Watch

Shopping for a Watch

At Katarina, we love watches. Mechanical watches are marvels of engineering in miniature, containing more than a hundred tiny parts that count out the hours and minutes using only the energy generated by tightening a spring. But whether you choose a wind watch or the convenience of a battery-powered timepiece, a watch is a decorative accessory that allows you to express your personal style. There are as many different watch designs as there are personalities—from elegant and understated to bold and strong to artistic and whimsical. And a wristwatch is still the best way to check the time when you're stuck in a meeting! Read on to get the information you'll need as you shop for a watch.

 

Understanding Your Needs

The first step when shopping for a watch is to consider its purpose. Are you looking for a timepiece that you will wear every day to work—if so, how formal or casual is your professional environment? Are you shopping for something to wear on your nights out? Do you need a watch with specialized features for a sport like running or diving? Understanding your needs will guide you to the appropriate style.

 

To Wind, or Not to Wind? Quartz vs. Mechanical

The biggest decision watch shoppers need to make is whether to choose a quartz watch or a mechanical watch.

  Quartz Watches
 

Watches with a quartz movement are battery powered and do not require winding. The movement of these watches is controlled by the oscillation of a small piece of quartz in the works. They keep very accurate time, losing only about 10 seconds per month. And quartz watches are easy to maintain, generally needing only battery replacement every one to two years. A few brands have introduced solar-powered watches, which eliminate the need for both winding and battery changing. Quartz watches can be analog or digital.

 

Analog watches have faces with hands, and numbers, Roman numerals, or tick marks indicating intervals of time.

 

Digital watches show the time in a readout of hours, minutes and seconds. They often have extra features such as depth sensors, Global Positioning System (GPS), altimeters, calculators, phone books, and compasses.

   
  Mechanical Watches
 

"In my watch, I make a small representation of the universe."
—Vianney Halter, elite Swiss watchmaker

 

Mechanical watches need to be wound, and often cost more than their quartz counterparts because more skill and labor are required to build the complex works that make the watch run. Mechanical works are slightly less accurate than quartz—potentially losing several minutes per month as opposed to seconds. Mechanical watches come in automatic and manual designs.

 

Automatic mechanical watches wind themselves, using energy harnessed from the movement of your arm. The length of time an automatic mechanical watch needs to be in motion each day to stay wound varies from model to model. Consult your watch's instruction manual for information. You'll need to wind your watch by hand if you don't wear it for a few days. You can also store your timepieces in a device called a watch winder to keep them fully wound even when you don't wear them. Also called "self-winding" or "perpetual."

 

Manual mechanical watches, also called wind watches, must be wound daily to tighten the spring.

   
  How a Mechanical Watch Works
 

The diagram below shows the typical gear train and escapement of a mechanical watch. Following is a basic explanation of how a mechanical watch works.

 

When a watch is wound, a central spring (the "mainspring") is tightened, storing energy. As the watch runs, the stored energy is transferred into the movement, and the spring loosens. (Eventually the spring needs to be tightened again by winding the watch, or the watch stops.)

 

The energy is transferred to the movement through a number of gears. The mainspring drives the mainspring barrel, which in turn drives the center wheel. The center wheel rotates once per hour and turns the minute hand, which is attached through a central pivot. Another gear wheel that is driven by the center wheel rotates once every 12 hours and moves the hour hand.

 

The center wheel drives the third wheel, which drives the fourth wheel. The fourth wheel rotates once per minute and is attached to the second hand. The fourth wheel drives the escape wheel.

  If this were the sum total of a watch movement, the watch would be unable to keep accurate time—the movement needs a way to control the transfer of energy from the mainspring. The part of the movement that controls the transfer of energy is called the escapement.
 

The escapement begins with the escape wheel, which is prevented from rotating freely by the pallet, a ratcheting mechanism. The pallet (the fork-like piece in the diagram) is connected by several parts to the balance wheel as shown. The balance wheel turns one direction, causing the pallet lever to lock the escape wheel. Another spring, called the balance spring (also called the hairspring), provides the energy to reverse the direction of the balance wheel, making it turn the other way and unlock the pallet lever, allowing the escape wheel to advance. (The "ticking" noise associated with mechanical watches is caused by the action of the pallet lever.) This all happens four times a second in a 4Hz movement.

 

When a watch is adjusted, it is the tension of the hairspring that is changed to either speed up or slow down the rate of oscillation.

  Watch Mechanics- Katarina
   
  What types of watches have quartz or mechanical movements?
 

Lower-priced watches are typically manufactured with quartz movements. In the mid-range of the market, you will find watches with either quartz or mechanical systems (some models offer you a choice), while more exclusive luxury brands often produce only mechanical watches.

   
  Which is right for you?
 

If you value convenience and low maintenance, a quartz movement will probably suit you best. However, if the craftsmanship that goes into a mechanical watch is meaningful to you, and you enjoy the daily ritual of winding, you'll take pride in a mechanical watch.

 

Materials

  Bracelets and Straps
 

The band that fastens a watch to your wrist is called a bracelet if it's made from a hard material, such as metal, and a strap if it's made from flexible materials such as leather or rubber.

Bracelets and straps can, in many cases, be replaced when worn out or damaged, or changed out to give a watch a different look. Keep in mind that if you see a watch whose face you like, but you're not crazy about the bracelet or strap, it may be possible to change it to something more to your liking.
  Bracelets and Straps
   
  Bracelet and Strap Sizing
 

Sizing of a bracelet must be done by a professional and is accomplished by adding or removing links. Keep any extra links in case you need to adjust the size again. If the existing holes on a strap don't allow for a good fit, select a new strap in a more appropriate size or take the watch to a jeweler or a shoe repair business and have additional holes punched in the strap.

   
  Cases
 

A watch case can be made of almost anything solid: plastic, metal, or high-tech materials such as ceramic or carbon fiber. The most inexpensive watches have plastic cases, but the majority of watch cases are made of metal.
Stainless steel is a common case material because it is affordable and durable. Titanium cases are used when strength and lightness are desired, such as in sports watches.
Better watches often have cases made from precious metals, especially gold and platinum. Silver is rarely used because it is too soft.
Carbon fiber, which is extremely strong and lightweight, is primarily used in sports or diving watches, as well as in ruggedized watches for everyday wear.

  Bracelet & Cases- Katarina watches
   
  Case Thickness
 

Usually measured in millimeters, the case thickness is the depth from the back to the front along the side of the watch.
Thicker cases are in fashion right now, but if you want your watch to fit under the cuff of a standard dress shirt, you may want to be careful with watches having a case thickness of more than 12 millimeters (just an estimate, as the fit of any watch will depend on individual factors). Alternatively, you can buy shirts with looser cuffs, or have existing shirts tailored to fit your watch.

  Case Thickness - Katarina Watches
   
  Crystals
 

The case is covered by a transparent window, called the crystal, that protects the watch face. Higher-end watches have crystals made from sapphire, which is a synthetic material right next to diamond on the hardness scale. Less expensive watches use mineral glass—glass that's been coated to make it more scratch resistant. Inexpensive watches use acrylic plastic, which is lightweight but prone to scratching.

 

Some mechanical watches have a display (or exhibition) back, a window on the reverse of the watch face so you can see the movement. Display backs are sometimes mineral glass even though the crystal is sapphire, since the display back is much less likely to get scratched.

 

Features

Every watch shows the hour and minute, most also show the second, and many show the date. Any function beyond these basics is known as a complication in watch terminology. Here are some complications you may encounter as you shop for a watch.

  Watch Features- Katarina
  altimeter: A device that measures the distance of the watch above or below average sea level.
  chronograph: A stopwatch feature that allows you to measure intervals of time.
  luminous hands/dial: A feature to help you read the time in dim light.
  moonphase indicator: A display that indicates the phase of the moon with an image on a rotating disk.
  repeater: Indicates the time through a series of chimes when you press a button, allowing you to know the time without having to read the watch face.
  telemeter: Measures the distance between the wearer and an object that generates a visible signal and a loud noise (such as a fired cannon or electrical storm).
  tachymeter: On a scale usually located around the rim of a watch dial, measures average speed over a predefined distance; used along with a chronograph.
 

tourbillon: A costly mechanism that contains the escapement in a rotating cage, found in very high-end mechanical watches.

 

water resistance: Usually stated on the dial or back of the case, a watch's water resistance is measured in feet, meters or atmospheres (ATM). Water-resistance ratings cannot be taken literally; the tests that establish water resistance are carried out in controlled environments with brand-new watches. A watch that is rated water resistant at up to 30 meters cannot actually be worn underwater. In reality, 30 meters of water resistance only makes a watch splash-proof. With a water resistance of up to 50 meters, you can wear the watch in the shower. A water resistance rating of 100 meters indicates that you can wear a watch swimming. At a 200-meter water resistance rating, you can wear the watch scuba diving. Water resistance degrades over time as seals and gaskets age, so it must be checked each year.

 

world time: Shows the time in one or more additional time zones around the world.

 

Weight

With today's fashionable oversized faces and thicker cases, it's worth considering the weight of the watch you want to buy. At a certain point—different for everyone—a wearer will start to notice the weight of a watch, which can be bothersome.
If you're shopping for an oversized watch, consider titanium, which is much lighter than steel. Precious metals weigh even more than steel, so when you're buying a large gold or platinum watch, give extra consideration to the weight.

  Watch Weight- Katarina
 

Maintaining Your Watch

Watches are designed to be sturdy, but following a few simple rules will help you protect your wristwatch and prolong its life.

  • Avoid exposing your watch to extreme hot or cold temperatures.
  • Do not expose analog quartz watches to magnets or magnetic fields (which can be found in mobile phones, stereo speakers, headphones, and medical equipment, among other sources). If exposed, the watch should resume normal timekeeping once it is away from the magnet. If the watch's performance does not return to normal, consult a watch repair specialist.
  • As with any piece of fine jewelry, avoid wearing your watch during activities that could expose it to a sharp blow, such as vigorous exercise (for non-sports watches) or home improvement.
  • Clean your watch regularly to remove perspiration, dirt and oil. Wipe the crystal, case and band with a soft cloth. Skin oils are not injurious to leather bands, but an occasional application of leather cleaner to remove excess dirt is a good idea. Clean metal bands with soap, water, and a soft brush if needed.
  • Mechanical watches need professional attention. Take your mechanical watch to a professional at least every three to five years for regular gear maintenance.
 

Glossary of Watch Terms

 

aperture: A small opening on the dial of a watch that shows information such as the date or day of the week.

 

balance spring: In a mechanical watch, a tiny spring that regulates the release of energy from the mainspring to the gear train. (Also known as a hairspring.)

 

balance wheel: Part of a mechanical watch movement that moves at a regular speed and works with the balance spring (hairspring) to keep time.

 

bezel: The frame that holds the crystal onto the case of a watch.

 

complication: Any feature of a watch beyond basic time- and date-keeping.

 

crown: The knob on the outside of a watch case used to set a watch's time and date functions, and to wind the mainspring of a mechanical watch.

  crystal: Clear cover over the dial of a watch; or, when used in reference to the movement of a quartz watch, the quartz crystal that regulates the watch's timekeeping.
 

escapement: In a mechanical watch, the assembly that includes the balance spring, balance wheel, pallet, and escape wheel, and which largely determines the watch's accuracy.

 

escape wheel: Part of the escapement, this notched gear works in conjunction with the pallet and the balance to release the energy of the mainspring at a consistent rate.

 

gear train: The series of gears that transmits the power used to move the hands of an analog watch.

 

jewel: A gemstone (typically a synthetic ruby, although diamonds and sapphires are sometimes used) used to reduce friction in the works of a mechanical watch. Better watches typically contain more jewels; in general, the higher the jewel count, the more accurate and durable the movement will be. The use of multiple jewels adds to the price of fine mechanical watches.

 

mainspring: A large spring that, when tightened through winding, powers the movement of a mechanical watch.

 

movement: The inner workings of a watch; can be either mechanical or quartz.

 

pallet: In a mechanical movement, a ratchet that starts and stops the escape wheel, ensuring that the mainspring unwinds at the correct rate. The "ticking" noise associated with mechanical watches is caused by the action of the pallet.

 

rotor: Part of the motor in a quartz movement.

 

stem: A thin shaft that connects the crown to the inner works.

 

tank watch: A style of watch with a rectangular case in which the vertical sides are metals bars; said to resemble a tank when viewed from above.

 

tonneau watch: A style of watch with a barrel-shaped case.

  tourbillon: From the French for "whirlwind," this addition to a mechanical watch's works places the escapement in a rotating cage to negate the effects of gravity. Originally used to improve a watch's accuracy, the tourbillon is now more of a novelty and is usually showcased in a window on the watch's face. Tourbillons are one of the most complex parts of a watch mechanism and reflect a high level of skill on the part of the watchmaker. They can increase the price of a watch significantly.
 

FAQ

What does the label "Swiss" or "Swiss Made" mean on a watch?
What is a chronometer?
How do the major watch brands compare to each other?
Why are mechanical watches more expensive?
Which watches are collectible?
What is a watch winder?

 

What does the label "Swiss" or "Swiss Made" mean on a watch?

 

A watch can legally be labeled "Swiss" or "Swiss Made" if:

 
  • Swiss-made components make up at least 50 percent of the total value of the movement, and the movement is assembled and inspected in Switzerland;
  • The watch's movement is cased up in Switzerland; and
  • The manufacturer carries out the final inspection in Switzerland.
  The label "Swiss Movement" means that the watch was assembled outside of Switzerland but contains a "Swiss" movement.
   
  What is a chronometer?
  A chronometer (not to be confused with a chronograph) is a watch whose movement has passed testing by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse de Chronomètres (COSC), an agency of the Swiss government. The manufacturers that certify the most watches through this process are Rolex, Omega, and TAG Heuer. (But even these firms do not certify all the watches they produce.) COSC certification sounds impressive, and while it is an indicator of quality, it is by no means the only or the highest mark of excellence. At the upper end of the luxury watch market, most manufacturers do not participate in this program.
   
  How do the major watch brands compare to each other?
 

There are so many different attributes of watches and so many different characteristics that are important to each buyer that it is not only difficult but meaningless to compare brands. For example, Rolex is the most recognized brand of luxury watches in the world, but there are many other brands of watches that are equally good (and some watch aficionados would argue, even better).

 

The best advice we can give you is to do detailed research on the specific attributes of the watch and watch companies you find of interest to determine which are better for your specific wants and needs.

   
 

Why are mechanical watches more expensive?

 

You will often find mechanical watches at a significantly higher price than a comparable quartz model. In some cases, a manufacturer will even offer the identical watch with your choice of a mechanical or quartz movement. The mechanical watch will be more expensive.

 

The pieces that make up watch movements are generally machine-made, but higher-end companies spend significant time finishing the pieces by hand, and allwatch movements must be assembled by hand. The pieces are simply too small and the necessary adjustments too fine for a machine. At the highest end of the market, the components of a mechanical movement may be handmade.

 

Mechanical watches have more "moving parts" than quartz watches, so the movements are more expensive to manufacture, and they are much more time-consuming to assemble.

 

Another factor affecting price is that mechanical movements are more likely to require in-warranty service, so that cost is factored into the price. Warranty claims for quartz watches are very small.

   
 

Which watches are collectible?

 

Watches can be a good investment, but only if you know a great deal about the market and specific items you are investing in. Like cars, watches virtually always lose value over time. When you buy a new watch or car, the value immediately drops. Many fine wristwatches can be resold for only 40 to 80 percent of their original price.

 

That said, a few factors that can increase the resale value of a watch include:

 
  • Being rare or difficult to find.
  • Limited edition—but only a true limited edition. Be aware that this phrase can be used as a marketing ploy, and it is up to you to find out if the number manufactured is truly limited (the fewer the better).
  • Active warranty—a warranty that can be transferred to another buyer adds value.
  You should buy the watch that you like and value, not a watch that you think will become a collector's item, as this is quite difficult to predict.
   
  What is a watch winder?
  A watch winder is a device used to keep automatic (also known as self-winding) mechanical watches running when not worn. It holds one or more watches and moves them in circular patterns to operate the self-winding mechanism.
  If you find that you don't wear your automatic mechanical watch often enough to keep it wound, a winder can be very convenient.
  The amount of motion per day necessary to keep an automatic watch properly wound varies. Consult your watch's instruction manual for information about your model. All automatic watches have a mechanism that protects them from being over-wound, but timer-based winders are helpful for preventing excessive wear on the watch's winding mechanism.