Whether you’re investing £100 or £10,000 in a new watch, it’s essential to know the facts about what you’re buying.
If you don’t know your quartz from your automatic, or if you want to splash out on a mechanical but don’t want to remortgage the house, start with our watch buying advice.
What does ‘quartz’ mean?
Quartz is a battery-powered timekeeping technology that can be found in lots of fashion and higher-end watches. The power comes from a tiny battery, which sends an electrical current through a small quartz crystal resulting in vibrations. These vibrations keep the movement oscillating and drive a motor to move the watch hands.
Because of the battery component, a quartz watch may need to be serviced every now and then. Despite this, you can rely on this type of movement for accuracy, affordability and longevity.
What’s the difference between an automatic and a manual watch?
If you want quality, craftsmanship and intricacy, you’ll want to explore the world of mechanical watches, which can be split into ‘Automatic’ and ‘Manual’ categories.
Mechanical watches contain lots of very small moving parts driven by a mainspring. This spring regulates the time by storing energy and then passing it on to other gears and springs to power the watch.
A manual movement – otherwise known as a hand-wound movement – needs to be manually turned to generate the energy needed for the watch’s mainspring. This is simply done by twisting the crown, which you normally use to set the time and date. Many watch collectors choose manual movements over the simpler automatic movements simply because they like the process of winding!
An automatic movement, or self-winding movement, harnesses the natural motion of the wearer to power the watch. This is done through the addition of a metal weight known as a rotor. This rotor spins every time you move, transferring energy and automatically winding the mainspring. As long as you wear an automatic piece regularly it will retain its power and keep time perfectly, although services every three to five years are often recommended.
Is there such a thing as an affordable mechanical watch?
There is the perception that in order to own a mechanical watch, you have to have some serious cash sloshing around your bank account. However, that really isn’t the case. You can, with a little research, get an automatic with a Swiss movement for under £500.
Brands in the Swatch Group stable, such as Tissot, represent excellent value for money, due in part to Swatch Group owning its own movement provider ETA, so it doesn’t incur third-party costs. Another great brand to look at is Oris, if you are able to go above £500, as is fellow Swatch Group stable mate Longines.
If you’re not wedded to buying an out-and-out ladies watch then brands such as 88 Rue du Rhone and Rotary are an option. If you really don’t care where the movement is from then you can find watches that are sub-£100, but if you are going to invest in an automatic then Swiss made is usually the way to go.
Should I invest in a great watch?
The first piece of advice is don’t ever buy a watch as ‘an investment’. It is tempting to buy with one eye on what your watch will be worth but you’ve got to love it. If the two combine in your perfect timepiece then wonderful but the heart should rule the head here.
What to actually look for? If you have the money go mechanical (that means either automatic or hand wound). Swiss made is a good start. There are some brands, such as Bremont, who are flying the British flag, and Bauhaus-inspired beauties Nomos, who are made in Germany, but in general ‘Swiss Made’ is a sign you’re in the right ballpark.
If a brand says it makes its movements in-house; that’s another gold star and a tick, though good solid movements from ETA are of a great quality.