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How To Buy Your First (Real) Watch

Tips for finding the right investment watch from the experts at Oster Jewelers and Williams Jewelers. 

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Few accessories signify adult status quite like watches. They’re often expensive, which means you’ve considered the purchase carefully. They’re (hopefully) well-crafted, so owning one suggests an appreciation for finely made objects. And they’re an accessory worn each and every day, meaning they encapsulate a style and set of values that have been honed over time.

But let’s face it: Buying a watch is complicated. There’s terminology to learn, a vast number of style options, and endless brands to choose from. To help you prep for that first quality timepiece purchase, we sought the advice of two leading watch experts in town—Jeremy Oster of Oster Jewelers and Shaina Williams of Williams Jewelers.

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5280: Does size—and style—matter?

Oster: Style and size are important. It’s key to consider what kind of impression you would like to make. Think about the kind of job you have; a financial advisor may want to show restraint and value, whereas a fashion designer may be more about flair and getting noticed. Your watch should reflect your personality type and personal sense of style.

Williams: Men’s watches have hit the climax for really large and oversize watches. The current trend out of Switzerland is a return to traditional sizes, meaning timepieces from 36mm to 44mm in diameter. That said, we always direct customers to pick the size they feel most comfortable wearing.

What is a movement, and what does a first-time buyer need to know about it?

Williams: The movement is the heart of the watch. A good analogy would be that the movement in a watch is the same as the engine in a car. For a first-time watch buyer, the most important thing to know is the difference between a quartz movement (a battery-driven watch), an automatic (a watch that self-winds when it is worn), and a manual watch (a watch that needs to be wound every 36 hours on average).

Oster: This largely comes down to budget. If the budget is up to around $1,000, then it is likely that you will be buying a quartz movement. This type of watch features components that cannot be repaired but may be replaced. These tend to be more of a fashion watch, as you are primarily paying for the design. As the budget goes up, we recommend looking for a mechanical watch. This type of timepiece is powered by a spring and features parts fabricated using traditional methods; a good watchmaker can service and repair a mechanical watch, allowing it to last for generations. Of course, there are movements available at many different levels of quality. The first-time buyer should look for certain details such as whether it’s Swiss made, which has high prestige.

What is a complication; do you need them? 

Williams: Complications are features in a timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. They can range from everyday features, like date display and alarms, to chronographs and automatic winding mechanisms. Do you need them? That depends on what you want the timepiece to do for you. Do you need a date? Do you need an alarm? Are you looking for two time zones to be displayed?

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Oster: Generally, additional complications add to the price of the watch. Consider whether your money is better spent with a complication or in securing a higher quality piece.

Let’s talk about accuracy.

Oster: The first thing to understand is that a quartz watch is usually more accurate than a mechanical watch. However, any good watch will tell reasonable time and be accurate within 10 to 15 seconds a day, or better. If your life depends on the second accuracy, then a high-quality quartz watch may be ideal.

Williams: As far as the automatic winding mechanisms, watches that are COSC (Controle Officiel de Swiss Chronometres) are the most accurate. (Less than three percent of the timepieces produced in Switzerland are certified.) Rolex submits the largest number of movements to COSC, followed by Omega and Breitling. Having a COSC certification is something that you should keep in mind as your watch collection expands. You may want to start off with a quartz model (most quartz models are not COSC-certified) and complete your watch collection with an automatic COSC-certified chronometer timepiece.

Is it safer to purchase an iconic brand, or is an under-the-radar company OK, too?

Oster: The bigger, best-known brands tend to spend huge amounts of money on advertising and will manufacture vast quantities of each watch. This can be appealing from a status point of view to some. However, it can also be limiting in terms of individual style. My advice is to push sales people for why you should buy a particular watch over another. There should be a more compelling reason than “it’s a popular choice.”

Should a watch be considered an investment that will go up in value?      

Oster: I never advise buying watches as financial investments. I do, however, consider a great watch to be a perfect personal investment. After all, how many luxury items can you buy that will provide you with loyal service, beauty, and unique style 24 hours a day, seven days a week for many decades? Buy the best quality that meets your individual style and lifestyle—then forget about the money and enjoy it for many years.

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Oster Jewelers, 251 Steele St., 303-572-1111, osterjewelers.com.  Williams Jewelers, 2825 E. Third Ave., 303-355-4332 and 5106 S. Broadway, 303-761-9700, williamsjewelers.net

Now it’s time for shopping—Check out the experts’ top watch recommendations.

Follow fashion editor Georgia Benjou on Twitter at @gabenjou, Pinterest at /gabenjou, and Instagram at /gabenjou.

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