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Watches

Thursday, 31 July 2008 | Tags:

A big part of keeping your everyday life on schedule, watches come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and range in price from ten dollars to tens of thousands of dollars! We find out more about buying a watch, and learn how to spot a fake.

The Basics

There are three types of watches available on the market today:

  • Mechanical are traditional watches with about 130 parts assembled into three main components (energy source, time regulation, and display). 

    • Mechanical watches require winding, and aren’t as accurate as quartz watches (about 10 seconds/day variation). 

    • Well-crafted watches of this type can run for years without needing service, but watchmakers have become quite scarce in recent years. Some send their watches all the way to Switzerland to be fixed!

  • Analog Quartz watches have an electronic component with a quartz battery as the energy source and an analog (hands) display. 

    • Most watch manufacturers focus on quartz movement, which is more affordable than the handcrafted mechanical design. Quartz watches are also more precise and don’t require winding, though the batter needs to be replaced every couple of years.

  • Digital watches have a liquid crystal display and an electronic energy source. Most digital watches are sport models, providing quick and accurate time readings, and requiring no routine maintenance.

Choosing a watch that looks and feels right is a matter of personal taste.

  • A round face is more traditional but watches come in square, barrel and even triangle faces. Whatever you choose make sure it is easy for you to read.

  • Consider whether you need additional features like a second hand and a date indicator, which can add to the price.

  • Sportier watches offer additional features like a stopwatch, pulse calculator, timer, tide charts and even GPS.

Some typical watch designs include:

  • Classic style, which are round cases with black leather straps. Popular and practical with both men and women. Ladies watches are slimmer and smaller than men’s.

  • Chronograph watches have a display that counts the seconds, minutes and hours on three sub-dials. Many include a scuba bezel for timing a deep sea dive. They are generally large to accommodate all of the parts needed for their features, and require more frequent battery changes.

  • Dual time watches, with two separate dials to keep track of two different time zones, were designed during the early days of jet travel in the 1950s.

  • Sport watches are usually digital and are designed to handle more wear and tear. More durable sport watches have stainless-steel cases and scratch-resistant hardened mineral crystals (not plastic). Kevlar and titanium are also becoming popular. Most sport watches are also water-resistant. Dive watches also have luminosity, shock resistance, and anti-magnetism features.

At most watch stores or kiosks you have a choice of bands. Choose one that goes with the style of the watch. (E.g. never put a leather band on a waterproof sport watch!) There are a few different types of bands to choose from:

  • Metal bracelet bands are popular because they are versatile and rarely need to be replaced. High-quality stainless steel stands up better than inexpensive alloys, which can also react with your skin when you sweat and give you a rash if you’re sensitive. A jeweller can remove nicks from a metal band.

  • Leather bands are easy to replace (needed about every 18 months) and are comfortable. Polished leather (e.g. patent or crocodile) are more stain-resistant than plain leather bands.

  • Plastic bands are usually on sport watches and are easier to clean, but can stain or discolour. Swatch is the most popular plastic-strap watch. Plastic bands usually can’t be replaced on watches under $250, so take that into consideration when deciding what to buy.

  • Fabric bands are generally more delicate and may have to be replaced seasonally.

The fit/size of your watch band is a matter of personal preference.

  • Metal watch bands on women can be a few links looser for a more bracelet-like look. Just make sure you can adjust the band to fit. If you like a snug fit, avoid watches with large cases (e.g. the chronograph watch) because the weight will cause it to slide around on your wrist.

A reliable watch can be found for under $100, but it will be slim on features, and will likely have lower quality metal or leather.

Many high-end watches are seen as an investment piece or heirloom to pass through the family. Collectors and affluent customers tend to prefer fine Swiss or German timepieces.

Other Considerations

  • If you’re spending the big bucks on a good watch, here are a few tips on what to look for and how to spot a fake:

    • Counterfeiting has always existed but it has become increasingly prevalent and the fakes look more real than ever. Since brand image design became an important feature, it has become easier for criminals to steal a name and a look.

    • Counterfeiters focus on appearance rather than technical parts. As a result the fakes are often much lighter than the real deal.

    • Check the crystal face (the glass-like cover protecting the display). It is usually plastic in lower-priced, mass-market watches and will scratch easily. Mineral glass is more common and sturdier than plastic. Sapphire is the most expensive but is very durable and scratch-resistant.

    • Always buy from a reputable dealer with a good policy and honest reputation.

  • Care for your watch well to ensure it lasts:

    • Cosmetics and perfumes can damage dials, casings and straps.

    • Clean it with a soft cloth. Only use soap and water if your watch is water-resistant. Never submerge your watch unless it’s specifically made for that.

    • For more serious dirt and build-up, let a professional clean it. If it’s an inexpensive watch, you should just replace it rather than having it cleaned, because the service can be quite expensive.

    • Mechanical watches should be cleaned and repaired every 3 years to ensure accuracy. Quartz watches also need maintenance to ensure movement is debris-free.

TEST CRITERIA

We tested four watches to see which we liked best:

  • Timex Quartz Digital (digital electronic): $50
  • Raymond Weil Quartz Analog (quartz analog): $575
  • Swiss Army Handwind (mechanical): $650
  • Rolex Automatic (swiss-made, mechanical): $7000.

Accuracy Test

A watch expert tested each for accuracy:

  • The 2 quartz watches both appeared off. But they’ve got a built in device that eventually evens out discrepancies bringing them to just a few seconds off at the end of the year.

  • The Rolex Automatic was fast by two minutes a month

  • The Swiss Army Handwind was slow by eight and a half minutes a month, which makes it a whopping hour and 43 minutes a year off.

Wear Test

We wore each for a week to get a good feel for them:

  • The Swiss Army Handwind didn’t have numbers so it was hard tell what time it was. It also required you to remember to wind it.

  • The Timex Quartz Digital was a little too sporty in style for our taste, but we like a watch that is more like jewelry.

  • The Rolex Automatic felt very nice to wear, but it was a bit showy and also needed regular winding.

  • The Reymond Weil Quartz Analog watch had its own battery (no winding needed) and was versatile and stylish.

OUR TOP PICK

We both liked the Reymond Weil Quartz Analog watch, but there are so many watches out there to choose from and we barely scratched the surface of the variety. Consider the functions you need, your budget, and the look you want as you’re preparing to go watch shopping.

 

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