You're reading this because you've seen a post showing either a typical Parnis homage that caught your eye, or maybe tripped across one cheap on Ebay. Or maybe it's one of the few (but growing) Parnis models that's not a homage to anything in particular. Or a "sterile" Parnis (no brand or logo), or a Garton, or any of the other "brands" that are typically sold alongside Parnis branded models. All the same, to me.
Over the last few months I've read numerous posts about "where to buy a Parnis", posts from extremely surprised and pleased owners, posts from shocked and disappointed owners, and even posts from sneering members who've "never had a Parnis, and I wouldn't waste my money on such crap", etc etc. Then there're posts from members like myself with ten or more Parnis's, all of which turned out to be nicely built, reliable, and still looking fresh after continual wearing, months and even years later.
So what's going on here?
Well, I have my theories, and that's what motivated me to write this post.
Firstly, let's get something straight; Parnis is not a true brand, even if it's now been trademarked by a guy in Guangzhou. It's a group of cantonese factories and competing dealers making similar watches, at a similar cost, using similar recipes. To talk of a Parnis is a bit like talking (forgive the parallel) talking about cakes. I love a black forest gateau, and often order it after a hearty restaurant meal. Sometimes it's great, sometimes not so great. On one occasion (in Munich, funnily enough) it was utter crap.
Same concept, same or similar recipe, different cooks in different restaurants, sounds the same, but the product differs dramatically. Parnis is not a brand; it's a class of watches, mainly made in the Guangzhou area of China, where there's a nest of different factories with the wherewithal to make almost any watch you care to imagine, simply by assembling freely available parts.
Same as the gateau, same with the Parnis. Folks, unless you've been recommended, then don't go buying yer Parnis off of Ebay because it's $5 cheaper, because it's likely to have been cooked by an amateur chef in the cheapest and nastiest restaurant, using the cheapest and nastiest ingredients, and sold with zero service, no responsibility, and maximum cynicism. The *only* thing a nasty, broken, badly built Parnis has in common with a similar looking Parnis model owned by (forgive me) myself, Mr Martin Sir or the wonderful Luis, is the spelling of the word P.A.R.N.I.S.
Folks, the ground zero of fragile, badly finished, blemished Parnis watches lies primarily here. Don't expect a decent gateau out of a crap restaurant. You *won't* be pleasantly surprised. A Parnis is bargain enough; there are few bargain-bargains about.
Next: the Parnis watch, even from a reputable chef, has been manufactured at the lowest cost possible. The base model comes without sapphire, and without a decorated swan-neck movement (nor a decent strap, but I'll come to that). The reputable dealers have added sapphire and swan-neck "upgrades" over the years, and to be able to offer these, they *must* have a close relationship to whichever particular factory they're allied with. Take or leave those upgrades, it's your money, but see it as I do as a nice symptom of a more reliable supply chain, and therefore a channel from factory to consumer that cares more about reputation that the typical "fire and forget" Ebay dealer.
Next again: the straps are, and always will be, crap. The best option is to see the supplied strap as being a bit like those cardboard "iPhones" that they insert into aftermarket phone protective cases to show how the case would look once you've bought it and inserted your phone. The strap's crap, throwaway, and I guess gives yer something to think about when researching the replacement. Waddaya want for less than $100?
Next, after sales service.
Ahh, here we have a nice mixture, don't we? Yer crap Ebay "fire and forget" dealer won't even open the email. And they receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails monthly. Why would yours be the first ever to be opened? But then we have that special Chinese attitude to communication in their *second* language. How's *your* Cantonese Chinese coming on? A bit halting, is it? So even with the reputables, don't expect fluid and perkily helpful communication. But then again, what are you expecting for a sub-$100 watch? Fawning? Grovelling? A red carpet?
Next, perfection. Why would a sub-$100 watch be perfect in every detail? Well, strangely, most of my Parnis collection (and I have a bunch) *are* perfect. A couple have the odd blemish, I admit. And one (the 55mm Pilot) has a wobbly crown that pulls out of the movement on a windy day. C'est la vie. But would *you*, if you were a dealer on the other side of the world, jump into action to rectify a blemish on a watch that you've made maybe $10 on? The EMS in both directions is more than the watch is worth. That's where the true lottery is, and if that's too much of a gamble for you, then there are numerous options available to you at twice (or ten times) the price.
The cheapest deal? Well, hopping between the reputable dealer websites to see which one's $5 cheaper than any other is a mug's game. Different factory, different dealer, slightly different recipe. Different gateau, different chef, different restaurant, folks, so why would it cost exactly the same as elsewhere?
Lastly, mailing. Folks, always always always pay the extra for EMS (registered mail). Yes, it adds an extra $15 to $20 to the watch. But why would you think there wouldn't be any extra costs? Ever hired a car in the USA?
Folks, if you decide to play in the Parnis waters, then it's indeed "buyer beware". But for lord's sake don't stack the odds even further against yerself. The reputable dealers (the are four, I think. No, five!) will supply you with an unblemished (or nearly unblemished) watch that ticks, accurate to plus/minus 15 seconds per day, on a crap strap, with packaging that guarantees that all but the unlucky few will survive the EMS trip across the world. And if there's a problem, then they'll rectify all but the most subtle (waddya want at that price). And if you try to *not* pay the EMS, then they'll politely try to talk you out of it.
Those kosher dealers, in no particular order:
- Jackson Tse
- That Man Bush
- Daji Watch
- Getat (slow, a terrible communicator, but reliable in the end)
And the rest? Let them earn their reputation, and maybe we'll add 'em to this short list. But until then, if they're not one of the above, then don't ask, don't try, don't come complaining to me *when* it goes wrong.