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Ok, so I wrote this some time ago, a few years now, but it got me thinking how much I love cheap watches.

What's your favourite budget watch and where have you ended up taking it?

I first became aware of the Limit brand whilst growing up at my family home. My father was out of work and he, or rather I had damaged his more expensive watch, needing a replacement for interviews and for keeping a track of his daily dad duties he went in search of a new timepiece. Saving cash and keeping the home ticking over was a priority, splurging out on a fancy new watch was a lot further down the menu than putting food on the table or buying school clothes for my little sister and I. Economy was his goal and he purchased a simple, slim quartz watch with a small, narrow, gold-coloured face and a thin black leather strap for around £9.99. When things finally got back to normal, he continued to wear it for manual work around the house and garden carrying out much needed DIY jobs.

I was reminded of this period in my life whilst aimlessly meandering the watch pages of eBay. At the time, I found what I thought was a ridiculously cheap watch costing less than £10. I purchased the classic Limit gents watch – model number 5447 – out of little more than spontaneity. I was having one of those “I need to buy something” days. The more I thought about the watch that I had just purchased, the more I wondered what such a low-cost timepiece would actually be like to live with. I wasn’t expecting wonders with my cheap simple little watch. Today, when it comes to value for money, there isn’t much out there that you can buy and expect lasting service.

From the very moment I placed the order to the imminent arrival of the watch on my doorstep, I used the time to undertake a little research of the Limit brand. I uncovered a rich history of what had become an ever-present, yet undervalued British brand.

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Watch Analog watch Clock Rectangle Material property


Limit, often one of the most overlooked brands in watchmaking, has a long and storied history, forever intertwined with major events and the British watchmaking industry.
It was in August 1884 that Alfred Hirst established Hirst Brothers as a company in Union Street, Oldham, Great Britain. His aim was to produce timepieces, and other small accessories in his store. By the late 1800s, the business was flourishing and the company moved to large premises in Curzon Street, Oldham. Four years later Hirst Brothers were registered as a limited company and moved into the twentieth century with prospects of a bright future.

In 1912, Alfred Hirst saw one of his greatest ambitions realised with the introduction of the Limit trademark on his range of watches, a move that heralded the start of a new era in the watchmaking industry. Originally Limit watches carried a movement from the Waldenburg factory in Switzerland, which were shipped to the Oldham headquarters for assembly into British made ‘Dennison’ cases. (Dennison produced cases for Smiths watches, of which accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful attempt of Mt Everest)

Watch Photograph Analog watch White Silver

High industrialisation resulted in the rapid growth of the company, with new sales offices opening in London and Glasgow. However, with the outbreak of war in 1914 and in line with other companies around the UK, Hirst Brothers switched from normal production to the manufacture of optical instruments for the military.

As I write this piece Limit entered another new exciting era in its history with a total rebrand, the focal point of which is a bold and modern new brand identity, a chevron icon and a typographic element featuring the year of companies establishment. This new brand represents a more cohesive, recognisable and ultimately more confident, consistent aesthetic across all platforms.

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In true Limit style, the design of the 5447 is purposeful to an almost brutal extent. Everything other than the time-telling function of the timepiece has been mercilessly stripped away leaving an assemblage of utilitarian, functional technology designed to work its single purpose over and over again without fault. Usability triumphs form at every turn and yet, the brutalist design is, in its own way, a thing of beauty. It is unfussy, undemonstrative and simple. Necessity demands that the face be clean and legible. The markings are broken into two rings, the outer indicating minutes, the inner for hours printed in a black Book Antiqua-esque font and set against a pristine white dial. Everything is clear and sized well yet the casting of the case is unevenly finished and the numerals are wonkily printed. All this gives the watch an Olde-Worlde feel as if it was produced en masse to fill some rushed MOD order at the break out of WW2 or to accompany the team of the Oxbridge Far East Expedition on their quest into the unknown.

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The simplicity and utility of the 5447 are what has made it ever popular with young hipsters striving for a niche, no-nonsense timekeeper and equally so with grandmothers and grandfathers in a last-ditch attempt to rebel against technology. The styling of the little Limit reminded me of my late grandfather’s Smiths Empire; it featured a delicate, medium-sized case and a minimalist dial. It was a functional hand-wound tool watch, produced during the aftermath of WW2 for civilians and servicemen alike. It seemed that soldiers returning to normal life kept their watches on their wrist, either out of pride or from a newly gained convenience. The 5447 seemed to exude many of the same qualities, and because of its price point and durability, it often felt like a watch that could easily be seen slapped to the wrist of anyone from a National Geographic photographer to a medical student.

Reinforcing this notion, I read through a multitude of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and beyond, owners of the little Limit seem to share that same mindset. Many of whom, as it turns out, wasn't precious about breakages and submitted the time-telling device to the numerous and often harsh demands of everyday life without much care. As a result the timepieces often ended up in places that they shouldn’t, from being strapped to the outside of motorcycle gauntlets in freezing, driving rain, to sailing through the salt spray of the open ocean, to the mud-filled, alcohol-fuelled adventures of the inevitable gap year. Throughout the 5447’s production, the owners of the durable, cheap timepiece seem to have exalted a myriad of interesting stories upon the unsuspecting little watch.

I loved this stupid review I found on a watch store website.

“ So guys, this watch is everything you could want, better than any Omegas or Rolex, it can also withstand a nuclear blast as if you look closely, Indiana Jones was wearing one of these when he was in the fridge, and it came out still intact. I'm not joking, get this watch ”


The 5447 is a lightweight durable watch, whilst it’s a pretty easy timepiece to wear it is also an equally easy one to forget about. I often wear my watch solidly, without fail, I’ll still happily have the item on doing the dishes, manual work or hopping in and out of the shower.

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During this review, the watch notched up its fair share of dings and dents, some gashes so deep that the polished finish had been removed to reveal a copper-like alloy. I dropped the Limit 5447 onto a concrete floor more than a few times, scrapped it off the sides of a narrow brick corridor in my parents’ basement and melted the crystal slightly; thanks to a barrage of sparks and shrapnel produced by metal grinding work. The watch still continued to work, despite all the mud, sweat, paint and water contact.
Lastly, and for good measure, I threw the watch into a water-filled Tupperware container and shoved it in the freezer. After a few days confined to a frosty minus twenty-six, I removed the watch from its frozen prison, thawed it and placed it back on my wrist. The little thing continued to keep good time and still is to this day.

Other notes: Specifications

  • Polished steel/alloy
  • White dial
  • Face diameter 3.3 cm
  • Quartz movement
  • Leather strap
  • Buckle Strap style
  • 2 Years Warranty
  • Splashproof – although I’ve worn the watch swimming, bathing, and showering.
  • Model Number 5447
Strap it onto an Olive NATO strap and it gives the watch an even more functional, old-world aesthetic.

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The usability and accessibility put the 5447 squarely in the crosshairs of the Classic Casio watches, the ones with the black rubbery straps, or the Timex Easy Readers. Simple no-nonsense time only pieces. In my unqualified opinion that is high praise for a small undervalued watch brand from Britain.

Other cult/classic cheapies are
  1. Casio Classic Watch MQ-24-7BLL
  2. Timex Easy Reader T2H281
  3. Casio F91W
Thanks for taking the time to read this review!
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