Why Are Fashion Watches So Bad?! Armani Vs Tommy Hilfiger Watches
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Most watches suck. No seriously, if you head to most online vendors, you’ll be met with a plethora of pieces, the vast majority of which offer poor build quality for the money.
I figured today we’d take a quick look at a couple of those watches and discuss why exactly that is the case. Why are these watches bad and why are people continuing to buy them? Let’s take a look.
By the way, please don’t be offended if you have one of the watches I’m mentioning here. My aim isn’t to annoy you. You’re welcome to buy what you want and if you’re happy with it, that’s all good. My objective is just to show you exactly what you’re paying for with these fashion watches and why next time you should probably consider alternative options.
I just used the phrase ‘fashion watches’ and that’s for a reason. You’ll notice that the majority of these overpriced pieces are branded by fashion houses such as Armani, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Hugo Boss and many more. While such brands may be responsible for the production of their name brand fragrances, unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to their wristwatches. Indeed, like with other clothing items, their wristwatches are produced by other contractors, which have large manufacturing facilities in the Far East. A good example is the Fossil group, which own Skagen, Relic and Zodiac and who manufacture for the likes of Armani Exchange, Diesel, DKNY, Michael Kors and many more.
Most of these fashion brands can trace their roots back to the quartz revolution in the 1970s and 80s. The transition from complicated and carefully crafted mechanical movements, using rotors and springs, to the more simply produced circuitry of battery-powered quartz alternatives helped to reduce manufacturing expenses significantly. Mass production of highly-engineered timepieces was no longer a hurdle for new brands to overcome.
What are fashion watches?
Fashion watches are made to serve a specific audience. Those who are after a ‘fashionable’ watch that looks good with their outfit for a relatively low price. Something they can flash to others to improve their aesthetic.
From a product development standpoint, they are designed to be as cheap, yet flashy as possible, to maximise returns. For decades, this strategy has proven to be tremendously profitable, as these brands have been able to get away with producing low-quality watches with a recognisable brand name stamped on them; allowing the asking price to be multiplied and profit margins increased.
In recent years though, the rise of the smartwatch has cannibalised the sales of these quartz fashion pieces. People are more addicted to social media and smartphones than ever before and I suppose they see these smartwatches as a way of permanently staying plugged into that ecosystem.
They are not only much more functional but they also scratch the same aesthetic itch. The youth want to be seen wearing these, so they can flex their new Apple watch or whatever the brand is.
What’s the point here then? Well, the increasing competition from the smartwatch sector has forced many of these brands to start reducing costs to an extreme degree. By no means is this speculation. Fossil’s last few annual reports and investor presentations, for example, confirm that aggressive cost-cutting across the business is part of their strategy to recover some of the lost revenue to smartwatches and the ongoing pandemic.
This type of strategy is echoed among similar companies who find themselves in the same boat. All of these reductions mean that the watches themselves are effectively getting worse, without any corresponding price reduction.
This leads me to this pair. Two of the finest offerings from Armani Exchange and Tommy Hilfiger!
Thanks to Amazon for covering the cost of these, so I’m not wasting my own money. The Armani was £80, whilst the Hilfiger was about £75 on Amazon at the time of ordering and both are retailing for more elsewhere. They’re linked below, alongside the alternatives I’ll be mentioning.
I thought we’d take a quick look at them to see where fashion watches are at in 2021 and then suggest some alternative routes for those of you who want to get more for your money.
Ok, so both of these do fortunately have stainless steel construction, which is better than the cheaper metals used in most grocery-store watches. This will provide increased corrosion and scratch resistance, which is good; though it is still the industry-standard material that is easily obtainable in watches from about £30 upwards.
The steel used in the Armani feels especially thin, with a very tinny feeling that makes the piece immediately feel cheap. The case on the Hilfiger does feel notably better, but crucially both look very rudimentary. Remember, people are choosing these watches because they look nice or look expensive.
Unfortunately, the Hilfiger looks like it’s constructed of plated plastic, due to the overly shiny finish and the fake integrated end-links that serve no functional purpose. You’ll notice that the crown guards are also completely misaligned with the crown itself. If you're new to watches, these lumps are normally there to flank the crown, deflecting potentially damaging blows that could otherwise damage it or its connection to the movement within. Here though, the oversized crown is far too high, which looks ugly and inhibits the functionality of the guards simultaneously. This is an obvious sign of sloppy, lazy design. Despite the coin-edge grooves, the bezel is also fixed in place.
You can change the strap on the Armani, though the case is equally as basic and while the crown recesses into a slot between the guards, it’s also offset; this time in the opposite direction.
The default bands on each are woefully inadequate. The bracelet adorning the Tommy Hilfiger is a bare bones, folded link steel piece that jangles around, not far from that on a £15 Casio; as previously mentioned, you’re stuck with this, due to the fake end links. A black ‘genuine leather’ strap comes fitted to the Armani, which is comparable to some of the watches I’ve purchased for under a tenner on AliExpress. This will undoubtedly wear in very poorly and start to look shabby in no time.
I can’t say I’m a fan of either of the dials, where the quality control issues become obvious. I’d say the Hilfiger is the better-looking of the two, with a rather nice gunmetal sunburst that catches the light quite well, though aside from that it’s very basic with boring markers, a generic handset and a gaudy set of colours adorning the inner rehaut and second hand; making it look like a kid’s watch. I think they went for the whole Rolex Datejust look but instead came out with something from Early Learning Centre. Several of the markers are misaligned, as is the date wheel, which butts up to the left of its window, though at least the second-hand does hit the marks.
The Armani Exchange looks much cheaper in my opinion. The hands look like they have been shortened, ending well short of where they should, whilst the markers looks very cheap and generic. There is a waffle-like square texture across the centre, though it’s been convoluted by the addition of a second chapter ring around the perimeter and the ugly silver bar which passes through the middle; housing the Armani logo for a second time. The upper primary logo is not only misaligned with the logo, but it also overlaps one of the second marks. Not a good impression for the first thing you look at.
While these brands may be perceived as offering ‘luxury’ products in other sectors, their watches use basic, industry-standard materials at best. Even the glass is the basic mineral crystal, rather than the premium scratch-resistant sapphire on other pieces.
If you think such nitpicks are too critical, then I suggest you just spend £30 on a Casio, which is a comparable, or typically better, watch for a fraction of the price.
When you consider that the movements powering each of these watches can be obtained for pennies on the dollar, I’d hazard a guess that neither of these Chinese-made fashion watches cost their respective brands more than around £5 to produce in total; especially when economies of scale are considered. The Scameti watches I had made are not that far off in terms of quality and they were very cheap, trust me. As such, you’re spending over 90% of the item cost for distribution and marketing alone. At the current prices, without the brand names and logos, neither of these watches would draw in any punters. They’re just not good enough.
So which watches are ‘good enough’? Let’s say you have £100 or less to spend but want something that not only looks better but is actually better quality too. What should you be looking at?
Personally, I’d generally stick with companies that specialise in producing their watches in-house as the core part of their business. They’re experts at it, after all, so it’s no surprise that their products are better. The likes of Casio, Seiko and Orient, all Japanese funnily enough, have plenty of affordable offerings that have better build quality and sleeker aesthetics for similar prices.
Take this Seiko 5 for instance. The case has better finishing, the dial is nicer, with more premium-looking hands and indices; while within isn’t a lacklustre quartz movement, rather a more complex entry-level automatic that you can see through the rear of the watch. This means the second-hand sweeps along, rather than ticking, which I think looks more elegant.
Overall, it’s also a more modest size, so it doesn’t extend past the edges of your wrist, as most of the gigantic, oversized fashion watches do. True, this type of watch does have its downsides, such as accuracy and maintenance but I still think it’s a better use of your money. It will also retain a portion of its value if you decide to resell it, unlike the aforementioned fashion watches, which lose 80% of their worth the second you press ‘buy now’.
The weird thing is that most non-watch nerds I speak to seem to think that watches like this are really expensive. Well, this one is well within the same ballpark as the garbage Armani and Hilfiger, as are many other great alternatives that I’ve reviewed before.