Skmei watches — Cheap and Fun

I wrote about some cheap watches I had, and with Christmas presents, I now have two more. I thought that I would add a review, from scratch, of all the Skmei watches I have. Some I have had for a couple of days, others a couple of months now. The type I’ve avoided is where there are both digital and analogue displays with totally separate movements. All watches drift a little, but if I had two displays on a watch which drifted apart from each other, it would drive me mad. The three dual display types I have, have only one movement between both digital and analogue and stay in time with each other. More of that when I come to each watch.

These watches, being cheap, do not have true stainless steel cases, though they do have stainless steel backs. The metal ones have a Zinc Alloy case, with metal plate. If you are excessively sweaty, these may not be for you. I used to dissolve this type of watch when I was much younger, but these days, do not have a problem with them. Another thing about Skmei watches, as well as a number of cheap Chinese labels, is that they are happy to dropship watches, both with their own branding, or an alternative. Many of these watches are advertised via Facebook ads at many times their AliExpress price. Certain brands are just cheap Chinese watches, relabelled. I’d check AliExpress before buying from a Social Media advert. Or one that might pop up on this page, which I have no control over. You should also note that headline prices on AliExpress can be deceptive, one trader may advertise a lower price but add on postage. Another may quote a higher price but then give a discount and not charge for postage. Some seemingly low prices are not for the actual product advertised but might be for an inferior product or a box. You might have seen this practice on E-bay.

I bought some of these watches from DX.com which has a limited range of Skmei watches, and they used to be cheaper there than on AliExpress (unlike most other things they sell!). However, since January 2021, their prices have gone up, and they are no longer delivering to the UK in any case! I have noted when the price was from DX. Expect to pay more now.

The name “Skmei” is Chinese. A lot of Chinese watches have European-sounding names, but in a way I think it’s more honest not to try to disguise the origins of the watch. Skmei is pronounced “Shǝkǝmay” where “ǝ” is like the dropped “e” sound at the end of “the”. It means “Wishing you a good life” or something similar. I suppose everyone has their own taste, and opinions on that.

I’ve included the width of each watch (excluding buttons/knobs). The 9058 and 9120 models are available in two sizes, and the 1220 and 1278 are quite compact, making them suitable for those with smaller wrists. Where the watch is available in two sizes, and I mention a strap width, it’s the width of the strap on the larger model. The first four watches are rated waterproof to 30m, the last three to 50m. Anyway, on with the show!

SKMEI 9058

This is a beautiful watch, and is the only SKMEI watch where I could change the strap but I decided not to. I actually paid £8.73 for this from AliExpress.

The design has been nicked from Tissot, but they only do it as an automatic watch, and obviously at a much higher price. If you want Quartz, this is the best you can do. It’s available in two sizes, 38mm and 31mm. Some of the movements used by these cheap watches have quite a wide tolerance for accuracy, but this particular watch is almost dead on. During the time I’ve had it, I’ve had to put it back a total of two seconds.

You can get this with the leather strap as shown, or a Stainless Steel strap. My leather strap seemed a bit stiff at first, but has got more supple with wear. You can pull out the crown to set it, one click for the date, two for the time on the face. The hands don’t move when the crown is pulled out and pushed in carefully. So you have here a blindingly accurate watch, a stunning classical look, basic water resistance, for under a tenner, with a decent strap as well! You can get it in other colours, too. My favourite.

SKMEI 9117

Another beautiful watch, which I got for, would you believe, £6.81. First it was on special offer to £12.91 for the 11/11 sale. Then I got two discounts, one from AliExpress, one from the trader, taking the price to £9.81. Then when it arrived, there were no holes in the strap! I asked for a partial refund of £3 and got it! You’d have to pay much more for it right now. I’d also recommend a better strap than the one supplied, as the strap supplied was not very good, even with holes! The one I got cost £2.37. It is similar to the one supplied with the 9058, but a little darker and with a Rose-Gold buckle. So I got a result there. I did make a couple of holes in the original strap, but as soon as I put it on, it creased at the holes and I couldn’t see it lasting all that long. The gauge of the strap needs to be 20mm.

Taking the photo on a smartphone with a flash gives you some distorted colours. The face is brown, but here the sunburst effect on the face looks sort of yellow gold, but in normal light it’s more of a rose gold. The casing, hands and hour markers are rose gold, so the strap I bought is a really good match. Other colours are available. I didn’t think I’d like brown and I definitely didn’t fancy rose gold, but when I saw them together in the advert, I thought, let’s take a risk, and I’m pleased I did.

Since I set it, it has gone second-to-second with the 9058, it’s just as accurate. With the extra buttons on the side, and the dials, it looks like a Chronograph, but it’s not. The left dial is the day of the week, 1-7. The right dial is the month. 1-12. The bottom dial is the hour, but over 24 hours instead of 12. The window shows a Sun or a Moon according to the time of day. The date is in the little window, and you have to look at it pretty square on to see it. So I took the photo at 3.47 and 32 seconds in the afternoon of 25th December. You have to advance the Month setting at the start of the month, and wind on Date when the month has less than 31 days.

Like the 9058, it was easy to set the hands on the watch and push in the crown without them moving. It’s a bit bigger than the 9058, 41mm against 39mm, and stands a little higher. But it looks great!

SKMEI 9120

A lovely looking watch. The unevenness of the outside of the dial is a trick of the light caused by reflections off the inner case, in real life it looks much more even. The face is actually black, but the reflection from the glass adds a blue sheen, which makes it look really nice. The design is from an expensive (£2000 or so) Nomos watch, and there are a lot of homages, but only the SKMEI, as far as I can see, has changed the colours of the 12, 4 and 8 to red, which I think is a nice touch. The original leather strap was a scrawny little thing, and barely long enough. I’ve replaced it with a 20mm black silicone strap with blue stitching, which matches really well. I paid £5.65 for the watch, and £2.52 for the strap. This is nice and cheap! You can also get it in White.

At this price, something has to be amiss. The problem is that when you pull the crown out or push it back in, the minute hand moves. And while the crown is out, the hand is wobbly. Such a shame. Still, it’s worth persisting, because it’s a great looking watch at the price. It loses a couple of seconds per week, so has to be reset from time to time, so when I set it, I put it about 5 seconds fast, and leave it until it’s about 5 seconds slow. Like all SKMEI watches, it’s water resistant. It’s 38mm wide, also available in a smaller size 32mm.

SKMEI 1220

This is the first SKMEI watch I bought. I got this from DX.com for £6.89. It’s dearer on AliExpress. It is available in a number of colours, and comes with a Stainless Steel strap. I replaced the strap with a 20mm blue silicone strap which I think makes it look much better, and is far more comfortable. That cost me about £3.00. It’s a very practical watch, as there is a backlight for the digital display. You set the analogue dial by pressing the top right button, there’s no crown. Once you set the analogue display to the same time as the digital display, they stay together. When the digital seconds get to 00, 20 and 40, the minute hand moves forward ⅓ minute. The watch runs a little fast. To put it back, say, 4 seconds, you’d put it into setting mode, then press the mode button when the seconds reach 4. So it’s easy enough to put right.

The watch has a nice face, and the backlight means that if you’re going out where it’s light, but will get dark later, it’s very useful, provided you leave the digital display on “time”. The width of the face is only 34mm, and suits a range of wrist sizes. It’s a copy of the Casio AQ-230, but that has only 3 buttons and no backlight. There are several other versions of this watch, both by SKMEI and others, which also have 3 buttons and no backlight. They are thinner and in some cases are water-resistant to 50m, and this model is only to 30m, but it’s really practical because of that backlight, though. I think it’s a bargain!

SKMEI 1278

This watch cost me £4.96 from DX.com, it’s a little dearer on AliExpress. Its glass is domed and thus exposed, and it’s actually plastic that cracks and scratches easily. I managed to get a couple of deep scratches or cracks in the glass, although a bit of Polywatch makes them less obvious. It’s a shame, because I think that otherwise, it would be a brilliant digital watch at a cheap price. I wouldn’t mind if they used the same screen in a better protected version. It’s possible to get a replacement strap for it, but that’s for one that’s identical, so you wouldn’t want to unless your strap was torn. Fortunately the strap matches the watch nicely, is long enough for me, and very comfortable. The watch is only 34mm wide, and will suit a wide range of wrist sizes.

The watch has an EL backlight, which is really easy to see at night. Whatever watch I wear during the day, this one comes to bed with me at night and sits on the side table. It’s features are:

  • Normal Display: Weekday, Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Year, Month and Date.
  • Five Alarms
  • Hourly Chime On/Off
  • Stop Watch
  • Timer Countdown
  • Dual Time

When Normal Display is not selected, the time (Hours and Minutes only) is displayed at the bottom of the screen in place of the year.

It could be more accurate, it gains about 11 seconds a week, but all you have to do is to put it into adjust mode and when the seconds gets to 11 (or however fast it actually is, as long as it’s under 30 seconds), press the top right key to reset the seconds to zero. If you don’t have a good viewing angle, you do get the 88:88₈₈ effect, but if it’s on your wrist, it’s really no big deal to point it the right way. The equivalent Casio W96H has a better viewing angle, but only one alarm, no timer countdown, and a sidelight type backlight which is not very good, and is no better regarding the glass quality or the water resistance rating. And, of course, a higher price! If you can keep the front glass out of trouble, this is an absolute bargain.

SKMEI 1464

This is a huge ugly brute, but it has its uses. The OLED display covers a number of functions, and stays on for 10 seconds from the last button pressed. Displayed is Date, Time and Air Temperature. You can change Air Temperature to day of the week. You can also change the OLED display to Stopwatch, Countdown Timer, Compass (yes it will tell you which way you’re facing), Pedometer, Calories and Distance (but it’s not a Smartwatch). I’m looking forward to wearing it when I take exercise walks (waiting for weather to improve). With all those features, it’s not surprisingly more expensive than the other watches here. I paid £14.48 for it, best price at the moment is £16.14. It came with a black metal strap, which, for the first time in my life, was a little large. Trying to remove a couple of links resulted in one of the pins half in and half out and stuck. I bought a 22mm NATO-type strap for £1.85.

This watch runs even faster than the 1278 (see above), about 15 seconds a week. The minute hand moves ⅓ minute when the seconds in the digital display reach 00, 20 and 40, so you correct the time just like with the 1220. So not that hard to put right.

The worst aspect of the watch is that the ugly so-called Tachymeter. You can read what that means here. Personally I think it should be called “Tackymeter” because all it does for me is to make the watch look cheap and tacky. You even see this on some expensive watches. If I could have got a watch with the features of this one, but without the Tachymeter I’d have preferred it. This watch offers 50m Water Resistance (instead of 30m like the others). I hope to be able to use its practical features.

I can think of a couple of cosmetic improvements that could be made to this watch. Firstly, get rid of the Tacky-meter, and move the Light-Mode-Start-Reset legends to that outer ring. On the inner ring around the dial, add some divisions for the minutes. When the OLED is off, this would help to read the time more accurately.

SKMEI 1637

This is another huge watch, even bigger than the 1464. You will notice that the analogue time is much easier to read than the 1464. It has divisions at each minute. This would have been a far better design for the analogue part of the 1464. It cost me £7.51 from DX.com, you’ll pay much more at AliExpress.

The hour and minute hands have lume. The inverted LCD screen needs good light to be read, but the top left button illuminates it really well. The analogue hands and the digital time move together, so if you set them together, they stay in line with each other. The second hand runs independently and cannot be set, but that’s no different to a lot of mechanical watches.

Apart from the second hand, the functions of the watch (as opposed to its appearance) are identical to those of the SKMEI 1220 above. The bad news is that the top right button, which advances the analogue time, is too easy to press in error. On the 1220, you have to press a lot harder for it to register. It’s easier to advance the time in error on the 1637, which is a pain in the neck, as you can’t turn the hands backwards on either watch.

The accuracy is OK, but it’s a little slow rather than a little fast. It’s not as straightforward to correct as the 1220, but not all that difficult.

What I will say is that if your wrist is big enough (mine is only just big enough for this watch but that’s good enough), it’s extremely comfortable to wear. That’s probably due to the strap material, just a basic, probably artificial, rubber. I do like wearing it!

I really think that SKMEI have missed a trick with this movement. They could make a dressy watch, like the 1220 but with a second hand, or like the 9120 or 9058 but with a digital window, which would a really nice design.

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