There are lots of Chinese watches on Ali Express that bear an uncanny resemblence to famous models from Switzerland, like this Paulareis blue and orange number. It retails for just under £20 including postage, which is super cheap – but is it any good?
This is a big watch at some 44mm across, it has a fairly thick case too at 16.5mm, with a slightly domed and an AR coated crystal. It adds something having that blue tint when you move the watch dial across the light.
With a basic auto movement, it needs a little winding action, plus a fair bit of shaking to get going. Unlike some DG movement watches NWC has bought for review, this one doesn’t have a nice spinny-spinny rotor to build up some reserve. The rotor slowly tips from one side to the other, meaning you have to work harder to get some power in the mainspring. You get some gold effect on the rotor, which is visible via the see-thru caseback.
Handy little date window too.
The strap is silicone and the blue/orange colour theme continues. There’s a unidirectional click-stop bezel, which is a little bit stiff, but works OK. All round, it really does look and feel like a solid dive style watch, even though it isn’t. So far, so good.
The watch arrived from the Timerunner store with a smashed caseback crystal, which had left dozens of fragments inside the movement. Not good.
I emailed and they sent three new screw down casebacks. Which is good, except it means I had to remove the movement from the watch and try to clean out the caseback crystal pieces to make the watch work.
That took two baths in petroleum ether and a poke about near the stem/crown access hole, with tweezers. Delicate job, as one wrong move and the keyless works would move out of alignment and then the movement needs stripping.
Some lubricant inside the movement was washed out during this rescue mission, which left an oily patch inside the crystal, but that cleaned off.
DUMMY RELEASE VALVE
The second crown at 10pm is a dummy – it doesn’t move a chapter ring and it certainly doesn’t release helium. What do you want to 20 notes? But other cost-cutting measures were revealed on this watch as I continued to repair it.
As it was washed in ether, a little glue was seeping out from the back of the dial plate. Yes glue.
It was then clear that the movement did NOT have dial feet inside the movement, secured by dial screws – as most watch movements do. In fact, the dial pins are clearly visible on the outside of the movement.
There were still glass fragments under the rotor, stopping it from moving around and charging the mainspring. So off it came, which meant the dial plate was pretty wobbly. On the upside, that allowed me to clean glass from under the dial plate without removing the hands.
Luckily when everything was re-assembled and the rotor screwed back on, the watch worked – and continues to do so. But let’s move onto the next problem.
SHALLOW LUG PIN HOLES
Trying to re-fit the silicone strap proved to be a frustrating experience. One pin end in, then gently press the spring-loaded pin at the other end..and ping. Off it goes into the workshop somewhere.
New set of pins, and I used the crimper tool to give the pins a chance of sliding into the lub holes each side. Still no joy, and the thin paint also began to scratch off as I fought with the thing.
Finally I gave up and put a blue leather strap on instead. It is too narrow, but at least it went on. The reason for the pin problem is simple; the holes aren’t deep enough, so the slightest touch releases the pin.
There is a limit to what you get for twenty quid, so bear that in mInd when choosing Ali Express bargains. Sometimes you win and get a lovely watch that just works spot-on and looks very nice, like the Paulareis turquiose dial watch I reviewed last week, also twenty pounds and it’s been no trouble at all, same retailer on Ali Express too.
This one would probably be fine for a while if it arrived undamaged, but that pesky pin problem will come back one day, as you put on/take off the watch, and twist the strap slightly. Then the pin will ping out and your fun half hour begins…