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Watch it

FORTyFIED - Cecile Lopez Lilles -

I’m not a horological expert, not even an aficionado, but I think it’s safe to say that along with a man’s car and shoes, his wristwatch is an instant identifier of his station in life. Since it is about the only accessory — other than a wedding ring — that a man of discerning taste allows himself to wear, picking the right one is of utmost importance.

Here is a primer to better understand watches as reported by Alex Muniz, online fashion correspondent:

Watch Types: Analog, Digital, Or Analog/Digital

An analog watch has a face that holds hour and minute hands that display 12-hour days. It is considered the more formal, classic type of watch, and is perfect for business, dates and formal events.

Digital watches either have an LCD (liquid crystal display) or LED (light emitting diode) face that displays the time in numeric form (for example, 1:30). They are considered very casual.

Analog/digital watches have both. They’re utilitarian and can be worn to work and during your daily routine but never for formal events.

Battery, Quartz, Or Mechanical (Hand-Wound)

An ultra-small watch battery powers digital watches. Quartz watches are analog timepieces that run on a tiny, vibrating, electrified quartz crystal. They keep extremely accurate time (within a minute each year).

Mechanical watches are powered by a complex array of gears and springs. These watches can command a hefty price as a result of their superior craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the ancient art of hand-wound watch making remains imperfect. Mechanical watches lose about an hour a year and must be wound regularly.


This is the watch’s frame. For analog watches it is usually made of metal: steel, titanium, gold, silver, and platinum being the most common.

Watch Crystal

This transparent cover protects the watch face. It can be made from plexiglass, mineral (traditional) glass, or synthetic sapphire — an ultra-hard, clear, man-made crystal.

Plexiglass is the cheapest of watch crystals. It’s the least likely to shatter but the most likely to scratch.

Mineral glass, on the other hand, is more likely to shatter, but less likely to scratch.

Synthetic sapphire costs the most but it’s the most scratch-resistant but it also breaks quite easily.

Timeless Timex: “A cool brand for someone looking for a bit of history without the big dollar signs.”

Band Type

Analog timepieces come either with leather straps or the same kind of metal used on the watchcase.

Digital watches, such as sports models and gadget watches, usually have plastic straps.

Watch Fit

A watch should be tight enough so as not to slide more than two inches down your wrist when your arm is perpendicular to the ground, but loose enough so as not to leave an imprint.

Waterproof: Very few watches are truly and completely waterproof. They are in reality only water resistant. Water resistance is a term that can mean anything from “withstands minor splashing” to “submersible up to 100 meters,” so do check the fine print.

Chronograph: Stopwatch function that uses sub-dials to keep track of seconds, minutes and hours.

Chronometer: A very precise watch that is tested for 15 days and nights at five different positions and temperature ranges.


While researching on watch brands, I came across an anonymous online correspondent who goes by the name of Watch Snob. I was intrigued by his brazen pronouncements, but after reading 40 or so of his Q&A articles, I was convinced that this person was, indeed, a watch expert because of the breadth and depth of his horological knowledge.

According to Watch Snob: “No self-respecting man above the age of 25 should be wearing anything less than a $5,000 watch with an in-house movement.” He adds that, “It is true that your Timex tells you the time as accurately as someone’s Rolex or Brietling, but a watch isn’t just about telling time, it is about your relationship with time. A watch is about style, a story and the history of both your watch and your own life. On a more practical level, there are countless hours of research and development put into high-grade watch movements, employing the finest mechanical engineers in the world to compile hundreds of tiny parts into a durable and accurate machine, all in the size of something slightly larger than a quarter. High-grade watches are about craftsmanship and style, not just about telling time. If life was as simple as some would make it seem, none of us would own anything of quality because, after all, a shirt is a shirt as long as you’re not naked; a bus can get you someplace as fast as a car; and a cardboard box can keep the rain off your head as well as a home.”

The presumptions are clear: a man should devote a sizeable amount of disposable income to purchase a good-quality timepiece; and he should come upon his fortune through hard work, because that is the only time he will understand that buying a luxury item such as a watch is about tradition and precision, not about showboating and attracting attention.

That said, here is what Watch Snob has to say about the best brands in watches: “Best is a relative term. Patek Philippe is the best mainstream watch company in terms of lasting value, history and tradition. A Lange & Sohne is the best newer watch company in the same vein as Patek but it isn’t Patek. Armin Strom ain’t bad either. Thomas Prescher and Greubel Forsey are the best makers of tourbillons in the world. Urwerk and MB&F are the best makers of mechanical art. FP Journe and Philippe Dufour are the best “Masters of the Universe” timepieces that won’t let you get knifed because no one knows what they are, or that they cost more than a Tribeca loft.”

Watch Snob notes there are plenty of brands that most people consider “high-end” and while he respects that, he doesn’t consider them superlative in any way. He says “brands such as IWC, Vacheron Constantin and Zenith all make nice watches, but they are meaningless. Then there are watches that only the uneducated and simpleminded believe to be luxury watches. This distinction goes to Hublot and Panerai, of course. The there is the mighty Rolex. Would I put Rolex up with Patek or Lange & Sonhe? Not for a second. But, do I consider it a very important step above IWC, Zenith and Vacheron? Most certainly. The reason is this: People care about Rolex. Nobody really cares about those other brands. There are dedicated forums to Rolex, get-togethers, books, you name it. When was the last time you saw a Vacheron event or a book about IWC that people actually bought? Sure, their movement may be in slightly better shape than your average Rolex (debatable, surely), but in 20 years, your Rolex will be worth something — and everything else will be scrap metal.”

For those who are now seething because of the controversial pronouncements of Mr. Watch Snob, here’s what he has to say about budget-friendly watches. “The Seiko is a phenomenal watch. The Japanese are making some great watches.”

He mentioned the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk, which is a watch currently used in space and which retails for over $25,000, so you could say that the Japanese are right up there with the Swiss in terms of who they are marketing their watches for. Watch Snob says that the best watches in the $500 to $1,000 range are those from LUM-TEC, Praesto and Prometheus. If you want something a little more high -style, San Francisco start-up XETUM makes some very cool watches that probably should be selling for over $2,000, but lucky for us, aren’t.

But wait. Benjamin Clymer, online fashion correspondent, contradicts Watch Snob on the subject of IWC. Clymer says that “men who choose

IWC have done so very consciously. You can be sure they considered Rolex and thought it too gaudy. IWC, with its rich history of tool watches, is the thinking man’s luxury timepiece. They are rugged, classic and dependable, just like the men who wear them.”

Clymer agrees with Watch Snob on Patek Philippe being the best. He says, “If you wear a Patek Philippe, you do what you want when you want. Considered the reigning king of the watch world, Patek Philippe wearers tend to be captains of industry, tycoons, and, if a little younger, legacy members of the Skull and Cross Bones club at Yale. This is a power player’s watch, and despite their timid size and slim nature, you will be recognized and instantly revered in a Patek.”

Talking about the more affordable brands, he says Timex, the quintessential all-American brand despite its movements being made in Asia of late, remains a cool brand for someone looking for a bit of history without the big dollar signs.

Clymer says that if you wear a Casio, you are an active guy who loves the outdoors and you want a watch that gets the job done. He exalts the Casio G-Shock as a watch that is about as good as it gets when it comes to digital timepieces — devised and tested in the early ‘80s by being dropped out of a bathroom window at Casio HQ. It really is the original rugged timepiece, but has also evolved into a cultural phenomenon with celebrities rocking the G-Shock. Clymer adds, “The G-Shock is the purist’s take on a ‘go-anywhere’ timepiece, or it’s just a piece of fashion. Wear a Casio for the right reasons and by no means should one be paired with a suit, under any circumstances.”

He says that a Rolex watch can go two ways: it can be an understated, timeless and incredibly masculine accessory — if you don’t go around throwing it in everyone’s face. He adds, “Those that wear a Rolex and want people to know it will be seen as such, and that’s worse than pairing a Casio with a Brioni Suit.”

They say when you buy a watch, you’re ultimately buying into a lifestyle. It’s a passport into the league of gentlemen who wear it. It allows you a slice of the subculture they represent. But whatever brand of watch you wear, no matter how much or how little it cost you, wear it for yourself and wear it with confidence. Enjoy it. It can only be as valuable as you perceive it to be.

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Thank you for your letters. You may reach me at

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