Last week, I mentioned that I often dream about owning a Rolex MilSub. It is, however, ultimately a dream as financially an original MilSub is completely out of my financial reach. Even so, there are options out there. A number of companies make watches based off of the MilSub design and you can pick one up from anywhere between $50 and $1500.
The cheapest ($50 to $75) was recently discontinued by Alpha Watches. It’s a Chinese made watch with questionable build quality, but a decent look. I’ve owned two in my past, but each failed me. Another option comes by a small company that goes by Orange Watch Company. OWC’s offering is a fairly faithful reproduction that was released a few months back for a starting price of around $300. Online reviews have been pretty glowing. Yet another option comes from the famous Bill Yao at MK II Watches. Bill’s MilSub is a modern homage featuring highly graded ETA movements and swiss construction. Handing over around $1200 gets you in the game.
Recently, however, another option became available through a small company in Hagerstown, Maryland. The Hager Commando is a modern take on a 40mm MilSub homage. It features a Chinese made TY2806 automatic movement, a Chinese sourced case, a flat sapphire crystal, and a depth rating of 100m. Admittedly, none of this sounds ground breaking – especially at a $260 price point.
In fact, my immediate concern when hearing about the Commando was the movement. I have had two Alphas in the past that shared the same movement and both kept lack luster time and ultimately failed me. On top of that, I’ve never seen a Hong Kong produced case that spoke to me. I’m a fit and finish guy and the Chinese often don’t share my tastes for the finer things.
So this is starting to sound like a negative review – isn’t it? Carry on.
When I received my Hager Commando in the mail, I was actually quite surprised by what I found. The fit and finish of the case is quite good – leap years above anything available from cheaper Chinese brands. And the TY2806 movement does not share the jumpy second hand typical of this movement in other watches. It’s a smooth running machine that has actually proven to be quite accurate. Over 24 hours, I’ve been averaging about -7 seconds. Not bad.
More than anything, I really like the look and feel of the watch. Certainly, this is a homage to the famous MilSub, but it’s a modern take with it’s own sensibilities. The flat sapphire crystal gives way to a wonderfully machined and very steep chapter ring. This sort of sets the stage for the famous MilSub dial and the wonderfully lumed (blue!) sword hands. It’s a coherent package that speaks to me as being both of MilSub heritage and unique in its own way as well. It just works…
But how? Essentially, this is a Chinese made watch with the quality of something more. Apparently, this is due to Hager Watches being sticklers for the details. If they got a batch of cases that didn’t meet their standards, they sent them back. When their first set of hands and dials came back with lume that didn’t match, off they went. And what about that TY2806 movement? The Hager Commando uses the top grade Seagull movement and each is tested before placed.
At the end of the day, these are Chinese watches made to the standards of a small American company passionate about time pieces. It’s hard to say how this formula stacks up against a true swiss made watch, but it’s certainly a good value relative to the $260 price point.
That said, the Commando is not without its shortcomings. A “submariner” is, above all, a dive watch. With a depth rating of only 100m, the Commando falls short in this aspect. And while the case construction is really quite good and the bezel clicks firmly with little play, the pip on my watch doesn’t aligned perfectly with the dial’s hash marks.
Even so, you have to remember that this is a $260 watch. And while it might not appear on paper to be an exceptional value, once you have it on your wrist you begin to realize that really is.
To get yours and read more about the Commando, check out the Hager Watches site.