This is a guideline to assist in purchasing a wristwatch with minimum problems. I also added some common watch terms to help avoid confusion. Some of the following statements are my opinion based upon my experience in dealing with wristwatches.
DO NOT TRUST PICTURES:. It is very easy for someone to hide the scratches on a picture. If the condition is not stated you should ask. BEWARE OF the statement “see pictures for condition”. I always state all known defects & I think a good seller should also.
SIZE: Make sure the wristwatch states what size wrist it will fit especially if it has a metal band. Replacement links almost always can ONLY be purchased from the manufacturer and are not always available for all models even from the manufacturer. Most of the metal bands for wristwatches are custom made for a specific wristwatch and you often cannot use a generic replacement band. It is very easy to measure the maximum wrist size a watch will fit so the seller should be able to tell you. To measure your wrist, simply run a tape measure around your wrist and add 1/4″ or so for a comfortable fit. Leather or Rubber bands are usually easy to replace unless it has a stepped end. if it has a band that does not have a stepped end it is easy to replace with a leather, rubber or metal band.
CRYSTAL CONDITION: Most good wristwatches have a hardened scratch resistant glass mineral crystal. If the mineral crystal has scratches it normally CANNOT be polished. A few professionals may attempt to polish a mineral crystal but it can distort the crystal & most will recommend replacing it which can get expensive. Light scratches on a Plastic or Acrylic Crystal can sometime be buffed out. A mineral crystal is much more scratch resistant than a plastic crystal. Sapphire coated crystals are even better than a mineral crystal & have much more scratch resistance.
NEEDS BATTERY: If an ad states the watch needs a battery make sure you can return it for a full refund if a new battery does not make the watch work. If the seller is a jeweler or a watch dealer beware as batteries are very cheap especially when bought in bulk and you would normally expect a volume watch seller to install a new battery.
Eco-Drive & other Solar Powered Watches – Beware if the listing states it needs a battery as these capacitors are very expensive.
ALL STAINLESS STEEL: A non-plated silvertone all stainless steel watch can be professionally polished to make it look brand new again. All the scratches can be buffed out. This is not the case for a plated or base metal watch. Most watches that are All Stainless Steel will state it on the caseback. If it says Stainless Steel Caseback than most likely only the caseback is stainless steel.
MOVEMENTS: Quartz Movement is a battery operated movement which is very accurate. Automatic Movements also called Kinetic are mechanical movements that do not have a battery but wind themselves from the natural movement of your wrist. They will eventually stop if left sitting with no movement. They can also be hand wound or shaken. They are normally not as accurate as a Quartz movement but have a lot more parts and are generally more desired by serious collectors. Mechanical movements do not have a battery but they do not wind themselves from natural movements but must be hand wound. Solar powered movements get their power from the sun or any light. Instead of a battery they have a capacitor which can be expensive to replace.
A few common watch terms:
Bezel: The ring that surrounds or holds in the watch crystal, there are stationary, rotating & uni-directional rotating bezels.
Chronograph: A watch with a built-in stopwatch function. The accuracy of the stopwatch can vary from 1/5th second to 1/100th second. A chronograph watch often has multiple sub-dials & pushers to start, stop & pause the chronograph dials.
Chronometer: A label given to Swiss-made watches that meet very high standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Control (COSC).
2-Eye, 3-Eye, 4-Eye: How many sub-dials a watch has. These sub-dials may have the day, date or 24 hour or they may have chronograph seconds, minutes, etc.
Complications: Features added to a watch beyond basic timekeeping. These can include perpetual calendars, moonphase displays, alarms, repeating mechanisms, chronograph functions, power reserve indicators, and tourbillons.
Crown: The button on the outside of the watch case used to set the time and date. In a mechanical watch the crown also winds the mainspring. If the crown screws into the case (called a screw-in or screw-down crown), it helps makes the watch watertight.
Jewels: Synthetic sapphires or rubies that act as bearings for gears in a mechanical watch to reduce friction, making the watch more accurate and longer lasting.
Mother of Pearl: The hard, pearly, iridescent substance found on the inner layer of a mollusk shell. Most commonly a milky white, mother-of-pearl is also found in silvery gray, gray blue, pink and salmon.
Multi-functional: Describes a quartz watch with extra features.
Perpetual Calendar: A calendar that automatically adjusts for the months’ varying lengths and for leap year.
Quartz Movement: A movement powered by a quartz crystal. Quartz movement is highly accurate and less expensive to produce than mechanical movement. A quartz crystal is a tiny piece of synthetic quartz that oscillates 32.768 times a second, dividing time into equal segments.
Tachymeter: Measures the speed the wearer has traveled over a distance.
Tourbillon: A device that mounts the watch’s escapement in a small revolving cage to overcome the effects of gravity, allowing for precision in a mechanical watch.