Are you getting the best value for your money?
Daniel Wellington is a brand that has enjoyed success since its inception in 2011, selling a minimalist design in a range of tones with colourful straps. Their advertising strongly implies a luxury product from a luxury brand. The aesthetic of their watches appeals to many people, with prices ranging between $229AUD to $329AUD if bought directly from the company. At a glance, this would seem like cracking value; however I will come straight out and say I strongly recommend you do not buy one. I will go through the reasons why they are not worth the money, and provide some good quality alternatives that will help you achieve that sought-after minimalist look for your timepiece.
What exactly are you paying for with a DW watch?
First, we will break down the cost factors associated with the DW product; the manufacturing, the movement and the straps.
A quick look on AliExpress shows that the DW watch is not a unique product, but a readily available design available from factories in China which has had the DW logo printed on the dial. One such identical design on the site bears a different logo, available in the same variations as DW. It’s sold out, but it was offered at $20AUD. This means that the casing, strap and movement cost less than that to produce.
The movement used in the DW range is the Miyota 1L22, a mass-produced low end quartz (battery powered) movement; it is a fine and reliable movement but is certainly not a luxury product. The important factor here is that the 1L22 movement costs around $10AUD apiece (sometimes lower, sometimes higher depending on quantity) to buy.
That’s at retail price, too.
DW watches are sold with either leather or colourful nylon/canvas straps known as NATO straps.
Bearing in mind that the $20 Gimto model offered on AliExpress features an identical leather strap, once we deduct the ~$10 cost of the movement we are left with a maximum of $10 for the case, dial, hands and strap. For the sake of argument let us assign a value of $5 to the case plus contents, leaving $5 for the leather strap. In reality, the strap is likely cheaper than the casing but we will stick with the $5 figure for the sake of ease of analysis!
With a leather strap cost of maximum $5, this leaves no doubt that the strap will be constructed of bonded leather – otherwise known as genuine leather. It’s the poorest quality of leather, which is barely any better than faux leather (polyurethane). You can expect only a few months of regular wear from a genuine leather watch strap, and will likely need to buy an aftermarket strap if you want something that will last.
With NATO straps, the cost is even lower. You can buy a great quality NATO strap for as low as $8 from Australian company The Sydney Strap Co. (I am not paid to endorse this company, I have simply bought from them before and been extremely satisfied with my purchase). However, let us assume that in this case the manufacturer contracted by DW will want to use a much cheaper quality strap since the same watch is offered under a different brand name for $20AUD. A quick eBay search will show that you can buy a NATO strap from China for just $1AUD; yes, one dollar. It is more likely that this is the sort of price point we can expect on the DW strap.
What value are you getting for your money?
With a $10 movement, a sub $10 case with a strap costing between $1 and $5, we can assume that the most it will cost DW to manufacture a watch is $20. However, the cost is likely even lower: if the Gimto watch from AliExpress is being sold at a profit (they would not be selling them if there was no profit), the product easily costs under $20AUD to manufacture.
That means the profit margin for DW is over ten times the manufacturing cost. All of a sudden, it does not seem like such a scintillating deal for you as the buyer and certainly does not reflect the air of a luxury product.
This is my reasoning behind recommending that you do not purchase a Daniel Wellington.
But the design is just so appealing…
It certainly is. The style is straight out of the Bauhaus Design School textbook. Thankfully, the Bauhaus ideal was formed many years ago; this means that there is a vast number of reputable watchmakers who have been offering Bauhaus inspired designs before and after the inception of DW.
5 good quality alternatives from a similar or cheaper price point:
Listed below are a few watches with the same Bauhaus vibe as the DW, within a similar or cheaper price range. These are from reputable and established traditional watch brands, and represent much better value for money.
Timex are a reputable American watchmaker who are great for clean designs and sturdy construction. The Indiglo feature on this watch lights up the entire dial when the crown button is pushed in, a great feature on a watch at this price point. I own a base model Weekender and it is an excellent watch; the only thing to watch out for with Timex quartz watches is some of the movements are rather loud.
Bulova have a long history as a reputable and innovative watchmaker. During the 1960s they released the Accutron, a model that used a tuning fork to regulate the movement in such an efficient manner that it was long hailed the most accurate watch movement of all time. More modern accolades include having the thinnest reliable watch movement of all time. They are also reputed for eye-catching design.
Movement: Miyota 8205 Automatic
Citizen are a Japanese company with good solid designs. They are known for their Eco-Drive range, a proprietary quartz movement which makes the battery last much longer than the standard. I personally own a Citizen quartz two-tone chronograph as a daily watch and have been quite happy with it.
If you want the DW look, simply remove the original bracelet and replace it with a leather or NATO strap.
Movement: In-house Automatic
Orient are another Japanese watchmaker with good reputation. The movement of this watch is known as an ‘in-house’ movement, which means that it was designed and manufactured by Orient themselves; rather than licensing a 3rd party design for the movement. If you are shopping for a luxury watch, the concept of in-house movement is somewhat of a bragging right in that context due to an air of exclusivity.
Simply replace the standard bracelet with a colourful NATO or leather strap to get the DW look you may have been lusting after.
Movement: ETA Caliber 902.101 Quartz
Tissot is a Swiss watch company with a long and distinguished heritage. Owned by the Swatch group, Tissot is a good brand to choose if you are set on having a Swiss quality watch but do not want to spend thousands of dollars. Swiss watches have a very highly regarded reputation for being excellent quality and resilient timepieces. The Everytime model is available in a range of sizes to suit various wrist sizes, and having seen the quality of other Tissot models I will not hesitate to say this watch is an excellent option.
Seeing behind the marketing is important in cases like this. The watch industry is currently rife with brands using a minimalist aesthetic to pass off cheaply made mass produced items as luxury watches in order to reap large profit margins. With this information under your belt, you can be more savvy on your next watch purchase and hopefully find a quality watch that suits your tastes. If you are still set on a DW, that is up to you. It is your money after all!