Watch Buying Guide
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Watches do more than tell time – they make a personal statement. For men, a watch can be particularly meaningful since it is often one of the few pieces of jewelry they wear. Buying a watch can be a little intimidating at first. There’s a lot more to a timepiece than just the band and case. Here’s what you need to know about the main parts of a watch to help you get started.
The Watch Movement
The inner workings, or guts, of the watch. We'll cover on four types: Manual, quartz, automatic and solar.
- Manual: This mechanical movement is the oldest type of watch movement. It requires the wearer to wind the crown, which will then unwind and release energy that powers the watch. Different manual timepieces will have different power reserve capacities, which dictates how often it must be wound.
- Quartz: Quartz watches feature a quartz crystal that is electrified by a battery. The crystal produces vibrations that power the motor, which moves the watch hands. These watches are very accurate, and often more affordable than mechanical watches.
- Automatic: Sometimes called “self-winding,” this mechanical movement is powered by the natural arm movements of the wearer. If an automatic watch is worn everyday, it will not require winding. But if it is worn more periodically, it will occasionally require a quick winding to stay on-time. A watch winder keeps the watch wound when it isn’t being worn.
- Solar: Solar watches provide accurate timekeeping without having to worry about winding or replacing a battery. These timepieces feature a solar cell that absorbs light transmitted through the dial. The solar cell then converts that light into energy and caches it in a lithium-ion cell in the movement. One of the most popular solar watch brands is Citizen, whose watches are powered by any light.
The Watch Case
This is the metal structure that protects the inner workings of the watch. Watch cases are often round, but they can be found in many geometric shapes. Popular case materials include:
- Stainless Steel: This metal is a popular choice because it is durable and resists tarnishing and discoloration.
- Titanium: Another popular choice, titanium is as durable as stainless steel but not as heavy.
- Resin: Resin is often combined with other materials to create shock-resistant cases for even more durability.
- Solid Gold: This is found in the most luxurious of timepieces for men and women. Since pure gold is too soft, 10, 14, or 18 karat gold is used.
Watch Case Size
Watch case size is measured in millimeters. The average case diameter is around 34mm for women’s watches and 40mm for men’s watches. Larger cases are trending for men and women, so you can find sizes like 48, 50, or 55mm. Some women even prefer to buy men’s watches instead for a bolder look.
The Watch Crystal
The watch crystal is a clear covering of glass, plastic, or synthetic colorless sapphire that covers the face of the watch. The two most common crystals are:
- Sapphire: Clear, lab-created sapphire is most common on higher-end watches because it’s scratch-resistant. Sapphire crystals are often treated with an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare.
- Mineral: Mineral crystal is glass that has been hear- or chemically treated. It’s somewhat resistant to scratches, but it can crack or shatter under extreme conditions.
The Watch Band
Metal watch bands are usually referred to as bracelets, while bands of leather or other materials are called straps.
- Bracelet: These are made of metal links that usually match the case material. Watch bracelets can feature gold, ceramic, or silicone accents for pops of color. Some styles even have diamonds or crystals.
- Strap: These are made of materials like leather, silicone, and fabric. Leather adds a classic, refined look, while nylon and silicone are more sporty.
You’ve probably seen many of these watch closures without realizing what they were called. Below is a breakdown of the most common watch clasps:
Deployment Clasp: This secure clasp unfolds so you can put on and remove the watch. It has a hook latch to lock into place.
Push-Button Deployment Clasp: Instead of the traditional latch, this features small buttons that you push to release the clasp.
Push-Button Fold-Over Clasp with Safety: This deployment clasp includes an extra latch that folds over the main clasp for extra security. It is often found on dive watches and other expensive timepieces.
Buckle: This clasp is most common with leather, silicone, and fabric straps.
This information, combined with your personal style, will guide you to the right statement watch.