The Esquire Guide to Men's Watches

A basic guide to horology for the watch newbie.

Watches are a man's timeless accessory. Safe to say that a watch never goes out of style; but it never won't be functional, either. Once an indispensable part of a man's daily wear, watches have since evolved into different iterations—including the smartwatches that are highly popular today.

While there is nothing wrong with sporting a smartwatch if you are into it, nothing quite beats the style and versatility of an old-fashioned timepiece. For one, it's much more resilient under different weather conditions, and you won't have to worry about charging it on the regular. Plus—it's got more character.

That said, a classic watch is an excellent conversation starter, with it being one of the first things that people will notice about you. After all, when someone approaches you to ask for the time, it's an opportunity to effortlessly flex the handsomeness of the hunk of metal sitting on your wrist.

Whether you're a newbie collector or simply scouring for a reliable everyday timepiece, here is a reliable guide for you to purchase the right wristwatch for any occasion and season.


How your watch ticks and moves is essential to any aficionado. What makes watches arguably special is not what's on the surface but what's underneath—the combination of gears, motors, and springs that take painstaking craftsmanship.

These mechanisms lend itself to different kinds of movements for various watches and purposes. Before delving into the aesthetics, start here to decide what suits you best.


If you're new to the craft of horology, chances are high that your current everyday reliable wristwatch now is likely a quartz watch—known not only for its incredible accuracy, but also for being very affordable. The reason why it reads time the most accurately out of all movements is it uses electricity from a small battery. Quartz movements also tend to be the most affordable out of the bunch, something to consider if you are on a budget.

Quartz movements are also incredibly resilient—they can withstand more wear and tear than mechanical or automatic watches. This is why most sport and field watches, popular with men on the go, use a quartz movement. That said, the ticking sound it makes from its electrical pulses isn't quite the smoothest, and you may be losing out on the character and personality of other movements.


Automatic movements are usually seen as a step above quartz movements. Compared to quartz, a watch with automatic movement derives its energy from the wearer, instead of a battery. An automatic movement is also known as a self-winding watch.

An automatic watch movement features a rotor that oscillates freely within the watch. Every time the wearer moves his wrist, the rotor spins. That energy from the intrinsic spinning motion then winds the mainspring in the watch automatically.

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Automatic watches don't run on battery, a plus if you don't like the upkeep. However, it is pretty sensitive to environmental factors and may need a watch winder if you're not wearing it regularly.


Mechanical movement watches are highly sought after by watch enthusiasts. This is largely because of their traditional pedigree, as well as the work, craftsmanship, and engineering. Aficionados love collecting mechanical watches for their history and heritage of craftsmanship. Hence, mechanical watches tend to be the priciest among the bunch.

A mechanical watch works by being powered by a mainspring, or a coiled wire of metal that is wound by hand. After the mainspring is wound, it slowly and evenly unwinds, with the second hand moving in a smooth motion around the watch's face.

Just like an automatic movement watch, mechanical watches are pretty sensitive to the environment—something to think about if you're willing to maintain your timepiece. It will also need regular tune-ups to maintain its accuracy.

That said, not all mechanical movements are created equally. It all boils down to a watch's quality and craftsmanship, so choose wisely.


One oft-overlooked detail is one's hand and wrist size in picking a watch. One factor to consider when choosing a watch is its proportion to your wrist and hand. An oversized watch on your wrist may look clownish.

Still confused? Here's a general rule of thumb: measure your wrist's circumference. If it is between 6 to 7 inches, opt for a watch that has a case diameter of 38 to 42 mm wide. Meanwhile, larger wrists (such as those larger than 7 inches) can go for a width between 44 to 46 mm.

Still, the best way to figure out if a watch is well-proportioned to your wrist is to try it on. Look in the mirror. See whether it doesn't overwhelm your wrist or look too tiny in comparison. If you're still in doubt, you are free to ask for a second opinion.

Dive Watch

The dive watch is ubiquitous—from casual outfits to even risk-pushers who dress in an all-black suit. You can thank James Bond for that, who made the faux pas of wearing dive watches in formal wear suddenly cool. Based on the name alone, the dive watch was designed for divers as well as individuals who spend much time in the water.

When to Wear It: Dive watches are best worn in most casual settings—from sports and casual, to even business casual attires. If you're brave, you can push the envelope for even dressier events. That said, only 007 can pull it off with a tux.

Field Watch

A field watch is a timepiece with tool-like knobs and gears that exude total utility. Descended from the old military timepieces soldiers use to coordinate combat, field watches continue to carry that rugged appeal from its military roots—functional and stylish at the same time.

Another similar style is the Pilot Watch, which also traces its roots back to aviation. Like its military brother, the Pilot Watch is known for being hardy and functional, but has a larger face. Still, some enthusiasts insist that the two are different enough to entertain both in their collection.

When to Wear It: Field watches are quite versatile. Its utilitarian nature means it can be worn on all kinds of adventures. It also adds a rugged yet classic touch to casual wear or even business casual outfits. That includes pretty much everything from jeans and a t-shirt, to a sports coat and khakis.

Dress Watch

The dress watch says it all in the name: it's a dressier watch for men looking to wear a timepiece for more formal events. It's much less busy than a field watch or even a dive watch, which adds to its formality. The darker the band, the more formal it is.


When to Wear It: Sport the dress watch at formal events—from cocktail formal events to black tie. You can even wear it with a sport coat and slacks, but perhaps not with a T-shirt and jeans.

Should you buy an expensive watch?

Several watch collectors tout limited-edition pieces of certain brands as a crowning jewel in their collections. While that's well and good, it's not the only right way to collect. Don't feel pressured to shell out tons of money for what most consider a coveted piece if it does not feel right for you.

To put it simply, base it on your needs. Read up and research various brands, find which one speaks to you the best, and then make your investment in a watch that provides the most bang for your buck in terms of quality and fits your own lifestyle and tastes. Once the time feels right for you, then you can upgrade and aim for a pricier watch that appeals to your own personal style. Don't purchase from a brand (especially an expensive one) just because others say so. Every watch collection is personal.

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Sam Beltran
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