If you are one of those guys who think that they get what they pay for, this Swatch Irony Browned (Ref. YVS400) quartz chronograph is the finest proof that you may be terribly wrong: sometimes you get a lot less.
I, as one of my readers put it once, am a bit “condescending” when it comes to cheap watches (he also named me some other things that I wouldn’t dare to reproduce here). Still, I always wanted to put in my collection one of those throwaway Swatch watches that are in abundance in every Duty-Free shop in most airports, as well are present in almost any shopping mall somewhere between Zippo lighters and ballpoint Parker pens. However, I couldn’t quite make myself to literally throw away more than 150 Euro for one of these things when I could buy a real Japanese watch for it.
I mean, for the money, it would probably be a Made in China “Japan Mov’t” Citizen or Casio, but it would be made of real steel and powered by a real quartz (or even some simple automatic) caliber. You wouldn’t be able to impress anyone with its design or the level of exterior finish, but, again, it would be a real watch that would probably serve you without a hint of trouble for at least seven, maybe ten years. All you need with most of them is not to change the standard battery every two or three years. That’s all.
Still, it had to happen and it happened: from her business trip to Switzerland, my dear wife brought me this piece of, well, Swiss gadgetry as a sort of surprise gift: I didn’t want another Swiss army knife. When I got time, I looked it up on their website and it seems to be a Swatch Irony Browned quartz chronograph watch. After playing with this thing for a couple of minutes, I got myself together, ground my teeth a little and wrote this brief review.
Actually, for a watch that is sold under a European brand (as far as I understand, despite “Swiss” inscription below 12, there is a lot of Asian parts and labor involved in making this accessory) and retails for €170 (give or take), it doesn’t look really bad. For a moment, I even considered actually wearing it for a whole week to make sure that my better half doesn’t feel too disappointed with my apparent lack of enthusiasm.
The watch clearly looks more expensive than it actually is. The dial is surprisingly legible and clean, the shape of the body looks quite nice, and the control elements are of just the right size. The leather strap, too, looks like it would cost more than the watch itself if sold separately.
However, the moment of bliss (sort of) lasted for just around ten seconds until I got the watch out of its plastic box and tried to put it on my wrist. Stay tuned for more on that, but I can give a spoiler: I failed, miserably. I failed because everything that your eye can see is designed to deceive you into buying this piece of machinery.
Case & Strap
When I tried the watch on my wrist, I immediately noticed two things.
First of all, the body of this chronograph is actually not as ergonomic as it looks. It can be a shape of my own wrist, but I somehow doubt that because my wrist is sort of universal: I am still to find a real watch that would feel terribly (!) uncomfortable from the moment I put it on.
The second was, of course, the strap. I don’t know what sort of cheap recycled plastic they use to make this ‘leather’, but I can tell you one thing: it doesn’t bend. I mean, like, it literally doesn’t bend. On one of the photos you can see that I wasn’t even able to properly secure the strap on my wrist: it was so stiff that it actually hurt to keep the gadget on for more than a couple of dozen of seconds I needed to make the pics.
The same goes to chronograph push-pieces (they are very stiff and I was a bit afraid to damage the mechanism while testing the function), but that was more or less something that I expected: in this price range you will rarely find a mechanism that would give you that, um, haptic pleasure, which is usually associated with very expensive artifacts designed for those who believe in conspicuous consumption.
Also, I have got an impression that the case is not mirror-polished, but is simply chromed or nickel-plated in order to achieve this glossy look and, again, I had a feeling that the finish will not last for a very long time. I also doubt that it is real steel.
Oh, and one more thing about the strap: it is non-standard and is attached to the case with triple-horn lugs, so finding a replacement will be a real pain (although I don’t really expect its movement to outlive the strap, so replacing the strap will probably not be a problem).
I wasn’t able to find any clear information about the movement that powers the watch besides the statement that it is built on four jewels. Still, given that the timekeeper’s back has an opening that is big enough to only change the battery, I can make an educated guess that this is a really inexpensive job with plastic gears and all that is supposed to be recycled together with the watch as soon as it breaks down.
If it happens before the warranty is expired, you are golden. If it happens a day later, you will need to start looking for a new watch.
The dial is not that bad.
It is very contrast and clean, all elements are big enough to be easily read even at the end of the day when you have a sort of fog in front of your eyes from 16 hours in front of a huge computer screen.
Same goes to the luminous substance that they use on the Arabic numerals, as well as on the hour and minute hands. Light grey and black respectively, they emit a bright green glow in darkness (I ‘charged’ the lume for ten seconds or so under a fluorescent lamp) and are easily readable in the darkness.
However, it, too, has its problems. The main problem is, of course, the width of the hands that severely limit the amount of lume they can put on them. The dial, unfortunately, is dominated by the numerals making the hands look, well, secondary. Not that you need to really strain your eyes to see their positions, but it annoyed me a little.
A man could certainly live with this minor annoyance if it was just one annoyance. But when the whole timekeeper is built with such minor flaws, it really starts to get me (it actually took me less than a minute to hate this device).
Again, I am aware that this is an inexpensive watch. I am also aware that there are hundreds of inexpensive watches made by Casio, Citizen, Orient or Seiko that will literally blow this piece of Swiss luxury out of the water in terms of build quality and ergonomics.
A piece of friendly advice. Don’t buy it, if you need a watch you really plan to wear: you will be disappointed. Don’t buy it as a present or gift to your loved: they will be disappointed and you will look like an ass in their eyes. Just don’t buy it: let the guys from Swatch eat this manure for breakfast.
See also: Alba by Seiko Canteen AXHK21X
Build Quality: 2/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 3.5/5
Value for Money: 0.5/5
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Swatch Irony Browned Quartz Chronograph (Ref. YVS400) specification
Price: Approx. €170
Number of jewels: 4
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Size: 43.00 mm
Height: 13.00 mm
Lug width: 20.00 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Brown, on a pin buckle
Yep, this is me. Just had my beard trimmed.
I am a founding father of this weblog since 2008.
Bought my first mechanical watch in 1986 and it took me ten more years to realize that I have a problem: at some point in time watches became my passion. Well, it could be worse.