SHOPPING FOR A NEW WATCH
If you are a person that needs to be accurate to the very second then you would want to lean more towards a quartz watch. If you can live with a watch that is a few seconds off per day or week, then you may want to shop both mechanical and quartz watches. If you are a person that appreciates workmanship above all else then a high-grade mechanical watch would probably be your best bet.
No matter what anyone try's to tell you, NO mechanical watch will ever be as accurate as a quartz watch no matter what the cost, it is just a simple fact. Quartz crystals oscillate at an incredible rate and this makes the watch movements they govern incredibly accurate.
Mechanical watches will be repairable for the most part long after quartz watches assuming they have proper servicing. This has to do with parts mostly, which can be made for mechanical watches but not quartz watches.
Some points to keep in mind when purchasing a watch
If the watch is to be an heirloom or planned to be worn more than 10-15 years, it HAS to be mechanical. No one can deny the absolute fact that every quartz watch, kinetic watch, radio watch, etc., WILL become a non-running paperweight at some point. This includes the Rolex Oyster Quartz. Unless some watchmaker can come up with a way to make a microchip or circuit board in his shop, the parts for these battery watches will someday become obsolete. You can't get any parts for most Accutron, LED, etc. watches anymore. Basically any quartz watch that is over 10-15 years old is now obsolete as far as parts are concerned (with the exception of some crystals, circuits, and case parts).
I DO NOT recommend anyone buy any new watch that is "gold-tone" or gold plated on the case, band, or bezel. The reason is that the gold is just a thin layer of plating that will wear off quickly if the watch is worn very much. The old watches were gold-filled (a heavy layer of gold), but they stopped doing that around 25-30 years ago. I have seen hundreds of watches that the plating has worn off of, so I speak from experience here. If you want a watch in gold, buy solid gold. Otherwise, buy your watch in all stainless steel and it will last a LOT longer as far as what it looks like. Nothing looks worse on a watch than one where the plating has worn off to the base metal all over the watch and band. Crowns and pushers can be replaced periodically to maintain the look of a watch, replacing a case, band, or bezel will cost much more (if the parts are even available. Titanium watches are another that maintain the "look" longer, but expect them to scratch easily, and they are much harder to refinish than stainless steel.
If you have to know EXACTLY what time it is at all times, go radio-quartz (these are called "atomic-time watches") keeping in mind the life-span of the watch will not be any better than any other quartz watch.
If style is most important, go Longines, Rolex, Omega, or maybe TAG or something similar, with the thought in mind that if the watch is quartz it will become unrepairable at some point (probably 10 years or less) because of lack of parts (and is probably costing 10 times what it cost the manufacturer to produce it in the first place). Of course, these same brands in mechanical should be repairable for a long, long time providing the watch is properly maintained and serviced regularly.
If long life is most important, get just about any mechanical watch with an ETA-based mechanical movement, like d.freemont or Zeno, Omega, etc. Plan on having the watch serviced REGULARLY to keep it in top operating condition (and to avoid wear on the movement).
Old wrist watches and pocket watches, especially those in 14kt solid gold, are a good bet. Most can be repaired by any competent watchmaker and solid gold cases can be refinished to look nearly new (within reason of course). I will however recommend that you stick with manual wind watches. The reason I say this is the automatic winding parts in the older watches wear, and often custom parts must be made to fix the watch making it expensive. There are exceptions, but usually the restoration of a manual wind watch will be much cheaper and go much more smoothly. If the watch is only being worn for dress it shouldn't be a problem to wind it once a week or once a day. I have heard people say "I don't have time to wind a watch", I would put forth if someone can't spare 60 seconds a day to wind a watch that they may have a little too much stress in their lives.
There is a distinct difference between a "dress watch" and a "sport watch". The old adage "less is more" certainly applies here. A dress watch should be smaller and inconspicuous, a sport watch should be larger, and easier to read.
What watch you purchase is in the end all up to the individual. There are some things you should be aware of that your retailer/sales person may not want to tell you, or may not even know themselves. Here are few tips to make the consumer more knowledgeable.
Many watches made today, possibly 90% (especially quartz watches), regardless of the brand, use standard ETA movements. As an example, ALL TAG Heuer watches use Swiss Made ETA movements - yes it comes as a shock to many that TAG (as well as Omega, Breitling, Tissot, Cartier etc) do not make their own movements but buy them from ETA. Omega has been using ETA movements in their watches almost exclusively since 1980. Many of the major watch companies (including Omega) are owned by the SWATCH Group, which owns ETA. Starting to see the picture?
When you go to Wal-Mart and see all those watches with Gruen, Bulova, Elgin, Waltham, Hamilton, etc. on the dial, that is exactly what you are getting, the name, the watches are for the most part made in Asia and most if not all will have ETA movements inside. Gruen went out of business for the most part about 30-35 years ago. Bulova has not made their own watches since the mid 1980's. Elgin went out of business in about 1966-1967. Hamilton was moved to Asia in 1970 and their watches are now made of Asian components, they made their last American railroad watch in 1969. Waltham has been completely out of business since 1957. So, what are you paying for with the modern watch (especially quartz)? Well, mostly the name and the styling.
As far as time-keeping goes, in quart watch price doesn't really matter because the quartz crystal evens the playing field. A $20 quartz watch from Wal-Mart may keep as good (or better) time as a $1000 Omega or TAG quartz watch.
As for modern mechanical watches, Rolex still makes their own movements, as does Seiko, most of the other companies use ETA movements in one form or another (sometimes slightly reworking them in their "factories").
Mechanical watches require regular service so that the watch will continue to function properly and not wear-out. Most people tend to think that because they paid $4,000 for a Rolex that it should run forever, this is NOT true. Mechanical watches need to be serviced every 5-7 years even with modern synthetic watches. The reason is that the oil dries out and the pivots in the watch begin to wear, and wear in a watch is NOT a good thing. Running a watch until it stops is just asking for a VERY expensive repair bill. I blame this misconception on the sales people, they do not tell people these things when they buy a watch. Regular servicing is just part of buying a Rolex, Omega, or other mechanical watch, anyone who tells you otherwise is simply lying to you to make a sale.
WATCH COMPANIES AND THE WATCHMAKER
When buying a modern watch there is something I guarantee the salesperson is NOT going to tell you, the watch parts situation.
Many of the watch companies have stopped selling parts to most of the material houses and now will only sell directly to watchmakers they deem qualified (creating lots of "red-tape" for all involved) or not sell the parts at all (in an attempt to force the customer to use THEIR service center). This is particularly true of some of the higher-end watch companies. This situation is not unique to the US, the same thing is happening everywhere, even in Switzerland! The auto industry in the US is also starting to try something similar with their parts.
One other point is many of the watch companies ALSO run their OWN service centers to fix the watches they sell, so it is to their advantage to not sell parts! This is fine as long as the watch is under warranty (and they do the repairs correctly). Once the warranty is up however this policy leaves the watch company free to charge as much as they want to repair your watch because they have a monopoly on the parts (the service centers sometimes charge up to 3 times what I currently charge)!
Does this mean that I or another independent watchmaker can't service your watch? Not really. The watch companies also often try to sell the customer a line of BS saying "Only we are qualified to service our watches". In reality as stated above 90% of these watches use ETA movements in one form or another for which parts are readily available from most any material house (in the case of quartz watches often the whole movement can be obtained). ANY competent watchmaker can service most any ETA movement! What the watch companies often DO have control over is the case parts, especially the crystals and crowns which are "proprietary" (an odd size that is not widely available). So please, unless you like HIGH repair bills, be careful with your watch! In terms of case parts (crystals, crowns, gaskets, etc.) my approach has been to try to find the part (such as a crystal) at a material house first. If this is not successful I then call the watch company's service center and try to get the part (yes I DO ask nicely!). If I don't succeed in getting the part from them I often have the customer call the service center and request to purchase the part (no one likes an unhappy customer!). If all else fails then perhaps a suitable substitute (in the case of a crystal or crown) can be found.
I certainly understand the watch companies wanting to protect their reputation by limiting who they sell to and making sure those individuals are qualified (they quit supplying parts to material houses to keep the parts out of the hands of hobbyists and "watch plumbers" presumably), and they certainly have a right to do so. The watch companies do however need to realize that they need to also make servicing what they sell affordable to the consumer if they want to continue selling their product.
I know this may sound a bit like "sour grapes", but it is not, it is simply information that every consumer should be told when they buy a watch, especially a high $ watch. For some more information on the subject from an English point of view here is a link to the BHI website and an article about the parts situation in England and Europe (and basically the US too) You will need to use your browsers "back" button to return to this page: http://www.bhi.co.uk/hj/February2001.htm
I hope that the more consumers become aware of the parts situation with the watch companies then the more pressure will be put on the companies by the public to sell the parts to independent watchmakers.
Here is one customers experience with Cartier. This correspondence, reprinted here with permission, resulted from his inquiry about crystal replacement, and he asked me to share this for what it is worth:
"Thanks Scott for your prompt reply. All of this is born out of my disenchantment with Cartier and their service. The watch was given to me many years ago. The giver decided to take out the gold bezel and add small diamonds to it. The watch has performed sufficiently for years. One day the bracelet wouldnít stay clasped. I took it to Cartier to get it fixed in Dallas. I was told that because the bezel had the diamonds, it had been altered, and so they would not repair the bracelet until I had returned the watch into its original condition. I agreed to bear the expense to do this. I was then informed that in order to work on the watch I had to agree to have it serviced. I agreed to that. After the watch was returned to its original condition, and serviced, I was told that the bracelet that I had on my watch was no longer available because a better design was being used and no attempt on their part to fix the watch bracelet would be done. I had to buy the new bracelet. This occurred a few months ago. A few days ago I was in the Mall and the elevator was closing, I made an attempt to block the door and contact with the crystal was just enough to crack it. I walked over to Cartier and told the story of what happened. I didnít pay much attention to the receipt that was given me. My wife asked me if I knew the cost of the crystal replacement and while looking at the receipt I noticed no price but that I had agreed to have a crystal replacement as well as an additional service. I called back and was told that moisture could have gotten in. Needless to say I advised them that I wanted an estimate before I continued. Sorry for all the rhetoric, I just wanted to vent a little and maybe you might pass on this experience with your potential Cartier buyers. Cartier wants to be proprietary and I can appreciate thatÖbut abuses I donít find appealing. You stressed the fact that it is not a genuine crystal. I know for sure that Cartier would never touch the watch should I dare to contaminate their precious design. What am I looking forward too if I never cast a shadow on Cartierís doors again? Are people like yourself able to make the watch work?
Thank you for your help
PS I accept your terms, however the watch has been sent to Cartier. If I disagree with Cartier and their assessment of the damage the watch will be returned to me and I will send the watch to you."
You can expect the exact same thing from Rolex and some other brands if you change anything on one of their watches or use "generic" parts on or in one, they will NOT service it even if it is under warranty. As far as I am concerned if you buy something it is yours to do with as you wish. If the same thing were going on with the "Big Three" automakers there would be such a fervor in Washington D.C. that it would end very soon. It seems no one in our government cares about watches or those who make a living servicing them anymore.
Watch Company Service Centers
As long as a watch is under warranty, sending it to the watch companies service center for repair is not a problem (providing they fix it right), and will probably be mandatory if you want the watch fixed under the warranty. I have heard both bad and good things about watch service centers. Some people have had good luck with them others have sometimes had to wait up to 18 months to get their watch back, and then sometimes it STILL isn't repaired correctly!
Before buying any type/brand of watch do some research!!!
A good place to research would be on GOOGLE. COM. You can search web sites, web pages, and newsgroups from there for the info you need to make an informed decision. If you are buying an expensive watch then you have the right expect proper service!
What brand of watch to choose?
What brand of watch would I recommend? That is also up to you, it is your money. I personally like Seiko on the low end for mechanical watches as their workmanship is very good for the price. Rolex is always a favorite pick on the high end, and they do hold their value well. Omega is a good bet also. Citizen and Seiko both make excellent quartz watches. As far as vintage watches go, American pocket watches are a good bet, especially "Railroad Grade" pocket watches. For wristwatches the vintage Bulova's and Omega's are very fine watches. Gruen also once made a very fine watch. Then of course on the high end is the vintage Rolex and Omega. In the end it is your money, buy what YOU like!!
WHERE TO BUY???
The most important advice I can give you is BUY FROM A REPUTABLE DEALER, especially if you are buying a high-end watch that is often faked. Nothing will put you off watches faster than spending $1500 + on a Rolex only to find out later it is a copy. I have seen several fake Rolex's and one fake Omega. The Omega was done so well it was impossible to tell it was a fake until I opened the case and saw the movement! I might buy a Seiko or Citizen off of e-Bay, but I would never buy a Rolex on there.
I hope you found the information on this page helpful!
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