Before You Buy
Know the Difference Between Quartz, Mechanical, and Automatic: This is some real Watch Buying 101 stuff, and the reason why two watches that look similar may have wildly different price tags. The thing that powers a watch, its engine, is called a movement (or a calibre) and there are three main types of movement: quartz, mechanical, and automatic. A quartz movement uses a battery as its main power source, while a mechanical movement springs into action after the wearer winds the watch by hand, and an automatic movement relies on the motion of the wearer's wrist to wind it.
Quartz timepieces are way more accurate, but collectors love automatic and mechanical watches because they're tiny feats of engineering (with price tags to match). Plus, automatic second hands sort of swoop along a watch's face, while quartz second hands tick in jerky motions. All things to consider!
Do the Shake Test: Your watch should fit snugly without digging into your wrist—if it slides around when you shake your arm, it's too loose. A jeweler can easily remove links on bracelet-style watches, while leather repair shops can often punch extra holes in a buckle strap.
Check the Details: If you're looking for a wear-forever watch on a budget, simpler is better. Added functions (calendars! chronographs! multiple time zones!) often mean more things that can break. To keep your watch out of the shop, stick to the time and date.
Find Your Size: Guys, begin your search with medium faces between 38 and 42 millimeters in diameter—anything bigger starts to veer into statement watch territory, unless you're super-tall. Ladies, traditional women's watches are typically under 34 millimeters, but, thanks to the popularity of both menswear-style watches and smaller, retro cocktail timepieces, you really have free reign here.
For the Guys
$100 and Under
Behold: an understated, slightly rugged watch with brushed metal casing and a leather strap for less than a Benjamin.
Mesh is slightly more unexpected than traditional stainless steel links.
If half your wardrobe is from COS and you love Apple packaging a possibly unhealthy amount, extend those minimalist vibes to your timepiece.
If you want a watch with a leather band but can't decide between black and brown, choose neither! A navy band will add a little surprise to your look.
This guy is water-resistant, has a built-in GPS for those morning runs, and comes with a heart rate sensor and accelerometer.
For the Girls
At 40 millimeters, this streamlined mesh watch will give you that borrowed-from-the-boys look. Or you could actually borrow from the boys, because—guys, are you still with us?—Larsson and Jennings also has some fantastic men's watches.
On the other side of the size spectrum we have the delicate evening watch. New Shinola offshoot Gomelsky specializes in retro-inspired timepieces, like this diamond-studded lapis style.
Of course, if you're willing to spend close to a grand on a watch, you could go with something tried-and-true, like a Cartier tank. The simpler styles (stainless steel, not gold) start at about $700 on eBay.
Yes, you can set your rose gold laptop in a beam of light on a marble counter, strap on this watch, and stage the perfect Instagram now, but the style is streamlined enough that it won't feel overly 2016 in a few years.
This lightweight style stands out just enough, with its copper face and olive green band