Rodina Automatic review – UPDATED
After we published this review, the people at Seagull Watch Store got in touch to say that the Rodina Good-Stuffs.com are selling is a “fake” and of poor quality. They offered to send us their “original” Rodina for a comparison and asked us to update the review with our thoughts if we felt it was justified. To be honest, we’d never heard of a fake Rodina before, but as we’d heard so much about differing quality between Rodinas we agreed.
So here is our original, unaltered review of the Good-Stuffs.com Rodina, however at the bottom we’ve added a clearly marked new section with our thoughts on the Seagull Watch Store version. Enjoy.
The Chinese made Rodina Automatic, a Nomos Tangente
rip-off homage, is something of the darling of the affordable watch brigade. At just $120 for a 38mm Bauhaus style automatic compared to $1500+ for the real thing, it’s easy to see why.
So what’s it actually like to own? I picked one up and have been wearing it in rotation for the last few months, and think I’m ready to confidently state “meh, it’s OK”.
Ordering is somewhat of a gamble, and there are huge forum threads dedicated to the exact specifications of Rodina you receive. Some appear to have different crowns, others say that the dial colour changes slightly between different batches or that strap quality varies. None of these are going to completely make or ruin the watch, but it’s a shame from both a reviewers and buyers perspective that you don’t always know exactly what you’ll get.
The order process through Good-Stuffs.com is pretty horrible. After placing an order the only confirmation message received is a Paypal receipt – nothing from the merchant to confirm receipt of the order. When using a website you’ve never heard of that’s not a particularly relaxing experience. A few days later a shipping notice arrived in my inbox – the first order related email they’d sent out.
The Rodina arrives in a cardboard box. The box itself is branded as Sea-Gull (who make the Rodina) and is of poor to terrible quality. You’re certainly not going to want to keep it around for presentation purposes.
When you first put it on the Rodina it feels really small and light, especially if you’re used to 40mm+ divers on a bracelet as I am. I almost sold it on after a few days, convinced that I’d never get used to anything with such a small wrist presence. It also came with one of the worst black leather straps I’ve ever encountered – a truly horrific piece of crap that felt like it would crack or break whenever I tried to do it up.
After deciding to persevere with the watch I swapped it on to a beautiful Bulang & Sons leather strap and immediately it felt like a higher quality piece – something you might actually consider wearing.
The Rodina has a stainless steel case with a display back and angular lugs. The sapphire crystal is perfectly flat and the sides to the case are at a right angle to the crystal, leaving very little to say about the case. Its simple and elegant enough, but not much *fun*.
The case is around 38mm in diameter and 9mm thick, and while the seller claims that it wears like a 40mm due to the tiny bezel, I didn’t find that to be the case. That said, once I got used to wearing it I soon forgot how small it felt.
Turning the watch over, the display case back reveals one of the more boring looking movements you’re likely to encounter. You’ll also find the make and model on the back (the R005, if anyone is interested), as well as the water resistance rating of 5ATM.
The dial on the Rodina I received looks like it’s just a small round piece of white paper with the digits printed on. There is no texture, no colour, and no depth to it. It certainly doesn’t scream quality. The small seconds sub-dial has a series of concentric circles which in theory is a nice idea, but at most angles they are almost indiscernible from the rest of the dial. Apparently other batches of the Rodina have had a higher quality dial and a more distinctive sub-dial. Lucky them.
The words “Rodina Automatic” are printed on the dial in a font that I won’t claim to be able to identify, but it’s a serif font that doesn’t fit in at all with the style of the watch or the hour markers. It’s a small issue, but one that jars. At the bottom in really tiny sans-serif (make your mind up) letters are the words “China made”.
The hands themselves at first appear to be black, however at certain angles they catch the light and reflect a rather nice blue shade. It’s a shame they weren’t slightly bluer at all angles as it adds a little extra personality to the face. Unfortunately most of the time the colour isn’t noticeable at all.
So terrible that it’s not even worth discussing. Replace it immediately and pretend you never saw it.
The Sea-Gull ST17 is a Chinese made non-hacking automatic movement. It runs at 21600bpm and even on the small seconds hand it’s clear that it’s not a very smooth sweep. The effect would look worse still on a central seconds hand, but appearing not as bad as another option isn’t really the yardstick by which anything should be judged.
Throughout the months I’ve been wearing the Rodina is has grown on me a little, but my biggest problem with it isn’t that the strap was crap or the dial is a little basic – it’s a cheap watch and something had to suffer. My problem is that when I wear it I don’t feel like it was made with any real love or care, and as a result it doesn’t quite come together properly. Someone saw a nice watch and made a copy, and the problem with copies is that they get “what” but they don’t get “why”. The spirit of the original is missing. Too many little things are just a bit off.
I’ll continue to wear it on occasion as I don’t hate it and it’s different in style to the other watches in my collection, but I’ll never feel that any craftsmanship or passion went in to creating it and as a result I don’t think it’ll ever be loved.
Case diameter: 38.37mm
Case thickness: 9.25mm
Lug width: 20mm
Movement: Sea-Gull ST17 automatic
Strap or bracelet: Brown or black leather. Terrible quality.
Water resistance: 5ATM
Price: $119.99 from Good-Stuffs.com
UPDATE 30 November 2015
As mentioned at the top, soon after publishing the above review the people at Seagull Watch Store got in touch to say that the Rodina Good-Stuffs.com are selling is a “fake” and of poor quality. They offered to send us their “original” Rodina for a comparison.
Their claim is that the Good-Stuffs.com Rodina is made using poorer quality parts and that they are the only authorised dealer of Seagull Watches.
We’ve looked both watches over closely and have found that while they are very similar, the Seagull Watch Store version does appear to have a better finish in some places.
On first impression, the cases appear to be identical. In both size, shape, finish, and build we are not able to tell the two apart at all. The only difference is found on the back with the Good-Stuffs Rodina identified as a R005, while the Seagull Watch Store Rodina has a case back for an R005GB. The R005GB appears to be the case back for the version of the Rodina that has a date window – something our review unit did not feature. Not a great start for the Seagull Watch Store Rodina, but not something that matters too much.
It’s on the dials that the Seagull Watch Store Rodina really starts to shine. The Good-Stuffs version has a “white paper” dial that we were particularly disappointed with in the original review. It looks cheap, flat and of poor quality. The Seagull Watch Store Rodina on the other hand has a subtle but delightful satin finish. It feels somehow deeper and looks great when it catches the light. The small seconds sub-dial is also far more defined at any angle you choose to view it.
Also worth noting is the included strap. While I’d still recommend getting a new one and throwing the included one straight in the bin, the strap with the Seagull Watch Store Rodina is more supple and more wearable than the Good-Stuffs strap that I received.
While the differences between the two Rodinas are not huge, they are significant enough that you notice them in daily wear. So which should you buy? I still maintain that the Rodina is watch without a soul, built without any apparent love. That said, if you do want one, the Seagull Watch Store version is noticeably nicer and should be the one you go for.
If you’re building a watch and planning to launch it via some kind of pre-order campaign, Ross Davis provides lots of free Kickstarter help on his blog. Check it out and get in touch with him if you have an interesting project you’d like help with.