Your First Watch

Watch Collections: Your First Timepiece

If you walk into any jewelry store, antique dealer or even a local flea market; you’ll come to realize that there are quite literally thousands of different watches available to the consumer.

Even if you break down the various types of watch, the styles range from opulent and elegant, to tacky and grotesque.

In this guide we will focus on a few specific watches that one should consider when starting a collection. From the quintessential dress watches of Patek Philippe, to the casual watches that Tissot is renowned for, the following primer should help you when selecting a watch (or watches) that will help build your new collection.

The Three Questions

The first thing one should consider when buying a new watch is how often they plan on wearing it, where it’s going to be worn and in what type of elements. It’s these three core questions that will allow you to properly select the kind of watch that will provide you with the best bang for your buck, so to speak.

If the only watch you own is one you found in a cereal box as a kid then the answer to this question is fairly easy. However, if you already have a small selection of watches to choose from, then this question can become rather difficult to answer.

Try to imagine your daily life and the life of the watch. Will you be wearing it to work and if so, what do you do for a living? Obviously the quality of a watch will differ if you work in an office environment, rather than on a construction site.

Try to imagine the watch on your wrist. What do you want it to say about you? Do you need a watch that can pair intimately with a business suit? Or perhaps, you require a timepiece that can take a bit of a beating and be exposed to various elements.

Patek 5120 Watch

Patek 5120 Watch

The Daily Wear Dress Watch

Typically when someone is just starting a collection, I generally recommend going with a classic dress watch that’s simple and elegant, but can be paired with anything from a dinner jacket to jeans and a polo shirt. However, certain modern gentlemen may be disinclined to purchase such a resplendent time piece because their style is more relaxed and they work in a hazardous environment exposed to various dangers that could turn the watch into nothing more than a very expensive paper weight. Therefore, we’ve broken up the daily watch into a variety of categories based on environment and price.

Patek 5120 Inside

Patek 5120 Inside

For the businessman with money to burn

For the business man with money to burn my recommendation is nothing short of a Patek Philippe Calatrava. Introduced in 1932, the Calatrava is one of few watches that has shown to be recession proof and that has always been considered unrivaled, even by such watchmakers as Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Sohne.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5120 is, all things considered, my favorite Calatrava produced by the manufacturer. An exquisite gentleman’s watch that is noted for its artistic ingenuity coupled with modern lines and traditional elegance.

As far as a classic dress watch goes, nothing is more powerful in its presentation. It is the epitome of subtle luxury with a hobnail patterned bezel and white lacquered dial. It’s available in both white and yellow gold with a case diameter of 35mm, ideal for even the smallest wrist.

Patek Philippe is without question, equivocation or mental reservation, my favorite watchmaker. Their legacy is unlike any other and the quality of craftsmanship and materials is immaculate. While other watchmakers certainly produce quality timepieces, it goes without saying that Patek is the godfather of horology and if you have the money to spend, there is no better timepiece to purchase than a Patek.

Some might ask why the Calatrava over others and the reason behind this is that it’s really the most distinguished and classic dress watch. While they certainly make other pieces that are of similar or even greater quality (and a few models I would avoid), this is the one Patek that every distinguished gentleman should own.

Retail Price: Approx $25,300+ USD

Cartier Tank Watch

Cartier Tank Watch

For the business man with money to spend, but kids to send to college.

Not everyone can afford to spend an excess of $20,000 on a watch. However, every man, regardless of the size of a bank account, should be entitled to own something spectacular. For the typical middle class gentleman who wears a suit to work and a blazer in the evening, we recommend none other than the Cartier Tank wristwatch. While still priced in the low thousands, this watch is often seen as the typical luxury timepiece worn by executives, aristocrats and royalty. Designed in 1917 by Louis Cartier, the tank watch is revered as an artistic horological icon, a symbol if you will of wealth, refinement and taste. Considered the first actual wristwatch, timepieces prior to the tank were often just pocket watches mounted to a strap. This incredible piece will forever be considered modern and is sure to please generations to come.

While this price range offers many timepieces of considerable value and ingenuity, the reason I’ve chosen the Cartier Tank is simply because it’s so well known. Sure, I could have mentioned hundreds of others, many of which I personally prefer over the Tank, but if this is your first watch, then you want something that not only stands out from the crowd, but is recognizable amongst aficionados and non-enthusiasts alike.

Retail Price: Approx $2,800+ USD

For the business man starting out.

When you’re still paying student loans, are focused on buying your first house, or are surviving off a diet of ramen noodles, the thought of having to spend thousands of dollars on a watch may be depressing.

Rest assured, there are a number of quality watches one can get for a mere few hundred dollars.

We recommend looking into vintage pieces, but if you’re in the market for something new, perhaps a Frederique Constant Slimline is the way to go.

There aren’t many luxury watch makers in Geneva that sell a product for under a few thousand, however, the slimline piece is really worth your attention.

With accurate quartz movement, the slimline came out in mid 2010 and has been seen on the wrists of everyone from celebrities to wall street traders. A beautifully classic timepiece it is sure to garner attention regardless of the Frederique Constant name affixed to it.

Frederique Constant has forever been a staple in Swiss watchmaking. Based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, what really makes them stand out as a manufacturer is that from design to completion, every aspect of the watch is made in their factory, whereas many Swiss watch companies will actually have other watchmakers create parts or movements on their behalf.

In addition to many other achievements which we’ll discuss in future a guide, Constant was the inventor of the remarkable heart beat calibre which in 2005 won them the coveted “Watch of the Year” Award from Horloges Magazine for that price point

Despite a significantly low price point, there is nothing to be ashamed of for owning a Frederique Constant as they’re an established Swiss brand with a wonderful legacy.

Retail Price: Approx $875 US

The Daily Wear Casual Watch

A casual or sports watch can be ideal for people living life in the fast lane. For those who engage in a variety of spontaneous activities and lead an active lifestyle, wearing a watch that can keep up with you is imperative. Regardless of whether you’re a construction worker, assemblyman on the line or a first responder tending to various emergencies, if you lead a “hard knock life” then you need a watch that can take a beating.

Dive Watch - Rolex Submariner

Dive Watch – Rolex Submariner

For the everyman with money to burn

It stands to reason that we would recommend what can only be described as the world’s most popular luxury watch; the Rolex Submariner, which has earned itself a reputation for being one of the most durable and rugged watches on the market. While Rolex would never be “my” first choice for a watch, it is the pick of the litter for the majority of men starting their first collection. Often worn by the likes of James Bond, it not only serves secret agents well but also the everyman who wants to be able to wear one watch, all the time, without worrying about incurring damage to it. Priced at $8500+, this is a watch that can be worn in almost every earthly environment. Capable of reaching depths of 300 metres (1000ft) it is by and large the most suitable diving watch on the planet. While I’m sure that most of our readers aren’t diving on a daily basis, what a quality diving watch tells you is that the timepiece is capable of taking a beating.

By purchasing a proven divers watch, you have the luxury of knowing that your wristwatch can undergo extensive pressures without having to worry about the movement being damaged, the crystal popping out or the finish of the watch being tarnished. There isn’t a scuba diver in the world that can say they haven’t hit their wrist on a rock, sideswiped something slimy or scraped against something sharp. By wearing a Submariner, you can comfortably enter any situation without being overly concerned that your watch will be damaged, regardless of whether you’re under water or playing rugby with your friends.

Rolex has retained a place in the history books not only as the world’s most recognizable luxury watch brand, but also as a leader in quality instrumentation. While many enthusiasts may write off Rolex due to its mainstream appeal across multiple demographics, the fact remains that the vast majority of their watches are made of the highest quality materials and proven, reliable craftsmanship not found in most of their direct competitors.

Retail Price: Approx $8500+ USD

Tag Heuer Calibre 6 rs diamond bezel watch

Tag Heuer Calibre 6 rs diamond bezel watch

For the everyman with money to spend, but kids to send to college.

In this category, it becomes slightly more difficult to recommend a watch that will suit just about every adventurer-of-life. After much consideration, we find ourselves recommending the Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Automatic Calibre 6 RS.

What sets this watch apart from the pack is its resistance to various environments. The watch is specially designed to work in all temperatures whether it be extreme heat in the desert or the coldest winters in the arctic, this watch has undergone sixty different tests to ensure it’s quality. Aside from temperature resistance, it’s also designed with other environmental pressures in mind. It’s capable of being worn in the shower, during a shallow swim and it’s even resistant to friction, shock, vibration and traction. With automatic movement and a professional racing background, this Tag is ideal for those leading active lives in unstable environments.

Although I recommend this particular watch, Tag is actually one of my least favorite brands. The consistency in their quality is aggravating to say the least and for the most part, unless you drive Nascar, a Tag Heuer really isn’t worth your coin. However, with every rule there are certain exceptions and this is one of them. The sixty tests alone showcase the reliability of this particular timepiece and for those on a budget, it proves time and time again to be one of the best watches for this particular type of wearer at this price point.

Retail Price: Approx $4500 USD

Tissot

Tissot

For the everyman on a strict budget.

If your budget only allows a purchase of a few hundred then my first piece of advice is to just save your money. However, if you’re dead-set on buying a watch the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to avoid department store brands at all cost. If you wouldn’t buy a suit at Walmart then don’t buy a watch from them either.

In this category we recommend the Tissot T17158652 PRC 200. Like most Tissot’s this is a solid quartz watch that can be worn with jeans and is able to undergo some mild to moderate impact. While I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as a rugged watch, Tissot has proven themselves to be capable of competing with some of the bigger names of the industry.

The three biggest benefits to this watch are that at this price point it still comes with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal window. In addition the movement is Swiss made and the metal used is stainless steel which is considerably better than some metals used in this price range.

The watch is water resistant, although I wouldn’t go swimming with it on, and Tissot is a brand that really does have a good reputation, especially among it’s competitors.

Retail Price: Approx $495 USD

Conclusion

I hope this quick guide will give you a couple of watches worth considering if you’re looking for your first timepiece. In our next article, we’ll delve deeper into what you need to look for when purchasing a watch, regardless of what type it is or what your budget may allow.

20 replies
  1. Evan S.
    Evan S. says:

    I enjoyed the article, but would like to add that Timex makes a few nice casual watches for a low cost, especially paired with a high quality leather band. I myself am partial to the easy reader and weekender watches. I of course replace the nylon band with a quality leather one. Rather than 500USD on a watch, you might just be better off purchasing a cheaper but still presentable one while saving the remainder of your money for a nicer piece.

    -Evan

  2. J.A. Shapira
    J.A. Shapira says:

    The Timex 1600 actually almost made the list but was replaced last minute. There is such a variety of watches available on the market that to name all of the ones I’d recommend would take many articles. Trust me when I say we will explore Timex in greater detail. I too, believe that at its price point, Timex has made some very nice timepieces. As for nylon straps, have you looked into any of the repp straps from Brooks Brothers? They’re quite lovely.

    • Evan S.
      Evan S. says:

      Mr. Shapira, I look forward to your future articles–the Timex explorations and your thoughts in general . As a young man in high school, my budget is limited– the majority of the money I earn goes toward my hobbies, driving school, and practical skill development. While I will one day own a nice watch, I cannot justify purchasing anything over 300USD at this time.

      -Evan

    • Evan S.
      Evan S. says:

      Mr. Shapira, one quick question: are there any sterile dial and/or date free versions available of the weekender and easy reader, as well as the 1600? I have always been bothered by both.

      -Evan

      • J.A. Shapira
        J.A. Shapira says:

        Evan, Timex is a fan of branding so to find a sterile dial will be difficult. I might recommend looking at the T2P219AW or the T2N338AW. That’s probably the closest thing you’ll find. However, if you’d consider something outside of the Timex brand, there are many options available. Keep in mind that Timex makes watches under other names as well if it’s simply the Timex logo you wish to avoid.

        • Evan S.
          Evan S. says:

          Mr. Shapira,
          Thank you for the assistance. I find myself drawn to the T2P219AW as my Everyday Carry and other metals items are brass and that watch has a similar look. Paired with a Form Function Form button-stud band, it would go well with jeans. I asked about unbranded Timex watches because I have found the company to be reliable, but if you could recommend a similar model to the ones discussed from another company, I would certainly look into it.
          Thank you for your time, insights, and expertise.
          -Evan

          • J.A. Shapira
            J.A. Shapira says:

            Evan, if you’re interested I offer one-on-one watch consultations either in person or over the phone where I can help you select the perfect timepiece based on a variety of factors. If that’s something you’d be interested in please let me know.

  3. Alex Blaisdale
    Alex Blaisdale says:

    I’d like to notice, that the water resistance of Tissot watches is rather good. I own an old PR100 quartz timepiece and it performs very well under water.

  4. Daniel Gerson
    Daniel Gerson says:

    Given your vast knowledge of watches, could you recommend one that is as restraint in design as the Max Bill by Junghans (black face, fine indices and hands, no numerals, date function), but of a better overall quality?

    • Bryan
      Bryan says:

      May I suggest IWC Portuguese chronograph. Quite simply the most perfect watch with its design stemming from a pocket watch

  5. Mika
    Mika says:

    Did you know that the watches
    25% of its capacity is a timepiece
    25% of its capacity is a part of the wearer’s dress code
    25% of its capacity is a part of the wearer’s personality
    25% bound to indicate the wearer’s sense of style?

    Watch is in addition to a man’s necklace.

  6. Gia Bibileishvili
    Gia Bibileishvili says:

    Mr. Shapira, What do you think of ORIS brand in general? I own one of their automatic watches (price point approx. $1,500) is of really good looking, elegant design, however it shows some problems with time precision. it is late by 10-20 seconds per 24h and gives 2-3 minutes discrepancy after some time. While user manual admits this might be a case with this watch, I wonder if it is a common thing with other automatic watches of similar caliber. Thanks!

    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      Gia,

      Oris is a very typical mid-tier watch manufacturer specializing exclusively in mechanical timepieces. While every mechanical watch is bound to lose or gain a few seconds each day, it can increase over time as the parts settle. I’d be curious to know what model your watch is and how old it is?

      As for it being common in other watches with a similar calibre, I’d have to know which model of watch you have to determine the calibre and only then could I really answer that question. In general, provided the watch is well cared for, a user should anticipate some basic loss or gain in seconds with any mechanical or automatic watch.

      Please let me know a little more about the watch so I can better answer your question. How often are you wearing this watch out of curiosity?

      • Gia Bibileishvili
        Gia Bibileishvili says:

        Thanks for the feedback Mr. Shapira. The model is Oris Artelier Date 01 733 7591 4054-07 5 21 71FC . Thanks!

        • J.A. Shapira
          J.A. Shapira says:

          Hi Gia,

          I would recommend taking your watch in for some routine maintenance. Off the cuff, my gut is telling me your coils are probably magnetized and sticking together if it just suddenly became off by 20 seconds. If it wasn’t sudden, and the watch is consistently off than it’s a relatively simple fix of regulating the beat rate – all it involves is turning a small screw. If the rate is inconsistent, especially when the watch is held in different positions, it should just be a matter of adjusting the balance wheel. Without seeing the watch, I can’t comment as to why it’s causing problems for you, but I can say that out of the box the Oris Artelier is a respectable entry-level watch. The Oris 733, base SW 200-1 caliber is top drawer for that price point. The SW indicates that it’s a Sellita movement. I believe the 733 is a small upgrade from the 633 with another jewel added to total 26, but I’d have to check to confirm so don’t quote me on that. Fortunately, your movement is a clone of the ETA 2824-2 movement. The only other thing I can suggest is that if your watch is 4+ years old, it may just need some routine maintenance. Even if, worst case scenario it needed a complete overhaul, you’d probably only be looking at a few hundred dollars. I think, provided you’re taking good care of the watch, lubricating and cleaning the components and replacing the gaskets is probably all it will need if it’s not one of the other issues I mentioned.

          I hope that helps.

  7. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    I would of loved you to include some vintage watches into this article. For example instead of introducing the Rolex submariner which let’s face it is the most cliche watch in the world you could of shown a 1950′s Rolex Steel precision, a beautifully understated and simple watch that will hold its value over the years and prove to be a great investment

  8. suede
    suede says:

    I have the impression that this article promises to be regularly referred back to here now. I find that regrettable.

    With all respect, the notion that the vast world of wristwatches can be helpfully divided into three price categories, from ca. 25k+ EUR to a quartz watch for a few hundred USD, is absurd.

    Making a single watch recommendation for each of two by three “categories”, independently of an individual’s specific search profile and budget, is similarly absurd. Sven has spoken in a later newsletter of “examples” offered, but the point is, these are really presented as recommendations here.

    And to briefly comment on the recommended watches:

    Two or three obvious icons are recommended, numerous other icons are not even mentioned. How might this serve the purpose of a decent introduction to the world of watches?

    The vast “mid-range” of mechanical watches (something like: moderate four-digit EUR to middle three-digit EUR range) is entirely absent from the recommendations. The Frédérique Constant is presented as a quartz watch.

    Novices wishing to learn about the many options in the mid-range can easily spend weeks reading about this on specialized watch websites. Check out, e.g., the watches by Nomos Glashütte. Or Sinn. Or a reissued Strela chronograph. Or the Flieger watches produced by various small brands. And of course the beautiful Junghans Max Bill line, if you are willing to live with the fragility of these watches and their non-resistance to water.

    A, pardon me, atrocious-looking Tag Heuer, brown-dialed and “diamond”-bezeled, is pictured as the recommended casual watch at USD 4500. Someone looking for a mechanical watch with a functionality “designed to work in all temperatures whether it be extreme heat in the desert or the coldest winters in the arctic” would presumably not be interested in showing off a diamond bezel, rather than carrying an instrument/diver watch by Sinn.

    I would, by the way, be interested to hear where one can buy a new Cartier tank watch of the type pictured for as little as USD 2800.

    • J.A. Shapira
      J.A. Shapira says:

      Suede,

      I think you’re forgetting the fact that this is just an article, and to completely, or even remotely categorize and list every option would take not just a book, but a small library of them.

      This is just the beginning of an ongoing series of articles which will continue to broadcast these and other timepieces that one should consider.

      Please take into account, that the watches listed in this particular article are geared towards first time buyers and broken into sections to fit everyones budget and requirements. The initial list of watches considered far surpassed the edited down list and there were many others that almost made the cut.

      As for the where one can buy a new Cartier Tank for as little as $2800, I can assure you the base Cartier Tank W5200014 is generally found in that price range, often as low as just $2000. Here’s a few examples for you:

      http://www.chrono24.com/en/cartier/tank-solo–w5200014–id2149473.htm
      http://www.gemnation.com/watches/Cartier-Tank-Solo-W5200014-17049.html
      http://www.prestigetime.com/item/Cartier/Tank-Solo/w5200014.html

      In fact, I believe some of these sites actually list $2800 as the MSRP.

      Have a wonderful holiday season.

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