The Klein Forte is currently one of the cheapest automatic watches in the market. Driven by an aggressive marketing campaign, let’s see if there’s any substance behind the hype!
Klein Watches – the Brand
Klein Forte – Build Quality
I would say that the specifications of the Klein Forte is pretty good, given its ~S$100 price tag.
The Klein Forte utilises hardened mineral glass to protect the dial. As compared with sapphire crystal, mineral glass is nowhere near as scratch-resistant, and if you’re not careful you will most certainly end up with scratches on the dial. That being said, it’s not paper – be careful with the watch, don’t walk into a doorknob, and it will be fine. Whilst I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches, I understand its exclusion here given the ~S$100 price point of the Forte. Most sub-S$100 watches – G-shock, Timex, Casio, etc – utilises mineral crystal. Elsewhere, the WR rating of the Klein Forte is stated to be 3 ATM, so be careful not to bring this watch near a pool!
The main selling point of the Klein Forte – from a watch enthusiast’s perspective anyway – has to be its Seagull automatic movement. Most ~S$100 watches from “fashion brands” are quartz – MVMT, Vincero, the Fifth, Plain Supplies, etc. If they do sell automatic watches, it’s at a much higher price point, such as the MVMT Arc Automatic, which is currently priced at a whopping S$499. Klein Watches tells me that the movement is a Seagull one, with 13 jewels, 12 hours of power reserve, beats at 21,600 bph, and is non-hacking. The 12 hours of power reserve looks to be a concern on paper, but in my experience with the Forte it never stopped running throughout the day, even when I wore it from day to night. A large part of this is because it’s automatic – if it was a manual winding movement, there would likely be power issues. The movement kept good time as well, and I never noticed any major time discrepancies. As I’ve only interacted with the watch for about a month, I can’t speak to the long term longevity of the movement, though there is a 12 months warranty from Klein Watches. I find the 12 months warranty sufficiently assuring – if the movement does fail after a year, it wouldn’t break the bank to simply purchase another one.
The Klein Forte actually comes on a bracelet, which is a rarity amongst ~S$100 watches. I’ll admit, the quality of the bracelet itself is nothing to shout about. It’s hollow, has a ratty feeling to them, and in general feels like the bracelet of a cheap Seiko 5/Invicta/Fossil watch. Then again, I can’t really blame Klein Watches – it’s a ~S$100 watch after all, and corners have to be cut somewhere. However, I am impressed by the clasp of the bracelet. Not only does the clasp fasten securely, but there’s also a side button which opens the clasp. It makes removing the watch a breeze, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find such a nifty feature in a watch of this price point. Lastly, the clasp is signed with a “K” for Klein Watches.
Overall, I think that the Klein Forte definitely still punches above its ~S$100 price point. $100 isn’t going to get you much when it comes to watches nowadays. Even when dismissing fashion watches such as MVMT/Plain Supplies/Fossil, your best bet at this price is probably a Timex Weekender. However, the Weekender is ultimately still a quartz watch. If you’re looking for an automatic watch, the Klein Forte is a great alternative to the above-mentioned brands.
Klein Forte – Design
While it is a fashion watch, the Forte doesn’t fall into the same generic, minimalist trap like many of its peers. Instead, the dial of the Forte is skeletonised, revealing the mechanical movement within.
In my opinion, the Forte is a breath of fresh air in the overly minimalist fashion watch segment. I appreciate the level of depth of the dial, achieved through the skeletonisation of the dial as well as applied indices. Despite its complex look, it’s not gaudy or overcomplicated due to its adherence to a monochromatic colour scheme, especially in this all-black colourway. It’s a dial that feels minimalist, industrial, and complex all at once.
Fashion watches often get a bad reputation not just because of their overly simplistic design, but also due to their poor quality control. The Time Teller did a wonderful video on it here, whereby he highlighted the numerous QC flaws of a MVMT watch he bought. However, I’m glad to report that is not the case here. There’s no dust/lint on the dial as far as I can tell, and what is on the dial seems to be well executed. Firstly, the applied indices are actually faceted, giving them greater dimension. It’s rare enough to find applied indices on ~S$100 watches, but faceted indices are practically a mythical sighting at this price point. It’s a detail that I doubt most of Klein Watches’ target audience (millennials) would notice, but it’s a detail I appreciate as a watch enthusiast. I also appreciate the deliberate skeletonisation of the dial – it’s clear some designing has been done beforehand. A lot of affordable skeletonised watches – I’m looking at you, Thomas Earnshaw – simply cut and open up the dial, so I’m glad Klein Watches actually put some thought into its skeletonisation! The aesthetics personally remind me of spiderwebs, which I find intriguing.
The Klein Forte is the brand’s sports/dive watch, and thus it features a 60 click uni-directional bezel. The bezel is alright, with a noticeable amount of play present. It’s a bezel that’s definitely more form than function, if you get what I mean. I should also point out that there are numerous colourways of the Forte, such as Silver, Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, and this Black variant that I’m reviewing. Out of the lot, I would definitely suggest going for either the Black or the Silver. The Black is undeniably cool, and exude a stealthy, sporty feel that reminds me of the Tudor Black Bay Noir. However, it’s cheaply plated, and the plating will wear off after time, or get scratched. If durability is more of a priority, then the Silver variant will fit the bill better.
The crown of the Klein Forte is signed, which is a pleasant surprise as that usually isn’t the case with ~S$100 watches. It’s also substantially sized, making hand-winding an ease. As aforementioned, the case is plated to achieve a matte black look.
The caseback of the Klein Forte is closed, and unfortunately relatively generic. There’s really not much to write about here – it’s clear that the caseback was one of the corners cut to achieve the watch’s ~S$100 price tag. Definitely one of the more forgettable casebacks that I’ve come across.
While most fashion watches tend to be too big – MVMT’s newly launched sports watch, the Arctic Ice, is 45mm wide – the Klein Forte is sensibly sized at 40mm wide. On my 6.5 inch wrist, 40mm is perfect. It’s pretty interesting that Klein Watches decided to make a smaller sports watch, which is a welcome break from the current norm. However, the watch is still quite thick at 15mm, so this is definitely one that won’t fit under a shirt cuff.
All in all, the Klein Forte looks great, with its skeletonised dial a nice change from the overly minimalist watches of most fashion brands. It has visual intrigue, and wears well on the wrist. The all-black variant that I’m reviewing is cool and immensely fun to wear on the wrist. There are some corners cut – the plating looks cheap and not as durable as I would have liked, and the caseback is generic – but for ~S$100, the Klein Forte is surprisingly well-composed.
Shootout: Klein Forte vs MVMT Arctic Ice
Sports watches are booming in popularity lately, especially in the luxury watch segment. Fashion brands have caught on to the trend as well, with many introducing their own interpretation of a sports watch. The latest is the Arctic Ice by MVMT, which will be the watch I’ll be pitting the Klein Forte against today!
In terms of specifications, I would say that the Klein Forte edges out the MVMT Arctic Ice. Both watches use hardened mineral crystals, and have bracelets of similar (average) quality. However, the Forte is powered by a Seagull mechanical movement, while the Arctic Ice uses a generic Miyota quartz movement. The Arctic Ice does have a higher WR rating of 100M as compared to the mere 30M of the Forte, but unless you’re planning on bringing the watch into water – which you shouldn’t be doing anyway – that isn’t a big consideration.
When it comes to aesthetics, the fight between the two watches becomes very much subjective. If you’re a fan of minimalist, clean designs, then the Arctic Ice would be better up your alley. If you’re a fan of a skeletonised, more intricate look, then you’re definitely better off with the Klein Forte. Personally, my tastes lean towards the Forte as it’s simply a watch with more details. I also appreciate how the dial reveals the mechanical movement underneath, allowing the wearer to glimpse at the inner workings of a watch.
However, where the Klein Forte undeniably trumps the MVMT Arctic Ice is in its value. At S$108, it’s less than half the price of the Arctic Ice – despite using a mechanical movement! As such, the Klein Forte wins this shootout for me.
Conclusion – so the Klein Forte “shiok” or not?
That depends. If you’re a watch enthusiast or a seasoned watch collector, the Klein Forte isn’t for you. It’s a fashion watch, and aimed at a market that wishes to only spend S$100-200. Of course, I know the typical advice would be to save up for a better watch, but I can understand why the average consumer would bulk at spending say $10000 on a Rolex, or even $1000 on a Tissot – I feel the same way about sneakers, because I’m not a sneakerhead. Ultimately, if you’re looking to spend only about S$100 for a watch, the Klein Forte is, in my opinion, one of your best options. It looks good, has a mechanical movement, and is backed by a 12 months warranty. It’s certainly much better value than brands such as MVMT/Daniel Wellington/Vincero/The Fifth, most of which are more than double the price of the Klein Forte.
For those interested, the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” will grant you a whopping 15% off all products on Klein Watches’ web-store! After the discount, the Klein Forte can be had for just S$108, which I think is a very fair price given its automatic nature.
View Klein Watches’ full range of watches here.
Beats: 21,600bph with 13 Jewels
Case Size: 40mm
Case Thickness: 15mm
Movement: Custom KLEIN Automatic
Power Reserve: 12 Hours
Strap Size: One-Size-Fits-All (Removable Links)
Water Resistance: 3 ATM
Winding: Automatic Self-Wind
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.