You might find it overwhelming to see how many different types of watches there are, especially if you don’t know the first thing about them. They all differ from one another based on style, display, movement, power source, and much more.
So how exactly are you supposed to figure out which watches would best suit you, your friends, or family? Well, by reading this watch guide, of course! So strap in, and get ready to learn everything there is about choosing the perfect timepiece.
But First… Why Do You Need to Know About Different Types of Watches?
While reading this guide, some of you might be thinking Well, why do I even need to know which watches exist? I’ll just get whatever I like, it doesn’t matter to me. And sure, that’s one way to look at it. But you have to understand that, to a trained eye, a watch can say so much about a person.
With just that one simple accessory, you can make a statement about who you are, what you do, and what matters to you. Also, if you’re buying a watch as a present for someone, you need to understand what kinds there are so that you can make an informed decision.
For example, you wouldn’t give the same watch to a diver and a doctor, because their lifestyles and needs are different. Also, giving your teenager the same watch you’d give to your parents is a big no-no. So once and for all, let’s settle the debate, and see what different types of watches exist out there.
Out of all the different types of watches in the world, casual ones are the most widespread, and most accessible type. They aren’t designed to be flashy, elegant, or stand out from the crowd in any way. Instead, you could wear casual watches on a day-to-day basis, when you’re not all dressed up.
Since they’re so widespread, they’re usually the cheapest watches out there. Furthermore, a casual watch makes for a great gift, especially if you don’t know much about someone’s style. They can be both digital and analog and come in all sorts of different colors, and with various bands.
Dress watches are definitely a step up from the casual ones in terms of style. They’re usually standout pieces and what you’d wear when you want to make an impression. Dress watches usually have a band that’s slim enough to fit under a sleeve of a suit.
Often, dress watches lean on the side of simplistic, and have only two hands: the hour and minute one. Most dress watches are perfect for business meetings, and you could wear them around the office. With that said, they’d make excellent gifts for CEOs, lawyers, businesspeople, etc.
The one thing that fashion and dress watches have in common is that they’re statement pieces. But that’s where all similarities end. Unlike dress watches, fashion watches are usually pretty intricate, ostentatious, and feature a noticeable logo of the designer or manufacturer.
Most often, famous high-end fashion companies design these watches but don’t make them in-house. Instead, they collaborate with famous watchmakers from around the world to make a timepiece that’ll stand out.
Fashion houses like Calvin Klein, Hermès, Michael Kors, and many others have come out with their own fashion watches that have become quite popular.
Most of the time, when people talk about incredibly expensive, high-end watches, they refer to luxurious watches. These showpieces are usually made by industry leaders and watch companies that have been in the business for years. In fact, luxury watches are often made in-house and produced as limited series.
Now, unlike fashion watches, luxury pieces don’t have to be big, flashy, or have a lot of jewels on them. Instead, their value lies in cutting edge technology, high-end movements, and stellar materials.
If you want to get yourself or someone you love a luxury watch, be prepared to spend the big bucks. Luxury watches can run anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars, all the way to millions.
Sport watches definitely take functionality over form, and they’re built to be durable. In the beginning, sports watches were always digital and had rubber bands that would help repel sweat. However, they’ve come a long way since then, and now have a ton of features and band options.
For example, most sports watches nowadays feature a stopwatch, a timer, and sometimes even a compass. What’s more, sports watches can come in a ton of different subtypes, and it’s up to you to figure out which features are important to you. You can buy these watches specifically for running, biking, diving, hiking, and so much more.
Steampunk watches are often ornamental and usually have a pretty retro design to them. You can get them as mechanical or quartz watches, and with various types of bands. It’s not uncommon to find steampunk watches with either leather or metal finishes, and some are even waterproof.
But if you find that wearing a steampunk wristwatch is a bit too much for you, you can always opt for a pocket watch. You can choose whether you want one with Roman or Arabic numerals, and with brass, steel, or gold finishes.
Obviously, these steampunk watches won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if someone’s really into the style, such a watch could make for an incredible gift.
We couldn’t talk about all the different types of watches without mentioning the vintage ones, since these tend to be collectors’ items. Vintage watches can come in a number of different styles, including dress, luxury, and fashion. Even though they might vary in appearance, they all have one thing in common — a hefty price tag.
Based on price and availability, vintage watches definitely aren’t for everyone. But if you or someone you know are into collecting watches, a high-quality vintage watch would be the perfect addition to any collection.
Analog watches are probably the most widespread type of display you can find. These are the same displays you had on your clock at home and school. Analog watches are also what most of us grew up with and how we learned to tell time. They can have two or three watch hands to show hours, minutes, and seconds.
Of course, analog displays can come in a wide variety of styles, including dress, fashion, and luxury. But you won’t often find them on sports watches because analog displays don’t support fancy features, such as a stopwatch or calorie counter.
On the other hand, digital watches don’t have any watch hands but use LCD screens to show you what time it is. They are often powered by rechargeable batteries inside, and come with a bunch of different features. Digital displays also have the option to light up the screen, so you can tell time even when it’s dark outside.
With that said, most watches with digital displays aren’t as formal or as dressy as the ones with analog displays. Since most of them come with silicone or rubber bands, they’re not something you’d wear to a meeting or a dinner with the boss. But if you’re active and usually dress informally, digital displays are the way to go.
If you want to have the best from both worlds, you should get a hybrid watch. It combines the sleek display of an analog with the functionality of a digital one. Even though hybrid watches all feature watch hands, they’ll also show you what time it is on the LCD screen. Often, you’ll also be able to see the date, as well as take advantage of some more basic features.
Hybrid watches would be an awesome gift for someone who likes to dress up but still leads a pretty active life. Their unique design allows you to wear them both to the office and on a hike.
Usually, every watch that you can connect your phone to will have a bunch of different features. For example, it can have a messaging app, GPS, music, and many other things on it. Obviously, watchmakers couldn’t fit a button for each feature of the watch, so they turned to touchscreen displays.
One cool thing about most touchscreen displays is that you can change watch faces. So if you’re in the mood for an analog look, find a theme that has watch hands. But if you find digital displays cooler, you can always substitute it. Basically, you decide what the display looks like.
12. Tactile or Braille
Tactile or Braille watches help those who are visually impaired tell time. They can be both digital and analog, and often have a glass or plastic cover over the display to protect the inner parts from collecting dust. Nowadays, some newer tactile watches even have ball bearings that help with the overall functionality and design.
13. Automatic Self-Wind
Automatic self-winding watches are pretty spectacular when you think about them. They don’t require a battery or electricity source to work, and you don’t actually have to wind them. In fact, just by wearing the watch on your wrist, and moving your hand like you normally would, you’ll be winding and powering the watch.
So as long as you wear it on a regular basis, the self-winding watch will work (almost) perfectly.
But if you can’t or don’t want to wear the self-winding watch, and you just want to display it somewhere, you have to put it in a watch winder. With that said, an automatic self-winding watch is not something that you can buy on a whim (you can, but you really shouldn’t). These timepieces are almost always extremely well-crafted and considered to be pretty luxurious.
14. Mechanical Hand-Wind
Albeit pretty awesome, self-winding watches really aren’t for everyone because they require you to wear them all the time. A great alternative to them are hand-winding watches.
As the name implies, you have to wind them manually. Depending on the brand, and the different features, they usually have to be wound once a day.
While that sounds like a hassle to some, people who love hand-winding watches enjoy interacting with them on a regular basis. Again, these watches are usually pretty luxurious and made with only the best gears, springs, and cases. So if you want to add a hand-winding watch to your collection, be prepared to spend a couple of thousand dollars on it.
Out of all the different types of watches on the market right now, chronometers have to be the most accurate ones. If you work in an industry that requires you to be extremely accurate with time (we’re talking split seconds), you should go for a chronometer watch.
These are essentially high-precision automatic watches that have been thoroughly tested by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). The COSC tests chronometers for 16 days straight, putting them in all sorts of different positions and temperatures.
Then, if the COSC approves the watch, it can be called a chronometer. You can tell that because it’ll have the word inscribed on the dial. A great example of a high-end chronometer is the entire Rolex Oyster series.
Of course, not all watchmakers want to go through the hassle of testing their watches with the COSC. Some companies do their own in-house testing that’s similar to what the COSC does.
16. Spring Drive
Similar to kinetic watches, spring drive models combine the mechanism of automatic self-winding watches with the accuracy of quartz ones to create something incredible. Even though they feature the same technology as kinetic watches, spring drive timepieces are much more precise.
Back in 2005, Seiko, a Japanese watchmaking company, came up with the concept of the spring drive. To take in one step further from kinetic, Seiko added a tri-synchro regulator to ensure accuracy.
Another cool thing about spring watches is that they all have a sweeping second hand. So they don’t actually tick like regular automatic watches — they continuously turn in the same direction.
If you’re building a collection and want to have as many different types of watches as possible, you definitely need one with a spring drive. Of course, the cutting-edge technology of a spring drive comes at a cost.
Most modern smartwatches have lithium-ion batteries, like the ones you’d find in most phones. That’s because those batteries can hold a pretty solid charge over a few days. Not only that, but they can also support all of the “power-hungry” apps and features that most smartwatches have now.
These batteries are, of course, rechargeable, but the charge itself will depend on how you use the watch. With that said, they’re usually not nearly as long-lasting as solar or quartz watches.
Quartz mechanisms are probably the most widespread and you’ll find them in a bunch of different types of watches. Essentially, they’re these little crystals that vibrate at an almost perfect frequency once you run an electrical current through them.
They’re simpler and lighter than mechanical watches but still extremely precise. Countless high-end watchmakers and fashion houses produce quartz watches because they’re so precise.
Of course, all of that precision does come with a pretty hefty price tag. So if you want to buy a quartz watch from Cartier, for example, be prepared to smash your piggy bank.
We can’t talk about all the different types of watches without mentioning solar ones, which allow you to go off the grid. They collect the energy that they need from the sun or strong artificial light sources. Using the photovoltaic cells inside the display, solar watches can capture solar energy and turn it into power.
But the coolest thing about solar watches is that batteries in some of them can last up to six months on a single charge. They can come in a wide variety of different styles, with various displays. If you live in a somewhat sunny state, buying a solar watch is definitely a good investment.
Kinetic watches are a truly awesome combination of quartz and automatic mechanical watches. They’re just as precise as quartz watches, but don’t have a battery that you need to replace every so often.
Instead, just like automatic watches, kinetic ones have weighted rotors inside. By virtue of an internal dynamo, they can turn rotor movement into electricity. Then, that electricity is stored in a power cell that can have a reserve of up to six months.
In simplest terms, you have to wear the watch to get it to work. Kinetic watches are by no means a novelty, and they could make a great present for someone who leads an active lifestyle and wants a timepiece that can keep up with that.
Diving watches are another great example of all the different types of watches out there as they allow you to safely explore deep blue waters. Diving or diver watches, as they’re also called, are waterproof enough to allow you to dive a couple of hundred feet without breaking. They can also withstand more pressure than regular watches.
Many people seem to think that diving watches have to be bulky or sporty to work, but that’s not true. Nowadays, you can easily find diving watches that look formal and luxurious. You could go straight from the ocean into a business meeting, and no one would be the wiser.
Among the many different types of watches, you’ll also find tactical watches that have a unique set of features that could greatly benefit those who are in the military. Some of the features include a barometer, thermometer, compass, and alarm. Also, to ensure that they’ll last a long time, most tactical watches are shock-proof, waterproof, and scratch-proof.
Tactical watches also have extremely durable cases and bands that can survive any environment or activity. It goes without saying, but all of those features and materials cost a lot.
Fortunately, the market is pretty wide, so if you’re working on a tight budget, you can get a military watch that’s around $50. But if you want to go all-in and splurge a bit, you’re looking at prices over a thousand dollars.
Let’s just put this out there — you don’t have to be an actual pilot to wear a pilot watch. But these watches do have some pretty amazing features that could be really helpful for people who fly for a living. For example, most pilot watches have chronographers, alarms, a GMT hand to show an additional time zone, and GPS.
One thing that all pilot watches have in common is clear and legible displays. While you’re flying high, you don’t want to use a magnifying glass just to tell time. But be warned — pilot watches can and do run pretty expensive. Usually, for a higher-end pilot watch, you can expect to pay a couple of thousand dollars.
As you can imagine, nurses and doctors are always on the go, rushing to treat patients and save lives. That’s exactly why they need watches that are not only durable, but also comfortable, and that could be worn all day. Fortunately, there’s a line of nurse watches nowadays that provides exactly that.
One of the absolute best nurse watches out there is the Speidel Original Scrub Watch. It has increment indicators that help medical professionals when they’re reading pulses. Buying a watch like the Speidel for the nurse or doctor in your life is a great way to show them how much you care. It’s also a pretty cool way of showing off your knowledge of the different types of watches.
How are we supposed to write about all the different types of watches and not mention pocket watches, the ultimate timepieces? Pocket watches don’t need much introduction since pretty much everyone knows what they are, but let’s give one just for the hell of it. They represent a specific type of watches that don’t go on the wrist or the wall, but rather in your pocket.
Pocket watches are collectible, but not nearly as much as wristwatches because they’re not just that popular anymore. With that said, there are some beautiful antique pieces that still hold their value over time.
With skeleton watches, you actually get to see the inner workings of a wristwatch. These have see-through dials so that you can have a clear view of all the gears, nuts, and bolts that a watch has. Skeleton watches could be great gifts for people who love to see the technical side of things.
But a word of warning here — they are definitely an acquired taste. Skeleton watches are not everyone’s cup of tea, partly because they aren’t as readable as some other types, and they take some getting used to. With that said, they tend to have all the same features as your average analog watches, and they can have countless different bands.
It’s only natural that among the countless different types of watches, you’ll find some (arguably) weirder ones here and there. And wooden watches definitely fall into the category of quirky, but fun.
Wood watches come in many different forms, with various details and finishes. Some wood watches only have a display made out of wood, while the other parts are a combination of steel or leather.
You also have wood watches that are entirely made out of wood (band included) that have a completely surreal look and feel. Again, they’re definitely an acquired taste, and not something you see on the street every day. But if you love the style, you can find wood watches with all sorts of price tags, and from many companies.
Speaking of weird, if you’ve never heard of transparent watches, you’ve seriously been missing out. Most transparent watches have completely clear bands, displays, and bezels, and only the dials or gears come in a bit of color. Since the display is see-through, some of them can resemble skeleton watches, but don’t necessarily have to.
Also, most transparent watches have analog displays that provide a sense of true clarity. But there are a couple of different ones that have a digital display, like the Casio G-Shock Glacier Gold. Even though transparent watches are somewhat of a novelty, they still look pretty cool, and they’ll never clash with any outfit.
We also wanted to mention luminous watches on our list of the different types of watches because they are extremely helpful for telling time after dark. Of course, just like with the wood watch, usually, it’s not the entire watch that’s luminous, only a few parts. Most often, you’ll see that either the dials or display light up.
Luminous watches are probably the best option for anyone who works in an environment with low or no lights, or who often works in the dark. Some watches, like the Seiko SRPB55, can stay fully lit up for up to five hours after being exposed to the sun for only ten minutes.
Those were all of the different types of watches you can find on the market right now. Hopefully, you can now see that the world of watches isn’t tricky to navigate once you learn a couple of terms. So go on, share your knowledge of watches with others, and start your collection sooner rather than later.