Watch buying guide

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A watch tells time, of course. But it's often more than that. They can also look pretty darn good.

Different people want different things from their watch. A nurse may want one that is sturdy to time procedures in the hospital. A businessperson may want a TAG Heuer to look sharp.

Figuring out the right watch for you can be hard, though. There are so many options and models.

That's why we have this guide and our watch finder.


Types of Watch

A good first step is to figure out what kind of watch you want.

There are many types of watches. There are analog and digital watches. Analog watches have hands, while digital ones use a display.

Another key thing to look out for is how your watch is powered. The two key energy sources used are quartz and automatic. Quartz watches tend to use batteries, while automatics use the motion of your body and winding.

Watches can have many features. These are called 'complications.' A popular complication is the chronograph watch, which has a stopwatch feature. More complicated watches can even tell you moon phases!

Top Tips

1. Figure out what power source you want

Your watch needs energy to run. There are several options. A battery in a quart type watch is simple and does not need much attention, but runs out eventually and needs to be replaced.

Automatic watches run off your body’s movement. They work well if you wear the watch and walk around. But you have to occasionally wind them using the cap on the watch’s side. They can stop.

There are other watch types like Eco-Drive by Citizen that work off solar power.

2. Pricing: find out what price is reasonable

You can buy a watch on an impulse in a store and pay a lot more than you would otherwise.

If you're spending a good amount of cash, make sure to do your research. A watch that is $320 in a department store can be only $200 on Amazon.

Also, some watches, like certain Invicta watches, tend to have a base price of, say $400, but are easily buyable for only $80.

3. Buy from a reputable source

Make sure that you’re getting the real deal. Buying a nice TAG Heuer for a too-cheap price then having it be fake is a real disappointment. See how to tell if a watch is fake for more on this.

4. Know water resistance

Some watches can be exposed to water and be just fine. The Rolex Yachtmaster is made for use on a yacht. But be careful.

Don't take your watch into a sauna; the heat can damage it.

If you want a watch for hiking, you need one that is reasonably water resistant, for instance.

5. Sports use

Are you going to use your watch while doing sports?

If so, please know that some watches may get damaged by doing so.

There are watches made for use in sports. Some have shock protection. Also, you may want one made with rubber and plastic if you are using it in very active situations.

Casio G-Shock watches are resistant, digital and typically made of rubber.

6. Know your features

Watches can have a variety of features. There is chronograph, for instance, which lets it be used as a stopwatch. Some having rotating bezels.

7. Think long term

Higher quality watches can last a long time and can be great to give to someone else as a gift eventually.

8. Boxing and links

Many times a watch comes with a box that can be used to store it in. Also, often you resize a watch; if you do, make sure to keep the links in case you need them later.

Brands

There are a lot of watch brands! To learn more about the brands, see our article on watch brands.

$0-100 $100-500 $500-$2000 $2000+
Brands
  • Timex
  • Casio
  • Anne Klein
  • Fossil
  • Sturhling
  • Armitron
  • U.S. Polo Assn.
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Skagen
  • Kenneth Cole
  • PUMA
  • Seiko
  • Citizen
  • Bulova
  • Victorinox
  • Orient
  • Swiss Legend
  • Akribos
  • Wenger
  • TAG Heuer
  • Movado
  • Tissot
  • Baume & Mercier
  • Longines
  • Hamilton
  • Omega
  • Rolex
  • Cartier
  • Breitling
  • Piaget
  • Patek Philippe
  • Breguet

FAQ

1. Is it a good idea to buy a watch online?

It depends. You can often save a good amount of money by doing so. But it might not turn out as you expect.

The key is to buy from a website you trust. For more on the subject, see buying watches online.

2. Why are expensive watches worth it?

First, an expensive watch should also mean a higher quality watch. It can be hard to see the difference between a decent watch and an excellent watch quickly, though.

With time, however, the excellent watch is likely to perform better and last longer.

You can give a high quality watch as a gift to someone else. Many people treasure a Rolex that they inherited.

Second, you are often paying for the brand. There are brand name watches that cost $1,000 that are matched technically by watches with lesser brands that cost only $200.

3. How do I resize a watch?

There are many guides to doing so. You can buy a kit that makes it easy. That said, if it is a watch you care about, it may be best to take it to a jeweler. Resizing a watch is inexpensive and can be done quite well.

Make sure to keep the extra links from the watch! You may need them in the future.

4. What is a chronograph?

A chronograph, simply, is a watch that has a stopwatch feature. Basically, you push a button and it starts timing. A chronograph typically has small dials that record the time.

5. What is a chronometer?

A chronometer is not a chronograph. It's not a feature that a watch has either.

A chronometer is simply a watch that has been tested and certified so that it meets certain standards.

In Switzerland, only COSC certified watches can use that term. Outside of Switzerland, however, the regulations are much looser.

Many Rolex watches, for instance, say on them that they are a certified chronometer.

6. How much is an old watch worth?

What's great about watches is that they often keep their value. That means you can resell them for a good amount if you so choose.

How much you can get depends on the brand and the shape of your watch. A $30 Timex may be very hard to resell. But a Rolex can be relatively easy to resell, as long as you have proof of authenticity.

As a general idea, you can get anywhere from 30%-75% of the value of a used watch, depending on how good condition it is.

7. What is a watch winder?

A watch winder is a device for keeping automatic watches charged even when you don't wear them. You put your watch on it and the winder gently imitates the movement of the wrist, so your watch runs as if you had worn it all day.

It's particularly useful if your automatic watch has certain complications or features like a calendar that you want to maintain accuracy.

Does that sound a bit intense? Yes! But to some people passionate about watches, a watch winder is a useful tool.

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