How To Buy Your Man A Watch

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Friday, February 1, 2013
Case quartz watch with silver dial and two-tone bracelet
OK ladies, Valentines Day is approaching or maybe you're reading this around Christmas, his birthday, your anniversary or some other special event. This simple guide on how to buy a man's watch will teach you everything you need to know so that your gift doesn't spend more time in a drawer than on his wrist.

It's the thought that counts. That doesn't mean you happened to think of him while you were out shopping for earrings and saw a watch and brought it to the cashier. It means take the time to think about the receivers likes and dislikes and needs. It's not all that hard.

Make A List Of Watches He Owns

Watches come in many different styles and we're mostly not that picky. A watch is one of the few forms of jewelry us guys wear so it's good to have variety. Plus if you buy you're man a watch that's very similar to one he already owns it sort of sends the message that you're trying to replace his current watch which he may  be perfectly happy with or may have some other sentimental value.

Inventory sheet that characterizes men's watches
There are three basic features that define the appearance of a watch, the band, the case and the dial. There's also analog and digital but a man's watch should have hands and unless you're looking to buy a heart rate monitor watch, or some other special function watch stick with analog watches. 

Click on the worksheet on the right and print it out so you can have a record of what watches he already owns when you're shopping. We'll go over the details in a bit but in addition to the band, case and dial, take note of the brand and the frequency he wears the watch, 1 being not often, 5 being very often.  

Most guys will own at least one watch and when it's not on their wrist, the bathroom sink or the nightstand, it'll be in some drawer with the other watches he owns. Find his stash and keep an eye on what he's wearing.

Dress Or Casual

This one's simple. Dress watches only. A dress watch is more versatile. It looks as good on his wrist when he's wearing a suit just as it does when he's hanging around in cargo shorts and flip-flops. You can always add dressier accessory to a casual outfit but not the other way around. Just like you can wear a nice pair of wingtips with jeans but you can't wear sneakers with a tux.

And stay away from gaudy fashion watches that will be outdated in a year or two. A man's watch is something he can treasure for years and hopefully pass on.

The more versatile a watch is the more likely he is to wear it the more he's going to think of you when he does. 

Watch Band

One easy way to start selecting watches is to determine what band the gift watch should have.There are only two things you need to note about the watch band. What material is it made of and what color it is.

We're looking for classic and timeless so there are really only 5 different styles of bands we're looking at.

Black leather watch band Brown leather watch strap
Black Leather Brown Leather
Stainless-steel or Silver Metal Watch Bracelet Silver and Gold watch bracelet
Steel/Silver Metal Gold Metal Two Tone Metal

If you're lucky you'll spot a type of band he's lacking in his watch collection. It can be tricky though because there might be a reason he doesn't have any watches with that type of band.

You can't go wrong with most metal bands since most guys don't wear much jewelry besides a watch and a wedding ring so any type of metal band will work. Some guys might not like all gold bands though as an example but they'll work with most outfits and situations.

Black leather bands are a good choice too but when it comes to browns it can get tricky because there are multiple shades. If you're interested in selecting a watch with a brown band look for one that will go well with any brown belts or shoes he owns or wears regularly. We get so few options to accessories, we have to make the most of it ;)

Some guys may favor metal bands over leather bands because they're easier to take off and put on. That can be remedied by adding a deployment clasp to a leather watch band. You just have to make sure the deployment clasp is sized correctly for the watch band. It should be listed in the specifications what the size of the band is. It's important to size it for the size of the band where the original clasp is, not where the band connects to the case. If you take the watch to a jeweler they should be able to fit it with an appropriate deployment clasp.

Also keep in mind that some guys with narrower wrists may shy away from leather bands. Nice quality leather bands are available in shorter sizes and are easy to replace by a jeweler. In combination with a deployment clasp it should alleviate any reservations he might have.

A nice black leather watch strap gives the most formal appearance so if he doesn't have one of those, go for that. It also works well with casual outfits.

Watch Case

Seiko SNE102 with Blac dial, stainless steel case and brown leather watch band
The watch case is the metal body that holds the rest of the components like the dial. The bezel is a ring that encircles the dial in some watches but for the purpose of selecting a gift watch we'll lump it in with the case.

In the picture on the right we see a nice Seiko SNE102 solar-powered watch that has a two-tone stainless steel case. The bezel is gold-colored but stationary. On some watches the bezel can rotate and has special functions. We'll get to that later.

For now just know that in terms of the right case for a man's gift watch stick with stainless steel/silver, gold or two toned. Black might be fine too but it doesn't have the same distinguished quality to it. A metal case with a black bezel is a little better.

If your man has all the different types of straps covered the next way you can choose a different case color so that you're gift isn't too similar to a watch he already owns.

Watch Dial

The color of the watch dial, or face as some might call it, is that last major stylistic choice to make when selecting a gift watch. Again because we're only interested in watches that are simple, elegant and can be admired for many years, we're going to limit what we consider an acceptable dial color.

No flashy or obnoxious colors. The choices are, white, gold, silver, ivory, black and sometimes a deep blue. I'm including blue because many workplaces are instituting less formal dress codes. A nice brown leather strapped watch with a blue dial goes well with the new khakis and polo "uniform" and can work with more and less formal dress as well.

In most situations people won't be too particular but lighter dial colors are considered more formal than darker dial colors. 

Extra Dials and Features

Watches can do a lot more than tell time. Some watches are designed for divers and have a rotating bezel, others can be used as stop watches and some have so many features they can be used to help a pilot fly his plane. 

The truth is that while these features are neat and can add interest to a watch divers use dive computers and you wouldn't get on any plane where the pilot was using his watch to plot his course. In cases where I need a stop watch I'm usually wearing my heart rate monitor watch or use the stopwatch app on my phone. The simpler the watch is, the more formal it is and as I said earlier, it's easy to mix a formal accessory with a casual outfit than the other way around.

A date window and maybe a dial that shows fractions of a second would be the most I would consider. Simple, elegant, timeless.

While we're on the subject of dials, stick with round.

Putting It All Together

Now that you have some general idea of what style choices to make for your man's gift watch, try to picture the watch on him while he's wearing different outfits and in different settings he's likely to be in. Don't just go with what looks good in the picture.

I like the way that you can filter many different options in Amazon Men's Dress Watches section and there are plenty of reviews for most watches.

Technical Details

We have the major style choices out of the way now let's talk about some important things to consider about the mechanics of the watch.

Watch Movement

The watch movement is what makes the watch work. Some manufacturers make their own movements but many buy movements from other companies to use in their watch designs. 

There are three basic types of movements. Quartz, which runs off a battery, mechanical that needs to be wound, and automatic which is a mechanical movement but the watch winds itself as it's worn by the movement of the hand. This is a matter of preference but I think everyone should own at least one mechanical watch. 

Country of origin is an important factor. While there are good and bad movements from many locations the general consensus is that Swiss movements are the best, followed by Japanese, then everyone else.

Dial Window/Crystal

The dial window (aka crystal) is the clear covering over the dial. Sapphire is considered the best but also more expensive. Mineral crystals are a cheaper alternative that are found in many less expensive watches and are considered a pretty good trade-off for price/quality. Acrylic dial windows are found and the cheapest watches. Acrylic scratches. Even though the scratches can be buffed I wouldn't recommend it for a gift watch unless you're buying a watch with the intent that it's worn under circumstances where breaking of the crystal is a concern and you want something that won't shatter and can be replaced at a low-cost.

Luminous Hands and Markers

Many watches have luminous hands and markers. After being exposed to light they will glow in the dark. Many mechanical watches do not have a light in them so having luminous hands allows you to see what time it is in the dark. I find this to be a very important feature and the luminous components blend well in watches that have been designed properly.

Water Resistance

Unless you're actually using a dive watch to dive, having a watch that can go down 600 meters isn't all that important but some level of water resistance is important for instances when he's caught in the rain, forgets to take it off before showering or accidentally drops it in the toilet.

Quality Affordable Watch Brands

A good-looking watch that will last many years or even decades doesn't have to cost a fortune. Timex and Seiko have been around for a long time and have a lot of great watches for less than $50. Some newer brands that are also well-regarded are Orient and Invicta.

Here are some examples of watches I think would make nice gifts that are less than $100.

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