Tag Archives: reviews

Reviewed: Ailang Twin Tourbillion, Rose Gold Edition

We love to review watches here at NWC magazine, so let’s take a look at this twin-tourbillon Ailang, which we bought on Ali Express recently.

At around £67 (inc postage) this is a typical budget watch, although there are a few extras included in the deal. For example, you get a proper box complete with outer sleeve, VIP warranty card, handbook – English as well as Mandarin – swing tag and protective covers on the crystal, caseback and clasp.

There is also a spare conventional leather strap, plus a wristband, kinda Harry Styles leather thing, with what looks a bit like an Iron Cross in the centre. Useful if you’re in the Vaccine Enforcement Stormtrooper Squad in Vienna I guess.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This watch measures 41mm across – excluding crown – and some 13mm high. It does feel chunky on my slim wrists, but not too wide, in fact 40-42mm across suits me fine. You won’t fit this watch under a fitted evening or office shirt, but maybe that’s a good thing, as it is a conversation piece.

The watch was packed nicely with protective tape and padded box, bubble wrap etc for shipping.

The dial has a classic  tourbillon face with those twin barrrels standing out, then a small time telling dial above, almost like an old fashioned mantel clock; black chapter ring, silver Roman markers. The tourbillion wheels are held in place by two steel triangles, which are exact replicas of the rotor on the movement, but segmented – like a slice of rotor pie.

CAGE NOT FITTED CORRECTLY

The sad thing is this watch is not quite right. If you look closely the tourbillon cage on the right isn’t in situ. Hard to believe it slipped out of alignment during transit but it’s possible.

More likely it’s poor quality control at the factory.

The tourbillion cages hide most of the balance wheel spinning action, with the second wheel kicking in as I shook the watch after winding the crown to get wheel number one started.

Quite impressed it ran OK given the manufacturing fault. But so far it’s still ticking and telling the right time. However it will be returned for a refund.

It is visually very striking, hypnotic and apart from an uber-thin second hand, which looks quite fragile, the dial is impressive.

An AR coated sapphire crystal sits slightly proud of the bezel, which is rose gold tone, just like the case and crown.

Skeleton rotor is a nice touch.

TESTING

I wound this one for about ten turns, then shook it for ten seconds. After a day wearing it doing office stuff and one short walk to the shops it ran until 5.23am the following morning. Not bad. Most automatics I test from China tend to conk out in the early hours and I also own a vintage Lanco and Accurist which do the same thing.

By the way the one vintage watch I own which DOES continue to run through the night is a 20 year old Seiko 6309 basic gents automatic, which will run on the bedside cabinet for about 12-15 hours after being worn the day before.

One thing that does stand out is that changing the strap will not be easy. There’s no quick release slider on the pins and the strap is fitted very flush to the lugs, which means there is a risk of damaging the rose gold finish when you prise in a pin removal tool, to free the pin from the lugs.

On the upside the foldover steel clasp is well made and fastens with a reassuring, solid click, on both sides. The push button release works smoothly too. Many Chinese watches have less than perfect machining on clasps and retaining bands, but this leather deployment feels just as good as Rotary or Tissot in my experience.

VERDICT

This model comes with a silver tone case as well, plus blue, white or black dial options.

You know just 5 years ago I told people in the shop that I couldn’t try to repair Chinese watches as they were so hit & miss as regards build quality. Sad to say this is still the case, as the damaged tourbillon shows.

Very disappointed with this watch.

More here at the YJwatch store.

 

 

Ball 130th Anniversary Engineer Moon Calendar Edition

Ball watches have a 130th anniversary special on sale right now. Here’s the word from Ball;

Rooted in purposeful watchmaking, the Engineer II Moon Calendar is a dress watch with distinction. From its artful moon phase display to its robust stainless steel, it is a timepiece designed to go everywhere your imagination leads.
Check out the promo video here;

 

Anniversary price: the Engineer II Moon Calendar is part of our 130th celebration, limited to 1000 pieces and is now available for pre-order until 24 November 2021 at an exclusive price of £1810.
Crafted from stainless steel, the 40mm case of the Engineer II Moon Calendar is tough enough to handle all the unexpected bumps of daily wear with smooth elegance. At a case thickness of just 13.4mm, this everyday watch ensures a comfortable wearing experience.
The clean white dial presents the perfect backdrop to highlight the blue moon phase indicator as well as the dates of the month marked on the outer edge of the dial. With 4 recessed pushers on the flanks of the case to control the adjustment of the complications, the design of the Engineer II Moon Calendar is unadulterated minimalism at its best.
Day, date, month, and moon phase.
The true calendar timepiece showcases sophisticated functionality with high legibility. The spacious day and month windows are perfectly complemented by the whimsical fourth hand and its crescent moon tip that indicate the date.
Not to be overshadowed, the moon phase display showcases our watchmaking prowess with elegance and precision, accompanied by markings that indicate the time it takes for the moon to complete one phases cycle: 29½ days. A timepiece full of complications, presented with simplicity.
More at the Ball website.

Yema Wristmaster: Smoother Than Simon Templar

The new Yema Wristmaster has arrived. Teased on Kickstarter, this watch has attracted plenty of interest with the launch target of £42,600 or so easily surpassed with £388,000 pledged. Yeah that’s more faith than season ticket holders at Man Utd.

First off, let’s start with that name. Who really wants to be known as a Wristmaster? It’s a bit American Pie for us at NWC mag, but then we buy Chinese watches called Benyar or Guanqin, so let’s move on.

We love that hesalite high dome crystal, which is not only an authentic 60s watch feature, but has the charm of magnifying the edges of the dial. Always a nice touch when the dial is such a stunning shade of blue we reckon.

There’s a stunning Y logo engraved onto the caseback, which again adds that truly vintage touch. Plus we like the spacing on the caseback removal pin slots.  Very er..equidistant, that’s the word.  The vintage leather strap is a finishing touch that fits the overall mood perfectly too.

Finally, we go back to the dial and those big markers with a spot of lume set inside each one. A tiny detail, but it just looks so right. It’s an old school watch in every way and the whole package reminds us of the classic Timex and Tissot/Lanco models from the era. Clean, symmetrical, simplicity writ large. Or in this case, quite small, as the case  width is just 37mm.

There is a beige dial variant, but you know what, it’s too Milky Bar Kid compared to the blue version. Which rocks.

We think the original Wristmaster would have been worn by arch crimefighter n rescuer of damsels Simon Templar, aka The Saint. Although in reality, he sported a Bulova in the classic 60s TV show.

The Saint. The only TV hero who went around with a superlume watch bezel over his head. Fact.

The Yema Wristmaster 2021 is small for a modern watch, but you know what, we can see the appeal of choosing a modest gents watch. You get a timekeeper that is a true homage to the 60s Yema original, but with the Yema 2000 calibre inside, so modern day reliability.

Price starts at £399. More here at Yema’s site. 

 

Skagen Ryle Solar Watch – Go Square, It’s Hip

Skagen have a new solar powered watch and this has the old school rectangular case style, for that vintage look.

There is a 32mm diameter ladies model and a 36mm gents case width in the range, with grey and blue dial options. The mesh strap is also available in grey or black. Skagen say that just a few hours sunlight can power the watch up and it will then keep going for up to 6 months, which is remarkable – if true.

I mean it defies the laws of physics, but yeah, could happen.

The watch also a case made from 50% recycled steel, in tune with the Skagen leaf ethos.

Price is £169 and engraving is free.

VERDICT; A Seiko, Lorus or Citizen solar is cheaper and does the same job, probably more reliable in the long run as the Japanese have been making solar watches for a long time. But if you want that european, basic Ikea furnishings look, then Skagen have it covered.

A Minimalist Watch For a Fiver? Yep

Let’s suppose for a minute that you like Skagen watches, millions of people do. But you hate paying £150 for a basic quartz watch that has a caseback so impossible to remove, even Timpsons expert openers leave three or four scratches when its battery change time.

Or you might like Nomos Glashutte models, like the post-modernist Orion Neomatik, with its hushed grey dial tones and wafer-thin hands. But again, you dislike the Nomos price tag of about £1800.

Beautifully understated, but nearly two grand. Not everyone wants to spend that on a watch.

There is a cheaper way to look uber-modern and stylish, albeit with a quartz movement for just a fiver – including postage. Seriously.

We found a brand in China called Top Of the World and bought this grey-green dial model which cost just £4.75, yes under a fiver.

Good old AliExpress brought this one up when we searched quartz gents watches by price and you have to admit that it delivers. Packed in a curious flip-up bubble of plastic, there’s no box or papers. Just a basic leaflet telling you how to set the hands.

It was set to the correct UK time when it arrived, which is a nice touch by the brand, not many Swiss companies would bother to set the new watch to the right time.  Measuring just 41mm across, with a superslim bezel this is the perfect fit for many people. It’s not too high either at 10.6mm.

You get a PU fake leather strap, so it ticks the vegan box if you like to make sure that no leather is in your life. On the wrist the PU actually feels really soft and comfortable.

The dial has got that Junghans Max Bill kind of look, although the numbers are slightly smaller. It’s utilitarian, basic and none the worse for that, in fact the entire design reminded me of a rev counter from a mid-70s Honda CB400/550/750, minus the fabled red zone – which always used to fade in the sunlight.

Save the planet, keep paperwork down to a minimum.

Those ultra skinny hands stand out nicely and you can get the time with a glance. No superlume for night time of course, but you know…it’s a fiver. Some artisan cafes are charging that for a bowl of organic apple porridge.

VERDICT:

This beats Argos, Amazon or eBay when it comes to cheap prices and a decent spec. It arrived in just under a week too, so five stars for value. Nope, we aren’t on commission, we just like a bargain.

More info here.

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.