Contrary to the old expression, you can’t judge a man solely by his shoes. A watch is just as telling.
But unlike our footwear, the world of timepieces is somewhat complicated. There are thousands of different styles, with more launched every year, offering up a bigger margin for error. A brogue suits most men, a platinum tourbillon less so.
Such a minefield of problems inevitably leads to mistakes. And, with so many potential pitfalls clouded by misunderstanding, very few of us are guilt-free. To save your wrist from any wrongdoing, we’ve enlisted the experts to explain how to call time on the most common.
Maintenance Is Important
Just as a car demands an MOT, so does a watch. A ticker’s whole purpose is to accurately monitor time, but like any machine, precision will wane if it isn’t maintained.
“In order to keep your watch finely tuned, exact and reliable servicing is a must,” says Paul Sweetenham, co-founder of Farer watches. “For an everyday mechanical watch, a thorough service is recommended once every four to five years. This increases to around every two years for a vintage watch, depending on how regularly it’s worn.”
Servicing doesn’t come cheap, mind. A full check-up costs around the £150 mark, with additional replacement costs on top if required. Returning to the brand flagship can add further expense and also be time-consuming. Unless you think it will void any warranty, it’s probably more economical to visit a reputable jeweller or watch dealer to get this done.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Would you wear a baseball cap to a wedding? No, of course you wouldn’t. Similarly, there is a time and place for each style of watch, and a black-tie dinner is no place for a diver.
“Watches fall into so many categories – racing, business and aviation to name but three. Unsurprisingly, no one watch can fit all of life’s occasions,” says Sweetenham. “To avoid a faux pas, you should amass three pieces: a sports watch for the gym, a dress watch for formal events and a casual watch for the weekend.”
Not sure what each of those looks like? Key giveaways include chronographs (i.e. a stopwatch function) and a rubber strap for a sports watch; clean, classic dials and a leather strap for a dress watch; and bold accents and a distressed leather or even fabric strap on a weekend choice.
Know Your Audience
The margin for error doesn’t end at a dress codes. If gearing up for a social event – be it a pub lunch or a date – wear a watch befitting your company.
Subtle pieces from respected brands say a lot more than showcase novelties,” says Erica Redgrave, buyer at The Watch Gallery. “For instance, diamond-encrusted tourbillons are a good indicator of a manufacture’s ability, but aren’t universally considered tasteful for the everyday.”
Put it this way: it’s gaudy to brag about your salary, so don’t let your watch do it either.
Know Your Watch
If you’re about to drop a month’s pay on a watch, it makes sense to understand it, and that includes all the functions.
“Chronographs, moonphases and perpetual calendars are all features that add value to a watch,” says Redgrave. “But since you’ll likely pay more for them, it’s wise to truly know what they do and if you really need them.”
The rule also applies to the model itself. While you don’t need to recount all the specs from cog-to-cog (nobody wants to hear your diamond count, honest), know the specific design to avoid looking like a noob.
For example, many call a vintage Rolex with a black bezel a ‘bakelite’, yet the material was used on just one style: the 6542. And we’re guessing you don’t have one.
Don’t Discount Pre-Owned
The term ‘brand new’ is usually synonymous with higher quality. However, that’s not quite the case with watches, as pre-owned pieces can tick just as well as those straight from the showroom cabinet.
“It can often make sense to consider buying pre-owned, as not only does it offer you the opportunity to find a luxury watch for less, it also broadens your choice,” says Stuart Hennell, managing director at Watchfinder. “Limited editions and out-of-production pieces are all available on the pre-owned market, and are much more coveted as a result.”
A vast amount of pre-owned retailers now exist online, with the likes of Watchfinder and The Watch Gallery both offering second-hand tickers. If you’d rather see the goods up close and in person, specialist auctions take place all year round. Whatever you do, buy from someone trusted or risk getting stung with a fake.
Don’t Pay Over The Odds
If you’re ready to graduate from high street or fashion watches, there’s a few things you should know first. Those of Swiss variety can cost much more than anything in your wardrobe. That’s because there’s more work involved: a fully qualified watchmaker, the all-important accreditation, precious metals, so on and so forth. That said, you needn’t remortgage your house just yet.
“A very good mechanical watch will start around the £750 mark,” says Sweetenham. “Anything above and you’re paying for the material or a complex complication that won’t perform any better than the lower end pieces.”
If you do want to splash out on something special, there’s a top limit too: £2,000 to be exact says Sweetenham. “The best watch is the one for you and your requirements, and you’ll rarely need to spend over this for an amazing piece.”
Don’t Expect A Return
There are sound investments to make in life: houses, bonds, betting against England in the world cup. Watches are not always one of them.
“Too many people believe that a watch [is guaranteed to] accumulate value, but this is false,” says Redgrave. “Buying low and selling high isn’t as straightforward in the watch world, and that’s because the industry is so subject to change.”
Instead, pour your money into a vintage piece or one of the few watches guaranteed to hold their value – specifically, Rolex, Tudor or Patek Phillipe. “These brands have a solid track record when it comes to resale, with Rolex’s sports lines proving to be the most profitable over time.”