The problem with “Indian Specials”

I’m a big fan of the YouTube channel “Just One More Watch”. Jody from Just One More Watch does a great job of sharing his enthusiasm for watches in general and great value watches in specific. He’s particularly fond of sharing his “Chinese Specials”.

As I’ve posted here more than once I’ve started my watch collection with some vintage watches purchased on eBay from sellers in India. While two of the watches I’ve received have been just as described, I did receive one watch that didn’t work (and which I’m still dealing with a return for). Today I received another vintage watch – after nearly two months due to some odd delay in shipping. Th watch is a vintage Citizen, and here’s what I was supposed to receive:

While it’s nothing fancy I think it’s a sharp vintage watch. However, that’s not the watch I got in the mail today – this is.

While the watch I received today is a Citizen it’s most certainly not what I ordered for. In addition to the garish blue dial the watch I received had a case back that was poorly fastened and a giant crack on the case. Considering this watch was purchased from the same seller as the two “Indian Specials” I had received in good condition, I was surprised at both the condition of this watch and the fact that it wasn’t even the watch I purchased. As I’ve ventured into the world of watches – specifically vintage watches – I’ve learned a healthy amount of “buyer beware” is the best way to approach any watch purchase because you never really know what you’re going to get.

Yet another Indian “frankenwatch”? I’m not sure but I love it anyhow!

Last week I shared my thoughts about why I’m interested in watches and more specifically vintage watches. At the time I noted the difficulty in finding quality vintage watches at a reasonable (by my standards) price. I noted the plethora of “frankenwatches” from countries like India – and that despite my trepidation I had purchased a vintage Seiko 5 off eBay for $17.99.

In a followup post I noted how pleased I am with that watch and the vendor and so I decided to weather the inevitable eye roll from my wife (she thinks I’m ridiculous) and buy another vintage Seiko 5. After trolling through dozens of possibilities I settled on this:

After three weeks of waiting (shipping from India is no joke!) the watch I bought finally arrived tonight. I had a chance to look the watch over and it arrived just as described by the seller – and as a bonus the watch actually worked unlike a different watch I purchased from a different seller. Having had the watch on my wrist I’m really pleased – it’s a great looking watch that fits really well on my small wrist, given the case diameter of 35mm. My only complaint (which is a complaint I had with my previous Seiko 5) is the quality of the strap. Considering I paid $13.99 for this latest Seiko 5 I wasn’t expecting much from the strap – and I wasn’t disappointed. The strap that came with the watch left a lot to be desired, but there’s an easy solution to that problem – I simply ordered a better strap off Amazon.

I don’t know if this latest Seiko 5 is truly authentic or yet another Indian “frankenwatch” but I suppose I don’t really care – I’m really happy with the watch I received and that’s really all that matters.

My vintage Seiko 5

As I wrote yesterday I’ve just started venturing into the world of watches. I’ve never been someone to wear a watch on a daily basis, but now that I have I’m hooked.

The first watch I purchased was a vintage Seiko 5 I bought off eBay. For those of you not familiar (and that would include me until I did some research) the Seiko 5 was created to be a watch whose performance would serve the demanding needs of the 1960s generation.

The watch gets its name from incorporating five key attributes:

  • Automatic winding
  • Day/date displayed in a single window – rare at the time.
  • Water resistance
  • Recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position
  • Durable steel case and bracelet

I decided on purchasing a vintage Seiko 5 as my first step into watches because older watches are pretty easy to come by – and they’re relatively inexpensive to boot. I also wanted an older watch because many newer watches are pretty large – over 40mm case size – which given my small wrists just wouldn’t look right. One drawback to buying a vintage watch is the prevalence of so-called “frankenwatches,” which are vintage watches that aren’t in original condition or possibly have faked components.

“To me, a Frankenwatch is cobbled together with often real but not necessarily correct parts,” says Nick Pardo, previously a vintage watch expert at Analog/Shift, which specializes in accessibly-priced timepieces. “So you have a dial from one model, hands from another, and it’s built up from random parts.”

Given how new I am to the world of watches, I knew I was likely going to be buying a “frankenwatch” if I ventured down the road of buying a vintage watch, but it was a chance I was willing to take. A quick search on eBay gave me what seemed like a billion options to choose from, but I was able to narrow my search down to this Seiko 5.

The first thing I did after trying my Seiko 5 on was to switch out the band. While the band that came with the watch was serviceable I wanted something a little more stylish and comfortable so I surfed over to Amazon and bought a black & red Barton Elite silicone quick-release watch band (seen in the featured image at the top of this post).

While I’ve read a bunch of horror stories about the quality (or lack thereof) of vintage Seiko 5s (and other brands for that matter) purchased from India on eBay I’ve had this watch for a few weeks now and it’s been great. My Seiko 5 may very well be a “frankenwatch” but I can’t complain – the watch keeps good time and it’s a sharp little watch. Considering I paid less than twenty dollars for the watch I can’t be anything but happy with the end result. That being said a second Seiko 5 I bought from a different seller on eBay turned out to be a dud, so perhaps it’s a matter of finding a good seller and sticking with them if you want to buy more than one vintage watch.

Why watches?

We live in a highly connected digital world. Technology is taking over our lives, from smart homes to self-driving cars, and watches are no exception. The Apple Watch and its ilk have ushered in a new era of connected smart watches and while I’m definitely a fan (my wife and daughter both own Apple Watches) there’s still something very satisfying to me about being a little bit analog in this digital world. While I don’t consider myself an expert on watches I’ve gained a lot of appreciation for old-school mechanical and quartz watches. I will admit I’ve not been someone to regularly wear watches until recently, but now that I’ve started I’m hooked. One conundrum I’ve had as I’ve ventured into the world of watches is that it would be easy to spend money hand over fist adding watches to a burgeoning collection, and I’m just an average working class guy – I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on watches.

As I started looking around for my first watch I debated whether I wanted a new watch or something vintage, and ultimately I decided to go the vintage route. A quick check on eBay gave me what seemed like a million watches to choose from, but I was apprehensive to make a purchase after reading about the prevalence of “frankenwatches” from countries like India. Not surprisingly most of the watches I found in my budget on eBay originated in India, given rise to fear I’d end up being scammed. However I finally bit the bullet and bought a vintage Seiko 5 for $17.99. I’ll have more to say about that specific Seiko 5 in a later post, but it’s safe to say I’ve started to descend down a rabbit hole that I’m not sure I’ll be able to (or want to) crawl out of.