Buying Cheap Watches

I’ve got a Tissot watch, had it for around 20 years at a guess. I remember it cost me £175, that would be much more in today’s money. It chose the Covid-19 lockdown for its battery to start running out, and it was getting a bit grubby. Normally I would take it to a jeweller, get it cleaned and the battery replaced. But times were different, and the jeweller I normally entrusted it to had retired and his shop closed.

I did look on line with a view to finding a postal service, but most of the traders that I found, seemed to “specialise” in Rolex and stuff, so I imagined what they would charge for this service — possibly more than the watch is worth. So I bought two things, a very cheap watch, with a short delivery time, a kit for opening the watch myself, a pack of gaskets of various sizes, and a replacement battery. I looked at a few videos on YouTube to help me with the battery replacement. While waiting for it all to arrive, I gave the watch a really good clean.

The cheap watch arrived. I knew it was going to be rubbish before I bought it, having fake chronograph dials, but I expected to be able to read the dial. It looked readable in the photos, but in real life, you couldn’t see the time. I managed to get it out of its case, and take a black permanent marker to the fake dials, and that made it a bit better, but several weeks later, the hands started to curl and the minute and hour hands couldn’t pass each other. Getting it out of its case again to try to straighten the hands, finished with the watch in the bin.

Tissot Damaged

Sadly, I managed to damage the Tissot. It still looks great, still keeps great time, but since I had it open to change the battery, the mechanism which advances the date gets stuck.

So every morning it is between two dates, and will never move again unless I advance it manually, which isn’t really a big deal, just annoying. I don’t know if a grain of dust floated in when the watch was open. From what I read, the problem might be that, after I put in the battery, I corrected the time and date during the small hours, when the watch advances the date. I’ve read since that it can damage the date-related mechanism, and you shouldn’t set the time or date between 11pm and 5am. That might be nonsense, of course, who knows?

SKMEI brand watches

In the meantime, I had sent off for a couple of new watches. I couldn’t resist the prices of them. They were £6.89 and £4.96, including postage, from a site, though they vary over time due to exchange rates.

The one on the left, a SKMEI 1220, is a digital watch with an analogue dial. Sounds like a daft description, but it’s an accurate one. Although you can set the dial to a different time than in the window in the bottom, the minute hand advances ⅓ minute, whenever the seconds readout in the digital window gets to 00, 20 and 40. So get the analogue and digital displays together, and they stay together! It has hardened glass, and there is a very good review of it here:

The reviewer (and this applies to every review I’ve seen on this watch that’s in a language I can understand) did not, however, pick up on the way that the minute hand is triggered to move, and it’s important. The top right button that sets the analogue hands, only moves the time forwards. If it’s only a little bit fast, you would have to send it nearly 12 hours forwards. Now let’s say it gains 10 seconds over a month or so. By pressing and holding the “Reset” button in Time mode, the seconds readout starts to flash. When it gets to 10, press “Mode” and it will be returned to zero. The minutes hand will not advance until the seconds readout reaches 20. You have now put back both Analogue and Digital readouts by 10 seconds. Useful to know.

The same reviewer also reviewed the watch on the right, a SKMEI 1278. That’s a complete calendar watch. Although it looks like it does in the on-line adverts, it doesn’t photograph too well, and so I think they faked some photos, putting on a Date, Month and Year which didn’t correspond with the Day on the display! But I can assure you that is has the calendar built in, because, as I set the Date, the correct Day came up all by itself.

A little criticism of the layout of the 1278, is that they orphaned “AL5” (the fifth alarm). It might have looked tidier if they had put all the AL’s in a window together, and put either SNZ (snooze) or SIG (hourly signal = beep) outside — no change of function at all, but neater.

My old Tissot, and the SKMEI 1220 both came with a Stainless Steel strap, but in both cases, I replaced them with a Silicone strap, which you can see in the photos. This was after viewing another video where another reviewer of the 1220 had replaced the strap on his, with a silicone strap. Once the strap arrived, I noticed that the strap fitting on the Tissot was the same gauge (20mm), and it felt better on my wrist with it on, so I bought another one for the Tissot. This is the video:

I will add that I didn’t think the Stainless Steel strap on the 1220, which was criticised in both videos, was all that bad. Once adjusted for my wrist size, it was comfortable enough, and looked fine. Unlike both reviewers, I don’t have hairy forearms, so no problems with hair pulling, either. It was just a bit fiddly to get on and off, and I preferred the feel of the silicone strap on my wrist.

What do Waterproof ratings mean?

My old Tissot watch is rated as waterproof to 100 metres. The 1278 is rated to 50m, and the 1220 to 30m. This is all sales nonsense, by the way. The 1220 might well survive under 30m of pure water, but I wouldn’t expose it to soapy water which penetrates much more easily. Also if you press the buttons on it while it’s under water, you could let water in. So 30m or 50m could be considered safe to swim in, but only if you can be sure you don’t knock the buttons. Each 10m is equivalent to 1 atmosphere. So 50m water resistance and 5atm water resistance is the same thing.

My advice? They’ll be OK in the rain, and if you are out and need to wash your hands, it will be OK as long as you keep soapy water away from the watch, and don’t press the buttons while they’re wet. But don’t take liberties with anything rated under 100m, or even if it is but you’ve opened it yourself, or it’s old and hasn’t had its gaskets replaced by a professional. Here is a short article that sums up what it all means.

A Word of Warning

I mentioned that I got these watches from a site called, or “Deal Extreme”. They are dearer elsewhere. This site has been pilloried in a number of reviews on TrustPilot. Among the more serious allegations is that they give you a fake tracking number and don’t dispatch the goods. Also that they try to get out of replacing goods that haven’t been received. I read this at a stage when my first package (the 1220) was said to have entered the UK, but had not been delivered, and the replies to the enquiries I made were not helpful. However, it did turn up 12 days after it had landed, and the name of the logistics company on the label was the same as on the tracking information, so this delay was down to Royal Mail. Strangely enough, the second package (the 1278, ordered 9 days after the other one) landed in the UK one day later, and was delivered the day after that. I have ordered from them in the past, and stuff has always got here.

The bad side to is that they advertise their delivery times at 7-18 days, which is ridiculous. 40 days is far more realistic, particularly as the route taken from China to Western Europe is the TransAsia route through Northern China, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to Poland. But at the time of ordering I never for a moment thought that they would be here within 18 days!

Cheap watches can be fun

Thing is, that my Tissot would be over £300 at today’s prices, and so paying £7 for a watch makes sense, because I can cheaply replace it if it goes wrong. At my age, I doubt I’ll live another 30 years, so what’s the point of buying something expensive?

By the way, I had bought another silicone strap for the rubbish watch before it ended up in the bin, a couple of days before the strap arrived! So, I’ve sent off for another rubbish watch, costing me £1.94.

It actually looks quite nice, though I wouldn’t even want to sweat on it in case it got destroyed, and hopefully that spare strap will fit it. Judging by how long it took to get my two SKMEI watches, I reckon we’re looking at the start of November before it gets here. But it looks nice in the photo! It’s a quartz imitation of a mechanical watch with a clear case. Of course all the little gears are fake, as it won’t have any. They look like little Mercedes or CND logos! This cheap watch malarkey could prove to be fun. And why not, it’s nice to get a hobby at my age, and collecting cheap watches made in China, seems OK to me. But no more for now!

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