Old style Classic

There’s always something comforting about many of the watch models from the German manufacturer, Junkers.

A classic Junkers G38 6944-4 Quartz Date date.

A classic Junkers G38 6944-4 Quartz Date date.

Something classic and almost old worldly that just seems to say, this is a decent old fashioned piece of quality that’s still available today – and at reasonable cost.  Not that these models are old fashioned at all, but they do give an air of respectability that’s often lacking with modern timepieces.

This Junkers model G38 6944-4 quartz Date & Date watch is one such watch.

It has an excellent and reliable Swiss Ronda Cal. 517 movement within a nice sized 42mm diameter round stainless case, which very commendably is only 10mm high, so a neat and elegant watch indeed.  Good luminous markers and numerals on a clean uncluttered dial with a Day and Date aperture @3, plus broad luminous infilled hour and minute hands edged in black for clarity and a black center seconds hand.

A hardened mineral crystal, 100m Water Resistance and a classic high quality leather strap, there’s plenty to like about this particular model.

Nothing fancy, but it does show the time, Day and Date clearly and eloquently, day or night and does it well – AND it does it all at a very reasonable price of around €179 Euros.

What else can you say?  (I’ve probably talked myself into getting one now . . . .!)

Special Diver Aegir

I love it when a watch is born out of a need by someone in the business – and this is such a one.  The Aegir CD-2 Diver Watch.

The Aegir CD-2 Dive Watch

The Aegir CD-2 Dive Watch

The specifications are as follows -

A German manufactured 316 stainless steel case, brushed finish with a Helium relief value and well protected (shrouded) 7mm screw down crown.   The movement is a mechanical automatic Soprod A10 Swiss caliber with 25 jewels.   The dial has applied hour markers, filled with Superluminova BGW-9C1 and the dimensions are 42mm diameter, 50.5mm lug to lug and 14mm height.   The crystal is sapphire, domed and anti-scratch with inside anti-reflect coating.   Strap width is 24mm, the bezel is unidirectional 60 clock with engraved minute markings in black and the Water Resistance is 701 metres.

What else can I say – except to quote directly from Aegir’s web site -

“Ægir Watches CD-1 concept was born in the mid 90′s on a quay in Fort William Scotland, on a rainy summer’s day, but at the time I never realized it. It stayed in the back of  my mind, and it was not until early 2007, that I decided on the design while waiting in the dive bell for the divers to return. And refined the idea over subsequent dives and many long hours of decompression before eventually handing it over to a designer.”

Wrist GPS – a step too far?

I had hoped this year to have got myself a GPS enabled watch, but alas not to be as I honestly think the manufacturer’s still haven’t come up with what I would call my ideal product.   The models I’ve been checking out are from Casio, Suunto, and Garmin, etc.  However most appear to have an almost “unhealthy” obsession with “running” or “geocaching”as the main purpose for most of these models and at my age about as useful as watching paint dry.

Garmin Fenix GPS model

Garmin Fenix GPS model

What I would like simply? is a piece of technology that can pinpoint my position, wherever I am, especially in unfamiliar territory, that can show me firstly, where I am with a GPS fix and show me how to get back to my starting position using track back as they call it.

More of a survival thing I suppose.  And before everyone screams out these are already around and cheap – I don’t need something that simply points in the direction of where I started – straight line travel seems to me to be ultra dangerous – cliff, river, who knows what’s in your path.   So a breadcrumb trail is what’s needed, to take you precisely back on the original track.

Suunto Ambit GPS

Suunto Ambit GPS

The more I see these wrist? GPS watches, the less I like them.  Many of the tests in the field as shown on youtube, suggest they are less than accurate.   One recently showed an altitude test on the Suunto Ambit, which showed the height as completely at odds (hundreds of feet out) with his Garmin GPSMap 62s hand held unit, which in turn was just 1 meter off the actual height (seriously good!) which was a known height.   So Altitude accuracy doesn’t seem inspiring.

The Digital Compass function looks as if it’s improving, but not helped by climbing and mountaineering and hill walking pundits stating that, “one wouldn’t rely on such an instrument, as accuracy is not their strongest point”, doesn’t fill me with confidence.  And I can understand that, as a compass bearing without a map is not the best way forward and none of the wrist GPS watches have such a thing (OK you could also carry a map and an old style compass, but isn’t this missing the point?).

Also the only serious contenders such as Garmin Fenix and the Suunto Ambit are really too big – I mean their thickness is really gross at around 18mm = that’s nearly 3/4″, so as we’re talking about wrist worn items, I’d prefer that on my belt!   Now I’m not knocking the wonderful technical achievements that undoubtedly have gone in to these units, but for me they’re simply not there yet.

Garmin GPSMAP 62st hand held GPS (good as it gets?)

Garmin GPSMAP 62st hand held GPS color maps!

Another issue is the often poor clarity of some of the screens I see on these GPS watches.  Surely that’s something that’s definitely fixable and a great point about Casio – they make great displays, so come on Casio – let’s get a GPS model to beat Garmin and Suunto!   It should be remembered that stuff that might just be life or death data, must be easy to read – very easy!

Garmin hand held color screen data

Garmin hand held color screen data

In conclusion therefore Garmin and Suunto have too many issues that I don’t like and Casio don’t yet even have a GPS enabled full navigational model, using GPS only as an aid to area/time accuracy, so they are also out.

So for now and I suspect some time to come I’ll have to manage with “hand held” navigational units, such as the very well specified Garmin GPSMAP62st, which is about as good as it gets for me.
Forgetting about the wrist convenience factor I accept that this amount of data, plus map etc. just can’t be done on the wrist (even in short hand so to speak).  Also the digital compass takes on a new meaning when integrated into a decent map (no trying to line up two different technologies in the rain and probably a wind).

So in conclusion it’s pretty evident that at the moment, the combination of information and visual data, which I have to think is essential, is simply beyond the reach of any wrist sized unit and perhaps, dare I say, a step too far!

Fashion & Design 1

Always a fascination, this Fashion and Design business especially when you consider that without either one, not only would the watch world be a dull place, but so would much of the rest of the planet.   I put the two disciplines together intentionally here, as one without the other often doesn’t work and regarding watch models I think that’s certainly true.

Digital Grande from Normal Timepieces

Digital Grande from Normal Timepieces

The design concept is important here – some new designers go out of their way to produce a “new” way of reading time itself, though in my experience this rarely works.  The results invariably clash with what I call the basic “law of the watch”, which is – you have to be able to read the darned thing – at a glance!
So I’m not going to feature these (in another Post perhaps), but concentrate on those Designers and Brands that often use the most basic digital or clock displays, but add around them a design or fashion statement of their own.  The price point can’t be too high, as the technical aspect of the watch is quite low, though that said, they can command a “designer” premium, which like reputation can often see surprising prices.

Projects watch (Fredi Brodman) - Folly

Projects watch (Fredi Brodmann) – Folly

The models I’ve featured here are in what I consider the low tech, high design category and I like each of them.  They also meet my simple criteria of clarity, pleasing form, sensible cost and versatility too, perhaps of color or style.

Take the Digital Grande from Normal TimepiecesDesigner Ross McBride has produced a rather elegant plain round watch with a simple stainless almost seamless case incorporating a simple digital one line display.  The difference here from say Bosch who produce a similar minimalist piece, is that the display black ground is indistinguishable from the black dial background, which shows the reverse digits perfectly.   The glass is also quite non-reflective, so clarity is guaranteed.   It’s also a good size at 38mm diameter so fits all as it were and is fitted with a black plain leather strap.   The price in the UK is around £125

The Nixon Atom

The Nixon Atom

The second model is this time is using the conventional clock with hands style, but reminiscent of the Art-Deco age with it’s choice of hands, number fonts and colors.  The Project watch designed by Fredi BrodmannThe Folly.

Here the designer has incorporated touches that appeal to his love of art-deco and aviation – the dial set up is reminiscent architecturally of old clocks and that red second hand with it’s large overlap is matched almost suddenly by the red button which when operated lights up the dial center so it can be seen in the dark.  I particularly like the inner chapter and white dial space that reminds me very much of the old clock era.   I also like the fact that the stainless watch case measures just 36mm diameter and is only 7.35mm thick, so is much neater then it’s image.  A suede leather band is fitted and the watch has a Water Resistance of 3 ATM.   The price is £115 here in the UK.

The Nixon Atom in green

The Nixon Atom in green

The third model is a more mainstream brand – the Nixon Atom – a model that’s been around for a while, but has a certain design flair that incorporates a fairly basic digital movement with a very modern yet stylish case and strap combination.  This model comes in many different guises, colors, materials and prices, so much so that it can match most occasions.  From high quality leather double straps to steel bracelets and so on.

Here we see two versions which show the versatility of the model range quite clearly.

Also with a 50m Water Resistance, 9mm thin case and 37mm or 39mm case width (it seem to vary according to some sellers), and around 45mm lug to lug it should fit small wrists.  The wide band is 32mm band and features a double pin buckle, which makes sense owing to the width.  I understand there is also a back light for the display.

Being mainstream it also can be available for around £50 in the UK, though I note there are various prices being offered, some of which are considerably higher.

So just a taste of  fashion and design and how these two disciplines don’t have to mean silly almost unreadable models or over the top prices.

I hope to feature more in future Posts.

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Playtime – P01TIME Watch

Always nice to see models appearing that are NOT from the big 4 or mainstream digital manufacturers, that maybe are fashion statements or watches to compliment their particular area of interest.

P01TIME from Playtime Japan.

P01TIME from Playtime Japan.

The P01TIME is one such brand, launched by Japanese snowboarding company Playdesign.  This model is from their 3rd collection and called Super Digital which has a IP coated 46mm diameter stainless steel case, mineral crystal, Water Resistance of 3ATM  and nylon strap and available in a range of color combinations.

Various color combinations

Various color combinations

No details I’m afraid, as I just spotted it and haven’t managed to access any real technical information on these, but they obviously appear to have the Time, Day, Date and possibly a Chronograph and or timer.  Not so obviously they could have either a 2nd time zone or even a World Time feature of the images are showing TKO in pace of the Day on the images shown here.

I particularly like the large digital Time display, which appears on first looks to have great clarity and I also just like the look of the watch – sort of military sporty and pretty rugged too.  My color of choice is actually the plain version as shown on the larger image.

I also like the fact that many of these “fashion” or accessory models today are of much better quality than hitherto and not just “throwaway” items, but often serious timepieces in their own right.

However as to the P01TIME (3rd Collection) I somehow doubt we’ll ever see it here in the UK, though it appears well stocked by domestic Dealers in Japan.   So if of interest, maybe a trip to Japan or a virtual Internet Dealer such as http://www.branc-store.com/?pid=64908558 is the only answer.   Priced at 12,96YEN this is the equivalent of around £76 UK plus any mail/customs charges and IF they deliver to the UK.

However if you can get one – you could well have a model on your wrist that your friends won’t have!  Is that cool or what!

Any time, anywhere . . .

This seems to be the big thing for 2014, certainly from the big 3 makers, Seiko, Citizen and Casio who have invested heavily in this GPS accurate world time idea.   From older ideas back in 2011, they are now really starting to make models that are no longer experimental/gimmicky, but real contenders for “the watch” or certainly the most accurate watch for anytime, anyone and anywhere.

Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100

Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100

My preference is for the Citizen as it’s the most uncluttered dial, the easiest to see and without doubt the best clarity of them all.  It’s also light titanium cased and banded and for a model of this complication, very thin at 12.4mm depth.   The diameter isn’t too bad either at 45.4mm, though folks with an average wrist size of 165mm might find it on the limits from lug to lug, but probably manageable.

It also scores over the competition as it has a remarkable signal pick up time of just 3 seconds and will indicate the correct time in any of the 40 times zones on the planet.  It’s also very accurate with the new F100 caliber at +/- 5 seconds/month without a signal.  Being Eco-Drive of course you can forget any battery issues and the light/power conversion is better than ever and the power reserve is pretty awesome at 7 years in the dark in a drawer!

The final plus for me – it’s at a price point that’s not totally unreachable at around £1300 UK or less and it’s expected sometime this summer.

Reverse engineering?

You could argue that many of the complications you find on watches might well be more accurately described as gimmicks, as basically a watch is a tool to indicate the time – period.  What with all the added functionality, boosted by the huge advance in electronics, quartz and all those amazing modules, it’s hardly surprising.

Rotary Gents Evolution - reversing model

Rotary Gents Evolution – reversing model

But there are more fundamental “gimmicks” around and one such complication has fascinated buyers for years – and that’s the reversing watch.

Why on earth would you need such a thing?  Well Jaeger LeCoutre of course pioneered the Reverso and not as a gimmick at all, but as a solution to a sports problem.  Namely to protect the watch face glass against breakage whilst the wearer played Polo.  The watch basically could be turned mechanically within a frame so the dial was hidden underneath with the watch back facing the front and suitably engraved for example.  In essence it looked more like a bracelet than a watch.  It did however serve it’s purpose perfectly.

Day face and neat on the wrist.

Day face and neat on the wrist.

The introduction of two watch faces however was the point when that practical solution evolved into gimmickry and fashion, instead of the original purpose of protection.  It became quite popular of course, the rationale being a watch face for day and another for the evening – and very stylish too.  Possibly cheaper in fact to have two watches, but it is a complication nevertheless has proved very popular.

Others have tried similar ideas not as protection of course, but as a fashion, function gimmick, which has a certain attraction.

Reverse "evening" face

Reverse “evening” face

The Rotary Evolution EGS0007-TZ2-19-06 reversing model appears to manage a passable reversing action and sports two different dial layouts.

I could see me using one in a day capacity as it has the Date window @6 and the other dial with the seconds sub-dial as my evening wear watch, so to speak.

However this model appeared some time ago and now seems to be discontinued, though the reasons are unclear.  I’ve seen reports from buyers on Amazon that quite a few models sold had issues with one or other of the movements, for there are two separate ones in each watch and one or the other didn’t work.  Apparently this was because the batteries were out of date and owing to the less than sensible watch design, required a return to Rotary for any possibility of replacement.

Rotary Evolution model EGS0007-TZ2-19-06

Rotary Evolution model EGS0007-TZ2-19-06 (note the bezel screws on one face only)

And this is one of the main drawbacks of this two face reversing format – how to replace the battery or batteries?   There is no watch back, but instead there are two fronts, so the only access to the inner workings appears to be from the front.  (I thought initially that perhaps there was a side sliding access hatch, but seemingly not).   So to expect an owner to somehow and without damage, remove the bezel, sapphire crystal and the dial assembly to get to the battery is simply unrealistic.  Now OK Rotary operate a Lifetime Guarantee, but the hassle is something that most of us would rather avoid.

I note that access may be via one front only – the one with the seconds sub-dial, as it appears to have real bezel screws, where the other may be decorative only.  Even if you managed NOT to damage that high gloss finish, I can also foresee possible problems with the crown stems!

And the most annoying thing is, I like this model as it looks really good and the You Tube video showing the reversing procedure also looks great, so disappointing to say the least.  I also note they have some current models, but sadly they appear quite bland against this one and generate no interest in me whatsoever.   Perhaps this model was a case of a less than perfect design – almost right, but with a basic flaw – battery access.

So going by appearance it should be a rather clever and intriguing model, but unfortunately it seems to be the “reverse”!

————————————-

Now a reversing watch with a different agenda so to speak – this is the Xemex Offroad Cronus Reversible Chronograph Watch 501.03 – where the reverse face is not another watch dial as such (and let’s face it what do you really need two watch faces?) but in fact a stopwatch.
The watch features a 60-minute dial for day-to-day use, while the other reverse side offers a proper stopwatch with both sixty-second and thirty-minute timers.

Xemex Chronos reversing Chronograph

Xemex Chronos reversing Chronograph

Lovely little articulated lug stainless steel case at 37mm diameter with a rubber “reversible” 18mm wide strap.  A single ETA Swiss quartz movement with Date and Chronograph functions and Sapphire crystal.  The black dial on one side has the standard watch function with Date and fully lumed hands.  The white reverse dial is pure chronograph and such a brilliantly simple idea to put the chronograph indications on the reverse and allow a large stopwatch style dial to be utilized.  Easy to use and easy to read instead of those more common hard to make out sub dials.

The chronograph "reversed" side for excellent clarity.

The chronograph “reversed” side for excellent clarity.

For me it’s the relative simplicity of this model that’s interesting and 3 points stand out -

1) No need for any fancy reversing mechanism as the watch is simply worn upside down to use the full stopwatch chronograph.  Super simple!
2) Being mechanical there is of course no requirement for battery changes and so on.   The only reason for internal access is servicing – and that I would leave to Xemex anyway.
3) The chronograph pushers/controls are on the left side and out of the way, when wearing the watch on the normal time side as they are not needed.  When inverted/reversed to the chronograph dial however, they are now on the right and perfectly placed to use.  Another so simple but cleverly thought out feature.

I already have a Xemex XE 5000 and have been delighted by it over a number of years now.  Great value, excellent quality and timekeeping and the articulate lugs means absolute wrist comfort too, so it bodes well for this model.

The only question for me is – Do I actually need a chronograph?  The answer sadly is no – as I can’t actually remember the last time I used the chronograph functions on any of my watch collection, but if I did I think this model would definitely be on my short list.