How to Buy a Watch: A Comprehensive Guide

Written by – Updated on June 14, 2024

As the prices of luxury watches continue to climb, understanding the watch selection process is key for anyone looking to make a wise investment. From movements, watch materials, water resistance levels and price range, to investing in vintage watches and being aware of common terminology, this comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know before buying a watch.

With the help of this guide, we think that you can confidently make informed decisions about your purchase, finding the perfect timepiece for you without sacrificing quality or authenticity.

watch materials hublot ceramic and plasti

Short Summary

  • Movements are typically categorized into quartz, mechanical (including automatics) and smartwatches, with in-house versions offering superior quality and unique designs.
  • The selection of a luxury watch is heavily influenced by the materials used, with water resistance rating, case diameter and thickness, strap size, and the quality of its components and manufacturer's reputation determining the price range.
  • It is essential for buyers to make sure they are informed about terminology related to luxury watch purchases, and purchase from an authorized dealer with a good reputation to ensure their purchase is genuine.

Movements: An Overview

The three primary types of watch movements are quartz, mechanical (including automatics), and smartwatches. Quartz movements are generally more affordable and precise, whereas mechanical movements are more intricate and costly to manufacture. Mechanical movements are widely preferred for their craftsmanship and the continuous vibration they provide. Watch aficionados tend to favor mechanical watches due to the smooth, sweeping motion of the hands, as opposed to the ticking of quartz watches.

In-house movements are produced internally by the company, rather than sourced from an external provider. These movements typically boast superior quality, attractive decoration, and unique designs compared to off-the-shelf versions.

Why Automatics Set The Standard

Automatic movements are the most popular choice for watches due to their convenience and environmental friendliness. Automatic movements are self-winding mechanical movements that utilize kinetic energy generated from the wearer's wrist to power the movement. This means they are more efficient and do not require a battery, thus reducing the environmental impact of watchmaking.

Furthermore, automatic movements are the preferred choice for luxury watches, as they can incorporate a range of complications, such as multiple time zones, chronographs, and perpetual calendars. Watch complications are extra features that enhance the watch's utility and desirability by providing additional functions and features beyond simply telling the time. Luxury watches often feature intricate components such as tourbillons, moon phases, and GMT complications, offering a level of sophistication and precision that is not available in mass produced watches. Complications also add value to luxury watches, as the engineering and craftsmanship required to incorporate them increases the watch's prestige and demand.

Watch Complications

Watch complications refer to any additional features or functions on a watch beyond the basic timekeeping function. These can range from simple features such as displaying the date to intricate works of high horology that involve multiple functions and require years of craftsmanship to create.

When it comes to the materials used to construct watch cases, stainless steel, ceramic, gold, titanium, and glass are some of the more commonly utilized materials. Stainless steel is a cost-effective and resilient material that offers excellent corrosion and scratch resistance, although it can be relatively heavy. Ceramic watch cases are something I love, and they offer the advantages of being lightweight, scratch-resistant, and hypoallergenic, but can be prone to breakage if dropped due to their brittleness. Gold is a luxurious and prestigious material that is highly malleable and can be fashioned into intricate designs, but it is a soft metal that is susceptible to scratches and may not be as resilient as other materials. Titanium is a strong yet lightweight material that is also hypoallergenic, but can be more costly than other materials and may not be as readily available. Glass is a visually appealing and scratch-resistant material that can lend a distinct aesthetic to a watch, but it is not as resilient as other materials and may be prone to cracking or shattering.

Popular watches renowned for their stainless steel construction include the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, and Tag Heuer Carrera. For watches renowned for their ceramic construction, the IWC Top Gun, Chanel J12, and Rado HyperChrome are all highly acclaimed. Luxury timepieces crafted from gold include the Rolex Day-Date, Patek Philippe Nautilus, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Popular watches crafted from titanium and widely acclaimed include the Breitling Avenger, Citizen Eco-Drive, and Seiko Prospex. In terms of watches renowned for their glass construction, the Bell & Ross BR-X1, Hublot Big Bang Sapphire, and Richard Mille RM 56-02 are all highly regarded.

Watch Materials

Watch materials are a critical factor in the selection of a luxury watch, as they can influence the watch's durability, weight, aesthetic appeal, and cost. Luxury watches can be classified into dive watches, pilot watches, field watches, racing watches, digital watches, and pocket watches ; gold is most suitable for dress watches, offering a timeless and sophisticated aesthetic.

Dive watches are typically crafted from corrosion-resistant materials, such as stainless steel, to ensure optimal durability, while titanium is generally more expensive than stainless steel. Pilot watches are distinguished by their large dial with luminous hands, their black-and-white color scheme, their long leather strap, their chunky onion-shaped crown, and their ability to display multiple time zones and chronographs. Notable luxury watches include the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, and Cartier Tank, which usually feature white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold.

Tactical watches are typically equipped with a compass, altimeter, and the capacity to provide weather alerts, while a minimalist watch is distinguished by its minimalistic design, featuring a simple aesthetic that is both elegant and understated. Chanel's J12 is both robust and glamorous, boasting ceramic construction and diamond accents. Tudor's Black Bay GMT S&G is an exquisite timepiece, featuring a vintage-inspired "root beer" bezel complemented with touches of gold on the bracelet, bezel, and crown.

The Omega Seamster is a highly-regarded diving watch, renowned for its precision and accuracy, and the Rolex Submariner is widely recognized as one of the most iconic dive watches in the world.

Price Range

ATM stands for atmospheres and is a measure of water resistance in watches, with a 20 ATM rating being more water-resistant than one with a 3 ATM rating. This is an important factor to consider when determining the price range. The case diameter and thickness of a watch are also factors that can significantly influence its price range, with larger dimensions generally leading to a higher cost. Men with larger wrists are typically recommended to opt for a watch with a diameter between 44 and 46 mm, while the typical diameter of modern women's watches is between 34 mm and 40 mm. The standard range for men's watches prior to the 1990s was between 35 and 40 millimeters.

Strap size is another essential factor to consider when purchasing a watch, as it should be proportionate to the watch case and fit comfortably on the wearer's wrist. For a watch that needs to fit comfortably beneath a shirt cuff, it is recommended that the case thickness should be approximately 10 mm. Leather, metal, and rubber are the most commonly used materials for watch straps. The price of a luxury watch is determined by the quality of its components and the reputation of its manufacturer.

Water Resistance

Water resistance in watches is essential to safeguard the internal components from any potential damage caused by contact with water. ATM is an abbreviation for atmospheres and it is used to measure the water resistance of a watch by indicating the amount of pressure the watch can tolerate without allowing water to penetrate.

A 20 ATM watch is suitable for activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving, while a 3 ATM watch is suitable for activities such as handwashing or exposure to rain. The Omega Seamaster and the Rolex Submariner are two famous examples of watches (one of which I own) that are suitable for diving.

Metal bracelets, leather straps, NATO straps, rubber straps, and Bund straps are all suitable for aquatic activities.

Straps and Bracelets

Vintage watches provide a unique aesthetic and superior craftsmanship that is difficult to replicate in modern watches. As such, the purchase of a vintage watch is an investment and should be approached with the same caution as any other financial decision.

It is important to thoroughly research the brand, model, year, condition, and market value of the watch, as well as the seller and their reputation, before making any purchase. Additionally, it is advisable to purchase from a reliable source in order to guarantee its authenticity and condition.

To protect and maintain your vintage watch, it is essential to store it in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight and moisture. Additionally, it should be wound regularly and serviced by a professional watchmaker every few years. It is important to avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures, shocks, and magnetic fields.

Investing in Vintage Watches

Vintage watches can be a great way to invest in something luxurious and timeless. Investing in vintage watches can lead to a positive return on investment, as certain classic models, such as the Rolex Daytona, Omega Speedmaster, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, are highly sought after and retain or even increase in value over time.

It is important to do research in order to ensure a prudent investment in a luxury watch. This research should include looking into models that maintain their value most effectively as well as familiarizing oneself with watch terminology such as "complication," "chronograph," "moon phase," "dial," "bezel," "lugs," "movement," and "crown." Such knowledge can help an investor make an informed decision regarding the purchase of a vintage watch.


Purchasing a counterfeit luxury watch is a costly mistake, as it can be of inferior quality. To ensure the authenticity of a watch purchase, one should verify the presence of the original box and papers, as well as inspect the watch for any signs of inferior quality or discrepancies in its design.

To guarantee the reliability of a source when purchasing a luxury watch, it is recommended to seek out authorized dealers, assess the seller's reputation and reviews, and verify the authenticity of the watch prior to making the purchase.

It is important to be well-informed when purchasing a watch, as it is often seen as a status symbol or formal occasion accessory. Therefore, one should not only make inquiries of the dealer to ensure an authentic watch, but also purchase from a reliable source with confidence that it is authentic.

By doing so, buyers can make an informed decision and be assured that their purchase is genuine.

Avoid Buying Online

When shopping for watches, the safest and most reliable option is to buy from a major retailer or authorized dealer in real life. Purchasing from an authorized dealer can provide assurance of the watch's authenticity, making them a reliable source for purchasing a watch.

It is important to be aware of the potential risks of purchasing counterfeit or lower quality replicas that are misrepresented as the genuine article. When selecting a watch, it is important to consider its aesthetic appeal and how it complements your individual style. Additionally, it is important to ask the dealer pertinent questions, verify the presence of original box and papers, and purchase from a reliable source such as eBay or MR PORTER.


In summary, purchasing a luxury watch can be an intimidating endeavor, so it is important to do your research prior to making a decision. Movement is the most crucial factor in any watch purchase, with automatic movemen being preferred for their convenience and ability to incorporate intricate complications. Water resistance, case diameter and thickness, strap size, and quality of components also impact watch prices, and vintage models have potential for positive returns but require extensive research and maintenance.

Additionally, watch buyers should make sure they are informed about terminology related to luxury watches, acquire knowledge of watch-making materials, and purchase only from authorized dealers or reputable retailers. While it may be tempting to save money by buying online, it is generally not advised as it increases the chances of purchasing a counterfeit product.

Therefore, following this comprehensive guide will help ensure that you end up with the right watch for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I decide what watch to buy?

Making the decision of which watch to buy can be daunting, but by considering your wrist size, purpose of use, personal style and important features, you can make a choice that suits you best.

After looking at all of these factors, try on the watch in person before settling on your purchase.

What is the point of owning a watch?

Owning a watch is a great way to stay organized and punctual. Not only can it accessorize your outfit with an attractive look, but it also helps you manage your time better and make fewer excuses for why you’re late. Wearing a watch is not just stylish—it’s practical.

The point of owning a watch is to ensure punctuality and help manage time more efficiently. A watch serves as a fashionable accessory that adds sophistication to any outfit, while also providing the peace of mind knowing you can tell the time without having to use your phone. Ultimately, owning a watch is a smart way to demonstrate respect for time.

How many watch should you own?

When it comes to watches, having a few staples in your collection is essential. Men should invest in at least three types of watches - a dress watch, a diving watch, and an everyday casual watch - to ensure they have appropriate options for any occasion.

A tool watch can also be beneficial for hobbyists looking for a specialized timepiece. With the right selection of watches, you'll always have the perfect accessory on your wrist.

What should you look for when buying a watch?

When purchasing a watch, it is important to consider the type of display, band material, movement, features, water resistance, quality indicators, and weight. These factors can help you determine the best watch for both form and function that will last you years to come.