Types of Watches You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Watch

Written by Paul Morrison
| Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Whatever the occasion, one can tell time is an undeniable force to reckon with. One cannot deny that accurate timekeeping is essential to accomplish any activity.

When it comes to watches, one has a unique preference. Dress over casual, automatic or mechanical, aviator over chronograph.

With so many options, there are different types of watches you can choose for your style. Let’s take a closer look.

Types of Watches

As you go through this article, you will find different types of watches having distinct styles and purposes.

With that, it is only appropriate to group these several watch types based on their classifications.

One can classify watches according to watch movement, display, and function.

Here’s the types we’ll focus on:

  • Automatic
  • Mechanical
  • Quartz
  • Analog
  • Digital
  • Touchscreen/Smartwatch
  • Pilot (Aviator)
  • Chronograph
  • Dive
  • Dress
  • Field
  • Racing

Automatic and Mechanical Watches

While mechanical and automatic watches are significantly different from one another, they share similar characteristics used to make them treat as one type of watch.

To understand this part, one must be familiar with the five components that work internally in your watch to serve its function.

You might like: Best Automatic Watches.

automatic watch

Source of energy

Like other machines, a watch needs an energy source to work. Since watches are typically small, storing energy is more complex than any other device. 

On that account, the mainspring serves as the energy reservoir. To release the stored energy, one must manipulate the mainspring that will then transfer the stored energy.

Here lies the difference between a mechanical and an automatic watch. 

  • One must tighten the mainspring of the mechanical watch by rotating the crown.
  • In automatic watches, one uses a weighted rotor that winds the mainspring enough to make it work as if it is self-winding. 

From that point, the released energy will rotate the gear train or the wheels attached to it.

So which type do you belong to?

It depends on convenience. Automatic types are obviously more convenient.

For one, if you don’t mind winding your watch here and there, a mechanical type might be better suited to you.

Mechanical types are also outdated – in a sense – but are also interesting, intricate pieces that look stunning even to date.

Gear Train or Wheels

Upon moving the mainspring, the released energy transfers to the gears that enable an increase of power reserve over time.

This feat is possible as the gears enable little unwinding mainspring motions to power the watch for long periods.


This component comes with a forked lever and a set of escaped wheels that work together to ensure that the watch works efficiently.

Moreover, the forked lever secures the gear train to prevent it from rotating out of control.

Balance Wheel or Controller

It must be noteworthy to tell that the balance wheel acts as the control center of the watch. 

The controller itself oscillates quickly. It works together with the escapement to keep time tracking at an accurate rate.

Time Indicator

Finally, a mechanical or automatic watch has three hands. Each hand indicates a different time unit: hour, minute, or second.

Based on these components, one might find an automatic watch more convenient. This insight translates to the fact that automatic watches are more widely available in the market.

You Should Get an Automatic or Mechanical Watch If…

  • You want smooth movements run by mechanical parts.
  • You find hassle with changing batteries regularly.
  • You have a considerable amount of budget.

Quartz Watch

While an automatic or mechanical watch may come in handy at all times, they tend to be inaccurate over time.

Instead of relying on mechanical movement to tell time, a quartz watch maximizes the combined powers of quartz crystal oscillation and integrated circuit.


Therefore…BETTER ACCURACY and loses fewer seconds in a day than mechanical or automatic types.

Compared to the previous types of watches, quartz watches have a relatively higher oscillation speed. With such incredible oscillation frequency, you can expect minimal errors in timekeeping.

Here’s a more concrete example:

If a mechanical/automatic watch has a marginal error of 20 seconds per day, expect HALF of this value for a month.

Yes, you read it right: a marginal error of 10 seconds per month for a quartz watch.

However, this incredible accuracy does not come with a higher cost. It is significantly cheaper than other types of watches on this list.

If you have the capacity, you can even build your quartz watch yourself. You can already make one for as low as $10.

On top of these incredible features, a quartz watch has reliable durability that can stand the test of time.

All of these features contribute to the immense popularity of quartz watch across the globe. You might not have noticed it, but you probably wore a quartz watch at one point in your life.

You Should Get a Quartz Watch If…

  • You are looking for great accuracy in timekeeping.
  • You have a relatively small budget for watches.
  • You want a light and slim layout for your watch.

Analog and Digital Watches

Another contrasting tandem of types of watches that we will compare head-to-head is analog and digital watches.

digital watch

Perhaps, you can’t already tell the difference between an analog watch and a digital watch based on their names alone. 

You’re not wrong. And mostly, between the two, it boils down to PREFERENCE:

  • Analog types sport a more classic, formal look you can pass off in a formal event.
  • Digital types are less formal, more casual, and lean more towards sports/outdoor timepieces.


But what are some of the challenges of an Analog type? To name a few:

  • People usually regard an analog watch as the original and oldest watch display type. However, its layout serves as the basis for different types of watches that emerged from then on.
  • This watch style resembles a miniature clock that has three hands pointing at any point in the display. The display often comes as circular, with each point positioned at equally distant lengths from its adjacent points. See how complicated that sounds? That’s Analog for you.

Adding to the challenge of telling time with an analog watch are the hand designs.

There seems to be no problem with the hour hand being the shortest while the second hand being long enough to touch the ticks spread around the display.

However, some people find the minute hand too short to reach the markers corresponding to the minutes part of the actual time. 

Despite this challenge, people find an analog watch a good breather away from digital screens they have been staring at almost the whole day.

You Should Get an Analog Watch If…

  • You want to stay away from digital screens.
  • You want an elegant vintage watch style.
  • You want to wear a watch that complements your attire.


Casio G-Shock Rangeman
G-Shock Rangeman GW-4000. Can be found on Amazon.

If you’re someone who never gets sick of digital screens every day, you’ll find that digital watches have several advantages over their analog counterparts:

  • A digital watch delivers what was lacking in an analog watch, from accuracy to ease of time-telling. 
  • Within a small display screen, you can get a lot of information you will find helpful beyond time. 
  • You don’t need to scratch your head worrying about where the minute hand lands on your watch. The display screen readily provides you accurate time real-time even to the seconds unit
  • Most digital watches also indicate whether your time is at AM or PM. You don’t only know the time from this type of watch, but you can also tell what day it is.

Another exciting feature you can get from digital watches is the built-in backlight activated by a push button. Who knows when you will need to track time in the dark?

You might think that digital watches will be significantly more expensive than their analog counterparts with all of these innovations.

However, it turns out that they are WAY CHEAPER than analog watches because of the wide availability of LCD nowadays.

Despite the convenience of digital watches, people can already use these features on other devices such as smartphones and smart TVs they often use longer than their watches.

You Should Get a Digital Watch If…

  • You want an accurate time-tracking device.
  • You want other information beyond time.
  • You want other helpful functions in timekeeping.

Touchscreen Watch

If you can’t get enough of the incredible features of digital watches, you might think twice as you meet touchscreen watches.

Today, these watches are essentials to an avid watch lover’s watch collection.


You can find this type of watch display in modern smartwatches that you can easily search for in today’s market. With the advent of modern technology, touchscreen watches are several steps ahead of tactile watches speaking of function and versatility.

Beyond displaying time on the screen, you can navigate the small screen icons, which look like the applications installed in a miniature smartphone. 

This feature is made possible by the built-in components in the smartwatch that enables you to manipulate the screen through various finger watch movements.

You can push, swipe, or touch the screen as you would do with your smartphones.

Unlike other watch displays, touchscreen watches have a BROAD spectrum of colors in the color panel, adding to their appeal and style.

However, the idea of having a smartphone in a confined space like a wrist watch might sound bad for many people.

Some people already have a hard time using their smartphones; what more can you expect in using a smartwatch?

For starters…

One interesting function you can do with your smartwatch is creating and sending messages similar to smartphones.

The only disadvantage is typing messages in a small space which could be tricky for the most part.

On top of these problems, you might need to search for a charging station often as a smartwatch tends to use huge chunks of its battery over a few days.

Despite these flaws, touchscreen watches have become a trend for the general public in recent times. There is no doubt that people cannot resist its stylish look and design.

You Should Get a Touchscreen Watch If…

  • You love colorful displays on your watch.
  • You want to customize your watch display design and layout.
  • You want several functions available at your fingertips.

Aviator Watch (Pilot Watch)

One can trace the origins of pilot watches back to 1904, with a prototype invented by Louis Cartier for his aviator friend. At first, you might not see the features of modern aviator watches in his invention.

Bulova Lunar Pilot 96B251
Can be found on Amazon.

The square watch comes with illegible Roman Numerals and lacks chronographs for additional functions.

However, this watch became the starting point for developing modern pilot watches, heavily influenced by the military during the World Wars.

Why do you need an Aviator watch in the first place?


Imagine driving a plane.

You need to check the time regularly for tracking the flight duration towards your destination.

Do you think a regular wristwatch could give you the information you need? NO.

And that’s only scratching the surface of what pilot watches can do.

Recognizing the limitations of the wrist watches available back then, military institutions asked manufacturers to come up with a larger-sized watch that’s both easy to read and accurate

This watch would then become essential in a pilot’s kit as it includes large crowns and fluted bezels easily manipulated by glove-worn hands inside the cramped cockpit area.

Since aviators need to focus their sight on their flight path most of the time, an ideal watch would be easy to read. 

Looking at one type of aviator watch, you can see the intricate inner and outer ring layouts in the watch display.

In short, aviator types are useful because:

  • They provide precise timekeeping – vital when flying a plane
  • Durable ruggedness to keep it sturdy against air pressure
  • Clearer dial markings and a larger frame for easier readability
  • Useful in calculating fuel burn, time elapsed, distance traveled, etc.
  • Pilot watches also include a chronograph for supporting functions that help pilots track time accurately and easily.

If you find this type of watch interesting enough, you might need to buy yourself a flight suit that best complements the watch.

You Should Get an Aviator/Pilot Watch If…

  • You are often navigating and flying to different time zones.
  • You want an accurate and easy time-telling.
  • You want a stylish wristwatch design.

Chronograph Watch

While most watches cannot go beyond telling time or date at most, this watch type makes your watch experience a bit interesting…and slightly overwhelming at first.

Aside from tracking time, one may use the chronograph function of chronographs for timing activities.

Seiko Chronograph Alarm SNAF09
Can be found on Amazon.

What do we mean by that?

In other words, chronograph watches are stopwatches strapped to your wrist that come with fine-looking and complicated subdials on display.

In simpler terms, chronograph types are almost like stopwatches on steroids. Including more functions.

Check out the best chronograph watches un $500.

Just look at all that chronographs offer:

  • Measures heart rate, calculate average speed, and track two events at once.
  • A 2-in-1 watch that functions as telling time and a stopwatch.
  • Shows high-quality craftsmanship that looks impressive, bold, and downright classy.
  • Iconic timepieces that famous actors and athletes have worn.

Other complicated functions include:

  • A cam-actuated or column-wheel pusher as well as the flyback-supported second hand. The latter improves the accuracy of recording time as it removes the need to stop the chronograph when resetting the second hand.
  • You can also tell the durations of two different activities that began simultaneously but ended at different periods. This feature is possible with the split-second function incorporated in the chronograph watch.

Based on the descriptions of chronographs, you might guess you would find this component in your digital watches. You’re right in thinking that way, as most digital watches have a stopwatch function.

Some watches also include a tachymeter or telemeter scale that gives essential information to users.

If you like all the attributes you learned about chronograph watches, prepare a large budget whenever you decided to get yourself one.


It’s fair to say these are well worth the price.

On average, chronograph watches such as Tag Heuer are more expensive than typical watches available in the market.

You Should Get a Chronograph Watch If…

  • You want a stopwatch function incorporated into your watch.
  • You want a classy-looking watch display bombarded by stylish subdials, as seen in some Tag Heuer models.
  • You’re looking for iconic timepieces to wear that are both stylish and head-turning.
  • You want additional functions of tachymeters and telemeter scales.

Dive Watch

Now, you might be wondering if you can accurately tell time under the sea? Well, humans are brilliant enough to come up with dive watches best suited for individuals engaging in aquatic activities.

Mens Seiko Prospex Diver Padi Special Edition Automatic Watch SRPA21K1
Can be found on Amazon.

That includes surfing, kiteboarding, parasailing, windsurfing, and so on.

Even divers who do not recognize themselves as watch enthusiasts find diving watches A MUST in their diving explorations.

Manufacturers came up with diving watches highlighting practicality and ease of use with their big hands and legible readers.

In 1926, the premier dive watch came into life in a form that would accompany divers and swimmers throughout their whole aquatic adventure.

But What Makes Diving Types Stand Out?

Unlike pilot watches typically worn inside an airplane or other aerial vehicles, diving watches are subjected to moisture, rain, and water pressure.

With that, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides standards for dive watches to ensure their usability and reliability.

One of these standards is the unidirectional rotating bezel used to TRACK the duration of diving. It only comes as a bonus if the bezel itself is attractive and can look like what you see in a sports watch.

Let’s look at the other unique features of a dive watch:

  • Since it’s difficult to see underwater, a dive watch must have clear and legible minute markings for accurate time-telling. 
  • As you go further into greater water depths, it becomes darker as sunlight cannot penetrate through the deeper zones. Therefore, it is also helpful for the watch to be visible enough at 25 cm. in total darkness. This means the hand or markers must be luminous enough to be seen underwater.
  • To assist divers for an easier time-telling, some brands put watch lumes above the hands and markers that work best against a dark background.
  • Another important feature worth considering is the overall resistance of these types of watches against chemical, shock, and magnetic forces present underwater. Incorporating these reinforcements make dive watches MORE EXPENSIVE and HEAVIER than other types of watches.
  • Also, the watch straps must be sturdy enough to not drop off in the deep without the diver’s knowledge. Some brands also offer additional protection for other essential components of the dive watch.

Different types of watches underwater have rubber seals to cover the tiny crown pores susceptible to water ingress during diving.

Other brands integrate a screw-down crown to ensure complete water resistance.

Perhaps, the most important standard for these types of watches is the depth rating. The ISO recommended a minimum depth rating value of 100 m.

To achieve maximum resistance against high water pressure, brands ensure their products come with robust and firm construction.

However, all these outstanding features come at a significantly high cost. Well, it’s safe to say that it’s worth every penny.

You Should Get a Diving Watch If…

  • You want a waterproof watch perfect for aquatic activities.
  • You want a sturdy watch construction designed for various types of resistances.
  • You want a versatile look for a watch face that suits casual to semi-formal gatherings.

Dress Watch

Previously, you encountered different types of watches that serve various functions depending on the circumstances.

Often, these different types of watches highlight SPECIFIC functions and capabilities.

And then there’s…The dress watch.

Seiko Recraft SNKP27
Can be found on Amazon.

You might like: Best Dress Watch Under $500.

The result is a pure, polished, and classic watch almost always mistaken for a luxury watch. Hold on for 1 second; you don’t need to be too fancy to have a dress watch.

With its clean look deprived of busy subdials, you often notice people wearing them to match their formal attires during business or other high-end occasions.

Dress watches often come with leather straps, silver casing, and design-free dials. As you might notice, there are no additional details and components you will see in dress watches to keep it neat and refined.

So don’t expect to see a chronograph on display or large bezels on the watch sides.

As you would be wearing it to complement your formal suit, you must search for a slim watch that can slip easily under your shirt cuffs without being noticed from afar. 

For a vintage look, dress watches often incorporate analog displays without the need for various subdials.

If you can afford to spend a considerable amount of budget on your watch, you may do so.

Pick precious metals over steel for your watch layout; however, be cautious to avoid scratching the watch, which is not a good sight.

You Should Get a Dress Watch If…

  • You want to complete your complete set of formal attire for special occasions.
  • You want an elegant and timeless wristwatch.
  • You want a simple yet neat watch design.

Field Watch (Military Watch)

Talking about field or military watches is challenging given there is no clear definition of these types of watches. Over time, people come up with various descriptions of a military or field watches.

Before even wristwatches became the trend, army men already saw the potential of the different types of watches worn on the wrist.

This realization emerged when people almost always patronize different types of pocket watches centuries ago.

As the army members must synchronize every movement, a wristwatch became part of a soldier’s essentials in the battlefields during the past World Wars. Since then, field watches became the basis for other types of watches developed up to today.

Provided that a military watch plays a critical function, expect a straightforward watch that tells time legibly and accurately without the need for unnecessary accessories. With that, a field watch has its dial designed for easier time reading.

Preferably, field watches must have a heavy-duty battery for long-term use.

Crafted for soldiers who fight in rough and harsh environments, a military watch’s utmost priority is resiliency against extreme conditions. Therefore, do not expect to find field watches with highly polished surfaces.

Typically, these types of watches have little to no polishing. Some brands even opt to use rubber casings to reinforce the durability of their products.

You don’t need to wage your life in battles to have the perfect field watch based on your budget and style. The best time to wear your field watch is during camping or wild expeditions.

You Should Get a Field Watch If…

  • You want a durable and heavy-duty watch.
  • You are into outdoor adventures.
  • You want a relatively light wristwatch that is easy to wear.

Racing Watches

Racing fanatics must be familiar with Tag Heuer, which has the top racing watches available in today’s markets. These timepieces work as swift and smooth as racing cars on the track.

Racing watches provide the pertinent information a driver needs during a racing tournament. They often have a tachymeter that readily converts speed into time and vice versa as an inclusion.

Adding to their overall charm and function is a chronograph that racers find attractive and helpful at the same time.

If you enjoy being everyone’s center of attention or don’t mind the spotlight, racing watches might be the missing piece you are looking for.

You Should Get a Racing Watch If…

  • You want a real-time conversion of speed to time and vice versa.
  • You want to grab other people’s attention.
  • You are into racing.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoyed going through a considerably long list of types of watches, you might find other types not included in this article.

With all these watches you encountered in this article, it is up to your decision which type best suits your needs and interests.

About Paul Morrison

For years I’ve been buying and selling watches as a hobby, which led me to the decision of starting Watch for Tomorrow. I write a lot of the content, and I enjoy doing it. The most important aspect for me is the guidance of buying watches as well as avoiding bad ones. There are many bad watches out there, that are just too expensive. Hopefully, I can help you find your dream watch!