Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mr Coghlan, Dr. Teeritz Will See You Now...About a Wristwatch.

Okay, KC, so you're thinking about buying a wristwatch, but you don't want to break the bank. I understand completely, sir. Whenever I'd get some snooty customer telling me about his watch collection that's worth two hundred grand, I'd mention that there were some great watches on the market that don't cost the Earth. Not every watch in a collection needs to be a Quarterback, folks.

Right, now pay attention, 007. If you're looking for something that's simple and clean, then the Helios watch that you mentioned earlier might just fit the bill.

Pic courtesy of

It's got a minimalist, Germanesque design to it that's straight-forward and to-the-point. It tells the time and date. It's got a little sub-seconds dial at the 6 o'clock end to help break up the landscape of the dial. Very space-age look. Quartz-operated (battery), so it's accurate to within a couple of minutes a year.
I had a quick search on the web and found them retailing for about $600.
Other than that, I don't know much else about them. My only worry with a brand like that is whether or not they'll still be around ten years from now, when you might need some visible part replaced like the winding crown or the dial. Although, if you get ten years out of this watch, then it will only have cost you sixty bucks a year.
I mentioned in my reply to your comment on my last post that there is also a brand called Braun that make a nice clean watch as well. Braun, as you may know, are well known for making electric razors, but it is also a design house which has always made some beautiful products in the past.

Picture courtesy of

Another clean design, but the dial is filled out a little with the numerals, which is nice. Again, battery operated. Don't know the pricing on these. Probably around the same as the Helios above.
If you wanna go Swiss-Made, then Tissot is a good entry-level brand. The PR100 series is automatic AND is rated to 100 metres water-resistant.

Picture courtesy of

Now, don't say that you'll never dive down to 100 metres. Nobody does. However, the water-resistance rating has more to do with pressure rather than depth. Of you're swimming on the surface at the beach, your arm is coming down into the water and this exerts 40 or 50 metres of pressure on the watch, and, more importantly, on the crown. The crown is the little winder thingy that you use to set the time. There are rubber gaskets inside the watch to keep water out. If you want a watch to be good enough for swimming, then do yourself a favour and get at least 100 metres water-resistance. Anything less is 'splash-proof'', ideal for washing your hands and not much else.
And whatever you do, don't wear it in the shower. Hot water can open up a whole new world of hurt. Over time, regular exposure to water can weaken the rubber seals that are designed to keep water out.
However, if you're certain that you'll never get the watch wet, then don't worry too much about water-resistance.
The Tissot above is also an automatic watch. This means that the time-keeping will fluctuate on a daily basis. Battery operated watches get a constant source of power from the quartz battery inside them and the time-keeping remains pretty constant. Automatic and hand-wound watches relay on the tension of the mainspring and this is where the time-keeping will be fast or slow throughout the day. That's the nut-shell explanation. I've probably had to explain this to customers a million times over the past decade, so please forgive me for wanting to put a bit of time between my retail life and my current one.

Anyway, if you want automatic and minimalist, the the German brand Junghans is another one to consider. The Max Bill editions (named after the famed Swiss architect & designer) look like this;

Selectism - Max Bill By Junghans Watches For 2010
Picture courtesy of

One thing to consider- this watch has a hesalite crystal. That is, the glass on it is easy to scratch and a good, hard knock will break it. This is what most watches used up until the Eighties when they developed Mineral Crystals first (which were harder to break) and then Sapphire crystals (which are harder to break AND scratch). Still, the hesalite crystal gives the watch a 'warmer' look, whereas sapphire crystals can look a little clinical.

That's a short write-up on modern watches. If you're seriously considering vintage, then it's a veritable mine-field out there, filled with repainted dials, tampered-with movements and other nonsense which can affect authenticity and re-sale value, not that you'd be planning on re-selling.
Since you live in the States, I would look at vintage Hamilton watches. They should be pretty plentiful on the second-hand market. Alternatively, you could look at the Viewmatic or Thin-O-Matic range that they've brought out in recent years. Thanks to "Mad Men" (and the Typosphere), there's been a resurgence in popularity of mid-Century design (just ask Ton at I dream lo-tech) and many brands have delved into their archives to bring out re-editions of past designs. Hamilton have done a great job with the Thin-O-Matic, especially.

Picture courtesy of

The one main concession to modern times is the size of these watches. Whereas the originals from the Sixties would have measured around 34mm in diameter, these modern versions are 40mm.

Here's the 37mm Viewmatic model. It's a nice size for wrists up to 7 inches in diameter. Your wrists, based on your blog pics of you typing, look about 6.5 to 6.75 inches in diameter.

Picture courtesy of

It's another nice watch. The hands have thin strips of SuperLuminova in them. What that means is that they will glow in the dark after being exposed to light. Handy!

If you want vintage, then the original Thin-O-Matic looked like this;

Nice. Looking at it closely, you can see that there has been some water-entry at some point due to the corrosion on the hands. Although, the dial is in great shape.

Picture courtesy of

As for WWII-era watches, they are highly sought-after by collectors, and therefore, expensive. The more trashed, the better, since this is often a sign that they were used in actual combat.
Having said that, there are a number of brands that produce watches based on older designs. If you want a vintage looking military watch in a modern iteration, then check out the Smiths military range over at

Russian watches, I dunno. They might look cool enough, but I wouldn't schedule my morning train-trip to work by them. Nice to have as a spare, but you may find it unreliable as a daily time-keeper. Although, I could be wrong, since there are collectors out there who buy nothing but Russian-made watches.

Ken, there are many different options available when it comes to buying a watch for a few hundred dollars. Like anything else, you do get what you pay for. Mechanical ones will be pricier than battery-powered watches, yet battery powered ones will be more accurate.
Wristwatches have become a big industry in the past decade and I have seen the prices for vintage and modern watches increase steadily in that time. Having said that, there are still a few brands out there that deliver a lot of bang-for-buck. Seiko, for example, produce a huge range of watches in various styles and their prices won't break the bank. Of all the Japanese-produced brands, they are the best. You could pick up a decent Seiko for under $250.

Personally, if I were looking to get a new watch and didn't want to spend a lot, I'd look at either Seiko, Tissot or Hamilton. Each of these brands make a clean and simple watch.
Another thing to determine is how important water-resistance will be to you. If you're careful or certain that, should you go for a 50m or less water-resistant watch, you won't submerge it under water, then most of the watches listed here will be fine. 

Entirely up to you. Oh, one more thing- in this world where everybody whips out their mobile phone to check the time, I think it's commendable of you to want a wristwatch. I think it's actually more expedient to just raise your left arm to glance at your wrist rather than get your phone out of your pocket.
And it's just damn cooler, too.

Best of luck if you decide to proceed. Any questions, you know how to reach me.


  1. All I can say is..... Comprehensive!

    1. Oh no, Scott, I barely scratched the surface.

    2. I'm sure. And if you ever have time - I have a challenge for you myself, for a watch that will suit a reasonable budget, style and my workplace needs. Thank you're up to it? This will be a tough one....

    3. Scott, what's your idea of a reasonable budget? What's your style? What's your workplace?
      Although, methinks I can see another blog post coming up. To do with various styles of watches. Mind you, today I'm wearing a diver's watch that is reminiscent of Connery's watch in "Dr. No". And I'm nowhere near Jamaica...or Ursula Andress. Shame, really.

    4. One of my fellow nurses has a drivers watch from - I think he was saying the 20's, but that doesn't feel right. It has an offset face - as I believe driver's watches are expected to.

      Okay - Style: A classic look - Deco or Nouveau.

      that's the easy bit.

      Budget: We're not talking dress-watch price, but I'm not looking for el-cheapo. $300 wouldn't be unreasonable if it was worth it, naturally I'd like to spend less.

      Now the hard part.

      I'm in nursing and I work in a hospital. My watch will need to be able to take some pretty hard knocks. It will need to withstand me having my hands over a sink 30 times a day. Be resistant to alcohol (yes, nurses drink like fish, but not that alcohol... mostly). It needs a band and body that doesn't have a lot of gaps and sharp edges that will hide infectious goop and cut sterile gloves* - at least be cleanable.

      * Doesn't need to be a wristwatch.

    5. That said... I think there's a couple up above that might very well suit my needs. The silver Hamilton almost gets me there.

    6. Ouch! You're not making it easy for me, Scott. Okay, my main concern here is water-resistance. Being a nurse, I wonder if you wash your hands 100 times a day. While you may be careful, there is always a risk of water hitting the watch at the wrong angle. If you need to rinse the watch under water, then I'd lean towards at least 50 metres water-resistance. Tricky, because most day-to-day dress watches (as opposed to sports/dive watches made for deeper immersion) tend to be designed for dry land and therefore aren't very water-resistant.
      You'll need a seconds hand (for taking pulses)as well.
      Regarding a Deco or Nouveau style, that usually means a rectangular case instead of round and this, once again, means reduced water-resistance.
      Check out the Seiko 5 series of watches. Much to choose from. Although, the miltary-styled models will be more water-resistant than the dress models.
      These should also fit within your budget. However, if you double your budget, there'll be more to choose from across other brands.
      Yep, I can see a post coming up on how to purchase a wristwatch.

    7. Oh my God! Wait a sec, Scott. Check out the Tissot PRC 200 series also. Available in automatic and quartz with a black, silver or blue dial (face). Might be perfect for you. Reasonably priced too. Very reasonable.

    8. Oh well done! That Tissot unit has determinately got my eye. Thanks for that!

      The Seiko 5 series also has real potential. There seems to be a few of those with great amounts of detail.

      I'd double the budget for sure - but I have a long history of destroying watches. If a higher budget put me in a position to buy something that could contend with a bit more abuse, I'd consider it. I know I have a market for colleagues that are crying out for this kind of thing.

  2. ...You can tell the size of a wrist in a photograph!? What an eye!

    Reading your blog has begun to rekindle my love of watches. Like I need something else to collect. Though I really should try to invest in one nice watch in my life. I tend to prefer mens' watches though. I like the styles better and they're much easier read...and fit my un-dainty wrist better.

  3. I've seen a lot of wrists over the years.
    And women can get away with wearing a man's watch a lot easier than the other way around.
    Miss Stradivarius, get yourself something 'steampunky' like a Hamilton Khaki Pioneer. It's based on a 1930s pilot's watch.

    1. ...I must say, I am rather enamored with the design, just after a cursory search! I'll have to stop spending all my money on typewriters and start saving some in order to buy one, though!

  4. In my Aspergerish way I've been obsessively searching about watches since your other post, not wanting to impose upon you too much. One that has caught my eye is the Seiko bell-matic, but they all seem to be vintage. Is anyone making a mechanical alarm watch anymore that's affordable? I must say, I've found the price ranges are through the looking glass, from less than lunch to more than a house! Typewriters only get that high based on who used them or exceeding rarity. What accounts for the stratospheric prices of luxury lines in non-precious metals?
    I've also discovered the interesting concept of celebrity brand ambassadors, which had totally escaped my notice till now. We typospherians should experiment with that. Ton is the brand ambassador for Olivetti, for example.

    1. Nobody is making a mechanical alarm that is affordable, that I know of, anyway. Have a look at the Revue Thommen Cricket. Although, still pricey, the last time I checked. Seiko Bell-Matics are nice, but I think they'd date back to the early '70s. Nothing wrong with that, but they're no Spring chicken.
      What accounts for the high prices? The fact that they've been ticking non-stop for forty or fifty years.
      Celebrity brand Anbassadors? That's a whole other post.

  5. Seriously though you should find a way to monetize your advice. I would not mind seeing ads on your site, perhaps for reputable dealers.

  6. ...and you can write a book: "How to Buy and Appreciate a Good Watch on a Reasonable Budget" by "The Undercover Industry Insider" :D

    While I've never been a wristwatch fan (except for a few years in the very early 80's when I did the "watch worn over a sweatband" thing that was popular then, I do occasionally wear a pocketwatch. I have a cheap "Majestron Quartz" for this purpose that needs a battery, so I should be hitting up the watch guy that has been running his watch repair shop out of his split shop/home on main street for the last 50 years or so. I've always wanted to step inside that shop and see what sort of magic lives there. I expect it will be something like an old typewriter shop.

    1. A notagain, the guy who re-polished that watch that I wrote about may have a banner here someday.

      @ Ted, I'm happy to write something up that explains what to look for when buying a watch. It's all content, after all. I'll have to break it down in sections according to type. But you won't be reading about some ridiculously expensive Limited Edition made from pieces of steel taken from The Titanic (yes, such a watch does exist).

    2. That would be awesome. I won't be buying a watch anytime soon that costs more than a car payment, but I am interested in what makes certain watches tick (haha), and have learned quite a lot from your other posts on the subject. I say keep it coming! :D

  7. Batteries. I hate replacing watch batteries, and don't want to break the bank on a self-winding movement, but want the quartz accuracy that a manual wind can't provide. My solution is the Citizen Eco-Drive, solar powered analog. Got mine for around $120 smackers, not top-of-the-line fancy but serviceable just keeps running. Thanks for sharing with us your fascination about watches.


    1. I got a lot of respect for the EcoDrive range. Very clever.

    2. I was looking at the Seiko kinetic for the same reason. It appears the early ones using a capacitor turned out to be troublesome but now they are using similar storage batteries, from what I've read.

  8. are far too kind! This was a great post, and quite informative. That Helios looks FANTASTIC! The one I was referencing, however, was WWII era. Not quite as classy as that one, but I suppose I shouldn't have to worry about the company going out of business, knowing it has been doing this for so long. I will send you a link to the listing I am talking about via email, if you would so kindly send an email my way. I cannot seem to find yours anywhere. Just want to know what you think of it, of course.

    Junghans makes a nice looking watch! Probably my favorite out of the group, but a bit on the expensive side. Not to be a cheapskate, of course, but it just seems like a bunch to spend on a watch. Not that I don't think it would be worth it; it looks fantastic!

    I really like several of the Hamilton's you posted. Classy yet casual. I am really on the fence with what I should get...

    Thank you so much for this amazing post. I really appreciate your taking the time to address my search for a nice timekeeping device. Again, shoot me an email, if you like. I really really appreciate this, Teeritz!

    1. Thank-you, sir.
      Without a doubt, these things aren't cheap. Five hundred to one thousand bucks is serious coin if you're paying off a mortgage and feeding a family. However, if you glance at your wrist in thirty or forty years and see the watch that you bought today, then that, in my opinion, was money well spent. These things pay for themselves over time. And they also become heirlooms. Your grand-son will not inherit your iPod one day.
      Damn, I should Trademark that line.

  9. This is a great commentary. I love minimalist watches and have spent way too much time drooling on the keyboard while looking at Watchismo's selection. The downside is they like their watches really big and I am on the tall and thin side. Oh, well.

  10. Those are all very nice watches. I bought a Tossot pilot watch for my youngest son when he got his wings. One day I hope to purchase a nice watch for myself. Until then, my Timex just keeps on ticking and ticking and ...

  11. ive never been one to wear a watch or any jewelry for that matter - much to the chagrin of the wifey who was then the girlfriend.
    however all this talk has got me thinking...

    my younger brother is a big watch guy... but working on wall street, he tends to be in that world where $10k on your wrist is like a honda civic. And there, status is everything because status gets you in the door. So last time he visited he shows me this crazy nice IWC. and ive seen the diamonds and whatever before but this one caught my eye. i have no idea what it is but i think the boy has some nice taste!
    he tells me while some of his coworkers collect cars or credit cards or man purses, hes fallen into the faction that collects watches.

    the other day he emails me for advice on what watch to buy next, some rolex or a patek philippe. i tell him rolex seems overdone. he says they are still the standard and theyve made a comeback. the patek philippe however has this well-stated elegance and sophistication without the braggadocious element of the rolex. so i tell him the patek philippe.

    i wonder if he listened to me... i know nothing of watches. maybe i "advised" him on the wrong choice.

  12. There are worse things he could collect, Michael. Man purses! Sheesh!
    And Rolex seems overdone because it's the brand that most people aspire to have, sometimes without even knowing why they want it. Man, Wall St is a jungle. If he really wants to stand out from the crowd, tell him to go for a vintage Submariner or Patek Calatrava (a nice mid-sixties model). He should have no trouble finding one in a pre-owned dealer in New York.