What You Should Look for When You’re Choosing a Watch

Are you in the market for a new watch? When you first start doing research, it can be hard to identify which features you should actually care about, and which ones don’t really make a difference in the long run — in other words, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Of course, a person’s watch is an incredibly personal choice, because it’s something that’s used frequently and has such a visible presence in day-to-day activities. With your specific needs in mind, check out our guide below to help decipher what you should know before buying a watch.

Consideration 1: Watch Movement

From a technical perspective, one of the foremost considerations when selecting watches must be the type of movement in your desired watch. A watch’s “movement” refers to the part of the device that drives the hands on a watch face to make it tick — in other words, it’s the part that makes a watch “go.” It’s often described as the heart of a watch, but perhaps brain would be more accurate. In addition to tracking the time of day, a watch’s movement powers features such as its calendar and chronograph. When it comes to your dream watch’s movement design, are two major categories to consider.

The biggest difference between a quartz and an automatic mechanical movement is that a quartz movement functions electronically, while a mechanical movement is driven by the kinetic energy released by the mainspring. So, mechanical watches must be “wound” — either manually or automatically via the wrist’s movements.

Quartz movements:

Quartz movement watches, which are the most common kind and account for approximately 90% of the world’s watches, use a battery as their primary power source. To generate power in quartz watch movements, the battery sends an electrical current through a small quartz crystal, which electrifies the crystal and creates subsequent vibrations about 33 times per second. These small vibrations keep the movement oscillating, which in turn drives the motor to move the watch hands.

Pros:

  • Accuracy

Watches with quartz movements are widely recognized as keenly accurate.

  • Approachable price point

Quartz is relatively easy to come by, and the price usually reflects that.

  • Typically lighter

Although this is not universally the case, quartz watches are often slim and light.

Cons:

  • Battery required

Needing a battery means needing to replace a battery every year or so.

  • Not as full of “character” as mechanical

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but watch aficionados generally agree that mechanical watches hold some artistic allure over quartz ones.

Automatic mechanical movements:

The key component of a mechanical movement is called the mainspring, which is a spring that gradually unwinds to release energy, thus propelling the watch hands. Because the coil of the mainspring relies on energy transmitted by winding the crown, manual mechanical watches must be physically wound on occasion. However, an automatic mechanical movement — such as that found in Hook+Gaff’s flagship mechanical watch, the Fleetmaster — winds the watch automatically via a rotor that’s powered by the movement of your wrist.

 Pros:

  • Tradition

There’s a high level of craftsmanship and art that goes into each mechanical watch, not to mention the timeless ritual of winding a watch that transcends trends.

  • No battery needed

Since it’s powered by a hand-wound mainspring, you won’t have to go to the jeweler to replace the battery.

  • Smooth hand movement

A mechanical movement utilizes a sweeping motion on the second hand of the watch, versus the “tick, tick, tick” of a quartz.

Cons:

  • Typically a higher price point

With the level of craftsmanship and engineering required, automatic mechanical movements are generally more expensive.

  • Less accurate over time

A well-crafted automatic watch is built to last, but may need maintenance over the years to ensure the time stays accurate.

Consideration 2: Water Resistance

Another important consideration in your watch quest is water resistance. Your level of need for this depends on your lifestyle — are you frequently taking the boat out? Are you a diver? Is playing sports or working out part of your daily routine? Do you find yourself playing golf in any weather (and occasionally dunking a hand in a water hazard in search of your ball)?

Most everyone can benefit from a water-resistant watch — because who wants to worry about a watch when you’re dashing out of the house and through the rain into your car? However, the degree of your watch’s water resistance can help determine the right watch for you. For reference, all of Hook+Gaff’s watches are watertight to 200 meters/660 feet, which is sufficient for swimming, fishing and more.

Consideration 3: Daily Use

Speaking of daily activities and water-related pursuits, how you will use the watch is a pretty big piece of the watch-buying puzzle. Consider how much of your time is spent in business meetings versus wrestling with the kids. How many hours in a week do you spend out on the water, and how many do you spend in an open field? What do you reach for more often, a tackle box or a tux? If you’re somewhere in the middle and find yourself in need of something that can fit in on the open water or at a wedding, check out Hook+Gaff’s lineup of durable, versatile watches with classic designs.

Consideration 4: Quality + Price

When it comes to watches, pay attention to the materials that are used to build the watch. Higher-quality materials not only have a more pleasing aesthetic, but they also contribute to a watch’s durability and functionality. “Quality” also extends beyond the physical watch features, and includes things like a purposeful design or innovative function. For example, Hook+Gaff’s left-side crown placement is intentionally different from the masses for the purpose of lessening wrist irritation and discomfort.

 Finally, consider the watch as a symbol. As something that marks the passing of your days, seconds and hours — and how you spend your time — it should be something you’re proud of. If a watch is something you get good use out of daily, and is maybe even an heirloom piece that you hope to pass on to your loved ones, don’t settle for low quality.

 And on that note, if you’re debating the merits of a smart watch versus a traditional watch, be sure to brush up on our field notes that compare and contrast the two approaches. Hopefully, you feel a little more prepared to shop for your perfect watch now — happy hunting!

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