A quartz watch that has looks reminiscent of something more expensive? We’ve heard that before. How does the Paul Bowman HMS ONE measure up?
Paul Bowman HMS ONE Review
First things first: I tend not to review cheap quartz watches. I especially try to avoid those we would dub “affordable luxury” – not in terms of their specifications and price, but rather the exorbitant claims of their makers. Paul Bowman offered to send me a free watch to review, in full knowledge of the fact I may well have a very negative opinion based on its specifications. That’s pretty brave, so fair play to them for being good sports. As it is, I am not going to tear the watch to shreds for having lower-end specs and a quartz movement because of its price: this watch costs just $50.
Most of the criticisms I could level at a watch with these specs would be along the lines of “you can buy a watch from DHGate with the same – or better – specs for less than £50. Okay, the Chinese watches would be maybe half the price of this Paul Bowman but the quality is not certain (there are some great watches for £50 and some absolute turkeys and you cannot tell from the manufacturer’s photos), you won’t get a guarantee, and you will have to live with whatever crazy name they decided to put on the dial. Furthermore, unlike some brands that may try to convince you they make their watches in the UK whilst being very careful never to actually make that claim, these watches are assembled in England. Okay, they’re assembled from Chinese parts, but I like to support British businesses.
So what are you getting for your £50? Well, a nice box for starters. It’s a padded faux-leather cardboard box that looks quite nice. Since this is a watch I’d see being destined as a gift for a budding watch-enthusiast that level of presentation is appreciated.
Case and Movement
As I’ve said, the watch is based around a quartz movement – a Seiko PC32A. Hardly a precision piece of modern mechanical engineering, but a step above the no-name movements in ultra-low-end Chinese watches. It boasts 0 (yep, zero) jewels, an accuracy of “up to 30 seconds per month” and costs about $9 – so it is not wildly out of place in this £50 watch. The metalwork is better made than I expected, with acceptable finishing and a satisfying 130g weight. A mineral crystal sits on top; a laser-etched solid case back underneath. Case size is 43.5mm (it wears like a 40-41mm thanks to a wider than usual 22mm lug width) with a thickness of 12.5mm.
Niggles? Well, I feel a bit mean when we’re talking about such a cheap timepiece but the main issue I have with the case is that this watch looks like a dive watch… but isn’t. The crown is push-pull (as opposed to screw down) and the watch only has 30m/100ft water resistance. That is par for the course for fashion watches up to £200 but I’ve become accustomed to better in the microbrand world. Another problem is the bezel: I am not a user of bezels except to line up the pip with 12 O’clock, but this one has a serious amount of back play. Enough to make the bezel useless as a timing tool.
Dial and Hands
Let’s be fair, though, you weren’t seriously expecting a Rolex Submariner killer for £50, were you? What we have here is a fashion watch – its job is to look good. And I have got to say, the Paul Bowman HMS ONE has quite an attractive dial. I didn’t expect applied metallic markers at this price – much less for them to be applied straight. The dial printing leaves a little to be desired when it comes to crispness, but I have seen a lot worse in more expensive watches.
The hands are easy to read and I do like the way the second hand is picked out in orange, even if that quartz tick is a little distracting. The dates line up, albeit with a rather long date changeover, and I’m pleased that Paul Bowman decided not to put a cyclops on the dial. These universally look terrible on cheaper watches!
Bracelet and Clasp
Despite some cost-cutting, the bracelet is not bad. It has solid links, albeit slightly thinner than usual, and the polishing and brushing are done pretty well. The end links are folded, and the clasp foldover is made of thin pressed metal. This makes the bracelet quite rattly, but it is not so bad when the watch is on the wrist.
I did like the clasp design, which has an offset release button. It could have done with a lot more than two micro-adjustments, though. That might make finding a perfect fit tricky.
Paul Bowman HMS ONE – Video Review
What I Liked
- The watch looks pretty good and wears well
- Build quality is in line with the asking price
- The brand assembles its watches in the UK
What I Didn’t Like
- The bezel has a significant amount of back play
- The watch would be much more attractive to enthusiasts with even a low-end automatic movement
- It looks like a diver’s watch – but it is not
Paul Bowman HMS ONE – The WRUK Verdict
I review watches in as fair and impartial a way as I can. Most of the criticisms I would make of the Paul Bowman HMS ONE would be fair if the brand was asking for £250+ for the watch but they’re not. This is a £50 watch with the build quality and specifications of, well, a £50 watch. yes, you can probably match the quality for half the price from a Chinese marketplace but that is kind of missing the point.
What we have here is a known quality. A good-enough watch at a low enough price that’s assembled in the UK and has a warranty. If you would otherwise be picking up, say, a Michael Kors watch, then the HMS ONE offers as good specifications and build quality for a fraction of the price. Indeed, the solid link bracelet and decent case punch above their weight for this price category. If you’re willing to take a punt on DHGate then you can match or beat the specs of this watch – but won’t get quality control, a warranty, and will have a long wait for delivery.
I won’t pretend that the Paul Bowman HMS ONE is a great watch, and I would not go so far as recommending you buy one – but I certainly would not tell you not to. If the brand can fix that bezel, add a screw-down crown and sapphire crystal and throw an automatic movement for less than £100 I think they’d be onto a winner.
Buy a Paul Bowman HMS ONE
The Paul Bowman HMS ONE is available from the brand’s website. They’re priced at £50, but if you use the brand’s eBay store you can often pick them up even cheaper.
Win a Paul Bowman HMS ONE
We got this watch for free, so we’re passing it onto a reader. Enter at our giveaway page before the end of October 2021.