Watch Buyer's Guide

Watch Buyer's Guide

The Basics of Time

One of the most often asked questions in our store is, "does a watch that costs thousands of dollars tell time better than a cheap, drug store, throw away watch?" The answer is of course no. A $10 quartz movement will keep near perfect time...at least for a few months. Accuracy alone has little effect on the value or desirability of a watch. The truth is, those of us who love fine timepieces don't share this passion because we like watching the minutes tick by. We love fine watches because we know the time, effort, skill and artistry that goes into the design and production of each masterpiece. Fine watches are so special precisely because they are usually built around older mechanical technology, the basics of which has been around literally for centuries. It's time tested engineering, modernized and improved, that simply works...usually for decades, without the need of a battery.

To this day, the basic mechanical wrist watch is still acknowledged as one of mankind's greatest inventions. In fact, the more mechanical the movement, the more hand built parts it contains, the more it is actually worth. Value is a function of materials, labor, mechanical complication and rarity. Now lets get into the basic differences between timepieces.

Quartz Technology

Basic quartz technology is, believe it or not, an American invention. In the early 1970's, the Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster, PA developed both LCD and Quartz time keeping technology. Quartz technology is remarkably simple. By passing a constant electric current through a quartz crystal, it vibrates at a constant frequency. The oscillating quartz crystal then drives the step motor to move the watch's hands at a constant rate. The battery, quartz crystal and step motor replaced the mainspring and gears of the venerable mechanical movement. ronically, Hamilton chose to produce LCD watches and sold basic analog quartz technology to a little company called Seiko in Japan. Ten years later, Seiko was the largest watch company in the world. Today, however, the finest watches, mechanical and quartz, are built back where almost all early watch technology was born and perfected...in Switzerland.

Swiss Quartz

We believe the finest quartz movements are produced in Switzerland. They are the best of old and new. By using traditional mechanical based chassis and real jewels, the Swiss Quartz movements are the most rugged, accurate and reliable movements made. Quartz's greatest advantage is cost and most watches under $1000 today use quartz movements. When choosing a watch, Swiss quartz is an excellent choice if you want to set it and forget it.

Automatic for the People

The most interesting and desirable watches are called Automatic watches. Automatic watches are mechanical watches that are driven "automatically" by harnessing the kinetic energy produced by simple human movement. Often called "self winding", automatic watches save energy when a simple oscillating rotor at the base of the movement spins as the arm moves. That rotor winds a simple mainspring, storing up that energy, which is then released at a constant rate, moving the hands of the watch. The classic automatic movement is really quite a remarkable feat of engineering, requiring almost 200 precisely crafted parts, working in perfect harmony to keep proper time. Today's best automatics are so well built that, with proper maintenance, they will last for generations.

Life's Great Complications

Complications are mechanical watches, usually automatic, that perform multiple timekeeping tasks. The more tasks and their degree of engineering difficulty are what give complications their collectible value. These are the true marvels of horology, some commanding tens of thousands of dollars on the market. Vintage handmade complications routinely sell for more than most automobiles. The most common of all complications is the chronograph. Chronographs are wrist born stop watches that can break down time into hours, minutes, seconds...often to 1/100th of a second. The chronograph's popularity is a function of it's myriad of applications, from sports, including track, swimming, and racing, to aviation and navigation. Other complications include functions like moon phase, tides, power reserve indicators, and calendars showing day, date, even year. One famous, hand built complication, will actually track the time, day, date and year...accounting for leap years...for over one century! Visit our store to view our wide selection of watches and to speak with one of our watch professionals!