Let's see good and not so good things about this (below) $200 dive watch
The Phoibos PX005C Ocean Master is a fantastic example of chinese watchmaking's increasing in reliability. History is known for repeating itself and Swiss brands (some of them not so Swiss anymore) will have to manage another threat coming from the Far East.
Let's be direct and honest - it's design is based on Rolex Submariner, one of the most famous dive watches in the world. And probably "based" is an understatement here.
Is this a good thing or just a proof that chinese watchmaking is just starting? Basically, it depends on you. For the fraction of the price you will get a great looking watch, with great specs, just without a famous brand on it. Not surprisingly, I think we're going to start seeing many more products like this that are of fantastic value and great quality, much like the products that moved perception of Japanese brands between the 1950s/60s and 1980s/90s.
The makers of Phoibos Ethan Guo and Emily Feng worked out to provide global consumers with a powerful, reliable, classic watch at a reasonable price. We will skip the romantic story of how they came up with name "Phoibos" as it doesn't have major influence on the watch or your decision.
Rational reason behind going into this venture is margin of premium brands' products produced by OEM manufacturers. They saw an opportunity in their margin (as Jeff Bezos said: "Your margin is my opportunity".
“Your margin is my opportunity”
(and every chinese manufacturer out there)
Another trend that is already borderline "buzzwordy" is D2C (direct-to-consumer). Going direct to consumers now doesn't mean descreasing potential of a global reach that was before dependent on channel distribution partners.
Quality, reach and visible customer feedback (you already know how to filter out low quality feedbacks, don't you?) are the triggers which Chinese brands are pulling to fight the low quality image.
It is estimated that the total number of watches produced per year by the Chinese watch industry is about 700 million, and at the moments still a great number being OEM manufactured for other international brands.
Chinese brands are getting traction with consumers in their home country, as the sales of premium Western brands is slowing down, and opportunity is rising in segment with medium to high purchase power in China.
Let's start with more interesting things - Phoibos PX005C is tested to a depth of 1000m – probably way deeper than you will actually need. But, have in mind that this watch doesn't have ISO certificate and it was confirmed (only) by China National Horological Quality Supervison and Test Center.
Have you tried to find a watch with sapphire crystal for under $200? Not so easy...
Case is protected with sapphire crystal glass, moving Phoibos PX005C another step forward compared to the competition in its price category. With case dimensions of diameter 43mm and thickness 13.25mm, watch could be seen as a bigger one, but it feels good on the wrist and fits without problems over a diving suit.
The rubber wristband is ok, shape is nice but nothing extraordinary. It is expandable as expected from a tool watch - you should be able to wear it over a divign suit.
Bezel is uni-directional, with 120 positions in rotation giving the Phoibos PX005C a small advantage compared to the competition in under $200 category. It looks like it's going to hold up well against eve a bit of rougher use.
It's not easily moved, so you shouldn't have issues with accidental movements. There is no depth sensor on this watch, no chronograph, and the luminous hands, hour markers, and bezel numbers are the only indicators.
As we already said - this watch looks familiar, doesn't it? Having a role model in Rolex Submariner cannot be a bad thing, but it can be showstopper for people that appreciate original design.
The lack of additional dials, numbers and screens does not diminish the overall look. Phoibos made a good job with a small tribute to Rolex by not producing a cheap copy. Case looks great, black color is combined with a varied shine of grey, and the octopus emblem is hiding at the triangle point.
Hands are quite decent, minute hand has orange border, and the hour hand is completely white. Small remark (very small) is on the design of the seconds mark. It somehow gives the feeling of being intentionally built to be unnoticed.
Lume is actually quite good. Something that is not expected of challenger with a lower price.
Including the Helium Release Valve showed that Phoibos owners had a clear idea on which core target market they want to attract. This watch was obviously produced for mass market, but with a goal of being approved by divers.
Calibre is Swiss made quartz, Ronda 515, a very common mechanism used by watch manufacturers. According to the information from the calibre manufacturer it should hold accuracy within -10/+20 seconds per month, in normal, non extreme environment.
Don't expect much from this model in terms of durability, probably you will need to replace the battery after 3-4 years. Not bad, but not something extraordinary.
Phoibos PX005C comes with 1 year of manufacturers warranty. To me, this seems a bad decision because in most cases warranty is for at least 2 year period. In the situation where you have to remove doubts about the quality, extending the warranty period is a good marketing move. On the other hand, maybe the Phoibos team is sure at their product and believe that time is on their side.
If you are not a hard core fan of exclusive watches and premium brands than you should take Phoibos PX005C into consideration. Great features (water resistance to 1000m, sapphire crystal glass, great lume) and great design make this watch a definitive best inexpensive watch with premium features.