A Guide to Men's Watches

We know that the phone in your pocket can perfectly tell you the time, and that too for any part of the world, but a watch is still an accessory that we root for. It helps in defining your style and tells the world a little bit about who you are. Many wear their inherited watches as a badge of honor of their family legacy, and for many it is a symbol of what they have achieved in life to be able to afford that watch. Even if you don’t have a high fascination for a time-piece and want a simple watch to use daily, knowing about the kinds of watches and the exquisite craftsmanship that goes behind some will only make you appreciate this little piece of jewellery a little more.

 

Movement of a watch

The seamless movement of the needles is often a meticulous work of machinery behind the dial’s surface, machinery that some old brands take months to carefully put together. There are two types of systems that are put in place that run a watch.

One cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship behind the Audemars Piguet automatic movement with perpetual calendar complication (Image credit : A Blog to Watch)

One cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship behind the Audemars Piguet automatic movement with perpetual calendar complication (Image credit : A Blog to Watch)

1.       Mechanical – it consists of the ‘automatic’ and ‘manual’ watches. These watches contain a spring that uncoils and produces a smooth movement of the needle. Manual watches require the spring to be wounded daily and the automatic comes with a rotor that does the work for you as it wounds the spring with your hand movement. This practice of tending to your manual watch daily may look like a chore to some, and that’s why such watches mostly make their way into the hands of watch connoisseurs and collectors. Mechanical watches are expensive, as they are still built in a way watches were produced centuries ago and fascinate people who appreciate the exquisite detailing, precision engineering and intensive labor behind creating those small dials.

2.       Quartz – this needs a battery to produce the movement, and is the most common and generally inexpensive kind of watch. The battery produces vibrations in the quartz crystal 32,678 times, which are converted into a pulse which moves the second hand in a jerky ‘tick-tick’ motion. The electronics of the watch make it extremely accurate and suitable to all outdoor environments.

 

Watch complications

Complications are the functions that a watch can perform other than time telling. It can be something as simple as date display, alarm, to something complex as world time display, moonphase display, or a combination of a few in a watch that can take months to create. These complications played an important role before technology caught up with the world, for eg., the moonphase helped sailors navigate according to the tidal movements, the chronograph helped pilots in maintaining split second accuracy, the calendar would keep you informed on the go, and so on. Usually watches designed for outdoor activities have a few complications in them while the dress watches may have none at all.

The Vacheron Constantin pocket watch with record breaking 57 complications! (Image Source) 

The Vacheron Constantin pocket watch with record breaking 57 complications! (Image Source

Types of watches

1.       The Dress watch – the simple, unornamented, leather strapped analog watch meant to subtly complement business suits. There is nothing flashy about this watch, except for a gold or silver case in high-end varieties, and it is matched with belt and shoes to go with the formal theme of the occasion.

2.       The Field watch – the versatile type that can be worn on any occasion, except for highly formal events. This watch is rugged and built for rough use, and hence typically comes with stainless steel case, simple readable dial and leather, NATO or canvas straps.

(leftt) the iconic Cartier tank dress watch, (right) Hamilton field watch

(leftt) the iconic Cartier tank dress watch, (right) Hamilton field watch

3.       The Aviator watch – the one built for pilots does not have a fixed style. However, some typical features that make a watch fall in this category are – complications such as day date and chronograph, oversized dial, mostly leather strap. They are suitable for casual getups.

4.       The Dive watch – one of the most common one out there, a dive watch is made up of water resistant elements like stainless steel case and stainless steel or silicone strap, which can make them quite bulky. A counter-clockwise rotating bezel, to keep track of minutes spent underwater, is the most defining feature. This watch is usually worn on all types of occasions.

(left) Breitling Navitimer pilot watch, (right) the archetype of diver watches, Rolex Submariner

(left) Breitling Navitimer pilot watch, (right) the archetype of diver watches, Rolex Submariner

5.       The Racing watch – the sportier, bulky watch with a chronograph and tachymeter. They sport a stainless steel case with steel or leather straps, and are suitable for casual wear.

6.       The Smart watch – the newest entrant in the watch world, it’s a watch for technology enthusiasts. It can perform calculations, be synced with mobile apps, measure your heart rate, and the list goes on. It is a deceptively simple looking watch with a LCD/OLED screen in place of standard dial and rechargeable batteries.

(left) Tissot V8 racing watch, (right) Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

(left) Tissot V8 racing watch, (right) Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

Buying a watch is a trade-off between choice, budget and need. Watches demand a price based on their material, length of manufacture, brand heritage and marketing costs. While most modern day designer watches like Rolex, Chopard, etc. are pricey due to clever marketing (though they do use good material as well and have carefully made/assembled movements), brands like IWC, Audemars Piguet and Ulysee Nardin speak for themselves. Some people find buying expensive watches a wastage of money, while for some the history behind a watch is all the difference that it makes. It’s the same reason why some men go after classic Aston Martins while there are modern hybrid options too in the market. The former denotes an era when things were still relatively raw and people indulging in them usually successful, strong men. In a time when it is easy to pretend to be rich by donning a designer label, it is still not within everyone’s reach to exude the class.

Having said this, whatever price tag your watch holds, it is important that you carry it properly and enjoy wearing it, as a watch is an accessory you buy for yourself according to your choice and there’s no point in treating it like a handcuff.

 

Common watch jargon

  1. Bezel – the gold, steel, platinum, ceramic, etc. ring that surrounds the dial.
  2. Calibre – indicates the movement, layout, etc. of the watch based on different complications included.
  3. Chronograph – a stopwatch, that can be included with many variations in design.
  4. Chronometer – a time-piece that has been tested under various conditions according to the standards set by an official Swiss institute. Not to be confused with chronograph!
  5. Crown – the small knob on the side of the watch case that can be used to adjust the time, date, and in case of a manual watch, wind.
  6. Crystal – the transparent glass, sapphire, plastic cover of the dial.
  7. Gasket – a rubber, neoprene or plastic ring used to seal the gaps between the case and the case back, crystal and crown to prevent water or dust from entering the case and damaging the movement inside.
  8. Horology – science of time measurement, including designing watches.
  9. Index – the markings of an hour on analog watch dials instead of numerals.
  10. Lugs – the protruding pieces of metal at the top and bottom that hold the strap.
  11. Pusher – the button chronograph which starts, stops or resets the chronograph mechanism. Most chronographs come with two pushers, one to start and one to stop.
  12. Swiss made – a watch is considered Swiss made if its movement was assembled, started and adjusted all by the manufacturer in Switzerland.
  13. Tachymeter – a device on the chronograph watch which measures the speed at which the wearer has travelled over a measured distance.
  14. Tritium – the element used for producing glowing dots or indices on the dial.
  15. Water resistant – watch that can handle light moisture. If suitable for diving, it should not be taken to depths below the mentioned limits by the watchmaker. ‘Waterproof’ is a misused term.