As a man, a watch is the only item of jewelry you can legitimately ‘pull off’. Yes, by all means wear your neck chain like you’re Flavor Flav, or cross-stitched bracelet which has ‘sentimental value’ – but the rest of us are judging you.
In this day and age of wearable tech, the man who stands proudly against the tide with a mechanical timepiece on his wrist is king. A decent watch exudes elegance.
That being said, the watch market is a minefield, with many pit-holes for a first time buyer. I believe that a man only needs two quality watches: a dress watch with a traditional face and leather strap, and a ‘complicated’ watch with multiple dials and a stainless steel strap.
Below I’m going to break down some of the best available watch brands on various different budgets. This isn’t a definitive list, and there will be many great brands I have missed – but it’s a good place to start.
£0 – £100
Ahem… Let’s be honest, any watch under £100 is purely going to be functional. It will tell the time. That’s all you’re going to get. We’re in Elizabeth Duke, ‘Argos impulse buy’ territory. In this bracket you’ve got low-end Rotary, Casio, Accurist, Sekonda and such like. They will do the job perfectly fine, but won’t turn heads.
£100 – £200
This is where it starts getting interesting. At this price point you have the introduction of the minimalist UK watch makers such as Uniform Wares and Daniel Wellington, and Scandinavian brands like as Skagen and Larsson & Jennings. I’m also fond of Mondaine, who created the iconic design of the Swiss railway clock, and carried said design through to their watches. At this price you won’t have bells and whistles, but will have a sleekly designed watch with character, which you’ll be pleased to have on your wrist.
£200 – £500
This bracket opens a few more doors. You can get decent spec watches from the likes of Seiko and Swatch, and the entry level of mid-range brands like Tissot and Movado. You’re still in quartz territory (more on that later), but the build quality increases exponentially are you climb the budget ladder.
£500 – £1000
At the lower end of this price point you’ll find great watches by Longines, Raymond Weil and Zenith – including some iconic watches like Longines Le Grande Classique.
At the higher end this is where eBay becomes your friend. There are plenty of amazing bargains to be found by bidding on vintage watches. You may even be able to bag yourself a second hand mechanical classic such as an Omega Speedmaster. Just make sure the watch you’re bidding for has the appropriate documentation, as there are many fakes circulating through the murky eBay waters.
£1,000 – £2,000
Now we’re talking! This is where a lot of the Swiss-made brands come into play. This is also where the movement of the watch becomes important. Generally speaking, a ‘movement’ is how the watch is powered – usually either with a quartz battery, or by mechanical movements. You can tell the difference between a quartz watch and a mechanical watch by looking at the second hand: a quartz watch ticks each second, where a mechanical watch has a smooth movement around the whole watch face. Mechanical watches are valued more due to the craftsmanship needed to create the tiny components inside, where a quartz watch has a battery running the show.
In this bracket you have the entry level watches from esteemed Swiss brands such as TAG Heuer, Omega, Baume & Mercier, RADO and the top end watches from the likes of Longines.
£2,000 – £5,000
Into the serious money. Any of the major brands will have something for you in this price range. You can now purchase a quality Breitling, high-end TAG or Omega, or Rolex if you’re that way inclined (though they have their fans, I believe it’s a bit cliched in this day and age to get a Rolex. Just my opinion though!)
The world is yours, my friend! This is approaching the territory of the likes of Piaget, Cartier, Blancpain, and the mighty Patek Philippe. If you’re in this bracket and know these names, my advice is arbitrary.
WATCH OUT FOR:
- Watches by fashion houses. You’ll often see watches by Gucci, Armani etc. They charge extortionate prices for poor craftsmanship, living purely on their name. For these companies the watch side of the business is an afterthought. Why would you possibly choose them over a company who devotes all its time (I’m throwing these time-related puns around for good measure) to making watches?
- Watches advertised on instagram. On the main fashion instas you follow, you’ll often see watches which look pretty decent. You need to remember this: that feed was PAID to promote them. They’re like an apple whose skin looks perfect, but the fruit inside is rotten to the core. Avoid like the plague.