TimeCaptain’s Annual Guide to Buying Watches for Men – 2014 edition
Last year, we were a little late in posting this blog. So for 2014, we’re making sure you have plenty of time to read, re-read, research and shop for a fantastic timepiece for the man in your life. For purposes of this blog, the term “watch” will refer to a mechanical timepiece and not a quartz or a so-called “smartwatch”. I cannot advise anybody, in good faith, on purchasing any of those… things.
So back to proper timepieces. You will have many questions at this point. How much should I spend? Which brands should I consider? Which style should I choose? Automatic or manual? What is automatic? What is manual? Let’s start by sorting out the difference between these two.
It’s a bit the same dilemma as when it comes to buying a car. The major difference is set by the way of winding the watch, an automatic watch will wind itself just by wearing it, while a manual piece needs to be hand-wound regularly, depending on the power reserve of the watch. If you know that this will be the main watch your man will wear, than I would recommend a timepiece with an automatic movement. In case, this will be an addition to a collection, you might want to consider a manual watch, or here is a killer tip: an automatic watch plus a watch winder. For my recommendations on choosing a winder, click here.
Most people would start by establishing a budget. And here’s the good news — you can find pretty cool mechanical pieces for any (reasonable) budget. For example, my pal recently bought his-and-hers automatic Tissot for under $2,000 combined. My advice would be — determine your realistic budget… and then double it. No, I’m serious. A timepiece is a lifetime purchase — it could be passed down to your grandchildren. Don’t worry about over-spending because it’s such a long-term investment. Nobody every said to me, “Boy, I wish I had bought the less expensive model”. No. They always say, “Man, I wish I had gone for the BIGGER piece!” Buying a timepiece for your man is not like buying a sweater or a hockey stick. A timepiece is a BIG deal and deserves a healthy budget.
You can buy some cool timepieces for under $1,000. The best example would be Hamilton’s Intra-Matic. This is a vintage-styled timepiece, available in two sizes and different colors, with a nice automatic movement visible through the sapphire caseback. This piece is cool way beyond its price tag. Another great option under $1,000 would be the 46mm Hamilton Khaki King Pilot. This piece is just gorgeous and has a huge presence on the wrist.
But we need to consider more than price. What is your man’s style? What does he do all day? Where does he work? Does he already have a collection of fine timepieces? Would he wear the piece all the time?
To borrow from one of Adam’s recent posts, let’s categorize timepieces into a few categories and then you can see which category your man falls into. We have dress pieces — these are typically more classic in style and smaller in size and possibly less rugged or robust. Dress pieces look best with business suits or formal wear, but can certainly be worn on weekends with a nice outfit. Sporty/casual pieces — these are typically larger, may have “sporty” straps such as rubber, and may have bolder, more colorful dials. Sporty casual pieces look best with jeans, t-shirts and casual attire. And then you have tool watches — these are pieces that are made to wear every day, during all types of activities. They should have excellent water-resistance and maybe even some anti-magnetic or shock resistance features. Of course, there are many other ways to categorize watches and some will fall into more than one category anyway.
So does your man wear a suit? Do you want to give him a watch to wear to work rather than on weekends?
I have already suggested the Hamilton Intra-Matic as the best choice under $1,000.
Vintage-styled pieces are often more “dress” than “sporty.” If you can triple that budget and get into the $3,000 range, then you should consider a Bell & Ross BR123, which is available in several different colors. This piece is a very classic 41.5mm size and is just superb for business use. B&R is a young, cool brand and a BR123 would give your man something both cool and sophisticated.
If you can spend over $3,000, you MUST start looking at Tudor. Rolex actually own Tudor and, while Tudor do not use Rolex movements, they use Rolex Steelinox and are made with stunning quality. Consider a Tudor Black Bay on a stainless steel bracelet as a superb dress piece.
If you can spend closer to $8,000, why not consider an actual Rolex such as the Datejust II? This is an all-purpose dress piece. Its stainless steel bracelet gives it versatility and its quality is second to none.
Does your man not wear suits? Or if he does work in a suit, would you simply prefer to give him a piece more suitable for weekends and jeans?
A couple of brands immediately come to mind — Bell & Ross and TAG Heuer. In both cases, you’ll need to at least be in the $3,000 range. The Bell & Ross BR01 and BR03 models are square, gorgeous, and distinctive and can have many different straps, including a sensational rubber strap. Cool, cool, cool.
TAG Heuer also stand out as sporty casual timepieces. $3,000 gets you close to an Aquaracer chronograph, one of my all-time favorite sports pieces. If you can push your budget to $5,000, TAG Heuer can offer you some of the coolest racing-style chronographs ever such as the Carrera. If you really need to keep the price tag below $1,000, then you can find Hamilton, Oris (if you get one on sale), and even Longines.
Finally, we have tool watches. This is a good gift idea if you are on the fence, if you want to play it safer, or if you want to give your man a watch he can easily wear all the time. The first watch that comes to mind is the Tudor Pelagos. This will cost you close to $5,000 depending on discounts. It is made from titanium, is very understated and can switch between rubber or titanium bracelets.
If you can spend twice as much, you should go with the ultimate tool watch — the Rolex Submariner.
Another fantastic tool watch is the Omega Seamaster. This will cost well above $3,000, but it is an icon in the world of watches. In the sub-$1,000 category, Hamilton make some great watches in their Khaki lineup — my favorite being the 44mm Khaki Mechanical with the famous Unitas manually wound movement. However, when it comes to tool watches, I prefer stainless steel bracelets for the versatility.
And finally… a brand that has no category because it is beyond category and definition. A watch that is just so awesome that it can arrive anywhere and be just ideal. Panerai. Now, this will be very expensive. So it might not fit this year’s budget, or even this year’s “adjusted” budget. But if you can manage it, ANY Panerai will do. Whether your man is wearing a suit, jeans, shorts or whatever, Panerai is da bomb. For sure, some guys really dislike Panerai. It’s better to find out now — so you can dump him. You don’t want to be with THAT guy…
So you still don’t know? Do you simply want to give your man a nice mechanical timepiece to wear whenever? You want a safe choice? A safe bet? In this situation, I recommend a watch with a nice stainless steel bracelet and a just a bit of a diver style. This type of piece is versatile and looks good with anything. Under $2,000, you can probably find a nice Longines Conquest. Around $3,000, I have already mentioned the Tudor Black Bay. A TAG Heuer Aquaracer automatic would be an excellent choice. And for something DIFFERENT but extremely wearable and practical, under $3,000, look at the Longines Legend Diver. In fact, read my recent review on this piece.
I hope this blog has helped. Enjoy the shopping. As always, the fun is in the search…
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