Before you spend serious money on a high-end luxury watch, take the time to ask yourself these ten important questions:
To Splurge or Not?
Luxury watches range from just under $1,000 to $100,000 and more. Among the most expensive are the prized tourbillions, which only an elite group of master watchmakers has the skills to produce. (The two-hundred-year-old mechanism consists of a revolving carriage that holds the balance wheel and escapement and makes a complete turn every sixty seconds to average out timekeeping errors caused by gravity.) A watch is inevitably a status symbol, and it’s up to you to figure out what kind of status you want to symbolize. If you’re really serious, luxury watchmakers are ready, willing and able to accommodate your desires.
Rose, White, or Yellow Gold?
The tint of a piece of gold depends on the proportion of copper and silver mixed in with the pure yellow gold. Yellow will always be stylish, but you might consider one of the myriad rose-gold options that received all the attention at this year’s trade show in, where else, Switzerland. Rose has the most copper of the three golds, which gives it a soft, pinkish hue. Not all men go for that, but if you’ve got the money for a rose-gold watch, you’ve probably got the brass to back it up.
Steel or Titanium?
Luxury watchmakers are turning out watches in high-grade stainless steel, which is strong and shiny and highly resistant to rust and corrosion. But the next major trend in luxury watches seems to be titanium, which is 30 percent stronger and 50 percent lighter than steel, more corrosion resistant, anti-magnetic, and even hypoallergenic. A titanium watch does feel amazingly light and comfortable on the wrist, but the trade-off is a subdued – some say dull – gray watch that, for all its strength, scratches easily.
Mechanical or Quartz?
The watch movement, which is the engine of the watch, measures time in one of two ways: electronically or mechanically. In an electronic quartz watch, a paper-thin piece of quartz is given an electric charge that causes it to vibrate 32,768 times per second. This makes it accurate to within a minute per year. A mechanical watch has a mainspring whose gradual unwinding moves the watches hands. Mechanical watches are either hand wound or automatic (also called “self-winding”), meaning the movement winds itself using a rotor that spins in response to the natural movement of the wearer’s arm. Mechanical watches lose an hour a year.
Simple or Complicated?
In watchmaking terms, a complication is any function beyond simple time telling in a mechanical watch, such as a calendar or a moon-phase indicator (which is coming back this year). Usually, though, the term refers to sophisticated mechanisms like perpetual calendars and split-second chronographs, which contain hundreds of tiny parts hand assembled by the world’s most accomplished watchmakers. Because they’re so labor-intensive, complicated watches are expensive and prized for the feats they perform.
Big or Bigger?
Over the last few years, men’s wristwatches have grown as if on steroids; they broke the forty-millimeter-diameter barrier a few years ago and are still pumping up. The reason? Mostly style. The current trend was largely inspired by the recent reissue of an old Italian diver’s watch, which was originally designed large so it would be visible in the murky Mediterranean. These days, if your watch looks like a hockey puck on your wrist, you’re horologically chic, if a bit showy.
Round or Square?
Round is still the most common face shape, but a revival of alternatives is underway. The tonneau (shaped like a barrel) is leading the non-round watch pack at the moment, but your options include rectangles, squares, and ovals, among others. Many people will size a man up by his watch, so consider that an uncommon shape might set you apart from the masses.
Do I need a Chronograph?
Most men prize chronographs – timepieces with a stopwatch function – thanks to the macho, sporty look of all those buttons and subdials. They are also functional and can time an event to one-fifth of a second for mechanical chronos and to one-hundredth of a second in digital quartz chronos. But unless you’ve just signed up for the Ironman, they’re mostly for adornment.
Do I need a Chronometer?
A chronometer is a high-precision watch whose accuracy is verified by an independent agency called the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Bureau. Watch companies send uncased movements to the bureau, which subjects them to a battery of tests, after which they’re certified as official chronometers. A status symbol and a nice distinction for the hardcore connoisseur.
Five Bars or Twenty?
Watches have different levels of water resistance, indicated on the dial or case back. Pay close attention to that fine print, because the depth units are anything but universal. Most companies give water resistance in meters. Occasionally you’ll come across ATMs (for atmospheres) or bars, both of which are equal to ten meters. Once you’ve done the math, choose a depth based on your needs. Water-resistant to 50 meters means you can wear it in the shower. Sports watches generally have 100 meter (swimming, snorkeling) or 200 meter (recreational scuba diving) water resistance. You don’t need more than that unless you intend to wear the watch deep-sea diving. And a watch marked simply “water resistant” can withstand your lighter summer showers.