Watch Mistakes To Avoid When Buying & Owning A Luxury Timepiece

The do's and don'ts of horology.

Image: @shaunbirley

You’re new to the world of high-end horology, but you’ve had your eye on a Rolex for some time. Eventually, you’ve been able to set aside enough money to dive headfirst and start your watch collection off with some real flair. But, as a complete newbie, you have no idea what to do when it comes to actually buying a watch, or how to look after your new child timepiece (and how to wear it without looking like a show-off) once you’ve made the purchase.

Buying A Watch

There are a few mistakes people make when it comes to buying a luxury watch. Firstly, you need to consider if you want a watch to wear on a daily basis or just for special occasions. A simple, elegant dress watch probably isn’t best for daily wear, but an Omega Speedmaster or Rolex GMT could double up for both scenarios.

And if you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, you’ll want a watch that will be able to withstand your lifestyle, or you’ll want one with certain functions/complications. Moreover, you should definitely consider the size of the case – most guys will be able to comfortably accommodate a 40 – 44mm case on their wrist, but the style of watch you’re after may come in a smaller or larger size, so make sure you try on a watch for some time before buying and don’t just act on impulse.

The Reddit community has weighed in on this topic too, with many users providing words of wisdom to prospective watch buyers. Thermodynamicfish says “open a bunch of tabs on your computer or whatever of all the watch brands, like as many as you can think of, and keep a mental list of what intrigues you.”

“Next go to the stores and see them in person because a lot of the time, watches appear way different online than in person, you wanna make sure they fit perfectly to your standards, factor in weight, comfortability, proportionate sizing. Watches need to be serviced eventually so just ask the service cost and interval for doing so, just so there’s no surprises down the line.”

Where you buy your watch should also be considered. With regards to whether you should buy from an authorised dealer or if you can turn to an online marketplace such as eBay, Popularcolor says: “For what it’s worth, I’ve bought a new Rolex OP on Joma and bought two vintage ref. 1002s on eBay. There were some stories (rumors?) maybe 6 months ago about how Rolex was going to be more vigilant about only covering AD purchased watches under the warranty, but I didn’t have any issue with my grey market purchase, and I don’t expect it to need a service until the watch would be way out of warranty anyway.”

“It’s [a grey market dealer] a great way to save money on such a large purchase, but does come with a bit of risk. Authorized Dealers offer peace of mind and a relationship if you’re a wealthy enough loyal customer of the brand.”

Looking After A Watch

You’ve found the watch for you and now you need to know how to look after it. To help guide you on the path of wristwear wizardry, we spoke to Steve Mellin, Watch Group Category Manager, Gregory Jewellers, to find out what sort of mistakes newcomers make and how best to avoid them.

The first mistake Steve says he sees countless owners of luxury watches make, is they forget to fully wind in the crown or pushers before jumping into a pool or the ocean. Failing to do so will mean the seal won’t be engaged on your watch, allowing water to get in. Steve compares this to “leaving your door open when driving your Landrover through a waterway and then wondering why your feet are wet.”

Secondly, Steve says you shouldn’t set your watch down on the crown when you’re not wearing it. Doing so “places unnecessary pressure or shock (especially if the table is glass or stone) on the crown stem which connects directly into the movement.” Additionally, placing a watch on its side brings gravity into play, wherein it can pull the hairspring down more on one side, eventually affecting the timekeeping rate.

Not only this but being on its side rather than being laid out flat will cause your watch to be less stable, increasing the risk of it falling and scratching the case and bracelet.

In relation to setting the watch down, Steve also makes a point of recommending owners don’t put their watches down near phones and tablets, especially if they have a magnetic cover on. “This is terribly bad for a lot of watch movements as it causes magnetism in the movement which will seriously affect the accuracy of your watch. Some brands have antimagnetic hairsprings or modern-day Faraday cages that protect the movement, but why tempt fate?”

You may already be aware of Steve’s next tip, however, if you’re like me and have only ever invested in ‘affordable’ watches, it may well be the best piece of advice you ever hear. When it comes to setting the time and/or date on your timepiece, you should avoid changing anything the hands read anywhere between 9 pm and 3 am. Instead, wind the hands or date around outside of these hours – 5 o’clock is recommended. Steve says, “this will prevent the gears that facilitate the day/date change from jamming as they start to engage well before midnight and remain well after.”

Moving away from movements, another care tip for your luxury wristwear is to keep it clean. Most watches these days are water-resistant to some degree, so cleaning it with a damp piece of cloth will be fine. Just be sure that the crown and any pushers are fully screwed or pushed in beforehand, and wipe dry once you’re done. You can use a toothbrush dipped in water to clean metal bracelets, too.

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Leather straps, on the other hand, will naturally succumb to daily wear and tear and will lose their rigidity over time and pick up the sweat from your wrist. You can clean it using a damp cloth and gentle soap, and applying a leather conditioner will help to increase its lifespan. However, don’t be surprised if the day comes when you have to change it. In doing so, you can give your watch a brand new feel. 

Lastly, high-end watches are manufactured in such a way that they will require regular maintenance – every five to seven years should suffice, although you should always read the information that comes with your particular model.

How To Wear It

With your newfound knowledge, you’ll no doubt want to flaunt your new timepiece as soon as you’ve bought it. There’s no argument from us.

Firstly, the general rule is to wear your watch on your non-dominant wrist, although ultimately it will come down to personal preference. However, rules do come into play when you’re attending a formal event. If you find yourself in such a situation, we’d like to divert your attention to this step-by-step guide of how to wear your watch with a shirt.

We’d also like to reiterate the earlier point of choosing the right watch for the right occasion. Don’t go digging out your G-Shock when you’re heading to a wedding. It’s just not right.