A friend recently contacted me to review and discuss some watches he was looking at for his first or maybe only "big" watch purchase. Whether it's for a wedding, milestone birthday, birth of a child, promotion, or just that time in your life, buying a great watch can commemorate these milestones. This post, which may turn into a series of posts, takes a meticulist's point of view on this purchasing process.
There are so many ways you can go with your first watch, and I think the first big question that needs to be answered or at least pondered, is what do you want out of the watch. Are you looking to buy something new and hold onto it for the rest of your life or are you looking for something to wear everyday for the foreseeable future? In that case considerations like durability, versatility, and potentially water resistance come into play. Or maybe this will be the first of many watches or something that just gets pulled out on special occasions, in which case maybe something vintage is a consideration as well. Your budget certainly helps establish the candidates, but even then there can be so many options and different directions.
Exploring the long road first, in this category I like to look at watches that are timeless (no pun intended). The staple models from a manufacturer have withstood the test of time for a reason, they were well executed for their intended purpose. Obvious examples would include the Rolex Datejust and Submariner or the Omega Speedmaster or Seamaster (Aqua Terra). You may want to look for watches with a lot of versatility either in appearance to be dressed up or down, or even function if you expect it to see a lot of water, for example.
If you're not necessarily committed to buying an holding forever, the opportunity to become a bit more adventurous comes into play. Do you want something primarily sporty, or maybe a vintage watch that you've always lusted after. In these cases, I say consume. Try to see and try on as many watches as you can. Learn about what's out there, and especially in the case of vintage, what to look for when purchasing. Be patient for the right one to come along, but have the knowledge to recognize which one that is.
When looking at specific models I like to think about it from the standpoint of what does the watch represent, and what does it represent to you. In the case of the watch, I always like to know the lineage, history, or type of watch that it is. Do you have a connection with it, does it have a cool story, or maybe that's just the design you prefer. Again, using Rolex as an obvious example, most of their sport watches were originally designed and developed for a specific purpose, they were tools of the trade. The Submariner was meant for diving, the Explorer was designed to summit Mount Everest, and the Air King was a pilots watch, for example. The stories behind these models and the context of history in which they were used is fascinating. Finding one with a story or purpose that connects to you, can make it more special, and potentially offer some differentiation. Although still a Rolex, a vintage Air King or Explorer, for example, offer a more inconspicuous or more understated take on the big crown with their timeless simplicity, clean lines, and understated elegance.
Or maybe everyone you know has a Rolex now and you're looking for something a little different. Identifying with a less common brand, like Nomos for example, can offer a refreshing alternative, retaining strong watchmaking principles and practices and combining them with great, minimalist designs. The bottom line is, for the type of person reading this site and pondering these questions, I find establishing a connection or appreciation for the philosophies of that brand or that watch, can really make the connection to the watch more rewarding.
When considering your first or next watch, ask yourself what it is that you want from that watch and what will it represent or connect with for you. A strong conviction to these questions is a great first step in making a meaningful and lasting purchase to be happy with. It's the little joy of glancing at your wrist and loving what you see throughout the day that makes this introspective worthwhile.
Are you pondering a new watch, need to bounce ideas off someone, or trying to answer these questions for someone as a meaningful gift? Feel free to comment below or reach out via the contact me page. I love helping people find the perfect watch for them like in this instance where I helped a best friend's wife surprise him on their wedding day.