I thought I would kick off my watch reviews with one of my favorite acquisitions so far: the Valia 8601-1. Available in a variety of face and watchband combinations you can cover nearly any occasion with the Valia 8601-1.
I have yet to understand exactly what the relationship is between the brand name on the watch and the actual manufacturer of the piece, but Valia has their name on a handful of watch designs that I enjoy considerably.
Conclusion & Rating
The one and perhaps only thing that I found disappointing about the Valia 8601-1, and honestly nearly all the cheap Chinese watches I’ve seen, is its lack of density; to the case in particular. These are made inexpensively and that’s evident when you compare them to more established and expensive brands. And you don’t have to go to the hundred dollar watches to notice this either. A $40 Timex Expedition at your local WalMart or Target is enough to see for yourself what I am talking about. The Valia 8601-1 case metal feels thin and the entire body is light in my hand. With such a beautiful watch the concern is how long will it last. I take extra special care though, hoping to keep it alive for as long as possible.
That being said this is my second most favorite watch in my cheap Chinese watch collection … and probably sits among the top 5 of all my current watches; ranking above a $180 James Bond Swatch and shares space with a $1000 Movado Elrio. How could such a cheap watch rank so high?
I’m not a particular guy and the subtle details can get lost on me. I only need a watch to do two things and I judge it on those things …
- Keep accurate time.The Valia 8601-1 has, after a month, kept perfect time. It’s a quartz so I expect a high level of reliability from it.
- Look and feel great. The Valia 8601-1 does that best of all. It’s sophisticated and refined looking. The sub-dials look like they might actually work and even though the buttons don’t even depress, you’d have to push one to figure it out. This watch LOOKS like everything it’s not. It’s not a fake … it doesn’t presume to be someone it’s not, but while the details and complications of the watch may be decorative and non-functional they are executed convincingly. I also maintain, that at least for most of us … we don’t really use all those buttons anyway.
Would I recommend this to a friend? Without question. This is a good watch, a GREAT watch, in fact for under $5. I would argue that this watch could fetch near the $10 – $12 mark. I would never pay that much because I know that I don’t have to, but if I had seen it in a store front and didn’t know I could get it for $5 I would not hesitate to drop the $12 on it. If you like the style, which is personal and I can offer no guidance on, but if you like the look and the styling and are willing to care for it, I do not think you would regret the purchase.
Interested in further “deets”? Feel free to continue reading to get additional thoughts and feedback of my experience with the Valia 8601-1
|Case Material||Stainless Steel*|
|Functions:||Decorative Sub Dials|
|Clasp Type:||Pin Buckle|
* Unverified seller claims
|Case Diameter:||43 mm||44 mm|
|Case Thickness:||10 mm||12 mm|
|Band Width:||–||22 mm|
|Band Length*:||24 cm||25.5 cm|
* Band length includes case and buckle
** Bourghetto Gentry Measurements
|Date Purchased:||April 20, 2016|
|Date Delivered:||May 2, 2016|
|Purchase Price:||$4.88 USD|
Ordering & Delivery
After all the horror stories and negative reviews I had read about buying Chinese products online, I was anxious and, if I’m being honest, I had not really expected to receive anything at all, or if I did, whatever I received would arrive after many months of waiting and would be delivered in pieces. My experience at Gearbest.com could not have been more opposite.
The package arrived after about two and a half weeks from placing the order. Considering it was sent from clear on the other side of the world, this seems like a pretty reasonable wait time. The six watches I ordered were packaged together; wrapped generously in bubble-wrap and tucked (maybe a little stuffed) into a cardboard box. I felt like the packaging was adequate. The cardboard box was unexpected. Most of the reviews I had seen or read indicated that they would simply be shipped in an bubble wrap envelope, so the box was a pleasant reassurance. There were no gift boxes or anything of course, just the watches. Each watch was in a an individual plastic sleeve and wrapped in bubble-wrap. So while the packaging was less than inspiring, it did the job of keeping my treasures safe, and keeping in mind the price I paid this was not an issue.
Examining the Watch
All six watches were received in excellent condition. No broken glass, no loose minute, second or hour hands. No other loose parts floating around in the dials. Of the six, the Valia 8601-1 was instantly my favorite. The “diamond cut” bezel looked bedazzling and with the black band and white dial, the silver indices and accents provided an elegant contrast. The sub-dials, although non-functional, do not obviously betray the purely aesthetic nature of their presence. Even the leather strap looked flawless and real … maybe it is. I can’t tell and the description says that it is.
The crystal is, I believe unhardened, standard glass. It provides a clear and largely undistorted view of the dial except at only the most extreme angles. The top is slightly domed and has a small lip where it joins the case. It’s very nice.
Straps and Buckle
The strap that shipped with this was actually pretty nice. It’s a black alligator pattern with a matte finish and the seller site claims that is it is leather. In my experience, however, real leather is typically branded as “genuine leather”, which this is not. So it’s probably more likely PU leather. Regardless it’s very nice. I personally prefer the matte finish over a high sheen/glossy finish as it’s a touch more casual. It has a little thickness to it, which is a nice look. The interior of the strap is soft and reasonably comfortable. It’s not a $100 glove leather Movado strap but is actually less stiff and more comfortable than I had expected.
The buckle is your typical pin buckle. Silver and unbranded, it does the job. While the metal of the buckle feels a bit chintzy, the buckle itself feels sturdy in position and while I wouldn’t yank on it too hard you don’t have to coddle it too much either.
As mentioned in the summary above, the entire watch feels like its been starved. It’s lightweight and most of the metal feels thin and fragile. If you’ve ever picked up a game token about the size of a quarter and realized that it must be made out of aluminum or something because it was so light then you will be familiar with the experience of lifting this watch versus a more expensive watch.
Don’t misunderstand, it doesn’t feel like a toy. It’s certainly no gumball machine plastic ring , but it’s clearly not a Panerai or Rolex … or even a Timex or Casio.
The other concern that I have is the finish of the case. I am not an expert on metal finishes or how to distinguish a polished finish from a plated one (without damaging the subject) but if I had to put money on it, I would say that this case is probably plated.
Those are the concerns … the positives are that it’s delicate bearing means it sits comfortably and light on my arm and doesn’t feel like it a weight dragging my knuckles toward the floor. One of the reasons I prefer leather bands over metal bracelet bands is that metal bands tend to be heavy. Not a problem for the Valia 8601-1. And this is a good thing I think as well, because at 12mm thick it’s a significantly sized case … at least on a relatively small wrist such as mine.
Finally, while the origins of the case finish may be up for speculation, whatever it is, it is beautifully implemented. It doesn’t look cheap or poorly done, which is a particular pitfall that I have often noticed in plated finishes. The hope is that it will survive peeling as my hand sweats beneath it.
The case back announces that it is water resistant. If the watch is water resistant then it’s not being touted by the sellers. I have seen this same model for sale on multiple sites and none have made mention of water resistance. Which means that even if it IS water resistant I could not say what it’s rating is. Based on that I will assume that it is no more resistant that to tolerate a little rain while running between the car and a building during a rain shower.
The Valia 8601-1 sports the traditional date window, yet while I am accustomed to seeing it in the 3 o’clock position, trends seem to be moving it all around the face of the dial these days and Valia has followed suite by positioning the 8601-1’s date window equidistant between the 4 and 5 o’clock indices. It looks great and except for me having set it to the wrong date (!) it has kept the date reliably for the past month.
The watch is a faux “chronograph” style, a “fauxnograph” if you will. The illusion of chronograph functionality is supported by two non-functional “pushers” flanking the stem, above and below. Like the sub-dials, unless you were to look particularly closely at them or actually ask to see them work you would not know that they were falsies.
l love this watch! It performs the two most critical functions I expect from a watch … it looks great and keeps accurate time. Although my goal is to keep these watches for as long as possible, if I can get 6-`12 months of use out of it, at this price I would consider it a resounding success. Provided they survive the shipping process and that you keep your expectations commensurate with the price point I do not believe that you’ll be disappointed with this purchase.