Admittedly, I’ve been getting into the affordable watches game lately. After obtaining a few too many suits to fit comfortably into the wardrobe, I’ve been looking at my rather modest watch collection as an area to improve on. One of the watches which had recently caught my eye was the 6538 Submariner that Sean Connery wore in Dr No. The watch has a simple yet timeless aesthetic and doesn’t overwhelm the wrist unlike some more modern divers.
Unfortunately, I’m no James Bond and I don’t have a spare 5 grand to splash on a vintage watch, especially when I have a number of other timepieces that I’d like to rotate around on my wrist on a regular basis. I was after an automatic movement, a reasonable quality stainless steel case with a screwdown crown and some degree of water resistance that might survive a careless drop in a sink.
While I could potentially get a replica, the idea of walking around with a fake Rolex doesn’t really appeal to my budget-minded sensibilities, especially after a rather amusing anecdote from a colleague about getting asked for money after rocking a fake Rolex sub in his neighbourhood. The quality of replicas also vary drastically and for under $150, I would be probably be getting a piece of junk that was assembled in some underground factory in Shenzen.
Fortunately, I was in luck. The quality of Chinese watches have improved alot in recent years and they plug a very respectable gap in the sub $150 watch range. There’s alot of brands now like Parnis that borrow the aesthetics of Swiss watches while running their own movement and have a small degree of quality control. One of them is a rather unknown brand known as Tiger Concept that basically sells Tudor and Rolex “homages”. They had a 6538 based model that I was interested in trying out.
I already had a number of watches with dial markers and a fortunately, they had a variation of the 6538 with an explorer-inspired dial.
They offer watches with either a Chinese based 2813 movement or a Japanese Miyota 8215 movement. While the Miyota was slightly more expensive than the Chinese DG2813, it doesn’t have a second hacking feature, which means the sweeping second hands don’t freeze when the stem is pulled out. However, it’s apparently more reliable due to quality control issues with some DG2813 movements but they are essentially two very similar movements.
I ordered the watch on a Thursday and arrived little more than a week later in a padded yellow envelope from Hong Kong. I selected the model that came with the DG2813 movement and three nato straps. The watch is available on a metal bracelet but anecdotal reports on the internet suggest the bracelet is kinda jangly and I do prefer having a variety of nylon straps than fiddling around with adjusting a metal bracelet with links and pins.
The other straps come in a dark grey and a dull blue. They’re thick, about 33cm long, 20mm wide and are a step above the $4 nato straps you might find on Ebay.
So what’s the verdict? I’ve been wearing the watch for about a day or two and it’s been better than expected. While the DG2813 movement is dirt cheap, the second hand does sweep smoothly as expected of an automatic and I haven’t encountered the second hand stuttering like some reports from the internet.
The case is well machined, there’s a screwdown winder and the crystal appears to be a domed mineral glass. The power reserve runs for about 40 or so hours but even if the power runs out, the lack of a date window means you can just set the time and put it back on your wrist for a quick start.
The watch has a bi-directional friction bezel which means it doesn’t “click” like the bezels found in most modern divers and it can be turned in both directions. It appears it could be done so very easily so it’s not something I can rely on but apparently, the vintage 6538s had them too.
Sizewise, it’s about 41mm so it shouldn’t overwhelm the wrist. If there’s one complaint, the lume on the watch isn’t that great and it isn’t helped by the rather thin numbers on the explorer-type dial. However, for under $120 shipped, it’s hard to get manufacturers to improve the lume and the only company I’ve seen doing so at this price range is Seiko, with their Monster themed divers.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a premium watch but it doesn’t feel ridiculously cheap/tacky either. At any rate, it’s a fun, reasonably cheap automatic watch and whether it lasts or not, it’s definitely sates my itch for a vintage-inspired diver without having the associated pricetag of a Rolex or the risks of wearing a replica. At least I can hope I won’t get shaken down for money in my neighbourhood anytime soon.
Tiger Concept watches are available at http://www.tiger-concept.com/watch.html along with associated parts, cases, hands, etc.