If you’re looking for the cheapest (read: budget-friendly) sports watch on the market, you’ve probably come across Smael watches. They certainly have a familiar appearance and a militaristic aesthetic that seems to hit the right spot and have all the same functions found in hundred-dollar watches… so what’s the catch? Is there one?
Here’s the bottom line:
If your watch costs less than 20 dollars, it’s number one function is fashion. Function is a number two priority.
Please note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Who Makes Smael Watches?
Smael watches are manufactured and distributed out of China. In 2011, the Smael company established their e-commerce company out of Shanghai, and have focused on scaling their business since.
They are now a leading brand in budget sports fashion watches, with an international market presence. Taking advantage of cheap Chinese manufacturing processes and cheap Chinese Yuan currency, they have slowly precipitated to the US markets, and found many fans along the way.
What Do You Get in a Smael Watch?
You get watches that look robust and militaristic, hold up well in most environments, work well most of the time, but that you shouldn’t rely on in mission-critical tasks or as long-term timepieces.
If all you need is a digital sports watch for the gym or running, this should be just fine. If you need one for timing the demolition of underwater shape charges, a proper G-Shock is probably the answer.
However, it’s just a few bucks – at no other point in history could you get such a complete functional and sports-looking watch than now, through the miracle of Chinese manufacturing.
Below you will find Smael’s best watches to suit your purpose.
Smael Military Sports Watch
This quintessential Smael is a direct copy of Casio’s 500-dollar G-Shock Mudman for less than 1/20th the price. As such it has earned the moniker “S-Shock” or “Smael-Shock.” Although the aesthetic is nearly identical, the durability and functionality are of minimal performance.
This watch is quite large (51mm diameter), and comes in over 10 color options if you can find them. It’s main appeal is the ana-digi (analog-digital hybrid), which is useful for two purposes:
- Tracking a second time zone
- Reading the time while using the chronograph functions
Some of the features of Smael watches are just for show in order to much the aesthetic of the watches they’re based on, so don’t expect it to do everything that it looks like it does; don’t forget, it’s a very inexpensive watch. However, here are some functions you will get:
- Analog time
- Digital time
- Stopwatch (chronograph)
- 50m water resistance
For comparison, check out the Casio G-Shock Mudmaster and compare the prices:
Smael Tactical Recon Watch
Like the Smael before it, this watch is also a direct copy of an expensive existing Casio G-Shock – the Rangeman. The distinctive feature is the circular subdial at the top left of the watch which tracks the seconds in analog. Unlike the Mudmaster versions, this watch does not have an analog display; however, you can still track a second time zone by navigating through the digital menu. Despite its low price point, this Smael has a slew of useful features to accompany the military sports aesthetic, such as:
- LED backlight
- Day/Date/Calendar display
- 50m water resistance
If this is all you’re relying on this watch for, you won’t be disappointed.
This watch also comes in an upgraded version that does include an analog display, with a proportionate price increase:
In addition to all of the above features, this Smael features a few upgraded aesthetic differentiators over its little brother, such as:
- Analog display with orange seconds hand – useful for tracking a second time zone or reading the time during stopwatch mode
- World Time indicators along the inner chapter ring (3 digit city code) – this can be used to calculate the time in another city
- Upgraded digital seconds indicator to look like a wind turbine
- Shock-absorber which is most likely only aesthetic at the bottom of the watch
Smael Women’s Watch
Many nurses stumble on Smael when looking for a good watch for their job as a nurse or nursing student that is both cheap and reliable; often they are measuring pulsations and keeping track of appointments on the same timepiece. For an ultra-affordable watch, Smael does a pretty good job.
The dial is very readable in both analog and digital time, and the contrast between the hands and watch dial make the time easy to discern. The colorful rubber strap matches the indices on the dial, and doubles as a cute fashion statement.
Like other Smael watches, it comes with 50m of water resistance for frequent hand-washing or swimming, and is packed with a chronograph as well. Worst case, it’s easily replaceable and is just a cute watch you never have to worry about. Consider getting one of the bigger ones for a male significant other for a his-and-hers combination.
Smael Men’s Sport Watch
This motocross-inspired Smael has a catchy red-and-black color theme which is echoed from the tip of the seconds hand to the writing on the dial (WR 5BAR and DUAL TIME), and even the circular indices around the 6-o’clock subdial.
Like some of the other Smael watches, this men’s sport watch features an analog and digital display (ana-digi), allowing for dual-time setting or reading of the time during stopwatch functions. The main benefit of this Smael is that the digital portion of the watch is very large; this prevents issues where the minute and hour hands are covering up the digital time.
Conclusion on Smael
If you’re looking for a fashionable sports watch that looks like an expensive G-Shock but is actually just a few dollars, you probably can’t do better than Smael. These are cheaply-priced Chinese watches, so you can’t get mad at them for not working or not lasting; on the upside, they can still be reliable enough for telling the time and as a stopwatch.
People won’t believe you when you tell them how little you paid for it, and you never have to worry about losing or breaking it. It’s important to keep in mind, however, the ultra-low price-point that you can get a Smael at, and marvel at the possibilities that globalization and international trade have bestowed upon us.
My name is Tom Leto, and I’m a watch enthusiast at heart. I’m here to steer you in the right direction when looking for your next watch, and to help you avoid common newbie mistakes. Right now my favorite brands are Orient Star, Longines, and Nomos.