Instagram does a lot of things to our minds. It makes us feel terrible about ourselves and the things we have. It induces anxiety about getting just the right shot. Did we post at the right time with the right hashtags? Why haven’t more people liked my shot? Am I being throttled? Fuck the algorithm!
It also makes us desirous of the unaffordable luxury pieces that everyone seems to have (thanks, repost accounts). What it less seldomly does is trigger a surprise cheap fashion brand purchase that turns out far better than one could’ve expected. But that’s what happened to me just the other day. I saw the Calvin Klein Achiev chrono on someone’s feed, zoomed in, experienced momentary self-loathing, got over it, and looked into the watch. Only $75—how could I not?
Fashion brands get a lot of hate in the watch world, most of it deserved. Brands like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Hugo Boss that are known for things that are not watches unsurprisingly don’t make great watches. And let’s face it: when a brand has 400 different types of products, from wallets to waste baskets, quality tends to suffer. Watches are just another product under their Accessories tab, usually cheaply made and marked up solely for the brand name on the dial. And that’s exactly what I was expecting when the Calvin Klein Achiev chronograph showed up, not 3 days after I ordered it. But apparently 2020 is full of surprises.
On the Wrist
The Achiev is not a slight watch. The 43mm case sits just about as flat as a pancake and isn’t aided by the 50mm lug-to-lug. That said, if you’ve got a flatter wrist like mine, it actually works well, especially with the bracelet on. One benefit of quartz is its thinness and much like with a manual wind movement, the case need not contend with a protuberant rotor; for the Calvin Klein Achiev, this means a caseback that hints at the Seiko MarineMaster with a singular curved surface.
The dial is what drew me to the Achiev in the first place. The deep blue combined with the yellow and red-orange struck a very vintage chord for me, yet maintained some modernity considering how on-trend blue has been. Legibility is no issue unless you’re at a sharp angle, in which case the mineral crystal seems to have been domed not once or twice, but perhaps three or four times, to create distortion so significant as to belong to the realm of Escher.
The bracelet of the Achiev is exceptionally solid—a huge surprise. I commend the use of a butterfly clasp—which I prefer for any watch that isn’t designed for tool use—though it makes precise adjustments a challenge. The watch paired well with a few straps but really belongs on the bracelet, which helps it to contour better around the wrist.
While we don’t usually discuss movements, I’ll do so here so as to bat away some of the snobs who may have already written the watch off. It’s not surprising for fashion brands to use cheap, all-plastic Chinese or Japanese movements, especially in chronographs (the Miyota OS21 and its siblings are extremely popular). But my friend Calvin has opted for a Swiss timekeeper, the ETA G10.212, which features four jewels and a chronograph split function.
Most fashion brands don’t really engage much with the dial. Or rather, they over-engage. Everything looks cheap, texture is a joke, there’s no color use and if there is, it’s tiny accents. But the Calvin Klein Achiev in fact fully embraces the recent vintage trend and features colors that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s kitchen.
I’m a big fan of any non-3-6-9 chrono layout. For the Achiev, the sunken flat-yellow subdials with black and red-orange hashes pop out at 2, 10, and 6. The ETA G10.212 offers several layouts, but the inestimable Mr. Klein went with 1/10th seconds, running seconds, and 30-minute counter. I’m just glad there’s no useless 24-hour counter.
The yellow and red-orange are matched on the tachymeter ring that surrounds the main dial. A date wheel is well-positioned at 4:30. That’s right, I said well-positioned in reference to a 4:30 date. Here’s the thing: the watch is only $75, and also the date is exactly where you’d otherwise find an hour marker, making it minimally disruptive. ETA actually makes a model of the G10.212 with a date window that is further in, which is just disgusting.
Speaking of hour markers, the simple baton markers and hands all feature some variant of lume—what kind, I can’t say. But it does charge well and glow far brighter than you’d expect, enough to be readable in complete darkness and low light.
Case and Bracelet
While I may have been drawn to the Achiev by its dirt-cheap price and its dial, the case and bracelet are what really surprised me. With fashion brand watches, you usually end up with some lighter-than-air tinny thing on your wrist, with a bracelet so jangly as to be musical. And that’s on top of a cheap “gold” finish that looks like a third-grader’s idea of luxury.
The Achiev’s case defies those expectations. A sturdy stainless steel tonneau case features sunray brushing to match the blue dial, with a polished bezel that’s matched by the crown and pushers as well as the bracelet’s outer links. Come down to the side for a full polish, then a brushed bevel at the bottom. That bevel not only helps the watch wear a bit better, but also makes the 13mm case seem a bit slimmer; it’s a trick Seiko uses on practically all their steel watches.
One great design choice that kept the bulk down is the nestled chronograph pushers, which are slightly tucked in on the right side instead of sticking out their full length. It also allowed them to use a narrower but still workable grooved crown. The three combine to form a secondary arc running near-parallel to the case.
A push-pull branded crown and a pop-on caseback provide only 50m of water resistance, but that’s no surprise at this price point or for a fashion brand watch. Let’s remember that most fashion brand watches are only built to withstand roughly one midday meeting, depending on how many Brad and Lindas are in attendance.
The 22mm bracelet was another pleasant treat. Solid fitted female endlinks allowed for a perfect fit as the watch hugs the wrist. The butterfly clasp matches both the aesthetic and the water resistance (no need for a dive expansion here), but as mentioned, does limit fine-tuning the fit. That said, half links allow for some such adjustment. The real pain of the bracelet is the pins and collars used to secure the links. While arguably one of the more secure options, they are also the most obnoxious for sizing.
At $75, it seems silly to nitpick the Calvin Klein Achiev (I should note that the watch is available online from Jomashop for $69, all the way up to a laughable $451 from a German dealer on Chrono24). If you get over the fact that this is a quartz watch from a fashion brand (and you should), there are only a few minuses, none of which are unfamiliar even on much more expensive and “worthy” watches: the mineral crystal that, at an angle, bends light like a black hole, the ease of adjustment issues for the bracelet, and the fact that the word Achiev is missing an ‘e’.
What’s the takeaway here? Well, I won’t say that fashion brands are putting out good watches—most of them aren’t. But if the price is right, and you like the design, why not give it a go? The Achiev has a fun dial with good lume, a decent Swiss quartz movement, and a solid case and bracelet that wear surprisingly well. While I bought the watch on a lark, I’m sure it’ll sit around and get worn from time to time until I do a giveaway or simply give it to a less-snooty friend. And that’s really what this watch is great for to a watch enthusiast such as myself: I will happily recommend it to anyone who’s on a budget and just wants a fun chrono but isn’t picky about the movement.
Check out more of Mike’s reviews
Purchase an Achiev here
Calvin Klein Achiev Specs