Few things say more about a man than his watch, though more times than not, it's the wrong thing. We're not telling you to get rid of your 16 year old day-glow Swatch, we just think it would be safer at home, in your sock drawer, in the back of your sock drawer. On second thought, we are telling you to get rid of it, and use these four steps to get yourself a watch even Captain Koons would be proud to carry.
First, know the terminology. Here's a list of the essentials:
Crown - The knob on the side of the watch used to adjust the time and other settings.
Crystal - The hard, clear "glass" covering the face. The best watches use a sapphire crystal due to its incredible shock and scratch resistance. You want to make sure you are at least getting a hard mineral glass and not some acrylic scratch-magnet.
Complication - Additional functions of the watch beyond keeping time, such as a calendar, stopwatch, or Flyback chronograph.
Movement - The internal mechanism of the watch. It's what's "under the hood," and your options are generally quartz, which is powered by a battery and regulated by the oscillations of a quartz crystal, and automatic (mechanical) or "self-winding" watch powered by your daily hand movements (a lot more interesting to talk about).
Bracelet - Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory but we'll take this opportunity to suggest only leather or gold, if you like the classic look or platinum, stainless steel or titanium for a more modern feel, as alloy bands tend to be allergenic and break down faster than quality metals. And make sure the clasp is sturdy and moves easily.
Case - The metal housing which encases and protects the movement. The same rules apply here with regards to the metals used.
Second, know thine self and choose accordingly. If you are only going to have one watch, it's got to fit your lifestyle. An altimeter isn't going to be much use to you if you're afraid of heights and if you own a tux you should think about something sleek, black and leather. If you shake it more than twice, you're playing with it and the "self-winding" is for you. Remember, you'll probably wear your watch more than anything else you own, so it should go with just about everything.
Third, know your mark. Do your homework and find a reputable dealer that's a member of a professional trade organization. A good watch is a big investment, whether $1,000 or $10,000, and any dealer worth his salt should give you a current "certificate of authenticity" from the manufacturer. If he can't, keep on walking and get the little man's birthright from someone who can. You also want to find out just what's raising the price tag. Is it the bling or the ten generations of hand-made Swiss craftsmanship?
Fourth, know your limits. Keep your watch clean and away from water. Repairs can take from 4 weeks to 4 months and cost anywhere from $400 to $4000 depending on make, movement, etc., so know your warranty and have your watch serviced or tuned up every few years, especially if it is mechanical, and it just might save your life one day.