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Battle of the Five Dollar Watches

Updated on March 26, 2017
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Walter Shillington is an avid collector of mechanical watches. His reviews focus on inexpensive, but often intriguing, Chinese timepieces.

Source

While flipping through my copy of Wired, I came across a short review of The Monsieur; Chanel’s first, in-house designed, watch for men. This timepiece is as innovative as any I have seen.

A subdial houses the second hand. While this is fairly conventional, the window that reveals a number, representing the hour, is not. A retrograde minute complication features a hand which jumps back to its starting point at the end of each hour. Transparent glass is incorporated within this timepiece’s caseback, allowing a view of the splendidly designed mechanical movement.

Although Chanel is a French company, this watch is assembled at their factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. And, as with all quality Swiss timepieces, The Monsieur commands a hefty price.


My reviews focus on inexpensive Chinese timepieces but, like every writer, I tend to remain within specific boundaries. If a watch is priced below seven dollars, I consider it unworthy of my attention.

These limits suddenly seem unfair. If Wired Magazine is generous enough to write a sympathetic article describing a wristwatch manufactured by a perfume company, why should I refuse to review watches simply because their price is below my self-imposed standard?

With that in mind, I conducted a series of purchases over Wish.com. Of the four watches featured in this article, the most expensive were priced at $5.25. Two of them cost considerably less.

If these watches do not catch your interest, take a look at Battle of the Five Dollar Watches: Round Two.

Geneva
Geneva | Source

Geneva

This timepiece arrived earlier than expected and came well protected within a layer of bubble wrap. If you include the crown, this timepiece measures 42mm across. It is 9.6mm thick and weights in at 34 grams (1.23 ounces).

The case is quite bright and composed of stainless steel. This goes well with the watch’s shiny blue dial. The main hands are coated with luminous paint and the second hand, a Tissot lookalike, is painted yellow.

The decorative subdials are quite plain. This is because their metal pointers have become unglued and are clinging perilously to the rim of the main dial. If one of these pointers were to detach and fall within range of the main hands, damage will occur.

The strap looks very nice. It is composed of low to mediocre quality polyurethane leather and measures 20mm in width. This band creases easily, suggestive of a short lifespan.

While inexpensive straps are expected in this category, misplaced subdial pointers demonstrate unacceptable quality control. This watch should be avoided.

Note that the subdial pointers of this Geneva have come detached and are clinging to the side of the main dial.
Note that the subdial pointers of this Geneva have come detached and are clinging to the side of the main dial. | Source
Geneva
Geneva | Source
Fake Swiss Army
Fake Swiss Army | Source

Fake Swiss Army 577-1

Although this timepiece was advertised as a product of Gemius, what actually arrived was a fake Swiss Army 577-1. Victorinox will not be amused. Not only did an unscrupulous factory steal their brand name, but they are peddling their illicit wares in the bargain basement at Wish.

It arrived early, well packed in foam. This watch weighs 35 grams (1.23 ounces) and, when the width of its crown is included, spans 43mm. The replica is 10mm thick.

The dial of this timepiece is composed of metal. It appears quite small because the dial’s rim is colored to match the metal case.

The hands are coated with luminous paint and the pointers firmly attached to their decorative subdials.

This watch is mated to a strap composed of some type of man-made material—possibly nylon. The band is not particularly attractive but feels good around the wrist and should survive the lifespan of this timepiece. It is 20mm in width.

Because of the positioning of the crown and its two guards, the only point of contact—when adjusting the time—is at the top of the crown. Downward pressure must be applied and eventually this force will snap the shaft of the stem which connects the movement to the crown.

Due to poor design, this watch is not recommended.

Fake Swiss Army
Fake Swiss Army | Source
Fake Swiss Army
Fake Swiss Army | Source
JWH 88-9
JWH 88-9 | Source

JWH 88-9

This watch arrived well packed and early. I could find only two watch models sold under this brand, suggesting JWH is owned by a marketing company.

The JWH 88-9 measures 3.6mm across and is 8mm thick. It weighs in at 68 grams which translates into 2.39 ounces.

Like every watch in this review, the JWH is powered by a quartz movement. Both its case and dial are colored black. The crystal is composed of plastic and shaped so that it catches the light differently with each of its twelve segments. Gold colored geometrical shapes provide life to the dial and the second hand is represented by a slowly turning cog. I found the design to be original and attractive.

The stainless-steel band was an unexpected bonus. If you purchase this timepiece you should also order a cheap pin-removal tool. It wouldn’t make sense to hire a jeweller to size a five-dollar watch.

The question arises; why would an attractive watch with a stainless-steel strap be sold at such a low price?

There is a design flaw. If you examine the photographs, you will note that the Roman Numeral IV is inscribed at the six o’clock position of the dial. IV, of course, stands for four. On the bright side, this silly mistake ensures the purchaser will own a conversation piece.

When I first attempted to adjust the time, I found the movement to be very stiff. Over time, the mechanism loosened somewhat.

This watch is certainly worthwhile, considering its overall attractiveness and the quality of its strap.

Note that the incorrect Roman Numeral is printed at the bottom of this JWH 88-9 timepiece.
Note that the incorrect Roman Numeral is printed at the bottom of this JWH 88-9 timepiece. | Source
JWH 88-9
JWH 88-9 | Source
Weijieshi A5271-1
Weijieshi A5271-1 | Source

Weijieshi A5271-1

This watch arrived early and was well packed in bubble wrap.

The A5271-1 weights in at 61 grams (2.15 ounces). Its diameter, including crown, is 49mm and this watch is 11mm thick.

This is a large timepiece but, sadly, its case is fabricated from plastic.

The watch’s dial is white and rimmed with one of seven available colors. I chose orange. The hands are coated in luminous paint and edged with a color which matches the rim.

The hour markers of the dial and dial rim do not quite match and the decorative subdials are rather plain. Overall, however, the effect is one of cheerfulness.

The band is composed of either rubber or silicone—my guess is the later—quite thick and 23.5mm in width. This is a comfortable band of good quality.

While I am not particularly enthralled with its plastic case, the Weijieshi A5271-1 is my favorite timepiece of this lot. It is cheerful, comfortable, and looks great. The other watches will end their lives hidden in my junk drawer. The Weijieshi, on the other hand, will be worn proudly as I pull weeds from my pathetic excuse for a garden.

Weijieshi A5271-1
Weijieshi A5271-1 | Source
Weijieshi A5271-1
Weijieshi A5271-1 | Source

Overall Impression

You really do get what you pay for. Two of these watches were priced at less than four dollars—including shipping—and were not of sufficient quality to be considered anything but junk. The two remaining contenders cost me $5.25 each and managed to scrape by with an acceptable grade.

Imagine, though, what manner of horological delight you could possess if you were willing to part with ten of your hard-earned dollars. Or fifty? Or, if you are enthralled by Chanel’s freshly designed timepiece, Twenty-six thousand? Oh yes, the sky is the limit!

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