Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dad Deserves A Watch

Father’s day is fast approaching and many are wondering what to get dear old dad, or the man in their lives. A great gift for a great dad is a watch. No, not those Timex watches being sold by J.C. Penny or Sears, although they have their uses, something a little more up scale.

Owning a watch is something every man should do. Cellphones are not watches, other ad-hoc solutions are not watches. Only watches do the job of time keeping well. There is watch for every man at every price. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a nice watch.

The first, and maybe the only, watch your man may need is the beater. You have a manly man, who loves doing manly things. Wether its hunting, fishing,  or just puttering around the house, your man needs a beater watch. And the best beaters out there has to be the Casio G-Shock series of watches. They are quartz watches with an LCD display; look mom, no moving parts! The display is very readable and the functionality is excellent.

The next series of watches is the Japanese standards. These are the two big watch makers from Japan; Seiko and Citizen. For the most part these are Quartz watches that do their job with little drama. The Citizen watches are usually the lower priced of the two and until recently only Citizen had a solar powered watch. Seiko, on the other hand, has a better reputation for quality and now has caught up with Citizen in having a solar powered watch. For most people and for most budgets, these two watch companies represent a solid value.

Stepping up again we come to the first mechanical watch that can be recommended. This is the famed “Orange Monster” made by Seiko. This is a classical dive-style watch with a self-winding mechanical mechanism. In the watch trade self-winders are called “automatic” watches. This is something of a misnomer as the watch must be worn for it to “automatically” wind itself. Still the watch is a mechanical marvel, and ruggedly handsome to boot. There are less pricy automatics out there, some even made by Seiko ( the Seiko Five series) but they do not use Japanese movements. Spend the extra money on the Japanese movement, it is worth it.

Jumping up again, we arrive at the Swiss watches. This is dangerous territory as people do have definite opinions, and the price of Swiss watches can get out of hand very quickly. I am going to stay in the lower reaches of the price scale. I’ll start off with my favorite and mention some other worthy brands.

I have to admit that I have a decided bias for the Swiss Army brand by Victorinox. As a value proposition, Swiss Army wrote the book. The watches, especially if purchased from Amazon or other internet sources, are a great value. They have solid Swiss movements made by either Ronda (quartz) or ETA ( quartz, automatic) and are quite handsome. The look throughout the Swiss Army brand is utilitarian, with many of the watches having a vintage feel.

Another worthy brand is Longines. While the brand does have some sporty watches, for the most part they offer classic dress watches. Be warned, along with the classic look comes a classic price. Prices start right at $1,000.00 and work their way up. What you are paying for is the movements, and more than a little cache. I like this brand because the dials are clean, readable, and elegant. There is a definite “old school” feel to the brand. The dress watches looks great with a suite, and even nicer with a Tux.

If your taste run a little sportier than Longines, then may I suggest Tag-Heuer?  This is a storied brand that has a long association with auto racing. While I can not recommend the Formula One series, both the Link and the Carrera series are worthy. The Carrera day-date watches are beautiful watches. Simple, subtly sporty, and restrained. They are a  great complement to a business suite. Think of them as the polar opposite of the Gold Rolex. The Tags exude a quite confidence. Unfortunately, the chronographs in the Grand Carrera series loose much of that understated elegance. Other parts of the Tag line up are similarly hit and miss. Not to repeat myself, but again these are not bargain basement watches. The Carrera line starts at $1,200 and the Links begin at $2,000.

Since I am still in the world of Swiss watches, I might as well mention Movado. I don’t know anyone who is neutral about this brand. As a watch, Movados are quite strong. They use solid Swiss quartz movements. As a fashion statement, they are definitely not for everyone. As a time keeping device, Movados are very weak, only Tokyo Flashes are more unreadable. I would recommend that if you purchase a Movado that you also provide the recipient a gift receipt, just in case the Movado needs to be traded in for a fishing reel.

Now comes the part were I really get in trouble, the avoid list. First up, Armani Exchange. These watches are actually made by Fossil, and have Fossil’s quality control issues. The movements are a dog’s lunch of parts sourced from around the globe; nothing good there.  The actual fit and finish of the watch is underwhelming, and the designs will be yesterday’s news before you know it. All in all, a very poor buy. For the same money you can get a Seiko or Citizen that will be a much better, longer lasting watch.

Next in the Fashionista set, Burberry. Guess what, it is also made by Fossil. And correct, it has all the same shoddy workmanship issues that plague the Armani Exchange. Be boring and get a Seiko or a Citizen.

Other watches in the fashion ghetto to avoid are: Fossil, Ann Klien, Tommy Hifinger, Diesel, Guess, and most Bulovas. Skagen watches should also be avoided. Although I own one, Invicta watches are also a poor value, unless you purchase them from Amazon. Even then, understand that most Invictas are throw-away watches, they are a passing fad. Not many men want to wear a dinner plate on their wrist for very long.

There are scores of other watch brands that I could have covered, for good or ill. One worthy brand I will mention in passing is Reactor. These are sporty watches that feature large amounts of lume or tritium gas tubes (sometimes both), good watches to wear for the night-owl set. I will also mention Rolex, but only because I have to. Rolexes are a solidly made watch mechanically speaking, but I find them boring and over priced. They are a fairly safe buy, mainly because they are more status symbol than anything else. Still, for the price of a Rolex, you can get a different watch with a lot more personality.

One last thing, a watch purchase is a very individual thing. Your tastes will be different than mine. I strongly recommend bringing the person the watch is for to the counter. Let them pick the piece. That way they will wear the watch instead of stuffing it a draw next to the tie they hate. There is a watch for every man out there. In some cases it may be an iPod nano with an accessory watch band. Why not? tunes and time on the same device, sweet.
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