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Timing is Everything

There are few things as precious as time, so why waste it?

TAG-Heuer Aquaracer: New for this winter is the green-faced Aquaracer from the venerable brand TAG-Heuer.

TAG-Heuer Aquaracer: New for this winter is the green-faced Aquaracer from the venerable brand TAG-Heuer.

Some claim the wristwatch’s days are numbered because almost all of us carry cellphones that display the time with atomic precision. Others point to the fact that many Millennials and Gen Z’ers can’t even tell time on traditional analogue clocks. Yet they’re wrong; most venerable Swiss watchmakers have thrived in this economic boom. You see, there’s a difference between reading the time and having the time told to you by a quality timepiece. Nevertheless, these mechanical marvels remain a mystery for most people: How do I know if I’m buying a good watch or just paying a lot for a name? Why would I choose this piece over that one? We’re going to clear things up for our readers, so you can make informed decisions when it comes time to invest in time.

Wristwatch Case Shapes

There are two basic wristwatch case shapes in modern times: round and rectangular. All other shapes are variations of these. The round case is the most traditional; pocket watches inherited their circular shape from the ancient sundial. An example of an early “modern” round shape would be the Rolex Oyster case, which is still produced to this day with minor updating. The rectangular case, in modern times, was popularized by Cartier’s Tank wristwatch. The Tank was named after WWI’s wonder weapon. In today’s jewelry store, there are “tonneau” cases, there are “cushion” cases…yet almost all are variations on the two originals.

Movements

Just like there are many variations of but two case shapes, there are but two movements, which have spun off myriad variations. The two basic types of wristwatch “engines” are mechanical and quartz. That’s it. There are hybrids and there are watches with both movements installed, but basically, one must choose between mechanical and quartz. A mechanical movement is the traditional one and has been honed and refined for centuries. In a mechanical timepiece, a mainspring is used to power the hour and minute hands’ motion across a dial. When the mainspring is wound up (either by hand or “automatically” from the wearer’s motions), it “unwinds” and provides motion to the hands around the dial. In a quartz movement, the watch’s hands are moved by an electric motor, which relies not on winding, but on battery power. You can probably guess which movement collectors desire, and you can probably guess which movement watch companies make the most profits on.

It’s Complicated

Some wristwatches are used as tools to help people in their jobs or recreational activities. A yachtsman may want a watch that has a regatta timer function for races. A doctor may desire a watch to assist her in taking a pulse. Or a lazy stargazer may want to see the moon’s phase at a glance. These are called complications, and they obviously add to the complexity of a watch’s movement and to its price. The most desired timepieces on the planet aren’t bathed in gemstones; rather, they are masterpieces of grand complications. Does one really need a lap timer or a moon phase indicator while at an office desk? Absolutely—they’re great to look at during boring conference calls.

TAG-Heuer Aquaracer: New for this winter is the green-faced Aquaracer from the venerable brand TAG-Heuer.

Known for timing such fast-paced events as Formula One automobile races and the Olympics, the striking Aquaracer collection is geared toward both the ocean and accompanying beachside antics. The ladies version of this watch is a perfect 32-mm size, which means it isn’t as small as your granny’s watch, yet it isn’t as hulking as other time-tellers. The tasteful diamonds marking the hours also means this beauty can do nighttime duty with aplomb. It
retails for approximately $2,150.

Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph Berluti: Hublot is French for “porthole,” and this brand has blazed a stylish, esoteric, and high-tech trail in horological circles since its founding in 1980.

Since 2016, it has partnered with the legendary Franco-Italo leather-maker Berluti in offering some of the most distinctive watches in recent years. A hand-tooled leather strap and face, featuring Berluti’s well-known patina, immediately sets this watch apart from all others. At a price of around $30,000, the gold version of this timepiece competes nicely with other upmarket brands. The titanium version sells for approximately $19,000.

Tudor Black Bay P01: Rolex’s slightly less expensive line is called Tudor, and although one may think of Rolex watches as a bit staid, the Tudor lineup is where the fresh air is.

Newly released is the uniquely styled Black Bay P01, which is based on a prototype developed for the U.S. Navy back in the late-1960s. A special claw design ensures that the rotating bezel doesn’t move, which can be important if you’re timing your air supply under 440 feet of water. With a hybrid strap of rubber and leather, this dive tool is a standout, and with a retail price of around $4,000, this is also within reach for many who can’t/won’t buy a Rollie.

Raymond Weil Lady Freelancer Black Diamond: The watchmakers at Raymond Weil have a certain knack for keeping up with the times in terms of technology and, most importantly, style.

The new Lady Freelancer Black Diamond collection appears to be yet another triumph. The case is stainless steel that’s been PVD-coated in a modern gray with a whopping 66 diamonds set around the bezel. The movement is of the automatic mechanical type, and the sapphire crystal even boasts an antiglare coating. It retails for approximately $1,700.