Let Me Revisit That: Why Budget Mechanical Watches Don’t Make Sense
Last week, I wrote an article on why I thought mechanical watches under €1,000 don’t make sense. In a way, it was an article like many other articles I’ve published here on Fratello. I had a thought, we discussed it during our editorial meeting, and we decided that I’d do an article on it. What happened next was beyond any of my expectations.
Just as with any other article, I was expecting a healthy amount of comments. But thus far, that piece has received more than 250 comments, and new ones are still coming in every day. Apart from the huge number of comments, though, I was most surprised about the sentiment in the majority of them. People got angry, very angry, both at me and Fratello in general. As it was never my intention to cause such an uproar, I’d like to revisit my thoughts right here, right now.
My (short-sighted) opinion and mine alone
I’ve read every single comment underneath that article, and while doing so, I wrote down some of my thoughts. I’ll go through them today, and I hope that will clear things up a little. Let me start by pointing out where, I think, most of the anger came from. Many readers felt that the article was written to disqualify the whole budget category of watches and, at the same time, all the enthusiasts that love them. That’s why I was called a snob and someone who was belittling all lovers of budget mechanical watches.
That, however, was not my objective at all. The article was an opinion piece about how I experience the hobby, and how I feel about mechanical watches at a certain price point. I shouldn’t have presented it as a fait accompli. Moreover, as many of you pointed out, I formed my opinion based on only one experience. That was indeed a bit of a short-sighted approach, especially because I already knew that some higher-end brands also swap out movements when you send your watch in for a service.
I’m still a hopeless romanticist
So, has my opinion changed after reading all the comments? Well, yes and no. I still think that swapping out a movement without any consultation or a heads-up is a no-go for me. Call me hopelessly romantic all you want, but I’m still a supporter of keeping the watch and its original movement together for as long as possible. In that case, the cost of service and the time it takes might increase, but I’m willing to pay that price. However, as some of you also pointed out, those service costs might end up being higher than what the watch cost when you bought.
In that specific case, it indeed doesn’t make a lot of sense to get it serviced or to get a mechanical watch at such a low price point in the first place. And that’s exactly why I suggested to get a cheaper quartz watch instead. In the end, though, most of us love mechanical watches because we mechanical things in general. So getting a quartz watch instead, as I suggested in the article, isn’t really a valid alternative. And to say that the entire “budget” mechanical watch segment doesn’t make sense is, again, a little too harsh. But to call me or even the entire Fratello crew snobbish based on this one article is also a little unfair, I think.
Buy and enjoy what you like
As regular commenters Enuona and 1Gav1 pointed out, we publish many articles on mechanical watches at the lower end of the market. And of course, I wish everyone a fun experience with mechanical watches at any given price point. If cheaper mechanical watches make sense to you, then please buy and enjoy them as much as you can. Also, as many of you pointed out, there are certainly cheaper mechanical watches out there that can stand the test of time. Besides, even if they don’t, the cost of repairing or replacing them is probably not going to be that high either.
I own the Seiko SPB317, a watch in the price range I discussed in the original article. It’s the perfect watch for summer holidays. Because of its modest price (for me), I don’t have to worry about it too much. And if it breaks, I won’t have to break the piggy bank to get it repaired. It also isn’t the most accurate watch in my collection, nor is it the best-finished one. Still, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s just that I set my expectations according to its price point, as I do with any of my other watches.
Mechanical watches don’t make sense, period — and that’s okay!
In the end, I’m also really happy that the comments exploded the way they did because, as RJ put it the next day when I came into the office, I “certainly hit a nerve.” And, believe it or not, that happened totally unintentionally. People were really passionate about the watches they like and the things they expect of those watches at certain price points. There’s definitely more to write about here, especially when it comes to the pricing of mechanical watches and their inevitable service.
My biggest lesson from reading all those comments is that we are indeed all watch enthusiasts but, within our community, there are many different ways to enjoy this hobby. And that’s also why I enjoy watch get-togethers so much. They let you hear the stories behind the people and their collections. In the end, as some of you mentioned, there’s no real logic behind owning mechanical watches in this day and age. So in that sense, mechanical watches in general don’t really make sense. Yet we all enjoy them in our own very special ways, and that’s exactly what I enjoy so much about this hobby.