Buying Your First Mechanical Watch

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How I did it.

Seiko SARB033

Here’s a confession: until three months back, I didn’t own a mechanical watch. That’s right, my dark little secret is now out in the open.

In my day job, I espouse the merits of mechanical watches, flood you with a gamut of reviews and reasons why you should get one. Yet, strapped to my wrist all this time, was a quartz watch. Swiss-made, of course, but nevertheless still quartz.

Now, there are reasons for that. The watch is incredibly accurate, looks good on my small wrist and, above all, has sentimental value. In fact, that last point is probably one of the most important, whether you’re team quartz or team mechanical. When all's said and done, emotions are what connect us with our timepieces.

To be fair, I am just as fond of mechanical watches and will never cease to be amazed by the complexities involved in fitting hundreds of parts in limited real estate to deliver the time (and other complications) seamlessly.

So last year, after some cajoling from enthusiastic friends who learned I was headed to Tokyo, I decided to look into buying a JDM Seiko, no doubt convinced by the video we had just produced on the subject.

As it turned out, I ended up getting a Seiko SARB033, which wasn’t something I’d been looking for in particular, but am really pleased with. If you’re thinking of buying your first mechanical watch too, here are some points to ponder over:

Budget
This is the first and most important factor to consider. A watch should be something you enjoy, not something you have to fork out a kidney for. Don't be envious of wealthier peers because, unlike what some over-enthusiastic collectors are wont to suggest, it’s perfectly okay to have a small budget.

I knew I didn’t want to spend too much (believe it or not, writers don’t get paid a lot) and kept my budget to under S$500. That said, if you have deeper pockets, your options increase proportionately. So know what’s available in your price range and focus your search there - you'd be surprised at what you can find.

Aesthetics
Seiko SARB033
Price aside, surely appearance would be the next most crucial point. The Seiko SARB033 caught my eye pretty quickly because it had three things I’ve always been drawn to: dauphine hands, baton indexes and a minimalist dial.

Some Seiko aficionados call this a ‘baby Grand Seiko’ for its close resemblance to its more luxurious brother. It’s even been mistaken for a Tudor and a Rolex on separate occasions—testament to the clean aesthetics of all these brands.

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the lume on the indexes and hands, which I thought nudged the timepiece from dress watch to tool watch category. But all things considered, this was a minor minus I was willing to live with.

If this is going to be your first 'serious' watch, you might want to consider its aesthetic versatility, especially if the watch is going to be an everyday accompaniment. Picking something that is straightforward and fuss-free will ensure you don't have to worry about matching your outfit to your watch. Of course, if you're a more outgoing person who prefers a little attitude in your watch, feel free to venture there. The point is to ensure your watch's aesthetics suit your lifestyle, not the other way round.

Bonus tip: Swap your bracelet for a leather strap to switch up the look of your watch. See our range of handmade straps here!

Movement
Seiko SARB033 Calibre 6R15
To be honest, I had my eye on another Seiko model that had a beautiful guilloche dial. But that version came with a 4R35 movement, as opposed to the SARB033's 6R15 movement. The former is mainly used in Seiko's entry-level watches and is a pretty basic movement with a deviation of -25/+35 seconds per day, as opposed to the 6R15's -15/+25.

The 6R15 movement has a hacking seconds function, which stops the seconds hand when the crown is pulled out, enabling you to set the time more accurately. It also comes with 50 hours of power reserve (in comparison, the 4R35 has 40 hours), just enough so I can wear it every other day without having to adjust the time, and beats at a slightly slower pace of 21,600vph. The lower beat rate means less strain on the movement, which translates to longer service intervals.

As you do your research, look up different movements and what they are equipped with so you can make an informed decision on what works best for you.

Hopefully this has been of some help to those of you looking to make your first mechanical watch purchase. Let us know how it goes and don’t forget to tag #crownwatchblog on your Instagram wrist shot. We’d love to congratulate you on your new watch!

Melissa Kong

Managing Editor

Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".