It seems I have a knack for subjective topics these days. Talking about how to define quality in a watch or how much you should be spending on your next timepiece. These articles are meant to provide some thoughts and a baseline to help you navigate the vast and intricate world of horology. In the same vein, I would like to discuss some commonplace criteria that define what a good watch is. Criteria that we may or may not agree upon. And even if we don’t, at least we can have a conversation about it and learn from one another. What I define as being key criteria of a good watch may resonate with you to a certain extent.
In this article, I will talk about price (again,) movement (again,) serviceability, design, and perhaps more importantly, complications. So let’s dig in!
Perhaps I’m shooting myself in the foot coming right off the bat talking about prices. We can’t ignore price tags unless we make millions of dollars a year and buying a $300,000 watch is not a big deal for us. However, for most mortals, the question of how much we can and should spend on a watch is an important one. We should be comfortable buying the watch and know that pulling the trigger won’t put us in either emotional or financial jeopardy. Although it is fun to explore different categories of watches—as in price, genre, quality—there is merit in staying within our comfortable zone when it comes to watches.
Therefore, we could see the price of a watch as being an element that makes a good timepiece in the sense that the price has to be the right one for us and that we should understand what we get for our hard-earned cash. For example, we shouldn’t spend $300 on a watch and expect it to look and feel like a $10,000 watch. Maybe we will buy the latter in the future but if our budget cannot accommodate it, then it’s alright. A good watch, therefore, is one we can afford to buy and one we are comfortable spending our money on.
For more information about the cost of watch ownership, see this article.
I recently wrote about mechanical movements and what we should know about them. Movements can make or break a watch as well, whether it is a quartz, Mecaquartz, or a mechanical one. We can look at the question of what makes a good movement from two aspects: first, where the movement is made and by who; second, is it reliable and easy to service? Some of us prefer quartz movements because they are highly accurate, cheap, and need little to no service. They only require a battery change every so often and the cost of that operation is minimal. (For example, $15.) From that point of view, quartz movements make total sense.
Some of us might define a good movement as being a chronometer-certified caliber made in Switzerland with Swiss parts. Being such an important piece of a watch, we privilege having the best movement possible and that in itself makes a watch good. So obviously this is subjective but what is important is that we all know where we stand when it comes to movements and what makes a good watch and what doesn’t. We need to be aware of what is more important for us—cheap battery change or state-of-the-art engineering—and find the watch that comes with what we need.
For more information about mechanical movement and what to look for, see this article.
Following the question of movements, we need to briefly talk about watch serviceability. Besides being able to service the movement easily and for a reasonable cost, the entire watch in itself should be easy to repair. For example, it’s easier to keep a watch in good condition if the case is made of stainless steel rather than carbon fiber. The material in itself will last longer and if anything goes wrong, it can easily be addressed. Same is true of the type of strap we use (or bracelet,) whether they are made of noble materials and expertly assembled.
Having a movement with intricate complications (see below) means that servicing the movement will be more expensive and more difficult. Movements that come with a date complication are easier to service than those that come with a perpetual calendar and a moon phase. A good watch, in this sense, could be defined as one that does enough of what you need of the time. My personal definition of an everyday watch is one that fulfills 100% of essential functions 95% of the time. Again, being able to get your watch serviced (for the movement and other problems like a broken crystal) contributes to making a watch a good one or not.
I’m going to dig my hole a little deeper here by talking about design as making a watch a good one. Besides being entirely subjective, we can look at design as being a criteria we should take into consideration when deciding to buy a watch. Many people buy a Rolex Submariner because it has an iconic design that works for good reasons. It’s legible, versatile, and instantly recognizable. Although the Submariner might have looked odd when it came out in the 1950s, now it is seen as being classic. On the other end of the spectrum, a Richard Mille was and still is odd for most people. Perhaps this oddity in the design makes a Mille watch not a good candidate for a good one.
In other words—and realistically—a design should be somewhat classic and under the radar to work for most of us in most situations. Nothing too ostentatious or too boring, but a design that strikes the perfect balance. A design that is versatile for most situations we realistically find ourselves in most often. To me, it’s the way MONTA watches are designed that explain—in part—what makes them popular. MONTA managed to create a unique design DNA that is both original and positively under the radar. MONTA has good designs and it should be noted that they work because they are versatile and strike the perfect balance between originality and familiarity.
Lastly, I would like to discuss complications. Having a time-only watch is a good thing because knowing what time it is is a basic function of a timekeeping device. An added bonus is knowing what day of the month it is, and one could also hope for knowing what day of the week it is. Although we all have different needs, we might agree that these are the basic functions a watch should have. At least an everyday one. This shouldn’t preclude you from wanting more complications. But going back to the part about serviceability, the more complications the watch has, the more difficult it will be to get it serviced.
We can therefore talk about having fewer complications as being a good thing while having more complications as posing potential difficulties for the future. MONTA’s first model, the Triumph, was so successful (I speculate) because it came with the basic functions of indicating the time and the date. It’s the type of stuff we all need and the way MONTA executed the design guaranteed the Triumph would be a success. (Here I’m referring to the fact that some of us don’t like how a date aperture breaks the symmetry of the design. Something that isn’t the case on the Triumph.)
Okay, I promise to bring about less subjective topics next time. Or can’t I? I don’t know, this world of horology we are all enthralled by is, by its very nature, subjective. I hope that you won’t see any of what I said above as “how things should be.” I’m just sharing my personal opinions about what makes a good watch for me. I would like to hear your thoughts about what makes a good watch for you so that we can learn from one another.
I recently had a conversation with a friend that revolved around what makes a watch fit well on a wrist. For a long time I only looked at case diameter but recently I realized that the lug-to-lug distance is a better indicator of whether or not the watch will fit my wrist. My friend told me that the diameter of the dial opening was a better indicator for him, and I can see why. So please share your thoughts about what makes a good watch for you.Featured image: www.realmanrealstyle.com