour and minute, but beyond that watch features are 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. Here is a selection of the more popular features or complications for non-digital watches:


Audible Alarm � An alarm featured in more expensive watches


Chronograph � The ability to function as a stop-watch.


Moon Phase � Displays the lunar phase.


Tourbillon � A device used to counter the affect of gravity, said to improve accuracy.


Perpetual Calendar � A continual calendar that needs no adjustment


As you can understand, the type and variety of features available in digital watches are seldom limited by the mechanical nature of the watch itself, so there are a wide variety of features available in today’s digital watch. Here are only several of the most popular features:


Calculator – A self contained mathematical calculator


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


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