5 Tips for How to Choose a Watch for You

Updated May 11, 2021
woman checking the time on watch

With the vast number of watches on the market, choosing the one that's right for you can seem a little overwhelming. The key to choosing a watch lies with identifying your priorities and making sure the watch you select fits your budget and lifestyle.

What You Should Know Before Buying a Watch

Before you begin shopping for a watch, it's important to understand a bit about timepieces and the styles and types available. You can't choose the best watch for yourself without knowing your options. Keep these basics in mind.

Your Budget: How Much You Want to Spend

Before you can begin looking at styles, you need to decide on a budget for your purchase. How much can you afford to spend? Watches can range from under $50 to over $50,000, depending on the materials used, the brand, and other factors. Consider the following as you set a budget for your watch:

  • Luxury watches start around $500. If you want a mechanical Swiss watch, you can expect to spend at least $500, with many options in the $1,500 range. Precious metals and designer names will drive the price up.
  • You can still find beautiful watches under $500. Japanese brands like Seiko and Citizen make excellent mechanical watches at lower price points.
  • Stylish, casual watches can be very affordable. You can find beautiful casual watches without mechanical movements for $100.
  • Most watches are not a good investment. According to the New York Times, a very few vintage designer watches make a good investment, but the market is so volatile, an amateur collector would struggle to recoup the money they put into the purchase. It's better to buy a watch because you like it.

Your Options: The Types of Watches

Watches come in a variety of types or styles, and it's important to understand these options before you shop. The type of watch that's best for you will depend on your needs, style, and budget:

  • Sports watches - Active sports take their toll on a watch, and these styles are durable and designed for activity. Many people choose timepieces with a tough titanium case and scratch-resistant dial covers. Also, look for screw-down crowns and high water-resistance ratings to keep out the elements.
  • Dive watches - If you are a diver, you'll need a special kind of watch that can withstand increased pressure from water. Marketed as "dive watches," these take water resistance to the next level and can handle regular exposure to water.
  • Casual watches - For everyday wear, you may want a casual watch. This could feature a digital or analog display, depending on your preference. Ideally, a casual watch will be very comfortable.
  • Chronograph watches - Chronograph watches do more than tell the time. They also have stopwatch functions, and they sometimes tell you the date, phase of the moon, and other helpful information.
  • Designer watches - Running the gamut from casual to formal, designer watches from brands like Cartier, give you a chance to admire your favorite brand every time you glance at the time. These tend to be pricey, so they are best if you have a substantial budget.
  • Diamond and gold watches - For the best in high-end timepieces, choose a gold or silver watch with diamond accents. These watches often become family heirlooms.
  • Formal watches - If you need a watch for a special occasion, a formal watch may be the best option. Typically, these designs are similar to formal jewelry in style.
  • Pocket watches - For a classic look, nothing beats a pocket watch. These offer plenty of style and allow you to check the time without the annoyance of a watch on your wrist.
  • Necklace and bracelet watches - Necklace watches are another fun alternative to a wrist watch. These are better as an accessory, rather than for everyday wear. Perfect for formal occasions, as well as any other time you want a special watch, bracelet or bangle-style watches are a pretty option.
Mens wristwatch being held in a watch shop

How to Choose the Right Watch: Helpful Hints

Now that you have a little background info and an idea of your budget, you can start shopping. Choosing a watch that suits you is a very personal decision, so it takes some thought.

1. Find the Right Watch Size for Your Wrist

You can usually adjust a watch band, but the dial of a watch stays the same size. Did you know that the circumference of your wrist actually affects what size of watch dial looks good on you? Fortunately, it's easy to pick a watch size that's flattering if you take a few minutes to measure. You'll need a flexible tape measure to do this. Simply measure the circumference of your wrist and then look up the dial size on this handy watch size chart.

Wrist Circumference (Inches) Wrist Circumference (Centimeters) Ideal Watch Dial Diameter
6 1/4 inches and below about 16cm 38mm and under
6 1/2 to 6 3/4 inches about 17cm 38mm to 42mm
7 to 7/14 inches about 18cm 40mm to 44mm
7 1/2 inches and above about 19cm 44mm and over

2. Think About How You'll Use Your Watch

How you use your watch will also affect your purchasing decision. Will you be using your watch during diving or hiking? Will you be wearing your watch to the office? Will this be an evening watch to accessorize those special occasion outfits?

Intended Use Best Watch to Buy
Water sports, snow sports, rugged activities Diving watch
Hiking, running, biking, other active hobbies Sports watch
Daily wear at work and home Casual watch
Evening events, galas, parties Formal watch
Accessorize an outfit Pocket watch, necklace watch, vintage styles

3. Consider Your Personal Style

Another important thing to consider when buying a watch is your personal style. Take a look at your wardrobe and think about your personal fashion style. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are most of your clothes simple and traditional? If so, you may prefer a mechanical watch with classic style.
  • Do you like vintage fashion? If you do, there are lots of great vintage watches out there to try. You might even consider an antique pocket watch.
  • Do you have a lot of bright colors and bold patterns in your wardrobe? If you do, consider a simpler watch that won't fight for attention.
  • Are you into statement pieces? If you have a lot of bright scarves or bold neckties, you might want a watch that's got some bling.
  • Do you have a mix of styles and formality levels? If you do, you should choose a watch that goes with anything, such as a simple and classic traditional style.

4. Identify Important Watch Features

Once you've decided on the type of watch you'd like, you can identify the features that are most important. Not all types of watches are available with all features, but you'll have options no matter which type you choose. Consider some of the following:

  • Digital or analog dials
  • Large or high-contrast dials for easy viewing
  • Level of water resistance
  • Adjustability of the band
  • Battery power or wind-up functionality
  • Stopwatch function
  • Pedometer or other helpful features

5. Try the Watch On Before You Decide

It's best if you can try the watch on before you buy. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the links of the band pinch your skin in any way?
  • Will you be able to easily change the watch band if it wears out or if you want a different look?
  • How easy is it to adjust the band to customize the fit?
  • Is the watch too heavy?
  • Is it too bulky? Will it catch on your sleeve or pocket?
  • If it's a pocket watch or jewelry watch, is it comfortable to wear and not too heavy?

A Timepiece You'll Love for Years to Come

Ultimately, the best watch for you is one you really like. If you choose a watch that has the features you need, matches the formality of the occasions you'll wear it, and is comfortable, you'll have a timepiece you'll love for years to come.

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5 Tips for How to Choose a Watch for You