Stuhrling Buyer’s Guide
Knowing the basics of the watch world Stuhrling Buyer’s Guide is important when you are about to choose the time piece for you and Stuhrling Watch Review is providing a Buyer’s Guide to facilitate you to take a good decision. The following is primarily a condensed version of Norma Buchanan’s very fine article as written for the 2010 WatchTime Buyer’s Guide.
I’ll begin with some history. Wrist watches have been around since the 1800s, but they were essentially women’s wear. Men clung to their pocket watches. This changed immediately following the First World War. The reason? RAF pilots needed something that they could immediately and easily tell the time with, so many of the first men’s wrist watches were modified pocket watches. By the twenties men’s wrist watches were firmly entrenched.
As a side light, the expression we have all heard, “Better get on the ball!”, is a reference to the famous Ball watch that was responsible for regulating train schedules over a hundred years ago. It meant, “Get your timing right!” or something to that effect.
Now, there are two Types of Watches, “Mechanical and Automatic Quartz”.
Mechanical is the Original Quartz, in the form we know it now, made its debut in 1969 with Seiko. Quartz is far more common than mechanical and they are “powered by electricity stored in a battery and keep time by means of a tiny piece of quartz that oscillates at the most common rate of 32,768 times per second.” There two types of quartz watches, the most common being the analog display (analog = traditional hands, digital = liquid crystal displays ((LCDs))). Then there are some that incorporate both analog and digital and they are called “anadigi” watches. Quartz is inherently more accurate than mechanical. That’s because it beats faster. Most quartz watches will stay within 10 seconds per month, while good mechanicals will be off by a few minutes.
Mechanical watches come in two types as well, either automatic (self winding) or hand winding (the name suggests how you keep it powered). Mechanicals use a spring to keep them going. It is called the mainspring. Its energy is slowly unleashed as it unwinds. All timepieces require an oscillator to keep time and for mechanicals this is called the balance wheel. It is mounted on a staff that enables this wheel to move back and forth at a high rate of speed (28,800 or so times per hour — some are faster and some slower). To control this back and forth movement a “tiny, delicate spring called the balance spring or hairspring” is used.
Automatic watches do not need winding, provided they are on your wrist for most of the day. Fully wound most of them will go a day and a half to two days without winding down and stopping. There are some that will go a week or more, but these are generally very expensive and to my way of thinking unnecessary unless you trade off watches regularly and only expect to wear it once a week or so. Hand winders, as the name suggests, need to be manually wound, usually once a day, but they too will have a power reserve feature (“power reserve” refers to how long a watch will go when fully charged before it quits).
Quartz, because they have few moving parts, seldom if ever requires movement cleaning. A big plus. However, most of them do require battery changes at the two to three year mark. There are quartzes that don’t require battery changes, but I won’t go into them right now. Mechanicals, on the the hand, do need to be cleaned on a fairly regular basis, usually around five years. Mechanicals have hundreds of tiny parts that need periodical cleaning and lubricating. They don’t need batteries, though.
Servicing for a mechanical can be expensive, depending upon brand, and it does mean that you will be without your watch for up to six weeks or thereabouts. The reason for the length of servicing is mostly because the watch must be sent to an authorized service center for the work, especially if it is highly water resistant, when seals must be replaced and new water resistant tests have to be conducted. As John has pointed out, service work can be considerably faster if you can take your timepiece in locally for the work.
I believe that this is enough to chew on for the time being. We will get into more, including “complications” (the things that a watch can do; e.g., the date is a complication), some discussion on case material, and which would better fit you, quartz or mechanical.
Stuhrling Buyer’s Guide
I hope that you find this informative and my believe is when you are armed with knowledge, even of the most basic sort, you are able to make better decisions.