The world of watches can be perilously confusing to navigate, especially for newcomers. That’s what we’ve enlisted timepiece expert Ash Elwood to definitively answer all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask.
Should I actually use all the features on my watch? For example: is it a bad idea to keep the chronograph function running?
As we all well know by now, contemporary technologies vastly outperform our me- chanical watch’s capabilities — it’s why police officers use radar instead of a stopwatch and arithmetic. But while the skill and patience involved in timing the speed of a race car with a chrono function is unthinkably burdensome for most, and determining the distance of an enemy’s artillery is hopefully a situation in which none of us will find ourselves in (both original uses for the chronograph feature), chronograph watches are some of the most celebrated, sought after, and downright beautiful watches available. Even if we don’t use them to their full potential, that full potential is a mechanical marvel that fits neatly on your wrist.
As with other functions your watch can do, you should neither neglect nor overuse your chronograph. Once a week or so, take your chrono function out for a spin (maybe time your son as he fetches you a drink; kids love being timed as much as they love amateur bartending). The lubrication between certain moving parts functions best and lasts longer when activated, but leaving it running indefinitely steals energy from your watch’s main function, and therefore reduces your watches power reserve, thereby throwing off its precision.
How can I protect my watch against day-to-day hazards? Obviously, some degree of wear and tear is inevitable, but it still stings every time I accidentally bang it on a door or drop it the wrong way on a metal gym locker.
First, consider if you’re wearing the right watch for the day ahead. If you work in an office, chances are your watch is a bit safer than working on a construction site. If you hit the gym daily, pack a small pouch or case that can protect your watch in your locker or duffle bag. Some people do laps in the gym pool wearing a $40,000 Patek Philippe — since the water won’t technically hurt it as much as getting it stolen would. Then again, some billionaires wear a Swatch to shareholders meeting. The best watches are surprisingly resilient. Plus, most brands that matter will repair your watch without hassle, should anything happen to it. The most important thing to remember: your watch was made for you, not the other way around. If you feel like your concern for your timepiece is hampering your day, it’s probably best to get an everyday watch that doesn’t stress you out.
What’s the deal with watches being photographed at 10:10?
Although there have been conspiracy theories (the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln!?), the decision is made simply for aesthetic reasons. When the hands are at 10 past 10, the main logo of the manufacturer is most often framed, any complications are usually fully visible, and not for nothing, the arms make the watch smile.
I care about watches, but my son hasn’t yet caught the bug. What is a good gateway watch that I can give him that might inspire a shared interest?
I recently had the great fortune to travel to Japan for the first time and had no idea how Seiko would blow my Swiss-and-German-saturated-watch-mind. I bought my two best friends a Seiko 5, neither of whom were all that interested in timepieces before. Now, they’re hooked. If Seiko isn’t your brand, the principle is the same: people don’t know they like something until they’ve tasted it. A simple, elegant watch, with an intriguing design and backstory, should be enough to spread the bug. Avoid any watches that are sold at a store that traffics in baseball caps and chain wallets, though.
How many watches does one man really need? I know you can collect for collecting’s sake, but if I want to have the right kind of watches (i.e. different styles for different occasions), what is the ideal number?
Firstly, careful with accusations. I’m certain anyone with a sizeable collection can justify every piece. The answer to how many one needs is simple: none. Had we continued to wear watches solely for specialized tasks (tool watches) then we’d wear them only as long as the task required and revert back to clocks on walls, and desks, and on our cell phones. Fortunately, that’s not the case, and we can go on wearing or collecting as we choose. At moments I envy the individual with a single watch, worn for absolutely everything; at others, I lust for the drawers full of thoughtfully discovered relics of the past. Here’s a closing thought: find for you self, slowly and thoughtfully, four watches: your everyday, your sport, your complicated, and your wedding watch.
Should I go diving in a dive watch, or will that drive down its value exponentially?
First things first: if you’re buying a watch solely for investment purposes, you follow the Comic Book Rule — keep it in a bag (or in this case, a watch-winding safe) and don’t touch it. While watches do hold their value better than, say, cars, they shouldn’t be relied upon to diversify your portfolio. Any damage to your timepiece, underwater or above, will affect the watch’s value, but take note: some watches that have been found in poor condition on beaches decades after they were lost by a soldier — or whoever — have sold at auction for unimaginably high sums. If you are going to dive, though, make sure you check your watch’s depth capabilities first.
What is the best way to go about buying vintage watches? Is there a particular person or resource that I should look to for advice?
The world of vintage watches is full of legendary tales of one-offs, misspells, and limited run pieces — and equally fraught with knock-offs, copies, and straight up fakes. Educating yourself is the first step to finding the right piece and protecting yourself from getting ripped off, but it is not enough. Fortunately for us all there are a good number
of dealers online and off that are universally trusted in the watch community. Canada is unmistakably fortunate to have the likes of Derek Dier of watchestobuy.com and Darryl Lesser of darlor-watch.com, as well as the go-to sites yorktime.com and watchfinder.ca. While there will always be enviable stories of great watch finds on eBay and second-hand stores, you can lose a lot of money on excitable speculation, so it’s best to do your research before you get too stoked.
What are the best ways to personalize my timepiece? If I buy a top-end watch, is it even okay to customize it, or am I spoiling greatness?
There will always be those that change bezels and blackout their stainless steel watches (no matter how much it cost). The purist will scoff, but to each his own. The one simple way to customize a watch that will express individuality, match with an outfit, or change your own mood (trust me) is with the strap.
Is there anything easy and MacGyver-y you can do to repair small scratches and stuff?
There are products you can purchase to rub away minor scratches from old acrylic crystals, but toothpaste works just fine. Other than that, it’s best to have a professional address any serious injuries.
Is it OK to wear a non-functioning watch (one that’s broken, say, or vintage but never repaired) solely as jewelry, since I mostly use my phone to check the time anyway?
Entirely unacceptable. The magic in every watch stems from man’s uncontainable need to measure the most intangible governing force/pressure/whateverthingy: time. If you want to wear jewelry (which is totally acceptable), buy a bracelet.
I’m interested in investing in a watch from a newer brand, something that not everyone has. Any suggestions?
Simple: NOMOS. Although an educated few have caught on, every dollar spent is going toward a product and company that is doing things right. From an in-house developed movement to a recognizable, tasteful design, to marketing that is unpretentious and modern, NOMOS has the collector world impassioned.