This guide is being written because I found it difficult to find information on the "luxury watches" being offered for a few hundred dollars on ebay, while the MSRP was listed for thousands on the manufacturer's website. I am not affiliated with any companies or sellers and really only use ebay for the occasional concert tickets and other eclectic desires I have. Also, please forgive if my terminologies are incorrect, I am a novice to higher end watches.
I recently (within this past week, as of 10-16-07) purchased a Wohler Ardent full skeleton watch with Automatic winding. I purchased it for the Buy it now price of $199.95 from Abrams Jewelry, an ebay store. The watch is priced on it's website ( google wohler watches.com ) for$2,995.00, which I found hard to believe, as lovely as it looked in the pictures. Despite not finding much information on reliablility or reviews for this brand, I was enamored by the look of the watch, with the clear front and back casing showing the delicate carvings, cogs and springs. It looked to be a very high quiality watch in the photos.
Abrams was very prompt with the shipping, as it arrived 2 days later, double boxed in a priority mail box with padding. It did not come in the black box shown in the picture, but rather a red box (not as nice, but a fine box to store a watch in). I removed it and gave it a once over. I am not sure what alligator leather wrist straps are supposed to feel like, but the straps and buckle on the watch seems nice enough.
The leather is pliable and thick, not cheap or plastic feeling, and the buckle works as a buckle should. My only complaint about those components would be that the texture of the leather makes it a little difficult to adjust the strap to fit - I'll eventually remedy that with a smooth cow leather strap.
The watch body is of good weight, again, it does not feel cheap. Internal components look very nice and smooth, not rough or jagged. Nice detailed etching, just as shown in the photographs. Hands are easy to read against the skeletonized face. Automatic winding weight moves smoothly around the back on its pivot point.
I followed the directions to wind the watch (turning the knob 5-6 times to get the spring wound a bit) and watched the second hand move. While advertised as a sweeping second hand, I do see that it ticks just a bit, but it is much smoother than a "ticking" hand. All the cogs and gears move smoothly and seemingly effortless.
I have not confirmed the movement of the "movement" of this watch. It is not advertised, but my suspicion is possibly Chinese. This brand is linked with the other brands, such as Romilly, Jeanneret and Rousseau, in that the main contact company is in Carrolton, Texas. Apparently the Texas based company has a repututation for "cheap" watches with Chinese components. Dispite that, I think that this watch is a fine peice. I will be taking this Wholer to a watch repair and appraisal shop in the near future to verify quality and durability and will update this guide, or write a new guide accordingly.
I hope and assume that since all the mechanical components are exposed, this forced who ever made this watch to use a higher quality product. But if this stopped working tomorrow, it at least looks nice enough to put on display.
If you are used to having Rolexes or other high end watches, I imagine this watch is not to your taste, since there is no reputation. If you are used to $15 Walmart brand watches, this is a nice upgrade. Just be wary of your seller, and don't pay too much (I wouldn't have paid more than what I did). Know that you are getting a beautiful looking watch that has yet to prove it's longevity.
Be aware and good luck.
UPDATE - Monday, Oct. 22, 2007 - PROFESSIONAL APPRAISAL
I got a chance to take the watch to the local watch repair and appraisal shop (Tic-Time in the Puente Hills Mall). The gent I asked to look at it has more than 25 years experience on repairing/ sales of a wide price range and quality levels of watches and clocks. After a 10- 15 minute look over (examining with an eye loop) , he determined that this watch was of average quality, fine enough but by no means a high end "luxury" watch. When asked if it looked like a durable piece that could stand the test of time, he said that it could last quite a few years (5-10 at least) if well maintained, lubricated and worn with care (worn at dinners and other "civilized" events). The wrist strap is genuine cow leather with an imprinted pattern, not alligator leather as advertised, and he valued the strap at between $30-$50 .
The watch body was valued between $85-$200. He concluded by saying that the internal components were likely a combination of Chinese, Japanese, and German parts. Some of the metal was not cut and polished with a refined machine, so that left a slight "brushed" appearance to some of the surfaces, similar to a brushed nickel faucet or doorknob. The fact that it is self winding is a plus, but again, this is not a high end luxury watch.. That concluded the professional appraisal.
From my own observations thus far, the watch keeps good time. I've noticed some seconds off (< 5) from the week I've had it, and the automatic wind can sustain the watch for at least 40 hours (it remained inactive from Saturday, 6pm to Monday, 10am). No problems to speak of, so far.
I am a little disappointed that the watch was not valued higher than between $115-$250, but I am happy that it isn't a complete piece of garbage and I wasn't totally ripped off. I will probably take it in for one more appraisal to get a more finite answer to the value question.
If you can find the Wohler Ardent Skeleton Watch available for $150 or less, sans shipping, you're getting what you're paying for. But for your own good, don't buy it for more than that.
I will update again as soon as I take it to another appraiser or if the watch no longer works. Good Luck and Be Aware!
UPDATE - Friday, Oct. 26, 2007 - BROKEN!
Well, the watch stopped working. I've had it for less than two weeks and it has only been worn for an approximate total of 50 hours. The watch had not been worn on Tuesday, Wednesday or Yesterday, so I knew I would have to "restart" the watch. I followed the directions and reset the time, but the second hand no longer moves. Nothing moves.
I have placed a call to the seller, but because of the time difference (I am in California, he is in Ohio and it's 3pm PST), I imagine he is already out for the day. I anticipate his call and the next step to either get my money refunded, get the watch fixed, or get a new watch. I no longer recommend this watch, unless you have the patience to go through the repair/return process. I hope the seller will be gracious enough to offer my money back.
More to come as I get it.
UPDATE - Friday, Oct. 26, 2007 - RESOLUTION
The seller called me back, to my pleasant surprise. He ran me through a few procedures to try and get the watch to start: 1/2 Wind it 4-6 times and set the time, manually wind it all the way and set the time, and pulling the time setting knob out and winding it a few times, then pushing it back in. Unfortunately, none worked. He kindly offered to either send me a new watch or to refund my money. I chose the refund and will be sending the watch back tomorrow morning in the packaging it came in.
While I cannot recommend the Wohler Watch, I now highly recommend the Seller's Ebay store, Abrams Jewelry. I would buy other things from him, but I will never buy another Wohler Watch, as attractive as it was.