Month: December 2014

Affordable Automatic Watches under $300

I thought I’d write about automatic watches for those on a tight budget like myself. I recently added a Tudor Black Bay to my rotation of watches but the majority of my collection is comprised of far more affordable timepieces.

Alot of affordable watches these days are quartz. There’s nothing wrong with a quartz movement and the quartz timing mechanism makes them more reliable and accurate than an automatic or manual movement. However, there is an inherent elegance to the smooth sweeping of an automatic second hand compared to the “ticking” of a quartz movement.

The thing with Quartz watches is the batteries need to be replaced every couple of years although companies like Citizen and Seiko have created solar-powered batteries that do not need such replacement. Automatic watches also need servicing and regulating every couple of years should the time slow. The costs of the service can outweigh the costs of purchasing a new watch and the maintenance costs should be a consideration when purchasing a new timepiece.

Unfortunately, an affordable automatic that is also reliable and stylish is difficult to find on a budget and I think the following watches represent good value for money.

Orient Bambino 

Cost: Around $150-250 from Longislandwatches.com or Ebay

The Orient Bambino. Also available in black.

The Orient Bambino. Also available in other colours.

Orient have been in the watch making business for a long time and they make alot of affordable watches with distinct vintage styling. They are currently owned by Seiko and they use in-house movements, which may prove problematic to service in Australia as they don’t have any service centres locally. The Bambino uses a basic 21 jewel movement that’s quite reliable and has a date function.

The Bambino is a callback to the vintage dress watches of the 60s but it is sized for modern proportions and the domed crystal is a nice touch. It is also available in a quartz version called the Capital that is slightly cheaper and can be picked up for under $100 when on sale.

Seagull 816.362

Cost: Around $229 USD from www.good-stuffs.com or www.seagullwatchstore.com

Seagull 816.362

Tianjin Seagull is a Chinese watch company that started making watches in 1955 and they develop their in-house movements which often find their way into most automatic watches made in China. The 816.362 uses the ST2130, a Chinese copy of the Swiss ETA 2824-2 with 28,800 beats per hour and a hacking movement that stops the second hand when the stem is pulled out. The high beat rate means the second hand sweeps more smoothly than say, a cheaper automatic movement with less beats per hour. Someone recently tested the ST2130 and it compared favourably to the Swiss movement.

I own one of  these watches and I like the details. It has a clear case back that allows you to see the inside movement and the silver-toned hands, sapphire crystal and white dial works surprisingly well. A great value dress watch.

Seiko Monster

Cost: $240ish to $300 from ebay, longislandwatches.com

Seiko Monster

Seiko Monster

The Monster is a distinctive diver’s watch that uses the Seiko 4R36 hackable movement. It’s reliable, heavy duty and comes with a slightly domed Hardlex crystal. It’s available in several colours but I strongly recommend getting the version with the bracelet.

Seiko SNZH53J and SNZH57

Cost: Around $150-190ish from Ebay

SNZH53J

SNZH53J

SNZH57J

SNZH57J

Seiko made a diffusion line branded as the Seiko 5, which is marketed at a lower price range and there’s some great watches in there. The SNZH53 and SNZH57 are homages to the Blancpain Fifty Five Fathom and the design reflects that aesthetic. While they don’t have a screw-down crown and I wouldn’t recommend taking them for a swim, they are an affordable automatic watch at a great price.

Seiko SKX007

Cost: Around $230ish-$300 from Ebay

SKX007

SKX007

A true diver’s watch with screw down crown and a steady workhorse 7S26 movement. Probably the greatest thing with this watch is the sheer customisabiltiy of it. There’s alot of parts vendors out there like Dagaz and Yobokies who stock custom dials, bezels and hands that can turn the watch into something that looks like the following;

SKX007 Black Bay Mod with parts from Dagaz Watches

SKX007 Black Bay Mod with parts from Dagaz Watches

SKX007 Planet Ocean Mod

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Latest Acquisitions from Shanghai C&G

A few months ago, I sent some fabric to Shanghai C&G tailoring for some suits. I received some QC pictures today showing the completed items and I look forward to receiving them in the mail soon.

 

Fabric: pinstripe from Holland and Sherry. Petrol Blue Mohair from Harrison Burley.

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Matthew Aperry Review Round 2, Check Jacket

I was at the shallow end of a monthly paycheck and I wanted an odd jacket for more casual functions, something that wasn’t as businesslike as a regular suit jacket but still smart enough for lazy summer afternoons and social catch-ups.

After placing a recent order for a suit from online tailoring company Matthew Aperry, I had an opportunity to review a follow up product from the online custom clothier to see if the fit could be improved with subsequent orders.

I was interested in a jacket with a more textured and thicker weave than the matte solid blue suit that I had ordered. I noticed a fabric in their books labelled as a “super 160s”. I wouldn’t place too much stock in the super number as the labelling can be quite erroneous but the wool had a nice open weave, a good texture and an interesting pattern which I could not find elsewhere.

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THE SPECS

I spoke to Belinda about the overall workmanship of their jackets. Their default construction is a half canvas with a floating chest piece. This is essentially a piece of wool/cotton canvas slotted between the outer shell of the fabric and the lining at the upper half of the jacket to give the jacket some shape. I requested the following changes to their default pattern.

  • Padded lapels and full canvas. The extra canvas gives the jacket lapels a “roll” which cannot be replicated with the cheaper fused effect. The canvas also means the jacket won’t bubble over time as there’s no glue between the fabric to degrade.

IMG_20141206_124907_2

  • White resin buttonsIMG_20141206_125051_2
  • Blue patterned liningIMG_20141206_124943_3
  • Ticket pocket
  • 3.5 inch notch lapels

Having gone through the ordering process once, it’s far easier to repeat future orders and make changes from the pattern they have stored in their database. My basic measurements were already on a form and I changed the shoulders to make them a little smaller. I also reduced the chest size by 1cm to remove any lumps in the fabric.

The trimmings again, were a basic polyester lining and resin buttons and it would’ve been nice if they could upgrade to something slightly better like mother of pearl or horn, even for a marginal premium.

Nevertheless, the quality of buttons isn’t a huge issue. I can easily replace them with some 24L /32L mother of pearl buttons I picked up from Ebay rather cheaply.

The stitching was clean, typical of a machine made jacket and the buttons were sewn on firmly. The buttons are machine sewn and a little messy. There was some hand finishing around the armholes, which is something that’s rarely seen on jackets at this price range.

Typically, jackets that cost under $400 are 100% machine made, fused and are made of a polyester blend fabric. This is not one of those jackets and represents a reasonable quality for the price.

THE FIT

The package arrived in about 2 weeks in a padded bag from TNT express. Unfortunately, when I received the jacket, there were some slight issues with the shoulders which were still cut about 1cm too wide on either side. It seems no matter how much I request the shoulders to be made a little tighter, their default pattern shifts the shoulders to a wider measurement. This is something I wish Matthew Aperry could address with future orders.

I dropped the jacket off to the tailor for some minor alterations to the shoulder and while it took a few weeks for the tailor to finish the job, it was returned with an improved fit.

Fit, after some minor tailoring thanks to BQ Yan of Sydney

Fit, after some minor tailoring thanks to BQ Yan of Sydney

I was generally happy with their pattern and I noticed they were able to have the checks match up around the shoulders and the pockets, which many made to measure companies could not deliver for that price.

I noticed the patternmaking at the bottom of the jacket could use some improvement, especially as the checks don’t actually line up but it was far more than what I expected for a sub-$250 jacket. Equivalent offerings at places like MJ Bale or Charles Tyrwhitt don’t offer this level of construction and are priced higher.

The rest of the fit was good. I was quite happy with the drape and texture of the fabric. They were able to resolve some problems with a slightly dropped shoulder and the cut was slim but not overtly tight.

CONCLUSION

As I said before, I think Matthew Aperry offer a reasonable product at a more than reasonable price range and their offerings improve with subsequent purchases. Online made to measure is a process and while the first order might not fit 100%, it’s worth a second try to get things right and at their price point, they are an affordable option that can yield a lot of potential. Their willingness to accommodate requests also makes them a better option if you’re looking for something specific.

Now if only they could trim down the shoulders on their default cut and improve the quality of their buttons and lining fabric, they’d be one of the best value online tailors around at the sub $400 bracket.

Matthew Aperry can be found at http://www.matthewaperry.com

Any requests outside the standard patterns should be made by email. They’re generally quite accommodating when it comes to unusual requests.