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What’s Your Perfect Watch? Here’s a 10-Step Plan to Find It


Have you ever wondered “What’s the perfect watch for me?” Perhaps you framed the question like this: “Which watch should I buy?” Here’s a 10-step plan to help you find the one that’s perfect for you.

1. If you’re just starting out in the world of watches, visit online communities and ask questions. No, don’t ask “Which watch should I buy.” The forum participants don’t know you, so their advice is likely to be off the mark. Instead, ask specific questions about watches to build your knowledge. Ask questions based on the guidelines below. In any online community, keep in mind that the answers may reflect a built-in bias. Regular forum participants may have already formed strong brand allegiances. A site dedicated to a particular brand will be populated by devotees of that brand.

2. Make a list of the features and qualities you seek in a timepiece, prioritize them, and then look for watches that fit your list. Really think about the features. Will you use the watch in the water? Do you need to be able read it in the dark? Do you need a particular complication? Do you need a large date for better legibility? If you like to swap straps, do you need standard lugs? Will you trade overall legibility for a cool look? Are service costs a concern? The list goes on.

Breitling

3. The more time you devote to the search, the happier you will be in the end. Avoid impulse purchases. Be methodical.

4. If at all possible, do not buy a given watch because you think it will please or impress other people. You can purchase any watch, and people will line up to tell you that you should have purchased their favorite watch instead. Putting your happiness in the hands of others is risky business. Learn to shrug off criticism. Be confident in your choices. The only opinion that counts is yours.

5. Every time you see an image of a watch you like, save it. Try to locate multiple images of the same watch. Don’t focus on professional beauty shots – try to find good live shots. Look at the saved images every day (or more often). Keep a list ranking your favorites. If a watch stays at the top for a while, it may be a winner. On the other hand, once you spot something that bothers you about a watch, you will notice it every time you look at the watch, so you should probably eliminate it from your list.

Omega

6. Do your best to pinpoint the two or three things about a watch that really make you like it. Don’t just say “It looks nice” – be specific. Once you do that, you can seek out other watches with those qualities.

7. Be as thorough as possible in your search. Nothing is worse than buying a watch, only to find one you like better the following week. (Though for some, that is a way of life. They are “flippers” or “catch-and- release” collectors who live for the hunt, and this article is not for them.) If you’ve found a watch you really like, visit the watch communities, tell the good people which watch that is, and ask them to recommend similar watches. In this regard, advice from others can prove useful.

Rolex
8. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! Try on as many watches as possible. Watches can definitely surprise you once on your wrist. Watches that prove too big, too small, too thick, and/or too heavy generate much buyers’ remorse. If you see a watch you like online, find the same watch locally and try it on. If you can’t find that watch, find one that’s close in size and try it on. If you buy long distance without a test drive, make sure you can return the watch, no questions asked.

9. When you’re trying on watches, pay close attention to how they make you feel. Ideally, one watch will “call to you” from among the many you’re considering. That may be the one to buy, assuming it continues calling over a period of time. Don’t get married after (or during) the first date.

TAG Heuer Carrera

10. Once you’ve made a decision, try it on for a few days (the decision, not the watch). Act as though you’ve already purchased the watch, and your search has ended. Any other watch you were thinking of buying is now beyond reach. Are you still happy with your choice?

Finding the perfect watch can be a challenge, but the hunt is part of the fun, and the right choice can bring years of enjoyment.

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.

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24 Responses to “What’s Your Perfect Watch? Here’s a 10-Step Plan to Find It”

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  1. Sylvio F. Bertoli

    First class advice! I would add 11) Once you have made your mind up about the watch you want, visit the retailers / reliable sellers and fight for the best possible discount.

    Reply
  2. Damascus Steele

    The perfect watch is a watch that compliments who you are and what you do in life professionally and with hobbies. That’s asking a lot so I have to have several specialized watches in different categories or I need to change my attitude about it. One thing is no battery maintenance changes. It can be electronic but no battery changes. Mechanical watches I minimally need is elegance with a usable 24 hour timer Chronograph and world timer that is water tight to 200m.

    Reply
  3. An excellent article. I was given a Heuer Carrera @1969 reverse owl eyes. I gave it to my nephew. Tag had rebuilt it and I cringe when I think what it would fetch now. That was my favourite watch. I just bought a Ball Hydrocarbon Deep. Love it. That and a blue faced Rolex Yachtmaster and I am happy. I have some others but none compare to the Heuer or the Ball.

    Reply
  4. Herbert Yuttal

    just can’t help remembering the odd fellow that no one remembers….Baume & Mercier transonic chronograph, built on license from Bulova,(1975)..chrono,day/date,weighs a ton,( you know your wearing it .)

    Reply
  5. All my watches have been impulse buys, 1960’s Omega Seamaster de ville, 1960’s Zenith 2600, Omega Geneve, Omega Speedmaster triple date (daily basher, and it gets bashed!) Omega Dynamic… and I love & wear every single one of them! I narrowly missed out on a wholly original Omega Speedmaster cal.321, I walked past it twice in 20 minutes. The third time I saw it, it was on the wrist of the happiest guy in the world, walking out the door of the shop. That’s the only time I hesitated in buying a watch I liked. It won’t happen again, me hesitating and a watch like that (at that price) coming up for sale.

    Reply
  6. Tom Delaney

    My bucket list includes a Speedmaster Date Panda (323.30.40.40.04.001). Ideoending on what may be available, I’d consider working out a deal to trade my Seamaster Chrino 300m (ref 2598-XX).

    Reply
  7. Niels Schaumann

    This is a great list. I wish I had read it before making some of my less-advised purchases! At least, however, I bought only “pre-owned” watches initially, which makes it a lot easier to recover my investment when I later sold those watches. (Actually, it was easier to recover more of my investment, since I did not fully recover my purchase price in most cases.) Owning a bunch of watches I stopped liking after a while has honed by ability to choose one that has “staying power” today, however.

    Reply
  8. John Norwood

    I have to tell a story. Well, maybe two. Stories that debunk this idea, if only for me.

    First: I wanted a planet ocean. Like bond wore in quantum of solace. Wanted really badly. I don’t like owning more than one watch at a time. Monogamistic I suppose. Anyway, I sold my bell & Ross and bought the PO. I really never got used to the fact that I was wearing a watch with a divers bezel and I don’t dive. I felt like a poser. So, out it went.

    2. Recently I went to a local Tourneau on a whim. And once there my wife wanted me to pick my son up soon, so in a hurry I purchased an Oris big crown propilot. I loved the simplistic look of the watch. But a. The bracelet had a design flaw and b. I didn’t like the lume, it was very weak. I took it back because the design flaw drew blood on me a couple of times. Well, I got store credit; looked around at the selection and settled for a Ball Engineer 2 Pioneer on a bracelet. I’d tinkered with buying a Ball at times. I wasn’t overly excited about it. But I have to say, after two Omegas, a bell & ross, the Oris, this is by far my favorite watch. The lume is constant due to tritium and the watch is pragmatically beautiful.

    I’m sure I’ll buy more watches in the future, but this one will be hard to beat for me.

    Reply
  9. Meir Barac

    I like to change watches every day, sometime even a few times. So some watches I bought for out side activity [Rolex , Speedmaster ] some for elegance [ J.L.C gold reveil master , or Gentilhome “flat ” ] for travelling J.L.C Amvox ! or Swatch new automatic for places that the watch will’nt “show off”‘ . I can allways change a watch with another collector or a dealer.

    Reply
  10. Robert C

    A shame that Swatch ceased producing the Lemania 5100 as it appears that my perfect watch is still an Omega Speedmaster 4.5 but with the possible addition of T25 glass tubes added to the face and hands.

    Despite the current plethora of expensive brand names, the Omega Speedmaster is still one of the few watches designed for maximum legibility.

    I haven’t been able to personally inspect every possible watch brand, but most of the offerings currently on the market appear to be designed as glittery fashion statements rather than useful tools.

    Reply
  11. Alfonso Quirino

    Kindly help me look for a watch that :

    1. has an all stainless steel, matte finish.
    2. black face dial
    3. luminous at night and in a movie theatre.
    4. junior size.
    5. can leave it on my wrist all the time even if i were to play a little basketball – nothing rigorous.
    6. can shower and swim with it in depths of up to 20 feet.
    7. has the date
    8. simple in design.
    9. reasonably priced at US $800 or less

    Hope to hear from you.

    Thank you in advance

    Reply
    • Add another “0” to that $800 and say for certainty, Rolex Submariner Date. At $800 I would look at used Omega Seamaster 300.

      Reply
    • Johnny Mac

      Easy. Although the stainless steel is brightly finished, the new Ball Genesis (in 40mm, not 43mm variant) is your ticket. I have seven Ball watches, including an Aviator Dual Time (that has 75 tritium tubes), and the Genesis glows far brighter than any of them. It’s shock rated to 5,000 g’s. Available with a black or blue dial. They were available upon initial sale last year for $850, but the retail is now $1,550. Keep searching eBay and the forums, as used ones are starting to pop up for sale.

      Reply
    • Take a look at the Christopher Ward line of watches. The Trident Pro 600 is available in both a 43mm and a 38mm size, has an ETA or Selitta automatic movement, waterproof to 600m and starts at $830 – less in one of their regular sales.

      Reply
  12. dennis

    You give some good advice in this article for the new collector. I think the most important
    factor is to be aware of your budget, from there you can look at watches within your means.
    Find the best made watches in that range, look at Swiss, Seiko and many other brands, look
    at movements, SS cases, band or bracelet type, lug width etc. The fun will be in the hunt.

    Reply
  13. Fun article and commentary? I started collecting nearly 20 years ago by saving the heck for a $3k SS Sub. Wearing it made me very aware of the elements around me; didn’t want to scratch it. Saved all boxes, booklets, paper, tag, receipt, etc. a nod found it really maintained its value when I parlayed that piece into something a little better in 2 years. Remember, everything included with a new watch enhances it’s value later on! Good luck:-)

    Reply
  14. Time and Peace

    I couldn’t have said it better myself “The more time you devote to the search, the happier you will be in the end. Avoid impulse purchases. Be methodical.” The more I dove into research on luxury watches, the more I found that it isn’t the price-tag that makes the perfect watch. It is what the watch provides you, the collector.

    After my search, I landed on a Toystrong Chrono Black and Gold . Every time I looked at it, I wanted it more. I wanted the watch for me, not for some need to please the crowd (as you can tell, I agreed on that point).

    ToyWatch captures what I want, and I might just become a collector. Before I make another purchase, I’ll follow your plan. It was a bit more comprehensive than mine. Any advice anyone can give on how to maintain more than one watch at a time? As my collection grows, I am worried it will be difficult to keep all of them in perfect condition.

    Reply
    • dennis

      I have a collection of over 30 watches and i have found that when you pick one
      to wear that day it is like wearing it when you first bought it. Just like picking out
      clothing you are going to wear that day. As far as keeping them in good condition
      remember you are not wearing the same watch every day, thus you will take better care
      of them.

      Reply
  15. Kris Pedersen

    I guess I’m a catch & release collector although the “release” part is malfunctioning :)
    My quest is a Speedy Pro and a PP Nautilus.
    The Speedy Pro is not unreachable, just soooooo many to choose from its confusing :-s
    The Nautilus is a (lot – a lot lot) more expensive and may prove un-reachable for me :)

    Reply
  16. Larry Seiden

    Nice job Dish! That is great advice for newbie. As the master of impulsive buys, I wish someone had written similar advice back when.

    Reply
  17. My bucket list of desired watches 1vulcain cricket 2 blancpain fifthy fathoms chorno and 3zenith pilot Montre d aeronef type 20 GMT once you start collecting 1 watch it is amazing how u start too desire more

    Reply
  18. Patek Philippe – 5227G-001 – Calatrava.

    This is my favorite watch among all I saw on the internet. But it is very expensive, hehehe …

    Reply
    • Mike Disher

      As I was writing this story, it occurred to me that I should write a companion piece called something like “Can’t Afford Your Perfect Watch? Here’s a 10-Step Plan to Make Millions.” Then it occurred to me that I should sell the plan for $19.99 (which, by the way, is step 9 in my plan).

      Reply
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