Buying a Mechanical Watch

These days, most watches are powered by quartz movements, which are reliable and accurate and require relatively little maintenance.

Watch purists, however, still prefer watches with mechanical movements, which is the way that all watches worked until about 50 years ago.

Skeleton mechanical watchBuying a mechanical watch can make a statement and there are thousands of available models in all price ranges and styles.  If you decide that you’d like to own one, there are a few things you should ask yourself before you commit to buy:

  • New or vintage?  Vintage models have historical and collector appeal, but they may be somewhat less accurate than newer models.  They also may have been altered or modified, particularly in the case of famous brands, such as Rolex, where altered models are quite common.  On the other hand, buying a pre-owned watch can save you a lot of money when compared to buying a comparable model brand new.
  • What kind of strap?  Most watches have either a metal bracelet or a rubber or leather strap.  Most wearers prefer one or the other.  Leather seems preferential for workplace and formal settings, though that seems to be changing as time goes on.  Still, you need to decide which you’d rather have, as most watches come with one or the other, but not both.
  • Dial style.  Do you want a simple face that only tells the time?  Do you need additional features that will add functionality but will also clutter up the looks?  You first need to decide exactly what it is you want your watch to do.  After that, the decision as to what kind of look you want in your watch should become an easy one.
  • Automatic or manually wound?  Automatic, or self-winding models, are less trouble, but are mechanically more complicated and somewhat more expensive.
  • Steel? Gold? Platinum? Other?  The case material is part of how you want your watch to look.  Most watches have stainless steel cases, though many are tinted to look like gold.  You can also buy mechanical watches with cases made from precious metals, of which gold is the most popular.
  • Price.  The price is going to be the big factor in determining the quality of watch that you can buy.  You can purchase a Chinese-made mechanical watch for as little as $25 or so, but it won’t be very reliable, it likely won’t have any significant water resistance and it likely won’t last very long.  At the other end of the spectrum, you can spend $5000 or more on a handcrafted Swiss timepiece that will likely last for decades with proper care and maintenance.  In between, there are many options, though most buyers of mechanical watches still prefer to buy models that are Swiss-made, or at least those that have Swiss-made movements.  The Japanese also make some affordable, high quality mechanical watches, so if you have a mid-range budget, you may wish to consider models from a Japanese maker.

These are just a few of the things that you need to consider when buying a mechanical watch.  Keep in mind that unlike quartz models, mechanical watches will require occasional maintenance, so be sure to keep that in mind as part of your budget.

A nice mechanical watch looks good, runs well, and should last for years with proper care.  They make a good buy if you choose well.