From the early 1800’s, telling time was the function of either a clock or a pocket-watch.
In 1868 a new era in timekeeping was born as Swiss manufacturer Patek Philippe &
Co. introduced the first wristwatch. In 1926 the Rolex Oyster was released. This
was considered to be the first waterproof wristwatch and proved to be true a year
later when Hans Wildorf of the Rolex Watch Co. sponsored swimmer Mercedes Gleitze
successfully crossing the English Channel wearing one.
Since then, wristwatches have become important not only as a way to keep time, but
as jewelry pieces, collectables and pieces of history that stimulate memories of
events past. There are wristwatch shows all over the world today where buyers, sellers
and collectors gather to share stories of their favorite pieces and the times that
All fine wristwatches exhibit the skill of the watchmaker and the craftsmanship
and engineering technique of the manufacturer. Each brand is created differently
and is shaped, toned and skilled with unique properties and parts. A wristwatch
today can cost a few dollars or several thousand dollars and it is often difficult
to figure out what is a good value and what is not. The following sections will
help identify different aspects of shopping for and purchasing a wristwatch.
What should I look for in a watch?
Buying a wristwatch can be a daunting task. This section will deal in large part
with value. Though value is not the only thing to think about when purchasing a
watch, as we get to want the next watch down the road it is definitely something
to be considered. A large percentage of customers will tell sales people that they
do not plan on ever selling the watch that they are considering, therefore the particular
value is not of importance in their purchase. It is not wise to assume that there
will never be a time during which the investment in a watch is irrelevant. It is
synonymous with overpaying when buying a house because you don’t think you will
Most people buy watches with a specific budget in mind. Typically watches that retail
for under $500 are a fashion purchase. These watches will usually have very little
to no resale value and should be purchased based upon the look, the functionality
and the price. Usually, with these watches what you see is what you get and the
question should be ‘does this watch make you happy for the money?’
Watches retailing between $500 and $2,000 should be researched a little more closely,
this price range can be a deceptive one because many factors should be considered.
When buying in this price range, the brand of watch should be checked for resale
or trade value. There are many good brands out there under $2,000 retail, yet there
are many brands that are not in the mainstream of well known manufacturers that
superficially put a high retail on a very low value watch. Thousands of times across
the country every day, a person walks in to a watch buyer and wants to get a bid
on their watch. They might have paid $1,000-$1,500 for this piece after reading
the hype in a magazine or had impulsively bought it after a good sales job in a
jewelry store. The bid comes back extremely low, sometimes $10-$100. Many times
they will be told “we just don’t buy those particular watches.” It is highly disappointing
to find out that even though the watch might have a high appraised value, there
is no secondary market for their timepiece and therefore no value when trying to
Another thing to consider in this price range is the possibility of a pre-owned
watch in really good condition. In many cases you can save 50% or more of the price
of the watch when buying a like new watch. It is best to buy from a reputable company
and have a pre-owned watch checked out by a service center for its condition and
Watches retailing over $2,000 should be researched carefully. Brand recognition
should definitely be considered and a knowledgeable sales staff is a must. Ask as
many questions as you can about the manufacturer and the particular piece you are
considering. If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers you are getting, back
off and get a second opinion. If you are looking on the internet, do as much research
as possible and on multiple sites. Make sure any information you obtain about a
particular piece is accurate by checking other sources. Most of all, if a price
seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The importance of warranties and repairs
When taking a watch in for any type of repair; get a claim ticket with a brief description
of the watch and any serial numbers. This will assure the customer and the service
center that what was brought in is will be returned.
Make sure to find out exactly what could go wrong with the timepiece and whether
it is warranted through their company or the manufacturer. Always beware of watches
sold “as-is” with no guarantee.
Often times, a warranty from the jeweler can be as good, or even better than the
manufacturers’ warranty. If the watch has a warranty from a jeweler, make sure that
the company is reputable. This way if anything happens to the watch, it can be fixed
correctly and in a timely manner. You should also consider if the company does the
repair in-house or if a third party does the work. A third party is not necessarily
a bad thing. The comfort level of insuring the safety of the timepiece and a quality
repair are the important issues at hand.
The manufacturers warranty is usually always a good thing. The only drawback to
having the watch sent back to the manufacturer would be the amount of time involved
in performing the repair.
Quartz watches are the easiest to maintain on a daily basis. A quartz movement is
powered by a battery and the watch should keep very accurate time for the life of
that battery. A vibrating quartz crystal drives a step motor to move the hands at
a constant rate. Passing an electric current through the quartz crystal keeps it
oscillating at over 32,000 vibrations per second, which makes the movement extremely
reliable. A quartz movement is also a cost effective design for any manufacturer
and the most affordable watches usually have this feature. On average, the life
expectancy of a battery should be about 1.5 years. When the battery gets weak, some
quartz watches will appear to skip a few seconds at a time. Other quartz watches
will work just fine until the battery simply dies and the watch stops running completely.
A mechanical movement uses a spring that must be wound by hand using the crown.
The spring slowly unwinds to release the energy that powers the timekeeping functions.
These watches must be hand wound every few days to keep their continuity. Mechanical
movements are fairly accurate timepieces, usually not to the standards of a quartz
movement as they can gain or lose a few minutes per month as a rule. Mechanical
movements are however unique pieces that truly display the skill of the watchmakers
that crafted the piece.
Automatic movements are merely mechanical movements that capture the energy produced
by the wearer's arm to wind the spring. Thus, the wearer does not need to manually
wind the watch every day. When fully wound, an automatic movement ‘theoretically’
should not have to be wound by hand at all. The movement can remain motionless for
small periods of time such as over night; however after a short period of non use,
the movement will begin to wind itself down and when it gets to the bottom of its
wind, time loss or stoppage can occur. It is recommended that you manually wind
the movement every two weeks or whenever there is a period of more that a complete
day when the watch has not been worn. Use of a watch winder is strongly recommended.
A common misunderstanding with automatic movements is that to wind the watch, just
shake it. An automatic watch on the bottom of its wind can run for brief periods
of time with shaking, but shaking alone does not wind the movement. Make sure to
get the particulars of any automatic movement watch purchased from the sales staff
as most service issues can be avoided with simple instruction. Automatic movements
can gain or lose a few minutes per month and cannot be compared to quartz movements
Care and feeding of your timepiece
Good watches can last for decades with proper care. Wipe your watch regularly with
a jewelry cloth to remove any dirt and oils and use a mild soap and water solution
with a soft toothbrush to clean metal bracelets. Avoid exposing your watch to extreme
hot or cold temperatures. Even water-resistant timepieces should not be worn in
a hot tub or extremely hot shower. If the watch should show signs of water or moisture
in the case, seek immediate attention so as to avoid expensive or permanent damage
to the movement or dial.
Chemicals such as perfumes, colognes or chlorine may damage the sealants. Lightly
rinse a water-resistant watch in fresh water after swimming or snorkeling. Keep
the watch case away from magnets as they can cause damage to the movement. Also
avoid any shock the watch might receive through sudden harsh actions by the wearer.