The wonder of watches

We asked Matthew Finnie, of Finnies the Jeweller what to look for when buying a watch… 

Watches are about more than just telling the time. Watches are luxury items and the way we select them is similar to the way we might choose a car, or a new mobile phone. It’s down to the aesthetic, how it looks, how it feels and most importantly how it makes us feel when wearing it. The difference is that a classic watch will retain its good looks, functionality and appeal far longer than the latest iPhone. Classic watches are often passed from one generation to the next, retaining their value for decades to come. 

Start with the practical considerations of size and shape. Would you prefer a round watch, square, rectangular or tonneau dial?  This decision is often driven by how it looks and feels on the wrist so actually trying the watch on is crucial. Next, consider where and when you will wear it. Do you need a chronograph or a waterproof diver’s watch? Do you prefer a metal bracelet or a leather strap? What colour of watch would you prefer? Is the type of movement important? There are automatic, quartz and kinetic movements, as well as traditional handwound movements, all with their own practical considerations. While the purist will often want a mechanical movement, this decision can come down to whether you are happy to wind your watch regularly or just set it and forget it.  

How much do you want to spend? If not set then this will be informed by other choices, so an 18ct solid gold watch will be more expensive than the equivalent in steel, likewise when considering two otherwise identical timepieces, the one housing a mechanical movement is normally going to be priced higher than its quartz alternative. In general, the greater the number of functions, the more complicated the movement and the more expensive and exclusive a watch becomes. The most complicated watch in the world, the Aeternitas Mega 4 from Franck Muller, has 1483 components including a renewable calendar that needs adjusted just once in every thousand years. It costs $2.7 million!

Certain watches cost more to buy than others. At the less expensive end of the market, there are very popular watches produced by well known names such as Gucci which are great watches, but their design and construction is primarily about fashion and achieving a particular price point. At the other end of the market the look remains important however the price, and intrinsic value, is driven by not only the materials used, but also the exceptional level of expertise required to produce the individual components that are then assembled to create the final piece.

Classic watches are often relatively simple in appearance and avoid the use of flamboyant colours and complicated movements. Look for names such as Longines, Cartier, Frederique Constant and Omega. Tudor, the sister brand of Rolex, offer high quality timepieces too. 

For me, watchmaking in its purest form is a beautiful thing, and its history is filled with artisans who have spent a lifetime learning and refining their craft to become masters of their trade.

I could recommend a ‘sporty’ watch for everyday and a ‘classic’ watch for more formal occasions, but to start with, investing in the best quality piece you can afford will stand you in good stead. My personal suggestions to consider when making that first purchase would be the IWC Portugieser, the Omega Seamaster or a Cartier Tank Francaise, all of which are practical classics with an enduring appeal. 

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