Watch Etiquette: Investing in timepieces + A Style & Storage guide

Here is a guide on watch etiquette, how to purchase a watch, investing in timepieces, a style guide for ladies and gentlemen throughout the day and evening, how to store your watches, and an interesting insider rumour. Read until the very end, or else none of this will make sense. I will also create a separate post on affordable luxury watches.

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How to purchase a watch 

There is quite the range of many incredible quality watches out there that do not have to break the budget. I will get into the brands some more in a bit.

A watch is never just about telling the time if you are looking for a piece to start a collection or simply owning one good watch. Buying into a brand and indulging in the luxury usually has something to do with you relating to its heritage. This will reflect in the watch itself and on your personality. 

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If you are dying for a more luxurious timepiece that represents you in every way, you are better off going out with a bare wrist than wearing one you do not fully appreciate. Save up, take your time because it is worth it. 

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Here are the main watch movements 

When you see the word ‘quartz’, this means the timepiece is battery operated. This will be your standard watch, yet there are big names that will still charge $20,000 or more for an electrical current watch because of the brand name or the make is of fine metals or stones around the watch face, or time it uses to generate that piece. 

Every good watch has a tiny bit of gold inside it in order for it to operate. But then some companies will charge more simply because it is gold plated – at times not even the full twenty-four karat. I personally do not think they are worth it, unless I am deliberately getting something simple. At that price range, I would avoid quartz, but this is all preference.

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This means you have to replace the battery every three to five, sometimes eight years depending on the brand. Solar powered quartz watches last for much longer, but I feel like they are for children. 

At a luxury price range, you want your watch to function in a smooth wind. Quartz watches will tick, and you can even hear them before you see them. They are deemed more reliable than automatic movement, because they are accurate within half a second while automatic watches can be off by a few seconds. 

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Automatic or self-winding watches have a collection of pieces put together inside that use your movement to create a power reserve causing it to tick. You can sometimes see the components in the caseback of your watch if you have a model with such display. 

You might read the description of a watch and it can say Japanese movement or Swiss movement. They are both automatics, but here is the difference:

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Swiss movements

Swiss movements are held in high regard by many watchmakers, and collectors, for a multitude of reasons. ETA (the place in Switzerland producing this) mechanical pieces are, for the most part, manufactured with a little more flair than others. 

Decoration is a large part of Swiss mechanisms, from the way the metals are cut, to the colour of the jewels, every aesthetic detail is thought of during the design and build process. The Swiss do, usually still use hand assembly for some calibre models, which can affect the price of the movements.

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Japanese movements

Japanese movements are manufactured slightly differently, mostly in an automated robotics line, but this allows for a much lower degree of error than by eye alone. While not a huge amount of detailing is put into most Miyota (the place in Japan producing this) movements, the slightly more “raw” look of the pure mechanical parts does appeal to a lot of people. 

Due to the nature of the assembly, the price of Japanese movements is often cheaper than Swiss, but this does in no way indicate lower quality. I will share a little bit more at the end of this post, because there are interesting rumours circulating about this.

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A brand name should guarantee quality. The more respected the brand, generally the better the watch. Beware, you may well have to pay for the privilege. Especially for the more established ranges, but think of it in these terms.

For example, a Rolex takes one year to make. Think about how much money you make in a year whether you have a salary from your career or an hourly wage from your job. All those hours and attention are put into one timepiece with hundreds of meticulously moving parts all working accurately.

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If you are looking for a starter Rolex, it might be about $5,000 for this work of craftsmanship. Especially compared to other specialty items such as a violin. They are made in about two weeks and can start at $400,000 for such an established name as Guarneri, Guadagnini, or Stradivari. 

A watch is one of those items you wear forever. It is also something you wear most of your life when you have one. You can change your outfit, but you might still wear the same watch if you have one good one. In other words, you will definitely get your money’s worth if you are saving for a more extravagant piece. 

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When you go the more industrial route for a Rolex (I will continue to use this brand as an example in this case) or special editions, that is when the price starts to ascend higher. For instance, if you are a mountain climber interested in a watch that will work above the average sea level on top of K2, then you are looking at the higher price range, because functionality costs. The same applies to submariners or watches that will work in certain fields such as a nuclear plant. It takes more insight, research, and resources to generate this masterpiece.

My husband was a pilot in the RAF, and I also come from pilot stock. Hello, Grandpa! We just bought a manor, and now we have space for a plane to land, so this coming year, I am working on my pilot licence. One day, I want to get us corny matching GMT watches. 

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GMT timepieces indicate Greenwich Mean Time for pilots, so they could keep track of the time where they departed from, and their local time. This is the process where the Sun crosses the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. There is a watch for everything! 

There is an unwritten guideline in horology that if you are, for instance, not a diver, you should not own a diver’s watch. Only a true diver can purchase one. I mostly disregard this. Why? I love roses. I have zero idea how to cultivate beautiful, healthy roses that thrive in all climates with this less acidic soil. In other words, I am not an expert. However, I fall in love with them when I see them. 

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As long as you can afford it and/or it fits your lifestyle, or perhaps you are interested in the heritage it comes with; it is perfectly admissible in court to appreciate something beautiful and complicated. 

Also, anniversary editions can be thirty percent more, or up, the average price for the original timepiece. If a $90,000 watch looks just like another watch that is $300,000, the more expensive one is typically the anniversary or special edition. They might be released in limited numbers making them rare and having the same quality, but also have some sapphires or other unique gemstones added.

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When purchasing your timepiece, go to the actual flagship store if you can rather than a department store or another company purveying the item if possible. Always go to a trusted name rather than a smaller shop or a location that sells them secondhand without a sturdy background in their authentication process if you are looking for a brand name. This is something to consider if you are new to brand name watches.

Here, there will not only be more trust, but they can tell you in detail the history of the timepiece you might not have already known. Going to a more established brand will also provide a better watch than those companies who are new to the game. They can also take care of your watch if it needs polishing or fixing in the future. I personally would do it for this reason alone. You get a safety guarantee on your purchase which is always wise to do. 

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Make sure you know what you want. Take your time. If you are looking at the piece online and are thinking about saving for a big brand name watch, check it out in person. You can visit the store multiple times if you need to. I highly recommend trying it on for a tangible reference. This way you can really picture yourself in your day to day with the weight on your wrist. 

For those of you lovely individuals who have been following me for a while now know that I can keep things in my cart when shopping online for up to a year to really think about it. When it comes to something you want to keep forever, go through the seasons to see if you still want it. 

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It does not hurt to do a bit of research. Do not be shy to ask the experts at the store about the watch. Read online. Get to know its heritage, so you feel closer to it. You are the one paying for it after all. 

I would want to know what I am buying. You want to know if this is a piece you can wear forever and pass down or if this is a trendy piece of fashion that will not last. Trust your instincts in knowing what works for you in your lifestyle.

If you are looking for a serious heirloom, you should be paying attention to mechanical watches. If you are looking for one or two collectible digital watches, they should be confined to the gym and working out.

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Investing in watches

Investing in watches can be lucrative, yet there are no guarantees. The big name watch brands are often the safest place to put your money as their lengthy history would suggest they will continue to be desirable enough to hold their value. As with most collections, rare is good. 

Be sure to take care of your watches when doing this, because sometimes something will have a brand name, but its condition can immediately plummet or hold its value. This is like purchasing a rare car. You can fix it, but a person willing to purchase something of high value is going to look for reasons to negotiate down anyway, and is less likely to want to put more money into fixing it if it is supposed to be high value. 

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Watches have to start out being high value in order to keep their value. In other words, if it is already really expensive, it is most likely to stay that way. But if it was on the cheaper side to begin with, it would usually go down in price. 

Fashion watches are far more hit and miss as what is in fashion today may never be in fashion again. For instance, what was good in the 80s may have been brought back, but not every aspect of 80s fashion is appreciated. Only some highlighted elements. This is where you will find price does not necessarily reflect quality. It is just that the market is currently asking for this particular style. 

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With that in mind, never buy something that you may dislike solely because you think it may be valuable in the future. If its value plummets, you can at least get some wear from a watch you genuinely like. 

I have a friend who collects art. He has zero background in art history or creating pieces. Some works he collects are for the value of an up and coming artist to gain capital return, while other pieces are simply because he likes looking at them. Collecting timepieces does not have to feel like a serious obligation of expertise. Simply stick to what works for you at the end of the day.

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A watch style guide

If you are planning to only have one good watch for your lifetime and not replace it, it is better to own something smart. You can dress down a watch, but it is hard to dress it up. For example, you can wear a polo shirt with a gold watch, but wearing a suit with a casual watch does not look right, and it is not appropriate. 

Keep in mind brown before 6:00 pm and black after 6:00 pm. To be on the safe side, simply purchase a watch with a formal black leather strap. You can wear this with a dress or suit in the day, and go to a black tie event in the evening. If you cannot afford multiple watches, remember you can always invest in a sundry of straps, and it will change the feel of your watch and ensemble. Have fun with dressing it up, because otherwise – what is the point if you do not enjoy yourself? 

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You can wear a silver, gold, or any type of alloy watch in the day, but consider the activity you are doing. It is best to wear a muted watch with a simple leather strap with a lounge suit. Never purchase something with big numbers and a big watch face to keep it elegant. You want to make sure the face is not over your wrist’s size.

You do not want your watch to be the statement. You are the statement, and you are an entire package, not the watch or anything you are wearing alone does all the talking. Match your watch to your outfit. If you are wearing a dinner jacket, you do not want something huge or overly-noticeable on your wrist. 

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Always wear the watch on your left wrist. My husband’s dominant hand is his left, and said the only reason you would not want to have a watch on your right is it can affect writing. However, Mr. Dixon said he never experienced that issue. The buttons on your watch are made for your right hand to adjust the dials. It will be uncomfortable to wear this on your right if you are left handed, because buttons will press into your skin as you move your right arm. 

The more formal you want to be, the less noticeable your watch should be. The same goes for most fashion and style appropriate for formal events. If you notice mens evening shoes for white tie and black tie are sleeker than the average casual shoe dressed with embellishments. 

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A timepiece is something not immediately noticeable in general. You are to never look at your watch when in conversation with someone. This is the equivalent of yawning or sighing at them. The only time it is okay is if you preface your encounter with letting someone know in advance you have somewhere to be, or if they share how tight their schedule is in that instant. 

This brings me to ladies’ formal watches. Us ladies sometimes long for a bit more varying style and standing out where a gentleman would not. I am referencing how men in black tie look uniform, where any mistakes are made, others realise this individual might be uninformed and stand out negatively. 

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Ladies have more ability to be flexible in regards to expressing our style through watches as more of a fine work of jewellery as opposed to other industrial designs for utility. In the same manner we have more bags, shoes, and accessories to style. For evening occasions, we want our watches to not look like watches and more of a bracelet. This way others do not recognise us as looking at our watch for the time, but can be more discreet. 

An extreme example would be the late HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation watch. That is a watch fit for a Queen.

Pocket watches or watch fobs are fine as an affectation, but you need a big, intentional personality to pull them off. They are fun, but you might look like you are doing too much if you do not have the natural charisma that goes with owning one. 

If you have a lot of time to dress one up and move gracefully with it, then it is for you. Not a lot of men outside of the UK don the waistcoat nowadays, since this is more for the modern Beau Brummells. 

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I personally love watch fobs. You can get what would normally be a $300,000 Patek Philippe for around the $5,000 mark on 1stdibs (linked below) in watch fob form. However, they have a bit of a dark history of being unreliable and taking the lives of passengers on train collisions due to conductors’ watch fobs being off by a couple minutes.

Watches named after film stars and explorers are for a reason. There is nothing wrong with feeling like Steve McQueen when you slip yours on.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Not a man’s. 

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How to properly store your watch 

If you have paid four or five figures for your watch, it is likely to be one of your most valuable possessions. Look after it, and do not just fling it into a drawer.

Some watches require very special care. A perpetual calendar, to demonstrate, will tell the day, month, year, and moon phases for years to come. This requires a great deal of attention as resetting them, if not worn for a week. Fiddling with this would be time consuming.

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It is a good idea to carefully store such watches in a watch-winding box, or have one built into your home closet. There is no point in having a moon-face indicator that is inaccurate because of incorrect storage.

Getting your watches serviced regularly is imperative. It is normally adequate to take them once every three years so that moving parts are lubricated, seals can be replaced, and the balance wheel can be checked. This can be costly, especially the more your watch costs. My father-in-law gets his Rolex polished and checked for about $500.

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If you are likely to swim in a watch, you should get its seals checked once a year. If water gets inside your mechanism, you will be facing a hefty bill.

If you are going to start collecting watches, then a secure safe is a vital investment. Also, make sure that they are covered by your insurance policy. 

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The rumour

It is heard through the grapevine – specifically in Japan – that Seiko makes the inside of Cartier watches. Sometimes, if you ask a watch expert, they will say this is not true. However, from my research and experience, Cartier has always in some method outsourced or collaborated with another company on creating their designs.

There are many things that allude to this with brands in general. Those who do not have one consistent make on the inside, say, if they have a quartz and an automatic movement, they can be from different manufacturers. There is Swiss Quartz and Swiss movement, so I am not entirely certain of how apocryphal this is. This is all alleged.

When you break down how companies work, using Instagram as an example, they will have the main company running day to day operations, then Instagram Reels is part of the company, but a completely different group running it. You can say the same for Ralph Lauren with all their different subdivisions.

It could be that one watch was made at a certain time due to the demand of that period – where quartz watches were all the rage – or if they are simply keeping different traditions from past collaborations. If you have something to add, I would love to know in the comments below. 

Find more etiquette posts here. Interested in a lesson? Book a course with the links below and become the most polished version of you.



Gia G. Dixon
Gia G. Dixon

I’m Gia G. Dixon, an etiquette consultant certified under Royal Charter of King Charles III. Here is my guide to elegant style, high quality living, and little things that make your daily life glamorous.

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