How to choose your first watch

Written by:Enrico L.|

IWS finally presents you to a guide to your first watch purchase, complete with tips on what to choose, plus how and where to buy!

The watch

Nowadays the watch is becoming increasingly important as a male accessory and culture. In addition to the image that a person gives of himself from a job interview, a briefing, rather than during free time and even at the beach or by the seaside, this object is becoming the expression of the owner’s passion. Beside fashion and speculation, the watch-related culture is silently conquering the hearts of young people and adults, leading to the affirmation of the timepiece as personal satisfaction, even before status.

We know, every occasion needs its watch, but what a beginner who approaches this world for the first time should choose? In this article we’ll try to help you on this decision. Of course, in picking a watch, especially the first, there are many variables to consider, and that’s where we come in!

The movement

First of all, when you start looking for a watch to buy, you have to ask yourself what kind of watch you are looking for: a quartz watch or with mechanical movement?
Quartz watches are all those watches that need electricity to work. Mechanical ones, on the other hand, work thanks to springs and gears that guarantee the movement of the hands.

Mechanical movements are then divided into manual and automatic movements. The firsts must be loaded directly by the user, acting directly on the crown. Automatic ones, on the other hand, thanks to a rotor and springs, are able to recharge themselves, through the natural movements of the hand and wrist, which are made while walking or writing.

Obviously all three have pros and cons. As far as we are concerned, we strongly recommend that you focus on a mechanical watch, possibly “in-house” – that means created directly by the manufacturer- which is usually synonymous with quality and precision. Needless to say that a mechanical watch usually costs more than a quartz, except for special cases such as FP Journe’s Élégante.

Talking about complications, a time-only or a chronograph are highly recommended for the first piece.

Materials and design

Another aspect to consider is the design of the timepiece and, in particular, shapes and sizes. For your first watch you should try to focus on a well-known and well recognizable design, simple but not trivial or used by too many maisons. In the choice of design is crucial to understand the use it’ll have for you, especially the context.

In fact, you can opt for a sportier watch, for a carefree daily use in informal contexts or for a more classic model, especially if you want to show it off mainly on more formal and elegant occasions.

Speaking of materials, we recommend you to focus on steel for a watch to be used daily, or on titanium, for the first sports watch. These materials, in fact, are less expensive, more durable, less delicate and often associated with timepieces that are easily resalable. For the classic, however, gold seems like a mandatory choice, but it still offers a lot of space of choice between white and yellow gold, depending on taste and will.

The maison

A great importance is the maison from which you choose to buy. Focusing on a great Swiss watch brand, you’ll buy not only the brand, but also the history, tradition, technical skills and know-how typical of swiss maisons. Choosing a Swiss product is often synonymous with warranty and quality, especially when associated with certifications that attest the value of timepieces (examples are the Geneva Seal and the COSC,  which we explain  here).

In addition, these large maisons often have authorized dealers that allow to ensure continuous contact with the buyer in all stages of the purchase and provide top-notch after-sales services, dedicating a lot of attention to the consumer and creating a relationship aimed at customer loyalty.

The selling market

In addition to the official stores mentioned above, from which we recommend to buy, there is another wide variety of options.

The simplest are the multi-brand stores and trusted jewelleries, certified as authorized retailers or with whom you have an esteem relationship. From these stores it is easy to buy, receive attention and try watches on the wrist.

Be careful with online purchases…

With the growth of the Internet, however, e-commerce plays a prominent role. Many maisons, even of the highest level such as Vacheron Constantin, features online shops that certify the provenance of the products, in order to protect the consumer and maintain high level of service.

If you want to go elsewhere (Amazon, Ebay…) it is always good to follow certain precautions… First, always use a secure payment method (PayPal is the best example). Try to buy from positively reviewed people, look for seller information, or ask other people who have already purchased from them. Needless to say that you have to know what you buy, and to make sure that the item looks fine. Once this is confirmed, you will only have to worry about not being scammed, but this can be solved by a secure payment method and a tracked shipment.

NB: If you buy on Chrono24 nothing changes compared to other e-commerce portals, scams are there too!

The price

We don’t know the budgets of IWS readers, but for a complete newbie we recommend a spending limit of around 5000/6000€ as the first step through a good collection.

In fact, in this price range you can find many quality proposals from the major watch brands, which can also represent an investment for the future. To know the market price instead, it is useful to search the net for the object, looking at the price at which it is proposed and, if possible, the price at which it is actually sold. This information (if you don’t find it on ItalianWatchSpotter) you may find it on industry forums or “interpreting” the data online.

Iconic models

These are some proposals, of different genres, that could be very good choices for the purchase of the first watch and that are largely part of the budget that we have set ourselves.

Jaeger-LeCoultre – Reverso Classic Medium Small Seconds

It is a classic model and at the same time very elegant. It features the 822A/2 hand-wound in-house caliber. Particular interest is its design, in fact it allows to completely turn the dial, mechanism initially born to protect the glass from the impacts, from which it takes its name. (read the article below to read more)
(Ref. 2438520, Price 6250 Euros)

Rolex – Air-King

If you want to enter the Rolex world, however staying within the budget limits we’ve set, the choice falls on the Air-King. This is also a watch that draws its origins from aviation and can be seen from the large numbers at 3, 6 and 9 hours that guarantee a perfect readability. The movement comes from the caliber 3131, automatic and fully developed and produced by Rolex. This ensures the COSC certification, synonymous with precision and reliability.
(Ref. 116900, Price 6150 Euros)

Swatch Sistem Boreal

If you are young and want a watch, don’t worry: there’s room for you too.
To start understanding what a mechanical watch is, few choices are better than Swatch.

With a 195€ bill you get a steel automatic watch, very versatile, which will be your companion everywhere you like. Much better than some other quartz models on the same price range…if you know what we mean.

Our advice

Of course, the choice of the first watch must take time and must be pondered, considering every detail.

One component not to be underestimated, however, is undoubtedly the personal and emotional one. In fact, the watch must first of all please the wearer, not only seeing it displayed in a showcase but above all worn on the wrist. Each wrist is different from another and not all watches look good and fit perfectly. There is no fixed rule to know what the right watch might be, you have to try it and you have to create that natural alchemy, that emotional bond that makes you feel comfortable, confident and free in your movements.

So, the best advice we can give you is to immerse yourself in the choice considering not only the technical aspects and the price. Above all, we must consider the emotions that it’s able to transmit to you.

Translated by Lorenzo S.


Est. 1994. He is a watch and car enthusiast. He is mostly fascinated by the use of cutting-edge materials mixed with the pure class and elegance of the watchmaking art.
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