A friend called from the watch counter at Macy’s recently, slightly panicked by the sea of options encased in front of him. Buying a watch is not like picking out toothpaste at the drugstore, I told him. You’ve got plenty of choices, but you can’t go in unprepared. After all, a good wristwatch could be the biggest purchase worn below the elbow that you’ll ever make until (or since) you spring for an engagement ring. As such, selection should be undertaken with the utmost care.
To help you avoid my friend’s timepiece-induced tremors, below is a handy field guide to finding the right watch for you:
1. Do your research.
Log on to any decent department store’s website (I like Bloomingdale’s for virtual window shopping) and browse their watch section. Look at both the “fashion” category (read: less expensive) and designer options. Do you like a gold or silver link? Military or tank style? Leather band or plastic? Whatever you can do to narrow your search before you get to the counter, the better. It’s like looking for a new place – you need parameters to keep you from looking forever. If you’ve decided you can’t deal with more than a two-minute walk from the subway, for instance, you won’t even look at a place that’s a ten-minute trek.
2. Determine a price point
You’d expect this step to come before doing your research, but I think it’s important to see what’s out there, and get a better idea of what things cost before you set your price point. You may initially think, “There’s no way I’ll go above $200,” but then you spot a watch that you see yourself passing down to your grandchildren, and you’ll miraculously find another $300 in your budget. A watch can be a season’s fashion statement, or a lifetime investment. Once you’ve done some browsing, determine which side this purchase will fall.
3. Find the right store for you.
A department store is usually the best place to go shopping for a timepiece. Think about the styles and brands you’ve liked, and the price point you’ve landed on, and make a decision from there. Maybe Macys will satisfy your watch-buying needs, or maybe you’ll need to upgrade to a Saks or specialized store like Tourneau.
4. Do a wrist check.
You’ll be wearing this everyday, so you want the right person helping you. Personally, parting with any amount over fifty dollars makes me break out in hives, so a trusted partner in your purchase is essential to your peace of mind. If the salesman is sporting a Swatch from sixth grade, steer clear. A good salesperson will be able to tell you all the stuff your research didn’t – how long the battery will last, what to clean it with, and which brands have a history of breaking two days after their warranties expire.
5. Buy with confidence.
Ultimately, this thing is going on your wrist, so hold out til you find the right watch for you. You may not find something you like – or even better, love – on your first trip. Maybe your team lost before you left the house, and you couldn’t find a parking space at the mall, and your girlfriend was rushing you because she wanted to look at shoes. Whatever the reason, keep your credit card in your wallet til the time (ha) is right. That might mean store hopping, or coming back another day.
That way, when the salesperson asks, “So you want this one?,” you feel good about saying, “I do.”