It’s not so easy to know what type of watch to buy. Whether you are a watch enthusiast or you just want to pick one watch to wear all the time, the problem remains: what type of watch should you buy? I didn’t really know what I was doing when buying my first watches. So here is what I learned. I hope I can help you with how to choose a watch that suits you perfectly!
You should buy a watch type that fits your budget, usage, environment and style preferences. If you have no idea what to get, buy a nice everyday watch (not too dressy, not too sporty). If you need a rugged watch for your work, buy a sports or tool watch. If your main environment is formal, buy a dress watch.
What watch type should you get?
This really depends on many factors.
First and foremost, I think it mostly depends on whether you can dress however you like (at work mainly) or if you need to comply with a certain dress code or some unspoken conventions.
If you can dress however you like
This is the best case scenario, as you can pick pretty much every single watch type that you like. Really, you don’t have to worry about what you choose to wear: pick the one you want.
If you want a watch that will look great with any outfit or occasion, you should get a sports watch.
Here, the Rolex Datejust, Omega Aqua Terra 300 come to mind. Many Seiko watches also fall into the sports watch category, including their Seiko 5 or Presage lines.
You can also find more affordable alternatives at brands like Oris, Sinn, Hamilton, Citizen, Orient, Skagen or even Fossil. Or you can go full-on with a very nice Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or Patek Philippe Nautilus.
If you want something that looks (or actually is) tougher, you should go for a tool watch.
Whereas almost all tool watches fall in the sports category – the reverse is not always true. There are many types of tool watches to choose from: field watches, dive watches, pilot watches, chronographs, GMT watches, … the list is almost endless.
Here, you can’t go wrong with a tasteful Rolex Submariner or Sea-Dweller, Omega Seamaster 300 or Speedmaster, or even a classic Casio G-Shock. All these will work no problem for you.
Of course, if you like dress watches because the better suit your style or tastes, no problem. Don’t think twice and get one: they look absolutely gorgeous. They make for very nice pieces to give to your children too.
Here, I would recommend a Rolex Cellini, Omega Globemaster or Constellation. Many luxury brands enter the game here, like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Cartier, Blancpain, Montblanc, … the list goes on and on. But you don’t have to break the bank either: you can find very nice dress pieces at Hamilton, Seiko or Orient.
If you have to dress according to certain rules
In this case, it makes the choice way easier: just comply with those rules.
Now, there might be explicit rules and implicit rules. Rules that are clearly communicated (in a dress code for example) or that are conventions in certain fields.
If your company has a dress code, you will most likely be allowed to wear sports watches or dress watches.
Remember that sports watches are not always tool watches: they do not feature complicated dials and don’t have many functions besides telling the time, the date and maybe the day. In comparison, a dress watch is at most a 3-hander (3 hands, for hours, minutes and seconds) and possibly a date window – that’s it.
If you’re not quite sure which type of watch to get, go with the dressier version. A dress watch almost never looks out of place – whichever the situation – whereas some sports watches are sometimes a bit too noticeable. In case of doubt: go a little more subdued, understated. You’ll be fine.
If rules are implicit in your field or usual environment, this is a trickier case.
Should you respect those conventions? It depends.
If you want to emphasize the sense of belonging in your field or just happen to like the type of watches you usually see around you, just go for it. You can respect those rules by getting the same type of watches that most people wear around you.
You can also go ahead and pick the same brands and models that you see most often. For example, many people working around Formula 1 have Tag Heuer watches; many soccer professionals got for Hublot watches. It’s kind of a convention. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you love something else – more rugged or more elegant – or want to break the rules and don’t care that much about what people will think and say about you, you do you: pick your favorite watch ever and don’t look back.
A small note regarding this last thought: most people don’t care (or even notice) what watch you have on your wrists. Many don’t even wear a watch.
And the watches that got me the most compliments are the ones that I wear because I think they’re fun and somewhat different, not because they are perfectly suitable for the situation.
So don’t take this too seriously and just buy what you love!
Do you need special features?
If you don’t need your watch to feature special features, you can skip this paragraph. If you do, I want to share with you my experience and lesson learned, so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Here is the lesson: don’t skimp on a feature if you need it, period. Never ever.
Remember the previous point about implicit rules in your field? There is a reason why they exist: most of the time, these rules serve a purpose. Your watch needs to accomplish something specific that most people in your field need, and that’s why they almost all get the same type of watch. For example:
- If you work in a formal environment and travel a lot, get a dress watch with a date and GMT complication
- If you need to time your work (you’re a freelancer, for example), get a chronograph – analog or digital
- If you need to constantly check who is sending you emails, get a smartwatch
- If you work near water or in a humid environment, get a diver watch – or at least a watch that has a water resistance rating of 100m or more
- If you are a construction worker or work in law enforcement, get a tough, rugged watch like a Casio G-Shock (Check my full review of the Casio G-Shock GW-M5610.)
If you need your watch to have a specific feature because you use it frequently, do yourself a favor and get it without a second thought.
Should your watch suit the occasion?
I would say yes.
You may need special features and love certain styles, it’s always better if you can match the general vibe of an occasion at the same time.
- For a casual occasion (like a night out in town), you can wear pretty much every type and style of watch.
- For a business occasion (like a client or board meeting), you’ll be good with most dress watches and sports watches. Some tool watches won’t do.
- For a formal occasion (like weddings, funerals, award ceremonies and any type of black tie / fancy party), save yourself any trouble and get a nice dress watch. If you don’t know which one to get, go for the more simple ones.
What is a good budget for a watch?
This is the beauty of buying a watch: you can find very cool and good looking pieces from 50$ (even dress watches!).
Now, here are some price tiers that clearly show a difference between them:
- Watches under $200 – mostly quartz watches, some mechanical watches
- Watches under $500 – better movement, quartz and mechanical share this range
- Watches under $1,000 – just branding most of the time, but the finishing is better too
- Watches under $2,500 – better movement (mostly mechanical) and finishing
- Watches under $5,000 – way better movement and finishing
- Watches under $10,000 – you really won’t need to spend more than that…
Of course, you can spend waaaaaaay more than 10000$, the sky is the limit!
But should you? Of course not! Most of my pieces are under 500$ and look great!
What to buy if you don’t know what to buy?
If you are in a formal environment most of the time, go for a dress watch.
Else, get a simple and nice looking everyday watch. That is: a sports watch with a simple dial, timeless color and few complications. The watches that I regretted the most are overly complicated watches or watches from fashion brands (they are all gone from my collection now).
In case of doubt, always go for the simpler option. You will never regret it, I promise. Even better: as time goes by, you will learn to love the simplicity of a design that can suit any style, occasion, or environment, trust me.
If you need help and guidance to find a watch, check some great Men’s Watches!
Remember that a watch – whichever the type – should suit your taste.
For me, this has got to be the single most important aspect of a watch: you should love it. Every single detail of it. You may need your watch to get a job done, or you just may get one because you want to. It may have to comply with a dress code, or not. It may need suit a formal occasion or just be its own thing.
In any case, always get a watch that you enjoy looking at, and can’t wait to put back on your wrist the next day.