A watch nut acquaintance of mine arrived back from holiday the other day, waltzed into my place and bragged about his new watch. He only gave me a fleeting glimpse of it as he waved his arm around, saying this was the absolute best watch he’d ever owned.
Intrigued of course I asked to see it and even though I just had the slightest peek, I said it looked like he’d got himself an Aviator classic. “Oh, he said, you don’t have one too, do you?”
Well I’ve got this one here I replied and dug out my old AstroAvia Classic Aviator Alarm watch that I’ve had for a number of years. Now I wouldn’t say it’s the very best watch I’ve ever owned, but it is in practical terms, a pretty decent watch and one that I intend to keep for a long time yet.
Anyway the watch on his wrist was marked on the dial as Ernst Benz, which to me, being a bit cynical in my old age, sounds like one of those made up Swiss German classic marques, that more often than not turn out to be (in my experience) a vastly expensive product with little actual pedigree, or indeed watch specification detail (or any), but lots of dialogue about how good it is. Looking up Herr Ernst Benz I confess to being unsure as to the tie up with a watch brand, but hey why not! I do have a watch in my display cabinet with my own name on the dial too!
Now my friend oddly enough after seeing my old Astro suddenly went all coy on how much his Benz cost! Of course if I’m honest, just because the brand was and is pretty much unknown to me, doesn’t make my cynicism justified – I could be quite wrong and it could indeed be a super quality classic.
However looking closely at it – I’ve got to say it doesn’t appear anything special – it’s a fairly common mechanical automatic chrono, probably a 7750 series or 2824/36 movement or similar (I have many of these), the case and dial design is in ubiquitous “Aviator” style and hardly special, the numerals, printing, hands, dial and case quality and finish are comparable and when we put both watches together, they look pretty similar.
Of course in reality they are not the same and there are differences for sure – mechanical automatic v quartz, Sapphire v Hardened Mineral crystal and “maybe” quality differences and so on, but we’re not talking gold or platinum here, or super complications, but a stainless cased working chronograph. The cost differential may well be taken up in part by the mechanical v quartz, though other than that aspect, I don’t see much else. However that said it is fact that mechanical 7750 and 2824 movements models can be anywhere from £600 to £thousands, depending on who they are, marketing hype and fashion. Factually though it’s OK, but personally I’d be looking elsewhere money wise.
My old AstroAvia has a Japanese Quartz (OS2 or YM62 usually) has never let me down, the hands mechanics and complications work fine and is just what I need from a practical daily beater, which why I bought it in the first place. I do recall I favored Quartz over mechanical as more often than not, chronograph complications in everyday wear, considering knocks and so on usually fare better. (See my post of March 2010). It also came with a bracelet and a quality leather strap!
However as the image, they do have a certain similarity – that aviator style and whilst I am very happy with my AstroAvia purchase, I’m not too sure if my old friend is quite so happy after I mentioned it’s £180 price tag.
He never did tell me how much he paid, but checking up on a few of the Benz model prices and which after seeing them, I’d consider this more orientated towards fashion than anything else.
And as to my title “Chalk and Cheese?”, well it certainly makes this old pessimist wonder.