How To Buy Your First Watch.
Quality menswear lasts. Well made shoes will last years and are able to be re-soled again and again, getting better as they age. A good suit, particularly a good jacket will, with proper care, last decades. But few items we wear will be such a significant investment and be expected to last as long and carry as much meaning as a watch, particularly your first good watch.
Buying your first good watch requires as much thought about the future as it does the present. The watch will last a lifetime and, in all likelihood, be passed down whichever son you deem least likely to lock you up in an old folks home the minute you finally lose the plot and start accusing the toaster of espionage.
So at the time of purchase it requires a weighing up of not only who you are today, but also who you hope to become in the future. There are watches for every personality type and lifestyle and it will come down to identifying which single watch you best identify with and will meet your needs for the future.
Buy something you love the look of. Not like. Love. It’s going to be continually in your field of vision every day for decades and if you don’t love what you see every time it catches your eye, you’ve bought the wrong watch. The first time I saw my first watch (Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso), I knew it was the watch I wanted to own someday (I had the same experience with the first Breguet I saw when I was 15, but at a couple of hundred thousand dollars it’s going to have to wait for a little longer). And every time I put it on or see it, it makes me happy. It’s design is timeless (passing my “will this still look stylish in 50 years?” test, which I apply to everything) and it’s history (first produced in 1931) makes it among the worlds most iconic watches and has transcended generations.
Additionally, the Reverso mechanism (allowing the watches face to flip over, protecting the dial, which was originally designed for Polo players) will allow me to have our children’s names and birth-dates engraved on the back, whenever they come along.
Finally, if you’re faced with a decision between two watches which you like, choose the subtler one. It may seem like a concession, but it’s always better to err on the side of subtlety than to buy something which might be too loud and regret it later on.
Don’t Buy The Watch You Think You’re supposed To:
I guarantee that a sizable percentage of Rolex’s annual sales are from men who don’t know any better and think that buying a Rolex is what you’re supposed to do when you have money, so other people know it. Once upon a time a Rolex really stood for something and they had a well deserved position, earned from years of quality production, but they’ve been a cliche for a long time now and most of their budget and corporate energy goes into sponsoring celebrities and branding, not the product. If you love their design then you should absolutely buy one, it will be the right decision, but don’t buy one (or any other watch) because you want to impress people.
Thinking about how and when you’re going to wear the watch will tell you what to buy. As it’s your first watch, it should be able to cross over through a couple of different situations. It should be able to manage both formal and less formal scenarios (i.e. at work, if you’re in a suit and after work or on weekends, in jeans) A watch with a band which can be easily changed helps as you can wear a black band for work and a brown band away from the office. I have both black and brown alligator straps for my Reverso, but as I rarely wear black shoes anymore (work is less formal for me, than most) the brown band never comes off except for the occasional formal event at night, where black shoes are the only appropriate option. Just as well, as the band is a pain to swap over.
Really think about which colour best suits you. Not in relation to the strap as this can be easily and inexpensively changed, but in relation to the case. Typically, you’ll have a choice of either silver or gold. You skin tone is relevant here (darker skin tends to better suit gold) but personal preference is most important. I only ever wear silver and always have, so silver was a given for me.
It’s easy to get caught up in gimmicky or pointless features, as watches have become so complex. Jaquet Droz’ “Charming Bird” spins around inside the watch face and whistles for you, which is a feat of engineering, but not necessarily essential if all you want is to tell the time.
For me, an automatic watch is a given (a somewhat misleading title, as automatic watches have no battery and require winding). There’s something very satisfying about winding your watch each morning as you put it on. A watch with a greater power reserve is helpful as you may only need to wind it once a week (my Reverso requires winding every day) but this is helpful, rather than essential.
My only regret about my Reverso is that I didn’t get the version with the date (see next sub-heading), as I constantly have to check my phone if I forget the date, which happens a lot.
Other features like moonphase, dual time zone etc aren’t essential, unless you travel a lot or work with others somewhere else on the planet and need to know what time it is for them.
Buy the absolute best you can afford. It comes back to the point about time of ownership. In 20 years you’ll have completely forgotten about the cost, but you’ll still have the watch. Speaking from personal experience, in hindsight, I wished I’d spent an extra couple of thousand dollars for a Reverso with some additional features which I really like (moon phase and date) and if you’re spending $12,000 on a watch, you may as well spend $14,000, as any concept of a rational purchase decision went out the window about $11,500 ago.