Man watch guide basics

You can also see for more information and expert advice.

Longer explanatory guide :

First, some basic watch vocabulary:

  • movement the machine that runs the watch.
  • crystal This is the glass on your watch. Better watches have sapphire crystals, which are unbreakable and scratchproof. (only diamonds can mark it)
  • dial This is the surface under the crystal, where the hour markers are. This part is often and incorrectly called the “face”.
  • case pretty self-explanatory, the body that holds the movement.
  • crown This is the little round thing coming out on the right side of watches. This is pulled out to set the time and other features.
  • Bezel the ring around the crystal, holds it in place.
  • lugs the little prongs protruding from the case, these hold the strap into place.
  • buckle/clasp the part that opens the band so that a watch can be taken on or off.

Now, there are two main categories of watches:

  • Quartz– Most watches you see today are of this variety. This basically means that the watch runs on a battery. The easiest way to tell if a watch is quartz is in the second hand. A ticking hand indicates a quartz movement.
  • Mechanical– A more traditional variety. The most common type, automatics, were brought about in the middle of the 20th century, and continue to be the preferred movement for most big watch companies. Watches which are automatic have a fully mechanical movement that consists of hundreds of gears and springs. The word “automatic” here means that a metal rotor rotates around the movement, winding the watch. The rotor will move when the watch is in motion. Meaning, the watch will run off of the various motions or your wrist, as you go about your day. The easiest way to check for a mechanical movement is again in the second hand, which should move at least a few times a second. “Automatic” is also called “self-winding”. hand-wound watches are rarer but exist too.

A few things you should consider when buying a watch:

  • size: depending on the circumference of your wrist. 36mm is pretty standard, watches go up to 41mm in bigger, sporty watches. Vintage watches often go as small as 32mm or less. Get a watch that will fit and compliment the size of your wrist. Some brands, (like Rolex and Omega) even offer same models of watches in different sizes. if you’re in doubt, a 38-40mm watch will suit almost all wrists.
  • material: no watch should have any plastic on it. (there are exceptions, but you can’t afford them.) Steel is pretty standard, a solid and durable metal. Titanium is used, too, and is lighter and stronger than steel. Dress watches are usually gold. Silver is very rarely used.
  • price: Think about paying over $100 for a watch. A watch is a man’s only real accessory, it should be something you are proud of. If you need a watch for utility only, feel free to spend $30 or less.

Occasions to wear a watch:

There is a watch for every occasion.

  • dress: Some people make the mistake of labeling expensive watches (like a Rolex) as dress watches. This is not always true. A Rolex Submariner, despite being very pricey and fancy, is not something to wear with a tuxedo. A dress watch should have a leather strap. Dials should be as uncluttered as possible. Many dress watches only have two hands, to reduce the amount of stuff on the dial. Diameter should not exceed 38mm. Basically, nothing chunky, nothing too busy.
  • casual: a casual watch can have a metal, fabric or leather strap. You can use all sorts of complications, like chronographs, day/date functions, GMT (second time zone) and other features. This watch should reflect your personality. If you’re getting one watch, this is it.
  • sport: a sports watch can be either digital or analog. I suggest not even owning a digital watch, though, outside of athletic use. Here you can use dive watches, chronograph watches, or other larger, reliable watches. These should have a metal, rubber, or nylon band. Leather could not work in this category.

Low End (under $50):

  • Timex– been in the business a while, very affordable. I recommend them as a first watch.
  • Casio– Make some pretty solid watches, like the G-shock.
  • Swatch– well known, okay quality. the original is a classic.

Low to mid level (under $400):

  • Seiko– very good bang to buck ratio, vintage pieces are even collectable. they’re your best bet in a budget mechanical watch.
  • Skagen– their designs are popular on MFA for some reason, quality is so-so. I recommend as entry level dress watches.
  • Citizen– popular watches. Some are solar powered. I like them.

*mid range ($500-$4500+) *

  • Tissot– swiss made watches, have a long history. quality is great for the price.
  • Tag Heuer– Well known, sporty watches. The Monaco is the only one I really like.
  • Longines– classy, fantastic watches. a great value, though they’re not the watchmaker they were in the 1960s.
  • Omega– high quality, good value. The Speedmaster Professional is just about the best watch you can get in the ~$2000 price range.

High end ($3000 to $15,000+):

  • Rolex– best known, attractive designs, legendary quality. Overpriced, but retain value. Basically all models are full-fledged classics. I recommend the GMT-Master, Explorer I, and Milgauss.
  • IWC– modern, masculine, somewhat trendy watches.
  • Cartier– Overpriced, unimpressive movements. You’re buying the name, here. Still, watches like the Tank are certainly respectable.
  • Breitling– high build quality. their dials are generally too busy for me, but they’re popular watches. they use mostly ETA movements.

Very high end, the top. ($6000 to $400,000+):

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre– innovators, classic and elegant watches. Perhaps best known for their Reverso.
  • Glashutte Original 

    – one of two non-swiss watchmaker in this category, this German brand makes complicated watches. Based in the city of Glashutte. very good value.

  • A Lange & Sohne 

    – some fine, complicated and impressive watches, A German-based company that produces some of the finest watches in the world.

  • Patek Philippe 

    – Accepted as the very best watchmakers of all. perhaps their watchmaking isn’t as impressive as A Lange & Sohne’s, but in my opinion, their elegance and class is unmatched.


  • Low-end: I’d get a Seiko 5 or a Citizen Eco-drive. Timex’s Easy Reader is also popular and very affordable.
  • mid/low end: I’d check out the ETA-based Hamiltons, Tissots, and Longines.
  • mid range- Look for Stowa Antea or Nomos.
  • high-end: Rolex Submariner or Omega Speedmaster Professional.
  • Very high-end: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, JLC Reverso, or Glashutte Original’s Sixties line.

On vintage watches:

A vintage watch is a watch that is at least 30 years old. Desirable to both watch connoisseurs and antique collectors, these are windows into an era gone by. Note that they require annual servicing, and will be more delicate and less accurate than newer watches. Nonetheless, a vintage watch is a wonderful thing. They can be had anywhere from $100 to $2000 or more, depending on the material, brand, and historical value. I’d advise a man to get a vintage watch only after having a serviceable, reliable modern watch.

watches to avoid

You should never buy a replica watch. If you can’t afford the real thing, don’t buy a fake. Just don’t. Also, avoid overpriced fashion watches. Burberry and Armani may make some nice clothes, buy they don’t know the first thing about watchmaking. These luxury companies charge upwards of $400 for essentially a $30 watch. Don’t buy one unless you can get a deep discount.


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