After years of not wearing a watch, telling myself that a cell phone was "good enough," my better fashion sense took over and I ended up ordering the Fossil FS4519
I bought it because it looked nice, not because it was necessarily any "good." Nevertheless, I fell in love with watches and have started pursuing it as a hobby. More recently, it prompted me to crack open my Fossil and discover that it uses a nice Citizen/Miyota quartz movement. Nine point nine out of ten times, quartz is quartz, but Miyota is reputable and reliable, so my blind purchase wasn't a total waste of cash.
Now onto the hobbyism! I've since become especially interested in Chinese mechanical watches, because they're largely unknown in the west (lolhipsterwatches) and offer some sensational
value for the money. Some of the long-standing manufacturers are also pioneers in the field of horology, like:
- SeaGull/Tianjin: Amongst the elite few that have developed in-house double and orbital tourbillon movements. Also engineered a prototypical microrotor movement. Manufacturer behind the legendarily good ST5, ST19 and ST25 mechanicals.
- Shanghai Watch Factory: Developed the 3L chronograph, China's first auto movement ready for spaceflight. Also engineering their own tourbillon movements with a wide array of complications.
- Dixmont-Guangzhou: Pioneer of an auto-winder in a tourbillon with their DG80 and DG81 movements.
- Liaoning Watch Factory: Engineer of unbeatable value-for-money tourbillon and mechanical chronograph movements, the latter of which appeared in the British Horological Institute's 150th anniversary watch.
Here is my collection as it stands:
- Timex Weekender T2N650: Not made in America, but nevertheless an esteemed American-owned watch company, the Weekender is a utilitarian and ultra-durable quartz model that looks great with casual wear. Most snobs will lift their nose at the audible movement, but I find the ticking strangely reassuring in a quiet room--reminds me of the old clocks in elementary school.
- Akribos XXIV Saturnos AK410WT: Make no mistake, this is not a high-end watch, but I got a stupidly good deal on it. It features a skeletonized variant of the Hangzhou Watch Company's 2000 Series calibre, itself an excellent "clone" (I use that term very loosely) of the venerable Seiko 7s26. In truth, the HWC's 2000 offers more complications and equal timekeeping consistency, making it an arguably better movement than the one it's alleged to copy. It keeps time very well (+/-5 seconds over 24 hours), and the auto-wind rotor seems to work well. Again, my gamble paid off.
- Orient Esteem FDB08005W: This is the watch that set me off on the path of Asian mechanical watches. I fell in love with it at first sight, but was forced to wait on pulling the trigger because it was out of stock. When it returned, I told myself to wait for a sale and I'm glad I did, as I purchased it recently for less than half of the MSRP. Orient is subsidiary of Seiko, and the Esteem is fully manufactured and assembled in Japan with the Seiko 46A automatic movement. Reliable and beautiful, this is probably my favorite watch.
And now for the BIG gambles...
In watch enthusiast forums, there's a term called "mushroom brand," which refers to unknown companies that pop up on eBay like mushrooms. These brands have no provenance and no history, often with specious quality control. Nevertheless, they often use what are supposed
to be good movements from some of the above companies. If you're lucky, you get a fantastic mechanical watch for a fraction of the price you'd pay for the same guts in a bigger/better brand. If you're not lucky, you get a shitty C-grade movement that doesn't keep time or doesn't work at all.
...but it's only ~$30 to try your hand. So I did. Twice. They haven't arrived, yet, but these are what I got:
- Jaragar PMW017: I liked the calendar (though it's not a perpetual calendar) and the dial, and was particularly enamored with the open heart balance wheel. I'm almost positive that this is the Shanghai Watch Factory 2L27 movement.
- And an AK Homme Whothefuckknows: AK Homme is widely reported to be of above-average quality amongst mushroom brands (much like Jaragar), and again I was smitten with the open heart. The listing also describes the watch as moonphase, but in truth it's really a day/night indicator that embellishes the dial. The 24-hour dial is legit, though, and that's pretty cool. It uses the Shandong Liaocheng Zhong Tai Watch Factory ML-7101 that's been rotated to place the open heart at the 10 o'clock position.
My next purchase will be a Rotary GS02518
, Sea-Gull M171S
or Christopher Ward C3 Malvern Chrono Mk II