Looking to buy a watch? Whether you’re searching for yourself or someone else, there are a few things to consider before you splash the cash. With so many styles and designs to choose from, it can be very overwhelming to pick the right one. Do you want digital or analogue? Are you looking for a leather or chain strap? How many dials do you want? The questions are endless! With Christmas only a few weeks away, a watch would make the perfect gift for a family member or loved one, so to help you find the perfect one, here’s our guide to buying a watch.
What to consider when buying a watch
Know your budget
To kick off our buying guide, it’s extremely important (with any purchase!) to know your budget. Watches are very intricate and can be quite expensive. Buying a watch is often compared to buying a car because of all the mechanics involved, so with that in mind, we recommend you establish a budget and stick to it. Depending on the brand, materials and movements, watches can start from around £15 and go up by hundreds, thousands and even higher – sometimes into the millions!
Like your budget, if you have a specific brand in mind this can massively narrow down your options. Watches are available from almost anywhere, like retailers and luxury designers. If you want to stick to a smaller budget, there are popular brands to choose from, including Olivia Burton and Daniel Wellington. For something pricier and more luxurious, you can go for a designer brand like Rolex, Tag Heuer, Omega and Citizen. You can also walk into department stores and choose from a wide range of collections or check out your favourite jewellery brands to see if they make watches (like us).
Digital or analogue?
Before we get into the more technical ins and outs of the watch, answer a simple question – digital or analogue? Digital watches are clocks that display the time using digital numbers rather than hands and dials. Digital are great options for kids or if you’re looking for a smartwatch like a Fitbit to track and monitor your workouts or daily routine. Analogue watches are more traditional and tell the time using hour and minute hands. Analogues are incredibly stylish and can be super simple with just the hands and the numbers around the side or can be more intricate with a date box or extra dials. Plus, they make an aesthetically pleasing ticking sound!
Now the more technical aspects! A watch movement is what makes the hands tick around the clock and what makes it work essentially! The movement is also referred to as the mechanism or the calibre. There are five different watch movements to choose from: mechanical, automatic, quartz, solar and kinetic.
One of the most traditional and popular types of watch movements is the mechanical movement. A mechanical watch is powered by a mainspring which makes the other components, like the gears, hands, and balance wheel work. This is a slightly older system than others as you need to wind the watch by hand every day in order for it to work. To tighten the spring, you have to twist the crown which is on the side of the watch. This gets the coils to work and as the spring unwinds, the second hand moves. The longer the spring, the longer the watch will run, and you won’t have to wind it up so soon.
The automatic movement is like the mechanical movement as they both work around a mainspring. This type of movement uses the natural movement of the wearer, or the energy generated from the wrist to power the watch. This means it doesn’t need to be wound up like the mechanical. They’re the most popular type of watch on the market today.
The quartz movement is powered by a battery and regulated by a piece of quartz. The quartz crystal replaces the springs, gears and wheels that are used in the two previous types and acts as a conductor between the battery and the electric circuit. An electric current powers the watch hands by vibrations and this pulse is what makes the ticking sound and movement you find in most watches. This style became popular in the 1970s and are most often made today by fashion brands.
A solar movement is a watch that’s powered by artificial and natural light. This makes the battery work while also recharging. It’s a clever and environmentally friendly style that’s very popular today, plus you don’t have to worry about replacing the battery as much as you would with the previous movements.
Finally, the kinetic movement watch is powered by your wrist. By moving your wrist while you’re wearing it, this movement is converted into electrical power and restores and recharges the battery.
Face size & shape
The movement is the trickiest part of choosing a watch so now that you’ve sorted that out, you can go onto the more exciting decisions like the style and design. Start with face size and shape. The most popular watch face shape is circle or rectangle. Circle can go up in size so they can be petite or oversized. Rectangle watches have more of a vintage feel and are typically the same size or thickness as the watch strap. Other face shapes are square, oval, corage, tank, tonneau, cushion or asymmetrical.
Watch face extras
Other than the watch hands and numbers, the watch face can also have additional features, depending on what design you feel most drawn towards. Go for something simple like a date box or go for something more technical like a calendar which shows the day, date, month, and year. You can even pick a watch that shows you time zones, GMT, and moon phases! If you want to use your watch to monitor or measure things like alarms, you can get a watch with a chronometer, tachymeter, and alarm. If you’re going for a mechanical or automatic watch, you can also get a feature called the power reserve indicator which tells you the amount of power remaining before you have to wind it up again.
Colours & materials
Popular types of watch materials include stainless steel, ceramic, gold, and titanium. Depending on what you choose, this changes the colour and the price of the watch. Stainless steel is the cheapest option whereas titanium is more expensive. Titanium is also the strongest material if you want something durable. Another material to consider is what material you want the watch face to be made of. Of course, the face is typically made of glass, but you can also choose between mineral, acrylic and sapphire crystal. Mineral is affordable, scratch-resistant but can break if struck. Acrylic is plexiglass, impact-resistant and shatter proof but can scratch easily. Sapphire is the hardest type of crystal and almost impossible to scratch but is more expensive.
Type of strap
One more decision to make is the type of strap you want, including material and width. Popular strap materials include leather, canvas, nylon, chain, or metal. Leather straps can come in many different colours but if you like a traditional look, metal straps are typically either gold or silver. Next, decide the width you want. Make sure it compliments the watch face and doesn’t overpower it. If you don’t know which strap to go for, you can always pick a watch which comes with multiple strap options so you can mix and match.
Now you know how to buy a watch! Browse our collection of watches and straps for extra inspiration.