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Choosing a men’s watch

Watches are generally classified into 3 categories: Casual/daily beater (aka “Tool watches”), dress watches, and sports watches.


The Tool/Daily Beater Watch
Perhaps the most versatile of all watches, the tool watch is one that fits in best with a polo shirt and jeans. It’s the kind of watch you’ll wear out on the weekend – strolling down a shopping alley, cruising along the beach, or bringing the kids out to the park. Such watches are rugged and look quite sharp even when worn with a smart-casual outfit. They are called the “daily beater” because that is precisely what they do – get worn daily and are not afraid to get roughed up. Most of these watches are stainless steel (or even Titanium) watches with some sort of hard metal paint coating, like PVD or DLC that resist the hardest scratches while keeping the metal colour. A good number of these watches are commonly themed as field, diver, or aviation watches. Some good examples are the Hamilton Khaki Field Auto 42mm, Victorinox Dive Master 500 Mechanical, Fortis, Seiko 5 Military, Breitling, etc.

The Dress Watch
This is the kind of watch that is associated with a long-sleeve shirt and office wear. A dress watch is what you want to wear when you go for a job interview, wedding dinner, or to meet someone significant. Formal, simple and elegant are the kind of ideas that underpin the dress watch. Most importantly it should be low-profile; anything watch that draws immediately draws attention should be strictly kept out of this category. Some other characteristics of the dress watch include:

  • Thin – less than 12 mm thick (the thinner, the dressier)
  • Small to medium sized – between 35 mm to 40 mm for men (this depends on the size of your wrist though and how large a watch looks on it)
  • Simplicity
    • Dial should be “clean” – uncluttered without complications (eg. chronograph) if possible and ideally have hour, minute hands and small seconds. Some purists insist on dial with Roman numerals and with only an hour and second hand.
    • No fancy diver bezels (save it for tool watches),
    • No lume or tritium
  • Precious metal looks great (eg. rose gold). The bling factor actually looks good here.
  • Strap – Leather ALWAYS (no exceptions!). A genuine alligator strap is much more dressy as compared to a smooth calf one. (Note that the thickness of the strap should be proportionate to the thickness and style of the watch, complementing it)
  • Display back – most dress watches have a glass back for you to see the nicely finished movement as it runs. Quite a pleasure to watch the balance working!
  • Finish
    • Most dress watches have a smooth mirror finish, especially for cases made of precious metal. You would rarely find a dress watch with a satin or brushed finish.
    • NEVER buy a dress-watch that is gold plated. The plating wears off with use and looks really bad as time goes by. This does not add ‘character’ to the watch and save plating for tool watches (eg. black PVD)
  • Brand – if your budget allows, buy brands that are more expensive and not so common. Dress watches give a man the chance to express his personality and uniqueness.
  • Movement – Avoid quartz watches here at all costs (hell if you are paying so much go for something of quality). Mechanical watches are the real deal here – both automatic and manual wind. Choose an automatic watch rather than a manual one if you plan to use the watch daily and don’t want to wind it each morning.

Some examples of dress watches would include the IWC Portuguese Chronograph and Jungans


The Sports Watch
As the name implies, the watch to wear when doing sports or physical activities. Almost all watches in this category are digital watches and are made of rubber. Strictly NO mechanical watches for sports! If you try playing tennis with a mechanical watch, the impact and shock will wreck havoc on the parts of the movement and eventually spoil it. They are also quite cheap and have alarms, so they make a good travel watch! Here’s what to look out for:

  • Case – rugged and able to withstand hard knocks and accidental dropping. Rubber or plastic cased watches get my vote here
  • Water resistance – Minimum of 50 m, more if you plan to take it swimming regularly
  • Movement – digital of course. They have no moving parts and run on easily replaceable batteries. Besides, how else can you time your run accurately!
  • Functions – having a stopwatch and an alarm would be good.
  • Add-on features – Some watches can be linked to a heart rate monitor, while others have a GPS in it to map out your run.
  • Backlight – Yes, no sports watch is complete without a light!

Hope you found this watch buying guide useful, but above all… Buy what you like!

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