The Manual’s Quick and Easy Guide to Buying a Watch

buying a watch guide
Buying a watch is like buying art. It’s a highly personal decision based on any number of factors, including taste, wrist size, and, of course, budget.

Since watches are such an essential piece of style, you could say we’re obsessed here at The Manual. We write pretty regularly about our favorite timepieces at a variety of price points and gawk at watchmaking books when we have the chance.

However, when it comes to buying a timepiece, opinions are all over the dial. Beyond the rainbow of analog and digital options, fitness wearables have now become a legitimate third category.

To make sense of modern day watch-buying, we spoke with three different experts — a watchmaker, a fitness guru, and a creative director — to learn a few key tips before heading to the physical (or virtual) storefront.

buying a watch

Getting Started

“Make a list of what’s important to you,” says Vero watch company co-founder Chris Boudreaux. There are plenty of options between mechanical and quartz, and daily drivers and special occasion watches. He adds that you should go talk to the retailers or brands themselves and ask questions about the things that matter to you.

In terms of fitness watches, personal trainer and TomTom ambassador Adam Rosante agrees. “Start with your goal. Know what you want and what you need,” he says.

Picking the Right Fit

According to Peter Cho, creative director for Jack Mason timepieces, round watch faces still dominate the market — but trends are moving towards smaller dial sizes, between 38-42 mm. Watch straps are becoming an important choice too. “With more brands featuring an interchangeable strap program, the leather strap route is a bit more versatile, since you can switch from a casual, distressed leather for the day, to a smooth, finer leather for a nice dinner,” Cho says.

Watch Face Size Comparison Chart, courtesy of Shinola

“Additionally, think about what you actually want to use the watch for,” Boudreaux says. It’s becoming a luxury to look at your wrist instead of pulling out your phone to grab the time. He notes that you should only pay for complications (like chronographs) that you’ll actually use.

Price Point

Cho says your budget depends on how much mileage you want out of the watch.

“A mid-tier department store watch will last anywhere from six months to four years with normal wear and tear,” he explains. This, of course, varies widely based on water exposure, sweat, and battery replacement, among other things.

buying a watch guide

“(On the higher end), if you are looking at something you expect to last for generations, I believe you have to be willing to invest a bit in that,” Boudreaux says. Spending more can make the difference between something you wear occasionally and something you’ll want to wear everyday.

“Sometimes the value is there for simply how much you enjoy wearing it,” he says.

Final Notes

Especially with fitness watches, buying a watch can be a bit of trial and error, according to Rosante. Before any purchase, do your research on the product, design, customer service, and other aspects of a watch company that matter to you. Find a watch you’ll actually want to wear.

“Don’t talk yourself into (or out of) a purchase because it wasn’t the first watch on your radar,” Boudreaux says. “When you have one you still like after years and years, that’s a great purchase, regardless of name or price.”

Cho echoes Boudreaux, “Watches stand for more than just telling time. They are a statement piece and a form of expression. At the end of the day, it should feel comfortable on your wrist and you should feel confident wearing it.”

Food & Drink

Comedian Ben Scwhartz on His New Podcast, Learning about Wine, and Desert Island Vino

You probably know Ben Schwartz as one of the stars of House of Lies and Parks and Recreation, but did you know that he also loves wine? He loves it, but for a long time, he’d say he knew next to nothing about it.

Is this the Fanciest (And Most Expensive) Pedal Boat Ever?

We love a regular old pedal boat as much as the next guy, but this one takes the cake.
Fashion & Style

The Best Summer Sales on Menswear and Gear

Swimwear, outdoor gear, watches, shoes — you name it, we've found a deal on it.
Fashion & Style

Fossil’s New Smartwatches Will Make Your Heart Beat Faster — and Show You, Too

Fossil has announced two new smartwatches that include a heart rate sensor, NFC, GPS, and a high level of water resistance.
Fashion & Style

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Has Savings on Menswear You Don’t Want to Miss

With big savings on jackets, shoes, suits, shirts, and just about everything in between, it never hurts to at least take a peak.
Fashion & Style

Gear We Love Right Now from Best Made Co.

We've found the sort of menswear that’ll look at home in the city during the week and tools you’ll need during a weekend in the country.
Fashion & Style

Our Favorite Urban Riding Packs by Mission Workshop

When you're on the move, you need to make sure that your gear isn't. That's where these packs come in handy.
Fashion & Style

Faherty and Huckberry Team Up for a Clothing Collection That Helps the Oceans

We love the sunset-inspired hue of the collab — it's like a dreamsicle you can wear.
Fashion & Style

Vero Watches Put a Modern Spin on a Retro Style

We detect a hint of the '70s in this pair of new timepieces from a Portland-based brand.
Fashion & Style

Time To Start Thinking About the Best Men’s Chukka Boots for Fall

The chukka boot is the most versatile pair of shoes you can pick up in late summer to carry you into autumn.
Fashion & Style

Set Sail (and Keep Your Deck Scuff-Free) in the Best Men’s Boat Shoes

These work just as well on land as they do on deck.
Fashion & Style

The Timex x GREATS Bayman Will Be Your New Favorite Watch

This classic timepiece comes from an unexpected source: the purveyors of some of your favorite sneakers on the market.
Fashion & Style

Rado’s New Automatic Ceramic Watch Is as Technical as It Is Stunning

The skeleton appearance and lightweight ceramic construction make the Rado True Open Heart a timekeeping eye-catcher.