Watch Buyer’s Guide
Watches are the ultimate combination of fashion and functionality. While serving a day in, day out need for accurate timekeeping, watches also are a beautiful, versatile fashion accessory that can dress up any outfit. Fine timepieces are available in a wide range of styles, shapes, designs and materials – and the right one can be the perfect compliment to any fine jewelry wardrobe.
WHY BUY A FINE WATCH?
- Watches are practical – They can tell you the exact day, date and time – sometimes in several time zones – and often have special functions that allow them to serve as an alarm clock, monitor your heartbeat, remind you of an appointment, and much more.
- Watches are fashionable – You can find watches in an almost unlimited range of designs, to fit any wardrobe or lifestyle. Some watches are so fashionable, unique and/or finely made, they are true works of art.
- Watches are prestigious – Watches with well-known upscale brand names are recognized around the world for their quality, elegance and sophistication.
- Watches are heirlooms – Watches are often handed down from one generation to another – and upscale, high-quality, unique timepieces can command high prices at estate auctions.
- Watches are affordable – There is a watch to fit every budget and sensibility. There are elegant, diamond encrusted, hand-made watches that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, and there are fun, fashion forward yet highly accurate plastic watches available for only a few dollars – and everything in between.
Watches are powered by four basic assembly mechanisms, called movements:
- Manual Wind – This refers to mechanical watches powered by a coiled steel ribbon wound by turning the crown on the side of the watch. These watches must be wound regularly or they will stop.
- Automatic/Self-Winding – These are mechanical watches that wind when the wrist moves. If they are not worn for a period of time, they also will stop.
- Quartz – These watches have a quartz crystal that is energized by a battery so it vibrates at a frequency of 32,768 times per second. Quartz watches are extremely accurate, never need winding and require little maintenance compared to a mechanical watch.
- Solar Powered – Instead of using a battery, these watches use light to power a capacitor that runs the quartz movement. Since no battery is needed, the watch needs very little maintenance.
Many people prefer quartz movement watches because of their superior accuracy, ease of use and the fact that they require little maintenance. However, consumers and collectors who appreciate the fine art of watch making and the interaction with the wearer that mechanical watches require typically favor mechanical movement watches.
Watches show the time in three basic formats:
- Analog – Refers to watches that show the time using hour, minute and second hands.
- Digital – Refers to watches that show the time with digits rather than with a dial and hands.
- Analog-Digital – Refers to watches that show the time by means of both hour/minute hands (analog) and by numbers (digital).
The watch case is the container that protects the watch movement from dust, water and shocks. Watch cases add fashion to a watch and are available in a number of shapes, designs and materials. They are typically available in the following metals:
- Stainless Steel – This is the most common metal for watch cases, because it is exceptionally hard and corrosion resistant. It is also the most affordable of the metal alternatives available for watch cases. Because of this strength and durability, stainless steel watches are ideal to wear as an everyday timepiece.
- 18K Gold – Gold is a classic choice for fine timepieces. It is versatile and durable, though not as hard as stainless steel. Gold also comes in a variety of colors, including yellow, white and rose. Because of the inherent value of gold, and its tradition as a fine jewelry item, many people choose gold for dress watches vs. everyday watches.
- Platinum – Platinum is the ultimate metal for watches. Because of its superior strength, density, purity, weight, heat and corrosion resistant properties – and the fact that it is rarer than gold – platinum watches are considerably more expensive than gold or stainless steel watches. This makes platinum the ideal metal for watch collectors looking for the finest, most upscale timepieces.
- Sterling Silver – Sterling silver is a precious metal that is substantially more affordable than gold. This means that watch designers can use it to create much larger, more elaborate, cutting-edge fashion timepieces in silver than in gold without making them cost-prohibitive for most buyers.
- Titanium – Titanium has come on strong in recent years as an alternative metal for watch cases because it is considerably stronger and lighter than stainless steel and has a distinctive gray color. The metal's enhanced durability and hypo-allergenic properties makes it ideal for everyday watches.
The bezel is the ring that surrounds the watch dial (or face) and holds the crystal in place. The bezel is usually made of gold, gold plate or stainless steel. Bezels come in a variety of colors, with and without gemstones, and can be used for both fashion and function. Bezels that rotate can be used to measure elapsed time or to measure speed, distance or other mathematical calculations.
The dial is the face of the watch marked with divisions and numerals or symbols for indicating time. Dials come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes and contribute significantly to a timepiece's fashion look. Dials also come in a variety of materials, including metal, plastic, enamel and even gemstone. They can be adorned with gemstones, images or showcase different colors and textures. Some dials also feature glow-in-the-dark indexes and hands for easy visibility at night.
The crystal is the transparent cover on a watch face. There are several types of watch crystals, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
- Plastic/Plexiglass – The least expensive crystal material. It is the least prone to shatter and the most prone to scratches.
- Mineral Glass – More scratch resistant than plastic/plexiglass, but also more likely to break despite being hardened by a tempering process.
- Synthetic Sapphire – The most expensive crystal material, highly resistant to scratching. Also the most brittle, as it shatters more easily than mineral glass or plastic/plexiglass.
- Bracelet – Bracelets are metal watch bands available in a variety of metals, colors, and styles. They also come in a variety of different clasp types. Bracelet style watches are available in both dress models and more casual sports models, in both ladies' and men's versions. They are extremely long-lasting and durable.
- Strap – Straps are watch bands that are typically made of leather, rubber, plastic, nylon or some other non-metal material and are usually buckled to the wrist. Strap watches are available in both dress models and more casual sports models, in both ladies' and men's versions. They are extremely comfortable once broken in, but are less durable than bracelets and may need to be changed due to wear and exposure to body chemicals.
Watches come in a variety of different types, to suit each wearer's individual needs and lifestyles. Here are some of the more common types of timepieces:
- Dress – Typically elegant, classic timepieces with metal bracelets or leather straps with varying dial treatment. Most appropriate with business attire or evening wear.
- Casual – Less formal, more durable designs in strap or bracelet styles with basic dial treatments. Most appropriate for casual/everyday wear.
- Sports – Sleek, durable watches typically made from high-quality plastic composites for the active lifestyle/outdoor wearer. The most common is the classic water-resistant diving watch. Often incorporates a range of special functions, such as odometers, altimeters and compasses.
- Gadget – Highly functional watches with a range of advanced capabilities typically targeted to the student, engineer or computer/technical person. Often contain such functions as calculators, digital cameras, e-mail and similar hi-tech features.
Finding the right watch can be confusing – there are so many styles and features to choose from! Diamonds International offers the following tips to help you find the best watch for you or your loved one:
- Whether you're buying for yourself or as a gift, do your homework! Know upfront the type of watch you're looking for, basic style/design, colors, etc.
- Decide what type of features you want in the watch before you start shopping so you can hone right in on the type of watch you need and won't be overwhelmed trying to understand unnecessary functions.
- Consider functionality. When will you/the recipient be wearing the watch – every day or just for evening wear/special occasions? If every day, a self-winding or automatic timepiece would be a good choice.
- Think how the watch will work with your (or the recipient's) wardrobe and lifestyle. Silver watches match best with blacks, grays, silvers and blues and are ideally worn at night. Gold watches go with browns, beiges, tans and other earth tones and are best worn during the day. Also, mix and match gold and silver colors to complement other jewelry and accessories.
- Buy a watch with a familiar trademark/brand or one whose performance has a good reputation.
- Always buy from a reputable jeweler/authorized dealer (such as Diamonds International) who you know and trust and is available to offer after-purchase advice, service and support. This will ensure the watch's authenticity and manufacturer repairs if needed.
- Reconsider your budget. A watch should be considered a long-term value. Spending a little more will get you a higher-quality timepiece that with proper care can last for many years.
- Wind a mechanical watch in a clockwise direction, preferably about the same time each day. Take it off your wrist to eliminate any undue pressure on the stem.
- Avoid sharp knocks or any overly rigorous treatment.
- Replace broken or scratched crystals immediately, as even a hairline crack can let dust or moisture into the movement and threaten its accuracy.
- Unless the degree of water-resistance was clearly specified when you bought your watch, don't risk wearing it into the shower or pool, or on a moist wrist.
- Keep your watch away from hot water, steam (saunas) or strong magnetic fields.
- Don't attempt any "do-it-yourself" repairs. Watches are precise, delicate instruments. Leave it to the experts.
- It's best to replace a battery in a quartz watch before it runs out. Dead batteries left in a watch can leak or corrode and ruin it. Also, don't attempt to change the battery in a watch yourself. Take it to a specially trained jeweler, the manufacturer's authorized watchmaker or an expert repair person. (Batteries can run for one to five years, depending on the watch).
- For bracelet watches, avoid direct contact with hairsprays, perfumes and detergents as they may cause damage to your timepiece. If contact occurs, wipe the watch clean with a damp cloth.
- Leather watch straps can deteriorate as a result of climate, chemicals and usage. To prolong the life and look of your straps, avoid water saturation, avoid lengthy sunlight exposure, and avoid direct contact with hairsprays, perfumes and detergents.
- Clean your watch periodically with a little soap, warm water and a soft brush to remove dirt and grime. Dry with a soft cloth.
- Store your watch in the original jewelry box.
- Have your watch checked for water resistance at least every two years. Seals in crowns, pushers, etc., may deteriorate and need replacing.