Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Top 7 Off-Brand / Store Brand Commodity Quartz Watches

Quartz watch movements revolutionized the world of timekeeping.  They are reliable, accurate, ubiquitous, and fairly inexpensive.  That's led to a plethora of off-brand, store-brand, and revived brand watches on every mass merchandiser's shelves.  I tend to lump these watches into a category that I call "commodity quartz" watches.  The question most people have about these brands is -

Are these watches any good?

I think these watches are all pretty good.  They generally keep time well.  However, these watches tend to be lower in cost than the well-known brand name watches.  Typically, they have "base metal" cases with stainless steel backs.  That means the case is made of zinc or brass.   If they have subdials, they are non-functional for decorative purposes only.  These cost cutting measures don't necessarily mean that the watch is a low quality timepiece.  You have to judge whether the watch is a good value for the price.

Commodity quartz watches are often "on trend" in terms of style.  They are made by companies like FMD, MZ Berger, or Geneva Watch Group that have a lot of experience making watches.  Many of these manufacturers also make watches for recognizable niche brands with well known brand names. 

This ranking of watches is based only on my opinion and experience with the watches and stores that carry them.

1.  Elgin.  Elgin was once one of the best known American watch companies.  Today, Elgin watches are the flagship brand of MZ Berger.  They make a number of very nice watches that are sold in a wide variety of outlets including Sears and Walmart.  In my opinion, some Elgin timepieces have a little too much bling.  However, when you find an understated Elgin timepiece, it can really be beautiful.  Elgin watches generally seem to cost between $50 and $115.  This makes them a little more expensive than the rest of the lot.

A modern Elgin Timepiece from Sears

2. Structure.  I find the Structure brand watches from Sears to be among the best of the house brand watches.  They have a wide variety of innovative styles that are always "on trend."  Sometimes you can guess which high end watch brand served as the inspiration for a Structure brand watch.  Of course, Structure brand watches generally cost $30 to $40 so they are accessible to nearly everyone.

3. Folio.  Folio brand watches are sold at Kohl's department stores for around $30.  I recently purchased  one and found it to be made by FMD.  The watch itself is roughly equivalent to Structure brand watches.

4. Gruen II.  The Gruen brand also falls under the MZ Berger umbrella.  Gruen II watches on the site are currently just for women, but I have picked up Gruen II watches for men in the recent past.  They currently cost around $30 on the website, but can be picked up for less during a sale.

5. Zoo York.  Zoo York watches are sold at Kohl's and J.C. Penny.  The brand brings the stylistic sensibilities of the New York skateboard and graffiti scene to your wrist.  In terms of quality of materials and watch construction, they seem typical of the commodity quartz watch genre.  However, they get lots of extra points for originality and style.

6. Mossimo.  Mossimo watches are sold at Target.  They generally cost about $20 and can be good timekeepers.  Mossimo watches often follow design trends.  They generally look very good.

7.  US Polo Association.  I often see U.S. Polo Association watches at retailers like Sears and Kohls.  The brand has an attractive logo and great preppy look.  However, I've never bought one because I already have similar watches.  They also look just a little plain to me.  However, if I was a young professional on a budget, these US Polo Assocation watches are conservative enough for the office.

Beyond these seven watch brands, there are many other "commodity quartz" watch brands:  Legion (Belk), Merona (Target), Sharp (Kmart and other places),
Precision by Gruen (Kohls), Thr3 (Kmart), Globlu (Walmart), and Assorted Unbranded Walmart Watches.



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