Monday, December 8, 2014

Trolling for Hate: Why I am Struggling with Watch Reviews

Since I launched the site I have wanted to do watch reviews.  I have tried a few times and each time has ended in failure.  Watches are much more complicated than knives and flashlights.  Their  long history and technical sophistication make it difficult to penetrate watch jargon and speak with confidence when evaluating watches.  But there are a few other issues that watches present that make it hard for me to review them.  In essence, the problem is this--watches are fashion items.  As handy as they are, watches aren't tools and I review tools.  I like pretty tools as much as the next dude, but watches aren't tools first and foremost (or at least the watches people find interesting aren't).  Here is how you know they aren't tools--the more expensive watches do not perform their designated function better than less expensive watches.  That is, a quartz watch keeps better time than a Rolex.  And when price is wholly detached from performance, you are not looking at tool you are looking at something else.


Watches do a lot of different things--tell time, tell the day and date, act as a stopwatch--there are myriad functions of some watches (called complications).  And the guts of a watch are literal engineering masterpieces.  Coiled springs and escapements and the like all make watch evaluation complex.  Its like reviewing a computer or a AVR--the more functions and the more complex something is the hard it is to fully evaluate.  Watches are the EDC equivalent of the massive $4,000 Denon receiver--there is just a lot going on in that little case.  All of these extras bring up an issue fundamental to consumerism--feature creep.  How many of these doodads matter?  Do you REALLY need to know the phase of the moon?  They are complicated and, in many was, unnecessarily so.  


Let's face facts--alot of what we carry we carry because it looks nice.  It is, as Andrew put it, pocket frosting.  The knife, the light, the OPMT, they all have functions, but if it were strictly about performance we'd all have Dragonfly IIs in ZDP-189.  Its not and we like ornamentation (I don't really, but even I have a Damascus bladed knife).  But unless you have a collection of William Henry knives, a knife is, first and foremost, a tool.  Its looks are secondary.  And we know this because increased cost is linked to increased performance.  Of course, at the top end, marginal performance improvements come at a very high cost, but that is the way all goods function.  But comparing the top and the bottom of the market is illustrative--a San Ren Mu 605 does not out perform a Spyderco Dragonfly II or a Jon Graham Midtech Stubby Razel.  But with watches, the same is not true at all.  A $12 quartz keeps better time than a $12,000 Rolex.  And because that is true, watches are not tools, first and foremost.  Your money is paying for things other than performance.  Its paying for looks, for jewels on the watch face (another hint that watches are jewelry), and it is paying for some mythical quality called "exclusivity".  You know what things that cost more solely because of exclusivity are called?  Veblen Goods.  High end watches, to a large degree, are Veblen goods.  The sole purpose of a high price tag is to make the good seem exclusive.  

There are a few good ways to ferret out BS in the watch market.  Many movements are made by ETA.  Search for a given movement and then look at the prices of the watches with that movement.  Next, look to see if the watches have exotic materials that could otherwise justifiy the cost difference. If not, then the cost difference is based on some mystical "brand exclusivity."  In many ways this strikes me as stupid as things like "premium vodka."  The legal definition of vodka is that it is a tasteless and odorless spirit.  How can their be PREMIUM vodkas when they are required to be the same and not just the same thing, but similarly devoid of distinguishing characteristics?

I was looking at a Sinn watch and a Hamilton.  They had similar materials--steel, sapphire crystal, leather band--and they had an identical ETA movement.  But they were $1000 apart, with the Sinn being more expensive.  This particular Sinn did not have the "tegimented" steel or the inert gas interior. It was the 556. 

The Hamilton was the HML-H70455533. 

What's the difference between the two watches other than looks and "brand exclusivity"?  Nothing.  They have the exact same movements. 

And that is one reason why watches are hard to evaluate. The differences are stylistic and brand based and not, well, reality based.  I appreciate good looking tools, but evaluating them solely on that basis is something I am neither good at nor interested in.  Frankly, many premium watches are jewelry and that is fine, but I am not interested in jewelry.  Skull rings or dinner plate sized five figure watches just don't interest me.  

Out of Step

The last reason I am struggling with watch reviews has to do with my tastes.  While this is a gear blog and gear are tools, I am a person that appreciates style.  The problem is, the style I like in watches--quiet, muted, and durable, is not the style that is in right now.  We went from 38mm up to 46mm and larger faces.  The problem is only Randy Jackson can get away with wearing 50mm watches.  The rest of us look silly.  But increasingly that is all there is.

I am also not a huge fan of the dive watch look.  If it was about function, that would be one thing, but the dive watch look is worn by divers about .01% of the time and posers the rest of the time.  The Humvee look is just something that blinds my mind's eye and offends my sense of style (what little I have).  I like the aesthetic some of the time, but is WAY over done, especially when combined with the other trend I don't like--big watches.  I don't want to wear a dinner plate on my wrist, even if it does have dominos on it so I can tell time.

Finally, there is the distinct lack of minimalism.  I get that complications show of a watch maker's prowess, but I buy gear to use not to show off (and yes, I begrudingly do Instagram...frankly I hate it, but so many gear folks are there, I figure I have to participate).  And so faces like this one:

just about kill me.  A quick glance at the face of the watch and you can find about 15 mortal design sins, things that would never fly in my favorite design book--Design of Everyday Things.  But here is the issue--watch design is not about telling time, it is about jewelry, and there, in the end, is the rub.


I wear one piece of jewelry--my wedding band.  I got married to my wife on my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary.  As their gift they gave us their bands when they upgraded theirs.  The sentimental value is huge and so I make one exception and wear exactly one item of jewelry.  No Rolex, Patek Phillippe, or Breitling will ever be as meaningful and so I am not going to break the rule for them.

In the end I am going to review watches, and maybe I will work my way up to the Rolexes of the world, but I just don't have the heart to do it right now.  I hate paying for a brand.  I hate paying for exclusivity.  These two burnings hatreds were the fuel that made me start this blog.  And now that I have come to watches I am saddened to realize that most of what makes them what they are are things I disdain.  The watch industry is bent on selling an image, and I get that most things are doing that, but in the watch business it seems like it is 99% image and 1% thing on your wrist.  Unlike what the ads tell you watches don't make you interesting.  Being interesting does that.  Watches won't make you wealthy, having wealth does that (and in fact, given the meteoric rise in prices of Swiss made watches they seem to do the opposite).  And watches certainly won't make you a person of distinction, doing the right thing will do that.  So take the celebrity photos, Bond movie product placements, bathyscape stuns, and other watch marketing bullshit and shove it.

I will probably end up reviewing a few $100-$1000 watches, but beyond that, I am not sure what I am paying for, and when that happens, you have left the realm of rational purchases and entered a bizarro world where spending money results in poorer performance.  Watches, after a certain point, are all style and no substance.  My opinion is always subject to change (one smart man told me that a wise person is always one good argument away from changing their mind), but for now I can't wrap my head around pure luxury watches.

Tell me I am wrong.  I really want to learn and thus far, after three years of on and off research, I have failed.   


  1. You're not wrong. But it's not about utility, it's about soul.

  2. Check out Halios watches, or other micro brands.
    Also, I prefer dive watches because they are versatile. Can be dressed up or down, stainless bracelets can be worn in most conditions, and I can swim or shower without sweating it or taking it off.

  3. I'm wearing a Seiko SND253 I bought last month because I wanted to see if a slide rule was useful as part of my EDC. Worst part is... the slide rule isn't accurate so I can't trust the calculations! I paid $92 “used” off ebay because I couldn't bring myself to pay full price for a watch AND lose features compared to my $15 Casio (year, month, alarm, alt time). Now I’ve got a decent looking watch that does less than the el cheapo it replaced.

    My request: Do posts on watch features instead of watches themselves. Help us learn how to distinguish what features are actually useful to our EDC. I started wearing a watch again to save battery life on my phone (what time is i--oh, facebook!). I tried a slide rule to save battery life on my phone (calculator). My buddy spend ~$300 on a Suunto Core that has a compass, altimeter, barometer, etc. What does he need to do to maximize utility? Is it actually useful or reliable? Do I really need a tachymeter if I have a speedometer? Why are there 375 different Casio G-Shock variants?

    As someone who also has the “watch bug” I have trouble separating the useful from the useless. Help talk me off the ledge and save my bank account!

  4. I agree with 90% of what you say, you go to the Breitling ‘factory’ and it’s all Runways and Promo Girls. However the 10% you’re missing is R&D. You go to the Sinn factory and it’s all Engineers and Scientists. They’re working out how to make their next watch perform better, and this costs money. For the record I have the Sinn 856 Non UTC, I think you’d like the subtle design and the ‘tool’ nature of its durability.

    1. The problem is they are working on the wrong problem. As Tony said, quartz watches already perform more accurately than just about any mechanical movement, be it automatic or wind-up. Trying to get them to reach the same level of accuracy is like having a team of technicians trying to make an oil lantern as bright as an LED flashlight. Sure, it can be a fun intellectual exercise, but does it really accomplish anything?

    2. Sorry Dajolaw, I wasn't so much talking about the accuracy of the watch, in fact many Sinn watches us a Swiss ETA movements as Tony mentioned. I was more talking about other performance criteria like durability (Tegimented steel) and longevity (de-humidifying capsules). At the end of the day we could all get by with a Dragonfly (I have two) or a G-Shock (I have one), but isn’t it nice to have the choices we have?

  5. I agree with what you've stated for the most part.We're buying these high-priced toys because we like them. They don't always offer a meaningful difference in performance, and the watch industry is probably the most obvious example of this in the "EDC gear" world. But the knife world is doing their best to catch up. You've made mention "brand exclusivity" in the watch world, but the last review was of a knife from a company that offers lotteries for the privilege to purchase one of their offerings. In my opinion, they've managed to market themselves as haute couture army surplus, with all the patches to prove it. Kudos to them, but I don't see it as any different than what successful watch companies have managed to do. I'd love to see reviews of watches in the $1000ish range in the future, though.

    1. The lotteries are for custom knives. Its pretty hard to find another source of custom knives from the best makers that sells them AT maker cost on a weekly basis. They are expensive, sure, but they are vastly cheaper than customs on the secondary market.

      Also, some of their stuff is not that much better than the competition, but their flagship items, like the Production Dauntless are clearly superior products in my mind. Some of the stuff, like the RUT, is great but expensive.

      Compared to other custom knives or production knives, the stuff TAD is putting out, generally speaking, is better. The price difference between their stuff and other stuff can be justified on the basis of design, craftsmanship, and performance. The same cannot be said with many watches.

  6. I think you hit the nail on the head. I was gifted a Tag Heuer Formula 1 for gradation back in 2007, but frankly I still don't understand how a quartz movement watch with no complications, other than date, can cost over a grand. What is boils down to, like you said, is the brand name.

    One watch that I would suggest reviewing, because it may fit your style and budget considerations, is the Maratac line of watches from County Comm.

    These all have nice, mechanical movements, simple lines and a very minimalistic look (no branding or complications on the face) and most of them come under the $400 mark. I plan on getting one soon, once I settle on which size and style to get.

    Hope that helps!

  7. Much of what you've stated is still, as you stated, in your opinion. I don't agree that their designs are better than many other designs on the market. In reality, none of us really needs to look much past a Dragonfly for our real everyday needs, but what fun would that be?(Haha) I'm just making the point we, as gear lovers, have gone well past basic utility when it comes to knives, so it should be no surprise we're also there with watches/bags/lights/whatever,...

    1. Flipe8 it is hard to see this without having hands on time with LOTS of knives, but the features and materials on the Mk. IV Dauntless are the best value in the production market. The tolerances are as good or better than CRK's. The sculpted handles are as good as the best ZT steel. The caged bearings and S35VN are all state of the art. These are things that are facts, not opinions. If you could see the knives side by side you could verify each of these things.

      The virtues or lack thereof of stuff like the choil, that's an opinion. The value proposition of a Dauntless Mk. IV, not so much.

      That is a different question than whether or not we NEED that much performance. A DFII will do 98% of your tasks, but compared to other knives of the same price range, feature for feature, material for material, the Mk IV is the peak of the market right now.

  8. I totally agree with your post. I'll admit I love watches, and wish I could justify wearing a really nice one, but I can't. I'm pretty hard on the stuff I carry everyday (especially phones). So I figure I've got a watch that'd be a good one to review - the Bertucci A3-T - and there are several reasons for that.

    The A3-T is rather minimal in its design, and in my opinion, attractive even though it's fairly plain. The price is right - the one I wear is presently selling on their website for $170 (specifically, the A3-T Vintage 42 with desert stone face face and dark leather strap). And lastly, it's the toughest watch I've ever come across of any of the watches I've owned (which range from cheap casios & timex's to my previous EDC watch, a Tissot PRC-200, to my dress watch - a Movado Museum).

    I was forever breaking pins on my Tissot, because I'm apparently a meathead to tries to use his hands as hammers sometimes. The cases on the A2-T, A3-T, and A4-T are all solid titanium (including the back and the crown) and they have no pins... so no pins to break. They're pretty waterproof due to a screw-down crown (not an easy feature to find <$200). It doesn't have a sapphire crystal glass, but the design of the watch is such that I haven't remotely scratched the "hardened scratch-resistant mineral crystal glass" on mine in 2+ years of hard use. Ever scraped a watch on concrete when crawling under a car and ruined the glass? I have. It's infuriating. And it's impossible to do with a Bertucci. If you're more fashion-minded, they sell a boatload of different straps. I can attest that the "Montanero Survival" leather bands are exceedingly tough. Literally the only thing I'd change about mine would be the addition of a date indicator... but apart from that, I can't imagine a better EDC watch. If you review it and hate it though, I won't be the least bit offended as my watch fits my needs perfectly. But I have a feeling you'd like it.

    Also... Thanks Matthew B for posting the County Comm watches... those are incredibly sweet, and significantly cheaper than what I'd imagined they'd be for the apparent quality.

    1. No problem. Truth be told, I've been lusting after those watches for a while.

      A friend of mine, who goes by HUFF Well, did a gorgeous video on the GPT-1. His overall impressions sold me on these timepieces.

  9. Makes sense. Will say, I have fallen in love with my Pebble and would not know what to do without it at this point. Every notification or text I get, I'm no longer fumbling around in my pocket - a simple glance at my wrist usually suffices, my phone is on perpetual silence (Pebble vibrates - and is unmissable due to being strapped tight to my wrist), the "wrist flick" to light the watch is one of the most underrated features imo, and it's charged about once a week. While not my top choice for looks, it does have more customizable faces than I could scroll through, and beats 99% of watches for functionality - all for <$100 (unless you go with the steel). While I retain classical timepieces (nothing super fancy yet,) I'm finding reasons to wear them increasingly rare.

  10. I totally agree with you when it comes to complications, as someone who just started wearing a watch about a month ago (after 23 years of avoiding it), I struggled, I mean really struggled, to find a design that was tastefully minimal. I settled on a discontinued Citizen AT0660-56E, and I'm quite happy with it. That being said, unlike knives, I feel almost no draw or incentive to purchase another. The market is flooded with overwrought, garish monstrosities that I certainly have no interest in. At that point, it's just about as hideous as the Steel Flame or Starlingear man jewelry (don't get me started on that).

  11. Great thoughtful post.

    I am shopping for a watch right now and totally agree that men's watch aesthetics are going through a seriously annoying rococo phase. I like the looks of both the Sinn and Hamilton watches you posted because they eschew the SUV bling and the busy overloaded features.

    You know what I recommend? Give up on the 20 point scale. Like you implied, there are too many subjective/intangible factors in what makes a "good watch." The tool aspect is too subordinated to, or interwoven with the subjective factors.

    Just do short writeups (2-3 paragraphs, good pics) of specific watches that you like and think would appeal to readers of the site. Follow your taste.

    Think of it more like wine criticism (well, maybe spirits criticism in your case). There's good and bad wine, and a good critic can say why -- maybe even give a global "point value" to convey his overall impression. And there are some beverages that a critic can correctly condemn as just obviously flawed (wine with nasty dirty finish, no secondary flavors, blatant hot uncovered alcohol). These would be analogous to a watch where the strap breaks, the features are unreadable, it doesn't keep correct time, etc. The "tool" aspect pops through the subjective murk. But normally it is going to be more of a hermeneutic process. You can't break typical, decently made wine or spirits down into ten functional components to be evaluated and weighted equally in every case.

    I think watches are like that.

  12. A regular Sebenza is more overpriced for what it is than a Rolex or Omega or Breitling.
    I really think that the watch is the single most important piece of EDC. I have been a knife person from the age of 12, but I have been a watch person from the age of 6, so yes, I'm a bit biased. :-)

    As for the review thing, it takes a lot of knowledge about watches for someone to be able to offer any meaningful advice. In my opinion the level of expertise needed for a review could be demonstrated something like this:

    knife => flashlight ==========> watch

    Just as a footnote: it takes me about 30 minutes to disassemble my knife to the last screw, clean it, oil it, put it back together, and sharpen it. My watch? 2 weeks turnaround at the AD...

    1. I am not so sure about the watch being the most important. Really, if we are honest, it is our cellphones, especially if you have a smartphone and use it like it is intended. That's the one thing that makes modern life work better. Watches, knives, lights, and pens are very nice things to have, but all of them are very secondary to the smartphone in terms of modern, urban/suburban EDC.

      As for the spectrum, I think you are right that watches are the most complex to review. That said I think you are giving short shrift to the knife. Knives are hard to review because your knife skills are a limiting factor in what you can do. For example if you had the skills of say Jacques Pepin, the chef in the deboning video, you could better review and explain the complexities of a thin, slicing knife. There is a skill component to reviewing knives, which is why I have been trying to increase my knife skills. So to that extent, its not as simple as it looks. Its hard to appreciate, for example, the beauty of a good caping knife if you don't have the skill or opportunity to use it as it was intended to be used.

      As for the Sebenza, I kind of agree. It is a pretty simple design. There are better comparisons in the knife world. The Mk. IV Dauntless, for example, is a more refined design. As is the Mnandi.

    2. Tony,
      Thanks for the reply. I have to admit that you may be right about the utility of the smartphone. The reason why I didn't think of that when I wrote my comment is probably that I'm not "attached" to my smartphone. It's just something that I have, but it's not something that I have researched thoroughly for months (like my watch, or flashlights, or knives) before making the purchase. Sure, it has its obvious useful features that make life easier, but there's one thing that I'll never ever do if I can help it: use my cellphone to tell the time. Seriously, it would make me feel bad if I had to rely on the phone for timekeeping.
      As for the other thing, I am a regular reader, and I fully understand that it takes a lot of knowledge, time, and energy to review knives and other EDC stuff. I enjoy and appreciate your reviews greatly, so please keep them coming. I think you're doing us a great service.

  13. Tony,

    I follow and love your blog. I respect your way of thinking and doing.

    I wear a watch daily - practically all the time. I love watches and have owned several and researched many in depth.

    I wear a plastic $15-20 Seiko with alarms and backlight on the weekends while doing projects and chores. This watch lives on my nightstand and wakes me up each morning. I also own an Orange Monster (approx $200) and wear it swimming and during rough activities ie shooting, diving, snorkeling, etc. But I also own a very expensive Rolex sub. For me, it has served its purpose and is incredibly well made. I hate wearing a nice suit with a $15 watch, It just feels wrong. I can also sell it for more than I paid.

    In short, I find real value in my Rolex. I find real value in my Subaru. I also find value in my $15 Seiko. I value my $15-20 flashlights and knives.

    In different price ranges and categories some watches offer incredible and differentiating value.

    Many are called - few are chosen!


    1. Quite fair -- but, again, all of that could be said equally well about wine.

      I've paid $9 for off-region Sangiovese for a Thursday night pizza wine and thought I got an awesome buy. Ditto for $25-$30 Oregon Pinot Noirs for nice dinners. And (on rare special occasions) ditto for classified Bordeaux at around a hundo. There are better and worse renditions within each of those wine categories, and a good critic can tell a coherent story about those differences. Nevertheless, there's also enough personal preference and intangibles involved in wine that a 10-component point weighting system would be a poor fit. An overall score out of 100 pts (and actually, many British wine critics use a 20 point scale, just like the gear scores here) is the most one can do. Even then, some wine connoisseurs decry the scores as a misguided attempt at imposing more objectivity than the subject admits.

      As a former phil grad student, our host likely knows the passage from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics arguing that it is a basic error to try to impose more precision on a field of inquiry than its nature will allow. I think it applies here.

  14. Tony, speaking as the one person (to my knowledge) who has worked with you to put out a watch review here, and as an owner of watches in a wide variety of price ranges, I think it's fair to say that the evaluation approach of this blog (as it currently stands) is probably inadequate for watch reviews. Your review philosophy is singularly utilitarian; it leaves out other elements which are intrinsic to our interactions with objects that extend beyond mere functionality.

    That isn't to say that I think the world of wristwatches is merely style and not substance; although it may seem so to those with little interest in horology's history, technological advances, and craftsmanship & design legacies. I would like to distinguish these concepts from their luxury watch marketing appropriations. Along those lines, it's probably worth noting that at the high end of "luxury watches" are basically little works of art in terms of the insane amount of skill required to design, assemble, and finish those haute horology watches. Real art is substantial.

    I think there is also a counterargument to some of the more specific claims here about mechanical vs. quartz performance, and the usefulness of complications, maybe we can discuss some of these items as the watch reviews roll out. :)

    On the other little contemporary work of philosophy I enjoyed greatly was by Harry G. Frankfurt, titled On Bullshit. One point he makes that BS can involve the disproportionate representation of importance of an object (knife or flashlight) for a certain state of affairs (EDC). But it's not a lie exactly, because we're not interested in deception or misconstrual of the facts as such. In fact the presupposition is we all know full well that we can get on with a little SAK and our phone's light and clock for most tasks, what we're up to is justifying our hobbies in terms of utility. Which we all know is BS in some sense, again as we could all carry on adequately enough without our toys, like the rest of the world does. But we're not interested in merely sufficing, but living well. This changes the scope and character of the inquiry significantly.

    1. Andrew this is a great response. I'd like to expand this to be a podcast episode. Email me and we will make plans.

      As for the first part, I think you are probably right. Your review was perfect. But I have a feeling, as you and I talked about when you were working the review, my format and approach won't work for all watches. In part it is the utilitarian thing. But I also think that watches are a different thing than what I review here. They are no longer, fundamentally, tools. They are something else. Lots of folks think their jewelry. And when brand, exclusivity, and appearance trump function I am at a lost as to what to do and say.

      As for the history of a design, I am afraid I am less of a historian. This reminds me of the debates between history of science people and science people. Philosophers are particular interested in the history of science and the philosophy of science and frankly, even though I am philosopher at heart, I think that brand of philosophy is intellectual masturbation. I have no interest in studying Ptolemaic astronomy and to a large extent I think that the history of watches is much the same--I don't really care how we got to the level of performance we are at, I just want to know why we arrived here and what it means. And the last statement you made in this paragraph indicates that these devices are beyond my kin--they may be real and substantial art, but I am not capable or willing to discuss that. Aesthetics is something I enjoy, but I enjoy the other end of the spectrum--less engineering and more Jackson Pollack and Mozart. Any time a review or a commentary or criticism of an object gets into a "what is art" discussion, the field is fallow and it is time to move on. I have written and scrapped about a dozen posts on this point and realize each time that the topic is barren or at best full of value judgments and tautologies.

      As for the third idea, I completely 100% agree. We do put inordinate emphasis on things to justify our purchases. That said, I disagree about possession equating to living well. A watch of refined vision will not make my life well lived. Tools may make my life EASIER, but they don't make it better. I just don't buy that argument. I carry a knife to cut things, a light to see things, a pen to write things. I want them to work very well. I want them to be well-designed and look nice. But no collection of possessions will equal good living to me.

    2. Thanks for your reply Tony. I'd be honored to get on the podcast, I sent ya an email.

      Per your art comments, it was interesting listening to Jim on episode 46 talk about knife design and what makes knives collectable. The "visual tension" talk, which was a lot of fun, borders on aesthetics of course. I thought it was fair play too.

      Also, knowing how we got to where we are does mean looking back. "...time future contained in time past" kind of thing. There is a lot of emphasis on this with watch collectors, and definitely the Swiss watch marketing machine is exploiting this as much as possible.

      Per your last comment about living well, I strongly agree with you and can see how what I was saying could be read as crassly materialistic; I always laugh at the absurdity of dogs wearing 100k watches on instagram. Any kind of wealth or goods are only a part of the means of living well and not the end, and most of the time wealth is squandered or at least doesn't seem to make people happier.

  15. Totally agree on Automatic watches Tony, this is why I wear G-Shocks. I find telling time (without pulling out my phone) and having alarms/timers for daily things to be very useful, which is why I wear G-Shocks. They're not jewellery (well some approach it) but they're useful everyday items with a bit of stylistic "flair" which is primarily derived from their ability to shrug off impacts. I have one "fancy" watch which I wear when the situation arises - which is infrequently!

    My primary G-Shock (I have three, two of which I wear regularly) has a Bluetooth (4.0, low power) connection built in that interfaces with my phone in the background. It alerts me if I have an incoming phone call, email, or Facebook message when my phone is in my pocket (or sitting down on a table while i'm working on a car). Has very legible time, great backlight, etc.

    The other one is solar powered and has a built in compass and thermometer, which were things I thought I would like but I do not. I don't camp and have never needed a compass and the thermometer is grossly inaccurate if you're actually WEARING the watch which is offensive to me, and the solar power means that the digits wash out when viewed at an angle. I do like the size/appearance and the secondary cover over the buttons which allows you to press them under water or when there's "crud" on the watch. But still.

    I like "tool" watches like the G-Shocks, some Timex Expeditions, and of course Suunto's and Casio ProTreks - but not really Jewellery watches like the Sinn or Hamilton, which while attractive, tell time poorly and would be scratched beyond recognition inside of a week at my job. Whereas G-Shocks are more like Jeeps, the scratches are "character"

    Just my 0.02

  16. There are functional differences between the Sinn and the Hamilton. The Sinn has twice the water resistance, for example. And while they both use the ETA 2824, it comes in three levels of quality with Sinn using the highest and Hamilton the lowest. Plus, for the Sinn to cost $1000 more than the Hamilton, you'd have to compare the Sinn with the steel bracelet.

  17. I am going query about the other extreme in price. For EDC and best bang for the buck what would be the CRKT Drifter of watches? I would be interested to know.

    1. For analog dials, I'd just go with a Timex Expedition. For digital and bombproof, go with a G-Shock.

  18. Honestly, I'd prefer you stay away from watch reviews. They clearly don't appeal to either your scoring motif or your aesthetic tastes.

    I fell into the rabbit-hole of the watch enthusiast world back when I was looking for a nice dress watch for my Father. Started combing the watchuseek forums, figuring out the lingo and the popular brands, etc., etc.

    Ultimately, I showed my Father a series of reasonably-priced dress watches, and the one he liked the most turned out to be a cheap $30 Casio. Hey, it looked nice and kept accurate time!

    I eventually splurged on myself and bought a Seiko Orange Monster (I like the look of dive watches). What I've discovered is that I love how it looks, I like the build quality, but can't stand having to reset the watch if I haven't worn it for a few days. Like you, the idea of spending MORE money for a device that works LESS accurately just rubs me the wrong way.

    Most days I stick with my Timex Expedition. Go with what works.

  19. You have as much business reviewing watches as brassieres.

    Why? Because you are NOT a watch guy and you ain't got tits!

    Someone presenting themselves as a watch reviewer should have passion, in-depth knowledge, and experience.

    You favorably review plenty of "Veblen" products. But you readily label and dismiss some watches as such while knowing very little about them.

    Just keeping it real. Leave the watch reviews to others.

    1. The idea that you have to be a watch guy to review watches is silly. That's like saying you have to be a Tom Cruise fan to review his movies. In fact, it seems that knowledgeable reviews from a position of non-fandom have more value than fan-based reviews. They have a critical distance necessary to make important points. If you are already drinking the Kool Aid that is harder to do.

      The strict definition of a Veblen good is not something that is more expensive than it needs to be (the Fellhoelter Custom Dauntless, for example, is probably more expensive than a knife needs to be to perform its tasks), but something that is expensive SOLELY to become exclusive. There was an app in the App Store that was $10,000. When you bought it it did nothing other than congradulating you for being wealthy enough to afford the app. That is a perfect Veblen good. Watches are, given the decrease in performance with the increase in price, much closer to that than a Dauntless. Sure the Dauntless is more pricey than a tool that can get the job done just as well, but it does perform better (just not in ways that necessarily matter). Conversely, an atomic G-Shock keeps better time than a Rolex. There is no disputing that. And since performance and price have been uncoupled and the price is very high, watches are further along the spectrum of "perfect" Veblen goods than a knife. Its a matter of degree, of course, but watches are clearly closer to the emblematic example.

      The larger point is probably correct. After this discussion I don't think I will be doing any watch reviews. I'll leave the baubles and jewelry to someone else, someone that cares more about gilding than I do.

    2. I would concede that there are some art knives that are Veblen goods--they run shitty steel that polishes well and some don't have jewels that would otherwise justify the price. In those instances, you are right. They are just Veblen goods.

    3. Lots and lots of knives and watches and products in general that are Veblen. We can argue degrees and seller price motivation et al ad nauseam. Hiding behind the "tool" definition is useless, and insults Sir Hillary.

      You don't have to be a fan boy to review a James Bond movie, but you still have to see the movie. (If you are wearing a vintage Rolex sub at the time of viewing, I'm sure it is much more pleasureable. Really glad 007 does not wear a Mickey Mouse watch.)

      I think I was too rough on you. I feel bad because I think you are one of the good guys. Why don't you start small and review outstanding watches under $50. Take a look at PMWF. Even though you are NOT a watch guy, I would like to hear your opinions.

      You might even get hooked on wearing a watch, I mean time tool!

      With all due respect,

  20. It has been interesting to read over some of these comments. Personally, I think that watches are the few pieces of jewelry that a man can wear. There is nothing wrong with wearing a nice watch as a piece of man jewelry.

    I like my cheap Sieko dive watch even if I am not a diver. I think it's cool and it brings me enjoyment. Sure my G-shock tells better time for a quarter of the cost, and I wear it occasionally, but I like the look of the dive watch more and it looks better with a suit than my G.

    Some day I wouldn't be opposed to getting a Rolex submariner or something. I realize that is a long way off, but it would be cool to some day be the old man who has a Submariner that has been beat to hell over decades of enjoyment and adventures. My dad bought a Rolex in his fifties and his only regret is not getting it sooner. It's a luxury, but they don't seem to depreciate. In fact I think he paid like $3k for it 10 years ago and now you can't get into a Rolex for under 5k it seems. At the end of the day he enjoys it and that's all that matters.

    Personally I have always tried to review what I like. If I don't like something I try not to review it.

  21. Tony, longtime reader of the blog. Thanks for your efforts. Ironically I have on my very wrist that exact Hamilton in the picture above. I bought that particular one for the perceived benefit I would get in owning an automatic watch. At first the coolness factor of watching the inner workings of the watch was fascinating. But the cool factor wears off after awhile like with everything else. Then what set in is the real world flaws of the automatic movement. It's highly inaccurate compared to a quartz in my usage. I don't baby it, and I don't keep it in a winder nor away from all kinds of magnetic fields that can cause havoc with these movements. I do in the end like the watch for the aesthetic value and for the fact that I know it will never stop working with routine maintenance so I can pass it down to my son one day. I will buy a sub $100 watch for outdoor activities but I will never buy another watch to replace it because they're basically just jewelry when you get down to it. I will continue to buy knives and flashlights that appeal to me on design, function, and price levels. Just not watches.

    I guess reviewing high end watches is akin to reviewing a pair of Manolo Blahnik's.

  22. I'd like to ask if you could change the code for this blog to use black text for replies. I find them very hard to read.

    1. I second this and have often considered emailing Tony with the same request.

  23. You might consider reading Herculodge for some thoughts on the watch issue. I also agree with Patrick on the gray/white text.

  24. The first watch I got when I was four years old was an Omega. It was a gift from my uncle. Since I was a dumb kid it broke before I could use it probably because I overwound the spring right away.

    My current EDC is a Casio Chromed Water Resistant. MSRP was about $25 Canuck buck. It has been abused and banged harshly on my job and still works like a champ. No fuss and no muss.

    As a back up I have a Casio Solar in stainless and a G-Shock in plastic resin. The solar cost me $25 and the g-shock cost me $50 from Costco. I still haven't had the gumption to break them out of their packaging to wear yet. I consider them to be too nice.

    Timex digitals have always been reliable and I had one almost last ten years run on one battery. It is almost pointless to replace the battery as it is easier to buy a brand new watch.

    I found some cheap quartz analogs from overseas to work quite accurately over a long time, also. Especially if their quartz movement was made in Japan. An example of this was a Lego Bionicle watch which I got severely discounted from a toy store. That watch lasted me for years and was a great conversation piece.

    Sometimes retro fun and reliability trumps style every time.

    Part 1 - The Hate Part

    In the 1960's, my father was smoking three packs of unfiltered Camel cigerettes and at least a quart of Gordon's Vodka per day. He drank the Vodka "neat", directly out of the bottle. He was an abusive alcoholic and a relentless sadist.

    One day while removing the cellophane from his first pack of smokes of the day, he had a blackout and staggerered to the floor. Surprisingly, he was not drunk at the time and concluded that the Camels were killing him. He threw away that pack of Camels and simply quit cold turkey.

    But he put in place powerful motivation to stay away from the smokes. He would buy a $400 Rolex and pay for it with his 3 pack a day savings! He could pay for the Rolex in about a year! After much hand wringing, screaming and fighting, and general insanity the purchase was made. For a family living in a $14000 house and driving used cars that costs about that much (I would hide on the floorboard and ask to be let out early when my mom drove me to school in our 41 Buick), this was a monumental purchase. Gold and silver datejust, jubilee band.

    So it worked. The Rolex played a role in saving his life.

    But it was good news, bad news! The good news is that he lived. The bad news is that he lived. Because, he continued to abuse my older sister, my mother and me for many years.

    I believe my father still lives although I have not seen or heard from him for many many years. If he does live, I'll bet he is still wearing the Rolex!

  26. A Rolex watch was used to solve a murder also. It is because of the way Rolex records are kept and each one has a serial number. No cheap watch can do that.

  27. I agree with Tony that with watches you buy status and image.
    Let's take a casio 5600 series watch. For fun's sake one with solar atomic one. The obvious thing is it holds time better. It doesn't need batteries (so no running costs). And it is more rugged than any Rolex ever was or will be. But *some* people will think that you're a poor bast*rd. Wear the Rolex and the same people think 'oh wow'.
    (On the other hand wear a Patek, a JLC or a VC and you will earn the respect of a fellow WIS (watch idiot savant) but none of the people you want to impress will recognize them, even tough they cost quite a bit more than your average Rolex.)

    I also have a Sinn 856 non-utc like one of the other posters here mentioned. I think it's an awesome tool watch -- very much like the old Submariner quite a while ago. But performance wise it's bad value compared to a Casio.

    Regarding a Rolex Submariner as a tool watch:
    In my opinion Rolex nowadays seems to make nothing than overpriced dress watches anymore -- with as much bling as possible, which appears to make them as bad as Breitling in my eyes (except for the in-house movements). Gone are the days where they made decent tool watches.
    You want proof? Here we go:
    To me it doesn't seem to serve any purpose to have a ceramic bezel costing 1000usd in replacement other than bragging value. Yeah, I know, scratch resistant and harder to fake for replica companies -- but bang it and it breaks.. that's a very smart thing to have in a so-called divers watch.
    Drilled through lugs? Thing of the past.
    Dial that doesn't reflect the cr*p out of my eyes when looking at it in the sun? Thing of the past.
    Aluminum bezel insert that doesn't brake under harsh use? Yeah, you guessed right.
    The soldered clasp on the new style submariner is also a joke. They didn't machine it completely but soldered two pieces that can brake away under load and bye-bye goes your watch.
    So the tool aspect of the submariner appears to be gone, all that stays is a high price tag, an ok watch and the image (yeah, you pay a substantial amount for advertising -- same with coca cola and red bull).

    Value lies in the eye of the beholder, and when it's worth it to you, sure go ahead.
    I also like mechanical things and I see worth in mechanical things that don't necessarily have better performance but 'style'.. but in the watch world pricing seems to have exploded to a degree where I can not justify spending that much money for the objective value presented.
    IMHO, watches at a certain price point are for the most part jewelry, status, image (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    1. I don't know anything about Rolex watches, so I'm pretty surprised to hear a lot of this. They don't have drilled lugs? And I'm kind of shocked that they can get ISO diver certified with a ceramic bezel. Doesn't seem like it would meet the shock standards. Are they even ISO rated divers anymore?

    2. I don't know anything about Rolex watches, so I'm pretty surprised to hear a lot of this. They don't have drilled lugs? And I'm kind of shocked that they can get ISO diver certified with a ceramic bezel. Doesn't seem like it would meet the shock standards. Are they even ISO rated divers anymore?

  28. I don't really have a problem with anything your saying, but please keep in mind that, in many people's eyes, a Dragonfly ZDP-189 is "veblen." I have a friend who is very handy and uses his pocket knife WAY more than I do, and he ha been carrying the same SAK since I've known him (approx. 15 years). I show him my spydercos (including my DFII) and he's interested, but when I tell him the price I can tell he thinks I'm crazy for spending more than the $30ish bucks he probably spent on that reliable sak.

    One more thing - I think the primary function of a watch is to tell time. But accuracy is only a small part of the story. Accuracy is probably analogous to something like edge retention on a knife. A knife's primary function is to cut. And edge retention is a tiny part in performing that function (blade shape, thickness, and grind type are much more important when it comes to the actual cutting part).

    Lastly, I really love my skx007 and never even thought it looked like a domino until you pointed it out. But now that you have, I can't unsee it. Thanks a lot. Now I'll probably have to get a new watch.

    1. Let's be clear--a Veblen good is one that is expensive solely for reasons of brand or purchase exclusivity. Its not something that is merely more expensive, or something that is more expensive than most people need. A Dragonfly in ZDP-189 is not a Veblen good. It is more expensive than some folks like for knives, but its cost is tied to the more expensive materials. That's just a called a premium product. If Veblen goods were as you described them then anything other than generic things would be Veblen goods.

      I agree with you about the primary function. I also agree with you that it is analogous to edge retention. Hence my new custom--a ZDP-189 Yuna. Even in premium goods you can still get high performance. With watches though, the more expensive watches are less accurate which just strikes me as weird.

      And about the SKX007, sorry.

    2. Ah, well, I have never encountered the term "veblen good" before your article. So I have to admit my part in not reading carefully enough and really understanding it before making my post. Thank you for clarifying the term a little more for me.

      That said, I do think all of the knives you review on this site and that your readers (including me) are interested in can and should be considered luxury items, and that is the point I was trying to make. And to add to the accuracy/edge retention analogy, if you seperate mechanical and quartz watches, the argument that more expensive watches are less accurate does not hold up. More expensive mechanical watches are generally more accurate than cheaper mechanical watches.

      I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone to buy a rolex over a $30 timex. The truth is I'm in a very similar place as you in terms of watches. I didn't wear one for years, I got interested about 6 months ago, and now I'm about two months into my first mechanical (and I don't have a collection - it's this and one other qquartz watch that I received as a gift years ago and has a lot of sentimental value). Like you, I'm also not really into adornments - the only piece of jewelery I've ever worn is the very simple wedding ring I'm wearing right now.

      I realize how ridiculous mechanical watches are in the present age, but I decided to try one out just to see what the big deal was. And I have to say, there is something really enjoyable about it that I haven't quite been able to put my finger on. Coming from a similar perspective in terms of adornments and utility, I am very curious to see if you will also get bit by the mechanical watch bug during your review/exploration process. If so, maybe you'll be able to verbalize what it is that makes gear geeks drawn to them. Or maybe you'll decide they're completely ridiculous and unnecessarily expensive and high-maintenance in the era of quartz watches, and I'll continue to wonder why the hell I like mine so much.

      Also, I hope you give the "bigger" watches a try. Your concerns about wearing a dinner plate mirror mine almost exactly when I was picking a watch. It turns out a 42mm/13mm watch looks about right on me after trying it on, and anything smaller looks kind of silly on me. Good luck and I'm excited to see if you have an experience similar to mine as you go through this!

  29. Watch as a symbol of successful men, recently promoted, so going to buy watches,Replica watches personally like, I do not know how you feel?

  30. Please don't review watches. It would be like asking you to review custom tritium lanterns or custom lanyard beads. Your sensibilities are sensible. And that's fine. ..

  31. I love your blog and read it at least weekly. And I'm suggesting you not do watch reviews. The knives and flashlights you review can be described with metrics concerning their functionality. Then, if you like, you can add on exclusivity because it's fun. The high end contains expensive tools, but still tools. The objective metric for watches is how they tell time, and maybe durability, but there you have measurement issues. Beyond telling time, watches are 95% jewelry and therefor an odd fit in your tool blog. My $0.02...Marc (

  32. To the commenters requesting Tony not review watches because his reviews are utilitarian - honestly, wouldn't utilitarian-leaning watch reviews be refreshing and unique? To a certain extent and up to a certain price range, watches CAN be graded on utility and value. Tony, here are some things I have NEVER seen in other watch reviews that I think would fit in with the tone of this site:

    UI - Why do we accept poor ui's on digital watches? G shocks are lauded for their durability and value, but no one talks about how shitty the ui is.

    Usefulness of functions - does anyone really use the functions on a high end chronometer (I'm genuinely asking - I can't afford one to find out on my own). How about the barometer on a pro trek?

    Comfort - seriously, I never hear anyone mention comfort when discussing watches. It was a big consideration when I was buying a watch and I couldn't find any useful information.

    Just some suggestions. A watch review can never be completely utilitarian, but I think your viewpoint can lead to some fresh takes on the watch world.

  33. You don't need to go as far as watches to find some serious bling in the gear world. Haiku, anyone? (I'd love to have one. :-) )
    I think anything Ti is totally unjustified in the gear world. We're talking about knives, flashlight, OPTMs, not aeroplane parts, LOL.
    Ti may be a nice touch, but don't tell me it's necessary to use it in these 'tools'.

  34. Great evaluation! The arbitrary price increases for Swiss watches are fascinating, as are the ETA movements across wide price ranges. Watches are fascinating in that that purchase decisions are often so at odds with rational thinking, to the tune of thousands of dollars, for something so small. Its fascinating that accurate time is not what is driving price.

    I love watches, and have since I was a child - as I grow I find them fascinating in new ways (peculiar economics/"innovations" using antiquated technologies/etc).

    I see watches in a few basic categories - basic, utility, designer, and exclusive.

    For a few bucks you can get a timex/casio and have all the watch you'll ever "need."

    Then 50-200 gets you something like a G-Shock that will satisfy as rugged a task as any watch could survive, with the various utility functions of your choosing.

    $50-200 also gets you something like a Seiko that has many of the traits a watch affictionado may look for (in house movement, classic design, history) at a fraction of the cost of a Swiss house.

    $500-4000 is a grey area of designer watches where more often than not the price revolves around the name on the dial. Quarts or stock ETA movements, minimal design changes that justify price increases, etc. Fashion designers like Gucci, prada, etc., and watch designers like Movado, (most) Tags, etc.

    $5000+ seems to be the area where you're getting "exclusivity" that is somewhat justified by the price, if for less than rational reasons. Quality of finish, innovation of movement, history, design. Of course you've still got a large premium for exclusivity here.

    1. These guidelines are just the basic ones I use to explain watches to anyone interested in learning more, and there are exceptions to everything.
      For example, Seiko makes watches from next to nothing to $10,000 plus, with basic quartz movements to ultra complicated and innovative mechanical (or hybrid) watches. You can't find a Swiss watch with an in house automatic movement for less than $200. (This "in house" concept has allowed certain brands like Frederique Constant to enter the market selling Swiss watches with in house movements as value pieces priced at $2-3000). Seiko pumps out $200 watches all day with in house movements. They aren't Swiss, however. They have watches that compete with the most exclusive Swiss watches (Grand Seiko) and have some unique innovations (Spring Drive), but in USA, they'll never have the same interest level (you paid what for a Seiko?).
      Similarly Cartier is probably the second most revered brand in watches - they're basically fashion watches that cost thousands, but they basically brought the wrist watch to the market, their designs are such that they are essentially icons, despite containing quartz and eta movements (though they've recently developed some in house movements).

      Brands like Patek, Jaeger, Vacheron, and Audemars are constantly pushing the limits of what a mechanical watch can be. You can't not be fascinated by the Jaeger Gyrotourbillon.

      People that love high end watches typically don't have much love for Rolex; people that revere Rolex typically don't know much about the super high end. That said, the two brands holding their value better than any other are Rolex and Patek (Rolex widely regarded as the best, Patek regarded by those "in the know" as "the best").

      If I were going to recommend watches, I'd say:
      ultra cheap yet functional and stylish, get a basic timex
      something durable, get a G-Shock
      Something interesting, get an automatic Seiko
      Something a little nicer, dressier, classic, historical, get a vintage Omega (Seamaster).
      Something to demonstrate that you spent thousands that you want people to notice, get Rolex/Cartier.
      Something you want to spend thousands on that is unique and in house, get Glashutte, Nomos, certain Zenith, and for the high end of this realm a Jaeger (master control, Reverso (the first sports watch).
      And if you want the "best" you can get, don't buy an Audemars, Vacheron, Lange or anything else until you've got a Patek.

      The most entertaining watch column out there is the watch snob - funny tone, lots of useful information, lots of "fashion watch" bashing, and great perspective on what makes a great watch great. I see he did a Q&A on Reddit (I need to read this!)

      My personal collection is dominated by G-Shocks (I buy limited editions to sell). The ones I wear all update to the atomic clock every night, and have solar charging. Distinct style, look new after years of hard use (gym, surfing, property maintenance); my most worn watch is my 1962 Omega Seamaster (from back when they were innovators, understated, goes well with a suit). The others I have are more expensive, and interest me for different reasons (annual calendar complications make me happy, for example).

      I could go on and on about this; there are so many facets to the watch industry that defy logic (particularly the Swiss watches) that I can't help but be intrigued - Like any luxury good, jewelry, alcohol, cars, clothes, what drives price transcends rational thinking.

      But yeah, for the type of practical reviews you are interested in, it will be challenging - accuracy of timekeeping is tough to measure unless the watch is seriously inaccurate, and functions are largely redundant when you've got a cell phone.

    2. If I were doing it, I'd review based on functions and particularly, ease of interface, fit/finish, and durability, Then recommend everyone buy a Seiko and a G-Shock, and for the G-Shock make sure its got the atomic clock (multi band 6) function! Some other Casios are nice depending on need.

  35. I'll take a crack at this: I think you should review watches.

    Watches are still a tool. They provide the time. I would say they provide the time in a better way than your cell phone.

    In the end most watch people fall into two camps: Mechanical vs. Quartz. Tony, you fall into the quartz camp. Everyone has their reasons and you've explained yours well. No need to force yourself to like mechanical watches when you clearly don't.

    There are still lots of cool quartz watches. I am probably missing some buy here are a few types:
    1. Battery powered. Lots of great options here, Timex Weekenders, G-Shocks (people wear them in theatres of war), and many more.
    2. Eco-drive. These have the accuracy of quartz but are solar powered. No need to worry about the battery dying. The solar requires such little energy that if you wear it, it will be charged. It will only die by leaving it in a drawer for a year. Even then there are fancy ones that shut down to conserve power but will restart when picked up again.
    3. Spring Drive. This quartz mechanical hybrid from Seiko has the accuracy of quartz but has a mechanical rotor that powers it. It is also marked by a beautiful continually sweeping second hand.

    All I'm saying is that even though you don't like mechanical watches, it doesn't mean you should limit yourself from all watches.

  36. I've been reading about watches for a few days non stop after watching 555's channel and I think the Seiko 5 (low maintenance mechanical) and Seiko Spring Drive watches are worth taking a look because they give advantages while avoiding some of the common cons with specific configurations. In terms of the Watch industry, I feel like it's where the knife industry was about 10 years ago, that truly good stuff was still in the highest levels only, like it was impossible to find a knife that wasn't mystery steel below $100 and all you had were old companies, Gerber and SOG competing in the below $100 sphere frankly with crappy stuff. The Bulova 98H51is one nice looking watch, if I didn't ride bikes and worried about the vibrations killing it, I'd get it right now, so classy that I can forget that there's no sweeping hand.

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