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The Wrist Watches Buying Guide

BY: EDITORIAL TEAM | 6.27.2017 |

Even in the age of smartphones, a good watch is an essential part of your wardrobe. But with all the types of men's and women's wrist watches out there and all the strange terminology that accompanies them, it's hard to know exactly what to look for. Read on to learn about the different parts of a watch and to find out what questions you should ask before you buy one.

What are the parts of a watch?

While the inside of a watch can be exceptionally complicated, its exterior can be broken down into several discrete parts. Each of these contributes to the piece's aesthetics or its functionality.

  • Case: houses the movement and protects it from the elements (the movement refers to the parts that make the watch work; more on that below)
  • Dial: the watch face, sometimes enhanced with subdials that show seconds or chronograph readouts
  • Hands: the pieces that actually indicate the time
  • Marker:one of the numerals (or simple lines) around the watch face; also known as an index
  • Crystal: covers the dial to protect against dirt and water; made from one of three materials: lab-grown sapphire, which is second only to diamond in terms of its hardness; mineral, which is simply another term for glass; or acrylic, which is similar to plastic
  • Bezel: the outer frame that keeps the crystal in place; can be purely decorative or functional, with diving and stopwatch versions
  • Crown: a small piece on the side of the case that winds the movement and adjusts functions such as date and time; some watches include a crown protector to avoid accidental adjustments
  • Bracelet: a watchband made of metal links; tends to be large and eye-catching
  • Strap: a watchband made of leather, vegan leather, silicone, or another flexible material; typically more subtle than a bracelet
  • Clasp: keeps the band secured to the wrist; the most common types are buckle (or ardillon) and deployment (or deployant) clasps

How does the watch work?

One of the main considerations when buying a watch is its movement: literally, what makes it tick.

Manual Mechanical

Shop men's mechanical and women's mechanical watches

Now produced mostly as a luxury item, the manual mechanical watch has been around since the 17th century, when watchmakers miniaturized the timekeeping technology used in clocks. Inside a manual mechanical watch, a spring that must be periodically wound by hand keeps the gears turning. Though not as precise as their electronic successors, mechanical watches are still favored by horologists for their delicate parts and elegant craftsmanship.

Automatic Mechanical

Shop men's automatic and women's automatic watches

Automatic watches, which were developed in the 1920s and standard by the 1960s, use the natural movements of the wearer's wrist throughout the day to wind the watch's mainspring. This eliminates the need to wind the watch by hand, improving its accuracy.

Quartz Electronic

Shop men's quartz and women's quartz watches

Replacing springs and gears, a small battery keeps a quartz watch ticking. Quartz watches are the most precise and the least expensive to manufacture, leading to their dominance over the watch market since they were first mass-produced in the 1980s.

What is the watch made of?

What the watch is made of doesn't only affect how the timepiece looks, but also how much it weighs, how long it stays looking new, and how it interacts with your skin. Each material has its own bonuses and drawbacks.

Stainless Steel

Pros: highly durable, professional looking, and hypoallergenic
Cons: often fairly expensive

We like: the DW Watches Rose Gold Classic Petite Melrose For Women, starting at $169

Base Metal

Pros: less-expensive alternative to stainless steel; sometimes plated in gold
Cons: may scratch or tarnish, and more likely to cause an allergic reaction

We like: the Simplify Unisex 'The 2800' Quartz Metal Case and Leather Watch, starting at $49.99

Silicone

Pros: withstands abuse and available in any color of the rainbow; excellent for sports and outdoor activities
Cons: casual look; doesn't transition well from day to evening

We like: the Studer Schild Men's Carver Chronograph Watch, starting at $85.99

Leather

Pros: soft, comfortable, and suitable for a range of occasions
Cons: may crack or fade over years of wear

We like: the Akribos XXIV Men's Leather Strap Watch, starting at $146.99

What extra features does the watch have?

Any function that extends beyond basic timekeeping is known as a "complication." Here's a rundown of the complications you're most likely to see on modern wrist watches:

Chronograph

What it is: a stopwatch
Look for it if: you'd like to have a stopwatch handy without pulling out your smartphone; good for coaches and runners

Multifunction Subdial

What it is: a subdial that indicates other elements of time: the day of the week, a 24-hour clock, or Greenwich Mean Time, for example
Look for it if: you'd like a watch with enhanced functionality and a professional-looking face

Date Display

What it is: a window, extra hand, or subdial that indicates the date
Look for it if: you like to time travel

Moon-Phase Indicator

What it is: a subdial or window that shows the full, half, quarter, or new moon
Look for it if: you'd like a watch with a little aesthetic flair

Alarm

What it is: a built-in reminder of an event that can be set independently of the time
Look for it if: you run late, have a busy schedule, or need an alarm when a smartphone is out of reach

Tachymeter

What it is: an instrument for measuring speed, usually built in as a scale on the inner or outer bezel, and usually found in conjunction with a chronograph
Look for it if: you're a pilot or racecar driver; it helps gauge the rate at which a vehicle is moving

Is the watch water resistant?

Since you'll likely be exposed to rain, snow, or humidity at some point, a water-resistant watch can be a wise investment. A watch's water-resistance rating indicates how much moisture the timepiece can take before it's damaged. Because these ratings are not intuitive, we've laid out this handy table explaining the difference between basic water-resistant watches and diver watches:

WATER RESISTANCE RATING SUITABLE FOR AVOID
30 meter (3atm) Everyday use (resistant to splashes and rain) Showering, bathing, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, diving
50 meter (5atm) Swimming, whitewater rafter, fishing Snorkeling, diving
100 meter (10atm) Surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sailing, watersports Diving
200 meter (20 atm) Skin diving, surface watersports, marine-related work Scuba diving
Diver’s 100 meter Scuba diving Saturation diving
Diver’s 200 or 300 meter Scuba diving Saturation diving
Diver’s 300+ meter Saturation diving n/a

Watch Brands

Groupon currently carries more than 200 watch brands. Here are a few of our best-selling and highest-rated brands.

Stührling Original

This American company is known for making luxury watches at affordable prices.

We like: the Stührling Original Men's Bracelet Watch collection, starting at $49.99

Bulova

Founded by Joseph Bulova in 1875, this American brand with a reputation for quality craftsmanship produces men's and women's dress watches.

We like: the Bulova Women's Dress Watch collection, starting at $59.99

Invicta

This American company originated in Switzerland as the Invicta Watch Company in 1837. Today they make affordable luxury watches with an emphasis on elegant case complications.

We like: the Invicta Excursion Chronograph Gold Tone Men's Watch, starting at $159.99

DKNY

This New York–based fashion brand founded by Donna Karan produces classic-looking luxury watches for women.

We like: the Women's Chamber Watches, starting at $137.79

Giorgio Armani

This high-end Italian fashion house makes dress watches for men and women.

We like: the Armani Exchange Men's Hampton, starting at $132.50

Whimsical Gifts

This Georgia-based company's kitschy sensibility shines through in themed watches intended for animal lovers, cooks, musicians, and various professionals.

We like: the Corgi Black Leather and Goldtone Watch, starting at $39.95