What's important in a <= $ 250 mechanical watch?

rfrazier

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Hi all. I'm a newbie to the forum. I've got a couple of threads over in the clock repair forum about beat counting and counting pendulum swings. But, here, I just wanted to discuss what I think is important in an affordable (defined for me as <= $ 250 with bonus points for <= $ 150) mechanical watch. Now, everything I'm about to say may be different from what someone else thinks. That's fine. We can disagree without being disagreeable. A watch is a very personal experience and my list will be different than yours. Being a newbie, I may have misconceptions or knowledge gaps. In fact, I'm sure I do. But, I'm also interested to see what y'all think. For reference, my first mechanical watch is a Stuhrling skeleton watch that I got for about $ 85 from Watch Gang and also pictured below. So, based on owning this for a little while and a little research, here are some thoughts to start the list. I'm still wearing my solar powered atomic watch too, so that affects my expectations from a mechanical, or lack of expectations. These are in no particular order.

Actually, I'm going to start with some things I think aren't important (to me).

* Not important (to me) - Does the watch make people think you paid way more than you did? This is just not who I am. If you want people to think you paid more for your watch than your car, then buy a watch that costs more than your car. Otherwise, you're misleading people, right?

* Not important (to me) - Does everyone else who sees my watch like it / or hate it? Again, that's not who I am. Now, while I might not wear a watch that looks like a furry kitten to a business meeting, within the bounds of semi normalcy, I'm concerned about whether I like the watch, not the other guy or gal.

* Important - Do you want the watch to be automatic winding or hand winding only? I like automatic.

* Important (to me) - Can you hand wind the watch even if it's automatic? I don't like the idea of shaking the watch to wind it.

* Important - Does the watch look good to you, the wearer? - Obviously highly subjective. But, you wouldn't wear it if you thought it was ugly, right?

* Not important - Is the watch incredibly accurate? Why is this not important? Because from reading and watching videos, I realize that mechanical watches are not generally incredibly accurate. Reasonable expectations seem to be +/- 2-4 minutes / week. That means ... you have to reset it every week.

* Important - Is the watch accurate enough? Let's say +/- 2 minutes / week is preferable and +/- 4 minutes / week is the minimum accuracy.

* Important - If it's not accurate enough BUT it's capable of enough, are you willing to open it and regulate it yourself? Or would you have to take it to a service center? If a non authorized dealer or jeweler or you work on it does it void the warranty?

* Important - Is the watch of good enough quality considering the price? Is it rugged enough for the intended purpose? Can it take a REASONABLE amount of wear and tear?

* Important - Does the watch have a reasonable warranty considering the price? Where can you make warranty claims? Who can service it?

* Important - Does the watch have a seconds indicator? For me, I like that feature. But once you realize the watch may be off by 30 seconds / day, that has less meaning. Still, it could be useful for timing short intervals.

* Important - What is the power reserve? IE how long can you go without winding it or wearing it (if automatic) without it stopping? After which, you have to wind and set it again.

* Important to some - Does it have the complications you want? - Date? Calendar? Moon Dial? AM / PM? Stopwatch? Dual Time? Etc? Each additional complication above and beyond time may make setting harder.

* Not Important (to me) - Does it have a hack seconds or stop seconds function? If not, can I hack it anyway? - This allows you to stop the seconds hand while setting, to perhaps synchronize it to a quartz or atomic watch, a phone, or PC. I thought this was important, until I realized the watch may gain or lose 30 seconds / day. So, the meaning quickly vanishes.

* Important - Is the size of the watch appealing to you, the wearer? Do you like a wide watch or a narrow one? Do you like a thin one or a fat one? Is it too heavy? These are all subjective. The same questions apply to the band? Do you like metal, rubber, cloth, etc.? Do you like bright colors, metallic tones, gold, silver, black, etc.? Buckles or clasps?

* Very Important (to me) - Does the watch have numbers on the dial? I really don't like watches with no numbers. Others may disagree. To each his / her own.

* Important - Do you want to see the mechanism through the front? Through the back? Or do you not?

* Important - Is the watch easy for you to set? Or do you have to get the manual out every time?

* Important - Is the watch easy (enough) to read? What about low light? What about no light? Is there adequate contrast between dials, hands, marks?

* Not Important (to me) - Do you need lume (luminous dials or hands)? Lots of people like lume. That's fine. My understanding is that the glow usually doesn't last through the night. And, since I'm still wearing my atomic watch, with a light, I don't need lume.

* Important to some - Does the watch tick too loudly? Does it keep you up at night? Does it tick not loudly enough to measure with a timing machine, etc.?

* Important to some - Does it have a screw in crown? IE do you have to unscrew the crown before pulling it out to set the watch?

* Important - Does it have a reasonably good quality crystal considering the price which will resist scratches and dings?

* Important (to some) - How much water resistance is there? Can I shower with it? Swim with it? Snorkel with it? Shallow dive with it? Deep dive with it? This isn't something I have a need for, although I wouldn't want a little rain to damage the watch.

* Semi Important (to me) - Is the presentation and packaging reasonable considering the price? Did it come with a box you can store it in later, or a zip lock bag? Did it have adequate documentation?

These are just what I thought of off the top of my head. Let me know what you think and what you think should be added. Although my main concern was budget, all these things started running through my mind after I learned about them. I feel many of them are at least good enough for me in the watch that I bought, considering the price.

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron

Watch Stuhrling-3973.2-DF-600w.jpg
 
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4thdimension

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So many points to consider! But, let me add one more: band or bracelet? I prefer to not feel a watch on my wrist so a good leather band is my choice. Of course these aren’t ideal for water or sweat. Some swear by the “Italian rubber” sort but those look like crap paired with the watch styles I prefer. The solution is to have a few watches so that you are adaptable, i.e. a watch for snorkeling, one for weddings etc..-Cort
 
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rfrazier

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4thdimension Those are good points. The different kinds of bands can really make a difference in how the watch looks and feels. I've traditionally gone with metal link bands but this new Stuhrling watch has a leather band. At the moment it's a bit stiff, but I'm hoping it will loosen up. It's interesting how many people replace the bands or change them periodically. I didn't do a lot of research on sizing before getting this watch. The band length turned out OK, and I have 3 buckle holes I can go tighter or 4 holes I can go looser. I believe this watch is 48 mm. It fits my wrist but I don't think I'd want anything bigger for my hand. I used the prize wheel at Watch Gang and loaded it up with 7 different alternative watches and ended up getting this one. Theoretically, you've got a 1 in 7 chance of getting a much more expensive watch that way, but I'm sure they don't give away too many $ 1000 watches for $ 85. If you pay more for your spin at the wheel, all the selections go up in price.

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron
 

rfrazier

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In looking at ads for various watches, I thought of a few more things to add to the list.

Very Important (to me) - This modifies the original item in the 1st post. Does the watch have numbers on the dial? I realized this is a bit vague considering all the watch designs out there. So, to meet my criteria, the watch must have at least two numbers on the dial, for example, 12 and 6. More is better. All 12 is best. I prefer Arabic numbers, IE normal digits. Roman numerals are OK.

Very Important (to me) - Does the watch have minute marks on the dial. IE I want to be able to tell exactly which minute the minute hand or which second the second hand is pointing to. Minute numbers are OK but not required.

Important (to some) - Does the watch support 24 hour time, IE hours 0-23 versus 1-12. Electronic watches routinely do this, but not so much with mechanical ones. This may be done with a completely redesigned dial, a 24 hour complication (I think), or additional numbers on the bezel (I think).

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron
 

roughbarked

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So many points to consider! But, let me add one more: band or bracelet? I prefer to not feel a watch on my wrist so a good leather band is my choice. Of course these aren’t ideal for water or sweat. Some swear by the “Italian rubber” sort but those look like crap paired with the watch styles I prefer. The solution is to have a few watches so that you are adaptable, i.e. a watch for snorkeling, one for weddings etc..-Cort
I've tried numerous bands and while leather is good for a while it does have a short lifetime. The Neoprene types don't seem to be as supple as neoprene as after some time, they'll just crack. The nylon band lasts forever until it eventually starts to fray but it has the aspect of being able to be thrown in the washing machine numerous times to keep it clean. As for the various metal bands, some brand name watches acually make their own bands which can often be both good designs or not so good, particularly if the parts are only availabe from the company.
My personal favourite after wearing almost every band that came into the shop would have to be this one made for Roamer watches. Completely flexible, stainless, have never worn one out. Of curse, the only weak link is the clasp but it is a very good clasp that cannot be easily snagged.


 
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rfrazier

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Hi all. I've had my inexpensive watch about 6 days. I have discovered that the auto winding mechanism isn't doing enough winding to keep the watch running for a week. I can see the mainspring unwinding. The mainspring is visible under the letter "I" in the picture I posted originally. When it's wound, all the coils congregate in the center. As shown it the picture, it's almost completely unwound. In any case, we're discussing the matter in this thread:


But, for this thread, here's another item to consider about these watches. Does the auto winding mechanism function with the rotor going in both directions or does it only wind in one direction? If it's unidirectional, it apparently requires much more arm movement to get enough winding done.

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron
 

rfrazier

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Hi all. Here are another couple of criteria that I'm adding to the list of things to consider.

Important (to some): Does the watch have a "power reserve" indicator to let you know approximately how much energy the mainspring has left. If you need to wind the watch every few days, this lets you know if it's nearing empty. Alternatively, if the spring is visible, as in a skeleton watch, you may be able to deduce the power reserve without paying for a watch with that has that complication.

Important (to some): A screw in crown was mentioned above. But, in further reading, I discovered that, if you have to wind the watch daily, or every few days, having a screw in crown can actually make the watch harder to use. Also, some people say that unscrewing the crown often can wear that mechanism out more rapidly. I don't know, but I thought I'd add it in.

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron
 

RL

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You said the winding mechanism isn't doing enough to keep the watch wound for a week.
I love auto wind watches and have had many and still have many--but--I've never had one that the wind on the watch would be good for a week!
 
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FreetzGrün

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You said the winding mechanism isn't doing enough to keep the watch wound for a week.
I love auto wind watches and have had many and still have many--but--I've never had one that the wind on the watch would be good for a week!
According to their website:

"Our automatic movements generally have a 36 hour power reserve, which means your watch will keep going for a full 36 hours when fully wound. Once this reserve has been depleted you will need to wind your watch again. Please be aware that the automatic movement has an outer range of accuracy of approximately thirty-ninety seconds per twenty-four hour cycle."


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rfrazier

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RL FreetzGrün There's a saying that you don't know what you don't know. Maybe I'm in that category. Also, maybe I didn't state that in the clearest way. I knew the watch wouldn't last a week just lying around. But, I'm wearing it all the time. I assumed, apparently erroneously, that with my motions during the day and somewhat lesser motions at night, that it would keep running all the time and I would never have to manually wind it. I was surprised when it stopped one night. If it were running all the time, I would only set it once per week. So, as it is, I'm having to wind it a bit every night or a bunch more every 4-5 days. Just trying to get into the rhythm to see how to best use it. I gave it 10 forward then backward strokes on the crown tonight and we'll see if it makes it through the night. It seems to never stop in the daytime and never seems to get below about 4 visible coils that are in the "wound" state in the mainspring in the daytime. I think it's a design flaw in the watch. Either they assumed the owner would be an athlete or something, or the diameter of the weight is too small, or the weight is too light, or all of the above. It may also be a unidirectional winding system which wastes some of the available motion. I know the mechanism works, though, because of my shake testing. I'm still keeping the watch. Just gotta get used to it I guess. As far as accuracy, it seems to be losing about 4 minutes per week. I can live with that. It's under warranty so I'm not trying to open it.

May your beat rate be stable and your beat error be small. :cool: Ron
 
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thesnark17

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Yes, the truth is that automatic watches should run without ever needing to be wound, if they're properly designed, as long as the user moves around a normal amount.

I have an automatic Hamilton Illinois with a state-of-wind indicator. It has a 40-hour reserve. On a normal day, it is fully wound by 10 AM if I wore it the previous day (starts from 30-32h reserve and winds up to 40). If I didn't wear it and let it run all the way down, I will wind it up to 12 hours and then let it wind the rest on its own. That usually takes until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. It will then stay fully wound until I take it off.

On those rare days when I don't move around much, however, it might not ever wind all the way up. I can recall a day or two where I noticed at 5 PM that it only had 36 hours of reserve. If I were to have a week of those days, I would have to manually wind my watch to keep it running - or just go for a walk!
 
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viclip

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I wear my wristies on my non-dominant arm/wrist, which doesn't help to keep an automatic fully wound in the course of my admittedly sedentary lifestyle. My solution is to make a point of using my left hand more than I ordinarily might, even if only to pet the cat using my left hand etc.
 

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