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If you're thinking this watch is too good to be true, you're right! Crown failure in 6 months - stay away!
on April 23, 2015
Having previously purchased a Tag Heuer Link Chronograph from Amazon at a very good price and being completely satisfied, I was encouraged to scour Amazon listing for my next horological indulgence. Specifically, I was interested in a daily wear automatic watch - the aforementioned Tag Heuer Link Chronograph was beautiful and received many compliments, but was quite heavy being made of steel and ended up being easily scratched on the band due to my relatively active lifestyle and in spite of my concerted effort to keep it protected. I did have the band and bezel of the Link "buffed" on three separate occasions, the last of which was at the midtown Manhattan Tourneau flagship store which not only confirmed the quality of that watch by stating it was still accurate to +/- 2 seconds after 2 years of continuous wear but also was able to restore it back to ~98% original state, including the brushed metal effect on the band and some significant scratches in the bezel. However, at nearly $200 for that service, I wasn't keen on having to do such very frequently, even if the actual movement was near flawless and clearly requiring service less frequently than even recommended by the manufacturer.
So I wanted a daily wear watch which had to meet a few criteria - it definitely needed to have a chronograph and I wanted a model which had both case, bezel and band made of titanium to make it light (as a software developer, this is important so that I work without having to remove my precious timepiece). It also had to be reasonably priced - my limit was ~$2500. Upon first discovering this watch, I was immediately interested in purchasing it. A titanium automatic (Valjoux 7754 movement) GMT chronograph (with PVD coating) for less than $2000 seemed almost too good to be true. It not only met all my criteria but even exceed such by adding the 3-Timezone GMT feature and PVD coating (the black color was also especially unique and appealing to me). For those interested, PVD or particle vapor deposition refers to a process similar to powder coating where an alloy is sprayed with a charged and atomized compound (in this case, carbon) which acts as an additional layer of coating to strengthen the underlying alloy while making the surface more resistant to scratches. This feature alone addressed my only issue with the Tag and insured that the watch would continue to look like new even with a few bumps and scratches here and there. However, there were two concerns. The first was that I had never heard of this brand name before and was not able to find a whole lot of information and customer feedback on their products. This seemed to be an Italian design company that create a number of different products but when it comes to luxury watches with multiple complexities requiring very high precision, one is generally best served by brands who have been at the forefront for years (some for decades or even centuries). The second concern was related to the steep discounting on this watch at the few retailers selling it - despite an MSRP of $4600 (which given the features, would certainly be reasonable if the quality is up to par) yet this model was repeatedly sold at a mere fraction of that price - from $1400-1800 (currently listed at $1100 on Amazon). The only other competitive model I was considering was an Oris Titanium Chronograph which was anywhere from 50-100% more expensive on Amazon. This second concern really held me up for awhile but after looking at the watch day after day, I ultimately considered the lack of any negative reviews and a few positive (albeit generic and non-descriptive) reviews an indication that this was merely one of those rare great deals that those of us who obsessively research their products encounter on occasion and purchased the watch (Amazon's generally excellent service and return policy was also important here even if covering a third party seller as was the case).
Upon receipt I was stunned at the size of the case it came in - this alone appeared to be made of actual wood and was immense - I'm talking bigger than a breadbox. While such a high quality case would seemingly be an unexpected positive surprise further confirming the value of the watch contained within, I was actually even more concerned in the context of this steep discount. The box alone must have a value of $30 or more - how is anyone making money on this watch. Regardless, I opened up and was immediately in love with the watch - it looked sleek and modern and the weight (or lack thereof) was astounding - I placed it on my wrist and at 1/4 the weight of my stainless steel Tag Heur Link, I could almost forget I even had anything on my wrist. The shape of the links also were excellent - being narrow and slightly bowed, the band perfectly fit the contours of my wrist. A sure win I thought, and patted myself on the back for getting such a satisfying product despite my concerns..or so I thought..
As I set about removing the links to get the perfect fit, I hit my first minor issue - the metal seemed unusually soft and a minor misalignment of the pin on my tool ended up leaving a significant divot in the link in question. Having done the same on prior stainless steel links, my experience was that the tool pin would give before the link causing it to be bent and needing replacement, but here I had just permanently damaged the link and with only minor force applied. Clearly, this was my own fault and ultimately in part due to the qualities of Titanium an alloy which despite its famed strength at far lighter weight than steel, is in fact only comparable to steel in strength but generally somewhat more malleable (an acceptable compromise). But it was then that I noticed the major flaw - the case backing was NOT of the screw down variety as is usually the case for high end watches and instead had four minute screws. This watch was clearly not one you want to expose to water, especially at depth whereas the Tag had already been down to 100 ft depths on a few scuba dives without any issues. But worse, one of the screws was missing. This was a deal breaker - these screws are notoriously specific and anything but the exact manufactured screw is effectively inviting moisture into the watch in even highly humid conditions, let alone immersed in water. Not only that, but one would imagine a screw on an item with an MSRP of $4600 would at least employ something like Loctite to insure it could only come out with significant effort but here it had simply fallen out. I can't say for sure what happened, but I suspect that same malleable quality of the titanium alloy used likely meant the screws would all eventually fall out. This is a critical failure and I immediately initiated a return.
But I did really like the watch overall despite the screw issue and decided to take a chance with a long time neighborhood jeweler to see if he had a screw which could fix (one of his specialties was eye glass repair which utilize the same size screws). Here I would already be taking a chance - but I convinced myself it was acceptable for a daily wear watch at such a reasonable price. After sitting with the jeweler for over an hour and about 50 different attempts with various screws, he finally located a perfect fit and I was ecstatic! I could keep the watch and avoid the frustrating return process. All was well and I would be happy.
Over the course of the next few months, I noticed a few other minor issues. The face was listed as Anti reflective sapphire, the same as my tag, but had a distinctly cheaper feel than the same on my Tag - almost as if it were glass. It almost certainly was sapphire and didn't bear any scratches during this time but did have a strange quality of retaining water stains that I had to constantly wipe off - this suggests a lower quality buffing having been performed to the gem surface and once again, indicating a lower value than the Tag. Along the same lines, while I love the GMT feature and came in handy frequently during my work interactions with global team members, the bezel would rotate a bit too easily rendering at least one of the timezones less dependable due to bumps which would shift the value. Not a deal breaker, but certainly detracting from the GMT feature effectively rendering 1 of the 3 possible timeszones unreliable. And somewhat related, the actual time keeping accuracy was nowhere near the Tag - each month I would find a shift of minutes as opposed to seconds, yet another drag requiring me to frequently reset the time. I do also recall the power reserve was less than the Tag but about 10-20%, lasting perhaps 32-36 hrs instead of the usual 40 - another annoying compromise that also left me having to reset the watch frequently. But the last two issues requiring a solution of simply manually resetting the watch ultimately culminated in a critical failure to the crown. While I was thankful that the crown was easy to screw and unscrew (perhaps the only issue with my Tag but one which I completely accept as it confirms a completely sealed case as the result, even at a greater effort), it ultimately became clear that the crown wasn't up to snuff and after only 6 months of frequent time adjustments, it failed to screw down at all. Without a screw down crown, the watch really shouldn't even be worn as humidity and debris will undoubtedly get into the watch casing causing the lubricants to dry, the components to rust and ultimately make an already finicky movement fail in short order. There was no compromise here - the Tag quickly replaced this cheapo watch on my wrist and hasn't moved since.
Of course, I wasn't just going to eat the $1500 loss. I tried going to that same midtown Tourneau store only to be turned away for not having the manufacturer in their database to secure a new crown which they deemed likely to be stripped (keep in mind, this is the largest watch store in the world). The fact that the crown became stripped is likely attributed to the same malleable quality of the titanium but also due to the other design flaws that required so much manual interaction. In comparison, my Tag only has to ever be wound/unwound in three cases - when left idle beyond 40 hrs, during daylight saving time switch and on months that have fewer than 31 days - all of which were the case for this momo garbage plus a number of other reasons. Made of steel, the Tag doesn't show any sign of wear after 3 years yet the momo died after 6 months. I went to another very reputable watch repair shop in the diamond district and received the same response - sorry, we can't secure a new crown. So I tried myself and find that the momodesign web pages provide no means to contact them beyond a phone number listed on their page which isn't associated with any sort of customer support context (in fact, no customer support context is anywhere to be found). They do have a facebook page which I visited but of course, you cannot post to their wall. I have sent a message to their fan page just today and have not heard back but really don't expect to.
My last option is to contact the third party seller on Amazon, Perfect Timing, and see what they can do. Right on their Amazon Storefront page is a statement of 2 year warranty (actually provided by Asurion through Amazon). To add insult to injury, I see the same claim for return I created upon discovery of the missing screw reminding me of what I should have done. The usually seamless and customer friendly process of returns that Amazon is famous for seems to be absent in this case - obviously it has been almost a year since purchase so they likely disavow themselves from the return at this point but Amazon has surprised me many times with a positive result so I went ahead and submitted a message to support, reminding them of the immense amount of money I spend on this site each year (likely more than what a minimum wage worker earns in an entire year). Regardless of stated policy, you generally want to keep a customer like me so perhaps Amazon may assist. But the only other option I have is to call a number posted on the retailer storefront which appears to be the means by which of contacting Asurion and is accompanied by statements that they provide shipping and return shipping at their cost. This is a glimmer of hope but honestly, I wish I never bought this watch as the hours I've spent trying to just get it to work have almost surpassed the amount I paid if considered at my regular income rate. If I get a replacement, I'm sure it will last no longer than 6 more months which would still fall within the 2 year warranty but who wants a "luxury" item that fails every 6 months (and doesn't actually perform so well when it is working). If given the option, I'll gladly take a refund but my retrospective perspective tells me that all signs point to poor quality workmanship and kick the can type resolution mentality so I have little doubt that I will be stuck with nothing more than regret. If I get a brand new model, I'll likely try to sell it rather than wear it.
In the end, old cliches of value and price usually being too good to be true almost always end up being the case. I have gotten a number of good deals, but they are rare and when considering the number of times I've been stuck with a result like this, I rarely try to get bargains these days. In fact, this was the reason I went with Amazon - I actually purchased this watch from Overstock.com and was shipped the grey model instead of the black one. A replacement would have taken a month and overstock required me to ship back their incorrect order at my own expense - including insurance! Needless to say, I was very vocal about that scam and ultimately had the cost refunded but should have associated that type of experience with this type of product. Going forward I will not make this mistake again.
Perhaps the only piece of humor and irony is the brand name itself. "Momo" is actually a derogatory slang term from where I come from - something akin to a "mook", a scammer, a sucker or a fool. It's a bit painful to realize that this watch was clearly produced by a bunch of "momos" but also purchased by one. Steer clear and save yourself the regret of this momo!
EDIT: After visiting the reseller page, I found out that this watch is covered by a 2 year warranty from Amazon (managed by Asurion). Go to asurion.com/amazonwatch to register and quickly get a prepaid return label. Unfortunately, despite the options posted, Asurion will first try to repair and only if not possible, replace with a new watch, a watch of equal value or a full refund. I'm confident securing a new crown will be nearly impossible but would really prefer a refund outright than any attempt to fix this watch that is destined to fail again, likely in the same way... Did I mention the price has dropped even further??? Clearly, the MSRP is a complete fantasy and likely they would have terrible time even giving this watch away for free...
FINAL UPDATE 07/20/2015:
After two months of the Asurion watch repair service attempting to repair the watch, they finally reached me to say that the watch simply couldn't be fixed. Despite repeated attempts to repair, the seal couldn't be held and the movement was not keeping accuracy. I received a full refund of the original purchase price plus tax in the form of a large Amazon gift card balance. This is about as good an ending as I could have hoped for and would totally buy an Amazon watch with the Asurion guarantee again after this experience. But the Asurion engineer who I spoke to confirmed what ever other horologist I spoke to had said - stay away from this watch, it won't last. Lesson learned and am back on the prowl - the Oris is looking pretty good these days.