Monday, August 3, 2015

A Few Words About Stührling Original Watches

I admit it. I own a Stührling Original. If you’re not familiar with Stührling Original watches, they’re cheaply priced watches that try to look expensive. Stührling Originals offer the veneer of luxury without a scary credit card bill the following month.

The Special Reserve Emperor Magistrate Automatic
Skeleton Dual Time Zone Silver Tone Watch.
As over-designed as its name is long. 
Stührling was founded in 2002. Its watches brew a range of strong reactions among watch collectors, from ridicule to admiration, from enmity to curiosity, from disdain to applause. Here’s why.

Stührling watch movements are made in China, which is no longer a bad thing when it comes to watches (if it ever was a bad thing.) Well-made Chinese watches are actually giving the Swiss a run for their money: You can get a Chinese tourbillon for less than ⅕ of the price of the least expensive Swiss tourbillon. That said, not all Chinese watches, or watches with Chinese movements, are top quality. Where Stührling Original fits in on the quality scale is a matter of deep debate.

Stührling uses Sea-Gull, Hangzhou, and Shanghai movements in its automatic watches. Their watches are generally showy, often over-designed. A Stührling Original is definitely not a Rolex, Grand Seiko, or Breguet. It’s a bargain watch.



A Stührling tourbillon sells for under $800, which is either incredibly cheap or incredibly risky to buy, or both, depending on your personal predilections when it comes to watches. The Stührling Grand Imperium Tourbillon is “individually hand-assembled in Switzerland.” The tourbillon may be assembled in Switzerland, but the heart of the watch, its movement, is not Swiss. It’s great that Stührling holds Swiss watches in high regard, but it must be exhausting for the company to live this double life of making Chinese watches and giving the false impression that they are Swiss.

I wish that Stührling would be more forthright when it comes to its heritage and life. They say, “The mission and vision for Stührling Original has been to deliver fine Swiss engineered timepieces to a broader audience than traditionally had been purchasing them.” Saying “Swiss engineered” is disingenuous. It’s like saying, “French origin sauce” for a product that’s made in, say, Montana. Saying “Swiss engineered” is also unnecessary because Chinese watch movements should be embraced: Chinese watches are very good and getting better.

The best watch companies are transparent when it comes to their pedigree and parts; Stührling should follow this approach , too.

There are many Chinese watch companies that are delighted that you know they are Chinese. Perpetual, Beijing Watch Factory, Sea-Gull, and Celadon, for example, don’t try to hide in the shadow of Swiss watchmakers. These companies are excited about Chinese watchmaking, as they should be.

One of the problems with Stührling’s Swiss pretense is that everyone knows that mechanical Swiss watches can’t be bought for $150. To claim Swiss heritage and sell watches that cheaply is like selling airline tickets between New York and Paris for only $100: You hope that potential customers don’t think too much about why it costs only $100.

I understand what Stührling is doing, and in a market-driven world, more power to them. People want Swiss watches. People equate Swiss watches with quality, history, and status. Switzerland is “it” when it comes to watches. Few watch wearers say, “I’m glad you like my watch. It’s Chinese.”

But some watch companies strive to build great watches, and some watch companies just want to be big.

Stührling Originals aren’t unpleasant watches. They’re mechanical, and mechanical watchmakers should always have our admiration on a planet where smartwatches have become the Skynet of watches. Stührling might even be the gateway drug that leads people to buy a A. Lange & Sohne or Ulysse Nardin next time, and that’s all very good, but they could be a lot better if they dropped the “Swiss” line and focused on and fostered their own identity.



2 comments:

  1. Garbage watches sold on informercials by shills. They were hammered after trying to sell a Hamilton Ventura Clone made by Risun, a Chinese maker of cheap watches. There is nothing original about the brand. And they are no more Swiss than those factories inflicta claims to own.

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  2. I wonder how many Sturling Original owners have upgraded to a Lange.

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