Watson Guitars ‘Red Special’ reviews

Chris Contillo (USA):

I thought that you might like my input on this affordable ‘classic.’ When talking with David, who is the first US distributor offering this with ‘options’, I decided to give it a shot as I am always wary of taking my Guild out for professional gigs. Did I want to buy another? I hoped I wouldn’t have to.

WATSON: The headstock design (similar to the Guild prototype) is much smaller, and black, which I rather like. The white switches, DiMarzio Brian May pickups and Replica knobs, along with a solid black exact scratchplate (and I mean as exact as I’ve ever seen in photos) really surprized me when I received it. As a fluke I had trim rings added and they look the part; I understand I could have opted for Burns Pickups. I knew that the DiMarzios had a thicker sound due to the solid bar design, and it sounds richer, in a way, than my Guild. I think I like the DiMarzios better! (Sorry, BM.)

This guitar is identical in color to my Guild; just the slightest shade lighter. The mahogany grain shows through the finish in a similar way also. The finish is superior quality and I can’t find any flaw. The bindings are actually cream, which is classy and more ‘vintage’ in appearance. The tuners have the look of the originals, and can be ordered with pearl buttons. They are very secure in holding the srtings in the desired setting.

In comparison, the only difference in the neck I can see and feel is the rosewood fretboard. In a side by side comparison, they look identical. The frets are medium, but as the Guilds are jumbo but set low, there is a slicker feel which I enjoy. It is wide at the nut and symmetrical to the neck pickup as it should be. The zero fret is properly placed, and works like magic with the ‘new’ tremolo.

The tremolo is the new StetsBar system, which has a powder coated black base and blends in exactly where the trem plastic cover should be. All I can say is, this thing is the best thought out engineered trem I’ve seen. The bridge moves forward and back (!) so the strings stay in tune, first time every time. Although not a replica, it is much smoothe and actually has more range of motion than the Guild. Nice work guys! Someone lost a lot of sleep over this item.

The body cavities aid in a fine sound. Without belabotring the point, I need to mention that for those who find the Vox AC30 a bit pricey, David gave me tips with a Digitech RP300 processor (around $200) and with his settings, my little practice amp gets a great May sound. Tweaking the settings must have been a chore, but again I got a lot of good advice for my money


No one I think will ever come close to my Guild. We’re best friends. However, this guitar satisfies my needs and goes beyond quality with fast delivery (six weeks with all the add-ons) and an awesome deal. It’s no secret that overseas guitars are high quality, due to lower labor costs. I plan on ordering a DSX-6 in a wild trans blue quilt top for my other standard player. I give David and Watson a 10+ for effort and affordability. Compare for yourself. As you can see by my notation below, sound and quality are important. The Watson replica has both.

Chris Contillo
guitarist and professional classical concert pianist