How to Choose a Watch for a Man

ShoppingTips & Advice

  • Author Andrew Coulter
  • Published June 28, 2007
  • Word count 720

Since the invention of the shoe, men have enjoyed poking fun at women’s preoccupation with footwear. Anyone who has observed men shopping for a wristwatch would be aware that this is like the pot calling the kettle black. In fact, despite official accounts to the contrary, the watch was probably invented by a woman who wanted to prove that men too have their own silly obsessions.

If you are a woman considering the purchase of a watch for a man in your life; whether it be a husband, boyfriend, father, or whatever; here are a few considerations:

First of all, there are two basic kinds of watches: quartz and mechanical. A quartz watch is simply a battery powered electronic watch. Quartz watches are practical, extremely accurate and relatively cheap. They are also more shock resistant and require less maintenance.

Mechanical watches employ the same basic technology that has been in use for more than 300 years. Dozens of tiny moving parts including gears, pinions, springs, wheels and levers are held together by many more screws, plates and bridges. The moving parts are all driven by a mainspring. Mechanical watches are not as accurate as quartz watches. They are somewhat more delicate and may be damaged if dropped on a hard surface. They are typically more expensive and they may also require expensive maintenance every few years. One more thing: most men who really appreciate watches love them.

Why do men love mechanical watches? For the same reason they love exotic cars and for the same reason boys are always taking things apart. It's what watchmaker Gerd-R Lang calls "faszination der mechanik", German for "mechanical fascination". The mechanical watch is one of the greatest mechanical and engineering feats ever. They are incredibly intricate little machines. For the engineer in many of us, there is almost nothing so beautiful and fascinating as the precision of the movement of a mechanical watch as it tick-ticks away. Mechanical watches often have a clear case back so the movement can be observed.

The best mechanical watches are produced in Switzerland, and a few very fine manufacturers are in Germany as well. There are basically two types of mechanicals: The automatic, which is self-winding and the hand-wind. An automatic actually winds itself up from movement as you wear it. The hand-wind has to be winded up every day or so with the crown, or winding stem.

Here is another great thing about mechanicals: While quartz watches are usually thrown out after a few years, a good quality mechanical that is well maintained can last…practically forever. Mechanical watches are passed down from father to son as family heirlooms. The value of a mechanical watch is somewhat intangible. There is simply a special bond between the watch and the man who wears it.

That being said, every man should own a good quartz watch. Because they are durable, and somewhat more disposable, they are ideal for sports, golfing, camping, or just working around the yard. They are also ideal for military men and men who work in construction or a trade that exposes the watch to abuse. Quarts watches can also be very gadgety, which most men love as well. These days they are putting electronic compasses, altimeters, barometers and even GPS's into some quartz watches.

Whether you select a quartz or a mechanical, there are some common features that should be considered. The first is case material. Make sure the watch you buy is constructed of stainless steel, titanium or gold. Avoid watches with a cheap plating over a base metal. These watches will corrode over time and often provoke an allergic reaction.

A second consideration should be the crystal, or glass which covers the dial. At the very least, you should select a good hardened mineral crystal. The very best crystals are made of synthetic sapphire, which is almost completely scratch resistant.

Look for a quartz watch with a Swiss or Japanese movements. Outside of those two countries, there really aren’t any manufacturers of high quality quarts watch movements.

Often, the difference between a good quality watch, and the cheap $50 watches you see in department stores is in the case material, crystal and movement. Choose well, and there are few gifts that will please the man in your life more than a fine watch.

Andrew Coulter is employed by, which offers a large selection of watches both quartz and mechanical.

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