How to buy a mechanical watch

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When it comes to purchasing a mechanical watch, there are seemingly a million different options to choose from. From materials, to price range, country of origin, color, band style — the different choices are nearly endless. But I’m here to make that decision easier.

There are three main factors to take under consideration when you’re in the market for a mechanical watch: style, dial, and price. These three elements can lead you to the perfect watch for any situation, whether it’s a gift for someone else or a new watch for you.

Style

This is the biggest question you need to ask yourself: what type of watch do you want? The first option to tick off here is metal bracelet or leather strap? There are also NATO straps to consider as well, but those can fit on most watches and are available from a number of third parties.

Within the metal vs. leather debate, there are different materials under each section: do you want a gold, stainless steel, or platinum bracelet? Black leather or brown? Gold accents or silver?

The options seem daunting, but most people have predetermined preferences. Leather bands are traditionally for more formal events, but higher-end metal bracelets are just as respected.


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Photo by Micah Singleton / The Verge

Dial

After you figure out the materials you want in your watch, the next step is choosing the dial. There are a ton of options here to choose from, with a number of complications like the date, secondhand sub-dials, time zones, chronographs, tourbillions, Moon phases, and so on.

Perhaps none of these things are going to be crucial to you, unless you have a specific reason why you’re buying a watch. (For example, a chronograph would be useful for a diver.) For most people, the real choice here is design. Do you want a busy dial, or something more clean and minimal? A chronograph will offer you three subdials, while a simple date complication will keep the dial relatively sparse.

If this is your first watch, something more minimal with sleek hands that can be worn in any environment may be more appealing. If you have a piece like that already, or if you want a more advanced timepiece, a more complicated watch like a chronograph could be the way to go.

Price

The price won’t determine what features you can get in your watch, but it will determine the quality of the materials, construction, and the legacy of the timepiece you choose.

Sure, you can buy an Invicta off of Amazon for around $100 that will look relatively similar to a Rolex or a Hublot to the untrained eye. But if you do that, you’re getting gold paint instead of solid gold, a mass-produced movement instead of Rolex’s in-house option, and it definitely won’t be handmade.

There’s also the country of origin to take into consideration. Some people will want a true Swiss watch, while some may prefer a timepiece made in the US, or even Japan. The most expensive watches are definitely Swiss-made, with a few exceptions like Swatch, which are very popular and very affordable. Decent watches made in Japan and the US can be found for as low as $300.


Photo by Micah Singelton / The Verge

Where to buy

Once you know what type of watch you want, buying your piece is the last step. I recommend going straight to the watchmaker’s store if possible. If that isn’t an option for you, check the watchmaker’s website for authorized resellers near you.

The resale market may also come into play if you’re looking for something like a vintage Rolex at an affordable price. (A used Rolex can range from $4,000 to well over $100,000 depending on the model.) Regardless of which piece you’re looking for, however, you should only buy a used watch from an authorized and reputed seller who has authenticated the piece. In the vintage watch market, fakes are very common, so it’s crucial for people who are new to watches to make sure the seller isn’t a charlatan.

A watch is something that can be passed down for multiple generations. It even grow in value if you select the right piece, and take care of it. So choose wisely, and know that there’s a good chance your investment may become the newest heirloom in your family.

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