Hiren Kumar Bose provides the do’s and don’ts on choosing the right mechanical watch, one you’ll cherish for a long time. Maybe it becomes a family heirloom
Considered an asset, the reason for buying an expensive watch can often dictate what type of watch you end up with. More discerning a buyer s/he will have varied several reasons for acquiring one: one looking for complexity and history (one which has a story behind it); one as a status symbol; one because a celebrity endorses it; and one as an investment. Though the numbers of the last category are less but growing.
These discerning buyers would prefer to go for a mechanical watch. For a mechanical watch unlike quartz watch is a true time machine. Though a mechanical luxury watch follows an old technology it is fascinating to know whether one’s hand is winding the gears or the motion of the wearer’s wrist powering it. It’s dizzying display of cause and effect, where gears, cogs, wheels, rotors and springs work in precise unison can be conversation breaker in the office or at a dinner party.
Mechanical watches are either manual or self-winding. The life expectancy of the mechanical movement of a high-quality watch is theoretically unlimited, provided it undergoes regular maintenance. They may be outdated and less accurate compared to a battery-powered quartz watch but still significantly more interesting. They have a much larger number of tiny moving parts inside and require hours and hours of painstaking labour to make. Quiz a watchmaker about his creation and s/he can go rapturous about it! Mechanical watches may cost you a bomb–there are many which cost equivalent to a Jaguar or a Maserati–for it is a piece of engineering in which the watchmaker has put hours and days of research into its design and structure, is made of a state-of-the-art material or revived a dying art.
A mechanical watch uses a mechanism (or calibre) to measure time. Made up of hundreds of parts and assembled by hand the movements are expensive. The top-notch brands (and there are several of them), make watches of exceptional taste that have been lovingly refined over the years by a dedicated team of watchmakers. Most brands consider themselves to-have-arrived if they have one with a movement like a tourbillion, the Holy Grail of fine watchmaking, in their bouquet.
Choose a watch with a first-rate movement like Swiss-made ETA and Sellita or Miyota of Japanese origin and used by brands like Citizen, Bernhardt, Festina, Invicta and Jacques Lemans. Then there are brands like Rolex, Omega, and TAG Heuer, Seiko and several others who vouch about their proprietary movement.
Mechanical watches come with complications, or functions. And one needs to do a bit of study on them. Like minute repeaters that chime the time on demand, tourbillions that counter the effects of gravity on a movement, perpetual calendars that never need adjusting, not even in a leap year. Then there are complications like chronographs, second time zones, annual calendars that show the day, date and month of the year etc.
There is not a specific size to a watch since it all depends on the wrist size of a wearer. There are different diameters of the dial ranging between 34-44mm and 44-46 mm; even 52mm. If you prefer a classic formal look than a 26 or a 34 mm watch would look nice as well but if you’re looking for a casual look, you might have to choose something bigger. But then sizes change with season too. What was de rigueur in the 90s it’s no more so.
We all are influenced commercials and are choices are manufactured, as they say. More so, if the commercial features a Hollywood actor or actress or a Wimbledon champ, for that matter. Remember don’t be misled in buying a watch which may not be accurate. Insist on a watch which is COSC (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute) certified. In fact, there is a handful of them.
If you’re one of those who’s looking for a collectable then go for a brand which has established its credibility over decades, if not a century. This includes names like Patel Phillipe, Breguet, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Bulgari, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Seiko and several others. But then there are the ones which have gained names in a very short time, like Greubel Forsey, Kari Voutilainen, Hublot and others.
Many legacy brands have in recent years introduced watches reviving dying arts and crafts. The dials of these watches are akin to a masterpiece hanging in the Louvre or the Museum of Modern Art. If you like to sport art on your wrist choose from the Métiers d Art collection of Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Hermès, Jacquet Droz and others.
It’s also important to check for issues like quality of illumination, water resistance, as to whether the dial is made of sapphire crystal so that it can withstand scratches and knocks, whether the body is made of high-grade metal, alloy, ceramic or titanium, and lastly whether it sports an excellent buckle and clasps, preferably double or triple locking clasps.