Affordable watches sure have come a long way in the past 15 years or so. Before the internet that we have today and the surge of microbrands over the past decade, the affordable watches consisted of Timex and the like, Fossil, Guess, etc. To get anything really decent you were looking at probably around $400 and it was usually a Citizen or Seiko. The landscape has obviously changed, for the better in my opinion and now there is no shortage of “bang for your buck” watches. All are not created equal though and even if the spec sheet sounds great, you need to keep in mind that it is still a $250 watch and it will not be able to compete with most $500 watches, let alone $1000. Where does this Helgray TCD-01 fall on the scale? Well, it has an all titanium case and bracelet, a sapphire crystal and a quartz movement for around $250 (price has been fluctuating on the website since I have had it in hand for review, more on that later). On paper, it sure does sound like a lot of watch for the money, and overall, it is, but it is a budget watch and with that, there are a few caveats.
Helgray TCD-01 Specifications:
- 42mm Titanium Case (Bead Blasted)
- 11mm Thick
- 22mm Lug Width
- 50mm lug to lug
- 127 grams in weight (on un-sized bracelet)
- Sapphire Crysal
- Ronda 513 Quartz Movement
- 300 Meters Water Resistant
Price: Around $200-$250
Let’s talk price of the Helgray TCD-01 for a minute. Not so much about the low price itself, but within the past month or two I have seen the price fluctuate about 5 times. I have never seen it offered for the full $299 price, it has been $249, $199 and even $179! There is also a pop up on their website imploring you to sign up for their email newsletter and you will receive $20 off your order, meaning if you catch it at the $179 price, you could check out and have this watch for $159!! Now, I know I have not got into the rest of the review yet, but it does make you question how they could afford to sell this watch at that low of a price and how they could be making money. I know, you are saying it is a Chinese watch and they are still making money. That may be true, but is it enough to keep a business going into the future? That is a topic for another day I guess.
How is the watch you ask? Not bad at all. The Helgray TCD-01 is an all titanium case and bracelet with a bead blasted finish. One important thing I want everyone to know is that this is Grade 2 Titanium. What does that mean? Frankly, it is a lower grade titanium. It is still super lightweight but it does not have the same properties as 6AL4V or Grade 5 titanium that we are used to in higher end watches and knives. It also seems softer to me, as I showed in the video, the titanium on the bracelet was banged up from a plastic watch hammer when I was sizing. Speaking of sizing, this Helgray uses standard friction pins and has four holes in the clasp for fine tuning, but it is not the easiest to size as the pins are really stuck in there and a few I pulled out bent with almost no pressure.
Powered by a Ronda 513 quartz movement, the Helgray TCD-01 ticks away just fine and something rarely seen in budget quartz watches is the second hand actually hits the markers almost dead on-at least on this example. The matte blue dial is what I refer to as electric blue. It is also available in orange and there are GMT versions in either white or black. While the electric blue color is very eye catching, the dial itself lacks any pop. It almost seems like cardboard and of course has printed markers, which I would expect nothing else at this price point. Is anything really wrong with the dial? I wouldn’t say so, it is just a little flat looking.
The bezel of the Helgray TCD-01 is PVD coated titanium. As far as function, it works great. The crown does as well, no issues as far as wobbly crown or loose or stiff bezel. When you see PVD, it tells you how the coating was applied, but it is not telling you what was used to coat it. In this case, I have found the PVD coating to be a little on the cheaper side. It is not rubbing off from just being in the air or going in and out of your pocket etc, but if you bang it against a door or something else that normally would leave your watch scratch free, check your bezel as some of the PVD might have come off.
This would not be a lume junkie’s watch. While the Helgray TCD-01 claims C3 Superluminova on the dial and bezel, it does not glow super strong and I found it starts to fade rather quickly. It may just be that it does not have a decent amount of the compound applied for it to glow longer, or it is a cheaper form of lume that is being used.
Here’s the deal. It may sound like I am dogging on this watch left and right, but I am not. I like the look of this watch a lot, and it has perfect dimensions for me at 42mm with 22mm lugs. It is also super lightweight on the wrist, which is always nice change from a hunk of metal on your wrist. I am just giving you my findings and a few things that I think are on the cheaper side, but I have not forgotten that this watch can be bought for as low as $159 with a coupon and sale. You are still getting an all titanium case case with a sapphire crystal for that price and that is pretty crazy when you think about it. If you are looking for a nice beater or an inexpensive titanium watch, this would be a great option depending on what price you can grab it for. If you are looking at it at $250, for a few dollars more there have been brands such as Obris Morgan offering automatics, but again, at under $200, I think most will enjoy it for what it is.