Buying a Watch: Eight Easy Steps
There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to choosing a watch, and the selection can be overwhelming. Where does one begin? How much should you pay? What quality elements are important? In the end your choice may simply come down to what catches your eye, or which watch has that indescribable look or feature that you have to have. But to help you get started, we've put together a quick guide to sorting out the criteria:
1. Determine what your purpose is.
Simply speaking, why do you want a watch? Just to tell time? Probably not--otherwise you'd get a three-dollar digital watch with a plastic strap. Most people have at least one secondary purpose in mind:
Fashion Accessory--Watches at their best are a form of jewelry, and there are some stunning pieces available that are inlaid with gems, or simpler less expensive ones with modern styling and colored bracelets. If this is what you want, take a look at your wardrobe. What would go with your little black dress, or your Armani suit?
Precision Tool--Do you dive or fly, would you actually have use for a telemeter or split-second chronograph? Think of the tools that could make your life easier.
Indestructible Accessory--Is your life a torture test on everything you wear? Space-age materials like aircraft steel and titanium, and shock-resistance cases and movements can guarantee that your watch will tell time through any abuse.
Heirloom--Are you looking to buy a future antique for your grandchildren? Certain classic, well-established Swiss brands have proven track records for timeless designs and value appreciation.
Status symbol--Oh, just admit it. You want a want a watch that shows off your taste, class, and hard-earned success. If you're looking for something to show off, don't cheat yourself. Get the brand you want, the one you've heard of, the one that's hot and trendy.
Gift--If it's going to be given to someone else, try to put your own opinions aside and think about what your recipient would really like or need.
2. Choose an appropriate price point.
Money is always a consideration, but there is no formula for determining how much you should spend. Take into account value and quality--it can be more economical to buy a good watch that will last for years rather than several cheap "disposable" watches.
In fashion accessorizing, on the other hand, it may make sense to buy a larger number of less expensive watches if you think that some of those fashions and styles may only last a few years anyway.
3. Factor in your lifestyle and environment.
The selection of a watch, in terms of style, design and brand, is purely based on individual taste. But there are a few factors that you should consider when selecting a watch.
Ask yourself a few simple questions:
If you enjoy sports and outdoor activities look for a water resistant model with a stainless steel, hard plastic, or titanium bracelet that will withstand rigorous activity and various weather conditions. If you're a sports-enthusiast, think about a chronograph--a watch that features a stopwatch function.
If your lifestyle revolves around the corporate world and you want a watch that projects a professional image, consider a classic watch with a timeless design. For a traditional look, choose a small square or rectangular dial with a leather strap. For a look with a modern edge, select a large round dial with a two-tone metal bracelet combining steel and gold.
If you're looking for more of an accessory or special occasion watch to be worn in formal settings, you might consider an elegantly refined timepiece. The natural choices are solid gold or platinum. For added drama, select a watch set with diamonds or other precious stones that serves not only as a timepiece but also as a beautiful piece of jewelry.
4. Take a good look at maintenance needs.
Mechanical (manual and automatic) watches should be cleaned and serviced every three years or according to the manufacturer's recommendations to ensure trouble-free time keeping and to retain the value of the watch. In quartz (battery operated) watches, the watch should be serviced when the battery is replaced. A watch battery usually lasts between two and five years, depending on the type of watch. Certain types of watches feature a power reserve indicator. When the second hand starts jumping every five seconds, it is time to have the battery replaced. Some watches are equipped with lithium-iodine batteries that have a theoretical lifetime of ten years.
Because the majority of people own quartz watches, it is very critical to stress that battery changes should be done by authorized service centers, or by a professional watchmaker. The reason for this is that during the battery replacement, the o-ring (gasket) must also be replaced and reattached to the back cover of the watch. Then the watch must be properly sealed and undergo a water resistance test. Most water resistance testing equipment will provide printed test results--ask to receive this readout.
All of the aforementioned steps are crucial to ensure that your watch remains water resistant. If water penetrates the case, causing rust and damage, this can lead to a very expensive repair. Some places offer quick, inexpensive battery replacement. But their work may not include adequate water resistance testing, and this could have disastrous consequences.
5. Know your materials.
Case materials vary. These include plastic, resins, stainless steel, base metal (usually brass), gold-plated base metals, gold-filled and precious metals. Check either the back of the watch case or the documents accompanying the watch for the disclosure of metallic content. Plastic and resin composites generally are the least costly and are found primarily in fashion and sport watches. Quality sport watches are usually cased in steel or titanium.
Prices of gold-plated watches vary depending upon the thickness of the plating, which is measured in microns. Gold plating can range from 2-microns thick to 30-microns and more. Precious metals used on watch cases include 14K or 18K gold, sterling silver and, in some very high-end watches, platinum.
The crystal, which is the glass-like covering designed to protect the dial of the watch, is either plastic, mineral glass, or synthetic sapphire. Plastic is mostly used in lower-priced, mass-market watches, while mineral glass is sturdier and clearer. Sapphire crystals, more expensive than mineral glass, are not only sturdy, but also highly scratch-resistant.
Bracelets can also influence watch prices considerably. There are straps made of plastic, rubber, leather and exotic shark and crocodile skins that can range from $10 to hundreds of dollars. Similarly, metal bracelets can range from inexpensive base metals to precious metals. Rubber, steel, and titanium are the most resistant to water.
6. Pick a water resistance rating.
Water resistance is measured in bars or atmospheres, which are equivalent units of pressure. Watches are tested to endure these pressures for a certain period of time--they aren't necessarily guaranteed to stay safe underwater for weeks at a time.
Manufacturers often convert water resistance to a number of feet or meters. Normally, terms of depth imply that a watch will remain resistant at that depth in still conditions. Vigorous underwater activity increases the danger of leakage, and it’s wise to compensate with a deeper rating. The following is a general guideline:
7. Select your options package.
Watch measurement functions (in addition to the hours, minutes and seconds) are referred to as "complications." The best-known complication watches are calendar watches, the most common of which display only the date. There are also chronographs with a center second hand which can be started, stopped and brought back to zero using one or two push-buttons on the side of the watch.
Other additional functions include second time zone indicators, alarms, moon phase indicators, perpetual calendars, and sophisticated tachymeters and telemeters. These features naturally add to the price of a watch. Avoid buying features you won't use. You may think they have status appeal, but no one's going to be impressed by features you can't even explain.
8. Buy from someone you trust.
No matter how carefully you pick your watch, things do occasionally go wrong. Buying a watch from an authorized dealer ensures that the manufacturer's warranty is valid. Better retailers will offer an extended warranty too.
Also, discount dealers that you've never heard of may be selling stolen or counterfeit goods. Only expert watch jewelers will be able to give you sound advice or legitimate repair estimates.
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