The Reality of – Traditional Watches

I hate to admit that I am an almost obsessive consumer but I always try to apply objective logic to my views on products that I buy and on their performance. So in this post I want to look at the reality of watches.

I am a watch enthusiast and have eight watches at the moment. I have been lucky enough to have lived through all the major technological changes, having cut my teeth on mechanical time pieces and then through quartz, atomic and various display technologies. The most expensive watch I ever owned was a new Rolex at around £3500 but it was such a disappointment that it fuelled my view that right now you don’t have to spend much more than £200 for a watch that far exceeds any premium watch in most regards. Over about £500 generally just ups the jewellery factor and bragging rights. Don’t get me wrong, if you are minted then go buy a Patek Philippe watch for £150,000 and enjoy, but for most of us this is just a dream so let’s get back to reality.

The best value and most accurate and technologically advanced watches are made by Casio. In reality for non-mechanical watches no one else gets close for value for money.

My two favourite Casio watches are shown below with their specs and for me their function, style and looks cannot be beaten for the price, in fact I think that the G Shock steel is probably the best value all round watch ever!

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Note that they are exactly synchronised with the national atomic time signal.

Both of these watches cost around £200 and have the following functions:

  • Sapphire glass (best scratch resistance)
  • Waterproof to 100m
  • Atomic synchronised (ultimate accuracy)
  • Solar powered
  • World time showing two time zones
  • Stop watch, timer, 5 alarms
  • A back light (The G-Shock is well impressive).

The lineage has a titanium case and strap, which is rare at this price. The G-Shock is extremely robust against shock and hot and cold temperatures.

What else do you want from a watch!

Well there is one caveat to what I have said so far and that is concerning mechanical watches. Firstly let’s ask, why in these digital days would anyone want a mechanical watch, because the truth is that they are not as accurate, not as robust and more inconvenient to use on a day to day basis. Having only recently rediscovered the mechanical watch I can only answer this on a personal basis. A lovely mechanical watch is not just a tool but something that you have to actually look after and care for and this can make them more special to own. It also has a real beating heart that moves and ticks and wears out, just like we do. There is also that lovely sweeping second hand instead of the step movement of a quartz watch.

Mechanical watches are more accurate than their specs would suggest, however they are more laid back about precision and in a strange way this has made me a little more laid back about time and in our hectic lives that can be a good thing. So if you are a watch enthusiast then I urge you to try a mechanical watch. If you just want something that tells the time then best not.

Now let’s address the accuracy thing. The accuracy of mechanical watches is usually specified as +/- seconds per 24 hours. The important point here is that ‘+/-‘ for in any given day your watch main gain a few seconds, but the following day lose a few so over a matter of months these variations cancel each other out. For example I have been wearing my cheap as chips Seiko 5 for the last month and it has gained about 10 seconds, so what! But I know that in four weeks’ time it may have clawed some of that back. Over a year it has never lost or gained more than a minute! The only time accuracy can bite you in the butt is when you need stop watch and timer functions and for this you will need a more accurate mechanical watch that is a certified chronograph and this will seriously up the price of the watch. Even so it will still be nowhere near as precise as my 100th of a second accurate Casios’.

The best value mechanical watches are from the Seiko 5 range. These watches are beautifully finished and can outclass watches at literally ten times their price. Here are some pics of my Seiko 5 and you may be able to see the sheer quality of the finish for £80!

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The big problems with the Seiko 5 range is that they are generally only splash proof, and here’s a thing; I have a £220 ceramic cased Bering watch that looks lovely and has the same waterproofing and yet I wear it in the shower because it’s just a watch, however I cannot risk it with my Seiko 5 because I don’t want to damage it. Anyway, other limitations of the Seiko 5 range are its supposed scratch resistant glass (hardlex), which can be scratched reasonably easily (you may be able to see the scratches on my watch), the cheap strap that lets it down and its retro styling. If you want a funkier mechanical then try the Swatch Sistem51 range; personally I don’t think they are of the same quality as a Seiko 5, but they look cool.

My personal pick of brands for great watches under £1000.

  • Seiko. Sell every type and style  of watch and the best value entry level mechanicals. Well proven technology and generally very high standard of finish and the luminosity is the best in the business. However watches in this price range generally have the hardlex glass, which can be scratch and is no way as good as sapphire.
  • Casio. Quartz and atomic only and no need to spend more than about £300. Amazing technology, great range of styles and high quality. A lot of watch for the money.
  • Tissot. More at the mid to top end of this price range. Lovely range of all types of watches that ooze style but can be a bit traditional for some. There mechanicals at the top end of this range may be all you ever need from a watch. I have a near forty year old quartz based Tissot that is still working fine using the original internal movement.
  • VICTORINOX. Their low end mechanicals start at around £500 and tend to have a military or traditional style but they are more robust than most other brands making them more suitable for heavy day to day usage. Their quartz watch range could be considered expensive compared to Casio that offer similar to greater robustness and accuracy in the G-Shock range.

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