Choosing a wrist watch can be one of the hardest things to do. Unlike clothing, a watch will be used daily and you need to pick the correct watch or you might end up with a watch that you don’t like. Using my personal experience of buying watches for my collection, I’ve written this article to give the proper steps and guideline on how to choose the correct watch for you.
So how to choose a watch that suits you? Choosing the correct watch is not hard if you follow these 10 easy steps below:
A 10 steps guide on how to purchase something might seems intimidating and unnecessary but you have to remember that a watch purchase can be an expensive and costly purchase and I really believe that we have to get it right. Well, let’s get on to it! Read below explanations to know how best you can use these steps to pick the right watch for you.
1. Know The Purpose or Intended Use Of The Watch
I can’t stress how important this first step is. Figuring out why you would want to buy a watch is very important. Choosing the correct watch ultimately boils down to knowing what exactly will you use the watch for (unless you like to throw in money only to figure out that you don’t want or need that watch..).
Even for those having a good volume of watch collection, finding out the purpose of your next watch is vital so that this latest watch will be able to complement your existing collection.
The way to do this is to think hard about what is the usage of this new watch that you want to buy. To me, this can be better explored through the use of questions. For example, someone that wants to buy a watch (either first watch or second/third watch) might ask these questions:
I’m in need of a watch that looks classy and beautiful for formal functions (yep, this happened to me and I bought my beautiful Tissot Visodate as the result)
I’m going to the beach and needs an affordable but dependable watch that I can wear around (such as something like the robust Seiko SKX013 that’s also very light on wrist)
Going to watch a race next week and need a watch with chronograph to time the laps
My son is preparing for a full marathon in next few months and he needs a watch to keep track of his training and vital stats
Going for a business trip to another continent for a few days and want to keep track of my hometown’s timezone effortlessly using a watch
I already have a few dive watches. Maybe it’s time to get a dress watch to expand my watch collection?
When you already have these questions in mind, finding the watch that you really need becomes much easier. Think about it, previously you only know that you need a watch but don’t really know what kind of watch you should get. Now, you have a better understanding about what you need and can then focus on finding the best suited watch for your unique needs. The next steps will guide you on how to focus on the exact type of watch that you need.
2. Choose The Appropriate Watch Type
The second step is to choose the appropriate watch type. As I’ve written before, there are about 20 types of watches currently. Due to this, choosing a watch is becoming harder – things are much easier back in the 1800s when only pocket watches are available. But as we’re spoil for choice, picking a watch becomes more difficult. But fortunately you’ve already figured out why you need a wristwatch. From this, choosing a watch type is becoming easier.
For example, suppose you need a watch to go with your formal attire, then it becomes obvious that you will need a dress watch which is a watch that looks sleek and classy. This means that no matter how cool a dive watch is, you cannot pick them because it will deviate from the purpose of buying your watch – that is to wear a classy watch for formal events.
Now suppose you want a watch that you can use for outdoor activities, and perhaps some swimming in the pool. From this, you can rule out the beautiful dress watch as it will be out of place at outdoor. A sports/dive oriented watch is needed then for this case. You can also pick a casual type of watch but you need to put the requirement of a good water resistance (I’d suggest more than 100 m water resistance) for the time when you want to take the dip in the pool.
Things are a bit tricky when your purpose of getting the watch is not very clear like above examples. For example, suppose a father wants to gift a watch to his graduating son. Now in this instance, any type of watch would be a good choice. But personally, I always feel that sports oriented watches have an edge in this kind of scenario as they are more flexible to be used in any situation.
For instance, a beautiful sports/dive watch (that is more towards classy than being very edgy) can be worn for casual wear, going to class, offices and perhaps formal functions (again, this depends on how sleek the sports watch is). This is another reason why these kinds of watches are very popular. Thus, if you’re unsure about what kind of watch should you get, choosing a sporty watch can do the trick.
3. Find Out Any Required Functions And Features (or Complications)
Now, from the first 2 steps, you will be able to know if your watch need to have any other functions (or complications) in addition to just simply telling time.
But what kind of extra functionalities are there in a watch?
There are a lot of functions available in a watch currently. In addition to just telling time, a watch can also have:
being anti-magnetic so that it won’t go haywire near strong magnets
being very accurate (only applicable to automatic/mechanical watches as quartz are much more accurate)
have long power reserve
can be recharged using solar energy or other types of energy e.g kinetic
being a fitness tracker to track steps
can take phone/app notifications
call using your watch
and so on
As you can see, the sky is the limit with watches nowadays thanks to the advent of smartwatch technology. A small timepiece that we strap on our wrists have the ability to do numerous things that we never dream of before. But still, not everyone requires these extra functions and while it seems tempting to get a watch with these, you do have to go back to your purpose of getting the watch.
Do you really need a watch that has an functionality? Have you ever need to use it in your life before? If your answer is no, then chances are you don’t need that function in your next watch. Try to focus on the watch functions that you really need and you know will make your life better, as what you’ve set upon in the previous steps above. That way, you’ll be able to focus on choosing the best watch for you.
4. Choose The Watch Movement
What is watch movement? Watch movement is the engine inside the watch that is responsible for keeping it running. Now, most people will only recognize “quartz watch movement” which is battery operated and is basically in most watches on earth. However, there are other types of watch movements (about 8 types actually. Read my previous article here to know all about them) currently present that you can also consider.
For most people, I’d say that quartz movement is good enough. It’s accurate, can be equipped with lots of functions and comes at the most affordable cost. Perhaps the only flaw of quartz movement is it’s battery need to be changed every few years and it’s very common (so you won’t have that feeling of wearing a special watch lol!)
Automatic/mechanical movement is another type that have becoming more popular nowadays due to its novelty and characteristics of being truly mechanical driven without using any electricity. Besides, if you want to get a taste of the best of watchmaking from the Swiss luxurious brands, then most often than not such watches will be equipped with automatic movement by default. I personally love automatic watches because of its unique character.
However, do note that automatic watch is more expensive than quartz. In addition, it’s functions is limited to only chronographs, diving watches, and day/date display. If you require any other functions (e.g alarm, etc), then a quartz watch is a better choice.
You should also consider solar watches as it has all the benefits of quartz watch in addition to being constantly recharged by light. This will take care of the need to change the battery every few years, making your watch truly effortless to maintain.
And yes, how can I not mention about the smartwatch. Smartwatch is basically a quartz watch with technologies dumped into it, so much so it can function as a mini smartphone – all on your wrist. From Apple to Samsung to numerous Chinese firms, smartwatch has become more and more feature packed, all the while having its prices reduced over the years. With all the advancements and cost reduction with smartwatches, it’s what you should get if you want a full-packed features on your watch.
5. Select The Design And Color
The next step is selecting the design and color. To me, this is very subjective as everyone has his/her own taste. Sometimes, a popular watch might not be something that you would like. For example, the Seiko SKX007 is a very popular watch from Seiko. But then, it does have a somewhat old fashion dial design that some people don’t like. This is the same with all the other popular watches out there.
What I can recommend is for you to browse through few watches and see the one that you like. As that would be quite confusing for first-timers, below is my general guidelines on what you should pay attention to with the design/style of the watch that you want to buy:
Case size: How big is the size of the watch case? This is usually measured in diameter of the watch in mm. Currently, a 44 mm size is the most popular with men’s watches as it looks tough and manly, though if you have a slim wrist, you should try it out to see if it’s not too big on you. Lesser than 40 mm (37-38mm) is considered classic size and would look really good for a dress watch, with women sizes even going smaller than that. Another advantage of smaller watch? It will weight less hence would be more comfortable.
Dial color: The color of the dial/watch face is another important aspect that you need to choose carefully as it’s an integral part of the watch. There are lots of colors nowadays to be chosen from depending on your taste. But if you’re buying the watch for formal events, I’d suggest to stick to basic colors such as black or white/silver as it will make your watch more presentable. Reserve striking colors (such as orange, red, etc.) for your sporty or casual watches.
Strap selection: Generally, there are 2 main types of straps for a watch: metal bracelet or a normal strap. The normal strap can then be divided into many segments such as leather, PVC, rubber, or cloth based straps. Naturally, the selection of the strap will depends on what you want your watch for. For example, a dive/sporty watch could do well with a rubber strap or metal bracelet as both can be drenched in water without any issue. A formal dress watch would look stunning with a leather strap.
Watch material: This one will relate with the budget of the watch which we will come to next. If you think plastic is the only material to make a watch, then you’re wrong. There are many other materials to make a watch besides plastic such as stainless steel, titanium, gold, and even carbon fiber. Without a doubt, a higher quality material will cause the watch to command a higher price. For most people, stainless steel would serve us well though you can also get a PVC/rubber case in sports watches such as G-Shock.
Gemstone: Now, not many are able to afford to buy a watch with gemstones but for those who can, the watch will be a spectacle and a sign of the ultimate luxurious possession.
6. Figure Out The Intended Quality Of The Watch
There are various levels of quality for watches. The best analogy would be with cars: luxurious models such as Rolls Royce will be much better built than good cars such as Mercedes or BMW and will be much better than the typical Ford/Toyota. The same concept is true with watches. Basically, the more expensive the watch, the higher it’s quality going to be.
The best way to illustrate this is by comparing different models from the same brand which comes at different price point. Among the various watch brands out there, Seiko has the largest offering covering all range of spectrum from the cheapest quartz, to affordable automatics, to mid solar quartz watches, to mid/high end automatics, all the way up to the most luxurious haute horlogerie timepieces.
Along the way, you’ll notice that although the prices increase, the Seiko watch’s built quality, material and finishing also increase. In the world of watches, price will usually indicate quality hence you will need to know what kind of quality you want from your watch and then put a rough estimate of how much you will want pay for your watch. Which leads us to…
7. Set Your Budget
Setting the budget is a very important step in the process of buying a new watch. Not many people are fortunate to be able to buy a watch on the fly thus a proper planning and budgeting is important. After all, a watch is not as important as your and your family’s livelihood. Keep that in mind and you’ll surely be able to figure out a good budget that won’t overstretch your financial capability.
So what’s a good budget for your watch? Your watch price will depend on what criteria you’ve selected in the steps above. For example:
Movement type: While a quartz watch is the cheapest around, an automatic watch will always cost more than $100 (for an acceptable quality watch from Japanese or Chinese brands). If you want a Swiss automatic, then do expect it to cost more than $500.
Features: Additional features such as chronograph or dive capability will command a higher price. The same goes for other complications such as moon phase, perpetual calendar etc.
Watch material: Stainless steel is cheap and can be expected for most watch nowadays. But of course, a plastic based watch will cost lower. Other materials such as titanium, gold or platinum will cost more.
Brand: There are huge amounts of watch brands currently. Even for automatic watch, which is about the smallest segment in the watch market, there are about 50 brands vying for your attention (read my post about these watch brands). While many are affordable, there are also more luxurious brands that will cost more. If you already set your sight on a particular brand or watch model, you can easily know what kind of budget you need based on simple internet search for that watch’s price.
New or used?: A new watch will almost always have a higher price than used watch.
For first time watch buyer, I’d suggest keeping your budget low and go for the cheaper watch/brands especially if you’re young and just starting out working after college. I understand how tempting it is to go for that popular high end watch but those watches will cost more than what you can afford right now. Sure, you can get a used one but do remember the cost of maintenance for a high end watch will be quite high.
Getting a cheaper watch when you’re just starting out is logical as you can test the waters on what kind of watch that you really need and like. Relax, once you already climbed the corporate ladder, there’s plenty of time (and money!) to comfortably buy that grail watch you’ve been eyeing before =)
Now for the hard part: surveying for a watch to buy. This is the most time-consuming part and one that you should do it right so that you can buy the correct watch based on the criteria that you’ve laid in the above steps AND within the budget that you’ve set.
In my opinion, there are 2 ways that you can approach surveying for a watch depending on your needs:
a) For those in a hurry to buy a watch:
Suppose you have a formal business event tomorrow and you need a great looking dress watch in short notice. So what is the best way to survey for a watch?
Without a doubt, surveying watch in stores is the best way. Normally, online retailers will have a cheaper price but when you need your watch very soon, you don’t have time to wait for it being shipped. Not to mention buying online also comes with the risk of the watch damaged when you received it or worse, straight up fraud. Hence, if you’re in a hurry, buying from a store is the best way to get your watch fast and safe.
You will want to have a look at the watches on display and then try out the ones that tick almost all the boxes in your selection criteria above. Hold the watch and fave a feel of it on your hand. Try wearing it and see if you like the way it’s worn on your wrist. Often times, a watch that looks great on picture might not look that stunning in real life – and vice versa.
In addition, you will be able to feel anything wrong while wearing the watch – is it too big, too heavy, too flashy? My guideline is simple – if the watch does not feel perfect on your wrist i.e you feel it has major flaw/s, then it’s best to just move on with the next watch. A watch is an expensive purchase so it’s best if you buy the one that you feel is the best (within the constraints that we’ve discussed above, of course).
The downside with only surveying stores is you’re limited to the number of stores that you can walk into. Things are great if you live in the middle of the city whereby you have access to lots of watch boutiques so you have many watches that you can survey. But if you’re living in a small city/town, then your options will be fairly limited. Plus, stores usually only stock up limited amounts of watches so you might not find the ones that you really want.
b) For those NOT in a hurry to buy a watch (aka you’re patient enough to wait to get the best watch deals):
If you’re not in a hurry, then the advantage of online survey is with you. There are many online stores selling watches (such as Amazon, Ebay, Jomashop, Longislandwatches, Seiyajapan, Hodinkeeshop, etc.) that have huge amounts of watches on their platform. There are almost all variations of watches online with various colors and models from almost all watch brands in the world. Seriously, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to online shopping.
But the downside is you cannot try it out on your hand which means the watch can be a hit or miss. In addition, you need to be very careful when ordering online to avoid the risk of being fraud. In addition, buying from online stores will mean you’re getting the watch from gray market, hence you won’t have the official warranty from the brand itself as it’s not bought from their authorized seller. Which is why a common guideline with buying watches online is to only buy a watch costing less than $1,000. If you want to buy a more expensive watch, it’s best to get it from an authorized seller.
With that being said, online stores gives huge advantage in purchasing a watch as you’ll usually can get a 20%-30% discount off the MSRP – which is a lot of money! Since they don’t have to rent a store space and not having to register with the brands, online stores are able to cut their costs which translate into savings for you and me =)
True enough, you won’t get the official warranty but some online stores do offer their own money back guarantee plan which can provide some peace of mind when you first get the watch. With the kind of savings that online stores give, it’s definitely something that you should look into especially if your target watch is below $1,000.
The way I usually do my survey is by combining online and offline survey. It roughly goes like this:
I think of what kind of watch that I need and what’s the budget will be (all the above steps). The purpose of the steps above is to zero in on what watches you should look into, thereby making this survey process much simpler and focused.
Going to the brick and mortar store and do some window shopping. I’ll be keeping mental notes of the watches that I like and its prices. I’ll also have the opportunity to touch it and try wearing it.
I’ll check FB groups and forums related to watches (I’m always on them lol!) and take note of the popular watches. These are great sources to find some great watches outside of the ones that I already know. Plus, the contributors usually post real life photos so you’ll be able to judge it better. In addition, you can also read some reviews about the watches from users.
I’ll then look into online stores and find the watches that I fancy from above steps 2 & 3 and compare prices. Don’t forget to check out the “related items section” as usually I’ll found more gorgeous watches often times related to the models that I like. Take note about condition of the watch (new/used), any warranty and feedback/review from past buyers.
I’ll usually use the information from FB groups/forums / online stores and then go back and check the brick and mortar stores and try out the ones that I’ve just found out. It’s basically a loop from here on until I’ve settled with a watch that I truly like and fulfill all my expectations.
After going through many watches, you’re bound to want to change some of the criteria that you’ve set earlier. While this is fine (it’s your money after all), do remember that frequent & major changes to the criteria is not a good thing as then your survey process will just drag on and on. I’d suggest to only do small change in the criteria (e.g increasing budget by 10-20%, add features) instead of huge changes.
9. Purchase The Watch
The most nerve-wrecking step, purchasing the watch. There’s so much emotional things going on here: will this watch be the correct watch for me, am I paying the fair price for it, will it break, etc. etc. My only advice is to relax. If you’ve done the steps above and survey it correctly, then you’re on the right track.
You will know what watch you need, you will know the exact detail, specification, movement, features, even color & style of the watch that you want. Then you’ve set the budget and survey various places (online & offline) for the watch. Most importantly, you’ve tested it out on your wrist and read reviews about it in the internet. Now, you’re almost certain that the watch you’ve selected is the best one for you.
But before you purchase the watch, do compare prices between vendors (brick and mortar stores vs Amazon/Ebay vs specialized online watch stores) While it’s true that online stores usually have cheaper prices, normal stores aren’t that shabby either. Some will have discounts and when you compare the discounted price with online store’s prices (do add postage and tax charges if you’re buying from overseas), the savings from online stores might not be that much.
In this situation, I normally would just buy the watch from the local store as: a) I can get the watch faster and wear it even the same day lol!, b) the warranty is good and if anything happen, I can take the watch to the store easily, and c) I can contribute my money to the local economy instead of sending it to a vendor thousands of miles away. But of course, if the online price is significantly cheaper, then I’ll buy it from there and wait out for couple of days =)
10. Compile And Save Documentations Properly
Last but not least, compile and save documentations properly. This is an important step because if you need to do any warranty claim, those documents will come in handy. Chronometers will come with their certificates and this is very important to be stored properly. After all, you’ve paid premium prices for it!
In addition, the original box need to be stored properly because if you want to sell the watch later, the box can be reused to store and post or handover the watch to the buyer. Besides, it will make your watch look more authentic and you might be able to command higher price.
The easiest way to do this is to scan or take picture of any receipts and store it in your computer or cloud storage. The physical document can then be stored inside the watch box. Then, store the watch box in a dry area free from any moisture. Then, get ready to rock your new watch!
Which Watch Brand Is The Best?
There is no such thing as the best brand watch. One might argue the holy trinity of horology: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet are the best brands. But you know what, those three don’t matter much to us normal people. If I’m a multi-millionaire/billionaire, then yes I’d have to rack my brain in thinking of which one should I get. But for us normal people with normal income levels, it’s unlikely that we will ever consider buying their very expensive watches as they are just too out of reach!
There are many watch brands in the world (check out my list of the 50 automatic watch brands if you’re interested) and all of them can be the best for you. Everyone has their own taste and style preference which means these brands can be the best for you. Now, I’m not saying that brands are not important. It is an important thing to consider especially when it comes to build quality and longevity of the watches – some brands do produce cheap watches that can break easily and these are the brands that you want to avoid.
But with that being said, it’s more important to know what kind of watch that you need or want. For this, you can refer back to the steps outlined above and then focus in on what brands have that kind of particular watch. This way, you’re widening your survey range to many brands instead of just a single brand.
Are Expensive Watches Worth It?
Let’s be real here. This really depends on your financial situation.
Is an expensive watch worth it? Expensive watch might be worth it if it’s for a special purpose or to commemorate a special event in your life. Reaching 40 years old? Then that new shiny Rolex Submariner that you’ve been drooling at for the last couple of years might be the perfect gift for your. Or perhaps you’ve just been promoted to a high corporate position in your company.
The question is how expensive is expensive? $1,000? $10,000? $100,000? It’s truly subjective and depends on your financial capability. A $1,000 watch might be expensive for a normal wage earner but a small change for a millionaire.
But regardless of that, you will need to see if your wallet can take the hit. There is no point in spending thousands of dollars on your expensive watch only to find out your livelihood will take a massive hit. In addition, taking on a loan to buy a watch is also not a good idea as it means that you’re not yet ready to purchase the watch.
In my opinion, the best way to finance your expensive watch is to slowly save some money every month until you can afford it. This will ensure the money used to purchase the watch is not affecting your livelihood and you’re not depending on credit to buy the watch (hint: what happens if you somehow got sick and lose your job?). Just be warned that an expensive watch will also require an expensive maintenance cost!
Should I wear a watch? You definitely should! Wearing a wristwatch is the best way to track and tell time easily, even though you must already have a smartphone. It’s much more convenient to tell time with a wristwatch rather than having to fumble around with your phone (further read: 13 top reasons why you should wear a wristwatch).
Are watches out of style? Watches are not out of style but in fact, it’s coming back stronger. Recent years have shown that interest for automatic/mechanical watches have increased in addition with the smartwatch & wearable boom – all proofs that watches are still in demand. The reason is simple: watches are very convenient and people know that and will keep on wearing them.
How do I know if my watch is too big? If your watch overhangs from the edges of your wrist, then your watch is too big for you. The ideal case is the watch sits firmly on your wrist without its case covering the whole width of your wrist.
I hope this article will help you to choose the perfect watch for you. Just follow the 10-steps guide and I’m sure you will be fine. If there’s anything you want to ask, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon.
Automatic watch has been around for centuries, and there is no indication it will go away even with the advent of smartwatches. It’s a truly unique piece of device devoid from any electric/electronic elements. If you want to own one of these, then brands are very important. The question then is what automatic watch brands are around?
So what are some good automatic watch brands? Below is the list of the 50 top automatic watch brands currently:
Bell & Ross
Arnold & Son
International Watch Company (IWC)
Baume & Mercier
A. Lange & Söhne
Let’s have a look at each of them and see what have made them who they are today. I will also try to list down some popular models of the brands for your information. Do bear in mind that the price range listed is an indicative and can vary from what’s stated here, depending on where and what model you’re buying.
The Seiko brand is a watch brand that I don’t think I need to introduce further. For those new to watches, you might think that Seiko is only producing normal quartz watches and wall clocks – and this is where you’re wrong. Seiko is one of the most versatile watch company in the world with products ranging from the cheapest quartz watch to luxurious watches (Grand Seiko and Credor brands. I’ll touch on these separately).
The company started way back in 1881 in Tokyo, selling watches and jewelry. It was one of the earliest and still surviving watch companies in Japan. What’s interesting is that Seiko is not just focusing on watches like what we thought all this while. Under its Seiko Group, it has numerous companies under it manufacturing various consumer products, electronics, jewelry and even printers (the Epson company is apparently under Seiko as well).
For automatic watch, they have lots of models starting from the most affordable (such as the less than $100 Seiko 5s), more refined Presage and Premier line ups and its sports models under its popular Prospex line.
Another kicker is they also produced almost all of their parts in-house including the movements – this is something that put it in a special position amongst watch brands as most brands will outsource the movement as it’s quite hard and not economical to design and manufacture it in-house.
Early fans will recognize Seiko’s models of the SKX007, SKX013, Monster, Samurai, Sumo, etc. as some of the most value for money automatic watches. These are highly popular automatic watches with ISO 6425 dive watch compliant that is not just affordable, but also looks cool with robust movement.
If you’re just getting started with automatic watches, you just can’t go wrong with a Seiko. In-house movement & parts, reputable brand name, long rich history – all in an affordable price point.
Another Japanese watchmaker on this list is Orient. Just like Seiko, if you think they only produce wall clocks then you’re wrong. Orient is also another full fledged watchmaker making their own movements and parts in-house. Unlike Seiko, they came a bit late to the game in 1950, being founded in Tokyo. One interesting thing about Orient is it’s actually a subsidiary of Seiko.
Many watch fans love how Orient bring to the industry an alternative to Seiko’s dive/sports watches with their Mako/Ray designs. Although being the same company, Orient managed to bring forward their own distinct design language, much to the liking of watch fans. They also have another sub-brand called Orient Star that uses better quality material and movement.
I personally love how Orient like to implement complications such as power reserve indicator and AM/PM indicator on their watches – all for just less than $500! If you search around, you’ll see that no other watch brands do this as usually for less than $500, you’ll just be getting a vanilla 3-hands analog automatic watch.
The next affordable automatic watch brand is Fossil. Unlike the 2 brands above, Fossil is relatively new in horology having been founded in 1984 in Texas, US. Even though it’s widely known as fashion watches (quartz-based) and leather items brand, Fossil also produced automatic watches, some of the cheapest in the market right now.
Their design theme is in the use of open dial whereby you can actually see the inner workings of the movement from a cut on its watch face, with various combinations of subdials for date, day, seconds resulting in many cool watch designs. In addition, as it’s a leather accessories brand, you’re guaranteed to have various handsome leather watch bands for picking.
The next Japanese watch brand in this list is Citizen. Like other Japanese brands, most people only know it by being a wall clock maker. But that is not the case as Citizen is a watchmaker with a rich history. Founded in 1918 in Tokyo, it has over 100 years of experience in watchmaking, encompassing mechanical, automatic, quartz and solar watches – its most popular product right now.
In terms of automatic watches, Citizen seems to be taking a step back, presumably due to stiff competition from its competitors (both local Japan – Seiko & Orient – and overseas). Instead, they have been making great progress in terms of their solar watches with the very popular Eco-Drive line up. They are one of the market leaders in solar watches with some of the most cool looking and affordable models out there.
As relatively new watch brand, Stuhrling is quite popular as a cheap and affordable automatic watchmaker. Established in 1999 in New York, the American brand was actually based on the name of a Swiss watchmaker, Max Stührling. Their watches are adventurous, with open/skeleton dials showing its internal movements. Without a doubt, their affordable automatic watches are quite enticing, with most going below $400.
What’s interesting with Stuhrling is they also have tourbillon collection, even though they are a small brand. For those that don’t know, tourbillon is a complication devised to negate the effects of gravity to increase accuracy. The balance wheel and escapement assembly are placed in a cage that will continuously rotate and averages out the positional errors (watch this video to see how it works).
Say what you might want about this Chinese-based tourbillon movement, but such effort is highly commendable. At around $1,500, their tourbillon is one of the cheapest that anyone can get (though you might want to look out for their used toubillons which can be had for way less than that price…).
It’s no secret that there is a Chinese manufacturer for almost everything on earth, and automatic watch industry is not an exception. For watch fans, you’ll surely be aware of the Chinese company called Seagull that manufacturers affordable automatic watches for the masses.
But one thing that impressed me is the history of this company. If you think that the brand is a new brand, then you’re wrong as the company Tianjin Seagull Watch Group Co. Ltd. (yes that’s its full company) was founded way back in 1955 on the order of the People’s Republic of China to have a Chinese watchmaking company in their country. In its 74 years of existence, Seagull have grown to be the biggest manufacturer of mechanical movements in the world, supplying to various brands.
Like Stuhrling, Seagull also sells automatic watches in quite a large price range – from the cheapest $100 watch up to $1,500 automatic watch with tourbillon. But unlike Stuhrling, Seagull actually manufactures their movements which is definitely something that we should give credit to.
In terms of design aesthetic, I personally think it’s a hit or miss. While many of their watches are good looking, some of them can be quite off-putting to say the least. In addition, the brand is also infamous for using other popular watches as inspiration. Some people love this as they can purchase a homage with a good movement at cheaper price but some (especially those that own the original watches) abhors this practice.
If you’re a Rolex Submariner fan, then you should be aware of a brand called Invicta which produced a very similar watch to the Submariner. Indeed, their diver watches such as the 8926 model looks just like the famous Rolex watch, but with slight change on the dial and of course, huge changes in overall material, quality and internal movement).
Love it or hate it, there’s no mistake that their Rolex homage watches had propelled them to more exposure among watch fans. What I like is that Invicta does not just sit on their laurels but instead try to come up with their own designs, which is definitely a good thing for the industry.
But perhaps, the most shocking is about the company’s history. Initially, I thought it to be a company recently established judging from their use of popular watch designs. But I was mistaken as the company was actually founded in 1837 in Switzerland! Bet you also don’t know about this lol!
Tissot is a brand that I’d say as among the most affordable “real” Swiss watch brands in the market right now. Starting at $400, you can get a good quality automatic watch with Swiss famed quality and craftsmanship from the brand (in fact, I’m owning and very pleased with their Visodate watch – read what I think about the watch here).
Founded in 1853 in Le Locle Switzerland, the brand is definitely rich in history and is one of the few Swiss watchmakers that had successfully endured the Quartz crisis in 1970s. The brand is currently nestled inside the Swatch Group right now – where all brands have their own place and target demographic- and for Tissot, it’s the middle range price of watches.
But what’s special about the brand is it’s wide array of products, numbering over hundreds of current models. Of course, there’s the mechanical and automatic watches that were its origin and they are very proud of that. In addition to that, there’s also sports-centric watches using quartz movement. And to top it off, they also have a touch-based watch with their T-Touch collection. With such a wide range of watches, you’re sure to find something that you like with Tissot.
Victorinox is more widely known as a Swiss knife manufacturer but do you know it also produces automatic watches? Founded in 1884 in Ibach, Switzerland, the company was initially focused on manufacturing utility knives for the use of the Swiss army. It was only in recent times that it ventured into other products such as cutlery, travel gear and even fragrances. I kinda like their travel gears as it was manufactured by the same guys that produced the famed army knives (see the marketing there?).
The brand ventured into timepieces around 30 years ago and have been going strong till now. Their watches uses ETA’s robust movement and looks primarily utilatarian to complement their brand image as a producer of the indestructible army knives. In other words, it looks cool as hell! But I feel that there’s a lack of dressy options in their inventory, as they only produced a small number of collections as compared to Tissot which is a dedicated watch brand. If you want something more obscure but still affordable with Swiss quality, Victorinox might be the one for you.
The next watch brand is a popular brand that was featured in my movies, the brand Hamilton. Just by looking at its name, we can infer that it’s an American brand, which is correct as it was founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, US. Unfortunately, the brand was sold off to the Swiss Swatch Group a few decades ago, thus ended the american ownership of one of its most illustrious watchmaker.
Putting that aside, Hamilton has grown into a global watch brand making beautiful watches for the mid-range of prices. And if you’re a fan of Hollywood movies, then you might have glimpsed over their watches in many a feature films. For example, their watches were used in the box office films Interstellar, The Martian and even Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And for fans of the late King of Rock n’ Roll, surely you must remember the iconic V-shaped Ventura watch worn by Elvis (of which Hamilton had created a homage for that with modern movement). With such a rich history and culture, a Hamilton watch is definitely a good choice for watch & film fans.
Alpina is another watch brand with a rich history, having been established way back in 1883 in Switzerland. I like how their watches have their “Alpina” signature and logo at the center of its dial. Coupled with their distinct design which is kind of minimalist but practical with frequently over-sized numerals, their watches are definitely a good choice for those preferring more tool-like timepiece. There’s also more trendy designs but I don’t think I’ve seen a dressy Alpina.
One interesting bit about the brand is it not just designs and manufactures the watch case/dial, it also tinker with their movement, placing them on an exclusive group of watchmakers that produce an in-house movement for their watches. With this being said, some of their cheaper watches still use other famous movements such as Sellita SW200 or Valjoux 7750 chronograph. This effort in movement technology firmly places Alpina on a different level than the other watch brands.
The first German watchmaker in this list is Junghans, famed for their simple and clean watches. Seriously, if you want to find an automatic watch with a sleek look, and built with such great craftsmanship, then Junghans should be one of the brands that you look for.
The brand was conceived by Erhard Junghans, a German watchmaker, in the year 1861. From then on, it grew to be one of the largest German firm in watchmaking. Itching for a clean minimalist watch? Then a Junghans watch would really fit the description. Some of their popular models are the Max Bill and Meister line ups.
Next we have Oris, which was founded in 1904 in Switzerland by a duo of watchmakers, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian. The brand was quite successful since its inception and was one of the largest watchmakers in the 1960s-1970s. But due to the quartz crisis, it hit rock bottom, so much so it had to resort to be part of the Allgemeine Schweizer Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG), the former name of the Swatch Group.
But being part of a group meant that they would have to cooperate and focus on areas that might not be suitable for them. Some say they were forced to produced low-mid range quartz movement, something that not really part of their DNA. Thus, in 1982, Oris, lead by the duo Dr Rolf Portmann and Ulrich W. Herzog became independent again through a management buyout.
Since then, the brand had been focusing solely on automatic/mechanical watches. While most of their lower priced watches use movements re-branded/upgraded from Sellita, their higher priced timepieces usually feature an in-house movement, such as the 10-days power reserve handwound Caliber 110. Some of the Oris models that I really love to own are the Aquis (dive watch), Big Crown (aviation) and the dressy Artelier models.
Being one of the more famous watch brands from Swiss, one can’t never guess that Raymond Weil is actually a family owned company, instead of one of the brands in a huge watch groups. It’s actually a wonder how the brand could’ve such serious progress even after only being established in 1976 (short of 50 years ago!), all the while being an independent brand without the backing of a watch group.
Being an independent and comparatively new brand means their styling can be quite different than what the other older Swiss brands have. Their watches mostly fall to the classy simplistic styling, with little over-the-top decorations and designs. And at their price point, it’s easily one of the more accessible Swiss automatic watches in this list. Perhaps their most “outrageous” models were their music icons line ups, where they paid homage to The Beatles, ACDC and Bob Marley – If you’re a fan of these legends you definitely should check it out.
Movement wise, Raymond Weil usually use an ETA or Sellita movements in their watches – well, can’t expect much from an independent brand with a small size such as them. What I like about them is they also did some improvement over the base movements such as adding a moonphase module on a stock ETA 2824.
Such endeavors are proofs of their technological effort, that culminated with their first proprietary automatic movement, the Freelancer 1212 that was released in 2017. Although Sellita was the manufacturer for the movement, the design was entirely by Raymond Weil and is a testament of the brand’s pursuit of technical know-hows. Frankly speaking, I’ve been rooting for them since the day that I learned about this =)
The next German watchmaker firm in this list is Sinn, which is more widely known as the maker of functional chronograph watches for pilots. But they also produce some classic/dressy and dive timepieces but in my honest opinion, their strengths lies in their chronographs.
Compared to typical 3-hands watch, a chronograph is much harder to do it right: you’ll need the technical knowledge, more fine parts as well as the ability to make it those busy dial elements with lots of subdials, needles, scales (tachymeter, telemeter, slide bezel rule) look presentable and cool. And Sinn have managed to balance this all out to create some of the best automatic chronographs around.
Founded in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 1961, its founder, Helmut Sinn, was a pilot which kinda explained the brands emphasize on aviation watches.
Next automatic watch brand is Rado, which hailed from Lengnau, Switzerland and was founded in 1917. Well, actually, its watchmaking company Schlup & Co. was founded in 1917 by the brothers Fritz, Ernst and Werner Schlup. Rado, as a brand that we know today, was first used by the company to market its watches in the 1950s.
While other watchmakers strive to innovate the movement, Rado instead focuses in watchmaking material, moving away from the typical stainless steel to more novel materials such as high strength ceramics and sapphire crystals. Their watch designs are distinctive, with many pieces using a simplistic design while some have unique shapes.
Zodiac’s brand name is not as popular as other watch brands, despite being founded in 1882 (137 years ago) by watchmaker Ariste Calame in Le Locle, Switzerland. It was a popular sports automatic watch brand back in the early to mid of last century with their Sea Wolf and Autographic watches.
However, the company went bankrupt in 1990s after an acquisition of it by private investors went awry. It was largely not present for at least a decade until Fossil Group purchased the company and released new Zodiac models in 2002. However, their Sea Wolf watches were only re-released in 2015, much to the delight of their fans. The current Sea Wolf line up have very distinct retro look to it but within a modern case and movement. It’s not really my cup of tea but then again, tastes will vary from person to person.
The Zodiac watch that catches my eyes are the Olympos watches with unique unsymmetrical case which kinda look like a shield. It looks superbly stunning especially with the highly polished multi-faceted case. It’s quite funny that Zodiac might have been popular with their sports watches, but the watch that I adore from their collection is this dressy model LOL!
Tired with the same old automatic watch design and yearn for a modern, simplistic look? Then Nomos might be the watch for you. With thin bezel, short profile and huge watch face in mono-colour, Nomos watches are very modern looking, just like those watches from Daniel Wellington. But unlike the former brand, Nomos is a watchmaking company hailed from Germany with only either automatic or manual watch movement in it.
Unlike most watchmakers, Nomos is one of the few brands that actually design and manufacture their movements in-house. And to make it more impressive, the brand was founded in 1990, which is just 29 years ago! That’s like a toddler’s age in horology! The fact that they can achieve so much in just a short span of time is nothing but exemplary!
One thing that I love about Nomos watches is how they never want to copy other watchmakers and stick to their DNA in watch design: almost bezel-less, thin profile, thin hands & markers and monotonic color pallet. These are the recipes for a very modern, clean and simplistic design. I can say that I’m a classic dive watch’s guy but their watches are refreshing and cool to look at. Definitely a handsome piece that will grab attention to your wrist =)
Another “new” watchmaker in the game is Frederique Constant, having been founded in 1988 in Switzerland. And yet, the brand had grown into one of the bigger Swiss brands currently. With the motto of “Accessible Luxury”, the brand had some of the value for money Swiss automatic watches around, with prices starting at lower than $1,000 for their entry level pieces. It goes all the way up to $30,000 for their finer pieces with precious metals and gemstone embedded watches.
In terms of movement, Frederique Constant was seen to be quite ambitious in developing their own calibers with some new movements coming up since they started doing research and design in 2001. With that being said, their own calibers are only available in their pricier watches as the entry level stuffs are mostly equipped with either ETA or Sellita movements (presumably to keep costs down).
Longines and its winged logo might need little introduction to watch fans. Founded in 1832 in the Swiss, the brand is one of the oldest watchmakers in this list, so yeah, it definitely have lots of history in its over hundred years of existence. Currently, it’s one of the brands under Swatch Group and is marketed at the luxury level of watches.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that a watch brand with long history typically have huge amount of watch models and collections in its stable. And that is certainly the case with Longines: it has everything from classic to dressy to sports/divers to chronographs. For a watch brand that put elegance at its fore, it’s collection is mostly in the form of classical and dressy watches although their sporty watches (such as the popular Hydroconquest dive watch) are definitely worth checking out too.
A cool trivia about Longines is that the world renowned scientist, Albert Einstein, actually owned one of its watches during his lifetime. And what’s more interesting is the watch was auctioned in 2008 for a cool USD 596,000, hundreds times over the price that the auction house expected for.
The name Breitling is so synonymous with chronograph watch, even though they were not the one who invented it first (that prestige went to the Frenchmen Louis Moinet who invented it in 1816. It all started by its founder, the Swiss watchmaker Léon Breitling that focused on chronographs as it was very popular for timekeeping uses in the industry. It also had contributed to the development of automatic chronographs in the 1960s, further cementing their name in the hallmarks of watchmaking.
Founded in 1884 in the Swiss, Breitling is one of the brands that is famed for aviator watches. Their Navitimer models, for instance, is one of the iconic watches for pilots and those that love functional chronographs with cool dials, slide bezel rule and the like. From there, the brand has many other line ups consisting not only of chronographs but also diver watches and some classic dressy timepieces.
The next brand is Montblanc, which is more widely known as an fountain pen brand. But just as Victorinox, it had ventured into other things apart from its original product and now, Montblanc has a wide range of luxury products from leather goods, bags, accessories, and yes, watches.
Founded in 1906 in Hamburg, the brand’s watches are more towards classical design: simple, sleek and handsome without any out of norm styling. The movements are usually either normal watches or chronographs.
Just like Breitling, this next brand is also famous for its chronograph movement. Zenith was founded in 1865 in Le Locle, Swiss, and is currently one of the sought after brand if you’re thinking of getting a great Swiss automatic chronograph. It was founded by young Georges Favre-Jacot, and is now one of the brands under LVMH Group.
Zenith watches mostly consists of clean & cool chronographs though there’s also the dressy Elite line up featuring normal dial or moon phase complication. Without a doubt, the legendary El Primero automatic chronograph movement is one of the defining element of the brand, so much so it’s still popular till today, 50 years after it was first launched in 1969.
If the brand’s history is of importance to you, then you will definitely like this next brand. Blancpain, is one of the oldest surviving watch brands in the world, having been founded in 1735, about 284 years ago. So yeah, the brand is about as old as you can possibly get. Currently, it is one of the top tier brands in the Swatch Group.
To me and most watch fans, Blancpain was well regarded as the first to introduce a real working dive watch to the world. It’s Fifty Fathoms watch (so called because it has water resistance rating up to 50 fathoms or 91 meters) was developed in 1953 with input from the French Navy unit. It’s design elements continue to be used by other dive watches from then on.
Another important watch line up for the brand is the Villeret Collection, which was named after Blancpain’s original site (the brand is now headquartered at Paudex/Le Brassus, Switzerland). Unlike the Fifty Fathoms, the Villeret collection is a huge line up of classical/dressy watches with almost all complications such as normal automatic, chronograph, tourbillon, moon phase, etc.
If you’re thinking about what is Tudor and its relationship with Rolex, then rest assured that you’re not the only one having this question. The fact of the matter is Tudor is currently a subsidiary of Rolex, although historically this is not the case. You see, Tudor was founded in 1926 in Geneva by Veuve de Philippe Hüther on paper. The thing is Hans Wildorf, Rolex’s founder, intended to use Tudor as a sister brand to market watches with Rolex-like quality but at more accessible prices.
It was not until 1936 when Hans Wildorf took over the brand entirely under him and went on to found the Tudor company as it will be known right now. In the beginning, Tudor watches were usually parts sourced from Rolex when sometimes Rolex signature can be seen on the watch’s parts. But as the brand matured, it began to become independent from its older sibling and is now one of the respectable watch brands in the world.
Actually, the story of Tudor and Rolex is quite an interesting one as not many watch brands will venture into a lower price range. The marketing tactic by Hans Wildorf was a genius move as it will enables Rolex to sell good watches at lesser prices without jeopardizing the good name of Rolex – which truly paid off as Rolex is one of the most sought after watch brand in the world right now. Fancy having a Rolex but can’t / don’t want to pay huge amount of money for it? Then a Tudor is a really good substitute then =)
Tag Heuer is a brand that is iconic and synonymous with motorsports, having sponsored many superstar drivers from around the world. Their watches such as the Carrera, Monaco and Aquaracer are some of the coolest sporty automatic watches that you can find.
But do you know that the brand Tag Heuer is not what it was originally?
Actually, Tag Heuer was a combination of the brand “Tag” and “Heuer”. Heuer (or its full name Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG) was the watchmaking company founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer. Over the century, Heuer was one of sports oriented watchmaker with specialization in chronographs. After WWII when motorsports become popular, it was naturally roped into that scene and soon become a favorite among drivers and fans alike.
It was not until 1985 that Tag Heuer was formed after Heuer was purchased by the company TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde). Tag was a parts manufacturer for Formula One cars and it inserted its name into the watchmaking company after the purchase and the name sticks until now even after Tag Heuer was bought by the luxury goods maker LVMH Group in 1991.
So now you know the history of the brand, I’d appreciate if you’ll stop calling the brand “Tag” as its totally not respectful to the founders of the watchmaker i.e Heuer. Consider referring them with their full brand name “Tag Heuer” or just “Heuer” =)
The next brand is a newcomer to the industry, having just set up shop in 1992 (27 years ago!). Now that’s a very short time for a watchmaker but Bell & Ross had shown that with tenacity and business acumen (and of course, great watches) they were able to flourish in a very competitive industry.
The brand name is actually a combination of the names of its founders: Bruno Belamich (“Bell”) and Carlos Rosillo (“Ross”). Bruno was an intern at Sinn, and it was due to this connection they managed to secure some Sinn watches to be repackaged into their own watches. This initial arrangement lasted for a decade or so, before Bell & Ross proceeded to manufacture their own watches in the beginning of this century.
Bell & Ross watches most popular watches are the utilitarian military and aviation watches with distinctive square shaped case and perfectly legible hands and markers.
Omega is a watch brand that I’m sure most of you will know of. It’s one of the quintessential modern watch with cool and beautiful designs. And add to that their huge marketing efforts (featured in James Bond films, lunar landings and numerous public figures) and you get a legendary watch brand that not many can compete with in terms of brand name and popularity.
Founded in 1848 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland by Louis Brandt, Omega has many popular models so much so even someone new to watches can recognise. In part, this is due to the heavy product placement of the brand in various industries such as movies, golf masters, yachting and the olympics.
But without a doubt, their most prized and coolest (at least, according to me) is the Speedmaster chronograph watch, the watch that was chosen to be used by US astronauts to land on the moon. I mean, how much more street cred you’ll need from a watch that actually was used to go to outer space, being used on the moon, and get back down to earth? In addition to that, the watch is beautifully designed and looks seriously good!
Omega also have a very successful marketing campaign by promoting their watches in the James Bond movies starting from the 1990s. Their sports oriented watches such as Seamaster, Planet Ocean and Aqua Terra benefited greatly from being associated with a dashing super spy. And yes, having great design and movement do help to sell those watches!
Although Switzerland,Germany and France were some of the biggest watchmakers in the early years of horology, England also has it’s fair share of legacy in Arnold & Son. It was founded in 1787 – 232 years ago, much earlier than most of the brands in this list! The technological advancement brought by the company was astonishing and can be tributed to John Arnold, the brands’ founder.
John Arnold was a celebrated watchmaker in the early days of horology and had been instrumental in improving the mechanical movements as we know it. But his most well-known contribution would be to invent a reliable and robust chronometer which was used extensively by the seafaring community for their expeditions.
The brand suffered a setback as it was discontinued in the 1850s when John Roger Arnold (the founder’s son) dies and the ownership of it were purchased by Charles Frodsham. Perhaps due to little know-how, the firm cannot continue on and closed shop. It was not until 1995 when the brand was resurrected and relaunched nearly 140 years later.
Arnold & Son current watch line up features classical dress watches, either in simple movement or with complications. I particularly love their moon phase watch (Tourbillon Chronometer No.36) – those deep blue dial looks majestic with beautiful finishing. But of course, the star of the show will go to their Tourbillon Chronometer No.36, a tribute to John Arnold’s original Chronometer No. 1/36, his first chronometer watch. With an open dial, the watch showcases the chronometer and tourbillon movement in all its glory!
Bulgari (or popularly spelled as Bvlgari) is an italian brand founded in Rome, Italy in 1884. It started as a jeweler, and have been involved in everything luxurious – from leather goods, accessories, fragrances, and even hotels! Since a few decades ago, it was also involved in watchmaking, another case of a jeweler turned into making watches.
One of their best known invention is the Serpenti ladies watch that features a very unique circling body to hold the watch in your wrist instead of the traditional watch band (watch this video to look at it). Truthfully, this is a really novel design which looks really great. Of course, I don’t think I will wear one but I was just astounded at how sleek and beautiful the watch is.
In terms of men’s watches, Bulgari line up comprises of Octo (with octagonal shape case), Bvlgari Bvlgari (a line up with call back to its Italian roots) and Haute Horlogerie (as the name suggests, a line up of luxury watches with fine craftsmanship and advanced movements).
Girard-Perregaux is another Swiss luxury watchmaker hailed from La Chaux-de-Fonds. It was founded in 1852 by Constant Girard, initially as Girard & Cie. The watchmaker then married Marie Perregaux and the manufacture changed it’s name into Girard-Perregaux Manufacture in 1856. In 1906, it acquired the Bautte Watchmaking House which interestingly had a longer history having been founded in 1791 by watchmaker Jean-François Bautte. The brand had been going strong since then and is currently under the Kering Group.
The brand is one of a vertically integrated watchmaker from its roots since the 1800s. One of its achievements is the creation of the first mechanical movement with 36,000 vibrations per hour, the highest in the world at that time. This enables the watch to be theoretically more accurate than the usual 28,000 vibrations per hour movements and also have a more sublime sweeping seconds hand action. The Gyromatic HF movement paved the way for hi-beat movements from other watchmakers to do the same.
Perhaps their most notable design is the tourbillon with three golden bridges, which was first unveiled in their pocket watch in 1884. The thing is tourbillon and bridges are not uncommon in watches. But what Girard-Perregaux did was to align the three bridges holding the barrel, gears and tourbillon in a parallel direction across the watch, creating a unique and symmetrical design that is technically as well as aesthetically pleasing (the dial is open, hence showcasing the movement in all its glory)
Currently, the tourbillon with three golden bridges are also available in their wristwatches in various designs. In addition, there’s also the 1966 collection (classic dressy watches), Laureato (octagonal shaped case), Cat’s eye (beautiful timepieces embedded with diamonds and gemstones) and the Vintage 1945 collection (squared shaped classic watches).
The Graham watch brand was named after celebrated English watchmaker, George Graham. He was the partner of Thomas Tompion, widely regarded as the “Father of English Clockmaking“. The Graham watch brand was started in 1695 (324 years ago!) which is definitely one of the oldest in this list. But unfortunately the brand was closed sometime in the 1700s. The current Graham watch brand is restarted by The British Masters company in 1990s.
Due to its short life, the current Graham watch brand does not have much models in its name. There are currently three collections in its stable: the big sized chronograph “Chronofighter” with (gaudy?) crown protection, sporty racing inspired chronographs “Silverstone” and novelties Geo.Graham which features tourbillon and moon phase models.
Jaquet Droz is a watch brand named after the genius Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet Droz. The current watch brand was resurrected by the Swatch Group in the 2000s and focuses on haute horlogerie. Now, one very interesting thing about Pierre Jaquet Droz is he was not only a master watchmaker (he lived in the 1700s) but instead of turning into jewelries like other watchmakers, he has a penchant for mechanical engineering, creation of robots (or automaton as it was called then).
Pierre Jaquet Droz, with the help of his son (Henri-Louis) and adopted son (Jean-Frederic Leschot) built many interesting engineering pieces, building from his watchmaking endeavor. For instance, there was the repeater watch using bird chimes! Now that is something entirely different than whatever every other watchmakers were doing at that time.
But perhaps their most popular work is their humanoid automatons (yep, this was in the 1700s!). There are 3 variations of the automaton dolls: The Draughtsman (a boy doll which can draw 4 different images beautifully), The Musician (a girl doll that can play a custom made organ) and The Writer (a boy doll that can write some 40 letters long sentences, using real ink!). The degree of automation in these dolls were enormous and is one of the earlier effort by mankind in the realm of robots.
Currently, Swatch Group tried to capture the prestige of the Jaquet Droz’ great watchmaking history by making novel watches. There is the Automaton watch lineup with novelties such as a bird repeater watch, a watch that can show lotus flower opening and my personal favorite, the Magic Lotus Automaton watch that showcase beautiful scenery of a lotus pond (watch this video to see it!).
This next watch brand is interesting as it’s history is a bit different than the other Swiss watch brands in this list. For a start, IWC (or International Watch Company) originated from Schaffhausen, which is the North Eastern part of Switzerland, in fact, the only watchmaking company in this part of the country. This is interesting as most of the other Swiss watch brands originated from the Western part of Switzerland (Tissot & Zenith at Le Locle, Omega at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Blancpain at Villeret, Breitling, Longines & TAG Heuer at Saint-Imier).
Due to this, IWC are usually said to have more in common with German’s brands (due to its location proximity with Germany) than with other Swiss brands. The second interesting thing about it is its founder is an American (watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones) rather than a Swiss or a European. Mr Jones actually wanted to capitalize on Swiss low wage workforce to manufacture watches for the American market (which could explain the reason why the brand’s name is as such).
Like other watch brands at this price range, IWC watches use a combination of modified base movements (from ETA/Sellita etc.) for their lower priced watches and in-house developed movements for their higher end pieces. Their watches usually have clean and crisp dials. There are also chronograph models to be chosen from.
Some of IWC’s popular collections are the Portugieser (the classic IWC watch), Pilot (watches designed for the physical and functional needs of aviators) and the Ingenieur (rugged watches with high technical specs).
Ulysse Nardin is one of the older watch brands in this list. Being founded in 1846 in Le Locle by the watchmaker Ulysse Nardin (yes, the brand’s name is taken after its founder), it played an instrumental role in advancement of chronometers which indirectly helped making automatic watches more accurate for us. Currently, it resides under the Kering Group, alongside other luxury brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and others.
The brand has a long history with marine/navy so much so at one point of time, they were one of the main suppliers of marine chronometers to many of Western Navies. Due to this, it does have a long collection of great chronometers with impressive performance and craftsmanship. In addition, they also produced beautiful timepieces such as the Genghis Khan, Moonstruck and Sonata watches – which is just like an art on a watch.
But perhaps their most interesting watch currently would be Freak watches, born in 2001 under the leadership of the duo Rolf Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin. The Freak watch was and still is one of the more futuristic watch around, even if compared with the swathes of smartwatches in this days. It does not have a dedicated hands but instead the time is indicated by the movement as it moves! Yes it’s quite hard to imagine so you can just check out this video to see it for yourselves. In addition, the watch also uses silicon in its movement, one of the first brands to do it.
Grand Seiko – this is the Japanese’s answer to luxury Swiss and Germany watches. Any Seiko fans would instantly know that Grand Seiko is not just your normal Seiko watch. It’s usually considered to be at par or some might say even exceeds the quality in most luxury watch brands in this list. And yes, since it’s a Seiko, you do get that value for money proposition with Grand Seiko pieces.
Although Seiko is an old company founded in 1881, it was not until 1960 when Grand Seiko was conceived as a way to showcase that the brand’s craftsmanship and watchmaking is at par with the Western brands. What I like about their watches is how it’s not over the top aesthetically. Grand Seiko’s design language remains fairly the same over the decades – crisp and simple designs – and this actually makes their watches such good everyday beater watches.
Movement wise, Grand Seiko has the best that the large company has to offer such as hi-beat movements with long power reserves. But one thing that makes the brand sticks out is it also houses Seiko’s spring drive movement, one of the revolutionary movements right now. Spring drive combines the best of automatic and quartz technology, creating an entirely new type of movement that is truly astonishing (If you want to learn more about spring drive movement, read about it further on my article here).
The quintessential Swiss automatic watch brand, Rolex. Almost anyone would instantly recognized the brand with its pointed crown logo. Most people would associate Rolex with being the pinnacle of luxury even though that’s not truly the case – for instance, many watchmakers in this list have more expensive watches than Rolex. They do make ultra-luxury watches, but they also have many watches at the entry level luxury with practical design such as the Oyster Perpetual and Submariner stainless steel models.
Who would have thought that Swiss watch poster boy was actually founded in London, UK in 1905 by the duo Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. At that point of time, the company was called Wilsdorf and Davis and was actually an importer of watch movements and then putting it into their own case (kinda like the fashion watch brands nowadays). It was not until 1920 when the company moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1920 right after the WWI to avoid the higher taxes imposed by the UK to fund its post-war recovery. At this point of time, the company adopted the Rolex officially.
Another interesting thing is the brand name “Rolex” is not named after anything, anyone nor it even has any meaning. It was reported that they chose “Rolex” because it’s easy to be pronounced in any language, which is quite far-sighted I would say. In addition, having a short brand name also makes it easy to fit it on the dial instead of a long name taken after the founders’, like some of the other brands.
Currently, Rolex is one of the most well-known watch brand around the world. Just like the other well-established brands, you can see the distinct Rolex styling on their watches: the clean dial with immaculate craftsmanship. Although you can never get it wrong with a Rolex, do note that it’s also one of the most counterfeited watch – so tread carefully especially if you find a great discounted deal that just too good to be true =)
Jewelry and watches often goes together and it was said that back in the early days, a watch is a form of jewelry for the well-to-do. This fact is certainly true to Chopard, which in addition to being a watchmaker, is also selling luxury jewelries. Chopard was founded in 1860 in Sonvilier, Switzerland by Louis-Ulysse Chopard. It is currently owned by the German family Scheufele since the middle of last century.
Coming from a firm that also make luxury jewelries, you can expect that their watches to be stylish, but not overbearing. You can also expect rare materials and gemstones on their watches. Movement wise, they usually use base ETA/Sellita movements in their lower priced watches but equipped their higher priced timepieces with in-house movements.
Although it is the first Italian watch brand in this list, Panerai is not uncommon among watch fans. While other luxury watchmakers have sleek, classic watches, Panerai watches are distinguished by its huge pillow shaped large cases (42 to 44 mm in diameter on average) and its distinct crown protecting bridge. Without a doubt, their unique design language is going to be quite polarizing – you’ll either love it or hate it. But for those that has big enough wrist that can wear such big watches, it’s definitely going to look great on them.
Having deep history roots with the Italian Navy, Panerai is also one of the watchmakers that first utilized radioisotope as watch lumes, specifically the substances Radiomir (Radium-based) and Luminor (Tritium-based). Both of these had great impact on watchmaking and paved the way to the use of safer lume paints nowadays.
At the pinnacle of Japanese watchmaking, sits Credor, a sub brand of Seiko. In a way, Credor and Grand Seiko are cut from the same cloth as both will use the same Seiko movements (either mechanical or spring drive) and some of them actually come from the same factory.
But perhaps the biggest difference between these two that I can see is their design language is different. While Grand Seiko has a distinctively Seiko’s design format (e.g sharp sides, clean cool look), Credor watches typically is less pronounced and not as Seiko-like. Perhaps it’s their intention after all to make their watches different to please different markets – which will fit well into the reason why they created a totally different sub-brand in the first place.
Which one is better? Honestly it will really depend on the watch. For example, the Credor Eichi II and Grand Seiko 8 Day are 2 similar watches. Of course, they are different in terms of looks but are actually made from the same factory and have the same price range. Without a doubt, getting any one of these 2 watches will be a good deal but then again, it will depend on which watch’s look/design that you like the most (for me, it’s the Eichi II with gorgeous white dial and blued hands).
In terms of pricing, Credor and Grand Seiko watches are usually priced within the same range – but do bear in mind Credor are not readily available outside of Japan so it will cost you more to buy it. It seems that Seiko only wants to push Grand Seiko as their representative in the luxury watch department. But in terms of the most luxurious Japanese watch, Credor will take the lead. For instance, their Credor Node Minute Repeater cost a whopping $200,000!
The next Swiss automatic watch brand in this list is Baume & Mercier. It’s one of the older brands, having been founded in 1830 – a good 189 years ago. The brand was originally called “Frères Baume” as it was the brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume that founded the brand in Jura. It was not until 1918 that the brand name changed into Baume & Mercier as Baume’s successor, William Baume partnered with Paul Mercier and relocated the company to Geneva.
Currently, the brand is one of the luxury watch brands under Richemont Group, and targets the middle luxury space. In terms of design, Baume & Mercier gravitates towards the normal classical dressy watches that you just can’t go wrong in choosing them. Their watch line ups such as Classima, Clifton and Linea have the basic designs, the Capeland watches is sportier with chronographs/worldtimer/GMT and Hampton with square shaped cases.
Considered one of the important watchmakers in history, Jaeger-LeCoultre is definitely one of the watch brands that fans need to know about. Like many watch brands nowadays, the brand historically was a combination of 2 different entities, that of the LeCoultre & Cie watchmaking workshop founded by the Swiss Antoine LeCoultre in 1833 and Edmond Jaeger, a French watchmaker. The official union of both parties were done in 1937, giving birth to the current Jaeger-LeCoultre. As of now, the brand is under the Richemont Group.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been credited with being a watchmaker’s watchmaker, having been a movement supplier for many brands, including the holy trinity of Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin – now that’s quite a resume, mind you. In addition to that, the brand also has a huge amount of calibers under their archive (more than 1200 calibers as claimed by them) and various important horological inventions that made them an important figure in watchmaking.
The brand has many popular and beautiful watches in its stable such as the Master, Rendez-Vous, Polaris but one watch will always be associated with them: the Reverso, created in 1931. The Reverso is a rectangular shaped wrist watch that has one very unique feature: it can be rotated to hide the dial. As the story goes, Jaeger-LeCoultre was asked to produce a watch that is able to withstand hard impacts during a game of polo.
Rather than making the dial and case stronger, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a watch that the wearer can flip the dial 180 degrees via a hinge design. This will make the glass surface of the watch facing the inside backing, and the caseback of the watch on the top – protecting the watch from impacts. In addition, the caseback can be personalized making it an even unique watch. Till today, it’s novel feature is still one of the most interesting concepts in an automatic watch.
Perhaps to most, this next watch brand is more popular for being a jewelry maker instead of a watchmaker. However, in addition to jewelry, Cartier do have a rich history in watchmaking, having been involved in it since its founding in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris, France. It currently resides under the Richemont Group.
Cartier is one of the most prestigious jewelry manufacturers in the world, having had hundreds, if not thousands of customers from the rich, famous and royalties throughout its long 172 years of history. In fact, King Edward VII of Great Britain once called Cartier as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers” do to its huge swathes of innovative and beautiful jewelry pieces.
As a watchmaker, Cartier traditionally outsources watch movements from movement makers such as Jaeger-LeCoultre (and formerly the LeCoultre workshop), Piaget, etc and fitted it into their case. This changed during the 2000s as Cartier invested into in-house movement making and successfully with various innovative mechanical movements coming out from them every year. However, these movements are usually reserved for their higher end watches while their entry level ones usually were fitted with movements based on ETA/Sellita.
Some popular models from them are the Tank, Santos de Cartier and Mysterious watches. The Tank is a rectangular shaped watch that looks really sleek with small width (so called Tank due to its similarity with actual tank..). This is different than the more squarish Santos de Cartier watch, which has a rich history being one of the first wristwatches made for men in 1904 for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont.
But the model that I’m personally most fascinated at? That should be the Mysterious watch. Originally invented in the early 1900s in the form of a clock, the Mysterious watch evolved into a wristwatch, and what a watch it is (look at it for yourselves here). It’s fascinating how Cartier managed to make a watch with transparent movement (though the secret is the “hands” were actually part of transparent sapphire discs that are rotated by the movement). Although other watchmakers did manged to recreate the same thing, none of it can compare with the original Mysterious watch.
The top echelon of fine watchmaking is usually filled with brands with rich history, and Breguet is no exception. Founded in 1775 (244 years ago!), Breguet is as old a watch brand that you could have. It was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris and remained the Breguet’s family company until the end of the 19th century when it’s ownership changed to the Brown family. Turbulence during the modern era saw the company’s ownership to change a few times until it settled into the Swatch Group in 1999 till today.
From its inception, Breguet had been at the forefront of horological inventions, most notably credited with creating the tourbillon in 1795. It was a novel invention then, and is still today. In a tourbillon, the balance wheel and escapement are located in a cage that will slowly rotate over time. The idea is with a rotating balance wheel, the effect of gravity pull will be cancelled out hence improving the accuracy of the watch. The fact that Abraham-Louis Breguet thought about this in 1795 is mind-blowing as it’s so much ahead of its time!
Although current watchmakers had been able to create accurate watches without tourbillon with the help of technology, tourbillon is still one of the centerpiece of automatic/mechanical watchmaking. I mean, who wouldn’t fell in love when your watch can show a rotating balance wheel right? It’s also a sign of watchmaking expertise, hence the reason why many brands love to showcase their tourbillon movements.
Breguet watches have some of the most distinctive character from a brand, thanks to its long running tradition and being a very old watchmaker. For instance, hands with open circular tip are called Breguet hands due to the fact that it was Breguet who used and popularized it first. This hand is currently used on almost all current Breguet models (the Classique, Tradition, Heritage) except for the Type XX/XXI/XXII military/aviator watches. Other elements such as Breguet numerals and case fluting can also be found regularly on their watches.
What do you say to an expensive watch with 18k gold case but having a rubber strap? Totally illogical right? What if I say such a watch do exist and it also has a garish looking, totally not in coherence with the traditional classic dress watch look? You might say that I’m a fool but I kid you not – Hublot watches are all like that, with the caveat that they did it so well so much so the watch is really cool to look at.
Founded in 1980 by industry veteran Carlo Crocco, Hublot design language is one of the weirdest in horology. I mean why would someone make a gold watch only to pair it up with rubber straps? Turns out Crocco was behind all this as he wanted the strap for his watches to be black. But of course, Hublot’s rubber strap is not your run of the mill strap – it’s a high end strap with various finishing ranging from simple matte black to leather cover even to jeans, all can be had in various colors!
Hublot’s watches are also distinctive. The use of octagonal shaped case with exposed screws on it bring a very industrial look to it, which I admit is very cool to look at. Fun fact: Crocco actually wanted his watches to look like a porthole (the windows of a ship with exposed screws) which is why he named his brand Hublot (or porthole in French). This peculiar combination of watch design and rubber strap are coined as the art of fusion, something that Hublot had build up till today with their newer watches such as the Fusion and Big Bang.
Indeed, Hublot is definitely not the brand for those that want an understated elegance and sleekness usually associated with luxury watches. I mean, those big watches with fancy color schemes will definitely attract attention. But then again, the brand never intends to make watches like the older brands of horology – they were only conceived just 39 years ago after all! Hublot is a young watch brand, and their watches showcases that perfectly. After all, it would be quite boring if all watches look the same right?
Piaget originally was a movement manufacture, from its inception in 1874 by its founder, Georges Edouard Piaget. Its movements were sought after by many luxury watch brands. But just like Jaeger-LeCoultre, it began to venture into making whole watches starting from the 1940s, which undoubtedly helped to raise its status as one of the few vertically integrated watch company in the world.
Currently residing under the Richemont Group, Piaget is well-known for its ultra-thin automatic & mechanical watches, with 2 to 3 mm movement thickness, making the actual watch about 3 to 4 mm! Such an effort is extraordinary especially considering they invented these movements (Calibre 12P and 9P respectively) in the 1960s – without the help of accurate steel cutting technology that we have today.
Till today, their ultra-thin watches are at the forefront of Piaget’s collection within their Altiplano watches, with various designs and complications. For those that want something different, there’s the majestic Emperador in either rectangular or squarish cases with jeweled case and dial.
One of the most sought after Germany watch brand is A. Lange & Söhne, which literally means A. Lange and Sons. The brand was founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange (hence the “A. Lange”) in Glashutte as A. Lange & Cie. It was not until 1868 when Lange’s sons (Emil and Richard) joined the watchmaking company and the brand name changed into A. Lange & Söhne.
It’s history is not as smooth sailing as other watch brands though. In 1945 during the WWII, Lange headquarters were bombed by the Soviet and completely destroying it. In 1948, Lange and several other watchmakers were nationalized and merged into the VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, and wiping out Lange’s name on their watches since then.
Fortunately, the brand came back into existence after the reunification of Germany. Walter Lange (A.Lange’s gread-grandson) and Günter Blümlein re-established the brand in 1990. From then on, the watch brand changed ownership and become part of the Richemont Group till today.
Like other top watchmakers, Lange’s history is filled with outstanding innovations and creations that helped furthering watchmaking technology over the years.
Since their re-establishment, their watch lineups are rather small and concentrated, which can be attributed to its low number of production per year.
Among their current lineups, my attention were squarely on the Lange 1 models, featuring very distinct asymmetrical dial layout. There’s the main minute and hour dial, then you have the seconds hand subdial, a subdial for power reserve/moon phase/AM-PM and there’s the date indicator. This watch is as unique as it can be, all the while being well placed and outstandingly good looking.
Want to get more fancy watch? Then perhaps the Zeitwerk might get your attention. Long before digital watches came about, Lange had been producing watches with watches with digital numeral display with the Zeitwerk. In actuality, the watch is still a mechanical watch but instead of normal hour and minute hands, they placed counters to show time (much like the typical day/date displays nowadays).
Audemars Piguet is one of the rarer watch brands. Having been founded in 1875 by the duo Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, the company is still being owned by both families, making it independent of the few luxury groups that control most of the watch brand nowadays. Well, being a very sought after watchmaker certainly did helped with them being independent.
Throughout history, Audermars Piguet have many inventions worth mentioning. For instance, the first minute repeater (a watch that can chime to tell time) was created by them in 1892. Since then, the brand had been releasing more breakthroughs in the form of complex watch movement making.
This article won’t be complete if I didn’t mention about Audemars Piguet’s best selling watch, the Royal Oak. Originally conceived in 1972, the Royal Oak was one of the modern era luxury sports watch. It has a unique octagonal shaped case that was inspired by diving helmets. The case is the most interesting as it defies all the norms about a watch.
In addition to the non-circular case, there are no lugs with this watch. The watch has a unique case-strap/bracelet integration method in lieu of the usual lugs. The dial uses beautiful tapisserie guilloche design and can be had in many variation and colors.
Although they also have some other watches such as the Millenary, Jules Audemars and CODE 11.59, the industrious Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore (the bigger version with 42 mm diameter.The original has 39 mm diameter) both can be said to completely define Audemars Piguet watches in this modern era.
The next automatic watch brand is a name that might not need to be mentioned: Vacheron Constantin. Founded in 1755 by Swiss watchmaker Jean-Marc Vacheron, the brand only became Vacheron Constantin after François Constantin became partner in the company in 1819. It has the prestige of being the oldest continuously operating Swiss watch company. Currently, it resides under the Richemont Group.
Vacheron Constantin’s motto “Faire mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible (Do better if possible, and that is always possible)” strikes a chord within me. I personally love it as it give the strong implication that we can always do better, always improving in all aspects of our lives. Perhaps that’s what propelled the brand to push forward and giving us beautiful timepieces. This is exemplifies with their Reference 57260, which is currently holding the record as the most complicated watch in the world.
Now, the Reference 57260 is not a wristwatch but is a pocket watch, so it has more space to hold those complications. But then again, putting 57 complications (time measurements, tourbillons, perpetual calendars, Hebrew calendars astronomical calendars, chronograph, alarm, minute repeater and others) into the small footprint is no joke. To put things into perspective, the previous record holder is Patek Philippe Calibre 89 with 33 complications, 24 less than the 57260. Price? Undisclosed but some sources say it’s around USD $10 Million.
Of course, they don’t just make highly technical pocket watches. Vacheron Constantin has many wristwatch models that are popular such as the very sleek dress watch Patrimony, the highly technical Traditionnelle with complications, hybrid modern-traditional FiftySix, and the Métiers d’Art watches with gorgeous colorful art displayed on its dials.
And last but not least, Patek Philippe. Together with Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, they made up the 3 best Swiss watchmakers currently (the so-called “holy trinity”). One might argue to put in other watchmaker such as A. Lange & Sohne and Jaeger LeCoultre in there, but if you ask most watch fans which are the top 3 brands, the holy trinity names will be mentioned most often. And out of these 3, Patek Phillippe is usually going to be at the top. (again, opinion varies..)
There are many reasons for this high regard for the brand. For a start, they make really really great watches. Their craftsmanship are one of the best in the industry and they will not cut corners in any step of the process. Their designs are quite understated and not as flashy as other brands, but that’s the Patek DNA for you.
In addition to the technicality of watchmaking, Patek Philippe is one of the watch brands that is investment grade i.e your watches will only go up in value. The reason for this is its high demand for its watches. As the world prosper, more and more billionaires were created and these high-net individuals would want the very best in watchmaking (association with various personalities and royalties certainly do contribute to this). To make things worse, it’s manufacturing is quite constricted, at just around 62,000 pieces in 2018. That’s the problem with luxurious products like this – you will need skilled craftsmen which will take years to be trained. No machine can do these kind of detailed workmanship.
Adding to the brand’s glory, it also have the honor of having the most expensive watch ever in its Henry Graves Supercomplication. The watch is actually a pocket watch with 33 numbers of complications in it. It fetched a whopping $24 million in 2014 to an anonymous collector. It is a super-complication watch originally commissioned by Henry Graves Jr in 1933. With a huge amount of complications, it sets the high standard for a super-complication, no less due to the fact that it was manufactured without the aid of computer (CAD) such as nowadays.
Patek Philippe current watches are subdued and exemplifies the notion of discreet style. Without a doubt, there are some artsy models in their collection with colorful dials and jewels, but in general, their watches are sleek in appearance. At the center of their watch collection is the Calatrava, their basic dress watch. It’s usually features a typical 3-hands dial but such simplicity is certainly outstanding – without a doubt a great choice as the basic foundation in any fan’s watch collections.
Then they have the Nautilus, which kinda look like Audemars Piguet’s Royak Oak and Hublot’s watches, albeit with a cleaner aesthetics (it does not have the screws like others and have a sleeker design). Fun fact: the Nautilus was designed by famed Swiss designer Gérald Genta, who was also responsible for the design of the Royal Oak. Huh, no wonder both watches look alike!
What are the top 3 watch brands? The top 3 watch brands are Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin – the so-called holy trinity of horology.
Why are automatic watches so expensive? Automatic watches are expensive due to the amount of material and workmanship needed to manufacture it, as compared to the mass-produced quartz watches. For luxury watches, the brands will employ high art watchmaking (or haute horlogerie) whereby precious materials and exceptional craftsmanship will be used causing its price to go way above our imagination.
Is buying a watch a good investment? In general, buying a watch as investment is not a good idea except you’re buying a watch with very high scarcity value such as Rolex or Patek Philippe. A novelty is almost always a good fit for investment – the rarer the watch, the higher the price will increase in future.
There are lots of watch brands that you can choose from. Most of the brands in this list have a wealth of history, having been founded decades ago and have produced countless watches. But which one should you choose will depend entirely on your taste and price range.
My advice for those new with automatic watches is to buy cheaper ones first and see if you like it or not. Bear in mind that automatic watches are not as maintenance-free as some other bloggers would like you to believe. In fact, it will take more money and time to own one, because you need to pay close attention to it and maintain/service it, just like how you own other mechanical items such as cars (read more about automatic watch’s characteristics in my post here). Thus, buying a cheaper one at first will help you to test the waters before making up your mind to buy more expensive ones.
I hope you like this article about automatic watch brands. Do let me know in the comments below what you think about it, and if I missed any brand.
Automatic watch has become more popular over the years, despite it being a higher priced type of watch out there. I was introduced to it few years ago and was hooked. From then on, I tried to learn everything that I can about automatic watch, which I will write about in this post.
So what is an automatic watch? Automatic watch is a type of watch that doesn’t need a battery to function and is instead powered by wrist motions of the wearer (so called self-winding) that is stored as potential energy inside it.
In this post, I’m going to share all the important information about automatic watch that you should know before getting one yourselves.
Automatic watch is defined as a watch that uses mechanical movement for its timekeeping. If you’re not aware, “movement” in horology refers to the device responsible to keep track of time inside a watch. Hence, an automatic/mechanical movement relies solely on the mechanical parts to do its job and is different from quartz movement which relies on the electric/electronic parts (which we will see later).
One thing that make automatic watch stands out is its ability to recharge itself just by being used by its owner. Inside the watch, there is a weighted rotor which will rotates following the motion of the wrist as the watch is being used. This rotor will recharge the watch hence why automatic watch movement is also referred to as the self-winding movement.
How Does Automatic Watch Works?
The inner workings of an automatic watch can be broken down into 5 major systems which are:
Energy source and storage
Gear train or wheels
1) Energy source and storage
The energy source of the watch comes from the weighted rotor. This half-circular rotor, that you can see on a watch with transparent caseback, will move freely with any movement of the watch. It’s part of the self-winding mechanism which will tighten the mainspring. The mainspring is a very long spring with the purpose of storing the energy for the watch.
Wearing the watch will cause this rotor to move and spin, hence effectively tightening the mainspring in the process. Thus, we can say that the energy generation for any automatic watch is from kinetic energy (weighted rotor moving) to be stored as potential energy in its mainspring.
Depending on the watchmaker, the feel of the self-winding mechanism will differ. Some watches have a very pronounced self-winding characteristics that you can easily feel the rotor winding as you move your watch. Some are quite subtle so much so you don’t the rotor moving (even though it is!). As this is very much a personal preference, I’d suggest to try wearing the watch to see if you like the feedback from the self-winding rotor or not.
By the way, some automatic watch is also equipped with manual winding capability which you can use to directly recharge the mainspring’s potential energy by rotating the crown and winding it (just like on a toy car). This is very useful if you don’t have time to wear your watch sufficiently so that it will have ample power reserve to last to the next day.
2) Gear train or wheels
The mainspring is directly attached to a set of gear train or wheels which main purpose is to transfer the potential energy throughout the watch movement. As the mainspring seeks to elongate and retract, the gears will be forced to rotate. Gears are used so that just a small elongation of the mainspring will cause a huge movement of the gears. This is very important so that the watch has sufficient power reserve – there’s only so much mainspring that can be fitted into the tiny movement after all!
Escapement consists of an escape wheel (a wheel with odd looking teeth) and a forked lever, which have the purpose of regulating the movement of the watch’s timekeeping, based on the input from balance wheel. Without escapement assembly, the watch will freely move and its power reserve will deplete in no time!
The escapement and balance wheel works in tandem to keep the movement of the watch in check.
4) Balance wheel
The balance wheel is responsible for the timekeeping of the watch i.e to determine how fast is one second – which is the whole basis of timekeeping. It might seem easy in this current world of digital watches but centuries ago, determination of one second is very hard to do for the lack of advanced equipment.
The balance wheel consists of a thin hairspring in a round enclosure. As energy was supplied to it, it will bounce back and forth in a regular interval. This interval (usually 6 or 8 times per second), form the basis of timekeeping in an automatic watch. Due to its importance, the balance wheel can be said to be the heart of an automatic watch (both literally and figuratively).
5) Time indicator
The last component is the time indicator i.e the needles that you see on a watch face/dial. The seconds hand is directly connected to the balance wheel/escapement. From there, the minute and hour hands are connected via gears. It is these gears with its fine teeth that will do the conversion from one second to one minute and one hour respectively.
(If you want to learn more about how automatic watch works, then you can read this post where I’ve delved deeper into this topic)
All of these systems must work in unison to make the watch work. If any of it is faulty (either due to damage or wear & tear), then the watch will not work as smoothly and that’s when you will notice issues with the watch such as bad timekeeping (lack of accuracy), watch keep on stopping etc.
Automatic Watch vs Mechanical Watch: A Look Into History
The ONLY difference between automatic and mechanical movement is the self-winding mechanism. An automatic movement is the same as mechanical movement but with the additional self-winding mechanism to “automatically” wind its mainspring with each watch-wrist movement. That is its main difference while the other timekeeping components (gears, escapement, balance wheel, etc.) remain the same.
As of now, mechanical watches are not as easily found in the market due to it being a less popular choice: you need to manual wind it daily or else it won’t work. This is a huge inconvenience with mechanical watch and it seems not many watchmakers are willing to design and market one, at least not for the lower end market (I do know that Hamilton has one affordable mechanical watch in their line up though).
But the lack of self-winding mechanism means that mechanical watch uses less parts so it is less expensive that an automatic watch. It’s also lighter, has thinner profile and will be easier to service which corresponds to lower service fee down the line.
Because of these advantages, mechanical movement is often incorporated by higher end watchmakers for their more adventurous movements with many complications in it (case in point, the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 57260). At that price point, usability is less of a concern – artistic, engineering and craftsmanship are the main driving factor.
It’s incomplete to talk about automatic and mechanical watches without looking at their history. Below are a few major milestones in the development of these watches:
Peter Henlein, a Germany watchmaker, was credited with creating the first watch that can be carried by people (a pocket watch) in 1510.
Swiss watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Perrelet, invented the first self-winding watch (also a pocket watch) in 1776.
An automatic wrist watch was only created in 1922 by John Harwood, a British watchmaker.
Electric watch was invented in the 1950s.
Seiko invented the quartz watch in 1969, which revolutionized the watch industry thanks to its accuracy and ability to be mass-produced.
How Is Automatic Watch Different From Normal Watch?
Although an automatic watch looks the same with other watches (see the next section on how to spot them), there is a huge difference in its movement or the driving mechanism for the watch.
Currently, quartz watch is the most common watch around, which can be said to be the “normal watch” nowadays. Quartz watch is based on electronics and that’s why you will notice that it requires battery to work. Inside it, there is a quartz crystal that acts as the oscillator for timekeeping (basically the job of balance wheel in an automatic watch).
A microchip is used to control everything in the watch, based on the input from the quartz crystal. There is also a motor to move the hands to display its time (in analog watch). Thanks to these elements, quartz watch can be mass-produced, hence lowering its price to very affordable levels. (Read more about how quartz watch works in my previous article here).
This is where the difference with automatic watch lies. Instead of relying on electronics like the common watch, automatic watch is fully mechanical powered. It uses the concept of energy conservation to top up its power reserve, drive the timekeeping and show the time on its dial.
And since the movement is quite complex, a full mass-production for automatic watch is not feasible. Some, especially the higher-end brands, will utilize manual labor to assemble and finish the watch. Without a doubt, this increases its cost of production. In fact, most automatic watches starts from $150 (with $500 mark is the starting point for most Swiss brands). You can get one cheaper than this but it’s usually from less established brands.
For that price, an automatic watch has something that a quartz watch don’t, that is character. The automatic movement requires some attention from the user to wind the watch (either through manual or self-winding), set the time and keep it in good condition.
Although the same need to be done with a quartz watch, its very different on an automatic because the whole thing revolves on mechanical parts. You need to be gentler and cannot force things or else it will break. I also love the faint grinding sound of the watch whenever I manual wind or change its time – its like the watch is alive!
Another advantage of automatic watch is it does not need a battery to operate, unlike quartz watch. This is an advantage especially for those that don’t want to have surprises such as a quartz watch drop dead due to having no battery. I personally like this because there is no concern on the battery leeches when I least expect it.
How Can You Tell If A Watch Is Automatic?
The easiest giveaway to tell if a watch is automatic is by looking at its dial/watch face. Generally, there is the word “Automatic” inscribed on the dial of most automatic watches. This is done so that people will easily know that the watch is an automatic watch, hence the reason for it being priced higher that other watches. Likewise, if you see the word “Quartz”, then that watch is a quartz watch.
But sometimes, the watch might not have the “Automatic” word inscribed on it. So in order to verify if its automatic or not, we can do these:
See if its seconds hand is sweeping or not. Automatic and mechanical watches have sweeping seconds hand which looks to be gliding instead of jumping every second like a normal/quartz watch. The sweeping seconds hand is actually jumping very fast (6 to 8 times per second) due to the characteristic of the movement.
If it has a transparent caseback, check if you can spot a half-circular rotor on it that will moves even with a small motion of the watch. The rotor is the best way to spot an automatic watch but not all automatic watches have a transparent caseback.
When you’re holding a watch that is completely stopped, try to give it a few shakes and see if this will bring the watch to life. Automatic watch will only need some motion to move the rotor and convert it into potential energy inside the watch to start it. While doing this, try to sense if you can feel the rotor moving (especially if the watch doesn’t have a transparent caseback).
Additionally, you can also try to manual wind it just to see if the watch is manual windable. This is done by rotating the crown upwards (on most common movements. Other watches might need to be rotated downwards to wind it). If you feel a faint gear noise and the watch springs back to life, it is an indication that the watch is manual windable. (I personally prefer my automatic watch to has this feature. Read my article here to find out why this is a good thing to have).
Is Automatic Watch Accurate?
So is automatic watch accurate? Accuracy of automatic watch varies depending on the movement maker, design and grade. In general, we can expect, at most, a +/-30 seconds per day variation for most automatic watches. What this entails is the watch will lose or gain time of up to 3.5 minutes every week – not really a big issue right?
But as I’ve mentioned above, the actual accuracy of an automatic watch will depend on the movement itself and can be referred to in their published specification. For example, I notice that Japanese movements (from Seiko, Orient) have a bigger limit up to +45/-35 seconds per day while Swiss movements (such as ETA) has a tighter accuracy range of +/-12 seconds per day.
And based on my personal record of my watches, the actual accuracy will usually fall within the published specification. So if a good accuracy is what you need (say, +/-10 seconds per day is a good number), then paying premium for a Swiss movement is definitely a good idea.
In addition, to this, there is also a type of automatic watch with the distinction of being “chronometer”, which is only conferred to the most accurate automatic watches out there. For an automatic watch to be labeled as a chronometer, it has to pass a stringent test from the certification body COSC which limits its gain/lose time to just +/-6 seconds per day.
To top it off, this accuracy needs to be adhered to in all possible positions the watch might be and various temperatures. Most chronometers can be found upwards of $1,000 but Tissot did design one of the cheapest Swiss chronometers in the market right now, the Tissot Powermatic 80 Chronometer for less that $1,000 (check out my review of the watch here).
Durability of automatic watches is usually good, as long as you are keeping a good care of the watch. One good thing that I’ve noticed is most automatic watches on the marker nowadays are encased in a stainless steel case which can last for a very long time, as compared to cheap quartz watches that are mainly made of plastic.
Stainless steel is frequently used because the automatic watch movement is heavier that normal because (surprised!) the movement parts are also mainly made of steel or metal. With a steel part and case, we can be assured that our automatic watches will stand the test of time.
There are some good reasons for this. Firstly, steel is tough and does not break as easily as plastic, another common watch material. I mean, if its good enough to be used to build buildings and ships, I’m pretty sure it will be a good material for a watch.
Another thing to note is that stainless steel can be easily cleaned with chemicals or some scrubbing if there’s a lot of dirt on it. It also can be polished or refinished again if there’s any dent or scratches on it. These are the usual things to be done on vintage watches, some have been around for decades.
While the exterior of an automatic watch is durable without much effort on the owner’s part, the internal movement is quite tricky and needs regular service for it to last long. I’ll go into detail about servicing an automatic watch in the below section.
Servicing Your Automatic Watch
Most automatic watches need to be serviced every 3 to 5 years, depending on its manufacturer’s recommendation. Some, such as newer Rolexes, can even go up 10 years interval. So its best to check with the brand on your automatic watch’s service interval to know for certain (you can also read up on the user manual supplied with the watch as this info is usually stated inside it).
But why do we need to service our automatic watches? It’s just a watch right?
The reason is automatic watch is not like normal quartz watch. It has hundreds of small parts that are constantly moving. Like changing the engine oil for your motor vehicle, the same need to be done for the lubricants in the watch movement (lubricants are used to reduce the friction inside the various moving parts). In addition, some parts do experience wear and tear even along the years and might need to be changed.
All of this can only be done by servicing the watch, whereby a watchmaker will open up the watch, take it apart, clean it, change the parts, re-oil it and then put it all back together. In addition, the watchmaker will regulate the watch so that it will achieve a good accuracy.
And yes, all of this will involve some cost, often times about 10 to 30% of the watch price. And this is one of the things that most people often overlook with their automatic watch purchase and (gasp!) collections!
Often times I see my friends buying their higher-end “grail” watches after saving for months, without knowing that watch will need outrageous amount of money to be maintained every 3-5 years. To make matters worse, some of them even buy new watches to add up to their collection – while still oblivious that these watches will need to be maintained in the future!
Although its not wrong to chase after your dream watch, I’m a proponent of sustainability in owning a watch. I personally calculate in advance the total cost of ownership of the watch, i.e initial buy cost plus maintenance costs in the future, before deciding on purchasing one. That way, I will always be able to service my watch in time and increase its lifespan.
Another thing to think about is the cost of service will increase depending on your location vs the brand’s service center. For example, if the country you’re living in does not have the service center for that particular brand, you might have to post it to another country and this will increase the maintenance cost.
Is Automatic Watch Water Resistant?
Almost all of the automatic watches that I’ve seen nowadays have water resistance to some degree. You can easily check on this by looking on its dial or caseback for water resistance indication such as “30 m water resistance” or “3 ATM” which means the watch can be dropped into 30 m water depth, in theory.
In real life, I don’t dare to use any of these watches to go into water unless it has a high water resistance rating (200 m or more) and is designed to be used for dive watch and tested based on ISO 6425. The reason is not all of these water resistance rating is tested and some small issue during manufacturing can render its water resistance rating not valid.
That’s why I’ve always used a dedicated dive watch for outdoor and swimming because its been designed for that. It will be tested for it with better material used. In addition, I always like the screw-down crown used in dive watches as it gives a higher degree of protection from water ingress into the watch.
A good practice to ensure your watch is well protected from water ingress is in keeping it always dry. That means don’t put it near to water source and always wipe it off if some accidental water splashes on it. In addition, always keep the crown pushed down tight to avoid water seeping through the small clearances around the crown stem. Lastly, don’t operate the chronograph function when you’re inside or near water. With all of these best practices, you will be able to keep your watch away from water problems.
Can You Wear It For Sports?
Can we wear automatic watch for sports? Yes we can. I, myself, have worn my automatic watches to gym, swimming, jogging and other outdoor sports/activities – but I only wear my dive watches for these.
The reason is automatic watch is a more delicate device that your normal quartz watch and its more prone to breaking. While the exterior case will be fine, some damage might be picked up by the internal movement during all the fast swinging of the watch following your hand.
And that’s why a dive watch is a good choice for sports because its designed for swimming and diving. Inside most dive watches, there are usually some shock resistant bearings/jewels that will act as shock absorbers to soak all the impacts.
But with that being said, its usually better to leave your automatic watch when it comes to sports and pick up a fitness tracker instead. Firstly, even on the best dive watches, there will be some impacts on it, so much so the watch do have a possibility to be damaged internally. And even if its not damaged, there could be some effect on its accuracy (read about my experience with my Seiko Sumo dive watch on this issue here).
Another thing that I want to add is an automatic watch is heavier that normal watch and might go in the way of your sporting activities. For instance, while you can golf while wearing an automatic watch, it will feel a bit weird and can disrupt your swing due to the added weight. In addition, it usually has a high profile/thickness and this can dig into your hands when doing activities.
So although you can wear an automatic watch for sports, I’d advised to wear a dedicated fitness tracker instead to protect the watch and also improve your sports performance (as well as giving the peace of mind that you won’t break your expensive watch during the activity LOL!).
The Very Important Power Reserve
One very important thing that you need to know about automatic watch is power reserve that will define how you can use your watch.
What is automatic watch power reserve? Power reserve is the remaining power or energy that an automatic watch has before it will stop completely, and this depends on its mainspring design. To be precise, a quartz watch also has power reserve but it will depend on its battery capacity.
The main thing that we need to understand is that usually a quartz watch will have much higher power reserve that an automatic watch. A 1-3 years of power reserve per battery is normal for quartz watch while an automatic watch will have a much lower power reserve – at just 38 to 80 hours!
This is because of the mainspring inside an automatic watch is only finite in length, due to the limited space that it has in it. A 38-40 hours power reserve can be expected from most of the entry level automatic watches nowadays. Some watches also has higher power reserve such as Seiko 6R15 movement (50 hours) and ETA/Tissot Powermatic movement (a good 80 hours).
So why is power reserve so important? It’s because that’s the duration that the watch will continue running after you’ve put it down. Do remember that automatic watch’s self-winding mechanism will directly increase its power just by using it on your wrist, so you’re basically topping its power reserve up when wearing it. So once you’ve put the watch down, its power reserve will deplete.
So basically, if you put your watch with 40 hours power reserve down at 9 pm on Friday, then it should last until 1 pm on Sunday. And that’s one issue with automatic watch – most of them will not be able to last an entire weekend on the drawer until the next Monday/work week. (well, its not an issue to me because I usually just pick up another watch in the coming week Lol! Read more about how I use my watches for efficiency here)
A common issue or actually misunderstanding that most people have with their automatic watches is it seems to lack power reserve that what was published. With the same example as above, you noticed that the watch drops dead even before the morning of Sunday, which is less that 40 hours stated. What gives?
The reason for this lack of power reserve lies in how many percentages of power reserve were available when you take off your watch. The 40 hours (or whatever number of power reserve) will be there if your watch has 100% power reserve when you put it down. The problem is most automatic watches don’t usually have that 100% power reserve because the self-winding mechanism needs many rotations for it to work.
In addition, sedentary lifestyle such as working on a desk without much wrist movement means the watch is not winding as much. So if your power reserve is less that 100% when you take it off, the watch will stop working faster that the published power reserve capacity.
If you’re worried that your watch might stop working or you just want it to be always running, you can consider getting a watch winder. Watch winder is a simple motor device that rotates the watch, mimicking wrist movement so that its self-winding mechanism will kicks in. Or another way is to just manual wind the watch. Read my article here to know more about the difference between these 2 techniques.
Automatic Watch Will Be Heavier From Normal Watch
Being made almost entirely out of steel is good for its durability, but there’s one small problem: automatic watch is heavier that normal quartz watch.
It’s a given. When you have hundreds of metal parts packed into the watch, its bound to have some weight, that is heavier that the simplistic quartz movement which consists of only few equipment.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I, for one, loves the fact that my automatic watch has quite a bit of heft. It just makes wearing it feels different and cooler. And this perception is also shared by some of the watch fans that I know.
A downside with this is the watch can be bothersome to wear with when you’re working as the extra weight will disrupt your hand movement. Often times, I found myself taking out my bulkier dive watches when I need to work or use my laptop as it will be a hindrance when I type. But luckily I don’t have this issue with my smaller (38 mm to 40 mm diameter) automatic watches. But again, that’s just me and this will vary depending on your body and preference.
There’s also titanium watches out there that will be much lighter that a typical stainless steel automatic watch. So if lightweight is your preference, then you can get one of these (for a bit of premium of course).
Thus, my advice is to test out the watches and feel for yourselves if its something that you can wear or not. Do remember that watch diameter will heavily influence its weight, so if you want a light watch, then most often that not, a small diameter is what you need. And as I’ve touched above, watches with a titanium case can also be a good choice for lightweight watch.
Automatic Watch Price: Why Is It So Expensive?
Automatic watch usually can be had for upwards of $150 (for Japanese and non-Western brands) and upwards of $500 for Swiss/Europe/US brands – with very high upper limits, going into hundred of thousands of dollars and some even millions!
So why is this very expensive price for a piece of watch?
Firstly, we need to understand that the automatic watch movement consists of over one hundred of minuscule parts, hence the manufacturing cost of these parts will be much more that what a normal quartz watch has. In addition, the movement will usually need some human intervention in its assembly, thus increasing labor costs associated with its production.
Since that is the case, automatic watchmakers know that they have to give more value to their watch to separate it from the run-of-the-mill quartz watches. Hence, the use of better materials (stainless steel, titanium, even gold) and delicate finishing on it. This will proposition their watch to a higher price bracket to rack in more profit per watch.
And that’s why automatic watches are usually marketed towards the well-to-do people as an exclusive device, something of a higher value that normal quartz watch. After all, nor everyone can pay hundreds of dollars for a watch right?
Where To Buy Automatic Watch?
The easiest way to buy an automatic watch is by walking into a watch store. You can see, feel and try the watches for yourselves and assess if this is the watch that you prefer. Often times I’ve fallen in love with some watches that I saw on internet, only to realize that its not really something that I prefer once I’ve seen it in person. So do have a look at it in store and see the watch for yourselves.
So yeah, a brick and mortar store is still the easiest way to buy a watch as you can try it out first. These stores are usually the authorized dealers (AD) for that particular watch brand which means you will be buying something that is 100% real with full manufacturer warranty.
But if you want to save some money, especially for buying an automatic watch less that $1,000 mark, buying online is the cheapest way to buy it.
You can easily get 20% to 30% discount off your automatic watch prices if you buy it online. Online stores (either through their own website of through Amazon, EBay, Jomashop, LongIslandWatches etc.) can give cheaper prices because they don’t have to pay for the rental of the physical stores.
But its not the easiest since you do have to compare and choose a good vendor before you purchase it. This is the most important step because there are counterfeits out there but a good & reputable online store will be selling gray market watches – 100% original but since its not sold by an AD, it won’t be getting the manufacturer’s warranty.
That is another important point to understand. With a gray market watch, you will only have the vendor’s warranty (e.g Amazon, etc.) and not the manufacturer’s warranty. So if something goes wrong, you will need to send the watch back to the vendor and that will incur some costs for you and it will be a bit more complicated compared to the official manufacturer warranty.
But from my own experience, I never have any issue with my online purchases and never need to claim any warranty whatsoever. The key here is to select a good and reputable vendor with lots of positive reviews/comments from buyers. With this, you can reduce the likelihood that you’re getting a lemon unit and save time and money from the hassle of claiming warranty.
What I usually did is to scout the watch that I like on physical stores – see it, try it on and check out its prices. Then I do a comparison with online stores and see which one has the best offer. Do note that with online store, you have to add in postal price as well as any insurance or excise duty as an automatic watch purchase is expensive and you might need to pay for it (depending on your country).
Some Common Automatic Watch Brands
Below are some of the common automatic watch brands currently in the market, in order of increasing luxury, price and affordability. Do note that this is just a general guideline and not to be taken as a definite rule. By the way, some brands do produce wide range of watches encompassing many pricing levels (such as Seiko).
Entry Level: Seiko, Citizen, Orient, Invicta, Stuhrling, Fossil, Tissot, Hamilton
Mid Level: Oris, Longines, Sinn, Rado, Laco, Christopher Ward, Raymond Weil
Entry Level Luxury: Tag Heuer, Tudor, Nomos, Bell&Ross;, Grand Seiko
High-End/Ultra Luxury: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Sohne
Taking Care Of Your Automatic Watch So That It Will Last Long
With such a delicate (not to mention expensive) item, you do need to take good care of your automatic watch. Below are some of the top tips on how you should take care of it so that it will last long:
Avoid sudden shock/impact: As the movement consists of lots of small parts, a sudden impact might screw up these parts, causing damage to the movement.
Keep it clean: You need to keep it always clean from dirt or water to ensure it can last long.
Away from magnets and electronics: The various metal parts inside it might get magnetized when being in close proximity with magnets or electronic items. Getting magnetized is bad as it will cause inaccuracy to the watch.
Get it serviced when its time: Without a proper service from time to time, the watch will not run as good as its first day. The same rules with automobiles or any mechanical devices applies to automatic watches.
Store it in a proper place: It’s highly recommended to get a proper watch storage box if you intend to store your watch for long period of time.
If you want to learn more about how to take care of your automatic watches, read my previous post here.
And the answer is it depends and varies from person to person.
For me, I personally enjoy having automatic watches because of its unique character. It’s run entirely by mechanical energy without any usage of electric/electronic parts like everything else around us nowadays. For me, that’s very refreshing and I always enjoy my mechanical-based automatic watch compared to my quartz based watch. I also love the fact that it contains a cool piece of engineering and workmanship, all on my wrist.
True enough, its also more expensive but you’re getting a finer watch in that package. My automatic watches all have more refinement and greater finishing that an ordinary watch costing less that $100. So yes, for that premium price, you’re getting a better overall watch in terms of material, fit and finish.
But just be warned, its still an expensive purchase so I always advice those new with automatic watch to buy an affordable one first and see if you like it or not. Automatic watch does has its own flaws and you need to know whether you can live with it. By buying a cheaper automatic watch first, you won’t lose out too much money if you decided that its not suitable to you.
For some of the cheaper automatic watches out there, check out my list of the affordable watches under $200, under $500 and under $1,000 that you can grab today.
I hope with this information, you will be know more about automatic watch, how it works, its advantage and, most importantly, its disadvantage. Without a doubt, an automatic watch is an expensive purchase and that’s the reason why you should know everything about it before you make the decision to buy one.
If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact me by commenting below. Till next time.
One of the things that often confuse me in the past is chronograph watch. It has a cool utilitarian look but what exactly does it do? I’ve decided to find out about more about chronograph watch and here is what I found.
So what is a chronograph watch? Chronograph watch is a watch with stopwatch functionality (able to track/record time) added to it. So in essence, a chronograph is a two-in-one device whereby you’re getting a normal watch AND a stopwatch in a single device.
In this article, I’m going to share with you all I know about chronograph watch: how to read it, how do you use it, its history, the different types of chronograph watches, and lastly, how to choose a suitable chronograph watch for you. So if you’re interested, keep on reading!
Chronograph watch can be quite confusing (especially the analog type), but trust me, once you’ve got the hang of it, it will be easy to read. Let’s get into the analog type first as it’s the harder one to read.
First of all, there are many subdials (or the small circles on the dial) that will be used to tell time. I’m sure you’re well aware about the normal 3-hands analog watch (1 hand or needle each to show the hour, minute and second). The subdials are placed on the dial to show/record the time for the chronograph.
There will be a dedicated subdial to show the seconds (placed at the below part of the watch pictured here), a subdial for minutes (left side) and a subdial for hours (right side). If you look closely, you will notice that the seconds and minutes subdials have 60 parts while the hour subdial only has 24 parts (denoted by its markers).
This shows that this particular chronograph can only track time up to 24 hours since that’s the maximum hours that it can display on its chronograph subdial. This is important to know about because some chronographs can only show lower amount of hours while others can go on for longer.
This brings me to another point: there are many chronograph designs out there. For example, the subdials can be positioned elsewhere, there might not be a seconds subdial and instead it will use the main seconds hand for chronograph, there might not even be a subdial for hours, etc.
It’s good to know that many chronograph design exist and you just have to figure it out by yourselves by remembering the basic anatomy of it.
For a digital chronograph, things are much simpler as the tracked time is displayed right there on the screen. There’s not much guess work needed here.
How To Use Chronograph Watch?
Using a chronograph watch is easy and is similar whether you’re using an analog or digital types. There are 2 different buttons (or pushers, as it’s called in horology) that are normally positioned on the right side of the watch, at 2 and 4 o’clock positions.
Normally, the top pusher is used to control the chronograph. A single push will start the chronograph and you can see the seconds hand starting to move to record time. Pushing this pusher again will pause it, and you can resume the time by pushing it again.
The bottom pusher is used to reset the chronograph. So say you’ve started the time and pause it, you can reset it all back to zero by pushing the bottom pusher.
Now, this is the basic and most common way on how to use a chronograph watch. Certain higher end chronographs will have more functions (more on that later on), and hence it will be more complicated to use it. If in doubt, I highly recommend reading the user manual for your particular chronograph watch so that you will fully understand how to operate it and get the best out of it.
What Are The Uses Or Functions Of Chronograph Watch?
Basically, you can use a chronograph watch as a timer to record the time of anything, such as a racing event, examination time, for cooking (the time for something to finished cooking based on the recipe), swimming – basically anything that requires some timing can be done using a chronograph.
Without a doubt, you can always do these timing mentally by using a normal watch (subtracting the current time with the time you started the activity/event). But of course, it’s not an easy task, especially as you’ve grown older. In addition, some events can last only few seconds making it harder to track using normal watch.
That’s where a chronograph comes in. As a stopwatch, it’s really easy to use and will make tracking the duration of any event much easier, not to mention more accurate. In fact, one of its first wide use is to help officials time horse racing events.
Bezel Scales Used On Chronographs
Chronographs have been widely popular among flight pilots due to its ability to help in speeding up calculations for speed and precise timing, and this is thanks to the bezel scales.
In addition to being able to track time, chronographs were also equipped with bezel scales that can be used to help aviators or anyone easily.
So what are the bezel scales used on chronographs? There are about 4 different types of bezel scales mainly used in chronographs nowadays: tachymeter, telemeter, pulsometer and slide bezel rule.
The first is tachymeter, the more popular of the bezel scales (I’m pretty sure you can spot this word on the bezel of many chronographs). Tachymeter scale is used with the stopwatch to do rapid calculations on the speed of an object, provided the event lasts more than 7.2 seconds.
To use the tachymeter, you will need to know the distance of what the object will travel. Start the chronograph once it’s at the starting point and stop it after 1 mile or 1 km (the scale is unit less). The seconds hand will show the elapsed time the object traveled/flew in the 1 mile or km, as well as pointing to a number on the tachymeter scale. This number is the speed of the object in miles per hour or km per hour (depending on the length chosen to do the measurement).
Although tachymeter bezel scale is not really that easy to use (you still need a rough estimate of the travel length of the object), it’s a great little device that can be used easily with ample training. It’s also a real fun device to be used when visiting the race track as you can easily use it to know how fast your favorite racer is going.
The second bezel scale is telemeter and is the less frequently used scale of the two. If the tachymeter helps to find speed, the telemeter helps to find distance between the position of the person holding the watch and somewhere the event takes place.
The scale uses the concept of the speed of sound, whereby you start the chronograph when an event started (artillery fire, lightning bolt, explosion etc.) and stop it once you’ve heard it. The chronograph seconds hand will show the elapsed time and also the duration on the telemeter scale (either in km or mile).
Although its a great scale, it’s use is not fairly useful for most of us. I’d say only those working with artillery and the likes (e.g military men) will find it useful.
The next scale is pulsometer, that can be used to check the number of pulses per minute and is very useful for doctors. So instead of having to do their own calculations mentally on how many pulses/heart beats per minute, the pulsometer scale helps them to do it easily.
The doctor will need to start the chronograph and count the number of pulses to 15 or 30 (depending on the scale) and stop it once the count is done. The number shown on the pulsometer is the pulses per minute.
There’s also another type of bezel scale called the slide bezel rule that is very nifty in making fast calculations. Although you don’t need a chronograph to be able to use the slide rule bezel, it’s usually placed on top of a chronograph alongside the tachymeter scale. (If you want to know more about the slide rule bezel, read my previous post about it).
Another advantage of having these scales on the chronograph is the extra coolness radiating from the very busy dial. Without a doubt, that’s one of the major attraction of the chronograph – it just looks so cool. Yes, it’s very nifty to have around but I bet most of us that like it were attracted due to the very cool, stylish and busy dial in the first place LOL!
History Of Chronograph Watch. Who Invented It First?
It’s hard to talk about chronograph without looking into its history. One cool fact is the term “chronograph” is a combination of the Greek words “chronos” meaning time and “graph” meaning writing. So chronograph literally means writing time in English.
The chronograph or stopwatch with the form as we know it now was first invented by the French horologist, Louis Moinet in 1816. Louis Moinet was a genius in watchmaking and he created the chronograph (named as “Compteur de Tierces”) to assist with astronomical equipment.
The first marketable chronograph was invented by Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec in 1821. Nicolas was the Watchmaker to the King of French and invented his chronograph so that the King can timed his horse racing. He was also a businessman and saw the opportunity to market his device to the racing community, and thus spread the use of chronographs.
An interesting story is Nicolas’ chronograph was hailed as the first chronograph invented for decades until Louis Moinet’s chronograph was discovered in 2013!
What’s exciting is how Louis’ creation was so ahead of time. First of all, it looks much more like a modern stopwatch (you can just compare the two pictures and tell me which one looks like a stopwatch). It is able to measure up to 60th of a second, thanks to its technologically impressive 216,000 vibrations per hour. This was a big deal as the usual vibrations per hour is around 28,800 times, even to this day!
Louis also incorporated a start, stop and reset function – something that the horology industry only invented in the 1930s. Truthfully, the Compteur de Tierces was groundbreaking and had it been discovered earlier (or had Louis applied for a patent on this), the watchmaking industry will be moving at a greater pace than what it was.
An automatic chronograph (self-winding instead of manual winding) was only conceived in the 1969 by 3 parties: a Heuer-Breitling-Buren/Hamilton partnership with their Chronomatic movement, Zenith with their El Primero and Seiko with Ref. 6139.
The Different Types Of Chronograph Watch
What are the different types of chronograph? There are about 5 types of chronograph currently most known, which are normal chronograph, flyback, rattrapante/split-second, foudroyante and regatta. Each of these have their own functionalities and advantages which I’ll explain below.
1) Normal chronograph:
The normal chronograph is the typical stopwatch with normal functionality. It has the most basic functions which are start, stop and reset functions.
2) Flyback chronograph:
Flyback chronograph (also known as retour-en-vol in french) saves time to restart a timing just by pushing the reset button. So instead of having to push 3 times/buttons to stop, reset and start the timing, a flyback chronograph can simplify these actions into one push of a button to reset the time to zero and immediately start the timing.
This functionality is very useful for those that need quick successions of timing with just a single push of a button.
3) Split second chronograph:
A split-second chronograph (also called as rattrapante in french) has 2 seconds hand/needle that can be used to easily track the time of racing laps. The chronograph will start as usual but as you finished a lap, you can push a dedicated split-second pusher to stop one seconds hand whilst the other hand will continue the timing. You can then use this opportunity to record the time on paper. Once done, pushing the same pusher will bring the stopped hand to align with the continuous hand.
4) Foudroyante chronograph:
Foudroyante chronograph is basically a chronograph with the ability to show time measurements up to fraction of a second. There is usually a dedicated subdial for this, with the markings in various fractions of seconds (6, 8 or 10). While this is very easy to do with a quartz-based chronograph to show the 1/10 second fractions, it can be hard to achieve in automatic movement chronograph as the balance wheel usually only has 6 or 8 beats per second, and hence the 6/8 fractions display.
5) Regatta chronograph:
The last, and arguably the rarest and most complex chronograph is the regatta chronograph, which is invented specifically for yachting race events. In the simplest term, regatta chronograph is basically a timer, in which you can input the specified time and then upon activating it, the watch will count down to zero. This is very important for yachting as the signal to start is usually in the successions of 10/5/1 minutes. Hence, a timer is necessary so that all competitors can prepare for the start.
How Does A Chronograph Work? The Different Movements Used In The Chronograph
There are 2 main movements used for chronographs: automatic and quartz based movements. As you might have known, the quartz based movement is also electronically based, hence there is no real technical challenges in making a chronograph as it can be programmed into it. There will be additional motors and bigger battery required for it to work, but these are not really difficult (I mean if mankind can create a watch to take phone calls, its not a big problem to create a watch that can be a stopwatch right?)
The real technical challenge is in automatic or mechanical movement chronographs. As the movement is mechanical based without any electric/electronic parts, the timekeeping mechanism for a chronograph is much more complex than a normal automatic watch (hence why chronograph is also one of the “complications” in horology).
There are 2 separate systems with an automatic chronograph: the main timekeeping system and the chronograph system. The main timekeeping system will run all the time while the chronograph is only engaged when it’s needed.
To enable the chronograph to start, the connection between the two system/gear trains needed to be done via a coupling. Like any motorized vehicle, this coupling is achieved by a clutch and there are 2 main clutch systems used nowadays which are the horizontal clutch and vertical clutch. Pressing the start button will engage the clutch, couples the chronograph gears to the main gears and starts the stopwatch.
In terms of construction, chronograph movements can be divided into 2 main groups: integrated and modular. The difference between the 2 is the basic design. The integrated design is the best in terms of footprint and volume as the whole watch movement (main timekeeping and chronograph) are designed as one unit.
The other modular design, in comparison, is like Lego in which the chronograph module is added on top of the base timekeeping module. Although it’s not as efficient as the integrated design, modular designs has the ability to make the watchmaking less expensive as different modules or complications can be created and used in conjunction with the base module (which can also be used as a normal vanilla automatic watch in itself!).
What Is The Difference Between Chronograph And Chronometer?
Very often, people would confuse between chronograph and chronometer – I know about this all too well because I was also one of them.
So what is the difference between chronograph and chronometer? Basically, a chronograph is a function (watch with stopwatch) and a chronometer is refers to a watch that is very accurate and precise.
And yes, a watch can also be a chronograph AND a chronometer.
Confused? Let me explain.
A chronograph is a watch that has a stopwatch function, just like what was explained in the early part of this article. The easiest way to spot a chronograph is by looking at the watch: if it has additional subdials showing second, minutes and hours, it’s most likely a chronograph. In addition, having additional pushers/buttons at the side of the watch is a tell-tale sign of a chronograph watch.
A chronometer, however, is a term affixed to a watch that has outstanding accuracy and precision. A watch can only be called a chronometer once it has been tested by the COSC institute and clears all the requirement for a very accurate watch (you can read about this requirement in my previous post here).
A watch can be a chronograph AND a chronometer if it has the stopwatch function and also has outstanding accuracy, cleared by the COSC institute. I’d have to say this is as good as a chronograph can be with the precision of a chronometer.
How To Choose The Suitable Chronograph Watch For You
Choosing a suitable chronograph can be quite challenging, notwithstanding the many choices around us nowadays. For me, I recommend these 4 criteria (price, movement type, maintenance and style) that you need to assess for yourselves to choose the best chronograph your you.
The first factor is price, which is also the main factor whenever you’re choosing a watch. The price of chronographs can vary greatly depending on its movement (automatic is much more expensive than quartz), and material and finishing of the watch (a rose gold chronograph is without a doubt more expensive than a stainless steel one).
But, the biggest factor in watch pricing is the brand. For example, a chronograph from Swiss top brands e.g Patek Philippe is more expensive than normal brands e.g Tissot, Seiko. The reason is simple: a top Swiss brand will utilize the best movement, material, finishing as well as being exclusive – hence the reason why it’s price can shoot up to the roof.
In comparison, normal brands uses cheaper materials and movement, as well as being mass-produced so that their products is more affordable to the normal people.
To this, I’d suggest getting a rough estimate on what is your budget will be for your chronograph. With this budget, you can then focus on certain brands that has watches inside your budget range, thus making it easier for you to make a decision. I’d also want to highlight that you should also have a budget on the maintenance needed to keep your watch in good condition (more on that later).
2) Movement Type
You can choose between automatic or quartz chronographs. Although automatic chronograph is a great device with the highest form of watchmaking, it’s also much more expensive and will be bulky. Not to mention its maintenance will cost a bomb due to the many parts inside it.
In comparison, a quartz chronograph can be very slim thanks to the use of electronics and motors inside it. It’s also much more accurate than an automatic chronograph, at a much lower price point. For an average person, I’d have to say a quartz chronograph is your best bet, because of its technical advantage and the high price tag of what the same automatic chronograph can be.
True enough, you can get a vintage automatic chronograph for an affordable price but how long can you keep maintaining it (which will also cost more money down the road).
Another reason why I prefer quartz chronograph is because you can get a solar powered version, and hence make your life more convenient with the solar recharging feature. With it, you can use your chronographs all day long without having to worry about the battery depleting sooner – a solar chronograph is basically the best watch combo there is!
You should also think of any extra functionality that you would require such as flyback, split-second, foudroyante or regatta. If you’re into motor racing, then the flyback or split-second would be a good choice to accompany you to the track. The regatta is also useful not only to those into yachting but also because of its timer function.
Again, these functions will be very expensive with an automatic chronograph but will only cost a fraction on a quartz chronograph.
Maintenance is also another factor that you need to consider when buying a chronograph. Bear in mind that a chronograph is more complicated than a normal watch and there is a higher probability that something will go wrong with a chronograph than a normal watch. In addition, the chronograph will also need to be periodically maintained or serviced later on (more applicable to analog chronographs).
While we cannot control whether a watch will develop some issues down the road, the only thing that we can do is to assess how much it will cost and the efforts associated to maintain or repair the watch. To this, the automatic chronograph will cost much more to service as it has more components inside it. Not to mention you might need to send the watch to a regional service center, or worse, to its headquarters if your watch is exclusive.
Quartz chronographs also need to be maintained but this usually only involves the periodic battery change. Something could also go wrong with a quartz chronograph but the cost of repair is usually not that significant and it might even cheaper to just buy a new one rather than getting it repaired.
The last factor in deciding the chronograph for you is the style. There are various styles that you can choose for your chronograph ranging from dressy, sporty, dive and casual. For me, I’d prefer a more sporty chronographs because you can then wear it to outdoor or racing events. Dressy watches looks great and all, but it’s usage is limited and will look out-of-place if used for outdoor activities.
I hope this article about chronographs is beneficial to you. If you have any questions or anything to add, do let me know by commenting below.
I still remember when I got my watch as a kid, I’m not entirely sure how to wear it. I know how to strap it on my wrist but then which wrist should I wear it on? It was only after few years (and some more watches) that I can say how best to wear a watch is.
So what wrist should you wear a watch on? Generally, most people will wear their watch on the left wrist because that’s their non-dominant hand (i.e most people are right-handed). If you’re left-handed, then you can wear your watch on your right hand (your non-dominant hand).
There are a lot of benefits in wearing your watch on your non-dominant hand as it’s basically the best way to achieve greater comfort-ability and operability in your daily lives. The watch industry knows this and this is the reason why watches are traditionally designed to be worn on the left. Of course, there’s nothing wrong if anyone wants to wear their watches on the right.
4 Benefits Of Wearing A Watch On Left (or Non-Dominant) Hand
The reason why most watches are worn on the left hand is because mankind’s most common dominant hand is right hand, so the watch is traditionally worn on the non-dominant hand (i.e left wrist).
But what are the benefits of wearing a watch on your left hand? There are 4 major benefits to wear a watch on your left wrist or non-dominant hand:
1) Easy to tell time without disrupting work.
It’s a fact that we will use our dominant hand the most for complex and stuffs that require precision such as writing, painting, woodwork etc. Our dominant hand is the one that we have most control about and is usually the one we used the most.
Because of this, wearing watch on the non-dominant hand is most beneficial as you can easily tell time without stopping what you’re doing with your right/dominant hand. But if you wear your watch on your dominant hand, you will need to stop whatever you’re doing just to tell time – which is not really effective.
Thus, wearing your watch on your non-dominant hand is the best for those wanting efficiency in their lives. All that’s needed then is a flick on your left wrist and you can still tell time without stopping your work
2) Less weight on dominant hand
Wearing a watch will put on some weight on our hand and this is one of the reason why most people chose to wear it on their non-dominant hand. Your right hand is already occupied with tons of things to do and the last thing that you want is another few hundred grams of weight on it. Although a watch does not weight much but it will definitely affect your wrist movement.
One thing that I wants to highlight is the weight of a watch heavily dependent on what material is used to make it. For example, a watch made from stainless steel can add a substantial weight to your wrist (automatic watches, for instance, is almost always heavier than other types of watches due to this).
This is not the case with plastic based watches (such as most quartz-sports watches, fitness trackers, smartwatches) where it can be very light thanks to lightweight materials used such as plastic, silicon, rubber etc.
3) Easier to do work with dominant hand
For me, I personally feel more liberated if my dominant hand is free of anything i.e watches, bracelet, etc. I’m a right-handed guy and use my right hand by default for almost everything in my life. Because of this, I don’t feel comfortable having anything strapped on my right hand as it will obstruct its movement.
This is particularly the case with doing things such as writing, taking notes, using computer mouse, drawing and other things that require my right hand to be placed near a surface/table. Wearing a watch on my right hand will obstruct its movement so much so my productivity will be reduced. In this case, it’s much better to wear my watch on my left hand instead.
4) Avoid damaging on the watch
In addition to the functionality of wearing a watch on the non-dominant hand, this practice can also help to avoid damage on the watch. For example, the dominant hand will usually be used for doing heavy stuffs such as lifting things, chopping wood, repairing machines etc.
Such activities pose more danger of damaging the watch should it is worn on the dominant hand.
Now, I’m not saying that your watch won’t get damaged if you wear it on your non-dominant hand (I’ve personally scratched my watches even though I’m wearing it on my left wrist LOL!) but at least, you will be able to avoid or reduce the risk of it being damaged by doing so.
Another thing to remember is that sometimes a damage to the watch is not just it being crushed to the point it cannot be used. You can always pick up some damages like scratches on the watch surface and crystal mostly from brushing the watch with hard things like steel, concrete or a rock.
While these type of exterior damages are not that severe, it is going to make your watch looks not as beautiful as it originally is, not to mention the heartache associated – for example, I’m always in agony when I look at my $500 Seiko Sumo covered in scratches because I didn’t take good care of it!
Most Watches Are Designed To Be Worn On The Left Wrist
As most people wear their watches on their left hands, this fact was picked up by the watch industry and the design of watches were corresponding to this. For instance, we can find that almost all watches have crowns located on their right side of the watch. Without a doubt, this was designed so that right-handed people (which consists of the majority of people) can operate the crown easily to change its time/day/date.
In addition to this, the pushers are also traditionally put on the right side. As these pushers are used to operate the chronographs or set the watch, it’s important to place it where it will be easily accessible i.e the right side of the watch (at least for most of us right-handed guys!).
We can see even current smartwatch designs seem to follow this concept as most of their interact able physical buttons are on the right side of the watch. Granted, you can use the touchscreen on the smartwatch to operate it but it will not have the same operability as the physical buttons.
While many of these smartwatches use buttons, Apple’s watch use of rotating crown is by far the most right-handed centric as it’s very hard for a left-handed guy to use it. Fortunately, you can set it to be a left-handed device (I just love when they seem to think about everything through). But still, in my opinion, the rotating bezel on the Samsung watch is by far, the easiest way for a left-handed guy to use the watch easily.
Can You Wear Your Watch On The Right Wrist? Definitely!
So can you wear your watch on your right wrist? It’s totally okay to wear your watch on your right wrist – it’s your watch after all and you can wear in whatever way you prefer. If the right wrist is better for you, then go on with it.
This is definitely the case with left-handed people as they will not prefer to wear their watches on their dominant hand. In this instance, it’s actually better for them to wear it on their right hand as it will make them easier to do things with their dominant left hands.
But as I’ve mentioned above, most watches are designed to be worn on the left wrist so there’s little choice for those wanting a right-handed watch AND is operatable easily. There are some watch companies that produce left-handed centric watches but it’s too far in between.
If you will only use your watch to tell time and don’t usually need to operate it (i.e a chronograph, etc.), then wearing a typical watch on your right wrist is going to be just fine. But if you wants to use your chronographs often, then it’s better to wear it on your left hand or get a left-handed centric watch should you wants to wear it on your right wrist.
Man vs Woman: Any Difference On Which Hand To Wear The Watch?
While there’s common saying that man and woman should wear their watches on different hands, I don’t find this true. In my observation, I can say that most people (man and woman) wear their watches on their left hands because of the reasons above (non-dominant hand, preference).
There are also some man and woman who wear their watches on their right hand, but these are mostly left-handed people so such a thing is better for them.
But in terms of this gender-specific rule of using a watch, it’s basically a misconception and you should not think too much about it. Just wear the watch on your non-dominant hand and you will be okay (see the 4 benefits of doing so) or you can just follow your preference. Either way, I believe that you should always wear your watch in a way that’s most comfortable and preferable to you.
Hope this article will help you to decide what wrist you should wear your watch on. Although wearing the watch on the non-dominant hand (the left wrist for most of us) is the best, you can always wear it on your dominant hand depending on your preference. After all, you paid for it and you should enjoy your watches as you like it.
Do share your thoughts in this matter by commenting below.
The first material that is very common in watchmaking is plastic. Well, it’s no surprises there as plastic is one of the most common material for almost everything in our lives spanning almost all industries.
The reason why plastic is ubiquitous is because it’s a synthetic material hence can be produced with at a cheap price. This is advantageous because it will not be wildly affected by the swings in natural resource prices such as wood, steel etc.
In addition, as it’s a man-made material from hydrocarbon, plastic can be formed and configured based on any specific needs simply by adding additives during its manufacturing process. Due to this, the quality of plastics can vary greatly from a weak and flimsy material to a great shock absorbing material.
The use of plastics in watchmaking is vast, though it will depend on the watch category itself. For a cheap low-end watch, plastic is used extensively from its casing, to its movement housing, to its internal components. The advantage of this is the watch will be lightweight and can be made in many colors.
Plastic is also used to make the watch crystal, specifically the acrylic crystal type. The advantage of this type of watch crystal is its lightweight and ability to resist shatter/impact unlike normal glass (mineral crystal).
For more expensive watches, plastic is not used as extensively as it’s usually associated with cheap products. Instead, the material of choice will be a metal with stainless steel the de-facto material, followed by more expensive ones such as titanium and gold (which I’ll touch shortly). This is important because plastic is not a long-lasting material and will lose its luster over the years.
2. Stainless Steel
The next material is stainless steel, which I’m pretty sure you must be aware of as it’s one of the popular material around our home. Thanks to its great corrosion resistance, it’s usually used for stuffs that will be normally exposed to water such as cutlery, cooking utensils, knives, door knobs, faucets and others.
For those that don’t know, stainless steel is not a naturally occurring material but is an alloy from combining iron (the element ferum) with carbon, chromium, nickel and other elements.
The result is a strong material but with the added ability to resist corrosion thanks to its chromium content. It’s also known as inox steel, from the French word inoxydable (inoxidizable).
If plastic is mainly used for cheaper watches, stainless steel is the most common material in middle to high range of watches. It’s used for watch case, bracelet, and internal parts in an automatic movement.
As it’s a steel, there is no question about its strength and durability to resist any knocking or impact throughout its lifetime.
Not to mention it will be able to last very long as it will not be corroded, as long as you keep it away from moisture and any acids. This characteristic makes it the best choice for a dive watch as sea water won’t be able to do anything to it.
In addition, its beautiful silver appearance also makes it a popular choice for watch materials to give it a great metallic aesthetic. But be warned, a watch made from steel is going to weigh quite a bit, though some guys do like this extra heft when wearing the watch as they interpret it as a sign of a well-constructed and tough watch (which it is, it’s steel after all!).
My personal advice in selecting a stainless steel watch is to try it out first and see if you’re okay with its weight or not. Its weight will depend on the watch design and dimension (a larger diameter and thicker watch will weigh more) so do try out different watch sizes to find out the best size for you.
Glass is one of the most used material in our daily lives that have been in used for centuries. It was made from melting sand, soda ash and limestone at high temperature, and then forming it into the shape that we intended. As it’s cooled down, the resulting solid becomes glass as we know it.
It’s very popular as household products, even though it’s more fragile and expensive than the synthetic plastic. The reason? It’s not full of chemical and hence, there is lower risk of chemicals seeping through the foods as opposed to plastic. In addition, it looks much better and is the number one choice for high class dining setup.
For watches, glass is mainly used as the watch crystal– or the transparent protective cover on top of the watch. In horology, these types of glasses are called mineral crystal. It’s not an ordinary glass for tableware though as it has been hardened specifically to ensure it can resist any impacts when its being used as a watch.
The next material used in watchmaking is titanium. It’s one of earth’s metallic elements and is prized due to its high strength to density ratio. Pound per pound, titanium is about 30% stronger than steel. In addition, it also has good corrosion resistant.
Due to this characteristic,titanium is a great material for instances where lightweight is important such as outer space industry and racing cars. In these industries, titanium is preferred over steel as it provided the required strength but with a lighter weight.
Don’t be surprised that titanium is also used for many sporting goods such as rackets, golf clubs, hockey, and bicycle components due to this great characteristics (at a higher price than normal steel parts, of course).
In watchmaking, titanium is mainly used to replace steel to capitalize on its lightweight property. By using titanium, a bulky dive watch will still look great and cool but at a more manageable weight. (such as the case with this Seiko Shogun). But as titanium is more expensive, the watch’s price will also be higher as a result.
Another advantage of titanium is it can be used by those with steel allergies (yes, there are some unfortunate people that have allergies to steel!). With titanium watch, these people will be able to wear a watch like others.
Sapphire is something that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about. It’s one of the gemstones and a rarity, but in watchmaking, sapphire is not exactly what you would think it is.
Sapphire is a hard material, having a score of 9 in mohr hardness scale (with diamond at 10) so it’s very scratch resistance.
Now, although sapphire is a gemstone, mankind have been able to synthesize it, although the process is slow and expensive (but at least we will have an abundant source of the material).
It is these synthetic sapphire that was used in watchmaking. Most of the sapphire is used to make watch crystal to capitalize on its scratch resistance properties. This ensures the watch crystal is scratch free even if it’s been used for years. In comparison, the other watch crystals (glass based mineral crystal and plastic based acrylic crystal) scratches fairly easily even in normal everyday use.
Another advantage of using sapphire for watch crystal is how it’s able to keep its appearance in the long run. It will not fade or become dull over the years, not unlike the other types of watch crystals. Because of this, sapphire is currently the default watch crystal material for Swiss watches, especially the more expensive ones that use automatic movement.
For Japanese watches, sapphire is only used for mid-high range of watches as the cheaper watches usually used the cheaper mineral crystal. In addition to watch crystal, sapphire is also used as jewels in automatic watches.
The next material used in watches is quartz. Quartz is something that is inscribed on many watches but do you know what it actually is?
Basically, quartz is silicon dioxide and the second most abundant mineral on earth. It’s naturally found among sands and rocks, so much so it’s name was derived from the German word “Quarz”, which means “hard”. Now what does sand have to do with watches?
Quartz, or rather a minuscule grain of it, is used in watches as an oscillator for timekeeping. This is due to its piezoelectric properties – it will vibrate when an electric current pass through it. The vibration from quartz is used to keep time i.e it will be a signal so that the watch will know what is 1 second.
This is the basic premise of the “quartz movement“. Right now, most of the watches on the planet uses this type of movement inside it, though only some of them will display the word “Quartz” on it. This is because quartz movement is the cheapest and very accurate type of movement. Generally, if a watch uses a battery, it will be using a quartz movement.
Next we have gold, the symbol of riches. Traditionally, gold have been used for expensive watches for centuries – a watch was always a form of jewelry to the upper class back then so its not surprising that gold is used right now in watches.
Gold, or aurum in Latin, is highly prized due to its rarity and shimmer beauty. Its beautiful “golden” shine can captivate people so much so it’s one of the sought after jewelry material.
Scientifically, gold is also special because it can exist in free elemental form as nuggets or grains. It’s also the most nonreactive metal in the world and will remain uncorroded for years.
In addition to being a jewelry item, gold is also used in electronic circuit boards due to its conductivity and high corrosion resistance.
Now, for a watch, gold is often used as the casing, replacing stainless steel. It’s also being used in the internal parts (automatic movement only) whereby a clear case back will be employed so that its golden interior can be seen. Yellow and white gold colors are also often used for watches too (the gold in this case is alloyed with another element such as copper or steel to get the colors).
Without a doubt, a gold watch is one of the pinnacle of exclusivity and sign of richness. For men who don’t really care about jewelry, a gold watch is the best way to display your wealth while loving real stylish at the same time. But one thing to be cautious about is that a gold watch can have a substantial weight as gold has almost double the density of steel. So while it’s really good-looking, its wear ability (at least for long term) might be in question.
The 8th material used for watches is leather, mostly used for the straps. Leather straps are the best type of strap for a watch if you’re looking for a sleek and elegant kind of look. Its very beautiful to look at and greatly complement your tux or jacket. In addition, the comfortable and soft surface of it makes wearing a leather strapped watch a real pleasure.
For those that don’t know, leather is the skin of an animal that was killed mainly for its meat. The skin was then tanned to create the final leather products (clothes, bags, shoes, etc.) as we know it. The practice of using animal skin for leather products was started in the stone ages by our ancestors as it’s one of the easiest ways to get a cloth.
Leather can be divided based on its source, with cow is the main one that you will see on the market. This is not surprising as it’s the cheapest option for a leather/hide. There are other sources such as goat, buffalo, sheep and pig.
There are also the more expensive leathers, so called exotic leathers from snake, alligator and crocodile. These leathers are sought after due to its unique pattern, as compared to the more bland surfaces of cowhide and other cheaper leather sources. Since these exotic leathers are also scarce, its prices are also more expensive.
Although exotic leathers look really great, there is a concern on the ethics of getting one as the snake/alligator/crocodile was killed just to get the leathers. In comparison, the common leather from cow/sheep was from the byproduct of the meat and dairy industry. In other words, getting an exotic leather mean we’re killing the animal just for its skin.
Luckily, there exist a way to get the nice exotic leather pattern on a normal cowhide using a technique called embossing. Embossed cow leather straps are stamped with a pattern almost like exotic leathers for that nice look. It’s a cheaper and not as ethically concerning way to get a great looking leather strap.
Although leather is a good strap material, it’s not a good choice for when you know you will get wet (the moisture will break down the leather faster). Because of this, this next material, elastomers, is a good choice for straps to be used outdoor.
Elastomers comprises all kind of polymer with viscous and elastic properties such as rubber, silicon and polyurethane. It’s very popular for sports watch bands and also for casings for watches designed to be used outdoor (think about Casio G-Shocks watches).
It is elastic and will provide great fit and comfortable wear on the wrist, though this will depend on the types of the elastomer used.
For instance, rubber is the most natural form of it and was processed from latex of topical plants such as rubber trees. It’s usually the most expensive and gives the best comfort. Silicone is the cheapest but also less durable. Polyurethane (or PU) is basically a step up from silicone with greater durability.
But although it’s a cheap and comfortable option for a watch strap, elastomers generally don’t last very long and will fail after some time. This is made worse if you’re using your watch for outdoor activities and the strap is exposed to all kind of environment.
Due to this, I will always treat an elastomer band as a consumable and can be replaced if it fails in the future. It’s quite cheap after all and you can even buy these in bulk off online stores too.
10. Carbon Fiber
Last but not least, carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is a lightweight man-made material but with a strength greater than steel and even titanium. In fact, pound for pound, it’s about 5 times stronger than steel!. It is made by interweaving minuscule strands of carbon graphite over another, creating a very strong material. You can think of its manufacturing process just like a cloth, but replace the cotton strands with carbon graphite.
Due to its high strength to weight ratio, carbon fiber is widely used wherever there is a need for lightweight, yet strong application. It has been used in industries such as aerospace, motor racing, sports and even musical equipment.
In watchmaking, carbon fiber is generally used for watch casing to replace stainless steel. This causes the watch to be very light and still looks distinct thanks to the carbon fiber pattern on it. The only downside is the hefty price for such a watch….
I hope this article will answer your questions about what materials are used in watches. If you think there are other materials that I’ve missed here, do let me know by commenting below.
Quartz watch is the most common watch type right now in the whole world. If you see someone wearing a watch, there’s a high chance that he/she might be wearing a quartz watch. But then again, should you get one for yourself?
So why should you buy a quartz watch? There are 10 good reasons why you should buy a quartz watch:
One of the main selling points of quartz watch a few decades ago when it was first invented washow accurate it is. Modern quartz watch has an accuracy of +/-10 seconds per month, which is much much more accurate than an automatic watch that can only attain +/-6 seconds per day at most.
The reason for this technical achievement lies with the electronic timekeeping consists of integrated circuit and an oscillating quartz crystal.
These components are not only accurate, but also can be manufactured with a good consistency so that each quartz watch will have almost exact accuracy like the other.
Without a doubt, not everyone do actually need such accuracy. I’ve been using automatic watches and its lower accuracy are not really that big of a deal to me as my watch will only lose or gain a few minutes every 1-2 weeks.
But if you’re someone that needs a perfect timekeeping for your work, then quartz watch is definitely the best option. And if +/-10 seconds per month are not good enough, there are plenty of other quartz watch options such as the Bulova Precisionist that delivers excellent accuracy. There’s also atomic clock synced watch that will reset the time to atomic clock every night – so that you can rest assured your watch is always correct (such as the Citizen Eco-Drive here).
I don’t think I need to say much about quartz watch’s affordability. Considering as you can get a Timex for $20 off Amazon (some other Chinese brands can be had for even $10), there’s no question about how affordable a quartz watch is.
In comparison, automatic watch usually starts around $100, though you can get one for less than that by sacrificing build quality and material. The affordability of quartz watch is the major factor why many people can wear a watch nowadays. In the past, only the well-to-do can wear a watch (of automatic movement).
So how does quartz watch become so affordable? It’s all thanks to cheap materials and mass production.
If you notice, most of the cheaper watches are all made from plastics, which are very cheap. And this relates back to the use of quartz movement: as it’s a lightweight movement, even plastics can be used as the case for the watch (in comparison an automatic watch needs a steel case to house its heavy movement). The huge amount of plastics used in the watch drives the cost down.
In addition, these watches are often mass-produced using robots with less human intervention. This greatly speed up production and lowers costs. Not to mention they usually produced it in China or some other third-world country where labor cost is much cheaper than in the US.
But of course, you get what you paid for. A $20 Timex would not be something that can last for a lifetime. But it’s definitely a good choice if you’re looking for a cheap, disposable watch that you will change with something else few years later.
3. Easy To Use
Another reason why you should get a quartz watch is how easy it is to use. Quartz watch is basically a very basic watch – just pop in a battery, set the time and you’re good to go.
This makes the watch a much easier one to be use compared to other types of watches that can be quite hard to be used. Automatic watch are not as easy as it involves some knowledge about the watch movement and there are some manual winding and power reserve that need to be considered. But with quartz watch, everything is so simple even kids can use it.
Of course, there are some quartz watches with extra functions that can be quite hard to be used (the G-Shock comes to mind) with its various display indicators, pushers and all.
But in general, the 3-hands analog type of quartz watch is fairly easy to be used and if you’re someone that just wants to know what time it is without all the technicalities, this is the perfect choice for you.
4. Low Maintenance Needs
The next reason why a quartz watch is a good buy is the low maintenance needs. Although some people say that quartz watch don’t need any maintenance, in truth it also needs some maintenance especially if you have a more expensive watch that you want to be able to last your lifetime.
But the service interval of a quartz watch is significantly lesser than an automatic watch. If an automatic watch requires a service every 3 to 5 years (depending on the manufacturer), a quartz watch will need one every 10 years or so.
The reason for this is that there are many moving parts in an automatic watch so much so it will degrade over time through the wear and tear of running the watch.
But for a quartz watch, the number of moving parts is small since it depends on electronic timekeeping and a motor to move the watch. This low number of moving parts also makes the watch easier to be serviced resulting in low service costs.
Another great characteristics of quartz watch is how lightweight it is. Since the quartz movement only requires minimal parts, it has a much lower weight and thinner profile compared to automatic movement.
What entails is the watch using quartz movement can be made lightweight, especially if the manufacturer opts to use plastics for the case. This causes the watch to be very comfortable to be used and is suitable for all age and gender.
The same cannot be said of automatic watch as it’s usually much heavier and not everyone can wear it. I’m actually bemoaning the trend of bigger sized watches nowadays as it causes automatic watches to be heavier than ever. My Seiko Sumo for instance, has a 44 mm diameter case and a substantial weight. Sure enough, the heft makes wearing it feels real good but I found that it can be fatiguing to be worn for long time.
If you’re in the market for a watch that’s light, comfortable on the wrist and has thin stylish design, your best bet is a quartz watch.
6. Can Be Equipped With Various Functions
Thanks to its electronic circuit, quartz watch is a good choice if you want a watch with more functions in addition to the normal time-keeping.
There’s so many functions that can be added onto a quartz watch such as:
Chronograph (or stopwatch)
LED back light
and many others
Some watch manufacturers even went as far as incorporating calculator, radio, TV even computer into their watches! All of these culminates into the advent of smartwatches that’s popular currently. Frankly, the combination is endless and there’s so many options that you can choose from.
7. Many Movement Innovations To Choose From
One of the great things that quartz watch invention had brought us is the many innovations that stem from it. From it, there are many types of watch movements that was invented by using ideas from quartz watch.
For instance, there are solar and automatic-quartz watches that seek to add a self-generating power unit into the watch, so that the battery don’t need to be changed frequently. With solar watch, there are photo voltaic cells on its dial that will convert light into electricity and stored inside the watch.
With automatic-quartz watch, there is a self-winding rotor mechanism connected to a small dynamo that generates electricity as the watch moves following wrist motions. These are exciting innovations that seeks to improve upon the basic quartz watch.
In addition, there’s also the smartwatch, the very popular type of watch currently thanks to the likes of Apple watch, Samsung Gear and others. Do you know that smartwatch was also born out of the innovations done on quartz watch?
Initially, watchmakers started adding many functions into the watch. These functions are related to time and wrist watch usage such as chronograph, alarm clock, back light, etc.
Thanks to the vast improvement in semi-conductor, there’s more powerful chips being released with the same footprint that was utilized by watchmakers to add more functions into the watch such as calculator, TV and computer.
And with the boom of smartphones, smartwatches (or wearable) were shoved into the spotlight. Although it was initially designed as an extension of smartphones, there are smartwatches that can now be used independently much like a phone. This kind of innovation is only made possible from the invention of quartz watch 50 years ago.
8. Used Inside Most Fashion Watches
Thanks to its affordability and lightweight characteristics, quartz watch is the main type of watch movements to be used by designer houses for their fashion watch line up.
Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Hugo Boss and others are some fashion brands that have ventured into watchmaking. I personally prefer true watchmakers (such as Seiko, Tissot, Hamilton, etc.) as I like to buy into their wealth of histories and quality but these fashion brands do produce some nice designs that looks really good. Well, they are fashion brands after all so no surprises there.
One of the common thing with these fashion watches is it’s most likely using a quartz watch because its cheaper and has small footprint. The fashion watch can then be made into various dimensions based on the designers. With these fashion watches, there’s much more options of quartz watches to choose from in the market.
9. More Durable Than Automatic Watch
The next reason why you should buy a quartz watch is that of its durability. To be precise, I’m talking about the ability of the watch to be used daily and subjected to some impact or shocks due to sports activity for instance.
In a direct comparison, a quartz watch is more durable than automatic watch due to the lower number of parts inside it. Because of this, there’s less chance that something will screw up when the watch is being impacted.
But for an automatic watch, there is a higher probability there will be something wrong with the movement if the impact is high. There’s a lot of small moving parts that’s quite sensitive to sudden shock – so that’s a quartz watch is more suitable for sports.
But one common thing with these 2 watches is the quality of the watch (which also corresponds to its price) will dictate how durable it is. Although a quartz watch is generally durable and robust, don’t expect the same with a cheap $10 watch. The cheap watch will always use lesser quality material and I don’t think it will last as long as a $50 watch.
The same is also true with automatic watch – there are diver watches that can be used to dive up to hundreds of feet below sea level and these are much more durable than a cheap $50 watch. You will get what you paid for.
But for dollar to dollar comparison, there no question that a quartz watch will be able to last longer than the same priced automatic watch. So if durability is at the top of your list, then you should seriously consider quartz watch.
10. The Best Grab And Go Type Of Watch
Although I’m an automatic watch kind of guy, I still feel that no automatic watch can never beat quartz watch in terms of being easy to use – so called the grab and go type of watch.
With my automatics, I always have to check whether it’s moving or not (sign of depleted power reserve) or if the time is correct or not by comparing it with my smartphone. Even though some of my watches have extended power reserve, I still do this just to be sure. This is the habit that I’ve gotten after having my watches die on me only to have me realized it later on.
But with a quartz watch, there’s no need to do such things. As long as the watch is ticking, its time is always as accurate as you’d like it to be (it will only gain or lose 2 minutes every year after all). I can see that if my life is much more hectic than now, I’d wear quartz watches more often instead.
But within the realms of quartz watch, there is also the type of watch that I can say is the best grab & go type of watch and that is the solar watch. As solar watch converts light into electric, it’s basically self-sufficient without the need to change its battery frequently (you only need to change its capacitor every 10-years or so).
Just bask the watch under light and you’re good to go. In fact, modern solar watch can even work with indoor lights as long as it’s bright enough which makes it very easy charge it simply by wearing it and go on doing your normal lives. And since you’re basically recharging it daily, you can use any functions that the watch has (chronograph, back light, etc.) and don’t have to worry about depleting the battery.
With such a great technical and real-life advantages, I’d say that solar quartz watch is the best grab & go type of watch.
Do quartz watches need batteries? Quartz watches need batteries to run; the battery will supply electricity which will be used by the timekeeping mechanism of the watch. (if you want to learn more about how quartz watch works, read my previous post here).
Why are some quartz watches so expensive? Some quartz watches can be expensive due it having better materials used (precious metals such as gold for instance), gems, better craftsmanship and better movement.
Do quartz watches need servicing? Quartz watch also needs servicing to maintain its movement in perfect condition. (read my previous post here about servicing a quartz watch).
Do quartz watches need jewels? In general, quartz watches don’t require jewels as its moving parts is subjected to less stress than an automatic watch. But there are some quartz watches that utilize jewels in its movement and these watches are often of higher quality.
I hope this article about why buy a quartz watch is beneficial to you. Do let me know if there’re any questions or you have anything to add by commenting below.
These are the best practices that I’ve personally used to maintain my own watches. With these tips, I’ve been able to avoid any costly repairs and issues with my watches and I really hope that this information will help you to avoid that too.
1. Take A Good Care Of It From Being Dropped Or Taking Any External Shock
The very first and most important thing that you have to do to take care of your watch is to be very careful not to drop or subject it to any external shock.
Dropping the automatic watch on the floor, bumping it onto the wall, or dropping hard objects on the watch are some of the accidents that can easily happen when you’re not aware and being careful with your watch.
The impact from these accidents can range from nothing to really major, especially regarding the delicate internal workings of the watch. As the automatic movement is made up of more than one hundred parts, any big shock can cause damage on the assembly or even damaging the parts itself. The effect of this is a damaged movement that can be costly to repair or change out totally.
In addition to this, there could be damage on the exterior of the watch. Unless you drop the watch from a very high place or subjected to high impact forces, the damage could be in the form of scratches on the case and crystal as the watch is actually quite sturdy.
It might seem small, but trust me, a scratched case/crystal will be devastating to the aesthetic of the watch. You certainly don’t want to have a highly polished watch that have some deep grooved scratch on its side which is very unsightly!
2. Keep The Watch Away From Moisture
The next tips in maintaining your automatic watch is to keep it away from moisture as water is a great enemy for mechanical devices.
One thing I want to highlight is this does not mean the watch cannot be in contact with water. Most of the watches in the market right now has some water resistance rating that enables it to even be submerged inside water for a specified depth. There are also dive watches with screw down crowns that is much more robust against water.
The main issue is with constant exposure to water, especially on where you’re storing the watch when not in used. As the watch is usually made out of steel, constant exposure to water can make rusting happen even for stainless steel. It’s recommended to wipe the watch and store it in a dry place after it came into contact with water.
In particular is the steel bracelet of the watch that has many small spaces and crevices that can be places where water might accumulate. You need to ensure these places are always dry to prevent from any rusting.
With leather or cloth based straps, moisture is a great concern as it can significantly reduce the strength of the material and cause it to be susceptible to tear. I’d be very particular about this and will try to dry out the straps as soon as possible before storing it.
Thus, keeping these straps dry from being near to wet areas is definitely a good idea. You certainly don’t want to wear a damp strap on your wrist right?
3. Don’t Place It Near Electronics Or Strong Magnets
The next tip to take care of automatic watch is not place it near electronics or strong magnets. This is a very important thing to remember as automatic watch will be severely disrupted if its magnetized, all because it’s run entirely by moving metal parts.
The various moving parts will be disrupted from magnetization and this will cause the watch to lose accuracy.
While this is not really a concern before, it has become a big issue as electronics are everywhere nowadays. Electronics can be the cause of magnetization if you place the watch near to it. Hence, it’s important to know where you’re storing the watch so that it’s not near to any electronics.
4. Do Remember To Service The Watch
Next tip is about servicing the watch. Just like other mechanical items (car engine, etc.), automatic watch also needs to be serviced to clean and re-oil the various parts. Typically, an automatic watch will need to be serviced every 3 to 5 years, though this will ultimately depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation (one good example is Rolex where it has a new 10-year service recommendation which is very good in my opinion) and whether you believe something is wrong with your watch.
I do believe that this is the tip that most people are not wary about when they buy an automatic watch. Although automatic watch is a great watch with many benefits, its mechanical nature with many moving parts means that servicing it is inevitable to keep it running without any issue in the long run.
Not servicing the watch can cause a lot of other issues with the movement so much so you might be having a trouble with it later on. I do note that some Seiko dive watches have been running fine even without any service but I can bet those watches have horrendous accuracy, more than 10++ seconds deviation per day.
Coming to accuracy, that’s also another benefit of sending the watch to service as you can ask the watchmaker to adjust the watch to your use pattern with higher accuracy. In short, servicing an automatic watch will ensure that your expensive automatic watch will be well protected and can be used for years to come. In addition, the better accuracy will help you make the most of your automatic watch as well.
Having many watches is fun as you can have a nice collection with myriad of watches. But then a big problem will crop up – you suddenly realized that you only can wear one watch at a time so much so only few watches will be worn frequently.
The thing is you will never be able to give ALL your watches the same wrist time. I noticed that once my collection grew, there are some watches that I like or prefer over some other watches. This can be due to many factors i.e look, weight, how it wears, etc. which are not something that you can know before you buy the watch.
Due to this reason, there are only 2 or 3 watches that I’ve worn regularly and there are other watches that don’t see any wrist time for weeks which is not ideal for an automatic watches. The main issue with this is the watch’s lubricants will be left idle for long time and might be coagulating when the watch is not in use. This will reduce its accuracy or might even cause the watch to not work properly.
Thus, it’s important to ensure your watch is ticking once in a while although you might not have enough time to wear them. Simply wind it manually or give it a good shake to jump start it and have it running.
6. Keep It Clean
The next tip on how to take care of your automatic watch is to keep it clean. Often times, the watch might get dirty from normal use (sweat is one of the biggest contributor to this) and it’s important to keep it clean so that it will be able to be kept for a long time.
Luckily, most automatic watches are made of stainless steel so cleaning them is a breeze. A piece of cloth or tissue will do to wipe out any dirt or sweat in contact with the watch. Depending on the dirt, you might have to use some water to assist with the cleaning. Unless absolutely necessary, the use of soap is not needed most of the times.
Now, while the main watch case is quite easy to clean, the strap or bracelet is a different issue. There are 4 main strap material types for automatic watch (metal bracelet, leather strap, cloth strap, rubber strap) and caring for them requires different method.
I personally love metal bracelets because it’s very easy to wear without the hassle of unbuckling it like other straps. But the way the bracelet is constructed using many small links resulted in many small openings and crevices which can be the location where dirt might accumulate. And since these openings are very small, cleaning these dirt and gunks can be quite a challenge.
You can use toothbrush to get to the hard to reach crevices but it might be too hard to do. One good way is to use ultrasonic cleaning whereby the bracelet can be dipped into a water bath with lots of water bubbles that can help to clean out the gunk.
For the other types of straps, a wet tissue or towel will do to clean it as there is no small openings or crevices with it. But do be careful with leather and cloth straps as getting it too wet will reduce its strength and you might cause some damage on it. You should also quickly dry these straps after cleaning it. For rubber strap, it’s one of the more durable straps and can be easily cleaned.
7. Be Careful When Changing The Strap
Another tips about straps is to be extra careful when changing them. I love to buy new straps and put it on my watches. It will immediately change the look and feel of the watch instantaneously. It’s like getting a different watch by only paying a fraction of its cost.
But do be very careful when changing the straps yourselves (also applies if you get the store to change it) as you can easily get some scratches on the watch.
Changing the straps involve getting out the spring bar from the lugs and you should do this very carefully or else you can end up with deep scratches on the lugs (this is me speaking from experience LOL!). Do get the correct tools to change the straps as it will make your life much easier. This also applies to adjusting bracelets.
Trying to cheap out and use the tools that you have lying around your house such as screwdrivers, needle etc. is a recipe for disaster. Watch strap removal and bracelet adjustment tools are available online for less than $10 bucks a piece and there is no reason why you should not get one!
Steel is susceptible to temperature change (contract with cold, expand with heat) and automatic watch uses a lot of steel for its movement. Due to this, any extreme temperature will cause issue with the movement.
There are many issues related to temperature. One, the accuracy will suffer as the steel parts are expanding/contracting which is not the same as it was designed for. Then, the oil could have some changes in its properties with the temperature (gunk at cold, thinning at hot). There could also be an issue with condensation around inside the watch due to temperature difference.
As such, I’d recommend to not use automatic watch when going into extreme temperature environments such as a jacuzzi, sauna, or winter area. There are sports watches that have been designed for these extreme temperatures (mostly quartz based) that you can use instead.
9. Don’t Wind The Watch When Wearing It On Wrist
One of the mistakes that I used to make is winding my watch when I’m wearing it on my wrist. This is definitely not a good practice as you can break the crown stem from doing this.
The crown is typically connected to the winding mechanism through a small stem that can be broken easily. Hence, winding it while wearing it will apply a tangential force on the stem, thus making it much more likely to accidentally break the stem.
Due to this, I strongly advise that you only wind the watch by properly holding it on your hands and applying direct force when rotating the crown.
10. Change The Gaskets And Seals When Servicing
Water resistance is a very important feature in any watch as you just don’t know what could happen. Even for dress watches, I’d prefer to have some water resistance rating on it (a minimum of 30-50 m rating) since that will ensure the watch can handle some accidental splashes of water without breaking a sweat.
This is particularly helpful as you just don’t know what could happen. Also, this feature makes it easier as you don’t have to take off your watch whenever you want to wash your hands or doing the dishes – activities that can splash some water on your watch.
Dive watches, on the other hand, have higher water resistance rating (from 100 to 300 m) as it will need to resist the water from going inside the watch whenever its owner is diving.
One thing that most people don’t know is the water resistance rating depend on the condition of the seals and gasket of the watch. These seals are located at all possible water ingress points (crown, back plate, crystal, etc.) and is the one holding out the water from going into the watch.
As it’s made of rubber, the seals will degrade naturally and you should always have it changed periodically to keep the watch’s water resistance. Some people recommend for it to be changed every 2 to 3 years but I found this to be only valid for divers. For most of us that don’t really use our automatic watches for diving, this recommendation will be overkill.
Because of this, my personal practice is to change the seals and gaskets every time I service the watch, which is 3-5 years. This will save some money and time as you don’t need to bring the watch for service more frequently.
11. Don’t Use The Crown Or Pushers While In Water
This next tip also involves with water: don’t ever use the crown or pushers while in water. That is unless you want water to get inside the watch, wreaking havoc with the movement!
Water resistance works by keeping a tight vacuum-like seal over the entire watch and anything that protrudes out from the movement for the watch to function (such as crown and pushers for chronograph) is a possible water ingress point. The workaround with this is by using seals and gaskets to keep the small openings filled up so that water can’t pass through.
But using the crown (for manual winding or setting time/date) and pushers (for chronograph or other functions) inside water will open up the openings so much so water will easily pass through inside the watch.
12. Keep Unused Watch In A Proper Box
The next tip is to keep your watch collection inside a proper watch box. It’s only logical that we should store our expensive automatic watches inside a proper box to keep it away from dust and any damage that could happen to it.
For instance, keeping the watch inside a drawer which you also used to keep your keys and other items is not recommended as these items can scratch the watch. Keeping it inside a box will also prevent from accidental magnetization of the watch from being in close proximity to electronic items.
In addition, you will be able to organize your watches and retrieve it easier rather than having to search all over the place for a watch that you want to wear.
(if you want to know more about how best to store your automatic watches, you can read my previous post here)
13. Be Minimal With The Manual Winding
Although manual winding is a good way to easily fill up the power reserve of your watch, it’s not recommended doing it frequently. The fact is, automatic watches are designed with self-winding capability and it’s not meant to be manual wind often (unlike mechanical watch).
Because of this, most brands will usually design a less robust manual winding mechanism on an automatic watch, so much so it can be broken if it’s winded often. As such, do be very careful when manual winding the watch and be minimal with it.
Personally, I only manual wind my watch for 5 to 10 revolutions, just to give the watch some extra juice when I first pick it up from the box. Then, I would rely on the self-winding mechanism from my wrist motion to increase it’s power reserve for the next days.
Do you have to wear your automatic watch every day? No, you don’t need to wear your automatic watch every day. Automatic watch that is not being worn will stop by itself when its power reserve runs out. You can then pick up the watch and use it normally after that.
How long will an automatic watch last? Automatic watch can last for a very long time, provided it’s being maintained well by periodically servicing it and keeping it clean.
How to keep automatic watch when not wearing? The best way to keep automatic watches that are not being worn is by storing it inside a dedicated watch box. You can also read my previous post to know the other options of storing the watch.
How to wind an automatic watch? To wind an automatic watch, simply rotate the crown upwards. You should be able to hear a faint gear-like grinding noise when doing so. Some watches also have screw-down crowns so you will need to unscrew the crown first before you can wind it.
I hope these 13 tips on how to take care of an automatic watch will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if you have any questions or if you have any other tips that you’ve been using yourselves.
Quartz watch is the most widely used watch type on the planet. It’s also very accurate and very rarely, its time needs to be reset.
Why is quartz watch so accurate? Quartz watch is very accurate because it uses electronic oscillator regulated by a quartz crystal to keep its time. The use of this quartz crystal made it possible for the watch to be very accurate, as compared to other types of watches such as automatic/mechanical or electric watch.
The quartz crystal plays a huge role in the accuracy of the watch. In addition, quartz watch also comes in different quality with the highest (and most expensive) quartz watch is much more accurate than the typical quartz watch that you can buy off the street. Lastly, you will see why quartz watch is the most common watch all over the world currently.
Quartz Crystal – The Reason Why Quartz Watch Is Very Accurate
The reason why quartz watch is so accurate lies in the quartz crystal itself. Quartz is a mineral with the formula of SiO2 and is very abundant around us (such as in sands, rocks, etc.). The quartz used in a watch is very tiny, at about 4 mm long in the shape of a two-prong fork.
So what does this quartz crystal do? How does quartz watch work?
In general, a watch has 3 main elements: power supply, timekeeping and moving gears. Inside a quartz watch, the power is supplied by a battery cell in the form of electricity.
This electricity is then channeled to the quartz crystal (or called oscillator) via a microchip, which forms the timekeeping mechanism. As the electric hits the quartz crystal, the crystal will then vibrate profusely, at about 32,768 Hz (or 32,768 times per second).
The microchip counts this vibration and uses it to determine one second simply by dividing the number of vibrations by 2 for 15 times (because 2 to the power of 15 is 32,768).
From then, the microchip can transmit one signal per second to an electric motor to move the watch’s moving train (gears) and then display the time.
This mechanism is the basis of all modern watches (either solar, kinetic, or even smartwatches) found today. It differs greatly than the movement mechanism that is found in an automatic watch.
How Accurate Is Quartz Watch?
So how accurate is a quartz watch? Quartz watch generally have an accuracy of around +- 10 seconds per MONTH. Even the most accurate automatic watch with COSC certification pales in comparison as it will have a much worse accuracy at +-6 seconds per DAY.
Now that means quartz watch is about 18 times more accurate that an automatic watch!
The reason why it has such high accuracy compared to automatic watch is due to the high frequency of vibration of the quartz crystal oscillator. As mentioned above, the quartz crystal oscillates at 32,768 Hz, which is much much higher than the 6 Hz or 8 Hz typically found in an automatic watch using balance wheel as timekeeping mechanism.
At that high frequency, any discrepancy and slight blimp in the signal will only constitutes a marginal fraction of the whole vibration. In other words, even if the vibration is off by a 10 times in a second, that means it have a deviation of about (10)/32768 or 0.03% per second. This helps to minimize its deviation and increases its accuracy.
With an automatic watch, even a slight off in the vibration will cause a higher percentage difference. Scientists have used the same concept to produce a much higher accuracy in a watch by increasing the frequency of the timekeeping oscillator.
With such a high accuracy found in the quartz watch, that’s the reason why we never seem to have to set our quartz watches even if we’ve worn it for many months. In a particular year, a quartz watch might have a maximum of only 2 minutes of deviation!
Although this is already remarkable, watchmakers never stop trying to innovate and produce a higher level of quartz watch with higher accuracy.
For instance, Bulova produced their Precisionist movement that has an accuracy of +-10 seconds per YEAR. Yes, you read that right – only 10 seconds per year. They managed to achieve this by using a revolutionary three-prong quartz crystal shape, further increasing the oscillation o 262 kHz. (You can read my review of the Bulova Precisionist here for more information).
Why Is Quartz Used In Watches?
Why is quartz used in watches? The reason why quartz is used widely in watches lies with its piezoelectric properties.
Piezoelectric means that a quartz material can will vibrate when supplied with electricity, and vice versa. This makes it possible to use quartz as an oscillator for timekeeping purposes.
Not only that, quartz crystal also have a remarkable property with this vibration is being very precise and constant between various quartz samples. This makes it very easy to reproduce the same watch using quartz crystals as its basis.
Another reason why quartz is used in watch is due to its abundance and affordability. Quartz is basically everywhere around us (it’s in the sand, rocks, soil, etc.) which means that it’s very cheap to procure. Not only that, you will only need a very small size of quartz crystal in a watch (about 4 mm in length) so there’s really no issue with cost for quartz.
In comparison, an automatic watch will need many steel materials for it to be made. Some higher end watchmakers even go as far as creating their own alloys to further their watch’s accuracy and durability.
These unique properties and its affordability are the reasons why quartz mineral is the best mineral for watches.
For Accuracy And Affordability, Quartz Watch Is Simply The Best Choice
If you ask me which is better between automatic and quartz watches, I would say that quartz watch is simply the better watch technical wise and affordability wise.
It has very high accuracy (even for the basic average quartz movement) which really is leaps and bounds above the accuracy found in even the most accurate automatic watch.
Quartz watch is also more affordable than an automatic watch.
I mean, you can even get one from amazon or alibaba for just 10 bucks! With an automatic watch, you’re looking at above than at least $100 – and that will only get you a low-quality automatic watch.
If you look at any kids wearing a watch, I can bet that they are wearing a quartz watch. This is unthinkable just half a century back as the only watch available back then was automatic watch and only the most well-to-do people can afford it.
Truthfully, quartz watch has made watches affordable and accessible to every one.
But if you’re asking me which one is my personal preference, I’d choose automatic watch for its unique characteristics – I’ve written an entire post on the differences between automatic and quartz watch. Read the article if you want to know more about both watches pros and cons.
Do quartz watches need batteries? Quartz watch needs battery to supply electricity for it to work. The electricity will be used to power the microchip, quartz crystal oscillator and the electric motor inside the watch.
What’s the most accurate watch? The most accurate watch in existence is the atomic watch. It uses atomic theory to determine timekeeping way more precise (around 1 second deviation per 300 years!) than what a wrist watch is able to give. There exist a type of watch that can automatically sync with the known atomic clock every night, thus making it as accurate as an atomic clock.
What’s the most accurate quartz watch? The title of the most accurate wrist watch currently goes to the Citizen Caliber 0100 with an accuracy of +-1 second per YEAR. It have a special quartz watch oscillator that is cut in AT cut shape (flat shape) that vibrates at a much higher 8 MHz as compared to the typical 32 kHz vibration in normal quartz watch. Check out this video to understand how Citizen managed to achieve this amazing feat.
It’s been a few years since I first bought my automatic watch. Initially, I was intrigued by this type of watch that is interesting and not like other watches – especially about how it can work without needing a battery.
Does an automatic watch has a battery? Automatic watch does not require a battery because it’s powered by natural wrist motions of the wearer through the potential energy stored inside it’s mainspring.
Knowing the characteristics of the watch is very important when you’re choosing a new watch to buy. While automatic watch does not require a battery, its power reserve is also quite limited. In addition, there’s also the issue of choosing between automatic and mechanical watch movement which will depend on your preference and use pattern.
How Automatic Watch Works Without Battery?
Instead of battery, automatic watch is run by the natural wrist motions when it is being worn, which will supply energy to the mainspring. It is this mainspring that will eventually run the whole watch movement.
How does the mainspring run the watch?
The mainspring will then try to release itself (think of this as a spring that wants to extend after you’ve compressed it). In doing so, the mainspring will cause the gears in the watch to move i.e transfer of the potential energy inside the mainspring to movement of the watch components (kinetic energy).
This kinetic energy will then be transferred throughout the whole watch movement, from the gears to the balance wheel and lastly to the time display.
But how does the mainspring is tightened?
In all automatic watch, there’s a weighted rotor in semi-circular shape (which you can see from the any watch with glass transparent case back) that will rotate whenever you’re wearing or shaking the watch.
This rotor is connected to the mainspring so much so whenever the rotor rotates, the mainspring will be tightened. This capability to wind (or tightened the mainspring) via the rotor is called self-winding.
(if you’re interested to know more about how automatic watch works, read my previous in-depth article about this topic here)
The amount of potential energy that the mainspring can store is limited and this will determine how long the watch can stay ticking before it needs to be wind (or so called the watch’s power reserve).
How Long Can An Automatic Watch Power Reserve Lasts?
The amount of potential energy that the mainspring can hold (or the power reserve) varies depending on the watch movement design and the material used for the mainspring.
In general, most automatic watch have power reserve between 38 hours to 50 hours. There’s also some special watches that has a huge 7 days of power reserve!
Below is the list of power reserve for some of the more popular automatic watch movements.
ETA 2824-2 and its variants (basic movement found in most low-medium priced of Swiss automatic watches): 38 hours
Sellita SW-200 and its variants (basic movement found in most low-medium priced of non-Swatch groups automatic watches): 38 hours
Seiko 4R15 and its variants (current basic movement found in most low priced of Seiko automatic watches): 41 hours
Seiko 6R15 and its variants (found in low-medium priced of Seiko automatic watches): 50 hours
ETA/Powermatic 80 and its variants (found in some low-medium priced of Swatch group brands automatic watches): 80 hours
How To Keep The Power Reserve Full? Do I Need To Always Wear My Automatic Watch?
There are a few ways to keep the power reserve always full. Wearing the watch every day is the first way that comes to mind. By wearing your automatic watch, you will be able to keep its power reserve continuously added, provided that your wrist movement is adequate.
But in general, wearing your watch 8-9 hours every day will do the trick and prevent from your watch stopping due to depleted power reserve.
Another way that you can keep your power reserve full is by manual winding the watch. Simply take the crown and rotate it. You must be able to hear a faint grinding gear sound – that means the manual winding is in progress and you’re directly tightening the mainspring.
This method is far more efficient that relying on the weighted rotor as 40-50 rotations of the crown is enough to fully tightened the mainspring. With the automatic self-winding, you will need about 700-800 rotations.
But do be careful on manual winding as doing it too much can be detrimental to the health of the automatic movement.
On thing to keep in mind is that manual winding capability might not be available on some automatic watches. For example, the ever popular Seiko SKX007 dive watch uses the 7S26 automatic movement that cannot be manual wound.
Granted, that movement is an old and legacy movement (newer Seiko movements all can be manual wound) but you should always check if the watch that you want have this feature or not prior to buying it.
The last way to keep your automatic watch power reserve full is by using a watch winder.
Watch winder is a simple device that seeks to mimic our wrist movement. By putting the watch in the winder, the winder will then rotates the watch so that the weighted rotor inside it will move and thus topping up the power reserve.
It’s an easy way to wind your watch without having to manually wind the crown.
I recommend to not skimp on this watch winder as a cheaper one will use a cheap motor that can go bad in just a few months. Not to mention cheaper winders might not be properly designed and can magnetize your watch (which is a common issue affecting automatic watch. Read my article here to know more about problems with automatic watch).
Automatic vs Mechanical Movement – Difference That You Should Know
Sometimes used interchangeably, automatic and mechanical movements actually have a lot of differences. I seriously think that knowing these differences are very important that you should know prior if you’re thinking of buying one of these watches.
The first thing to know is mechanical movement does not have self-winding capabilities; which means it does not have the weighted rotor that can wind the watch simply by wearing it.
Instead, mechanical movement rely on manual winding; that is you will need to rotate the crown (or the knob usually at the right side of the watch case) to tightened the mainspring – just like playing a simple toy that you need to turn the spring to play.
Although mechanical movement is not as easy to use as the automatic movement (you will need to wind your mechanical watch everyday prior to use), it does have its own advantages.
For a start, mechanical movement is cheaper as it’s easier to be built. In addition to that, the watch is lighter and have a slimmer profile because it does not have to house the weighted rotor mechanism. Not only that, mechanical watch typically is cheaper to be serviced because of its simpler movement architecture.
Generally, I would recommend the automatic movement because its fairly easy to use, especially to those new to these watches.
But if you want a more traditional experience of hand/manual winding your watch (plus getting a cheaper, slimmer & lighter watch), then you can go for the mechanical movement.
Do quartz watch need batteries? Quartz watch need battery to run. Quartz watch uses the quartz crystal and electronic chip to keep track of time, which in turn need electricity. You can read more about how quartz watch works from my previous article here.
Are there any watches that don’t need batteries or winding? There are 3 types of watches that don’t need batteries or winding: solar watch, kinetic watch and smartwatch. In actuality, all of these 3 watches have their own batteries inside that store electricity but they don’t require periodic battery replacement like typical watch.
Solar watch can recharge its battery by being exposed to light while for kinetic watch, you can charge it by wearing and using it. Smartwatch works just like a phone whereby you can only charge it by connecting a power supply.