In the comments section of Watch Collector? Not It! I asserted that “true collectibles are ephemera.” Supporting this argument: my “new” Snapple watch. A watch that was once a gimme (redeemed for bottle caps?) now selling on eBay. Exploring my thesis, I bought one for $8. There are many more for sale in similar condition, firmly establishing the Snapple watch as a “collectible.” A little history . . .
I earned a promotional watch from the local blood bank circa 2000. I wore it regularly for a year or so until it met some now-forgotten fate. I relegated its Milanese band to my box of watchbands, eventually retrieving it for my one mechanical watch.
Like branded promo pens, key fobs and matchbooks, promotional watches have faded from memory. Once upon a time, a few years after the quartz crisis of the ’70’s took its toll on mass market mechanical timepieces, quartz watches were cheap enough to be given away as reward or award. The wearer became an unsigned brand ambassador.
I received in the mail a wristwatch from a devoted shareholder in California. On the dial were printed our Vanguard logo, my name, and a phrase that was an indication I was still looking out for our shareholders: “Still on Watch.” It was also an outrageous pun: “Still on Watch.”
Confident that it would be my rabbit’s foot, I put the watch on my wrist, where, having proved itself, it remains to this day. (Yes, I knew about the $50 limit on gifts. So I checked the catalog for the price. It was $14. Talk about value!)
Nowadays, you can’t give ’em away. I’ve tried. The last time I went to the blood bank, they gave me promotional socks. To ponder which costs more or will last longer would be a digression.
The provenance of my Snapple watch was troublesome; the only web search hits were other eBay listings. As noted on the one year warranty card, the manufacturer was Overseas Products International. Unless there’s some name duplication, that’s Fossil’s original name, starting in 1984.
The best hint I could find: the photo of the bottle label on the box. As is the way of corporate evolution, Snapple’s label design has changed to reflect consumer tastes for an “all natural” product. I saw the ship masts on the tea bottle on the box and immediately made the connection to the Boston Tea Party.
Halfwits in 1992 did not. They spread a goofy rumor about the masts belonging to slave ships. The circled K (for kosher) symbol meant the KKK, obviously. Around 1995 Snapple removed the boatful of “Indians” and added big “kosher pareve” text. As the deleted boat is present on the image on the box, this is presumably early 90’s, around the time of the Wendy the Snapple lady ads.
This Snapple watch arrived new in box, complete with the little crystal protector and untouched leather band. The battery was dead, of course. The snap case back is stamped with Snapple’s “Made from the best stuff on Earth” slogan circling the model number and the surprise nation of manufacture: Japan. Not being made in China is a big tip off that this was before the late 90’s when trade was loosened with the PRC.
Popping off the case back with a promotional Swiss Army knife blade was indeed a snap. My fear: a disintegrated cell leaking corrosive battery acid inside. Fortunately, the bitty island of movement and battery looked good as new, surrounded by a vast white ocean of plastic spacer. Juice from a fresh cell made the marked mystery movement stop waiting to tick away.
The mystery movement turned out to be a Morioka Tokei PC21A, now sheltering under the Seiko roof, going for about five dollars. I’m pretty sure cheaper movements can be found in more expensive watches. The feel from the crown while setting was smooth and solid, more so than it needed to be.
Sometimes these promos slap the logo on the dial and utterly disregard the user’s ability to tell time. No indices were omitted here because Snapple loves their customers. Full Arabic hour markers and seconds tick marks are all crisply printed.
The Snapple bottle logo is stippled, as there’s no point in high resolution. The logo is clear and that’s what matters. The background appears parchment-like off white. Magnification reveals a faint bent line pattern, presumably the same as on the box liner.
The hands are Keira Knightley slender. That’s great for not obscuring the dial graphic but a serious ding for time telling. Never before have I seen such wispy hands, or a seconds hand so close in dimension to the minute hand. Checking the time results in a brief standoff till the second hand exposed itself by moving.
Need I state that there is no lume? On the positive side, the case is metal. As is the back. If it were something besides crummy pot metal, they’d probably say so. Surface finish is about the worst I’ve seen, as it should be at this price. The back has radial tool marks, as if anyone cares.
The sides have a brushed finish with an apparent grain. The top and the bezel look no better than a stainless steel kitchen appliance scoured with a Scotch Brite pad. The metal reflects unevenly, the skewed abrasive lines indicating it was given literal seconds worth of polishing.
There are no sharp edges, and there are no crisp surfaces. There is a bit of river stone organic shape going on. At least there’s no rust or other deterioration. Water resistance has an unlisted number, but it is probably not less than zero. As the only TTAW reviewer with access to snow, I risked the obligatory snow shot.
I fully expected the glossy ‘genuine leather’ band to instantly crack and disintegrate at first flexing. Original leather bands from new watches that were immediately replaced later did just this when awaken from their years of Rip Van Winkle deep slumber. The surface did crack a bit, and the holes are raw with padding fluff showing. They stitched this bitch and the buckle is just as, um well, finished as the case.
The warranty card claims that I can send $12.50 to OPI in Dallas to get a replacement band. As the address listed now belongs to an infrastructure construction company, that might not work. The keepers didn’t stretch out or break, so I’ve seen worse.
As a proper cheap quartz watch, it’s small, slim and light. I’m not in the ‘big is beautiful’ camp on watches (I’m here to fat shame them). This tchotchke, this piece of swag, delightfully disappears from mind during wear. The advantages of quartz technology are not hidden here.
The Snapple promotional watch seemed to gain about a second a day, so not quite COSC accuracy. To avoid this being a one sentence paragraph, here’s link to a video on long term accuracy of another cheap watch.
The crystal is plastic. Like special effects in animation, doming plastic “crystals” doesn’t seem to incur additional cost. My shirt cuffs like to slide over domes. They look warmer and more organic and they don’t reflect with a flat soullessness. Yes, it may scratch, but unlike that MB&F, this won’t be smacking every door jamb. Besides, it’ll buff out.
You may not be surprised to learn that I’m not presenting the Snapple Watch as an example of high horology. It’s a watch for nostalgic aficionados of pop culture nostalgia. I’m fine with that. And there are props to be had. Who’s heard of COMEX? Everybody’s heard of Snapple. For now.
Model: Snapple branded promotional quartz watch
Price: $8 as tested, currently listing from there up on eBay
Case diameter: 35mm
Case thickness: 10.4mm (7.4mm less crystal)
Lug to lug: 41.5mm
Lug width: 18mm
Case metal: unspecified
Band: genuine leather
Weight: 28g (1.0 oz)
Crystal: probably acrylic
Movement: Morioka Tokei PC21A quartz
Battery: SR626W/377 cell
Water Resistance: unspecified
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * *
Good design does not attract attention while fulfilling a purpose. Notice anything except the product placement on the dial? Of course not.
Legibility * *
It can be read from arm’s length, at least. Contrasting seconds hands suddenly make so much sense. You can recognize that Snapple bottle though, right?
Comfort * * * *
Not only is it small, it’s mostly filled with air. Next best thing to wearing nothing at all on your wrist.
Overall * * *
They don’t make free stuff like they used to. Fine if you like cheap quartz, even better as an accessible 90’s collectible. If you read this far, buy one.
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