Walter Shillington is an avid collector of mechanical watches. His reviews focus on inexpensive but often intriguing Chinese timepieces.
If you could purchase a luxury watch from China—and you can’t—Parnis would be the company most likely to oblige. This manufacturer holds the reputation of producing well-built timepieces utilizing quality components. According to my research, however, their products lack both originality and exclusiveness. I decided to put Parnis to the test.
Although this company’s timepieces are priced slightly outside my comfort zone, over the Christmas holiday, I won a pair of lowballed bids on eBay. The following review focuses on the Parnis P523.
I purchased the P523 from eBay. It arrived well packed and on schedule. My winning bid, including shipping, came to 30 dollars. Under normal circumstances, these watches range from 120 to 130 dollars.
The timepiece is quite heavy, weighing in at 149 grams (5.3 ounces). Its diameter measures 48mm, and this unit is 15.6 mm thick. The P523 comes with a thick, 24-mm PU leather band.
The case is composed of stainless steel and plated with gold. Its stainless steel caseback—perhaps better described as a backplate—is attached to the case by six tiny screws. There are cutouts on both sides of the backplate, which, in an interesting quirk of design, are intended to accommodate and secure the watch’s strap.
A flat, scratch-proof mineral glass crystal hovers above a sandwich-style dial. The lower dial supports four colorful subdials which can be set to display the time in differing zones. One of these ranges between twelve and twenty-four hundred, assisting those unfamiliar with military time. Another subdial is equipped with a tiny date display.
Four circular openings pierce the jet-black upper dial, revealing the subdials and promoting a three-dimensional effect. Four gold-plated crowns jut out from the rim of this timepiece.
I’d expected to find a large and complicated mechanism beneath the backplate. Parnis, however, chose to go the low-tech route. A defiant Citizen (Miyota) date movement guards the right-hand bottom of the dial. It is surrounded and outgunned by three Seiko (Epson) Al35E’s. Expecting an imminent and bloody battle between these Japanese rivals, I quickly replaced the black plate and screwed it tight.
Each of these movements is powered by a Sony SR626SW button battery. I checked Amazon for replacement costs, and, happily, these batteries go for about one dollar apiece.
Parnis is a small Chinese watch company, trademarked by Xiao Jiam Hong of Guangzhou.
Parnis designs their own timepieces and assembles them at their manufacturing facility at Tong De Wei, Guangzhou. The various components are contracted out from companies such as Seagull, Miyota, and Dixmount. Fu Yuan Xin manufacturers their cases.
They produce both mechanical and quartz-driven timepieces. Some of these watches are intended to closely resemble their Swiss competitors’ more expensive luxury timepieces. Other designs, such as that of the P523, are fresh and original.
Parnis has acquired a good reputation due to its presumed use of superior components and excellent quality control.
Place of Origin: Guangzhou, China
Movements: Miyota with date and three Epson Al35E’s
Features: Four time zones
Functions: Day of month
Band material: PU Leather
Band color: Brown
Band width: 24 mm
Clasp type: Buckle
Dial color: Black with complimentary colored subdials
Dial window material: Hardened mineral glass
Case material: Stainless steel, partially gold plated
Case diameter: 48 mm
Case thickness: 15.6 mm
Weight: 149 grams (5.3 ounces)
Water resistance: 3 ATM (splash resistant only)
I find the sandwich style to be quite effective, adding depth to the timepiece. I also appreciate Parnis’s use of different colors for each of the subdials.
Probably unintentionally, the plastic gears fitted snugly around each crown, add a whimsical flavor reminiscent of steampunk.
Gold plating was applied to the case but not to the backplate or the strap’s buckle. While normally I dislike two-tone timepieces, the P523 does benefit from this approach. Certainly, it accentuates Parnis’s sandwich motif.
The strap, which is thick and luxurious, fits into slots cut into the base plate. This provides a touch of elegance without sacrificing comfort.
As expected, considering the reputation of the original manufacturers, all four movements react smoothly when being adjusted and appear to be of high quality.
Parnis utilizes conventional machine processes rather than metal injection molding in the construction of their watch cases. In addition, this manufacturer makes use of 316L marine-grade stainless steel. According to my sources, if you desire a stronger case, your sole option is Rolex.
In order the maintain a low price-point, Parnis has cut several corners. The first example is relatively benign. The P523 is fitted with the same backplate as the H2110 chromometer. This does not affect operation or durability, but the model number, engraved onto the bottom, is incorrect and might lead to confusion.
The fitted strap is of the highest quality PU leather I have ever encountered. It is thick and very well built. Four months after purchase, the perfume embedded into this band still exudes a faint aroma of leather. Considering the overall quality of this timepiece, however, a PU leather strap—no matter how competently designed—seems wrong.
This watch is rated 3 ATM. It is splash-proof only.
While few people have an actual need for a watch presenting the time in four different zones, this timepiece features innovative styling that is bound to attract attention. The P523 and its siblings are intended for those who crave a luxury watch but, financially, are not in the position to purchase one. The Parnis P523 is recommended.
In order to provide value, watch companies often cut corners. In the poll below, please select the shortcut that you would least like to see.
Jim Rees on May 19, 2017:
Although not my taste in watches, another excellent review.