Review: Can a Really Cheap Watch Be Any Good?

I recently ordered HONHX S-SPORTS digital watch from AliExpress for a mere price of 1.78 euros, including post and packaging from China to Finland. I put the cheap digital watch through a series of tough tests to find out whether it could endure them.

HONHX S-SPORTS digital wrist watch.

I have always preferred digital watches over those with analogue display. For couple of decades I was using Casio digital wrist watch, but I lost it. Instead of buying a new Casio, I decided to test one of the cheap Chinese Casio clones.

The total price, 1.78 € (less than $2), which included post and packaging from China was suspiciously cheap. In fact is the cheapest digital watch I have seen! The watch was delivered roughly 6 weeks later in a simple envelope and it came with very simple cardboard package, which had all the instructions.


The HONHX S-Sports is fairly simple to operate and works similarly like any other 4-button digital wrist watch. It display 12/24h time, day, month and weekday. It can also be used as a stop watch and alarm. Pressing the light button causes the lights rotate at different colors and flash like in a disco. While this at first may appear cool, this is a bit less usable than standard back light, nevertheless it allows to read the time in total darkness. I couldn’t test the battery life, for reasons soon explained.

The watch made a beep every even hour. I didn’t figure out how to disable it, but setting time and date was simple enough.

Is it durable and waterproof?

My first test was to take the watch to a Finnish sauna. I stayed about 15 minutes in roughly 90 Celsius (194 F) degree heat. I was throwing water on the stones to make the air filled with lots of humidity. Professional watch repairmen recommend never to subject any watch to such test as even the water proof designs can leak in some moisture and the watch might also heat up. HONHX S-SPORTS handled this test without any problem. My old Casio had some moisture develop inside it, but HONHX was moisture free.

Then I decided to take a very long 15-minute shower with the watch strapped to wrist. Once again HONHX passed it flying colors.

The watch after few dives into the bottom of the 3.8 meter deep pool.

The final test was to jump into the pool and sink to the bottom of the jumping pool, which is about 3.8 meters deep and stay at the bottom of the pool as long as my lungs allow. I dived into the water and after I resurfaced above water, I could clearly see that the watch had a lot of water inside it. The display was still showing some numbers, but they were dim and flashing. The light function got, even if I didn’t press the button. A did a few more similar jumps and dives and a bit more water leaked into the HONHX watch. It reads 30 m water resist, but I guess it really means 30 meters from the shore while sitting on a rowing boat.

After some time the water inside the watch turned murky brown color.

Afterwards I noticed the the water inside the watch turned murky brown color. At home I opened the watch. It seems the brown color was caused by some glue inside the watch. In just 1 h exposure to the swimming pool water the tiny screws inside the watch showed some rust. The clock display was still showing light and some flashing numbers, but it never recovered. I killed the watch, but I think maybe removing the battery and drying it quickly might have saved the watch. The weakest link of the wrist watch were probably the buttons, which had insulation.

I am still inclined to buy another simple cheap digital wrist watch. Curiously this same watch is now selling at AliExpress for much higher price. 6.48 € was the cheapest price I could find now! Can you recommend me any models, which are truly water proof? (can survive a dive into the pool bottom)

The same watch disassembled. You can see brown rust and light on the actual watch part if you click this photo to see the full resolution image. The white rubber ring is for water proofing.


This is my first product review. I have ordered a lot of stuff online, hunting for decent quality, yet very cheap products. Please tell me if you found this interview useful or amusing.

I apologize for the relatively low quality of the watch photos. I have a good Olympus 60 mm F/2.8 macro lens, but I took all the photos using Panasonic 20 mm F/1.7, which is mediocre at macro shots.


25 thoughts on “Review: Can a Really Cheap Watch Be Any Good?

  1. Turns out you can change the dial light from the “disco dial light” to single-color (you can choose which). You can also turn on and off the hour chime, and it also has snooze alarm too. Can set it to 24/12 hour mode as well. I’m looking (again) for the good (and complete) instructions for it…. the ring around the alarm indicator tells whether the hour chime is on or not. I’ve seen these for as cheap as US$1.01. 😉 I think they’re a GREAT deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It even looks like there is maybe a second-timezone-feature too… (!!) but I’m not sure just how to control it. I really would love to find a complete (!!) set of instructions for this watch…!! When I bought mine, I bought two…(blue trim, and black trim) and one of them is in 24-hour mode and the other in 12-hour (a/p) mode.

      What kind of battery do these use?


    • Press the MODE button to begin. First press takes you to stopwatch mode (START button to start and stop, RESET to reset). MODE button again (after using stopwatch) takes you back to normal mode.

      From “normal” mode again… press MODE button twice to take you to alarm-set mode. (set it much like time, see below, use MODE button to return to normal mode).

      From “normal” mode again… press MODE button (three times) to take you to time-set mode. START button advances the flashing part, RESET takes you to the next part. seconds, minutes, hours, day of month, month, day of week, in turn.

      When the alarm goes off, you can get either “turn it off” or “snooze alarm, ring again in a few minutes” depending on how you press START and RESET (I don’t recall the details). I think maybe you press one down, or hold one down while you press the other. I forget.

      Other fine points include turning on and off the hour chime, and whether the time is AM/PM or 24 hour mode. I don’t recall at the moment how you change those.

      In either case, it’s a damned cool watch for less than $2. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have ascertained this fact: in order to get the watch to show you time in 12 hour periods rather than 24, press the MODE button 3 times in quick succession– this takes you to the set-time window. Now, cycle over to the hour setting by pressing RESET twice and releasing it. You will now see the hour blinking. Begin pressing the START button. You will see the hours will begin to advance. On one of the advances it will show you hours with an A or a P to the right of the hour; on the subsequent advance it will switch to 24 hour time. Basically, the watch cycles through 24 hours of 12-hour time and then 24 hours of 24 hour time. Once you have the watch set at the correct and desirable setting (correct hour, desirable hour format) press the MODE button once again briefly and you will return to your regular watch window.

    Another quick note: a lot of people are calling this a model WR30M. “WR30M” means “water resistant 30 meters.” (which this watch isn’t at all, as we know from the above.) Many cheap 4-button digital watches are marked WR30M. That’s not the model. The model is HONHX (… and Lord knows what THAT stands for).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t recall how to turn on and off the hour chime. I don’t know how many other people have discovered how to change the dial light color… personally I really like what I call the “disco dial light” (where the dial light cycles through several different colors!) but you can also set it to just one color, if you prefer that. Press and hold the LIGHT button while you press the START button repeatedly until you get the dial light color you want, then release the LIGHT button.

    I think the hour chime is gotten to by (in normal time mode): press and hold the RESET button, while you press the START button one or more times. I think the hour chime is on when the border is turned on (dark) around the alarm indicator….?

    I also don’t recall the precise way you turn the alarm off (other than waiting for it to go off and turning it off then?)


    • Let me correct an error: if you want to change the light color (to “disco” or to any of the 7 available fixed colors), you just have to press and hold the LIGHT button and wait for your desired color to show up, and then release that button.

      The other 3 buttons are completely unnecessary for light-related issues, because in this wristwatch there are two systems:

      1) The “display” system, controlled by the START, RESET and MODE buttons.

      2) The “light” system, controlled by the LIGHT button alone.

      These two systems are completely separated and unrelated in terms of electronic logic.


  4. Hourly chime enable/ disable: press and hold the RESET button. Then, press the MODE button once. You will notice that the section of the display that shows the days of the week will change to all-dark or will change to all-empty circles. In the empty circles mode, the hourly chime is turned off; in the all-dark mode, the hourly chime is turned on. You can cycle between these modes by pressing the MODE button while holding down that RESET button. When you are satisfied with your choice, release the RESET button. Now your watch will either chime on the hour every hour which will drive you slowly insane, or it will not.


    • From normal mode:
      Press MODE three times (to time set mode) (first one was stopwatch, second was alarm set mode)
      seconds are flashing
      Press RESET
      minutes are flashing
      Press RESET
      hours are flashing
      Press RESET
      day of month is flashing (Press START to advance as many times as necessary)
      Press RESET
      month is flashing (Press START to advance as many times as necessary)
      Press RESET
      day of week is flashing (Press START to advance as many times as necessary)
      Press MODE to get back to normal mode.


    • I think that in order to turn the alarm on/off, you have to press buttons START and RESET at the same time. You’ll see the little bell indicator to show up/vanish.


  5. voi,voi! ei halpa kello tarvitse olla huono, mutta teit tyhmät testit!! – 30m WR tarkoittaa KORKEITTAAN että voit tilkuttaa vähän vettä sen päälle!! (sade ym) muuten olen ostamassa saman merkkisen kellon, vähän toisen näköinen – moi,Levi


  6. The latest one I’ve bought (still waiting for delivery) was just $1.18 including delivery to the USA….! And I’m still wearing the original one I bought, several years ago. It’s still WONDERFUL.


    • The one I bought originally (several years ago)… the strap has gotten a bit stiffer and is bulging by the hole where the buckle tongue goes through. I’m actually surprised that it has lasted as long as it has. And (I think?) I’m still on the original battery. Of course, when I only paid $1.71 for the original watch, I really can’t complain. A replacement strap would probably cost me more (not including labor, if I paid someone to change it) than to just buy another watch. But I’ve since bought a (several, in fact) mechanical (well, analog anyhow) watch (which was $2 with delivery) that I’ve been wearing.. a “Pinbo”… which has a rather nice silicone (?) band. It doesn’t have the blue ovals the Honhx band does, but is otherwise rather nice (wider, thicker, nicer feel, blue “stitching” along the edges). I think I might move the band from (one of) the “Pinbo” watch to the Honhx watch…it looks like it would fit.


  7. To turn the alarm on and off, this is what you do: When in normal clock mode, while you hold in the Start button then press the Reset button. You see the ring around the bell going black (on) or disappearing (off) each time you press Reset.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I accedintally found this wath on e bay looking for atomic. took a chance on CHEEP CHEEP PRICE EVEN THO 6 WEEKS DELIVERY (CHINA) I ALSO HAD TROUBLE W/INSTRUCTIONS (WHY I WENT TO THIS SITE) TO LEARN BATTERY LIE & # AS IT WAS RUNNING DURING SHIPMENT & ???WHEN WAS IT MFG. (RE LIFE) Back to inst had no trubble setting just hit mode till each mode was set to desire. wonderful value for as long as it may last VALUE11111


    • I’m back wearing the Honhx watch again, and I still don’t think I’ve replaced the original battery. Battery life will of course depend a lot on how often you use the dial light LEDs (and honestly, I’ve used them more often to show off the cool “disco dial light” feature than I’ve used it them actually see the time!) 😉


  9. Hello, I really liked your review, if you are looking a watch to test, try with SKMEI, is cheap, is from china, and some people say is really good, even you can find some videos making test on the watch, you cau buy in aliexpress too…..


    • I don’t know that one. But I recently returned from a one-week cruise, and (perhaps unwisely) wore my Honhx watch into the Solarium pool. Before I got out, I did notice some water had entered (so it’s not (any more?) as water-resistant as I hoped it would be). I was getting a fog of little droplets on the inner crystal. When I got home, I went ahead and opened it up (the first time I have done that) and was actually surprised and impressed by how nice the module is (for such a cheap watch!) and what good condition it was in. I used a paper towel to soak up the moisture from the inside crystal, and the watch otherwise seems none the worse for the experience.

      Perhaps of interest, while on the cruise I admit I was VERY tempted to buy a watch they had on sale there… it was $10, nice and heavy, great-looking stainless steel watchband… but I finally passed when I told myself that I already have a lot more watches than what I wear, and really don’t need another one.


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