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Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 1: Entry Level Luxury

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 1: Entry Level Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

Welcome to the first of three articles that offer an overview for watch newbies on what to look for when getting a new watch. Esteemed watch expert readers are going to be familiar with much of what I am talking about, and I encourage your personal additions to the list. For others, I hope to help guide your watch purchase decisions and discuss information that many of us take for granted. Too often am I presented with questions about what watch people should buy, or what makes a watch good. I simply cannot review the hundreds of watch brands and thousands of styles with each person – what I can give people is a general overview of what to look for and ask about, given your budget.

Let me first say, these lists will not discuss complications (functions) that watches have. It doesn’t matter to me whether you are looking for a chronograph (stopwatch), perpetual calendar (does not need to be adjusted very often), GMT (24-hour hand for a second time zone), or otherwise… These three lists will mention aspects of the watch or its construction that are often function agnostic. Plus, these items are overall things to look for. There is no “perfect” watch, so just make sure the watches you are looking for satisfy as many of the items below as possible.

In “Part 1,” I will discuss features you should look for in what I call an “entry level luxury” watch. This is going to be the $300 and above price point. I will not cap it because different watches simply give you more for the money and these features are certainly things you’ll want in upper range watches as well. The next price point will be $1000 and up, and finally we will have the price point of about $20,000 and up. This latter price point will include things at the $20,000 level as well as the $200,000 level.

For $300-and-up watches:

This is a broad range of watches with probably the largest selection of watches in it. For some of you, $300 is a huge sum for a watch, while for others of you, this is a paltry amount barely worth your attention. If you are in the former category, you’ll want to listen up as these are important things to look for. Again, this is just one partial list, and there are, of course, other things that go into a good watch.

1. Sapphire Crystal

A watch crystal is the transparent cover over the face of the watch. Crystals have been made using different materials over the years, but only a few major materials dominate the market today. Most of the watches you’ll look at have one of two types of crystals; mineral glass or synthetic sapphire crystals. Mineral crystals are cheaper and offer one benefit over sapphire – they don’t tend to shatter if struck hard. Meaning they will crack, but not shatter. Shattered sapphire crystals are relatively rare and typically occur with a very harsh impact. The better the watch, the thicker the sapphire crystal will be, and thus, less likely to break. Sapphire crystals are incredibly scratch-resistant though. You often see well-worn watches with beat-up cases, but a “flawless” crystal. Thus, sapphire crystals are more desirable compared to mineral crystals and should be preferred the majority of the time.

2. Solid Metal Construction

To some people, it might be obvious to get a watch out of solid metal, but you’d be surprised at how some cheaper watches cut costs. Steel watches should be made from grade 316L stainless steel almost all the time. Plus, the watch case and bracelet links should be solid pieces of metal, rather than folded metal or anything hollow. It is easy to tell if a bracelet is solid by inspecting the side of it and noticing if looks like one solid piece. In watches at this level, cases are best made from the fewest number of pieces and using the most metal possible. This means the least (or no) amount of materials such as plastic or otherwise.

3. Swiss Movement Or Japanese Movement (if it is a Japanese watch)

Switzerland is known for making high quality watch movements – you knew that. Japan also makes good movements, but not all movements are created equally. Most of the the time, Swiss movements come from ETA – or Ronda, especially if they are quartz movements (though this is not always the case). Japanese quartz movements typically come from makers such as Seiko, Citizen, and Casio. While these countries are not the only makers of movements, at these price points try to get movements from these regions as much as possible. Plus, if a watch is not Japanese, try to find one with a Swiss movement. You generally want to stay away from Chinese movements, though, this is not always a signal of low quality. Japanese watches probably utilize Japanese movements the best, though you’ll find Japanese movements (often Miyota, which is part of Citizen) in timepieces from all over the world. Lastly, at this price point, don’t worry too much about finding mechanical watches – you are just fine with a quartz movement – even though there are plenty of mechanical movements available.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 1: Entry Level Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

4.Solid Feeling Construction

You want your watch to feel well put together and solid. Check to see how well the strap or bracelet fits to the case. There should little to no wiggle room. Put the watch on your wrist and see how well the clasp or buckle operates, they should be smooth with a nice action. They should further not feel flimsy or poorly sized. If the watch has a rotating diver’s bezel, again, twist it around and see how much movement it gives in a resting position. A good watch should not make too much or any noise when shifting around briskly on your wrist, and it goes without saying that it should feel like it is all assembled in a tight-fitting manner. It is also the case that a lot of the time, Swiss companies (even at these lower price points), make better metal bracelets than other countries, even Japan. It is true that a Swiss designed bracelet might actually be manufactured elsewhere, but they take great pride in refinement of these areas.

5. Designed By Actual Watch Makers

Consider that two types of people are designing watches. Those that care about how well a watch functions as a timepiece, and others that just care about how they look. The best watches are designed using fundamental watch design principles that value function AND form. The alternative are “fashion” watches that might look nice, but actually have superfluous or vestigial design cues. Worst case scenario is a watch that is so poorly designed, it does not even function properly. Examples of this are missing chronograph subdials, erroneous markers on dial, inoperable measuring scales just placed for show, and my all time biggest pet peeve – hands that are too short or the wrong size. The last thing you want is your nice looking watch to function like a movie prop. So do yourself a favor and really take a good long look at the dial and all its features, figuring out what each and every function does, along with making a decision of whether it is usable given your standards. This is one of the biggest problems in the watch market today, and you’ll be proud that you took the time to find a watch that was actually designed to be a highly functional instrument.

6. Locking Deployant Clasp If On A Metal Bracelet

Cheaper watches with metal bracelets still have what is called a single locking clasp. This is the type of bracelet that literally just snaps or clicks into place. The best metal bracelets have what are know as “double or triple locking clasps.” The image below has a bracelet with a double locking clasp (deployment). The piece on the left “locks” via clicking down when it attaches to the bottom segment. That is the first “lock.” The second is the little metal flap that “locks” again over the first piece to secure it being closed. A triple lock often features a push-button in the mix, or there are also “double locking clasps” with a push button instead of a fold over flap. The bottom line is that you want a watch bracelet that will stay secure on your wrist no matter what you are doing or if you accidentally hit the bracelet on something.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 1: Entry Level Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

7. Weight

Watch weight is a polarizing concept. Some people (like myself) love heavy watches. Others want something very light. On more expensive watches, you start to see materials such as titanium which are lighter than steel, but in this price segment, weight is often times a sign of quality. Even though titanium is available at this price level, it most likely is not the higher (grade 5) quality titanium that is what you’ll want. At this price level, you are only going to get that nice crisp quality look with steel. Like I said, weight often signifies solid construction using a high quality steel. So feel the weight of a case and bracelet to make sure it is substantial enough to justify your investment.

8. Signed Crown And Buckle Or Clasp

A good watch maker is more often than not a proud watch maker, and is fully invested in each watch they design. This means there are typically four places that you’ll watch to see the name of the watch makers. This is on the face of the watch, the caseback, on the crown, and on the deployant clasp or strap buckle. These are also known as “signed crowns or buckles/deployant clasps.” The manner of “signing” can vary, but at this price level are usually some type of light laser engraving. Higher priced watches have logos and graphics done in relief (raised, versus etched into the metal). Cheaper watches have bare crowns and deployants which make it too clear that these parts are taken from a parts bin and have no personal touch.

9. Good Dial Lumination

Not all watches are expected to have dials that illuminate in the dark for low light viewing – these are typically the more classic or formal watches. However, almost all sport and causal watches have some type of luminant that is applied on the hands as well as somewhere on the dial. The quality of luminant greatly varies. Some is so impractical that it should not even be there. An example being that you need to shine a bright light directly to the face of the watch for a minute or so, and then the dial dimly glows for a few minutes. Alternatively, you have luminant that charges easily when exposed to room or sun light and glows for hours. The Japanese tend to make the best luminant, but you get Japanese luminant on watches from all over (watches will never indicate the source of the luminant, but look for LumiNova, or better yet SuperLumiNova when possible). An alternative to luminant are watches that use tritium gas tubes. These tubes are made by just one company in Switzerland and glow by themselves for about 25-30 years. Tritium gas tubes are not tough to find, as a few watch brands almost exclusively use them, and they can be had for reasonable prices. Still, most watches will have applied luminant. Look for large surface areas of luminant that is applied richly (looks raised up a bit).

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 1: Entry Level Luxury ABTW Editors' Lists

10. Consistent Pricing

One figure attached to new watches that doesn’t tend to mean a lot is the retail price. Why? Because you are a sucker for paying retail price most of the time. After those of you from the watch companies stop cursing me, let me explain a bit. Retail prices are just a number set so that even authorized retailers can show to the consumer that they are giving you a discount. It is true that some watches are discounted only a bit or not at all, but the vast majority of watches, especially at these prices levels, are sold below retail prices. That is good to know, but not my final point. Due to the fact that prices are often below retail, you want to pay the “actual,” consistent street price. Let’s say, for example, a watch has a retail price of $500, but most retailers actually sell it for $400. You want to make sure you shop around to pay $400 as opposed to $450. Here is the kicker, though, when it comes to assessing value of an entry level luxury watch: If a watch is being sold by authorized dealers for $400, but the unauthorized dealers (everyone else) is charging $250, then you know there is something wrong with the value of the watch. This is what I call “inconsistent pricing.” What you want to look for is consistency among retailers so that prices don’t vary wildly from seller-to-seller.

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 2: Medium Range Luxury

Top Things To Look For In A Luxury Watch Part 3: High End Luxury



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  • Ed Hoffman

    Dear Ariel,hope you’re doing well. I wanted to thank you for writing this first in a series of articles about “the basics”. I’m sure everyone will appreciate you condensing years of watch enthusiasm and appreciation on your part into what’s sure to be a classic synopsis.
    Thank you, Obi Wan of Watches, The Sultan of Swatch!! Ed.

    • bluewater

      I am a first-time lower-end “luxury” wrist watch buyer (at some point) and this article was of immense value to me – thank you! 
      I fell in love with a Longines watch while browsing shops in Curacao but it was out of my price range at $2700. So I’m learning where not to look. I’ve been looking at some of the Movados because I like the styling but am unsure of the quality. I will continue researching and thanks again Ariel for the helpful start!

      • My pleasure, good luck and enjoy.

  • Kenny

    Good basic reading and foundations just like learning to add without a calculator. Thank you.

  • Ken

    Nicely written post with good points. I would have thought that you would expect a difference between authorized dealer prices and unauthorized dealer prices. Aren’t you getting assurance at the authorized dealer that it is not a fake?

    • Hi Ken an unauthorized dealer very rare sells fakes, they are merely getting the watches from another distributor or via a close out retailer as opposed to the brand themselves. That what it means most of the time.

  • Brad Smith

    Very informative article. Thanks for writing it! Some of the things I knew, but I learned a lot too. I have yet to purchase an Entry Level watch, but hope to soon.

  • I’m not sure I agree with “solid metal construction”… A lot of very high quality watches have links that are not solid – I’m thinking 1980s Rolexes, for example. And a lot of otherwise horrible watches have solid links. I guess nowadays it’s become kind of a requirement for a quality watch, but that hasn’t always been the case…

    And the “double locking clasp” thing – there are lots of very high end watches that have hidden clasps that only have a single locking mechanism on them… They work quite well… The “double locking clasp”, I think, is a relatively new invention.

    Weight is a bit of a red herring, since it only applies to metal bracelets…

    And a sapphire crystal, while wonderful to have, isn’t a “must have” – I’m thinking Citizen, who make excellent solar watches that don’t have sapphire crystals. I think it might be because the sapphire restricts the light energy too much (or it might be a cost thing).

    The problem is, at this price point, it’s very hard to figure out features that one should look for in a watch. Between $300-$1000 watches are really just fashion items and you should just get something you think looks cool, or has the features you want. Preferably from a known manufacturer. Preferably water resistant.

    But that’s just my two cents worth. This was a very, very difficult article to write, and kudos for trying. I’ve thought about this a lot, when friends ask me “what kind of watch should I get for $500”. It gets easier at the “above $1000” price point, I think…

    • Hi Charles,
      I really wanted this to be about modern watches. There is no way to sum up things from the past 20-30 years. The bottom line is that Rolex today uses solid links, so that means they are important.

      Also, these criteria are an overview. single locking clasps aren’t always but, but a lot of the time they are. And of course when a watch doesn’t have a metal bracelet, the weight you are feeling is in just the case.

      Also, this article is about entry level luxury watches, not all watches. Most Citizen watches aren’t luxury watches, and thus that fact. The higher end Citizen watches, even though with Eco-Drive movements do come with sapphire crystals. And they can be in the $1000 range.

      The most important thing that I needed to realize when writing this was focus, and trying to be inclusive to all the major issues, but that doesn’t mean there are going to be occasional watches here and there that are an exception. Still, I challenge anyone to find watches that would apply where these factors aren’t indicative. Take care buddy.

  • Ariel, I didn’t mean to criticize, only discuss… I agree with you on most of these points… I’ve personally found it really, really difficult to come up with universal criteria for the “under $1000” segment, and I applaud you for trying. I really enjoy your blog, and haven’t found anything else quite like it.

    • Hi Charles,
      I didn’t at all mean to come across defensively. I just wanted to respond. You are a valued reader and I appreciate your comments and kind words. The more I look, the less I think there is anyone out there online like me. I try to do the best that I can give my intense passion for watches!

  • Steve Gupta

    I really enjoyed reading your 3 part series and have recently become somewhat obsessed with researching illumination. I originally wanted to purchase a quartz Omega Seamaster, but now have become very interested in tritium illumination. The only companies I have come across are Traser and Uzi (I am leaning towards the Uzi Protector). Are there any more professional looking watches you are aware of? My daily wear watch is a DateJust and also keep a Timex Ironman for my athletic endeavors.

  • Anthony

    These are interesting points, but I think – like everything – they should be investigated.

    Mentioned above, but even today not all Rolexes have solid links (my Explorer I has hollow end links) & sapphire isn’t always required (think Speedmaster’s varients).

    But I definitely agree the the pricing. Tag Heuer’s a great example. If you payed $1800 for an Aquaracer you payed at least 50% too much. That being said, if service & warranty are important (& in the 300 zone it’s not as much as the 3k+ zone) then retain’s not bad (Rolex rarely discount, Omega will yank your rights if they find out you’re discounting, etc).

    • Thanks for the comments.

  • i have my dads 65th birthday next year & i am looking to by him a nice watch 4 it.what wd u recommend?i am looking to spend between $500 to $750.unfortunatly i have had 4 tag heuers & 4 rolexs so he knows his watches.wd it be better to look 4 a vintage.

  • Olive

    Hi Ariel,

    Thanks for writing this nice article, except I do not understand your point about automatic movements in this price range. Probably because I am a newbie in this area.

    It seems you are saying that it is not worth spending money on an automatic that is below a $1000. However, in some of your reviews about automatics with an ETA 2824-2, like a Certina Podium or Certina DS-1, you seem to give the impression that it is still a nice investment and a trusty movement.

    Could you, please, clarify more on this? Is the quality of an automatic in this price range really below standards (whatever that means)? Even, when you take a bit less precise movement for granted?

    Looking forward to your reply!

    • It really depends on the watch. There are lots of cheaper Japanese watches with automatics. Some are good, some are not. What I meant was that a nice quartz watch is going to often be better than a really cheap mechanical one. There are no “in stone rules” when it comes to things as diverse as watches.

  • Excellent source of information… Thank You!

  • Okkar

    One of the best blog for the new generation watch lover.How do you think about the watch dealer and their product on internet?Especially at ebay.I was intend to buy.But after reading your useful guide,I’m confusing.

  • Ivan Y

    A very good summary. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to put together.

    Although, IMHO, Citizen Eco Drive is a suitable watch at the lower end of this price range. Something with perpetual calendar would be appropriate, especially for set-it-and-forget it people. Having that function really spoils you 🙂

  • Audemars Piguet is the best luxury watch in true sense

  • OwenTaylor

    I know you touch on movement a little bit but here is a good article that expands on watch movement –

  • With high tech and high precision japanese movement is better too, likes eco-drive from citizen, spring-drive from seiko, and more..

  • kingwatchbuyers

    When I encountered your blog ,really I found useful ideas about What we should need to look before buying luxury watch,I read your points explained above like as how should be Solid Metal Construction,Sapphire Crystal ,watch movements,How much Weight should be and its Pricing etc many points you explained ,I will keep in mind before buying any Brand luxury-watch.Thank You!

  • Henry F Krizanovic

    “Where can I find a catalog?”

  • Henry F Krizanovic

    I don’t believe anybody is out there. “Where can I find a catalog?”


    Henry F Krizanovic This site does not sell watches, so we do not have a catalog.  Your question was not deleted, the system sent it to spam.  Sorry for the confusion.

  • aworon

    Solid advice.  I wish I found this earlier when I first became a watch addict.

  • ceaseru26
    Check out this link i hope i like it…..

  • ceaseru26
  • lokastap

    very good advice for making decision when buying watches.

  • tylerbrown

    What are some examples that would fit in this category? Looking for a good watch, don’t have a lot of money.

  • kdava

    Great article! Just a question, why do you write we should stick to quartz at this level? I have a mechanical Orient bought for about $200 and I love it. Great build with sapphire crystal and I love the ticking sound and the fact that parts are moving inside (also looking at them through a little window on the dial).

  • charaev

    Good evening forumites )

  • Stevie Chantanu

    Would be great if there are some watches that fit the criteria mentioned. Other than that, it’s a great post, very useful.

    • Karthik Rangarajan

      Actually what you said is Right Steive

  • Nelson

    I think its hard to find an entry level luxury watch that have consistent pricing. You can get a huge discount on almost every watch at this price level on Amazon. I just know Corniche but its not designed by an actual watch maker. Can you give some examples?

  • wallydog2

    I depend on little voices in my head. If, when shopping, I hear a little voice pleading, “Take me home, take me home…..please.”, then I’ll part with $1000 and sneak it in the house past someone in my household who doesn’t hear little voices – except when it comes to shoes and/or purses.

  • Barbara Gale

    Can anybody comment on the quality of Wittnauer watches? I’ve just been given a ladies Winter Garden diamond watch which is lovely but I’m wondering if it is made in Switzerland or has a Swiss movement and assembled elsewhere? It has the word ‘Swiss ‘ at the bottom on the watch face. Thanks Barbara

  • Eric Z

    This is a very insightful post. Thank you.

  • Paul Wegert

    Has anyone bought or looked at the Elegantsis Watches? I saw a new site pop up a few months ago and they look nice and very affordable

  • hi, does anyone know about the GC X95005G5S ? do you think they are ok?

  • Tom

    Slightly out of my price range still. I don’t like mainstream brands but still want the quality. I personally love this place – there watches are so unique

  • Peter

    Hello I’m new to watches and I ran into Aragon brand. I’m curious to know if anyone has had experience with this company? Their vituoso line looks decent and they come with swiss movements.

    • Joseph

      Man, they are quite pricey. They are attractive, though.

  • Umer Durrani

    i like the article very detailed and informative i am also a great watch lover and i love watches from they have a good selection of designer watches

  • Joseph

    Hi there. I’m new to the discussion. Looking forward to more watch reviews and analysis.

  • Karthik Rangarajan

    Thanks for the Article Ariel Adams. It was really useful. I will check on it when I buy my next watch.

  • Great tips to consider. And… testing to seller’s knowledge is also necessary. When buying online, websites like can be a good and trustworthy place to buy quality watches.

  • Juan Derosa

    Little is known about HILTON WATCH CO. The HILTON brand is a brand of watches made by
    BUSER FRERES & CIE a swiss watch maker located in Neiderdorf Switzerland.Buser Freres is registered on Mikrolisk site in the 1950’s. Buser Freres joined the MSR among other Swiss
    watch makers. HILTON WATCH CO. did not manufactor watches. They provided a market for Swiss watches to Germany, and North America.

    I own five HILTON (17j -25j automatic) all are all in excellent condition like mint.Even though they are antique watches. Usually the cases are all chewed up from wear and age when you can find them but the movement are of a high quality.

  • Sergey2493

    Great article. I got a lot of information for buying watches. If you need a watch cheaper 300$, I can recommend this website This is not advertising. I shared this link with the purpose of helping someone find the original watch is not expensive. They are really beautiful. There are both men’s and women’s watches.

  • Anil Sharma JOYSHA luxury watches know the fashion very well at a very affordable price with best quality.

  • Karan Sharma

    Browse Our Luxurious Collection Of Men’s Watches Fit For Any Budget. Save 20% Off Your First Order AND Get Free Shipping!

  • Jacques van Wyk

    Hi there. Anyone know anything about Bentley watch brand. Its a mecha quarts Seiko movement. The case back says made in Germany.

  • socrates35
  • Great Post.
    Thanks for sharing Adams.
    Buy coolest luxury Swiss watches at best price on .

  • Will Bert

    The only watch that I have purchased in this price range have been Hamilton. I think they offer a good value for the “actual” price and hit all the points here.

  • Russell DeJulio

    Excellent Thank you !