Fossil Watches Review… How Bad Can They Really Be?

By: Kaz Mirza

A good majority of watch collectors out there owe a debt of gratitude to Fossil watches. For many of us, a Fossil was our first watch – whether it was gifted or self purchased. What I always find interesting when reflecting on that idea is how quickly the watchfam can hiss and boo at a watch brand that has such a core identify in both modern timekeeping as well as foundational watch collecting.

Jump To:

Common Questions | Specs | Case | Bracelet | Dial | Movement | Overall | Alternatives

When did it become cool to hate the things that helped define your journey as an enthusiast? Whether it’s cars, culinary arts, fashion, or watches – there’s an odd push towards defining your tastes as evolving by acknowledging that your previous tastes were poor.

Commonly Asked Questions About Fossil Watches

Are Fossil Watches Any Good?

Yes – as far as value, quality, and style go Fossil Watches are certainly good watches. There is some debate amongst watch enthusiasts as to whether they represent the best value; regardless, Fossil is still considered a top affordable watch brand.

Is Fossil A Luxury Brand?

No – while they offer great quality for the money, Fossil is not a luxury brand. A luxury brand watch generally exists in its own category defined by superior materials, lower production runs, proprietary functions/manufacturing practices, higher price points, and more.

Where Are Fossil Watches Made

China – while Fossil watches are made in China, the brand has its design studio in Biel, Switzerland.

How Much Do Fossil Watches Cost

Typically across their women’s and men’s watches from both analog and smartwatch choices, prices will range from $50 to $300.

We need to stop perpetuating this poisonous notion that we only become better at what we do by hating where we were before. Hating Fossil Watches doesn’t make you a good collector – if you’re idea of being a true enthusiasts is filled with more “hate” than “appreciation” than you’re part of the problem in watch collection today.

Fossil Watches “The Minimalist” Specs

Case Dimensions45mm x 53mm x 7mm
Lug Width22m
MaterialStainless Steel with Plating
CrystalMineral Crystal
Water Resistance50m (not suitable for diving)
MovementHattori VJC21

But I’m always a strong believer in finding things out for yourself. Is the hate that watch collectors cast down on Fossil Watches justified? Is the brand putting out a subpar product for an over-inflated price tag to dupe the consumer? That’s what the watchfam usually states is one of the big issues with Fossil Watches.

So I wanted to put myself out there and take on this write up to really get a sense of the quality that Fossil Watches puts into their timepieces. The sheer number of models they have produced made it a bit daunting to figure out which one to review. So I opted for The Minimalist, one of the more popular 3 hand quartz movement stainless steel watch models from the brand, to use a representative of Fossil Watches’ build quality.

Beautiful Case Shape, Large Dimensions

The minimalist line from Fossil Watches is characterized best by its thinness. At only 7mm thin, this watch has a very low profile and sits very comfortably on my wrist. This low profile is slightly undercut but the timepiece’s overall dimensions. The case diameter is approx. 44mm while the lug to lug is approx. 53mm – it’s very large. The lug to lug is so bad that it sticks out past the width of my wrist (granted at 6.75 inches, I don’t have a large wrist).

The main structure of the watch features an interesting blend of two-tone polished and matte features. The underside of the watch is polished while some of the middle and lug-top features are matte. Then on top of that a polished fixed bezel holds the domed crystal in place. When you sit and really look at the case, you can really appreciate these interplays.

All of these different polishes and textures are accentuated by the unique shape of the Fossil Watches Minimalist . Honestly the shape of this timepiece is what originally drew me to it. The long protruding lugs with their unique almost architectural horn shape evoke an almost vintage style watch case.

22mm Bracelet With Solid End Links

Most watch enthusiasts who are as jaded and disillusioned as I have become immediately know that any bracelet under $100 is trash. It’s just a given that you’re going to hate the bracelet and you should immediately prepare to swap it out with something else.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I didn’t hate this Fossil watch bracelet and that I in fact preferred to keep using it rather than swapping it out.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you’re going to get a $1000 bracelet on a watch under $100. But there’s a level attention and detail that’s nuanced and worthy of praise.

Does the bracelet material feel like a lesser quality stainless steel? Sure. Does it do that weird rattle thing that cheap bracelets do when you shake them? Yup. But the edges are finished extremely well. The clasp snaps tight and holds firm. The two-tone matte and polish finish is done incredibly well (especially when compared to the Michael Kors Watch I recently reviewed, which featured a similar type of stainless steel plating).

The end links here are also solid and not cheap folded metal like you’ll find on other pieces in this price category. Plus, this bracelet is a quick-change system, which is honestly a step-up from other traditional bracelet formats you’ll find on other way more expensive watches. I had an easier time changing the bracelet on this watch then I ever did on my Omega Seamaster.

But features aside I have to mention how much care has clearly gone into the design and then overall quality of the bracelet – this is actually something that’s going to be re-occurring throughout this write-up.

The thinness of the case is matched by the thinness of the bracelet. They didn’t just take a catalog bracelet and jam it on the watch. This is a bracelet that could only work on this watch. Matching the thinness of the bracelet to that of the case allows the watch to keep its appropriate proportions and balance while it’s on your wrist. 

It’s worth noting that the Minimalist comes in a variety of other leather strap and bracelet options like brown leather, black leather, and more.

Fresh Take On The “Minimalist” Dial 

As the name suggests, the dial of this Fossil Watch is quite sparse. Very thin reflective markers are set underneath a very thin chapter ring. The classic but very subdued Fossil Watches logo at 12 is accompanied by the product line logo at 6.

However what separates this dial from other watches riffing on the minimalist look is the subtle sunburst effect on the dial as well as the syringe-style hands. Both of these fun personality moments allow the watch to still stay somewhat memorable in a sea of mediocre “minimalist” watches where the only difference is the lazy logo they’re using.

What really also allows this timepiece to successfully execute a memorable minimalist dial is its control and use of space. The dial isn’t crowded. When on my wrist I get a strong sense of openness as a design language and when that’s coupled with the fantastic thinness of the case and the bracelet, the execution of the entire watches’ design comes together.

Powered By The Hattori VJ21C Quartz Movement

After fighting with the caseback on this watch for more time than I’d like to admit, I finally discovered that this Fossil Watches timepiece uses a Japanese Quartz Hattori movement. Hattori movements are non-branded Seiko movements and are generally regarded as reliable, easily sourced, and a solid choice for non-expensive quartz watches.

Typical battery life that you can expect on here is approx. 1 – 2 years but that can vary. The movement has no jewels and is rated for an accuracy of +/- 20 seconds a month. All in all, it’s the type of reliable 3 hand movement you’d expect in this watch and I have no issues with it. Battery replacements can be easily done from any local watch technician near you.

Final Thoughts

Fashion watch brands like Fossil Watches often are seen as a barrier between someone being informed on their watch purchase and someone not being informed. The erroneous implication is that a “true watch collector” would be informed enough to not buy a Fossil.

But thinking like that prevents us from seeing the truth – there’s nothing wrong with Fossil Watches. Honestly, for under $100, I’m incredibly impressed with this watch that I’ve reviewed. The watch is not really my style but I can confidently state that if you were drawn to any of the several Minimalist models featured by Fossil Watches and had any hesitancy about the quality of the watch, I’d say you’re good to go and you’ll most likely really enjoy your purchase.

The only thing I’ll reiterate is that the watch is very large. For reference my wrist in the photos attached to this piece is 6.75 inches in diameter. Also, make sure to snag one of these when the price is right – I purchased this one for under $100. There is also a chronograph version of this watch available in case you like the look of that model more than the simple 3 hander.

Fossil Watches Alternatives

Like the look of the Minimalist but don’t really feel like the design is clicking? Check out the following watches below to see some similar approaches to a minimalist watch but with different design perspectives.

Alternative #1: Skagen Signatur

A simple, 3 hand quartz from Skagen – the Signatur can be a solid alternative to the Fossil Watches Minimalist but with the added twist of a clean, modern (but interesting) design.

Alternative #2: Braun BN0021WHBRG

That place where function, aesthetics, and industrial design meet is where Braun is most comfortable – check these simple Braun 3 hand quartz watches out as a more utilitarian alternative to this Fossil Watches timepiece.

Alternative #3: Timex Easy Reader

Is there anything that Timex can’t do? The Easy Reader is the perfect option for someone who wants a minimalist watch with a bit more vintage and classic character. The watch achieves this by replacing simple bar/shape markers with classic font Arabic numerals.

6 thoughts on “Fossil Watches Review… How Bad Can They Really Be?”

  1. I have 2 Fossil watches. Recently they’ve both needed batteries. However, no jeweler in my town can figure out how to remove the “glass” to replace batteries. Can you help me? I don’t want to just toss them.

    Reply
    • Hi, Susan:

      Do you know which models you have? For most Fossil Watches, they shouldn’t need to remove the glass/crystal in the front to replace the battery. They should be able to either unscrew or pop the back off the watch to access the battery. Here’s a good video that shows how both snap on/off and screw on/off casebacks work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9m-bCHl2dw

      I hope this info is helpful – there should be enough here for the local jewelers near you to utilize (also I wouldn’t try to open it yourself since it’s difficult to do safely without damaging the watch).

      Best,
      -Kaz

      Reply
  2. I purchased one of their WearOS watches. I won’t review the OS since that is not really Fossil’s deal, but the metal link band is terrible. Try replacing one of the links and see how it fairs in your review. The pins are just sticks of metal with literally nothing holding them in place. The watch fell off my arm a few days after replacing one link and the pin disappeared. I removed another pin to inspect them and found that once removed they cannot be reinserted and expected to stay. In addition, the clasp does not open enough to get ones hand through while also being tight enough to not hang limply on the wrist. I am sure a non-metal band would be better, but that is not what I was looking for. I would not purchase again for any price.

    Reply
    • Hi, Wynne:

      Thank you for sharing your experience with Fossil’s WearOS timepiece – that’s a shame about the bracelet. Often times when brands are looking to save money on their timepiece to try and spend more money elsewhere, it’s the bracelet/strap that usually gets the short end of the stick. I haven’t personally interacted with one of the WearOS bracelets yet, but I’ll certainly put a keen eye on the bracelet quality when I do based on your feedback.

      Best,
      -Kaz

      Reply
  3. I picked one up back in high school in the late nineties. It was a two tone yg/steel number with a blue dial and two tone bracelet that didn’t fit me and I never had it sized. I was too cool for that. I rocked that watch for at least two years – then in college I got a “Swiss Army” (now Wegner I think) watch. Honestly, the Fossil was better. I kind of wish I had both of them. I came across the SA watch and the end links (not solid) were bent out of shape and I recalled that’s why I quit wearing it.

    We should respect companies like Fossil/Invicta/Timex. They use economies of scale and leveraged positions with their manufacturing partners to offer great value to the customer. Just because it’s not manufactured in Europe shouldn’t stop anyone from owning one if they like them. Timex is the new darling (joining the big three Japanese brands who make all their low priced watches in China or SE Asia btw) but they stand on the same ground as other brands that produce in huge numbers, sell at malls, and are cheap compared to Europe/Japan made watches.

    The timepiece you reviewed here looks pretty darn nice for what it is! I find, honestly, that I don’t like the look of most Fossils but I certainly respect them as a company and watch designer/manufacturer.

    Reply
    • HS class of 2000 here! I was beguiled by those blue sunburst dial Fossil watches at the kiosk by the mall food court. Wore one proudly from Jr High until I graduated. Those were are a ROUGH 5-6 years to be on my wrist… and yet the POSsil survived remarkably well aside from normal scuffs and some small scratches to the crystal. I still have a soft spot for that thing. I always pay a visit to the back of the desk drawer in my old room whenever I go to my parents home and admire its now awkward 90s overly-organic shaped case and bracelet for a moment. Dial still looks great.

      Reply

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