Ladies would you like a Cartier Santos watch? Yes, we thought so. But that means forking out a huge amount of cash, plus the risk of being mugged in the street when daring to wear it.
The alternative could be a Protege watch, from Advisor. Here’s the word;
The full steel Protégé timepiece pays tribute to one of the greatest designer in watch history of the 70s. With the squared octagonal shape of its bezel, the angular case integrates seamlessly with the bracelet creates distinction of Protégé’s visual identity.
Its dial appearance is further enhanced with the use of modern material; forged carbon, creating a marble-like surface, making each dial unique in its own way.
This model is on pre-order right now, starting at $370. Here’s the tech specs;
MOD watches are great because you put your own spin on an OEM watch, with different dials, hands, bezels etc. But for those who like the udnerstated elegance of a Grand Seiko, Lucious Atelier has news for you – you can buy a 36mm/39mm case as a starting point.
The case is designed to accept two popular ETA movements by the way or two version of the Seiko NH series, if you want to keep it Japan themed.
Price is $229. LA also sell Snowflake or White Birch finished dial plates, so you can pay homage to GS for less.
Steeldive have a new `Datejust’ homage in their line-up and it retails for a very reasonable £125 on the UK website. Like the original Rolex this is an understated gents watch, suitable for all occasions and powered by a Seiko movement.
Is it our imagination, or is that date magnification glass just slightly too far to the right on the crystal?
Who wouldn’t like Rolex Explorer Freccione GMT from the 80s? Classic lines, 40mm case size, fantastic tool watch. However, finding a good one can be expensive, like 20 grand plus expensive. Ouch.
So if you love the style then China based brand Pagani have that all boxed off for you. The 42mm PD 1693 model was launched earlier in 2021 and really captures all the 80s GMT vibe you could want. 200m water resistance, classic orange GMT hand, plus a choice of white or black dials and that 24 hour numbered bezel too.
Inside, there’s a DG auto movement, which is closely based on the Miyota auto found in so many Accurist, Citizen and Bulova watches even today. Sapphire crystal, 20mm lug width and a steel bracelet, or you can choose a silicone strap.
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…
OK, let’s be honest, cheap watches from China are never gonna be collectable. Then there’s the whole Covid thing and whether you should buy stuff made by slaves in a totalitarian dictatorship. Oh wait, you like iPhones, microwaves and BMW 1 Series cars, so that’s OK.
One thing most watch fans agree on is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, with the classic Genta design case is a beatiful timepiece, a true classic. It never gets old, it just keeps reinventing itself like David Bowie used to every time he got bored with his characters. I can’t afford one, so I bought a Benyar lookalike online for £22 from Aliexpress just to test how good/bad these homage watches are.
You have to be impressed with a watch at this money which has a swing tag, polishing cloth, guarantee card and owners manual inside. The watch was wrapped in a polybag and had blue strip protectors on the clasp, plus skintight polythene protective strips on the bracelet links.
When you consider that many Indie dive watches with quartz movements offer a cloth bag, that’s it, for your £300 on Kickstarter, that does seem like decent packaging.
THE TECH STUFF
Inside the 41mm case there is a Miyota quartz movement, so reliability is a given. The case is steel, and not that well polished and finished. Likewise the bracelet links don’t quite move with the silky smooth slickness of a proper watch, like say a Seiko Presage.
On the dial there is a little sunray effect and a kind of waffle-ish look. Maybe school graph paper lines is a better way to describe it. The date window is a bit small, but on the upside the date wheel advances nicely in the first position on the crown. Big crown too, easy to grip.
ADJUSTING THE BRACELET
If you have a big wrist this watch will fit you. The number of links is huge, I reckon it would fit an eight inch wrist. I removed 5 links to make it perfect for my skinny 7 inch wrist, using my push-pin tool. It was easily done, no problems.
The clasp closes very smooth, you just press down the 6pm section first, then the 12 noon section clicks into place, with an embossed square logo pressing into place to secure the foldover clasp. Twin button release – which is a bit chunky and digs into my wrist slightly, but then I like a watch to fit snug, not loose so the crown starts digging into my hand.
DOES IT LOOK LIKE AN AP ROYAL OAK FROM A DISTANCE?
I think it does, so long as you are about 26 feet away. Once you can see the Benyar name and football club type shield logo, plus the lack of AP lettering, then you know it’s a fake. Sorry, homage. Here are the photos.
VERDICT: UNREAL VALUE FOR THE MONEY
It can cost you £22 to buy a pint and artisan fish n chips in London, so let’s not quibble too much about this Benyar. It tells the time, the Miyota engine means it will most likely keep doing that for a decade and the steel case looks durable, albeit a bit rough cast.
I just wish the Chinese would choose some better names for their homage watch brands; Pagani isn’t too bad. Tevise is acceptable. But Benyar, Helmdallr, Biden, Lige, Olevs and Wwoor..? Come on, these names are rubbish, they shout poverty and no class.
Let me give you one example of how a cheap watch briefly became cool because of its name; Ice watch. Yes, nothing special, but jewellers across Britain were getting 50 quid a pop for them at one stage.
You can fool some of the people, some of the time. As the Covid Plandemic proves only too well.
Gruppo Gamma has just the watch for those who would love a Panerai but don’t have 10K to invest. It’s called the Peacemaker and here’s the press info;
First introduced in 2017, the Peacemaker was in fact an early design conceived back in 2014 to replace the Genesis, our first line of watches. Owing to unexpected events we never managed to put that design to production at the time.
The Peacemaker is more than a passing nod to history. It exudes a strong retro vibe, its design heavily inspired by cushion-shaped dive watches worn by Italian frogmen from the ’30s to ’50s. It’s primarily offered with our signature dial design – one that was based on an elusive prototype from the ’50s, that we’ve modernised and put to production for the first time in 2014.
In other variants, the historic California dial was also revived but with a twist, by way of a ‘Semi-Cali’ dial in military stencil typeface.
Our signature caseback flange adorns the Peacemaker’s posterior, making it a truly unique piece in your collection. The use of premium materials extends to the Italian leather straps as well, although being a very versatile “strap-eater” the Peacemaker is likely to feed your strap addiction.
The timepieces are powered by mechanical movements from ETA, the largest Swiss movement manufacturer in the world. Access to ETA movements by independent brands is very limited if at all possible, but we’re able to acquire these movements in small quantities and back it up with strong technical expertise.
The Gruppo Gamma Peacemaker retails at $639 on pre-order, with a $299 deposit required. Delivery later in 2021. More here.
One of the most popular budget watch brands is Heimdallr, also known as `Sharkey’ to watch collectors. The reason for their success is simple; MOD watch quality on a tight budget, you can’t argue with a Seiko powered auto replica at under $150.
The latest Captain Willard homage has the NH35A movement inside the chunky 44mm case, plenty of lume, screwdown crown and a 200m depth rating. There are a few different bezel combos but the Pepsi is our fave. Here’s the tech spec;
Movement: Japan NH35A Automatic Movement,24 Jewels.
Case material: 316L stainless steel
Case back: 316L stainless steel(shark engraved)
Bezel: Unidirect rotatable bezel (360 degrees)
Bezel Insert: Ceramic Bezel Insert (black), Aluminum bezel insert (other colors than black)
Watch mirror: Sapphire glass with AR-Coating
Strap: Diver Silicone Strap, Stainless Steel buckle (PVD GOLD)
Water resistance: 200 m /20 ATM
Luminous: Japan Super Luminova C3 (Green)
Case: Screw-Down Case
Case diameter:44mm (without crown)
Case length: 47mm( lug to lug)
Case thickness: 12mm
Lug width 20mm
It’s an interesting question because even if you have nine or ten grand lying about spare, you may well struggle to buy a Rolex Sub or GMT homage this side of Renata battery expiry date. That’s 2024 by the way.
So if you just want the Rolex look, and don’t care about the Chinese assembly or build quality, here are some alternatives we spotted online.
We actually placed an order for this Milgauss lookalike from China recently, so watch out for a review of this quartz watch which costs a mere $25 including shipping on Aliexpress. At that money it is gonna be hard to find fault even if the second hand falls off after 3 months.
This one is one eBay in various dial/bezel combo; Pepsi, all black, blue/black etc at about £95. You get German tech it says, which could be the sapphire crystal? Seagull movement inside, nice steel bracelet too – VAT and customs duty on top of the ebay price though. We saw a couple of pre-owned examples in the UK if you want to save all that mither.
PAGANI DESIGN DAYTONA DEMON
Pagani are one of the best known Rolex tribute acts around, with some positive reviews online. Priced at about £80-£110 in the UK the Daytona lookalike is undeniably good value with a Seiko movement inside.
Pagani even have their own UK based ebay store, which is handy as regards back-up if things go wrong, plus avoid the import duty racket. Great looking Subs and GMT models too.
REGINALD, YOUR ROLEX IS HERE LUV
The Reginald is another China brand, with this quartz Submariner copy retailing at just over £35 plus taxes on ebay. You get 30m water resistance and…oh come on, do you care? It’s under 50 quid.
The Cadisen Datejust sells for about £70 on ebay or Amazon and again, the dependable Seiko NH35 automatic movement in inside the case. Thinking ahead, that movement is worth about 30 quid, assuming you wanted to build a MOD watch one day.
Anyway, you get a steel bracelet, 100m of claimed depth rsistance and a range of dial colours. Aliexpress has this on for about £50 plus import tariff n VAT, so not too pricey. See-thru caseback as well.