Years ago I think it was watch makers who made pens, and now pen makers are making watches. We all know about the incredible success of Montblanc shifting its focus to watches probably more than pens, and other brands have at lest paid attention. Italian writing instrument maker Montegrappa now has a watch collection, along with many similar companies to itself. Now Cross, another writing instrument maker, has entered the land of making timepieces. Unlike higher-end brands such as Montblanc, Cross decided to enter the market at a much lower price point. The pictures you see here aren't of the first timepieces they ever released, but represent a brand new collection of pretty decent watches for just a few hundred bucks.
Call me a snob, but I honestly wouldn't have discussed this collection unless I thought the designs were impressive for the price. There are lots of watches in the few hundred dollar range that don't pass muster. Cross partnered with Solar Time Ltd. out of Hong Kong to design and produce the new collection. While the names of the pieces lack cohesion and there needs to be a marketing campaign around them, the watches and designs aren't half bad. I got my hands on a trio of them to share with you.
The Cross watch collection names are a bit general. What I mean is that under each name there seems to be lots of watches. The collection names include the Gotham, New Chicago, Arial, Cambria, and Palatino. Each has a steel case with sizes between about 41-42mm wide for the men's models. What you see before you is really just a small sampling of the many models they have. Note that the collections come with leather straps or steel bracelets.
So what do I like? Well first of all legibility is pretty good overall. Though I have to add that universally the hands are too short. Nevertheless, for the price, the dial quality and materials are good. I would put the quality up there with a brand like Skagen, which offers pretty decent stuff for around the same price. I have certainly seen watches that are much more expensive with much crappier looking dials. Sad but true. It just goes to show that a lot of the time in the watch world, what you get isn't just about the price, but about the quality of the suppliers that the brands work with. I have seen watches that have excellent cases and dials, only to be matched with craptastic straps. Why? Simply because the brand (for whatever reason), works with a supplier that isn't doing their best. With the Cross watches, you seem to feel like you are getting the most out of a couple of hundred bucks.
The model with the white dial has a clean look to it with mostly baton hour markers. The 12 o'clock Arabic numeral is done with a brushed finish. This is a good idea because at this price a chromed hour marker would look bad. This is one example of how the designers understood the materials enough to make things look as good as possible. Another nice detail is the crown guard on the model with the metallic blue dial. Not only does the dial have more than one level, but this unique little crown guard design is an unexpected treat for the price.
Let's look at the straps. Cross ensured that the leather straps (which have an alligator print) are fitted to the case. There is no gap from the case to the strap - just as is done in many higher-end brands. This is opposed to a strap with a straight end, and a resulting space gap between the strap and the case. Let me say it again, another nice detail to have with a price at this level.
Inside each of the watches are Japanese quartz movements. Most pieces have the time with the date, but there are also time only and day/date models available. One Cross Palatino model does have a mechanical movement (also likely Japanese). Japanese quartz movements are fine and reliable for watches such as this. Like I said, there are at least two or three dozen new Cross watches for 2012. With strong designs and masculine dimensions, these are a solid value for the money and should make for a decent watch for yourself or as a gift. Prices are from about $120 - $165.
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