11 Characteristics of a Good Watch [2019]

watch characteristics header image

With so many different brands and varieties of watches on the market, it can be difficult to decide which watch is the best for you.

Just choosing a watch can seem like a daunting challenge, especially for those with limited experience.

However, there are certain characteristics to look for that can help you narrow and refine your search.

In this article, we will be reviewing the 11 most important characteristics of a good watch.

11 characteristics of a good watch infographic

1. The Material of the Watch Case

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of a watch is the material of the watch case. However, besides aiding in the aesthetics of a timepiece, the watch case material has other effects.

Different materials may be more or less durable and can also greatly affect the overall weight of a watch.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Watch Case

Coming into use in the 1930’s, stainless replaced gold as the most widespread and popular case material.

Stainless steel is more cost effective, as well as corrosion-resistant and lightweight. These attributes make it a much more functional and utility-based watch material.

By comparison, gold was used in a time when watches were seen more as a status symbol than a functional accessory.

Titanium

Titanium Watch Case

Titanium had its debut in the watch market much later than stainless steel. The first watch to utilize titanium was created by Citizen in 1970.

Similar to stainless steel, titanium is also very durable and corrosion-resistant. While titanium is as strong as steel, it only weighs around half as much!

This makes it a comfortable yet durable alternative. However, it has not seen the same widespread level of adoption that stainless steel has, partially due to the fact that it is more costly.

Ceramic

Ceramic Watch Case

While it may sound like a type of cookware, the ceramic material used in some watches is very different and much more durable than the type you might use in the kitchen.

Ceramic watches are incredibly hard, making them almost impossible to scratch and slow to show signs of wear. Additionally, ceramic watch cases will retain vibrant color for a long time, as they are unaffected by UV rays.

Besides these advantages, ceramic is also lightweight, weighing around the same as aluminum.

These watches are great for people with sensitive skin, because ceramic is hypoallergenic.

Unfortunately, although ceramic is hard enough to resist scratches, it is rather brittle. If these watches fall a decent distance, there is a chance for the ceramic to shatter.

Ceramic watches may also cost more, due to ceramic being difficult to manufacture and mold.

2. The Type of Glass Used on The Watch Face

Watch faces are covered in glass to prevent dirt, water, and other particles from entering the watch.

The glass, also known as the watch crystal, can be made from a variety of different materials that offer different properties at different price points. The three main types are: sapphire, mineral, and acrylic.

Sapphire Crystal

While sapphire is naturally found rarely, for use in watch crystals it is synthetically grown in laboratories. It has the same structure as natural sapphire but is much more inexpensive to create.

Sapphire Crystal

Second only to diamonds in hardness, this material boasts enhanced scratch and crack resistance.

The downside to this is that sapphire is so hard it requires diamond-tipped cutters to be formed, driving up manufacturing costs.

Additionally, while it is very scratch-resistant, that comes at the cost of being brittle. Sapphire crystals are easy to shatter or chip, which can cause particles to fall into the movement and further damage the watch.

Acrylic Crystal

More akin to plastic than glass, acrylic (also known as plexiglass) is light, durable and the most affordable form of crystal.

acrylic crystal

Because it is similar to plastic, it is not very scratch-resistant. However, acrylic crystals can be polished to remove smaller scratches.

While it is cheap and useful, the fact that it scratches easily means that acrylic crystals are mostly used in lower end or children’s watches.

Mineral Crystal

While it may sound somewhat exotic, mineral crystals are simply ordinary glass that have been treated with heat or chemicals to increase scratch and shatter resistance.

mineral crystal

Mineral glass is much more durable than ordinary glass but doesn’t perform as well as sapphire crystal and will eventually retain scratches.

On the flip side, this material is much cheaper, so a replacement crystal should not run more than 100 dollars. This makes mineral glass a great option for lower or middle-tier watches.

3. Type of Watch Movement

Unlike some of the other characteristics on this list, a watch’s movement, or caliber, cannot be seen from the outside.

Just because it is less visible, doesn’t mean it is less important though. In fact, the movement is the mechanism that drives the hands on the watch face and potentially other features like calendars or chronographs.

Similar to the other characteristics, not all watch movements are created equal. Each of the three main types (quartz, mechanical, and automatic) come with their own unique advantages and downsides.

Quartz Movement

Seiko created the first watch with a quartz movement in 1969, bucking the trend of watches with mechanical movements. Within a quartz watch resides a battery that sends an electrical signal through a quartz crystal. This causes the quartz to vibrate 32768 times per second, establishing a precise frequency.

From there, the circuit measures the vibrations and converts them to a single tick each second, causing the watch hands to move in increments.

quartz watch movement diagram

Due to the precise frequency of the crystal’s vibrations, quartz movements keep time very well.

With less moving parts and a battery included, they are also low maintenance, easy to use, last a long time, and are less expensive than other movements.

This makes them great for regular watches or more functional timepieces.

Mechanical Movement

In a mechanical movement, a spring-driven mechanism powers the movement of the watch hands. This mechanism, also known as a mainspring, requires periodic winding in order to function.

When the mainspring is wound, it transfers the energy through various springs and gears to power the watch hands in a smooth motion.

Mechanical Movement

While the lack of a battery may seem like a negative, many watch connoisseurs consider the elegant dance of gears and mechanisms to be a beautiful expression of complex design.

A high-quality mechanical watch will last a lifetime if cared for appropriately. In addition, the lack of batteries may be seen as a benefit since there is no need to replace them.

In fact, some wrist watch wearers enjoy the ritual of winding their mechanical watches.

Probably the biggest benefit of a mechanical movement is the aesthetics and design. While it can’t be quantitatively measured, there’s something to be said for graceful harmony of gears in motion.

Automatic Movement

Similar to mechanical movements, automatic watches use a mainspring to power the watch hands.

However, instead of needing to be wound, automatic movements utilize kinetic energy generated from the wearer’s wrist when it’s in motion.

automatic watch movement diagram

This is done by attaching a metal weight known as a rotor to the mechanical movement. The rotor spins freely, allowing it to generate energy.

Automatic watches have similar benefits to their mechanical counterparts, but they do not need to be wound.

It is important to note that automatic watches are usually thicker due to the addition of rotors. This added heft is a sign of quality.

4. Water Resistance of the Watch

While this may seem like a very straightforward metric, the numbers can be somewhat misleading.

A watch that is rated to 100 meters water resistant doesn’t necessarily mean you can go 100 meters under water with that watch.

Water Resistant

A water resistant watch can tolerant splashes from sources such as rain, but should not be submerged in water.

3 BAR / 3 ATM / 30m / 100ft

A watch rated to 30 meters water resistant can withstand accidental splashes. It may be worn in the shower but that’s only recommended if the watch is new.

Water resistance seals degrade over time, making it riskier with an older watch.

5 BAR / 5 ATM / 50m / 165ft

At 50 meters resistance, a watch can be worn while showering or swimming, but should not be used for anything deeper than that.

10 BAR / 10 ATM / 100m / 330ft

These watches are suitable for swimming or snorkeling but not for diving.

20 BAR / 20 ATM / 200m / 660ft:

At this rating, watches can be used for swimming, scuba diving, as well as high-impact water sports.

More than 30 BAR / 30 ATM / 300m / 990ft

At 300 meters water resistance, watches can be used in all of the above situations along with saturation diving.

5. Type of Watch Strap

Watch Straps

Watch straps are an important part of the overall presentation of a watch. Different straps can greatly change the aesthetics and looks of a watch.

In many cases, the strap of a watch is more visible to others than the watch face itself, so how a strap looks is very important.

Thankfully, straps are easy to swap and cost much less than watches themselves. This lends them to being very customizable.

Even if you don’t have a large collection of watches, owning different straps will allow you to imbue your timepieces with a great deal of variety.

Straps also play a major role in how comfortably fitting a watch is. An ill-fitting strap can be detrimental and cause chafing on the wrist.

Zulu

Zulu Straps

Although they share many similarities with NATO straps, Zulu straps have a few key differences that set them apart.

Zulu straps are made with thicker materials, and have larger hardware. With a watch keeper strap being an optional addition on Zulu bands, they are available in three and five-ring variants.

Due to the increased bulk of Zulu straps, they take longer to break in, but also tend to last longer.

Oyster

Oyster watch strap

The Oyster bracelet is long-standing classic, having been introduced by Rolex in the 1930’s.

It has a three-piece link design, with long and think links. Not only does this design look great, but it also provides great durability.

The smaller number of links on the bracelet results in fewer possible break points. The downside to this is that the bracelet may feel somewhat stiffer in comparison to other bracelets.

President

President Bracelet

This bracelet famously holds its name due to it being worn by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

He was apparently received Rolex’s 150,000th chronometer as a sign of respect.

While the width of each link is similar to that of the Oyster, there is a large difference in the total number of links.

The President bracelet packs in more links of shorter lengths. This makes the bracelet less stiff, but has a negative effect in overall durability. This bracelet may be prone to slight stretching.

With a higher number of links, the President is seen as more formal. This makes the band more versatile overall, since it can be dressed up or down.

Shark Mesh

shark mesh watch strap

This ferocious sounding bracelet actually had its name originate from an ad campaign by Omega for their novel dive watch, the Ploprof 600.

The Shark Mesh bracelet is joined by interwoven loops, without the use of pins. This makes it much more durable since the loops are less likely to break.

In addition, the mesh design allows for a comfortable yet flexible fit on the wearer’s wrist.

It diverges from most mesh straps because its loops are on the larger side.

6. The Finish of The Watch (How it Feels)

They may not be the most immediately noticeable feature of a watch, but finishes can affect the appearance of a watch case and should be noted before purchasing.

Polished Finish

Most watch cases are made out of stainless steel, which can be finished in three ways: polished, brushed, or blasted.

Polished finished gleam like a mirror, and reflections are easy to see in the watch case.

polished finish watch strap

These cases are run under a polishing wheel for a long time to get their reflective sheen.

Brushed Finish

A satin finish, often called a brushed finish, is notable for the lines visible on the watch case.

These are brushed on by a watchmaker, who will use a steel brush to get this finish.

Brushed Finish

Sometimes watches can be found with both brushed and polished finish, in order to spotlight various areas of the watch.

Blasted Finish

In order to achieve a blasted finish, watchmakers sandblast the case, which is a process where sand or glass particles are shot at high speeds at the product.

blasted finish watch strap

This procedure creates a matte finish where hardly any light is reflected. Dive watches commonly receive this finish.

7. The Watch Brand and its Reputation

With so many different brands of watchmakers out there, it may seem difficult to evaluate which company to buy from.

However, as with most things, but especially for watches, it is imperative to buy from a renowned and high-quality brand.

Some watch options may seem tempting due to their low price and impressive features. In fact, there’s a chance you could be buying from a cheap company with poor craftsmanship.

A cheap watch is no good at all if it falls apart.

That’s why reputation is an important characteristic to consider when purchasing a watch.

Certain brands have long been renowned for their well-made and reliable timepieces.

Rolex

Rolex logo

Even if you know almost nothing about watches, you’ve probably heard of Rolex, and that’s not for no reason.

Rolex has been crafting watches and innovating in the field for many, many years.

The Oyster, created in 1926, was the ever waterproof watch. In 1945, they created the Datejust, the first watch with an automatically changing date.

Other firsts include:

  • The first watch waterproof to 100 meters
  • The first watch to display two time zones at once

They are currently the largest high-end watch company in the world and if you buy from Rolex, you can be confident in the quality you’re getting.

Tissot

tissot watch logo

A Swiss watchmaker, Tissot is known for high-quality watches that are reasonably priced.

Despite their comparatively low prices, Tissot timepieces still meet all the standards of Swiss watch making.

They became a part of the prestigious watch brand Swatch in 1983.

Citizen

citizen watch logo

Citizen is another highly respected watch brand. While not the most expensive, luxurious option on the market, they offer great value for their price point.

Watches made by Citizen are known for their reliability and longevity, as well as their affordable. With watches from under 100 dollars up to a few hundred, they won’t break the bank.

Something unique to Citizen is their Eco-Drive technology. Watches with Eco-Drive are high-quality solar powered watches.

Invicta

Invicta Watch

One of the more impressive facts about Invicta is that they have been in business for over 180 years!

Invicta is another brand that doesn’t focus on luxury watches, but instead aims to make quality watches at reasonable prices.

These watches tend to be on the larger side, giving them a more masculine appearance, which may or may not be to your liking.

8. Complications

While they may sound like something problematic, complications are simply additional features beyond telling the time.

Date

Having the date included in your watch can be a useful feature if you like to always be up to date, pun intended.

Chronograph

A chronograph is simply a fancy word for a stopwatch. While this feature is not totally necessary, it may be useful if you like to time yourself when exercising or for other reasons.

Backlight

If you tend to go out often at night, you may want to look for a watch with a backlight, which will make checking the time in the dark much easier.

9. The Craftsmanship of the Watch

Unlike most of the other characteristics, craftsmanship is not something that can be easily determined by glancing through a spec sheet.

Obviously though, it’s very important to buy a well-made watch with high-quality craftsmanship.

So how can you discern the good from the bad?

Well, for starters, higher quality watches tend to use higher quality materials.

Watch Craftsmanship

For example, quartz movements may be used in all types of watches, but mechanical movements tend to reflect a higher end watch.

The glass of a lower end watch may be mineral crystal, while a high-end watch is more likely to use sapphire crystal.

Besides that, there are certain things you should be able to observe.

Lower quality watches will have poorly constructed bracelets and weaker watch casings.

Additionally, the hands may move when the watch is shaken.

A higher end watch will feel sturdier and heavier in the hand. It will also have a strong comfortable bracelet or band and a durable case.

10. Value Appreciation

watch value appreciation

Though it may not have an immediately noticeable effect on your watch, value appreciation is nonetheless an important characteristic to consider when purchasing a timepiece.

This often goes by the wayside, as most consumers are focused on the more immediate aspects of their wristwatch, like how it looks and feels.

However, if you buy a watch and its value depreciates to nothing over time, you could be losing out greatly if you later decide you want to sell it.

If you’re purchasing a less expensive watch, or you never plan to sell your watch, then value appreciation shouldn’t be a major consideration in your decision.

Otherwise, it should be factored in when you’re evaluating brands in a search for a luxury watch.

Unfortunately, attempting to predict exactly how much a watch will be worth in the future is a difficult endeavor. There is some general guidance to follow.

Rolex and Patek Philippe are brands that offer watches that usually increase in value over time.

Patek Watch

Of course, there any many factors that influence value over time, such as brand recognition, demand, and exclusivity, among others.

As previously mentioned, Rolex is a very well-known brand, which means demand for their watches is high.

Additionally, many celebrities and renowned individuals wear Rolex, increasing their status and recognition.

While Patek Philippe is also a well-renowned brand, their prices tend to be a bit higher, causing them to be less accessible in general. That translates to exclusivity playing a larger role in value appreciation.

There are other brands that have a high demand. including Omega, Cartier, Breitling and others.

It’s important to realize that just because a brand has high demand, it doesn’t mean that every watch they sell will increase in value.

Specific models from a brand may tend to increase in value much more than others, so it’s important to do your research before buying.

11. Place of Origin

The last important characteristic to consider when buying a watch is the place of origin. There are certain countries that have a long history and tradition of watchmaking.

That doesn’t mean that you should base your decision entirely on the country your watch was made in, but it is an indicator of quality that should be noted.

With that said, there are two countries that stand out far beyond the rest in the world of watches: Switzerland and Japan.

Switzerland

Swiss watch

Probably the most famous country known for its timepieces, Switzerland has a well-established watch-making industry.

There are centuries of tradition behind the watchmaking in Switzerland, and they take pride in their craft.

Rolex was founded in England in 1905, but has been based in Switzerland since moving there in 1919. Other big watchmakers from Switzerland include: Omega, Tissot, Zenith, Hublot, and Breitling.

Japan

Japanese watches

With their fast-paced technological advancement, Japan has been able to produce well-made watches on a large scale, allowing for more affordable prices.

Japan is also known for its innovation in watchmaking. Seiko, a Japanese company, created the first quartz movement watch, and many other Japanese brands soon followed suit.

Though Japan is known more for its affordable watches, companies like Citizen and Seiko have started creating high-end luxury watches to rival their Swiss counterparts.

Beyond this, Japan is also recognized for their digital and hybrid watches. Casio and Orient are well known brands producing models like the G-Shock, Protek, and others.

Conclusion

Watches are complex machines with a large number of parts and a wide variety of characteristics.

In this article, we covered the eleven most important characteristics to keep in mind when looking for watch.

If you keep these features in mind, and do your research when buying, you can come away with a quality timepiece that will last for years to come.