I had to think long and hard about what I was going to do with this watch when I received it. It started with a conversation between a friend and myself. In this conversation I was explaining that watches like Lucien Piccard, Stuhrling Original, etc. typically use inexpensive and poor quality Chinese-manufactured movements, and that despite their low price they often aren’t worth much. He asked if I’d ever wore a Stuhrling Original before, and when I replied “no, of course not” he pulled back his sleeve to reveal one (of course).
And in that moment a challenge was laid down: buy a Stuhrling to review, or stop making claims with respect to the brand until I have done so. After giving it some thought I realized that it would be more appropriate to form an opinion of a brand when I have had direct experience with it, and so here we are. There’s a brand new Stuhrling Original Acheron on my desk and it’s been put through the paces.
Being a firm believer that you get what you pay for, especially in the watch world, I remained very skeptical about the quality and reliability of any Stuhrling Original I should acquire. Of course I did my due diligence with respect to the brand and the quality (or lack of?) associated with it, and what I found was genuinely interesting. To be honest, the results with both surprising and expected at the same time.
It seems that Stuhrling Original is undergoing a sort of “renaissance”, where significant improvements to both the movements used and their quality control procedures results in two different types of Stuhrling watches: those that were made “before”, and those that are made with the new improvements in place. Let’s see if their improvements really have been significant enough to change their brand image…
Essential Details About the Stuhrling Original Acheron
MSRP: “$425″. Note that, like Lucien Piccard, Stuhrling Original has a higher MSRP and then “deeply discounts” the watches. Actual selling price is around $110.
Case diameter: 44mm
Movement: Automatic, ST-90050
Complications: Exhibitation caseback, skeleton watch
Crystal material: Krysterna
Power Reserve: 36 hours
Other: Calfskin leather strap
Note that there are alternate versions of the Stuhrling Acheron in black (model: 1076.33351) and brown (model: 1076.3315K59).
Krysterna crystals use the same material as the crystals used in high-end eyewear. Lab testing has shown it to be as hard as Sapphire at a fraction of the cost.
Stuhrling Original Acheron Aesthetics & Functionality
When the Acheron arrived it did so without pretense or ceremony. In a relatively non-descript orange box, bundled with a cloth to polish the crystal, the Acheron was laid out and presented simply. Some manufacturers put a lot of energy into the presentation of their watches, and it is actually kind of refreshing that Stuhrling is letting the Acheron do all the talking. In the absence of fancy packaging the Acheron sits boldly, as if to say “this is me, deal with it”.
The simple presentation of the watch is advantageous: the Acheron is quite the looker, especially in silver. The skeleton design shows off the Chinese-manufactured movement (more on that later), and if you’re at all interested in the inner workings of your timepiece you’ll appreciate the candidness the skeleton design and exhibition case offer.
At 44mm the case is the ideal size for someone that has wrists that are average sized or perhaps a bit larger. If you have smaller wrists you may find the Acheron to be a little large, but then again, some people can pull off the “big watch” look quite well. Luckily, my wrists accommodate a 44mm case handsomely.
The silver face has texturing that is difficult to properly capture in pictures. The texture actually captures the light quite well, giving the face a little bit of “sparkle” in the right light. It is complimented quite well by the blue hands, which themselves provide just enough contrast to be interesting but not intrusive or gaudy. The black hour markers are fairly large and easy to see under most circumstances, though it’s important to note that the Stuhrling Original Acheron has no luminescence of any kind.
There is no water resistance rating that I am aware of, so keep that in mind. This watch is strictly a dress/casual watch, and I’m not too sure how it’d handle situations involving submersion in water. I’ve washed my hands with it numerous times and haven’t experienced any issues, but that doesn’t really constitute any evidence suggesting any amount of water resistance.
Good looking designs aside, the real point of contention for many people online is the movements used. This is especially true of watches made prior to 2012, though of late Stuhrling Original appears to favour movements made by Sea-Gull or Hangzhou. This is a good thing, as both Sea-Gull and Hangzhou have reputations for creating reliable movements.
The movement itself ticks along with little fuss. While a little noisy (can be heard when the watch is about a foot away from your ear), it nonetheless moves forward without issue. With automatics you expect a certain level of inaccuracy, and in my experience the Acheron has been accurate to about 6 seconds per day- very acceptable, as most automatics deviate 6-12 seconds per day.
Setting the time is easy given the lack of day/date complications:
- Pull the crown to position 2 to set the time.
Movement Accuracy & Reliability
The Stuhrling Original Acheron is powered by the ST-90050, otherwise known as the Hangzhou 2189. This movement is a clone of the ETA 6497/6498 and has proven itself to be fairly reliable. While not necessarily considered a prestigious movement, it is considered one of the higher quality Chinese-manufactured movements and can be safely considered reliable.
To Conclude My Stuhrling Original Review
Having worn this watch through a variety of situations I am pleased to see that the stainless steel case remains unscuffed and intact. For the casual wearer that needs something versatile and impressive, the Stuhrling Original might just fit the bill. To those not “in the know” with respect to watches, the Acheron might as well be a Rolex. It has that posh look and feel, and when you’re looking for something to look the part, this one will play that part just fine.
So why the three star review? I really struggled with respect to the rating of this watch. For the $106 I paid for it, the Stuhrling Original Acheron has proven itself to be excellent in its timekeeping and eye-pleasing abilities. However, there are some issues with it that I believe are reflective of its design (as opposed to the brand). The loudness of the movement is one thing, as I actually found it distracting when working on my laptop at a desk. The most annoying, however, is the pace at which the leather strap seems to wear- I get the impression I’ll be buying a new strap sooner rather than later.
The other issue is one of disposability. At the Acheron’s price point one has to seriously question the value in having the watch serviced every 3-5 years (as most watchmakers recommend). With an average service costing $150, what sense does it make to pay $150 to service a $100 watch? It would actually cost less just to buy a new one as soon as your first one starts giving you problems.
However, if you like the design of the watch and don’t mind that its powered by a Chinese-manufactured movement, the Stuhrling Original Acheron will be a solid 4 or 4.5 star watch on your wrist. It has the look, the improved movement that it needed, and has done an excellent job reshaping my opinion of the Stuhrling Original brand as a whole.
It doesn’t carry the precision or quality of an upmarket Hamilton or Tissot, nor is it anywhere near as prestigious or horologically significant as a Rolex/Omega/etc., but if your budget is $150 or less and you want or need an automatic, the Stuhrling Original Acheron will step up the plate with enthusiasm.
Buy: $105 – $125 Amazon