With most watch brands, a sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel are not something you would ever see on a watch costing less than $100. In fact, you would be unlikely to find these features on a watch under $400. Enter Parnis. While many watch brands and kickstarter campaigns boast about cutting out the middleman, it is no secret that many watch companies are manufacturing some or all of their watch components in China. Therefore, one of the most direct ways to purchase a watch is not from one of these so called “middleman eliminators”, but from Aliexpress.
While some of the specs are impressive, the Parnis GMT is not without major drawbacks. Let’s jump into this Parnis review and see what you do and do not get for ~$80.
Classic Watch Dimensions with a Sapphire Crystal
- Case: 40mm
- Lug to Lug: 48mm
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Thickness: 13mm
- Crystal: Flat Sapphire with Cyclops
- Water Resistance: 30m
It is hard to go wrong when the entire design of your watch is completely copied from the Rolex GMT Master II. The 40mm case and 48mm lug to lug is going to wear nicely on the majority of wrists. While it is a tad thicker than its inspiration at 13mm, it doesn’t wear like a tall watch.
The Parnis GMT case features polished sides and a brushed top. There are no bevels or transitions on the case (nor are they present on the Rolex). This watch is designed as a tool, but thanks to the design, it wears incredibly comfortably.
The crystal is sapphire and has a cyclops. A cyclops is a polarizing feature. While I understand why it is considered by some to be an eyesore, I found the magnification of the date an overall positive. The only downside I noticed is that the cyclops is a major smudge and dust magnet.
We have now reached the first major compromise on the Parnis GMT. The water resistance rating is only 30m. So if you are looking for a watch you aren’t afraid to get wet with, this is not it.
Applied indices and a Ceramic Bezel
The dial is a glossy black with applied indices. The unidirectional 120 click bezel is easy to turn with a nice click, but does have quite a bit of backplay. While technically, a GMT bezel should be bi-directional, you see this shortcut taken on other watches all the way into the $1,000+ range.
The overall alignment of the bezel and dial is close, but not perfect. The Parnis GMT ceramic bezel insert is well executed and the numbers pop nicely because they are actually etched into the bezel. The only oddity is that the blue section doesn’t seem to come far enough into the six (pictured).
The hands and applied indices are also surprisingly well finished.
This brings us to the second major compromise of the Parnis GMT: the lume. It isn’t bright, and it doesn’t last. If lume is important to you, the execution of it on this watch is going to disappoint you.
An Okay Bracelet, with a Caveat
The bracelet is a potential compromise, depending on your preference. While it features a milled clasp and solid end links, the two middle jubilee sections of the end links don’t articulate. This ends up adding about 4mm to the overall lug to lug of the watch putting it at about 52mm.
It depends on your personal taste, but for me this makes the lug to lug too long, and it felt sloppy on my 6 and ¾ inch wrist. Also, the clasp is a bit hard to close, but would probably break in over time.
The bracelet uses screwed links for sizing, which, as long as you have a ~1mm screwdriver, makes sizing much easier. Overall, I think the bracelet is decent if you are okay with the articulation caveat described above. I ended up ditching it for a barton elite silicon strap and haven’t looked back.
A Hacking, Handwinding Movement
- Caliber: DG 3804 (GMT, automatic, handwinding, hacking)
- BPH: 21,600
The Parnis GMT is powered by the DG 3804, an ETA 2893 clone. This is my first experience with this movement. The watch is keeping good time (losing ~10 seconds a day) and the date change over is very fast. I only have two minor issues with the movement. The overall operation of the watch via the crown is a bit unrefined. The handwinding feels gritty and the time setting and hacking don’t feel as clean on other movements. The second issue is the rotor of the movement will sometimes audibly free spin.
It is amazing what you can get with a little bit of compromise. If you can accept that this watch is a copy of the Rolex GMT Master II, with only 30m of water resistance and negligible lume, everything else about it is actually really impressive, especially when you consider the price.
The bezel insert, dial and hands are all well executed and it looks sharp on the wrist. I did not anticipate that I would enjoy this watch as much as I do, but it has found a way into my regular rotation. And at about 1/200th of the price of the real thing, it is certainly bringing me more than 1/200th of the satisfaction. And that, my fellow watch nerds, is the power of compromise.
Jason was catapulted into the world of watch obsession by an innocent gift from his fiancée. An accountant by trade, he is obsessed with finding the best value for money. Naturally, he gravitated towards the Two Broke Watch Snobs affordable take on watch collecting. His other interests include video games, movies, and science fiction.
8 thoughts on “Parnis GMT Review: The Power of Compromise ”
I’d like this watch, or any homage, if it didn’t copy the GMT. At least do something different with the hour hand. Lose the Mercedes hand and the cyclops and you have a decent automatic GMT for the price point.
Don’t outright copy Rolex. Get inspired, fine, but don’t make a clone.
And fix the blue at the “6”.
Still, Sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel for $100??? Insane.
I was inspired to get the same Parnis watch by your review. Purchased it on AliExpress and it arrived a couple of days ago. I’m loving it. I replaced the metal bracelet for a black silicon strap that I think really accentuates the watch. Thank you for your accurate review. I agree completely with your concluding insight that a watch that brings this much pleasure for 1/200th the price of the watch that inspires it is quite the deal. Peace.
I purchased one of these in 2018 for something like $60. For the price, it was great. But I had issues from the very first day. The bracelet I received was faulty which meant that one of the pins would slowly start to fall out over time, and I narrowly avoided having the watch fall off my wrist a number of times due to this. After many attempts at putting the pin back in (and not wanting to spend money on LocTite), I bit the bullet, got rid of the bracelet (which is a shame since I’m a bracelet guy) and put it on a leather strap. The watch was great for the few months I wore it on the leather, then eventually a NATO strap, but one day the movement somehow completely broke. It started to lose time significantly and I decided the watch simply wouldn’t be worth repairing. For the 3-4 months I wore it, I think it was definitely worth the money, but I’d caution against the reliability of the movement.
I have been wearing my Parnis GMT Red/Black bezel for about 10 months now and I must say I am most impressed all round with it. It looks like and feels like a Rolex. Time keeping is acceptable if not spot on. Loses about one minute every two weeks. No problem with that. Sum it up as great value for the money. I should know i’ve got a collection of watches including
I have the Parnis Rolex Submariner in black with a really nice bracelet. $140 can’t go wrong.
I bought the pepsi version from aliexpress in Jan ’21 for 86 bucks. Amazing that they can produce these for the price. The fit and finish are great, the bezel alignment is better than 2 of my seikos while keeping very good time and you can set the GMT hand independent of the hour hand. Parnis overall is producing some very good inexpensive watches.
The actual water resistance may be more than stated. Has anyone opened the caseback to see if there is a rubber gasket? If it has it then the solid screw down caseback and screwdown crown means that it likely has a better actual water resistance.
Hi. I recently bought two Parnis GMT watches. One all black and the other the sub mariner look alike. Both have a parnis rubber straps. I own some very nice Swiss watches including a beautiful Porsche design number one watch. I must say the Parnis watches are amazing! Great fit and finish, automatic movements, 316 steel! Mine work perfect . I paid $78 each with free shipping on eBay. Why would I buy even a $500 GMT watch??? I suggest that you buy at least two or three of these wonderful watches to put in your collection. They are very accurate and really good looking especially with the Parnis rubber straps.