What style of watch should you choose? By Luc, a future watchmaker (2/2)
Note : This is the second part of Luc’s article about watches. It follows the first article on how to choose a watch.
What style of watch?
Firstly: try it on for real
The golden rule to follow is simple (and it’s the same for how to choose sunglasses): you have to see AND try a watch on in the flesh! Don’t buy online without having tried on a watch, it’s really important!
Why? Because, even if you have all of the technical details, a photo or a 3D image isn’t the same as reality. Materials reflect light in different ways, there are different effects of the material…like with clothing.
Photo evidence: on the left, a photo that’s been altered or a 3D image; on the right, a photo taken in store. In both cases, it’s the Chronographe Flyback 1815 by A. Lange & Söhne ($34,000).
I can’t give you any leads when it comes to finding THE watch (since it depends on your personality, your tastes, your social standing…) however, I can give you hints and tips when it comes to avoiding certain watches. Like with clothing, I’m going to use the basic criteria: size, material, design (the equivalent of fit, material, cut).
The size of the watch
The watch has to be proportional to your wrist. This goes beyond very precise measurements because it’s also a question of how it feels. That’s why you need to try before you buy. You absolutely have to avoid tiny watches that make your wrist look feminine and watches that are so big that the watch case goes beyond your wrist.
Oversized watches are forbidden! (even if today they’re making even bigger ones…) They’re just ugly. Little reminder: watches shouldn’t be blindingly obvious to other people, they should be discreet!
In a similar vein: no huge crown or enormous buttons on the sides, it shows a complete lack of elegance and finesse.
A strap is the right size when you can put your index finger in between the strap and your wrist, and no more than that (except for diving or sport watches, they’re tight against wetsuit overalls).
Stowa Antea on the left, Stowa Pflieger on the right (around $800). Thanks go to Vincent for taking the photo.
Watches’ straps fabric
For the strap: avoid plastic at all costs. It’s cheap, ages badly…
Go for leather or steel (however, steel links can pull and pluck hair). Indeed, there’s gold, platinum etc…Aluminium has a good resistance/lightness ratio. Warning: if you have an allergy or sensitive skin, avoid the materials associated with it.
There are also straps known as ‘NATO’ straps which have military origins. They’re very resistant, comfortable and hypoallergenic. They have sport connotations and bring an undeniable touch of laid-backness to an outfit (which can be an interesting contrast).
For smaller budgets: Seiko Military with a Nato (less than $150).
For the casing: they’re often plated or rhodium treated (a thin layer of gold, rhodium or something else is added to the base material for aesthetic and/or technical reasons). If you’ve got a plated watch, warn a watchmaker before they do any repairs…if they polish it to get rid or a scratch, you’re in for a nasty surprise!
For the glass: they’re often plexiglass (you find glass called ‘sapphire glass’ for high-end products). There are also ‘scratch resistant’ ones. You can get rid of little scratches by polishing, if not you can change the glass.
Omega Speedmaster 861 with a NATO strap ($3000 second-hand).
On the whole, you should avoid watches that are too futuristic, with digital displays reserved for adolescents or sportsmen.
Criteria to bear in mind
Strap: not too futuristic, not too imposing in comparison to the watch, comfortable, easy and secure opening/closing.
The Pins: nothing too original, they should go with the casing.
Casing, crown, buttons: nothing too original or too big.
Glass: avoid magnifying glass allowing you to read the date.
Face: not overloaded with stuff (even if it’s a time recorder with 3 meters!), avoid flashy colors, if you want a white face: avoid refrigerator white (off-white, cream and beige are better), avoid big brand logos that are too imposing.
Hands: not too fat! Not too much luminessence, no patterned hands shaped like hearts etc. I find that blue-stained hands have the nicest effect. No digital display.
Index, numbers: not too big, you’re not doing a sight test by telling the time from your watch.
Hatches and dials (that allow you to read the date, seconds etc): avoid ones that are too obvious and ruin the harmony of the watch face, avoid having them everywhere (too much information kills information).
Back: it might be glass so that you can see the mechanics and the inner workings.
-> Portuguese watch a minute repeater from IWC, you can see the inner workings thanks to the glass back, with a second hand where 9 would be. Luxury in all its simplicity: platinum casing and minute repeater (one of the most expensive things to make and regulate) with a price tag of $135,000.
-> Limited edition Monaco Vintagewatch by Tag Heuer. The square shape, less popular, really proves itself convincingly. Although it’s a chronometer with 2 timers and a date display, the design isn’t overloaded. ($4000)
Things you should never do!
Wash your hands, take a shower or wash the dishes with your watch on (the hot, soapy water will ruin the joints).
Use your watch for everything, regardless of the activity (for sport and DIY buy yourself another watch (you can go for a futuristic digital display if you like ^^).
Not have read the instructions and think that it’s not working properly even when it’s working normally.
Change the date between -3 hours and +3 hours of the date changing normally (if your watch changes the date at midnight, do not change the date manually between 9pm and 3am), if not you’ll break an internal piece of the mechanism and the date function will still work but not all the time. Obviously this isn’t the same for digital watches…
So how do you choose a watch?
There are several watch brands (infinitely more than people generally think). So to find THE watch in this jungle of choice, I’ll give you a little method (it’s only an example though!):
If you really don’t know where to start: look at the adverts of different brands and talk to people about it (friends, family, colleagues, it doesn’t matter). This allows you to discover the universe of brands.
Make an image board with several watch designs that you like and don’t like, and be able to explain why this is in a few words.
Go to a watchmaker or a watch shop (Bloomingdales has the advantage of being able to have various brands on the same level, which will be able to give you some ideas). Don’t hesitate to really have a good look around, you’ll sometimes be pleasantly surprised!
Talk to a watchmaker or sales people and try on some watches, making a note of the ones you like. Ask if there are any secondhand models or end of stock ones, again you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Take the time to make your decision (look at the criteria list above). Nothing is rushing you, you can always find out the time without a watch in the meantime. Remember it’s an accessory that can perfect or destroy your style! 😉