Something changed for watch enthusiasts when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world in early 2020. For several months, it was no longer possible to visit brick-and-mortar shops to buy a new timepiece. We had to resort to taking a look at brand’s websites to get an idea of what was available, and whether or not we would like what we saw. In parallel, the boom of micro and independent brands—which comes with many positives, for example, being able to get more watch for our hard earned cash that we could before—comes with one major drawback: the fact that, for the most part, we cannot see or try the watches in the metal because most brands only sell on their website. This is further problematic because micro and independent brands offer quality watches and unique/interesting designs which we all want to get our hands on.
So, what can we do? It’s simple: learn how to shop online so that we are guaranteed a pretty good match. There are a few tricks one can follow in order to sort through the hundreds of models available online. Something which we will discuss in this article.
Find Your Ideal Dimensions
For some, getting a watch with a case of XXmm in diameter is not as important as the way it looks. For others, it’s all about the brand name or the movement or an intricate complication that has never been seen before. Perhaps I’m wrong here but I would advance the idea that for most of us watch collectors and enthusiasts, getting the right dimensions is very important. I feel comfortable saying that because I know too many people who loved how a watch looks but didn’t like the way it fits on their wrists. (And the opposite is true as well.) The dial design is perfect, the polishing is above what they are used to at this price range, but the watch just doesn’t fit well. It’s either too big or too small, doesn’t hug the wrist or is too tall.
After buying, selling, and writing about watches for the past three years, I’ve come to understand what my ideal dimensions are. And 99% of the time, they work. I have a 6.25”/16cm wrist and my ideal dimensions are as follows: a case diameter between 36 and 39mm, a maximum lug-to-lug of 48mm, a case thickness below 14mm, and a 20mm lug width. Of course, I am a little flexible but I found that in general, any watch that fits these dimensions works for me, regardless of how beautiful or ugly the watch actually is. Here I’m talking about dimensions only and that’s the first thing you should know before buying a watch online: your wrist circumference and what your ideal dimensions are.
Key Specifications to Look For
Although we all attach different values to specifications, I would say that in general, we all look for good movements, lume, bracelet, crystal, and finish. I don’t know of anyone who prefers a bracelet that pulls arm hair or movements that run too fast or too slow. Watch collecting should be fun and I don’t see a reason why anyone would want to buy a bad product. Depending on anyone’s budget, we could lean toward this or that movement, prefer a well-made bracelet over an average leather strap, or be ok with subpar finish as long as the watch doesn’t fall apart.
In terms of movements, one is guaranteed a good experience when going with the following manufacturers: Sellita, Miyota, Soprod, ETA, and Ronda. Not all brands regulate the movements however, but those from these manufacturers generally run well out-of-the-box. Personally, I love Miyota as they do not need to be regulated to run at -/+10 seconds per day. Sellita makes great movements as well, so does Soprod which produces equivalent calibers in terms of reliability and durability. I suggest looking for these movement manufactures and seek, if possible, models from brands that do regulate the movements.
Although I don’t like to have sapphire crystals on all my watches, sapphire does come with the advantage of being scratch resistant. Know that flat crystals provide a clearer view of dials while domed crystals create distortions at the edges of dials as well as more reflections. Hesalite/plexiglass scratch more easily but resist shocks better, and they come with the added benefit of adding “warmth” to a dial. They also sometimes create intense distortions at the edges of the dial. Speaking of crystals, see-through case-backs are not as important as you might think they are since you will probably not wear your watch inside out very often.
Lume became something people obsess over and 99.99% of the time, brands use SuperLuminova. Popular blends include BGW9, C1, and X1 as they glow in different colors. What you need to look for is how many layers have been applied and whether or not it was done evenly. Be aware that brands tend to make the lume application look better on photos than it actually is in person, so I recommend looking for images taken by those who actually purchased the watches. Similarly, search for photos showing the quality of the finish on the case and bracelet to ensure all-day wearing comfort.
Look Up the Brands You Are Interested In
It might sound self-evident but I recommend looking up the brands you are interested in. Over the past 10 years, certain brands have earned solid reputations for making good watches, and although you should not automatically ignore new brands, it can sometimes be hard to judge the quality of a timepiece by simply looking at the photos. Just like understanding what your ideal dimensions are, shopping from brands which have good track records for making well-made watches and having great customer support is important in guaranteeing a good horological experience. Because even if the dimensions of the watch are spot on and it is well-made, you should be able to return it if you don’t connect with it.
Honestly, it’s impossible to avoid the eventual unfortunate experience of buying a bad watch. I've done it before and more than once, however overtime—and by understanding what I look for in terms of dimensions and specifications—I was able to make better choices. To me, getting the dimensions right was key to facilitate my online watch buying experience. Then comes the crucial step of understanding what type of design we are the most attracted to, keeping in mind that sometimes we can be surprised! I never thought I would like time only white dial watches until I bought one. Granted, it had the right dimensions and specs which helped a lot. I think you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?Featured image: www.ft.com