How To Identify if a Watch is High Quality

The Price

The inherent value of the watch often differs from the advertised price, so you want to make sure you’re paying for what you’ll actually get. There is a high tendency for people to pay for the name of the brand more so than the watch; and although the name provides value artificially, it is lacking in the physical aspect of value.

The final retail price of the watch you find on a shelf will oftentimes be entirely disconnected from the cost of making the watch, due to markup. At the $200-$250 price range, many fashion watches can cost as low as $12 to produce because of the poor quality of materials that are used. Comparatively, there are many other high quality watches at the same price with much more luxury standard components included. You just need to know what precisely to look for.

Regarding the actual determined retail price of the watch, there are a number of factors that are consulted. First and foremost, the cost of labour and materials required to produce the watch. Afterwards, middlemen will add on their own prices depending on the distributors and retailers. And finally, the brand positioning will often play a huge factor in determining the final retail price. Luxury brands result in luxury prices – except a high price does not always mean high quality.


That mysterious ticking noise in your watch is its engine, which powers the functions of your watch. So if you have a calendar or chronograph, that’s where the engine comes in. Good movements will keep time reliable, whereas a bad one will not. If your watch loses time every day, then its tick speeds are inconsistent and definitely does not have a good engine inside.

Automatic and quartz movements alike can both be good, although there are some movement makers that have higher reputations than others. I.e. the Japanese, Swiss and German movement makers. To find out the quality of the engine of the watch, it’s best to find out the manufacturer for the particular model, and do your own research to work out their reliability.


Perhaps the easiest way to tell if the watch is high quality is to get one with a leather band. If the leather retains its top layer, which is the most durable part of the hide, then it is ‘full grain’. Full grain leather is the highest quality of leather, and you’ll find this in the top luxury brands of watches. A lesser quality of leather would be ‘top grain’, which has some imperfections as it does not have its top layer, also losing it some of the durability.

‘Genuine leather’ is actually something you’ll want to avoid. This is an industry term that refers to the layers of the hide that are left over after the top part of the hide is split off. This leather won’t hold its shape very well, isn’t very durable at all, and the fibers are tragically loose. ‘Genuine leather’ is genuinely terrible and will likely rip or disintegrate due to its low quality. If the watchmaker cheaps out on the leather, then the rest of the watch will often follow suit.


The transparent covering over the face of the watch is actually a crystal, and most watches nowadays will use a crystal made of mineral, or sapphire. The former of which is pretty cheap, so you’ll find mineral crystals in the lower end of watches. If you’ve dropped your watch, or scratched it a little too hard, then you may find some scratches on the face of the watch which are unfortunately permanent. That’s how you know it’s a mineral crystal.

On the other hand, sapphire crystals are scratch resistant and highly durable, thus they are more expensive for watch manufacturers. In the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, sapphire crystals rank 9 out of 10, so you won’t have to worry about marking your watch the wrong way. Luxury brands will use luxury materials and get you your money’s worth in build quality as well as brand quality, and set the gold standard for watches today.

The Finer Details

Some manufacturers who are trying to save costs when making a watch will cut some corners in the watchmaking process. A few examples are:

  • An uneven brushing on the watch finish.
  • The glass and the dial may have plastic spacers.
  • Lightweight, or more so than expected, meaning that some more costly and luxury materials have been left out and replaced with lesser quality materials.

Watch Storage

When you truly are passionate about your watches and invest in expensive items you really need to take care of them to make them last a lifetime. Safety is one part to consider if you are a serious investor in high end brands. But storage is another important part. Always store your watches separately, or with dividers so you avoid making marks or erosions from other kinds of metals. IFL watches have a lot of options that you can choose from. And never forget to ask experts if you’re in any doubt about how to best take care of your watches. 




Photo of author


Faisal is the cofounder and automotive photographer at Unfinished Man. He provides insider perspectives on the latest rides through his acclaimed photography. Faisal also serves as the site's watch expert, staying on the pulse of emerging timepieces. His seasoned eye for men's lifestyle products makes him an authoritative voice.

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