affordable

An Affordable Connery 6538 Sub Homage

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.

james-bond-rolex-watch

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.

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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.

PICTURES

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VERDICT

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.

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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.

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Seiko 5 “New Monster” SRP601

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I recently added the newest addition to my modest watch collection. The Seiko 5 SRP601, one of the new “Monster” diver-inspired watches.

It has a stainless steel case, a very easily rotatable bezel, a date and time complication and comes with a rubber strap which I exchanged with a 22mm leather nato band. The movement hacks, allowing for increased accuracy and has a 40 hour power reserve. All for $157AUD from ebay seller watch-code. A true bargain.

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