It’s time to get a real watch, and an Apple Watch doesn’t count

First off, I’m a bit of a watch nerd. That phrase “you can tell a man by his shoes”, I’m like that but with watches. I’m also passionate about technology… See the dilemma? I was excited to see TechCrunch run an article last week featuring actual, real, mechanical watches! Nomos no less. A great German micro brand that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. The article was tagged with #gadgets and #computing for some reason… But here in my large metropolitan area I’m definitely seeing a trend.

My local area is home to one of the world’s largest mechanical watch companies. Yes, the exciting town of Richardson, TX is home to Fossil (coming in at #4 worldwide), but we are also home to the holding company for Shinola (a personal favorite), as well as upstarts Jack Mason & BREDA. Even though these are not the high-end brands from Switzerland, you’d think with all that watch action we might be predisposed for traditional, mechanical watches.

Informally, I’d guess 20% — 30% of people in my bubble have an Apple Watch. And not just the tech enthusiasts, but just about every other persona you can think of across tech knowledge, age, job, etc… Why? One, because it’s a good watch and in my opinion adds a lot of value, and you can now get one at around $269. That’s just generally a good price for a watch, let alone one that’s a handy micro slice of your $800 phone. When you think about it, do I get the $100 Fossil, or spend a bit more (and for the first time mass consumers are seeing value in spending more than $100 for a watch) and get the Apple Watch?

But, I’m not really here to talk about Apple Watches. I have one, and I find the most value in the following situations:

  • At home when I don’t want to carry my phone around.
  • When I know I’m going to be in meetings all day and I still want to know what’s going on.
  • When I’m going to meet someone with the word “innovation” in their title, it’s expected and an instant bond.
  • Beach and swimming — when I can’t have my phone.
  • Traveling, sometimes. The recharging the battery bit is annoying…
  • Working out, which I don’t do enough.

In all of those cases it’s useful, and I make the tradeoff of not wearing one of my meticulously hand made, mechanical watches. The poor guys just have to sit there. I really need to get an automatic watch winder to walk them.

But, as a man, watches are one of the key pieces of jewelry I can sport, and while many have no clue what’s on my wrist, those that do… well do. And they are investments. Usually good purchases will not only last forever (with a little love and care), but go up or retain most of their value over time. I’m planning on giving mine out to my two boys at different milestones, hoping they remember their old man.

So, when you hit a certain age, when you’ve climbed a bit of life’s ladder, it’s time to put something meaningful on your wrist. Something you can pawn for a small car if it came to it.

Where to start… Watches are a black hole for collectors. There are so many brands, shapes, sizes, types, complications it goes on forever… And like a coffee or wine snob, at some point you start taking vacations around watches. Or you could be just looking for that one good piece to wear daily.

Let’s talk price ranges… If you’re just looking for the one, and feel like you’re not going to get bit by the watch collecting bug, then you should be looking to spend around $2k to $5k. Again, this is an investment! And a good place to start might be at the (near) top, Rolex.

I generally don’t like Rolex watches. But it’s not for any good reason. They’re actually the Apple of watches. No really, go read this and come back. It’s like one of those Jonny Ive commercials where he’s drooling over the metals. Same thing. Why I don’t like Rolex is that it’s THE watch you buy when you make it. Almost every doctor, dentist, etc… has one, and usually one like this. But, again — it’s the Apple of watches! You should pay for that quality! And while that one is $11k, they have new watches as low as $5k. Throw in a gently used, or vintage, and you could get lower.

So what do I like? I like what I can mostly afford, so leaving out the whales, here are some watches to check out that could be your “one” or the start of your collection:

Nomos — Already mentioned, German made with their own build in-house movements (this means they build everything, some watches buy the “engine” from someone else). They have a ton of good looking watches, I’ve been eying this one.

Tudor — The brother of Rolex, also starting to use their own in-house movements, they learned a lot from their big brother, and make quality watches. They’re also starting to bring back vintage styles which I absolutely love! I’d get this one or this one.

Omega — the watch of James Bond, and THE Moon Watch. You can’t go wrong. They’ve been dipping into vintage styles recently as well. Drool… A Speedmaster? Or a Railmaster?

Sinn — They build watches like a truck. A truck you can run through a brick wall. More common components, but put together really well, and with style! I’d get this one.

IWC — Classic and tough. Known for their pilot watches, but have a wider range that extends from bikers to bankers. I’d go for one like this.

Weiss — Bringing America back, Weiss with only two styles, has a small catalog of good looking, well made, custom watches out of Los Angeles, CA. I have one and it works great — if I was going for a 2nd I’d get this one.

Shinola — Wanted to give a hometown shout out! Now Shinola is the one that doesn’t fit with others in the group. They’re battery powered. Which means they’re more reliable, but according to watch aficionados, they have no soul. They’re made with good quality parts, and assembled in Detroit, USA. So while they’re cheaper than others on the list, some think they’re too much for what they are. They’re also attractive, and a good gateway to other quality watches. Maybe go for one of their more iconic looks like this one.

There are many, many more brands and styles, big and small — many worth the price they command, but hopefully this is a good start on your journey to watchville. And a note, vintage is in. I really love those smaller, simpler, classic styles. So in may cases you can get something from the list above, or brands that no longer exist for less (or sometimes more!).

And while Apple Watches are the beacon of “Hey I know about technology” — and growing mass appeal, you still need a good, old fashion timepiece. One that has a story, one that was hand built, one that shows you care about the details.

I’m thinking of starting a side business where I match people with their perfect watches. So email me if you’re in the market!!!


Originally published at www.jeremyjohnsononline.com.