The Frugal Man’s Guide to Cheap Watches from China

Cheap Chinese Watch Guide

I am a bonafide cheapskate when it comes to watches. I have only two criteria that any watch must meet … well, actually, three: It must keep accurate time (duh), it must look good, and it should cost no more than around $20.00 or so! You might think that these requirements cannot possibly be met at such a low cost. Think again! Endlessly resourceful Chinese watchmakers and online markets make it possible to buy a serviceable and attractive timepiece for less than the cost of lunch for two at McDonalds!

This frugal man’s guide to cheap watches from China will show how it is possible to obtain respectable timepieces at astoundingly low prices. I show you what to look for and what to avoid when buying watches for less than $20.00 (US) from China. This is a fun way to add a bit of forearm bling to your wardrobe on a tight budget!

Chinese Watch Guide
This handsome quartz watch (reliable too) costs only $11.00 direct from China!

The photo above shows one of the best-selling cheap watches on Aliexpress.com, a major Chinese online e-commerce market. Made by Curren, it features a reliable quartz movement, a stainless steel bracelet, and handsome design. It mimics the look of an expensive chronograph. The secondary stopwatch dials are non-functional (for design only). It is a reliable, albeit basic watch that functions and looks good on the wrist. And, did I happen to mention that it costs only $11.00 including shipping?

Intrigued? I thought so! Here are a few watch-shopping tips for the frugal man and a growing compilation of my favorite picks in low-cost men’s watches direct from China:

Tip 1: Don’t Be a Watch Snob

These watches are not suitable for swimming or diving. They are not heirlooms you pass on to your children. They will never go up in value. They will not be worth anything if you try to pawn them. These are low-cost ‘fashion’ watches that will probably keep time accurately for a good number of years (the quartz movement will more than likely outlast the shiny gold plating). Keep your expectations reasonable! You don’t pay much for these Chinese watches but you get good value and service for the low price.

Megir M2020 Quartz Watch - Cheap Chinese Watch
This Megir quartz watch (model 2020) has fully functional stopwatch features and sells for $17.00 on Aliexpress.com and Walmart.com

Tip 2: When Buying Cheap Chinese Watches Stick to Quartz Movements

Quartz watch movements offer the best value for value-minded consumers. Why? Reliable quartz and digital watch movements are very inexpensive to manufacture. It’s basically just an electronic circuit and a battery.  A low-cost quartz movement will keep time more accurately than the finest mechanical (windup or automatic) watch movements. Because a quartz watch does not require the jeweled bearings needed for complex. friction inducing parts in a mechanical watch, it’s much cheaper to manufacture.

Outside of buying a battery every few years there is no maintenance required for quartz watches. They can run for years without problems. Cheap quartz watches tend to be far more reliable than cheap mechanical watches. There are really only two things that will kill a quartz watch movement. One is letting moisture in the watch and two is a defective or old leaking battery.

Curren Quartz Watch
A classically-styled Chinese-made Curren Dress Quartz Watch that sells for $11.00.

Tip 3: When Buying Cheap Quartz Watches Look to China

While low-cost Chinese watches are sold on US-based Walmart.com and Amazon.com, the best prices are often found on direct-from-China online marketplaces such as Aliexpress.com, Gearbest.com, Wish.com, dhgate.com and Banggood.com. Just be aware that shipping from China may take a month or more. Also, know that if you need to return a watch purchased direct from China, you are on the hook for return shipping charges. That will usually cost you much more than you paid for the watch. Personally, if I’m spending more than $20.00 I will purchase the watch from Amazon.com or Walmart.com for fast shipping and much cheaper return options from a US based vendor. The same cautions apply when buying a Chinese watch on eBay. Comparison shop and look out for deals!

Tip 4: Buy A Collection of Watches and Wear Them in Rotation

For around $100.00 (US) you can easily purchase five or six watches. In this price range, watch cases are typically made of metal alloys or lower quality stainless steel. They are more prone to corrosion and plating issues than their luxury watch counterparts. However, if you buy a collection of inexpensive watches and wear them in rotation, it limits the wear and tear on any single watch. Also, keep them clean! If sweat and grime are allowed to collect on watches it will corrode the finish. Wipe and buff your watch with a microfibre cloth after each wear and store them in a moisture-free container to preserve their good looks.

Tip 5: Avoid Gold-Plated Watches

Inexpensive watches with gold plating will tend to fade rapidly, showing the silver base metal underneath. An inexpensive silver or stainless steel finish watch will maintain its looks for a much longer time. If you want an inexpensive watch that will keep its youthful appearance for years, avoid gold plating and stick to silver and stainless steel finishes.

Tip 6: Buy A Basic Watch Maintenance Toolkit

Let’s say that you purchased a collection of five to seven inexpensive Chinese quartz watches for a total of $100.00, you can easily pay double that to have a jeweler replace batteries or resize watch bracelets. Save your money! Buy a set of dedicated watch tools for about $10.00 that enables you to open watch cases to replace batteries and resize steel watch bracelets for a perfect fit with ease. These are not difficult tasks. The watch repair toolkit I purchased from Amazon.com for $10.00 makes it a breeze to service every quartz watch I own. There are a plethora of Youtube videos that offer step-by-step instructions on replacing batteries and sizing watch bracelets.

Watch Repair Kit

My Favorite Cheap Chinese Men’s Watches!

Here is a growing list of my favorite uber-cheap watches, none of which cost over $25.00!

The Curren 8023 Men’s Quartz Watch.

With a bit of careful shopping, you can buy the Curren 8023 men’s quartz watch from a number of online sources for around $13.00 including shipping. It is, in my humble opinion, the best-looking men’s watch you can buy for around $10.00!

Curren 8023 Quartx Watch from China
The Curren 8023 Quartz Watch Retails for Under $13.00

This Watch has Frugal Style and Function!

This Curren watch is perfect for a man with a carefully curated wardrobe of vintage and second-hand suits (ahem). It has a reliable Japanese Quartz movement (made by Miyota/Citizen) and will work quietly for years with little maintenance other than an occasional battery replacement. The Chinese have perfected the art of combining reliable, cheap quartz watch technology with affordable and appealing design.

The Curren 8023 Quartz watch is simple. The sub-dials are non-functional (they are decorative only), and there is no date function. Its design mimics the $170.00 Casio Edifice EF539D watch.  Despite its complex looks, it does only one thing and does it well. It keeps accurate time. Also, it looks great peeping from the end of a crisply starched dress-shirt sleeve.

Curren 8023
The Curren 8023 watch comes in a range of colors. Be aware that black finishes tend to show their age faster than stainless steel and silver.

Where to Buy the Curren 8023 Men’s Quartz Watch

Large Chinese online vendors such as Aliexpress.com, GearBest.com, and BangGood.com all sell the low-cost Curren line of watches. You will wait a month or so generally for shipping from China. Another option is to look for US-based vendors on eBay that are selling these watches for the same price. Check Walmart.com and Amazon.com as well (I’ve often found the best prices on Walmart.com). The advantage of buying from a US-based vendor is faster shipping and avoiding the outrageously expensive cost of shipping if you need to return a defective watch (all Chinese vendors require you to pay the shipping on returned items). It may cost $70.00 or more to return a $10.00 watch purchased from China by postal service (Chinese companies can ship these watches cheaply because postal costs are subsidized by the Chinese government).

Naviforce 9122 Quartz Sports Watch

Naviforce Watches - China
Naviforce 9122 Quartz Sports Watch

This Naviforce Model #9122 quartz sports watch has a unique nautical-inspired design. It offers basic date and time features in a silver and blue case. You can find this watch on eBay, Walmart.com, and Amazon for around $15.00 including shipping (do a price comparison as prices fluctuate wildly). You can also purchase it from Chinese online sellers including Aliexpress.com and GearBest.com if you’re willing to wait a month or so for shipping.  This is one of my favorite watches for its playful design. I replaced the original light blue suede strap for this blue & white nylon Nato-style strap (purchased for $3.00 on Wish.com). This is a one-of-a-kind watch perfect for casual menswear.

Megir M2020 Chronograph Watch With Leather Band

Here is another handsome watch that is typically sold for only $17-$20.00 (including shipping) on eBay, Walmart.com, and from Chinese online vendors like Aliexpress.com and GearBest.com. This Megir is a chronometer with stop watch and date functions. It comes with a leather strap and has a timeless, rugged look. Like nearly all watches in this price range it is water resistant but not suitable for swimming or diving. This is a low-cost watch that offers exceptional design and chronograph functions in one value-packed package!

Megir M2020 Quartz Watch - Cheap Chinese Watch
This Megir Quartz Watch has fully functional stopwatch features and sells for $17.00

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the world of cheap, value-packed Chinese watches! If you want to delve a bit more into the world of cheap watches, check out this post: Are Cheap Chinese Watches Any Good? -SplurgeFrugal!