A good watch is a staple of a modern gentleman’s personal style and it can tell you a lot about its owner if you know what to look for. However, distinguishing between different types of watches and matching them to your needs can turn into a lengthy process at times.
In this article, you’ll learn about different watches, their characteristics, and general information everyone should know when it comes to these intricate machines.
There’s a number of ways to categorize watches based on their mechanism, styles, or additional features that come with them. In this article, we’ll cover the two most common distinctions: display and movement type.
1. Types of watches based on their display
Differentiating between watches in this way is rather simple — if it’s a traditional-looking watch with hands that indicate time, it’s an analog watch. If time is shown on a display e.i. using electronics, it’s a digital watch.
While display form is the most obvious difference, there are other things you should keep in mind when choosing between these watch types:
- Time format. Analog watches have a 12-hour format, while digital watches usually allow you to choose between that and a 24-hour format.
- Power source. Digital watches run on batteries that can be replaced or charged when necessary. Analog watches run on automatic/mechanical movement or quartz that also requires a battery.
- Winding. Digital watches require no winding, while analog watches have to either be winded manually or come equipped with automatic winding.
2. Types of watch by movements
Differentiation of watches based on their movement type is rather simple, as you’ve probably heard of these expressions before. Based on their movement, watches fall into one of the three following categories:
- Mechanical. These watches have to be hand-wound in order to keep ticking. Wounding sets off the internal mechanism that consists of hundreds or more pieces, depending usually on the price of the watch.
- Automatical. When it comes to getting a watch, automatic movements don’t mean it runs by itself. The mechanism is almost completely similar, with the addition of a rotor that winds the watch instead of you using the kinetic energy of your movement.
- Quartz. Quartz watches have a much simpler mechanism, as they run on the power produced by an electronics oscillator. The oscillator runs based on vibrations produced by the quartz crystal, hence the name.
Now that we’ve been over the basic distinctions, we’ll go over additional information you may need when browsing for different kinds of watches to match your style. Read on and find out more about what watches are made of, the principles behind their movement, and what complications are when it comes to watches.
1. Watch parts
Watches have anywhere between 130 and 1728 parts — the higher number means a higher price. However, only a couple of these are worth knowing:
- Strap and buckles. Straps are the bracelet that holds the watch on your wrist. They can be made from almost any material, ranging from rubber and leather to metal. This is the reason why the style of the strap greatly influences styles of watches.
- Case. The case is the main part of the watch. As the name suggests, it’s usually a stainless steel case that holds the mechanism. The case can also be made of precious metals if it’s a luxury brand.
- Bezel. Bazel is the outer part of the case, i. e. the ring that surrounds the ‘’glass’’ on the watch. These can vary in their ability to move or mark time zones, but there are numerous more bezel functions that depend on the complications of a watch.
- Crystal. The crystal is the ‘’glass’’ that protects the mechanism from dust and other influences. Depending on the watch, crystal types that are the most frequent are sapphires because of their durability. However, the crystal is most frequently made from hard plastic.
- Dial. Dial or the face of the watch is the surface with the numerals on it. It can come in any color and with any design of numbers on it.
- Hands. Hands indicate time unless we’re talking about digital watches. While most watches have two or three hands, some may have more if there are additional features such as timers.
- Crown. A crown of a watch is a small metal piece on the side of the case, which is used to wind it. If you’re buying a mechanical movements watch, it’s very important to pay attention to the crown. While it mostly works after being pulled out during winding, it’s sometimes also screwed down into the case in waterproof mechanisms.
- Lug. A lug is a place on the case where the straps are connected to the mechanism. It’s a metal spring bar that holds the straps or metal bracelets.
2. Watch movements explained
We already covered the basics of watch movement types, but to understand what type of watch will best suit your needs, it’s necessary to have a bit more information. The movements may vary in size and shape, as they follow the shape of the case. We know that quartz movement watches run on batteries, but other types need a bit more explaining.
Watch movements are found in the case between two plates. Movements are assessed based on their thickness, which is measured in millimeters or in ligne — an old unit used by Swiss and French watchmakers. A ligne equals 2.2 millimeters.
A mechanical type of watch relies on the crown and the mainspring for movement. We use the crown to wind the watch manually or to set the time. The kinetic energy from the crown movement then gets transferred to the mainspring.
The mainspring stores this kinetic energy by getting tighter, which sets the gears in the watch. As the gears move, they transfer the energy to the escapement, also known as the balance wheel. This wheel is a crucial part, as it turns the energy into equally proportioned oscillations.
Automatic watch movements are a type of mechanical movement watch that appeared in the 20th century. They don’t need winding. The mainspring in these watches uses kinetic energy produced by your hand movement.
Self-winding is enabled by a piece called a rotor, which is a metal weight that moves freely as our hand moves, harnessing energy that gets transferred to the mainspring. This being said, it’s good to be aware that automatic watch cases are thicker than standard due to these additional parts.
Different types of watch movements offer different experiences, and it’s good to consider it before shopping. The craftsmanship of mechanical watches usually results in heftier price tags and means you’ll have to spend more time making sure it‘s wound properly.
3. Watch complications
Despite what the name suggests, these complications are actually simply added features that come within the watch. Simply put, a watch complication is anything a watch can indicate that’s not time of the day.
Different types of watches come with different sets of complications, but the general rule is — the more complications, the higher the price. For example, the Patek Philippe Calibre 89 can show you the position of stars, phases of the moon, and the exact date of Easter. Only four of these exist, and the luxury of owning one would cost you more than $7.1 million.
The most common watch complications are showing the day of the week, month, and stopwatch feature. Some other kinds of complications include having chimes or astronomical data (the grand complication).
When it comes to watches, styles have changed throughout their history to match the current fashion style. But, regardless of their style, a good watch was always a staple of a well-dressed gentleman.
While there is no such a thing as a watch style guide, here we’ll present you with the most common kind every modern gentleman should be able to tell apart:
- Pocket watch. Pocket watches have been around since 1675. These aren’t worn on wrists but come on a chain meant to be attached to a vest. Although they are considered to be old-fashioned by some, pocket watches are still around today.
- Dress watch. An all-time classic every man should have in his collection. Leather straps, simple dials, and a thin case differentiate this type of watch from others.
- Aviator watch. This watch features extra-large cases, lumed dials and numerals, large crowns, and longer straps. Everything on this watch is made to allow pilots to handle the watch while wearing gloves and jackets.
- Dive watch. A dive watch is another type of wrist watch that was designed for specific professions. It has a sapphire glass and a thick case to resist pressure and water to around 980 feet, but some can go even deeper.
- Fashion watch. This is one of the types of wrist watches that were made to be statement pieces. These are most frequently made by brands that don’t specialize in watchmaking and are rather cheap as cheap manufacturing materials are used.
- Digital watch. Digital watches were first introduced in 1972, and today they are among the cheapest watches you can find. They don’t have hands and dials but show time displayed on a LED screen with backlight illumination.
- Smartwatch. A smartwatch is basically a computer you wear on your hand. It has rubber straps, additional computer functions, a lithium-ion battery, and a display that shows dime digitally.
Different kinds of watches send different messages about the wearer. A laid-back, tech-savvy man will choose a smartwatch, while men who pursue classic styles will stay as far away as possible from smartwatches.
All in all, finding the best watch for men is a process that needs to be adapted to your personal preferences and lifestyle. A good watch is an investment, which is why you need to make sure to know details about different watch styles and what’s offered on the market and be specific about your needs and expectations.
What are watch movements?
Watch movements are pieces of mechanism that power the watch. These can be either mechanical or run by a battery. You can find more details about this in a separate chapter of our guide.
How many types of watches are there?
Watches have been around for a very long time, and there’s no definitive list of the types. It all depends on the criteria we apply to distinguish between them. We can do that based on their style, movement, the craftsmanship used to make them, etc.
What are watch complications?
Watch complications are additional features some types of watches offer, in addition to telling time. The most frequent complications are date and month, while some even offer moon phases and astrological data.