Swiss Watch Mechanism

Watch Buyer's Guide

A watch makes a statement from the moment you strap it on. Whether you're searching for an iconic luxury timepiece or a smart version packed with handy features, your dream watch is out there, waiting to be found.

But which one ticks all the boxes for you? Wrist watches have evolved enormously from the mechanical movement types first engineered by horologists hundreds of years ago. Today, thousands of styles and designs flood the market, giving you plenty of choice when hunting down your favourite.

From materials and movements to functions and brands, our watch buying guide will arm you with all the knowledge you need when making those all-important timepiece decisions. Dive in and discover how to buy a watch that's best suited to you and your lifestyle.

What to look for when buying a watch

Components of a watch

A number of pieces work in symphony to create a watch, both inside and out, the make-up of which can influence your decision when picking one out. You may stumble upon these terms while browsing for a timepiece:

Dial: Undoubtedly the show-stopping part of any watch, this plate is visible through the crystal and displays the time, with hands indicating the hours, minutes and seconds. Roman numerals, crystal markers and Arabic numerals are all used in watchmaking to create the hour markers etched onto the dial.
Aperture: Depending on the watch's functions, it may have a small window in the dial displaying information such as the date or moon phase.
Bezel: A grooved ring surrounds the crystal face and holds it in place. This piece is known in the watch world as a bezel. Bezels tend to be either rotating, unidirectional or fixed - rotating bezels allow for easier reading of elapsed time, unidirectional bezels only turn one way which helps measure diving time more efficiently and while fixed bezels cannot be turned, they're often embellished with decorative accents.
Crown: On the side of most watches you'll find the crown, a button used to the set the time and calendar if your timepiece has one.
Crystal: Durable and scratch-resistant, this tough layer of transparent crystal protects the dial from harm.
Lug: Protrusions on the top and bottom of the watch case are known as lugs, which are used to secure the strap.
Sub dials: Placed inside the main dial, these smaller dials provide a home for extra functions, such as a chronographs.

Watch Strap Types

The dial isn't the only showpiece of a watch. A key aesthetic focus of the timepiece, the strap binds the watch to your wrist and can be a standout feature in its own right. Meticulously designed to complement the face, watch strap types vary in style, including:
Leather: Timeless and traditional, a leather strap is synonymous with luxury watches. Found in a spectrum of colours and finishes, this type of strap is usually crafted from calf leather and fastened with a pin buckle.
Metal bracelet: For a contemporary strap style, opt for a metal bracelet. It's created using detachable links, which you can add or remove to ensure the perfect fit. They're often formed from durable stainless steel or titanium, offering a polished look.
Fabric: Flexible and comfortable, fabric straps have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. They're easy to adjust, water-resistant and can add an extra dose of colour to your style.
Rubber: Love heading off on outdoor expeditions? Strap on this durable material - rubber is perfect for withstanding shock and moisture.
Bangle: Made for the sartorially-savvy, bangle straps are crafted into a jewellery-like statement piece. They're a hot commodity in the fashion world, adored for their bold style.

Watch Movement

Beneath the dial of your watch, an intricate set of components power the hands' movement and form its beating heart. Each type boasts its own individual traits, which can impact the timepiece you eventually pick out.

Mechanical movement: The pulse of most luxury watches, mechanical movement is the oldest system to serve as a timepiece's engine. The components work around a mainspring which requires winding by hand daily.

Automatic movement: Similar to mechanical, automatic movement relies on a mainspring system, but draws its energy from the natural movement of the wearer.

Quartz movement: Accurate and easy to maintain, quartz movement is powered by a battery. An electrical current is sent to a quartz crystal, creating vibrations, which power the watch's hands.

Solar movement: Both artificial and natural sunlight can fuel a solar-powered watch, recharging the battery continuously over time. This removes the need to ever replace it, making solar an environmentally-friendly choice.

Kinetic movement: All it takes is a flick of the wrist to power this watch type. Movement is converted into electrical energy and then stored in a self-charging battery.

Watch Functions

Whether you're wearing your watch in the boardroom or on an adventure of a lifetime, it's crucial to pick out a timepiece that fits your lifestyle. To do that, you need to put any additional features it may boast under the microscope as they can enhance a watch's value to you on a daily basis.

Tachymeters: Found around a watch's bezel, a tachymeter calculates speed over a known distance. Chronographs: Keen runner? A chronograph works in similar fashion to a stopwatch, allowing you to measure time on sub dials. Dual time zones: Travellers will adore this feature, exhibiting the time of two locations on the same dial. Moon phase: This visual feature displays different moon phases throughout the year. Perpetual calendar: Depicting the exact date, this clever feature adjusts to each month and accounts for leap years too.

Water Resistance

Ideal for divers and swimmers, water-resistance keeps your watch water-tight and protected in moist conditions. This handy feature is measured by depth or pressure but it's important to remember watches are tested in static conditions, rather than while moving through water, which can affect their resistance.

Watch brands

The label attached to a timepiece is bound to steer your final decision. When mulling over which one to invest in, the best watch brands for you will inevitably come down to what you're looking for.

Whether you're hiking, cycling or swimming, sports watches are designed to withstand the elements and endure harsh conditions. Often equipped with water-resistance and features such as tachymeters and chronographs, they're the perfect companion while venturing through the great outdoors. Breitling, Omega and TAG Heuer are among the leading brands producing specialist sport watches.

Fashion watches follow the industry's biggest trends. Borrowing inspiration from the catwalk, they're moulded around the season's sartorial big hitters. Tick all the right boxes with a statement watch from the likes of Olivia Burton, Michael Kors and Skagen. These stylish watches are often powered by quartz movement and are some of the most affordable watches available.

Luxury watches give an air of prestige to their owner. Exquisite design and precise technology are blended to form beautiful collections of watches. Cartier, Chanel and Bremont are among the top brands to have set the standard for luxury watchmaking.

Revered for their utmost quality and craftsmanship, Swiss-made watches are undisputedly the best in the world. Horologists in Switzerland have truly mastered the art of watchmaking, with Breitling, Longines, Omega and TAG Heuer counted as the heavyweights of Swiss-made timepieces. Discover more about this type of watch with our insider's guide.

All clued up and ready to take the plunge? Shop the full range of men's and ladies' watches at Ernest Jones.Some are available with 0% finance and orders of more than £100 come with free UK delivery.