I’ve bought anachronistic items like the GEORGE pocket watch before. My intent: to be a “fedora” (a.k.a., a pretentious, attention-seeking ass). And then I found myself developing a deep appreciation for the sensibility of bygone accoutrements. And became even more annoying as a true believer zealously trying to convert others that the seemingly obsolete is, in fact, superior to the modern . . .
I bought a $3 fountain pen just to be a fancy pants. And then found delight in the smooth, effortless writing and wide range of available ink colors. I bought an ascot (day cravat to those in the UK) to act like a stuffy yacht club millionaire – only to realize that this decorative bit of haberdashery provides amazing warmth. There is wisdom in the old ways.
Our esteemed editor is a pocket watch proponent. It sure seems impractical to me, albeit no worse than the youngs that have to unpocket smartphones to read the time. But what do I know?
Well, I know that I wasn’t going to follow his advice of buying a gorgeous, dead accurate vintage mechanical pocket watch for several hundred dollars on a whim. But Walmart had a cheapo quartz pocket watch in store for under ten bucks, which is a much smaller leap.
If I hated it, I could continue ignoring RF’s advice and give the GEORGE pocket watch to dad as a gift. Full disclosure: I was hoping to find the “Dad” pocket watch, knife, and money clip combo on clearance for $1.50 and fudge the expense account. This was not to be.
The GEORGE is a hunter-case pocket watch with that a hinged protective cover for the crystal. Unlike my sandwiches, I’d have preferred open face. Flipping a pocket watch lid open like a Zippo lighter reeks of affectation.
The GEORGE’s cover has an eagle on it, also not my first choice. Although it’s perfect for a Walmart patriot, the design’s a little kitschy and low brow for me. The relief is higher than one would expect. Or want.
The eagle’s not quite lumpy enough to be a true aesthetic affront, but it looks indelicate and artless. The big bird’s stylized wings are okay but the eagle’s body foreshortening is a bit off, resembling a less intrepid foul. It’s paltry, too close to poultry.
There’s a nearly identical item in the online marketplace branded Montres Carlo selling for almost twice the price. If not coming from the same Chinese factory, somebody is sharing dies. The crowns are different, not only between colors, but from the store brand item. Otherwise, it looks the same to me.
The GEORGE pocket watch is also available in gold tone under a different listing, which only shows the front, closed. That was the only one I saw before purchase, so I was in for some surprises.
[As mentioned in the Casio F-91W review, Walmart is no Amazon. Search using the exact item description used for an item listing and it won’t come up again. Luckily, Walmart is no ace at clearing out store inventory. Three years ago people were finding new in box Nokia bricks still for sale, so I’d bet the GEORGE pocket watch will be collecting dust on shelves for a good while.]
The display box doubles as a gift box. If you open it with the branding facing up, the watch inside will be upside down. Either they cared more about shelf appearance from the rear, couldn’t read English, or just some chabuduo.
I was expecting a plain caseback, but the GEORGE pocket watch features a surprisingly traditional bit of engraving, thankfully not raised like the front.
The included chain is unobjectionable, with links reminiscent of ID bracelets. The hook that attaches to the watch is clearly that craft store piece on which summer camper start braiding their lanyards, with a little decorative fake wrapped trim piece on it.
There are swivels on each end and the little quarter scale money clip hook that one hooks to the buttonhole on their vest (waistcoat for the Anglophiles) or … uh… belt or pants pocket edge? Hey RF, how does this work?
The stock photo above shows some “antiquing” black crap in the crevices. This was not present on the one I got, and it looks decidedly better without it.
I didn’t need the instructions, by which I mean I didn’t realize there were any. A moment of terror arose as I pushed the crown button repeatedly and was unable to open the case. Harder!
That did it, revealing that the dial was silver tone with a mild sunburst effect. Well, that’s odd. I figured it would be white. And the stem is at 3 o’clock, not the expected 12 o’clock position. [Ed: called a “sidewinder.]
The cutesy swoopy italicized Arabic numerals have some charm, reminiscent of generic cheap watch faces everywhere. Beyond the second indices, there are no other markings whatsoever, so the provenance is your secret.
The inside of the case lid also surprised with a (presumably fake) guilloche pattern. I’m impressed enough that it wasn’t just the back of the front stamping.
Even more credit for the GEORGE pocket watch’s domed crystal, despite a bit of a reflection issue. Surely acrylic, but it’s hard to care for this price point and it’s covered anyhow.
Setting the watch was as simple as it gets, although the stem was very notchy, dragging as the minute hand nears the stem position. The second hand hacks and they reasonably hit the marks so far, emitting a faint audible ticking.
Black dauphine hands elongate at the end and offer no illumination. That’s likely endemic to a hunter-case, or at least understandable. The silver dial’s reflectivity does make low light reading achievable with effort.
The case diameter is 47 mm. The GEORGE pocket watch it doesn’t fit in a jean watch/coin pocket. At 16mm or 5/8” thick, it’s a bit of a bulge in a pants pocket. Some like their watches thicc and their women thin, but I’m the opposite.
The first day of wear, or rather carry, a front trouser pocket with the little coin pocket-in-a-pocket accommodated the watch. I tried being stealthy with the chain, having it go straight from belt into pocket with nothing hanging out.
This lead to a bit of chain pooling in the pocket. The day met an unplanned incident where my hands were filthy for hours on end. Pocket watches are meant for genteel use, unless you don’t mind mucking up you don’t mind mucking-up your watch and clothes to know the time.
The second day, I wore something that had a forgotten watch pocket below the waistband. The downside: the chain dangles outside. I’m not big on the biker/trucker wallet chain look. But from a comfort standpoint, this was the way to go.
I began to realize that the protuberances on the front lid were actually a feature, not a bug. Your hand can feel which side is the front to orient the GEORGE pocket watch for quicker opening.
The watch is accurate to within a second a day. Despite the nasty feel of setting the thing, it is hard to care. It could be much worse and I wouldn’t mind.
The chrome plating lasted for a few days without incident, even surviving a light drop or two with aplomb. [ED: Noooooo!] The cover opens and shuts, even if there is a slight bit of play if pushed when latched. I think that’s intentional – the user needn’t push and hold to engage the latch.
Obviously something more expensive would be an improvement, but there’s no buyer’s remorse so far. As a cheapskate, I’m familiar with truly shoddy dime store or flea market grade tripe that starts failing almost immediately. This has not done that.
The instructions say that the battery should last a year. How it’s changed is a mystery, and GEORGE isn’t giving any hints. I’m used to changing my own batteries but I see no means of access. When it fails, I’ll start prying with a blade and see what happens. I’d be curious to see how much space the movement actually takes up in the case.
The GEORGE pocket watch works and it’s not dreadfully cheaply made. It proved to be an entirely passable entry to pocket watches. RF’s going to send me one of his prized possessions, but my trial run brought to mind Groucho Marx’s famous quote: I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member.
- The battery crapped out within about a year and, despite my initial blindness, there is a little pry point on the case back at 6 o’clock. Once easily popped off, they are even nice enough to have the battery size marked inside the back. Needless to say, there is a huge white plastic spacer around a tiny quartz movement.
- My exposure to vintage watch chains made me realize that the supplied one is longer than needed, unless one really holds it above chest level to read. Using the basic jewelry technique of prying open a ring, cutting to length, and squeezing ring closed with pliers, I was able to shorten by about two inches. Removing an inch of dangly chain drop makes this look much less dicky when worn at the waist.
- The cover had too much play, making it feel (appropriately) cheap. The catch is readily visible at 3 o’clock and pressing on that with something that gets a light hammer tap removed the slop. It snaps shut tightly and doesn’t wiggle at all. Huge improvement.
GEORGE Men’s Analog Pocket Watch (Ref: #575670727)
Retail price: $8.88
Case Width: 47mm
Case thickness: 11.8mm
Case Material: Silvertone pot metal
Crystal/Lens: Domed acrylic
Dial: Silver sunburst, Arabic (Full)
Movement: Unspecified [Chinese] quartz
Power reserve: 1 year battery life
Water Resistance: N/a
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
A mixed bag on imitation vintage style. Could be smaller and the tacky screaming chicken is a little trailer park, plus the dial loses the Americana plot but (say it together) good for the low, low price.
Legibility * * *
No lume and a bit of glare but big and obvious once the lid is popped.
Tactility * *
The crudest part is surely the feel of setting the time; it’s a gritty inconsistent affair. No real joy to hold, but nothing damnable either.
Not uncomfortable? Not sure if southpaws will enjoy the crown location. Cover could be sleeker.
Overall * * * *
It could be a lot worse. Unexpected detail, well designed features for (say it again) the low, low price.