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The 7 Best Festina Watches (A Buyers Guide)

Posted on January 21 2021

Festina Watches
Festina is historically a Swiss watch manufacturer that now has its headquarters in Spain. The brand is known for inexpensive models, with an emphasis on sports and dress watches. Along with Lotus and Jaguar, the brand is a part of the Festina Group.

Festina watches are manufactured in Spain, Japan and Switzerland with their collections strongly favouring affordable quartz models.

Festina has a complex history, so I’ll just cover the basics, before presenting you with a list of the seven best Festina watches currently available.

The History of Festina Watches


The history of Swiss watch brands can be quite confusing, and Festina’s is one such story. It’s over a century of brands changing hands and being assimilated into other companies.

It’s a story that involves Switzerland, Spain and more recently Japan.

Most of the details aren’t particularly relevant to the brand that you know today, so let’s stick to the basics.

Like many other Swiss heritage brands, Festina was the vision of one family. Based in the watchmaking city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Stüdi family created their business at the beginning of the 20th century and sold it in the 1930s.

Festina - it means to make haste slowly in Latin - moved to Spain during World War Two and, after changing hands more than once, ultimately came to be owned by Miguel Rodríguez. The Spanish entrepreneur already owned the Lotus watch brand and would go on to acquire the Jaguar name at the tail end of the 1980s.

The result was a slightly complicated structure of companies and brands, further additions including that of assortment maker Dubois Technique Horlogère, hairspring manufacturer Astral Technologies and Soprod - a Swiss manufacturer of watch movements.

I started to lose track at this point.

Citizen also has some control of the company now and taking into account the brands purchased at one point or another, Festina Group make the following brands - Festina, Candino, Jaguar, Perrelet, L. Leroy, and Calypso.

The Festina brand produces a large selection of watches, very much for the inexpensive quartz market - in the 2000s the company was producing 3 million watches a year.

The designs aren’t particularly unique, but the brand is well known due to its marketing - specifically the Tour De France team that they ran from 1989 until 2001. They were also the events official timekeeper.

 



Where are Festina Watches Made?


Between the different companies, Festina does have the ability to produce Swiss-made watches. However, I understand that most watch production - bear in mind the affordable price-point - is carried out by Citizen in Japan.

There are Festina Swiss-Made watches and they are marketed as such - the line simply called Swiss-Made.

Importantly, it is worth noting that Festina has been a Spanish based company for decades and some specialist watch production takes place in Barcelona.

Are Festina Watches Any Good?


This can be a tough question. Another question that I have to ask is - compared to what?

Festina competes in that awkward space where it can be difficult to get excited. Many of their watches are quartz models priced in the £80-150 price range.

You don’t get the rush of finding a bargain as is often the case with mechanical Russian and Japanese brands. There’s nothing in the Festina line that I see competing for value with the Vostok Amphibia or Orient Bambino - cut-price automatics that deliver so much for so little.

At the other end of the market, we’re excited to pay for the brand name, innovation and superior build quality. But Festina isn’t competing with Omega either.

I’d suggest taking them at face value.

Essentially we have a Spanish brand, with Swiss history and the ability, when required, to produce Swiss-made watches. For the most part, it’s likely that you’re browsing the Festina line for a £100 quartz watch - so judge the quality and design against similar brands. I’m thinking of Accurist, Rotary, Timex and others.

The Best 7 Festina Watches


So what can you get from Festina for around the £100 mark?

These are my favourites. As ever, I’ve tried to give a fair overview of the brand, but with there being little difference in most of the watches specifications - the list is very much about the aesthetics. I’ve chosen the best looking Festina watches.

 

Festina Automatic Watch

 

After having advised that you’re probably shopping for a quartz watch, I deliberately chose to start this list with a mechanical model. My reasoning is simple.

This is my current favourite Festina watch.

It’s an attractive, mid-sized dive watch - with the white dial that I find so appealing on this style of timepiece.

It also contradicts my assertion that you’re not getting great value for money when buying Festina. This watch is widely available for under £150, which seems more than reasonable for an automatic from a high street brand.

Presumably, due to the Citizen production facilities, the movement will be one of their Miyota movements. They’re reliable and popular with entry-level mechanical brands. It has a 43mm stainless steel case and bracelet, with a sapphire crystal.

If I was to pick fault, I’d point out that 100M isn’t great for a dive watch - but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

Stylistically, it’s a good-looking watch with a simple colour palette of black on white - the red accents adding a little flair. The bezel shape is reminiscent of an Omega Seamaster and the large, bold hands provide a sporting feel - in keeping with the brand’s ethos.

If white isn’t for you - and it’s definitely not for everyone - there are a number of other colour options.

Festina Automatic F20478/1

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



 

Festina Classic Steel Watch

 

The Classic Steel watch is a familiar style. I’m reminded of a Mido Multifort, a Certina DS Podium and similar watches. It’s a look that is popular among entry-level Swiss brands.

It’s popular because it works.

There’s a well-balanced mix of dress, sports and military design points. The dial is highly legible, with bold indices and large hands. That’s what I’d expect from a military watch. But the touches of colour on the hour markers and the leather strap soften the look.

To give you an idea of where this watch sits compared to the similar models I noted - this is less than half the price of the Certina - which is also a quartz model - and £500 less than the automatic Mido.

You’re not getting the Swiss-made mechanical Mido model, but you are getting a similarly styled timepiece with a reliable Japanese quartz engine. It’s a comfortable 41mm wide, has a mineral crystal and 100M of water resistance.

Festina Classic Steel F20358/1

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Festina Chrono Sport Bike Watch

 

Normally, I sing the praises of vintage-style chronographs. Sometimes it’s my favourite, the Russian Strela. More recently, I’ve obsessed over Panda Dials.

This heavy and busy Chronograph wouldn’t usually grab my attention. But the Chrono Sport Bike is appealing and it is eye-catching. It’s the prominent hour markers that draw the eye, then you take in the rest of the watch.

As I noted earlier - Festina doesn’t produce unique and innovative designs, and this watch is certainly proof of that. There’s nothing new here. Instead, there’s another familiar and popular style that has been well executed and marketed at a very affordable price.

As fans of affordable watches, we’re always going to make time for well-made and reasonably priced watches.

At 44mm this model is at the top end of my comfort zone, but it’s a fairly slim 11mm thick. The dial is very busy, but not quite to the point of being overwhelming. It looks like a watch designed for a younger man riding a Japanese superbike.

If you view it from that angle, it’s spot on.

Festina Chrono Sport Bike F20439/5

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Festina Originals Watch

 

This is where Festina does best. A legitimate dive watch for £100.

For that inexpensive amount, you get 200M of water resistance, a 45mm stainless steel case, a mineral crystal and a Japanese quartz movement. It’s an attractive watch too.

There are a number of different colour combinations, and it’s a matter of personal preference as to which you’d like. I’m quite taken with this orange and black variation.

The style is that of a sporty diver and the thick black bezel reinforces this. It looks like a watch that has been designed as a tool and the neat scuba diver graphic also suggests this. When we add in the large, knurled crown and tough-looking crown guards the overall impression is of a rugged, heavy-duty watch.

This is definitely a good place to start with Festina, but I’d personally pay that little bit extra for the automatic diver above.

Festina Originals F20461/3

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance



Festina Classic Steel Watch

 

This model from the Classic Steel collection is a straightforward design. It’s clean, neat and very affordable. At 40mm wide it is also my perfect size.

Again, there aren’t any unique features for me to point out. It’s very much what you’d expect for a Japanese made quartz watch that retails for around a third of a similar styled Tissot model.

It’s an attractive watch, in an understated way. Subtle and without any complications other than the three hands and date. Usually, on a watch like this, I’ll swap out the stainless steel bracelet for a distressed leather strap, giving the watch a less formal aesthetic.

For less than £100 you can experiment with this watch. Again, it’s a good candidate for your first Festina.

Festina Classic Steel F16376/1

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Festina Timeless Chronograph Watch

 

Compared to the previous Chronograph, this is a pared-down and more elegant piece. It’s not minimalist or overly simplistic, but as the name suggests, the styling is aiming to be timeless.

I’d have preferred it to be a little smaller, but 44mm isn’t too large.

Where this watch wins is in the basic colour palette. The simple silver and grey combination creates an unpretentious design that I particularly like.

In my piece about Citizen chronographs, I was at pains to select models that didn’t over-complicate the design. It’s easily done when you’re adding so much functionality into such a small space.

The Festina Timeless avoids that pitfall.
It has the three sub-dials arranged symmetrically and uses markers rather than numbers, which steers clear of cutting through the numerals. Along with the lack of an external bezel and a minimum of dial text, this gives the overall impression of a slightly formal, tidy watch.

A great additional touch is the red hands - just enough colour to catch the eye, but not enough to affect the colour scheme.

Festina Timeless Chronograph F16820/7

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Festina Swiss-Made Watch

 

There are two words in the watch world that we love to see. Swiss-made. As I noted in the introduction, Festina was a swiss brand and although now in Spanish hands, through various acquisitions they still have the ability to produce Swiss watches.

The collection that features these watches is handly labelled Swiss-Made.

This line consists of dress and smart-casual pieces, with an emphasis on classical styling and quite formal designs. There are a lot of plain black, silver and gold models.

This particular watch uses a stainless steel case and silver dial, to which Festina have added bold blue lance hands and markers. There are large numbers at six and twelve and a small date window in the traditional 3 o’clock position.

The text on the dial gives us the highlights - a sapphire crystal, 100M water resistance, and of course, Swiss-made. The dial itself has an attractive texturing and a minute track around the out edge.

It’s a modestly priced Swiss-made quartz watch - again, not groundbreaking. But again, well-executed. Despite all of the changes in ownership, this Swiss watch probably best encompasses what the Festina brand represents.

Well-crafted and affordable watches.

Festina Swiss-Made F20007/2

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Spanish owned Festina have a slightly complicated history that begins in Switzerland in the late 1800s and continues through to present-day Barcelona. The Festina Group as it is now known, produces a number of brands and owns businesses in Spain and Switzerland.

Most of the Festina range is Japanese made, with the exception being their Swiss-Made collection.

Whilst not producing any real unique or iconic designs, the brand has carved out a niche producing well-crafted and affordable quartz watches. There are some exceptions - the automatic divers for example - but on the whole, expect the typical Festina release to be a quartz watch priced at around £100.

I’ve selected my favourite seven Festina models - let me know yours in the comments below.


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