I have been reviewing watches since 2013. Hundreds upon hundreds have passed through my hands and I’ve done my best to report on them. There’s always space to improve – and I’ve tried to be self-critical to do so.
Any review is broken down into two keys parts: words and photos. The words part is highly subjective, as we all like different writing styles. I’ve also always lived by the motto “let the photos do the talking”, so photography is pretty serious to me.
So, what makes a good watch review (in my eyes at least)? I’ve bundled together all my top tips for watch reviewing that I’ve learnt over the years in this guide.
Structure – this is down to personal preference. I tend to recommend that people write reviews in the way that they’d like to read them. Some will split a review up aspect by aspect (such as myself). But others prefer to have a more unstructured approach, discussing points in an order they see fit.
Length – whilst there’s no hard or fast rule on the length of review, I tend to find between 500-1000 is a nice length. Too short, and the reader will feel short-changed. Too long; they get bored.
Grammarly – this is the most vital tool I use. After writing a review, I run it through Grammarly and it picks up on mistakes and grammatical issues and makes suggestions on how to fix them. Believe it or not, this simple check is often overlooked by even some of the best watch review sites out there.
Mix up your lengths of sentences – when every sentence is of a similar length, it can quickly become monotonous to read. Instead, mix up your sentence lengths to keep the reader on their toes.
Utilise a thesaurus – it may indeed be the case where everything on a watch is “nice”. But overuse of a generic word can quickly bore the life out of a review. However, by quickly Googling “synonym nice”, we have a variety of alternative and interesting options; such as meticulous, delicate, accurate, exact.
Specs – every review should have an easy to find specs section of the watch, with all details laid out for quick consumption. And don’t forget the lug to lug length! I’ve received many comments about how vital this section is, so it’s proved to be a handy addition to my reviews.
Equipment – if at all possible, use a camera rather than a phone. Phone cameras are pretty great nowadays, but there’s no denying the physical advantage of a real camera and the size of lens / aperture that comes along with it. It’s easier to get crisp, well-framed shots and is easier for beautifully deep depth of field (blurry background, crisp foreground).
If you do use a camera, then try to get a fixed prime lens – fixed lenses (set at a focal length, with no zoom) tend to give crisper shots than the stock zoom lenses, as firstly there’s less glass, and secondly, the stock zoom lenses tend to be cheaper and therefore not quite as well constructed. However, if you do use the stock lens, all is not lost…
If using the stock zoom, or a camera with a zoom lens built-in (no interchangeable lenses), zoom in a smidgen – this is a simple little trick that I quickly learned. Don’t leave the zoom wide open as the depth of field completely disappears and the framing is always too wide. Instead, zoom in (even if you don’t technically need to) and everything is much closer, but also the depth of field increases.
Take loads of pictures – and I’m talking loads. Take at least 3 pictures of each shot – I can guarantee one of them will come out crisper than the others. It just allows you to be pickier, and select only the best shots. I often take a couple of hundred pictures for each review and whittle them down to around 25.
If in doubt, set it to macro mode – I always find the macro mode (if your camera has one) to provide solid, crisp, fast shots. Using manual on a camera isn’t for everyone, and this is a good option rather than the “automatic” mode.
Use natural daylight if possible, even better if it’s cloudy – there’s nothing quite like photos taken by a window with natural daylight flooding in. Clouds also do a great job at naturally diffusing the light too. However, if this isn’t possible then other diffused light works. I’d just say avoid spotlights or strip lights as they don’t look the best.
Don’t forget postediting – use a photo editing program to do so, such as Photoshop (if you have access), or Lightroom. With these, you can sharpen and tweak the levels to brighten up your pictures.
Tripod / monopod – one of the keys to crisp photos is having a still camera. Unless you’re a sniper, it can be very difficult to get perfectly sharp pictures by hand, just because we move as we breathe and that affects the picture quality. The main exceptions are if you have oodles of light, and the shutter speed can remain fast. So, tripods are great, but quite awkward and not the easiest to get in the right position. I much prefer using a monopod, which gives me stability and easier control over the positioning of the camera.
Number of photos – the more the merrier! I aim for around 25. But I’d expect at least 10 and anything above 30 would be excessive. No matter the number, what is vitally important is that every aspect of the watch is covered and presented. Think of things like the caseback, the crown, the pushers, small details on the dial – these are the little nuances watch manufacturers sweat over and it’s great to bring them out.
Types of photos – of course, an array of award-winning arty photos would impress anyone. But don’t forget the simple things: get a couple of wrist shots in there. People need to know what the watch looks like on the wrist!
There you have it! If you have any great hints or tips, please comment away. Also, if you feel like you are at the standard of publishing content on Watch It All About, then please feel free to get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!
My final parting gift is a selection of top tips by other watch reviewers who I view in high regard. Enjoy!
Other reviewers’ hints
If I had to give just one bit of advice I’d say that it’s not enough to tell the reader what unless you also tell them why. Pull out those elements that make you like or dislike the watch and explain what is going on. Don’t tell me you like the crown, explain the features that make it good. Don’t say you hate the handset, tell me why they don’t work on this watch and how that could have been addressed. It’s the difference between an informative review and an opinionated spec sheet.
– Loren, The Time Bum
I could list ten things (ability to write, ability to convey your thoughts straightforwardly, knowledge of watches and movements and the terminology etc), and I know it will sound tacky because the WatchReport tag line is “real, honest reviews”, but just be honest. Be honest about what you like and don’t like, what you feel are pros and cons and be yourself while doing it. So many negative people will disagree with what you write/speak about anyways, so just be honest with what you think about the watch. Also, I feel it is important to keep a review to a minimum amount of words and or length of time if doing video. People don’t want to read a college essay or watch a 25-minute video about a watch. Get to the point, pictures and video do a lot of talking.
– Don, WatchReport
As a watch reviewer, you’re exposed to the weird and wonderful of horology. More than that, you’re tasked with putting an emotive yet spec-driven article together for a watch you may be seeing for the first time. The best advice is to gauge your initial reaction and work backwards. Go to the extremes of your bias and work to justify your opinion. You may even disprove yourself and gain an appreciation for something you’ve previously overlooked. I find the story evolves from there.
– Ben James Hodges, Fratello Watches
If I had to give a tip to all aspiring watch reviewers out there, it would be to write in a fashion that blends personal experience with the watch and technical aspects. One must find the perfect balance of writing from the heart combined with watch specifications that will allow the reader to understand whether this piece is for them or not. The watch review should ultimately assist them with making a watch purchase, but should also be inspiring and entertaining to read.
– Matt, Watch Review Blog
Authenticity is key. You don’t have to like everything, and you don’t have to dislike everything. What you need to be is authentic in how you feel and why you feel that way. Help people understand where your perspective comes from.
– Cameron, WYCA
Focus on what it’s like to wear the watch not just spewing specs. Comfort is one of the most important things about buying a watch that many reviewers ignore.
– Will, The Watch Clicker
Never share your review with a brand before publication, and never review a watch where the brand says they want a positive review. Always be balanced, always be fair – but most of all always be honest.
– Mike, Wristwatch Review UK
As a reviewer, I think you have to be as objective as possible. You can’t just think about what you like or dislike, but what everyone else is thinking as well. You’ve also got to ask yourself what a watch is offering for its price that makes it worth buying.
– James, Watch That Sweep
Be able to judge something for what it is and what it’s trying to be, rather than what it’s not.
– Shane, Relative Time
Be honest about what you think of the watch, you’re not writing an advert for the company.
– Will, Zaltek Reviews
Being able to distinguish between your personal dislikes and actual faults
– Mike Razak, The Time Bum contributor
Don’t ever sweat the comments. Not everyone is going to agree with your opinion, and some people have less tact in delivering that criticism than others.
– Brad, The Budding Watch Enthusiast