Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wristwatch Review: Invicta Specialty Quartz Pro Diver Chronometer

Pro Diver with Tachymeter Markings and Polyurethane Strap

It's easy to make fun of the Invicta watch shows on latenight infomercial TV. But, those shows often feature some very nice watches.  My wife recently spied this Invicta Specialty Pro Diver Chronograph watch on evine television and ordered it for me.  The watch arrived very quickly.

An Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Watch

Design.  This Invicta is an attractive gold and navy blue watch with a blue polyurethane strap.  It has tachymeter markings on a non-rotating bezel.  The watch has three subdials.  At 3 o'clock, you'll find a 24-hour clock.  A 6 o'clock subdial provides the stopwatch seconds. The 9 o'clock subdial provides up to 60 minutes of elapsed time.

Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Watch in Box
 
Invicta is known for providing value by giving extra unexpected touches.  This watch came with a very cool bright yellow one-slot dive case.  On the watch itself, the dial has a guillochè pattern that provides a background with texture.  It's a touch normally found only on very expensive watches for the elite.  It makes this Invicta look rich.  On the flip side, the caseback has a nicely etched design and provides information about the watch.  The strap has the Invicta logo etched onto the buckle.


Construction.  This Pro Diver watch has a stainless steel case that provides 100 meters of water resistance.  The back is a screw on back which should make changing the battery a little easier somewhere down the road.  The strap is made of flexible polyurethane.  According to the evine website, this watch has a flame fusion crystal.  The watch has lume (which Invicta has trademarked as  Tritnite) on the hour, minute, and second hands.

Invicta Pro Diver Case Back


Dimensions.  This watch has a 45 millimeter diameter case that is 12 1/2 millimeters thick.  The maximum wrist size is 8 3/4-inches.  It's a comfortable, well-proportioned, watch that I didn't find clunky.




Drawbacks.  This watch is really nice.  For me, the only drawback might be the longevity of the polyurethane strap.  Otherwise, it provides a rich look in a comfortable watch.


Overall, I really like this watch.  Initially, I wasn't a big fan of watches in gold.  However, this watch uses gold as an accent and looks really good.  This watch looks like a million bucks, but retails for a lot less. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Perils of Cheap Watches

When it comes to inexpensive you win some and you lose some.  To meet a $8 to $25 retail price point, some compromises have to be made.  It's unrealistic to think that a $20 watch. will be as nice as a $100 watch.


For example, I've been somewhat impressed by the Folio brand from Kohls lately.  But, when I added a second Folio watch to my collection, it turned out to be a disaster.   The clasp pulled completely off of the simulated leather strap.


I decided to try Legion brand watches from Belk as an alternative.  But, out of the three Legion brand watches I chose, one had a dead battery.  I noticed and ran back into the store for a refund and too quickly bought a different watch.  But, when I got home, I discovered that it too had a dead battery.  Last year, I tried a big watch from Target and the over-sized winding stem fell right out of the watch case when I went to set the time.

 


Low cost watches can be functional, fashionable, and a real bargain.  But, on the flip side of the same coin, they can also be frustrating.  It's great when you find a watch that looks good, works well. and fits well within a tight budget.  You just have to keep your receipt!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cheap Wristwatch Review: Merona Men's Tanker-style Dress Watch from Target


Merona watches continue to impress with this tanker-style watch with Roman numerals.  This review is reprinted from Yahoo Contributors Network and covers a dress wristwatch that only looks expensive.


Americans tend to think that anyone with a British accent is intelligent, insightful, and worth listening to carefully. Just as the accent works for some commentators, Roman numerals work for dress watches. In an interview situation, a man wearing a dress watch with Roman numerals may have the advantage. Fortunately, the Merona Men's Tanker-style Dress Watch from Target provides those Roman numerals at a bargain price.



The Merona Tanker-style watch (model FMDM220-135) looks great. This watch has a hefty rectangular case that looks high end. The face of the watch is also rectangular with slight rounding at the top and bottom of the watch crystal. The background is a neutral grayish-green that can mix well with khakis, greens, and grays. The watch hands, five-minute hash marks, and Roman numerals are shiny, chrome-colored, metal raised from the background surface. The metal bracelet band is broad (about an inch wide) and it fits my nearly 8 and 1/2-inch wrist perfectly. The band is Chinese-made stainless steel with flat, brushed, steel on the outside edges of each link and a shiny middle section for each link. It looks like the only way to adjust the size of the band is by removing links. The bracelet itself is one of the most comfortable that I've worn. In contrast to adjustable clasps, non-adjustable clasps seem smoother against the inside of my wrist. This is a watch that you can wear all day.

If this watch was a Swiss-made automatic with slightly fancier Roman numerals, it might be expensive. But, this Merona watch eschews the mechanical engineering wizardry of a fine automatic in favor of a reliable Japanese-made quartz movement . As an offering from Target's house brand, this watch is expected to be stylish and affordable. Merona watches hit their price points and styling objectives well. My only criticism of this watch is that setting the time is not a precise as it should be. If you are careless when pushing in the crown after setting the time, you may find the watch off by a minute or two. It's a minor problem that is solved simply by being careful when setting the time. As a cheap watch, this Merona doesn't have any back light or glow in the dark elements. This is a low-key, daytime, watch for work with a style that is perfectly appropriate.

Overall, I think that a nice Merona watch like this one can be an essential element of a low cost men's wardrobe that looks like a high cost wardrobe. I would not hesitate to wear mine in any formal or professional situation. For $20 or less, Target has a winner in this Merona Men's Analog Watch.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wristwatch Review: Mens Legion Analog Watch

A recent visit to Belk, one of the South's greatest department store chains, turned me on to Legion brand watches.  Legion watches are attractive house brand watch that sell for modest prices.  This review covers the first of three that I bought.

[Please note:  This review covers the Legion brand of watches that are a house brand at Belk department stores in the Southeastern United States.  I do not believe that these Legion watches are in any way related to the Legion Watches currently making a splash on the web at www.legionwatches.com.  I don't know if the Legion watches on the web are any good.]



Design.  My first, Legion watch has an attractive silver-on-silver design that looks great. The dial is silver, the bezel is silver, the case is silver, and the bracelet is silver.  Of course, when designing a silver-motif watch, it's all about contrasting tone and texture. The dial, case, and bracelet have a flat brushed metal appearance while the bezel, numbers, and Legion logo have shiny, high gloss, look.  The bezel has the popular ship's porthole look and the bezel has indents to look like it is screwed down into the case of the watch.


Construction.  As a fashion watch, this Legion watch is not rated for water resistance or shock.   For the record, of course, we are speaking of silver in color--not of the metal actually used in making the watch.  The watch has a stainless steel case back and a base metal for everything else.  However, the watch appears to be fairly solid in construction.


Dimensions.  This Legion watch is well proportioned with a dial large enough to be manly and on trend, but small enough to be tasteful and appropriate to all ages.  The bracelet is comfortably wide and adjustable via a pin in the clasp.  Initially, the watch hung very loose on my rather large wrists.  By moving two adjustments smaller on the bracelet, it fit better.

Drawbacks.   Many of the Legion watches at my local Belk had dead batteries.  Make sure that the watch you intend to purchase actually works.

Value.  Legion watches are marked at $40 to $55, but can be had on sale for considerably less.  By taking advantage of a sale and register coupon, this watch was about $23.  I'd say this watch is a solid $30 value and compares well to other commodity quartz watches like Structure, Precision by Gruen, and Folio.  Overall, I like this watch and believe it to be a good value. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wristwatch Review: Wenger Men's Swiss Military Grenadier Quartz Watch

[This Wenger watch review is reprinted from my contributions to the now defunct YCN.  But, the watch remains a great timepiece.]

Are Affordable Swiss Watches Just a Dream? There is something cool about seeing "Swiss Made" at the bottom of a watch dial. The challenge lies in making a Swiss Watch at a price point that is attainable for middle class consumers. Can it be done? Check out the Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier.

Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier on Ice

Switzerland is the home of many of the world's finest watchmakers. Despite all of the upstart brands, there is something cool about seeing "Swiss Made" at the bottom of a watch dial. The challenge lies in making a Swiss Watch at a price point that is attainable for middle class consumers. Can it be done? Are affordable Swiss Watches just a dream? We'll see by looking at my most recent Swiss watch: the Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier.

Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier

Style. The Grenadier is a watch that emphasizes practical function with a clean, minimalist, design inspired by traditional military and dive watches. The design features a white dial with large twelve hour and smaller inset 24 hour numerals. Each of the 12-hour numerals is raised and painted a contrasting black to maximize readability. The white Swiss cross on a red background prominently takes the place of the numeral twelve. A date window takes the place of the military hour fifteen at the three o'clock postion. The case and bezel are shiny stainless steel. The unidirectional rotating bezel has the numerals 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 to denote the elapsed minutes. Black hashmarks are placed at the intervening 5 minute intervals on the bezel. The Swiss cross is also featured in relief on the crown. The overall look of this watch is a look of clean, almost surgical, precision.

Wenger Swiss Miltary Grenadier with Winslow Homer Blue Canoe Print

Construction. The Grenadier has a 43 millimeter diameter case that is 11 millimeters thick. A 22 millimeter wide watch stainless steel bracelet keeps the watch in position. These proportions convey strength and masculinity while remaining within sensible dimensions. The watch is all stainless steel and is waterproof to 100 meters. The caseback is etched with a depiction of a Wenger Swiss military pocket knife. The crystal is sapphire coated. The bezel rotates with nice solid clicks and doesn't exhibit any play. It's obvious that the Grenadier is a well-made watch. There are no obvious compromises in features or functionality for this timepiece to come in at a reasonable price point.


Price. I received this watch as a birthday gift. My wife lucked into this watch at a "runway" T.J. Maxx for $99. On the web, the Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier watch seems to range from $109 to $150 at white closeout prices. The most recent Wenger watches have only the Swiss cross and Wenger name on the dial.


Wenger Swiss Military Grenadier
Overall, I recommend the Wenger Swiss Military watch. It is an excellent value. It looks great in the business casual workplace but has the build quality and intestinal fortitude for outdoor activities. Wenger is to be commended for making the affordable Swiss watch dream a reality.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cheap Wristwatch Review: YouYouPifa Best Birthday Watch Dress Watch

Have you ever wondered what the very cheap Chinese watches sold on Amazon are like?  I have.  There are many attractive looking watches on Amazon that are sold through advertisements like this one:



For less than $5, you could get a watch that (on the Internet) looked much like more expensive watches from the exciting startup watch company MVMT.




I've often wondered if companies were selling us cheap watches for hundreds of dollars so I had to check it out.  I placed an order for the YouYouPifa Best Birthday Gift watch.  Would my watch be the equivalent of an MVMT or, at least, a typical Target or Walmart commodity quartz watch.  I had to know!


In just a few weeks, I received a mysterious envelope from China.  The customs declaration on the back listed the contents as a watch x 1 and value as 5.00.  My YouYouPifa watch was here!  Inside the envelope was a wall wrapped watch!


I was a little concerned that the package was very, very, light.  But, inside was one plastic wrapped watch.  For $5, you don't get a presentation box.  The watch was well protected and the watch was keeping accurate time.


The watch looked pretty good on the wrist.  But, the materials left much to be desired.  The watch was very light weight.  The case material was a light weight metal.  I wondered if it was tin.  The strap was also a little short and quite stiff.


The YouYouPifa watch looked fairly good on the wrist, but the dial was not quite the dark jet black color that I had expected.


This watch is certainly not a good substitute for a genuine MVMT watch.  I'm quite sure that MVMT watches use higher quality materials. MVMT watches also have nice leather bands, have solid stainless steel cases, and use reliable Japanese MVMT movements. But, it isn't fair to judge a $5 watch against a watch that costs 20 times more.

Overall, the YouYouPifa Best Birthday watch is a working watch that arrived quickly and that has an interesting style.  However, the watch does prove the adage that  you get what you pay for.  It has a very inexpensive strap and lightweight metal case.  I will probably not wear this watch to work.  However, I might check them out again for a watch that is clearly bang-around watch.




The fact that I can order a watch factory direct from China and get it in two or three weeks should worry a lot of watch brands.  How many brands are simply sending a set of watch specifications to China?  What happens when the Chinese develop their own brands and become marketing savvy?  Youyoupifa makes a wide variety of watches and even has automatic models in their line up.  At prices this low, it's easy to experiment on your own.





Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Judging Cheap Watches

When it comes to cheap watches, you don't have brand prestige as a factor.  There is no halo effect for no name watches at Walmart.  Instead, you have to judge a cheap watch on three things:

1. How well does it function?
2. How comfortable does it fit?
3. How good does it look?

Finally, the best cheap watches don't look cheap.  If people see the watch and are wowwed, then the designer has done his or her job.
Here are three of my favorite cheap watches.

1. Rumours Analog Quartz Watch.  This watch has been in my dresser drawer for years.  When my brother-in-law first saw it, he rushed over and asked if it was a TAG.  I laughed because I bought it at a close out store.

Rumours Quartz Watch with Rotating Bezel
 
2. Structure Instrument Panel watch.  My lust for a Bell & Ross Instrument Panel watch coincided with the great recession.  Fortunately, this Structure watch came through until the fad had passed.

Structure Brand Instrument Panel Watch

3. Casio Forester.   In a world full of meaningless model numbers, this Casio stands out.  It has a name.  The name means something.  The Casio Forester is the perfect watch for a walk in the woods.  It's rugged, cheap, and comfortable.  Most come in some shade of green.

Casio Forester Watch

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Timex Goodwill Find Worth Less Than $2 Million

Watch Review:  Timex Uni-Sex Easy Reader

 On Sunday, April 26, 2015, a man made an exciting discovery at a North Georgia Goodwill.  It was a Timex watch unlike any other.  Now watch collectors can only wonder if this watch will reach the rarified heights that other unique thrift store watches have attained at auction.  In February, a man found a 1959 Jaeger-LaCoultre dive watch in a Phoenix Goodwill.  His $6 watch find sold for $35,000 at auction.


 Today, we have an exclusive interview with the owner of this interesting Timex!

What makes this Timex watch unique?

When you hold this watch towards the sun, you'll see that there are a series of shadows on the dial.  These shadows are cast by fine, nearly invisible, scratches on the crystal.  No other old Timex has this exact series of scratches.  Each scratch represents a moment in the history of this watch and its wearer.  It gives one goosebumps just to think of all the history in this one watch.  It has taken a licking and keeps on ticking.

Why did you choose this particular watch?

This watch stood out from all the other watches under the glass for two reasons:

1.  It looked like a man's watch and I am a man.  Men's watches seem to be exceedingly rare at Goodwill.
2.  It was actually running.

Have you made any improvements to this watch?

When I found this watch, it was shod in a ratty old velcro band from a Timex Expedition.  But, from the clarity of the number on a white dial, I believe it to be some sort of Timex Easy Reader. I initially switched the strap out for a clean new leather strap.   I don't think that detracted from the value of the watch.  However, it did look dainty and less masculine.


My next move was to leather strap out for a velcro and nylon strap that looked considerably more rugged.  It's amazing how much difference a $5 strap from Walmart can make.  I believe that I have boosted the value of the watch immensely.  It's certainly a watch that I can wear regularly now.

When was this watch made?

While the Timex Easy Reader has a vintage look, the presence of Indiglo dial lighting reveals that it was made more recently.  Plus, it has a quartz movement.  Thus, we can deduce that it must be a thoroughly modern masterpiece.  In fact, you can get similar watches now on Amazon.com and at Walmart.


Is this watch for men or women?

This Timex watch may well transcend traditional gender-based fashion.  It has a rather small 35 millimeter diameter case.  The 35 millimeter case is found on mens, womens, and unisex versions.  This watch is a little small for a man.  With the factory strap, it's a great woman's watch.  With a more manly strap, it works well for a man.




What do you expect this watch to fetch at auction?


I think serious horologists will undervalue this watch.  While it intrinsically has value by virtue of its ability to keep accurate time, the collecting community may undervalue the simple style and functional honesty of this important timepiece.  Thus, I believe this watch will fetch somewhat less than the desired $2 million dollars.  I may simply keep it.  It has large numbers, indiglo backlighting, and a very readable dial.


How much did you pay for this watch?


$5.  But, mine had "historic" scratches in the crystal from the outset.  Others may have to buy the watch new and install their own scratches.



Overall, what do you think of the Timex Easy Reader?

I like the Timex Easy Reader quite a bit.  I would have never bought it new with the idea of installing a different strap.  But, with a wider, more manly, strap, I can see why many people like the simplicity of the Timex Easy Reader.  It's a great basic bang around watch.