The curious case of Tufina watches

When I saw this Facebook ad arrive on my page I was surprised, a German watch brand that I had never heard of. But the photo looked like those awful Chinese skeletonized watches. A visit to the Tufina website revealed lots of watches with a fake chronograph pattern in which the subdials aren’t for elapsed time but for day, date and 24-hour readings, adjusted by the chrono-like pushers.
The part of the website dedicated to the company history (“Tufina since 1828”) was equally unconvincing, with details of successive Albanian Tufina family members starting with an unnamed personage who built the movement of the clock tower in Tirana. It’s difficult to say whether this is true or not: according to a local report published in 2010, the Tirana Clock Tower was built in 1822 and had a clock that rang a bell every hour. In 1928 the Municipality bought a new German tower clock, that was destroyed during the Second World War and replaced by a clock with Roman numerals, transferred from the church of Shkodra. This was replaced by a Chinese clock made in the 1970s. Restoration of the clock tower began in about 2010, with plans to install a new clock movement, new clock faces, and a small museum of monumental clocks in Albania with photos of their builders.

After successive Tufina generations, all of whom were “persecuted by the communists,” or imprisoned or shot, Enis and Erjon Tufina launched two brands, Theorema and Pionier, based in Munich in Germany. Today Tufina watches are presented as “made in Germany,” even though the movements are clearly Chinese-made.

Tufina now have a base in Chicago to serve the North and South American markets. Perhaps in some countries it is legitimate to say “made in Germany” if the company is registered in Germany and perhaps part of the manufacturing process – for example, putting the watch into the box – takes place there. But considering Germany’s incredible watchmaking history, and the quality attained by its brands, Tufina’s use of the German flag seems a bit unfair.

Update 23 December 2020:

This post continues to generate responses, some of which seem to be invented incidents. I’ll edit the most extreme responses. Thanks, best wishes from Ambrose

26 thoughts on “The curious case of Tufina watches

  1. Their family history is well known not only in Albania but in South Europe. They had to escape to Germany to save their heads. They are still persecutad because the government won’t return to them their lands and wealth. What’s wrong with that? Since when is racism smth to be proud of? You can read a part of their story in a very famous newspaper. Yes, they did built the clock tower not only in Tirana but many cities. Yes, they had the exlusivity of German watches for the whole Balkans since the early 1920s. They are very famous watchmakers. Give them a break, now everyone has an opinion. Use google translate. Cheers.

  2. The worst customer service I have encountered. They screwed up the paperwork so my watches sat in customs for 3 weeks. Once I got them, to my surprise one was rose gold instead of yellow gold. If any sticker has been removed they won’t allow an exchange. Look closely at the fine print. Refund policy is 10 days from placing the order but I didn’t get mine for 30 days. Made in Germany seems false as research will show it is a Chinese movement that is installed at their factory. The advertised retail price is a joke as research shows they are always on sale at the 50 – 80% off and post the inflated price on Amazon so they sale seems like a great deal. If mine truly was a hand made $2400 watch I would expect it to be an automatic not one you need to wind daily. If you want a $400 watch that is kind of cool then go ahead but don’t bother if you are expecting something high end. YouTube will give reviews matching the average quality and as a company they are the worst

  3. Forgot to mention that it isn’t a sapphire crystal only sapphire coated. Another clear sign that there is is no way a high end watch

  4. I have one now. It’s an average watch from a terrible. There is no chance that it is worth the $2300 CDN that their site calls retail price. Read very carefully as their exchange, refund and return policies are very costly and stringent. If I wanted to try to get a refund I would be out hundreds due to shipping and import costs.

    Their emails are evasive and rude and I would avoid them completely. Check amazon for plenty of other skeleton watches that you will find as mechanical automatics instead of self winds that will have synthetic sapphires as opposed to the sapphire coating that Theoroma uses. Made in Germany seems far more like made you pay for shipping from. Germany. If you like the look and are fine with the price they list as the sale price then they seem like an average watch, that will likely wear poorly over time by the crystal design being above the crown bezel, bit their warranty seems as thin as the return policy so do your research.

    • Thank you for your comments I almost bought one! I should have known an advert on facebook would be junk! I will be looking elsewhere for an investment watch, thank you once again.

  5. They are fashion watches and for the price ($150-300) they are not bad. No one can seriously think that a $1000-2000 watch would be discounted 60-80%, when’s the last time Rolex or Omega had a sale??? If you know horology then you know they are playing the marketing game, let them. Anyone buying these watches as discount high end is a fool, but doesn’t mean that they aren’t good for the average Joe. If you want high end/luxury German Watches, it’s Sinn hands down.

  6. Do not buy these watches. I agree 120% with the poor quality of the watches and the fact that their customer service is horrible. They stole from me. I sent the watch back and expected a full refund. They have alleged never receiving the watch back. Its a scam.

  7. Well I can only speak as I find. As others have said if you are expecting a high end watch for £250 then you are deluded. Me, I liked the look of it and the price didn’t break the bank. I had no issues with the order and it arrived precisely when they said it would (5 working days). Now its arrived I’m pleased with it. Quality is ok and It looks fab on my wrist. If you are after a high quality item with a swiss movement and cast iron provenance then its probably not for you. If however you are after a decent watch that looks a bit different and doesn’t cost the earth then I would recommend them.

    • I totally agree I’ve had one for over a year and its perfect . No tarnishing etc. Customer service was great with me when I needed help

  8. moi jai une tufina depuis 2004 elle a pas bougee dune seconde elle vas tres bien et jen suis content je suis aujourdhui sur le site parceque je voudrais la vendre et en acheter une autre mon soucis est de savoir combien je peut la vendre la ref de cette montre je ne la trouve nulle par elle est Q 6002-J JE NARRIVE A SAVOIR COMBIEN LA VENDRE

  9. I bought a watch, noticed that it doesn’t keep good time. You have to constantly wind it. When I sent it back for refund, told the watch never arrived. Then 8 weeks later it arrived back to me by FedEx. Instead they should have refunded me but didn’t. Not happy!!!!

  10. So I purchased a Theorema watch only because the company sent me a final offer with $100 off the watch I was considering. For $249 it was worth it for the price alone. I don’t consider it a high quality watch at all, and I can say that the quality is only average. Not a high quality watch at all, but for the price not bad. The watch keeps time pretty well, but the other small dials don’t work at all. They are so small I can’t even read them well, so it’s not important enough to bother with for me.

    I wouldn’t buy this watch, or any of them for more than I paid. There are plenty of designer watches in the price range that are just as good, if not better. But the design is nice, which was the only reason I took a shot and purchased the watch. That being said I wouldn’t buy another as I would want to see the watch in person before buying again. That isn’t an option for this company.

  11. Well I am Albanian, a watch collector and I know a little about microbrands using Chinese movements. The only thing to be established here and end any confusion,is to clearly define if Germany allows for watches that are assembled there, or even imported from Asia to be marked as Made In Germany. And apparently id does.
    Switzerland has very strict rules as we know in order to put “Swiss Made” on their watches (60% rule) but any swiss made watch under 1K easily has a lot of parts made in Asia.

    Steinhart uses generally swiss eta’s and is Made in Germany.
    ZeitFlügel used modified chinese ST19 and is Made in Germany.
    Even the great Laco used japanese Miyotas and is Made in Germany.
    So apparently this is acceptable and an industry standard.

    Now a German brand with a Swiss or Japanese movement is Made in Germany, but a German brand with a Chinese movement becomes suddenly Made in China?
    I hope you see where I’m going. Is up to you to research properly your watch before a purchase.

    And for the avoidance of doubt, yes I think the movements of Tufina/Theorema/Pionier are cheap movements and the finishes are horrible. I don’t like them.

    • And I think they are using the Chinese Automatic 2L27 movement for the New York Pionier.
      Just for information about the internals.

  12. there was never the tufina brand , on the 19th century. the whole story was invented by some people to add prestige to their brand .

  13. I think itms pretty straightforward…this is a German company with a verified Albanian origin, probably not very successful in the past, who switched to internet marketing selling German made watches with Chinese parts to cut costs.

    No different than BMW…if you think all components assembled in Munich by BMW are of German manufacturing, you got a surprise coming.

    In the end the question is if the watches are worth it for you at that price point. I just purchased an Automatic Havana Pionier from them for $286 and at that price point it is well worth it.

  14. I have a Pionier New York GM511. It was a little bit more expensive than I expected but I bought it anyway. I am really happy with this purchase and I hope to buy another one. The Pionier which I have is now 7 years old and still in very good condition and shape. I wear it almost every day and can’t believe it is such an good watch for the money I have spent. But for me it was worth it al the way.

  15. I really am satisfied with my watch and how it is working. I don’t know what the specific details are and am curious what they are. For instance how much is it tikking 21600per hour, and what is the the dialy difference of the working parts. How many seconds is there per day difference. I set the watch for a few days but can’t see what the delay is.
    Maybe anybody could tell me that.
    I am really trying to get information but can’t find it online.
    But as I already said I am very happy with my Pionier New York GM 511.
    I have it for 7 years now and it is still going strong.

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