Tag Archives: reviews

Ali Express Sub-a-Like for £31 – DECENT Replica or Timewaster?

We love testing watches here at Northern Watch Co magazine and this week we have been checking out the latest automatic to arrive from China, or possibly Singapore – hard to tell – in the shape of this sterile dial Rolex Sub look-a-likey.

First impressions;

Very well packaged in bubble wrap and then surrounded by a padded bubble bag, about the size of a large US style Coke can. The watch links and clasp were covered in sticky clear tape to prevent scratches and the blue tab on the crown needed some watch cleaner to remove the last bits.

Nothing protecting the crystal though.

There were two adjustable links on one side of the steel bracelet and three on the other. I neeed three links out to find the perfect fit on my wrist. The link pins are screwdown by the way, which is a quality touch I did not expect at this price.

Yes, the price. Just £31.56 including VAT and shipping – amazing.

Inside the movement sounds like the super-spinning DG variety, which you would expect for this money.

The DG is a copy of the Miyota automatic found in many Citizens, Accurists and countless microbrands over the last decade or so.

I haven’t bothered using my Rolex opening tool on the caseback to check it out, as the watch has been keeping good time for the last two days. Frankly, a DG movement photo isn’t going to be that exciting to look at.

Yep, you can wind it, or just shake it to get some reserve power in there.  Fully wound it ran for about 18 hours, which is not as good as a typical Seiko NH35/36 auto – but they cost the manufacturer a little bit more, so you pay £45-£65 or so for some of the Aliexpress watches that feature the Seiko engine.

Setting the date is easy, unscrew and pull the crown to the first position, and away you go. The second position sets the hands of course.

The clasp is nicely finished and closes with a healthy snap, plus it has a little foldover tab for security. The bezel is unidirectional and has orange numbers set into its ceramic surface. Lume is bright on the hands, not quite so bright on the hour markers.

DOWNSIDES?

There are a few sharp edges on the bracelet clasp. The crown needs a fair bit of pressure on the tube, so you really have to push in hard before trying to screw the crown down. You get used to it.

It would be great to have the option of paying a few pounds extra to have a brand name on the dial, even if it is a made up word, or perhaps just a logo graphic? Sharks, Rays n Turtles are kinda already spoken for, but maybe a marlin, or something ocean/dive related?

Just an idea, although personally I wouldn’t go diving wearing a £30 watch. It’s like the Bell helmet advert; if you have a ten dollar head, buy a ten dollar helmet.

VERDICT; Superb value for very little money. You won’t impress fellow watch nerds but you will get regular citizens doing a double take at your wrist, until you tell them, `yeah it’s a copy mate.’

Best plan these days, as you can get stabbed for a real Rolex.

Fancy an AP Royal Oak Homage for Car Boot Money?

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.

The packaging is impressive for such a bargain basement watch.

THE UNBOXING

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.

Easy to push pins out and tap back in again for a perfect fit.

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.

Yep, plenty of linkage there.

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.

Clasp closes up nicely, logo is a an unexpected detail on a watch this cheap.

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.

This is where I bought the road test watch by the way.

 

 

Watch Reviews: A Dive Style Watch For a Tenner?

Northern Watch Co magazine misses the old days when you could sit in a pub debating all kinds of things, such as why do  most Lib Dem candidates all have dreadful hair?

Another Alan Partridge topic is that only rubbish watches like Bench, Henleys and similar car boot dross can be had £10 or so. You have to pay about £25 to get a simple timekeeper that will last you a couple of years.

So in spite of pubs now pretending to be field hospitals that serve alcohol and chicken wraps as a sideline, we took up that challenge last week.

The winner of our ebay search was a near-mint Casio dive style quartz, which cost £10 exactly, plus £2.99 postage. This MRW 200 model is available online from as little as £14.99 at Argos, although other outlets are trying to get over 30 quid for it.

You can’t blame them because it’s a decent watch for the money, with 100m water resistance, a moveable bezel, some OK lume on the hands and markers, plus a resin strap and day/date feature.

Unpacking the watch I was surprised at how clean this used watch was – hardly a mark on it and set to the right time, date and ticking away. It even had the original docs in the groovy 1990s style see-thru box.

On the wrist it feels super light and not too big, with a 42mm case diameter. The caseback screws down and the only way water can sneak in is via the crown, which has little protector lugs next to it. The white dial lets the markers stand out and after holding the watch under a kitchen light for a few minutes, the lume was bright for around 20 mins. Not bad at this price.

No, you would not scuba dive in this watch, and the docs state that quite clearly. But a little dip in a hotel pool should be fine.

Like every Casio, this one feels well made and durable. The black paint on the case will probably withstand a few knocks better than most budget watches and the painted on white numerals on the bezel looks nice and thick under a loupe.

The clasp even has  a Casio logo indented into it, which is a neat touch on a low cost watch. Most are unsigned.

This is a sharp looking everyday watch that you can wear when giving your vintage stuff a rest inside its case, or winder. You could lose it and not worry too much because at this price it’s cheaper than a gastro pub meal with a couple of drinks.

There is a difference between cheap, and great value. Any Casio offers that value, plus a little bit of respect from watch collectors and the general public alike. People see it and say `It’s a Casio so they last for years.’

When you buy that kind of brand rep for a tenner, you’re winning.

 

Feeling the Goodwood Vibe? Try a Marchand Driver Chrono

If you are looking forward to getting along to Goodwood Festival of Speed, or the Revival in September, once the lockdown house arrest ends, then a Marchand watch could be just the thing. Styled here in the UK, these Seiko VK64 quartz watches have motorsport oozing from every pusher and the retro Driver Chronograph model is on pre-order offer right now, at £199. Price then rises to £259 after the first 100 pieces are sold.

By the way the Marchand pictured in the header image is on Amazon right now for £179 – just saying.

Here’s the blurb from Marchand;

The Retro Driver Chronograph MKII wrist watch is inspired by retro motor racing, a mix of technical and elegance… steel and leather making it a stunning vintage drivers watch for your weekend drives.
The Driver chrono mens watch delivers sensations of tradition and modernity, its blue dial refers to the classic GT cars of the 70s and 80s with the added ivory and orange features of the dial to really reflect retro race styling. Elegant on the wrist the Driver chronograph embraces its owner with a perforated padded, leather rally strap to remind of the leather upholstery and gloves of the drivers. Who doesn’t love motoring watches?
Fave colours? Got to be blue, then the bold yellow panda.
The Driver Chrono MKIIs feature a brushed 43mm all stainless steel with a brushed and polished bezel, it runs on a highly popular and modern Japanese Seiko caliber VK64 chronograph hybrid meca-quartz movement with highly scratch resistant sapphire crystal to protect the dial. These chronos have the subdial dials lowered disc cut effect and features luminous hands and hours indicators. The caseback features an etched retro racing driver’s helmet from the 70’s and lastly all models tailor a genuine leather strap with quick release pins, brushed buckle and etched logo.

 

Bell+Ross Vintage VR-94 Has The Full Glow-Up

There’s lume, then there’s Superlume and finally, all over the dial lume. Some people really love it, and a used Timex Indiglo is one of the easiest watches to sell on eBay or Amazon at the right price. Why? It just makes telling the time at night, when you waken from some bizarre dream that much easier, and a whole lotta folk like that feature.

So the Bell+Ross Vinatge chronograph with a metal dial costed in C5 Superlume may well win some fans. It’s a 41mm case size watch, with sapphire glass, box-crystal on the front and a sapphire crystal on the see-thru caseback too. The dial has a bit of blue contrast lume on a sub-dial too. You can choose a yellow or green lume plus there’s a steel bracelt or tropic rubber strap option.

As you would expect from a Bell+Ross watch this has big numbers on the dial and a general aviation sort of feel. Inside you find an in-house BR calibre 301 movement, which is based on the ETA 2894 automatic movement. So reliability is guaranteed, as is ease of servicing by an Indie watchmaker. Those are all plus points but the downside is the price; £4300.

OK this is a limited edition of 250 pieces, but there are better value chronograph options out there with Swiss movements inside them, although they don’t have the all-over dial lume. For example you could buy an Omega Speedmaster 38 for £4300 and know that its resale value will always be at least £1000 better than any Bell+Ross model. Or you could buy a TAG Heuer F1 with its grey dial, bright yellow markers and hands option for £1700. Yes, it’s a quartz, but superbright dial day or night.

That also leaves you enough change to buy a Tudor Black Bay 58 from your £4300 budget. Nice.

 

Rolex Explorer II: Classic Tool Watch Makes a Great Investment

The latest Explorer II made its debut yesterday and we have to say the white dial and vivid orange GMT hand are classic touches that didn’t need to be changed. The new movement is a welcome upgrade, so you now have a 70 hour power reserve, plus the dial features new super-bright lume on the markers and hands. The case size is 42mm too, which will suit many buyers as it looks like a proper watch, not a 36mm vintage model.

It’s arguably a better investment than the Explorer with two tone case because it won’t date so quickly and the lack of gold links in the bracelet makes it slightly less attractive to thieves. Wearing a dress Rolex openly in public is becoming pretty dangerous in many UK cities, even in daytime, so owning something that looks more akin to a Seiko 5 or a Maurice Lacroix Aikon is a wise precaution.

Here’s the press info from Rolex;

Rolex is introducing its new-generation Oyster Perpetual Explorer II. This technical watch, in Oystersteel, was created for the boldest explorers and now features a redesigned case and bracelet. This update brings enhanced visual balance and harmony to the timepiece while remaining true to its aesthetic heritage.

On the white lacquer dial, the hour markers – whose black coating is applied using PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) – and the black lacquer hour, minute and seconds hands stand out for their matt finish. The 24-hour hand retains its characteristic orange hue, which is the same colour as the Explorer II inscription that has featured on the dial since 2011.

The new-generation Explorer II also benefits from an optimized Chromalight display. In dark conditions, the intensity of the blue glow emitted by the hour markers and hands now lasts longer thanks to the innovative and exclusive luminescent material with which they are filled or coated. In daylight, these display elements also have a brighter white hue.

The new-generation Explorer II is equipped with calibre 3285, a movement at the forefront of watchmaking technology. Like all Rolex watches, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II carries the Superlative Chronometer certification, which ensures excellent performance on the wrist.

The Explorer II is heir to the privileged relationship that has long united Rolex and exploration. Presented in 1971, this robust and reliable watch quickly became an essential tool for explorers travelling to the far corners of the globe, often in extreme conditions. Thanks to its 24-hour display comprising an additional, orange hour hand and an engraved bezel, the Explorer II allows the wearer to clearly distinguish daytime from night-time hours. This is particularly useful in areas where it is difficult or even impossible to distinguish between day and night, such as underground or in polar regions, which experience six months of daylight and six months of darkness a year. In certain conditions, this display enables the watch to serve as compass. The 24-hour display can also be used to show a second time zone.

UPGRADED MOVEMENT

The new-generation Explorer II is equipped with calibre 3285, a movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex that was released in 2018 and is fitted on this model from 2021. At the forefront of watchmaking technology, this self-winding mechanical movement led to the filing of several patents, and offers outstanding performance in terms of precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, convenience and reliability.

Calibre 3285 incorporates the Chronergy escapement patented by Rolex, which combines high energy efficiency with great dependability. Made of nickel-phosphorus, it is also insensitive to magnetic fields. The movement is fitted with an optimized blue Parachrom hairspring, manufactured by Rolex in a paramagnetic alloy that makes it up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks. The blue Parachrom hairspring is equipped with a Rolex overcoil, ensuring the calibre’s regularity in any position. The oscillator is fitted on the Rolex-designed and -patented high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers, increasing the movement’s shock resistance.

Calibre 3285 is equipped with a self-winding module via a Perpetual rotor. Thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency, the power reserve of calibre 3285 extends to approximately 70 hours.

The new-generation Explorer II is fitted with an Oyster bracelet. Developed at the end of the 1930s, this three-piece link bracelet is known for its robustness.

The Oyster bracelet on this new watch features the Rolex-designed and -patented Oysterlock folding safety clasp, which prevents accidental opening. It is also equipped with the Easylink comfort extension link, developed by the brand, which allows the wearer to easily adjust the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm. In addition, a concealed attachment system ensures seamless visual continuity between the bracelet and case.

Finally, They Nailed It- Bremont Supermarine Is a Winner

Bremont have just opened a new factory in the UK and you have to say hats off to them, because most brands would have simply designed their watches here in Britain, and had production outsourced to Singapore, possibly Switzerland on the more expensive models. But no, British-made watches (yeah Swiss movements we know, but give them a chance) and what’s more, the new Supermarine chronograph is probably going to be a hot seller, even at £5400 or so.

Let’s start with the dial which is a classic three sub-dial, reversed white on black affair. It’s punchy, tool watch functional, a classic mix of GMT and lumed hands. Set inside the 43mm case is a Bremont BE54 movement, with a stunning rotor that’s embossed with the Bremont name and a series of paddle shaped cut-outs. Little SBS/Commando detail that we love. The BE54 is based on the reliable Valjoux 7750 so you won’t have much trouble getting this serviced by an independent watchmaker when you need to – handy.

The bezel is ceramic, bi-directional and its rated at 200m so you can scuba dive on holiday – if you’re allowed abroad of course. I love the pushers and crown details on this model, they remind me of Thunderbird 3 and yeah, I think that’s a good thing.

The blue dial version looks pretty spectacular as well, and you can choose silicone strap or steel bracelet. The see-thru caseback is sapphire of course, and shows off that modified 7750 movement plus the Bremont rotor perfectly. This watch will delight the eye for decades and you have to admit, the same could not be said about some previous Bremont efforts.

This brand is turning things around now and if they can add a calculator on import duties in key markets to their online checkout then they have got it made. That’s a tall order I know, but you have to admit that the EU is making life hard for the UK and will continue to do so because…well mafia innit?

So if customers in China, Aus, USA, EU and Japan can all see exactly what the total cost of the watch is, then I think they may be tempted. This is a worthy rival to a TAG Autavia Heritage, an Omega Planet Ocean or Breitling Chronomat and although it is uinlikely to hold its resale value quite so well as those three watches, it’s definitely a watch you could pass down the family 30 years on – it has all the right elements, tough spec and plenty of visual appeal. Good work Bremont.

 

Ball Roadmaster TMT On Pre-Order

We have a lot of time for Ball watches here at the Northern Watch Co magazine because firstly, they’re Swiss made to exceptionally high standards, and secondly, they look the business. Yes, it’s great owning a Swiss watch but some models have less visual appeal and we aren’t going to name names…well OK then, let’s say the Nomos range with the sub-second dials have a slightly dated feel, or you could argue that the Breitling Navitimer kinda looks too busy, almost confusing, on the dial – if you don’t need a slide rule on the wrist.

It’s all a matter of taste, but there’s no denying the Roadmaster TMT with its temp gauge has a very bold, crisp dial design, with that famous Ball gas-tube lume for night viewing, plus a beautifully clear – and ceramic – bezel adding the finishing touch. It’s available for £1491 in black or blue, with the temp in old school Fahrenheit or Celcius – your choice. Limited to 1000 pieces.

More details here, on pre-order from 24/03/21.

Was Rothmans THE Motorsport Paint Job of The 80s?

We reckon it was. Seen on rally cars like the insane Porsche 911, the Le Mans racers of the famed 24 hour endurance events, US sports cars, or the amazing Honda V4 race bikes – and a few road bikes – the Rothmans red/white/blue combo just defined that era. Which some today even cite as the greates decade in motorsports of all time.

Yes, we just started a pub debate and the pubs aren’t even open. But look at the evidence; Doohan vs Rainey and Schwantz in 500 GPs, the Audi Quattro and Group B in Rallying. Then there’s the battles between Piquet, Prost and Senna in F1, plus the bonkers turbo cars of the time. World Superbikes also started in the late 80s. I rest my case, and my can of Kestrel lager.

So this Omologato Heritage watch, with a Seiko quartz movement inside its 42mm steel case,  chrono functions, plus natty Italian leather strap is a vintage delight. Reliable and decent value at £370. That’s all, it just does exactly what a retro watch should do – looks like a million dollars standing still.

More here. 

Farer Exmoor Automatic Has That Military Edge

Farer have a new addition to their range, the Field Exmoor automatic. Featuring a Sellita SW221 movement inside the steel case, this 38mm watch is designed for outdoor adventures and has that classic mil-spec dial. It also has an orange date hand rather than the conventional date window. For £875 this is an expensive alternative to something like a Seiko 5 with a green dial, but you are buying British and getting a watch with stunning night time lume as well.

Here’s the Tech Spec;

CASE

38.5mm diameter, 12.3mm depth, 45mm lug-to lug, 42mm pin-to-pin

MATERIAL

316 marine grade stainless steel

FINISH

Brushed finish with crown protector sides, highly polished back

BEZEL

316 marine grade stainless steel external fixed bezel

DIAL

Olive green textured dial and outer date ring with highlighted end of month dates, numerals overprinted in off-white SLN Grade A Super-Luminova with light orange Super-Luminova 5 minute arrow markers

Seiko 5 is a plain Jane compared to the Farer – but we found it online at £200 at Watch Nation.

HANDS

Sword style hour/minute hands in brushed steel with off-white SLN Grade A Super-Luminova infill, orange date hand featuring Farer ‘A’ pointer, blue sweep second with Super-Luminova dot and orange tip

CROWN

6mm screw in, straight stainless steel, machined solid bronze cap featuring embossed Farer marque

GLASS

Flat strengthened sapphire crystal, internal anti-reflective coating, external hard anti-reflective coating

STRAP KIT

Tan American Horween leather strap with steel buckle, airforce blue waterproof nylon NATO strap, ‘5 row’ integrated 316 marine grade steel bracelet with tri-fold clasp (fit to size via link removal) – all with quick release pin fitting

LUG

20mm

WATER RESISTANT

20ATM