Wenger – Swiss Army knife stuff

Wenger is a name I haven’t heard about much since I had one of their models some years ago.  I do remember that it was actually a very good watch, though the range at that time seemed limited, in that each”Wenger” looked much the same as any other model.  Perhaps I was being unfair at the time, but checking out their stuff today I find a rejuvenated brand that sports some really neat models and worthy of a look, especially at the lower end of their price range.

Wenger Roadster 0851.106 Date watchI’m impressed too that even at this lower price, each model has Sapphire crystal and a decent Water Resistance.

This is the Wenger Roadster 0851.106, a 45mm x 12mm Stainless Steel model with military dial markings and date.  The 106 code denotes the orange 22mm silicon band (the 105 has black band).  A uni-directional PVD coated bezel surrounds the black dial and the numerals, markers and hands are luminous.  Swiss Ronda 515 Quartz movement and 100m Water Resistance. (Amazon quote Water Resistance as 50m and hardened mineral crystal – both of which are incorrect – see watch back image below).

Note 100m Water Resistance & Sapphire Coated crystal.

Wenger Commando Black Line 70172

A neat red centre seconds hand sets off the dial nicely, the end result being a very pleasing model.  The fact that this watch retails for somewhere in the £139 region to me represents good value.

The second model that takes my fancy is this really sweet “Commando” Black Line.  40mm x 11.5mm PVD and Steel case, screw down crown, 100m Water Resistance, sapphire crystal and luminous markers on the 3 hand display.  Day and Date window @3, Swiss Ronda 517-1 quartz movement plus a few color variations make this a popular model and one that certainly interests me.

The Commando Black line featured here retails for around £150 – again good value.

Wenger now have around 15 models with a whole host of variations offered and personally I’m really pleased to see this updated range, firstly as I’ve always rated their products and secondly as they do represent pretty good value, considering the excellent quality of their watches.

Finally here’s a selection of a few of their Commando and Squadron range -

Just a few Wengers froma comprehensive range
Just a few models from a comprehensive range, shows a neat line up of pretty good value for money watches that look great on the wrist.  So definitely worth a look to see what’s on offer and I reckon you won’t be disappointed with whatever model you choose.  They are certainly on my list to watch and I might just get myself another model as I actually miss not having my old one.

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Briston class!

Perhaps a term to use for the quality and elegance of this new French Watch brand.  Seeing on paper is one thing but to see it close up and personal is an absolute delight!  I pulled the trigger on this one as I had a feeling this could be a gem – and I was right!   This is the Briston Clubmaster HMS Date quartz watch in Black/Khaki case/strap combination.  Wonderful hand finished Italian polished acetate (Tortoise shell) case, seamlessly integrated into a stainless steel framework and is one of the sweetest watches I’ve come across for ages!

Briston HMS date watch - black/khaki with polished acetate case

Briston HMS date watch – black/khaki with Italian polished acetate (tortoise shell) case

Measuring 40mm x 40mm x 11.7mm this cushion shaped case impresses me greatly, such is it’s soft dark Tortoise shell lustre finsh.  The highly polished stainless bezel, lugs and case frame/back are so smoothly integrated it’s like an Art Nouveau gem.

Briston fits my wrist to perfection - and looks great!

Briston fits my wrist to perfection – and looks great!

The well figured large stainless crown has twin rubber rings for added grip and it’s two positions set the time (hacking) plus the quick set date.  The matte background dial is contrasted by the quite broad but perfectly sized silver edged hour and minute hands, with luminous infills and a white center seconds hand.  White numerals at 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 with baton markers in between plus the date aperture @3 make up the uncluttered and very legible dial.

Luminous infill seems just fine, for a dress watch.

Luminous infill seems just fine, for a dress watch.

This model is powered by a Miyota 2315 quartz movement which is a straight forward Japan assembled unit with an accuracy of around 20 secs/month and a battery change (Silver Oxide SR626SW or Renata 377) every 3 years or so.  A sensible choice in my opinion as these are very reliable and also not a problem if replacement is ever required.  The Crystal is a 2.3mm thick domed mineral glass and the model has a 100m Water Resistance rating.

Seamless case/acetate fit shows high quality finish

Seamless case/acetate fit shows high quality finish

The stainless steel back is a screw down type and again everything is seamless and smooth, it’s almost as if it was one piece.   Others should take note!

Clubmaster screw back shows Swiss Design & perfect fit

Clubmaster screw back shows Swiss Design & perfect fit

The supplied khaki NATO strap is 20mm wide and approx 245 in length and the case having standard lugs will accept almost any strap you care to name without difficulty.
I particularly like this colour combination of the polished stainless steel bezel, lugs and back, framed by the brown lustrous tortoise acetate and all against the khaki colour of the strap – just does it for me.

Receiving the watch was actually a nice experience, if I can say that, as the box has a soft touch white finish and opened with the little red ribbon pull, reveals the watch elegantly presented on a broad mounting pad.  Also inside is the Instruction Booklet in French and English with the 2yr Guarantee incorporated on the back page.

Briston box is also an elegant affair without being pretentious

Briston box is also an elegant affair without being pretentious

So am I pleased?

Yes! in fact VERY pleased and delighted with this purchase – it is certainly one of the sweetest watch models I’ve seen for years!  In fact a breath of fresh air from a new Watch Company just has to be good!

For wearing it’s equally as good as a dress watch or as a daily.  It costs around £130 in the UK (HERE) from Twisted Time and for me, the use of that perfectly finished and shaped acetate, is an absolute design triumph and the overall concept is arguably well above it’s price point.

I have to assume the chronograph versions are every bit as good and I’m sorely tempted already – maybe a new collection starting?

Note -  The Briston Clubmaster Chronograph model is also available from Twisted Time here in the UK.   Whilst it uses the same design concept and a similar quality of movement (Miyota OS21 Chronograph quartz), I would maybe question it as regards value for money, as the cheapest version is more expensive at around £200 (other versions more).
Now they are nice, of that there is no question, but whereas my date version is in my opinion really good value, I’m not quite so sure the same can be said of the Chrono.  The same colour scheme as my Date model for example is £215.

The elegant Watch (3)

My third outing of “The elegant Watch” feature, showing watches I would consider could meet that description.  Starting with the Ralph Lauren “Sporting” model with it’s IWC Cal.RL98295 mechanical manual wind movement.

Ralph Lauren "Sporting" model - (IWC Cal.98295)

Ralph Lauren “Sporting” model – (IWC Cal.98295)

The well constructed Stainless steel case and matching bracelet and general look of the piece I find rather pleasing.  It features a seconds sub-dial @6, convex Sapphire Crystal with internal and external colorless anti-reflective coatings.  The dial is unusual with a black matte galvanic center, brown elm burr wood outer (fixed with 4 screws), Arabic beige colored numerals and white hands, each with luminescence.  At just over 44mm diameter it is a substantial watch and yet still manages to look elegant.

Another very stylish watch but from Germany is this lovely Limited Edition BENU by Moritz Grossmann.

Moritz Grossmann

Moritz Grossmann

This model in Rose gold equipped with a manually wound movement adjusted in five positions.  Hours, minutes and seconds, 42-hour power reserve, solid silver dial, Arabic numerals, sapphire crystal with anti reflective coating, hand-crafted steel hands with brown/violet hue, hand-stitched alligator strap and limited to 100 watches worldwide.

Not to be outdone in the “elegance” stakes this next model shows that not all elegant watches have to be gold or classically shaped.  This is the v-tec Gamma designed by Michel Huber.  A highly interesting design from the orginal Ventura square model back in the 1990′s.

Ventura V-Tec Gamma

Ventura V-Tec Gamma

The watch dimensions are 41.85mm x 36.50 in a hardened Durinox® case.  Sapphire crystal, multifunction VEN_10 digital module (backlit LED display), 50 metres Water Resistance and orange rubber strap with adjustable folding buckle.  The brushed case finish and orange/yellow strap with the black face really set this off and for me it has a definite modern elegance.

Last and certainly not least is the wonderful (and expensive) Jaquet Droz 6553L2, Self winding mechanical, double barrel, retrograde moon phase with 22ct white Gold rotor.  Bit of a mouthful I know, but what a stunning watch. 28 days reserve, 28 jewels in an 18ct red gold, 39mm diameter 12.7mm height case, with 3 bar WR or 30 metres.

Jaquet Droz - who else?

Jaquet Droz – who else?

The dial features Triple Date Calendar complications on an Ivory Grand Feu enamel with 18ct gold applications plus moon phase and 18ct gold hands including the strap buckle.  Yes this is one very highly specified watch from one of my very favorite watchmakers.  For me this is simply a delight and elegance in the extreme – if only I could afford one of these, then I’d happily reduce my collection down to far less models but much more of this quality.

So another four “elegant” models for you to consider and I’m already looking forward to the next Elegant watch post . . . .

Lorus, Pulsar choices (2)

Part 2 of my quick look at Pulsar and Lorus brands -

The LORUS range of watches have been around for quite a long time and usually represent very good value for money.  Part of the Seiko brand, Lorus price point is slightly lower than Pulsar, with around £150 being their most expensive model – and yet manage to offer some really stylish and well specified models, two of which I’ve picked for a brief look.

Lorus RW605AX9 Ana-Digi Chrono (Cal Z021)

Lorus RW605AX9 Ana-Digi Chrono (Cal Z021)

First is the Lorus RW605AX9, and I picked it owing to it being an Ana-Digi display (one of my favorite combinations).   Note that these models feature Dot matrix displays rather than the more common LCD.  I have  a couple of dot matrix display watches and find them very good, though it has to be said whilst OK this particular one is perhaps not quite as bright as I would like, though the back light is good.

This model as those in the Pulsar range is pretty well specified.   Analogue wise it features Hour, Minute and centre Seconds hands and the Digital display shows the Day, Month, Date and also the Time.  It also features an Alarm (with snooze), a Chime, a 23hr/59/59, 1/100sec Stopwatch Function with Split Time, 12/24 Hour Indicator and for night use has a full dial EL (electro-luminescence) Back Light.   The watch also features a flat mineral crystal, a good size stainless steel case with black fixed IP bezel and a 10 bar (100m) Water Resistance.

The Analogue and Digital times are set independently (analogue seconds hand stops during Analogue setting) and interestingly this model has two (2) batteries.   The analogue movement has a SR622SW battery and the Digital movement a CR2025 – (how they squeezed them in I’ll never know) so it should give decent usage time for the EL back light and alarm.   Battery life is quoted as approximately 2 years.
The case is 46mm, so is maybe a bit larger than I’m comfortable with.   I comes with an OK looking black PU strap with buckle.
I note the hands are chrome edged, which in my opinion is never a great idea as it tends to give reflection – and as only seeing one in the flesh will confirm that, I would have to reserve judgement on the actual clarity of the overall dial set up.

Now when you consider the price for this model is around £50 on Amazon – plus in my view three plus points going for it – 1) – it’s NOT the same style as a Casio,  2) – it has an analogue seconds hand and 3) it has a 23hr/59/59 chronograph – so it’s pretty well specified and there are three versions available.  I would note though the Pulsar models do seem overall to be in a slightly higher league.

FootnoteI note Pulsar make a cosmetically different model at around twice the price.  However I see the hour and minute hands are broader with no chrome edging and the display may be a different fluorescing matrix LCD, so could well be much brighter (as the Pulsar review in the last Post) – perhaps justification for the higher price?

Pulsar PW6005X1

Pulsar PW6005X1

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I also checked out a low priced Lorus all digital model – the Lorus R2307EX9, a neat watch with modern  clean lines and decent size digital display.
It features a custom strap, which I confess is not my choice, but this is very often the case with these styles of watch, though the whole piece does look well balanced.  The case is ABS with an ABS bezel and a 4 screw case back.  A black PU strap as mentioned and curved acrylic glass and some 13 digital functions.

Lorus R2307EX9 (Z009 Cal)

Lorus R2307EX9 (Z009 Cal)

These are – Hour, Minute, Second, Auto-calendar (2000 to 2049), Month, Date, Day of week, Chime, Chronograph, Alarm, AM/PM or 12/24 hour format, Dual Time & Count Down Timer.  Night use is catered for with a full dial EL back light and the watch is 100m Water Resistant.  The movement designated as Cal. Z009.  Once again this is a pretty good specification and appears reasonably well made and can be sourced for as little as £12.95 on Amazon, which is frankly amazing!

However, and I say this with every digital display, it does depend on the contrast and LCD/Matrix fluorescent quality and whilst both models appear OK in the images, it’s a learning curve as to how you see it in less than ideal light.

Lorus conventional watch styles - OK but?

Lorus – basic style chronos – low Price point

Pulsar conventional styles are more progressive

Pulsar – more progressive & next level Price point

Lorus and Pulsar produce a good range of conventional chronograph styles though Pulsar (more expensive generally) appears to offer a slightly higher quality and are more adventurous in design and features.  For me though it’s the range of dare I say “Casio features” style models that mostly attract my interest (ie: the Pulsar PV4005X! ).  Their Digital and Ana-digi models seem to be their designers forté and give a hint to what they can do.

So it seems Lorus and Pulsar (from Seiko) are brands worth looking at, as they appear in certain areas, to offer pretty good value against their peer brands and competitors.  Obviously there are production and parts savings somewhere in the equation, but the end results do confirm they have a good few models worthy of consideration.

And when money is tight – you can’t afford NOT to check them out.

The Powerhouse Format

Since my trawl around for G-Shock alternatives I’ve found a few unfamiliar watches that have impressed me greatly.  And not because of the alternative concept, but just because these are different and maybe even special.  As wrist statements they’re good as they are built solid and look great – and not usually guilty of being a “macho” type, I try not to swagger when wearing any one of them!

I’ll feature just one and I was so impressed I bought the company – eh?  . . .well not quite, but I did buy one of their best models – the (St Moritz) Momentum Format 4  – I call it the powerhouse!  For those in the know some apt descriptions come to mind – such as the T90, the Type 90 (Kyu-maru), AMX-56 Leclerc, the T57, the Soviet IS-3, the Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte and finally the Challenger 2.

OK maybe I’m a bit over the top here – and for those not in the know, these are all main battle tanks of various Countries.  But you get my drift – the Format 4 is a VERY solid piece of work! and built like one.

St Moritz Momentum Format 4 - a classic tough watch

St Moritz designed Momentum Format 4 – a classic tough watch

Made of high grade matte Titanium this watch certainly has presence, with it’s uni-directional wide deep figured bezel with luminous dot @0, plus a very definite 60 click function, large well figured screw down crown and shaped pushers.  Surprisingly the dimensions are just 43mm x 14.2mm and the whole ensemble weighs only 90gms.  The rubber strap as always with these Diver orientated models has the usual “wave” construction silicon/rubber, which as I’ve said before might be ideal for added grip over a neoprene wet suit, but against your wrist can be somewhat aggressive.  I’m resolving that issue later this week when a deployment silicon 22mm strap I’m waiting for arrives. (note – my Apeks Diver 200 model has similar “waves, but which are flat on the under side – very sensible).

Orange Monster, Format 4 and the Pulsar Race - every one a powerhouse!

Orange Monster, Format 4 and the Pulsar Race – every one a powerhouse!

The size comparison above shows the territory we’re in and it shows well here.  Actually three watch are types shown – The Monster is “analogue”, the Pulsar is “digital” and the Format (and why I picked it as one of my alternatives to the G-Shocks) is “Analogue/Digital” AND has a very comprehensive digital function set.

On first looks the dial has a very black background (called a blackout dial) within which there are two digital display windows.   There are numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 with indices in between.   An Hour and Minute hand plus a centre Seconds hand in orange plus a white coated end.   The luminous aspect of each of these elements is provided by Super-Luminova coatings and according to Momentum, guarantees up to 8 hours legibility in low light and darkness.   The heat tempered mineral glass is very scratch resistant and the analogue movement is Swiss quartz with LC digital display.

Digital matrix displays show well - Note the Format4 can be programmed out.

Format 4 Digital matrix displays show well – and can be programmed OFF.

The digital function of this model is very comprehensive, featuring Local Time mode, World Time mode (59 cities + my city), Alarm mode (5 + scheduled), Timer mode and Chronograph mode (10 laps + memory).   An auto and manual Power Save setting is also incorporated where you can turn OFF the digital display at a preset time or immediately with any key reinstatement.  The dial has an EL back light which illuminates the matrix digits on my one for 4 seconds (not 3 as instructions) which is ideal and excellent in use.
The watch has a battery life (CR2025 Lithium I believe)) of approximately 2 years and the Water Resistance is 20ATM or 200m.

Great dial, clear, uncluttered and excellent digital display

Great dial, clear, uncluttered and excellent digital display

Note – some of the descriptions I’ve seen for this watch are inaccurate in some details.  Possibly as the previous version has been  substantially upgraded by the introduction of the Format 4 and their sales info not updated to reflect the changes.  The improved Water Resistance rating for example from 100m to 200m and the much improved digital display, which is excellent.

Exposure to dull daylight via window, then shown in low light curtained room

Exposure to dull daylight via window, then shown in low light curtained room

Shown with digital back light lit, just after the previous image.

Shown with digital back light lit, just after the previous image.

The above images taken after the watch was exposed to the window (natural light on a dull day), then into a darkened room with curtains drawn.   The second image taken with difficulty (I needed three hands) as the EL back light is only on for a few seconds, so a case of press the pusher then try and compose the picture and take the photograph.  Not that easy!   So forgive my shaky hand, but it gives some impression.   The digital EL back light in total darkness is excellent and as above, can show any of the digital functions including as here, the Day, the Date and the Time.   Analogue display night vision with Super-luminova is OK, though not quite as good as my Citizen, Seiko or Apeks 200.  Whilst it doesn’t appear to take such a bright initial charge as the former, it is still readable in the dark after a good 8 hours – I tried it last night and it’s fine. (to be picky reading analogue time would be easier if the hands were full length solid infill).

So overall I’m really pleased with this model as it manages everything I could possibly need or want from an ana-digi watch.  In addition it’s built like the proverbial brick outhouse, but conversely is really lightweight and also a good size.   Anyway on this watch, which I’m sure is a keeper, the only change will be to the strap (can’t snorkel these day, so a wetsuit and I will never meet) and I hope to have a suitable one soon, that’s a bit kinder to my old wrist . . .

A great watch at an affordable price and considering the functions and performance – great value.

UPDATE -
As said when I started this Post, I felt the strap had to be changed and here is the straight forward alternative.   A silicon deployment style that fits great and pulls the watch in nice and close to the wrist with perfect comfort.  No Diver’s “waves” to contend with  – and it makes all the difference.  Funny how it is reminiscent of my old Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster (I wore this back in 1961-73) – see images below.

Format 4 with my preferred silicon deployment strap.

Format 4 with my preferred silicon deployment strap.

Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster - 1000ft

Nivada Grenchen Depthmaster – 1000ft (courtesy of watchuseek)

Not quite in the same league and many differences of course – but it just has that old Nivada look.  The above image is similar to my old one, which like an idiot I sold on some years ago to a collector, which I wasn’t at the time, but having given up diving and so on I was unlikely to don a wetsuit again anyway.  Oh how I wished I’d kept it now!
However – back to the new strap images of the Format 4 – much better and neater without the Divers style strap and much, much more comfortable.

New silicon strap fits watch flat to wrist.

New silicon strap fits watch flat to wrist. Makes the watch seem smaller.

New silicon deployment strap fits perfectly

New silicon deployment strap fits perfectly

Formatnewstrap03

And finally the back of the watch showing the screw back fitting with the 20ATM mark and which also illustrates the very neat silicon deployment strap fitting (straight) which is such an improvement in my opinion.

Format 4 screw back (note 20ATM)

Format 4 screw back (note 20ATM)

An interesting point about the replacement strap – it makes the watch actually look smaller on the wrist (as noted on one of the images above).  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – never judge a watch by it’s supplied strap – is it OK for you?  And if it isn’t – check out the alternatives – you might just find that perfect combination.

I did.

G-Shock not for you?

The title poses the question:  What if you don’t like the G-Shock style?  What else is there?

It depends, apart from a fashion thing, on just what you want from a watch.

G-Shock Stealth

G-Shock Stealth

If it’s just toughness (perceived or otherwise), then it’s relatively simple especially as in reality the question is – How “tough” does a modern watch actually have to be – honestly.    And let’s face it, most good watches are intrinsically pretty tough to start with and “on your wrist” they are very much part of you – so whatever happens to your watch, may well happen to you!

My own view is that whatever model I pick, tough or otherwise it has to have certain basic Watch requirements.

1) – I have to be able to read the time – easily – and that’s day or night (a basic requirement in my book).
2) – 100m Water Resistance minimum – OK that’s not silly.
3) – Not too large – PLEASE!  Too large and too thick, it starts to take on comic proportions!
4) – Battery quartz is fine – It doesn’t have to be Solar, World Time, have Multiple Alarms or Chronograph – though “some” functions can be useful.
5) – It doesn’t have to survive a 10m drop to concrete – it really doesn’t (definitely the forté of Casio)

And are functions essential? -

  • Chronograph/Stopwatch – when did I last use a chronograph/stopwatch?  Answer: Can’t remember it was so long ago!
  • World Timer settings – I can manage that on any cheap analogue model in 5 seconds (without referring to the instructional booklet – IF I can find it).
  • Solar (Eco-Drive etc) – Battery is fine with me, with a cell change every 2 to 5 years. (Kinetic is another option).

So in reality (and that’s the point here) it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a relatively “tough” watch model that can meet sensible requirements.

Knowing I was writing this today I asked a friend (this morning actually) what functions had he actually used on his G-Shock DW5600 (I have one of these myself) in the last month?   And his answer didn’t come as much of a surprise – “None” he said, “except the time, day and date plus the back light”.  And that really does say it all . . . . . and had I asked myself the same question, the answer would have been identical!

However, G-Shocks usually come with a large function set, whether used, useful or otherwise and a major reason for their attraction.  However as to the hard knobbly looks, overly protected pushers, and surprisingly not too intuitive settings/controls and arguable legibility, are often NOT as one would like – hence the reason I like to look for alternatives.  Incidentally Casio do make the odd model that whilst not as obvious in shock protection terms does have that facility and without the “macho” look (I’ll perhaps consider them at a later date).

So what’s out there?

I was advised Luminox are a good alternative, but after checking them out I thought them a little overpriced for what they offer.  Mechanical prices for average quartz – not an option for me.

In fact my 6 year old Uzi Protector (looks like Luminox) costs around £175 today and it’s managed all those few years without any issues of any kind and still going strong.

Uzi Protector - Swiss Quartz and 200WR

Uzi Protector – Swiss Quartz and 200WR

200m Water Resistance, analogue H,M & seconds, plus Date, Tritium light source, battery Swiss quartz and a tough blighter it is too.  40mm x 14mm dimensionally with webbing strap.  No fancy functions, but a very good performer that meets my basic requirements and is pretty tough I’d say.

So that’s one option, so then I looked for a model that was both tough and had a comparable function set and this one came to mind.  The Momentum Format 4 – which is smaller than it looks and also in Titanium.  Some would immediately comment that Ti will scratch and it won’t last etc etc.  Well I have to differ on that as I have 7 Titanium watches and they look as good now as when I bought them many years ago.

Momentum Format 4 Titanium

Momentum Format 4 Titanium divers strap

The Format 4 actually has an impressive function set – both analogue and Digital displays.  Analogue Hours, Minutes and Second hands and Digital two Digital displays which can show a whole range of indications – such as – World time (59 cities plus user defined), 5 Alarms plus a schedule Alarm, Date, Day, Month, a Chronograph and Stopwatch 23, 59,59 with multi-laps, Timers.  In addition the digital displays can be switched OFF facilitating power savings with or without auto on feature and the watch has Super-luminova analogue hands and indices, plus a 3 second duration EL back light, so no problems in the dark, even if not using the digital features.  The watch has a Mineral anti-glare crystal, uni-rotating bezel (useful), a 200m Water Resistance (20ATM), with large screw down crown and back and takes a standard 22mm strap or bracelet and is powered by a Swiss quartz movement.  And the 2 year Guarantee is extendable to 6 years.

And whilst I said it looked big and it does, it only measures 43mm x 14.5mm and in Titanium weighs just 90 grams and it looks pretty tough to me.  Now I’d say this is a decent alternative to the G-Shock style and OK the watch face may not have much protection, but personally I’ve never had a shattered watch glass on any watch I’ve owned in my lifetime, so not a priority for me.

What I do see is a very fast legible take up analogue face, plus a secondary digital display and function set that meets and surpasses anything I’m ever likely to need or even want to use.  So I’m happy with this choice.   There are of course others out there, perhaps obscured to some extent I suppose, by the hype that “G”, “Shock” and “Tough” descriptions engender, but they are there – you just have to look.

Note – The Momentum 4 is also reasonably affordable and highly competitive in comparison to many of the G-Shock variants, especially considering the function set.  Currently it sells for around £180 in the UK, which is pretty good for a Titanium cased Ana-Digi Diver Grade 4 Water resistant model.  In fact I liked it so much I ordered one myself which will join my other Divers models, though this particular model I’ll have to consider my first real G-Shock alternative.

However – and there’s always one of those – IF you can’t get your head round the fact that it’s not that easy to inadvertently smash or crack your watch glass – and it really isn’t – you do have another option.  And this model from Citizen might just solve your concern.

Citizen

Citizen Royal Marines Commando Eco-Drive

This is the Royal Marines Commando Titanium from Citizen which whilst it doesn’t have a great function set, it does the “tough” basics very well – in fact just what I needed when I was in my action days!

The one piece IP plated Titanium case is 42mm x 13mm, with an ultra thick 2.5mm sapphire glass, which is just about bomb proof I would have thought.  Eco-Drive Citizen movement with the basic analogue functions of Hour, Minute, Seconds and a date window @3.  Plus good luminous numerals/indices and hands means decent night use.  Good crown protection and with a tough Kevlar strap and a commendable 300m Water Resistance all point to a seriously “tough” watch.  It comes with the Citizen 5 year warranty.  Price should be no more than £300 here in the UK.

So there you have it, after a few minutes crawl around the net and already I’ve come up with a couple of decent contenders.

And I have to admit (and the reason for this post) personally I was becoming a little bored by the whole G-Shock and “tough” watch concept, especially as the prices seem to be rising with each new model.  And with few “new” features in the latest models, with the exception of a more extreme case, an extreme name and a larger SIZE, it’s little surprise that I decided it’s time to look elsewhere.

And very glad I did too, as there are certainly alternatives out there – you just have to get past the “G’s, “Toughs”and “Expeditions”, to find them.
And what of the two I’ve found here?  Well I like them both and whilst I hear the concerns about watch glass breaking, I really have no experience of that ever happening to me.  The odd scratch maybe, but nothing serious.  So on that basis considering the impressive function set and the price, the Ana-Digi Format 4 is maybe the one I’d pick.  Mind you the Citizen is one seriously smart and tough piece of work – a bit like the guys it was named after perhaps . . . . .

But there will be others around, you can be sure of that, so have a trawl – you might just be surprised.

But – and here’s a “but” to contend with!   The Casio G-Shock for all it’s macho looks IS a seriously tough watch, though whether you actually need one is another matter entirely and just to illustrate the point I show youthe “drop test” video from Casio.  And you have to admit – it IS very impressive!

Lorus, Pulsar – choices

Sometimes in this world of Casio, Citizen and Timex I yearn for the odd model that doesn’t have that corporate look.  The Casio and G-Shock or the Timex Expedition for example, so this week I decided to have a look at some different watch models and styles from two Brands, Lorus and Pulsar.  Although specialising in a lower price point as a sales philosophy they do manage to produce some up to the minute watches.
And being part of the huge Seiko empire they have access to some serious watch electronic know-how and are well worth a look.  The first model that caught my attention is the striking Pulsar PV4005X1, which on first impression is Style with a capital S and when you see it up close it really does stop you in your tracks!

Pulsar Race PV4005X1

Pulsar Race PV4005X1

Whilst it looks the part it also appears to come up with the goods as far as specifications is concerned -

Black dial (Negative) full-panel dot-matrix liquid crystal panel, with Hours, Minutes, Seconds (Digital).  It also shows Day, Date, Month, Year.  Other features are a 10hr 1/100 sec Chronograph, Split time, Timer, 3-channel Alarm,and World Time (33 cities).  For night use it has a LED panel light with auto illumination, Mineral crystal, a Stainless Steel case, 4 screws back and a Water Resistance of 100m, plus a PU strap, rounds up what this model has to offer.  Dimension wise a little big for me at 49mm width, but still smaller than most of the newer G-Shock models, so could well be a popular choice.

As with all digital displays, it does depend on the contrast and whilst it looks OK in the images, it is a learning curve as to how you see it in less than ideal light.  It has of course a panel light operated by the lower right pusher.  (Personally I prefer an Ana-Digi set up as I find analogue hands easier to see these days, but for those into digital this model certainly has bags of appeal).

Note
– The LED panel illumination selected manually or on auto has a nonadjustable duration of 2 secs.  From my experience especially at night, the eyes and brain struggle to take in and read dial information in that time.  Timex for example have a 3 seconds option which is much more effective.  An adjustable duration setting would be preferable.

However on balance and certainly for looks it’s a winner and I’ve seen it on Amazon for around £90, so it also appears to win on price too.

Here from their European web site are a few images – these can all be seen HERE.

Pulsar - selection 2

Pulsar – selection 1

Pulsar - selection 1

Pulsar – selection 2

I’ll be looking at Lorus (another Seiko brand) in a forthcoming Post and featuring one specific model that a friend has just acquired – might be interesting.

UPDATE -
Managed to get hold of one of these models and it is pretty impressive I have to say.  It’s not too big on the wrist (mine is only 170mm, so quite small) as the case is 13.9mm, but the rubber strap is quite thick at the fitting point on the watch.  The strap has preformed underparts which hold the strap at a curve at the fixing point.  This makes the watch stand out further than perhaps it should from the wrist.  I will play around with fitting an alternative (26mm) silicon strap just to see how it looks and post the result in a further update Post.  Maybe I’m being picky here and it may turn out to be OK anyway – but we’ll see.

Here’s a couple of images of this watch – 1) on the wrist and 2) in comparison to a Fossil with similar display set up.  I note that the matrix display on this Pulsar is certainly one of the best I’ve seen.  It has a similar luminescence to my Breitling Aerospace, which has always impressed me.  So full marks to Pulsar!  ALSO – In reality the matrix display clarity is exceptional and as the figures are so large, 2 seconds is easily enough time to read the time/data in the dark – very impressive and I stand corrected!

Pulsar on smallish 170mm wrist

Pulsar on smallish 170mm wrist is actually not to bad at all.

Comparison to Fossil with similar display set.

Comparison to Fossil with similar display set.

Calendar costs

The problem when looking for a Calendar and Moon Phase watch is knowing what the terms actually mean.  There are models which show the day, date, month and lunar phase and most commonly will require adjusting the date on short months and leap years.  That’s February (28 days), April, June, September and November (each 30 days).  Now with most of my old collection of mechanical models this is pretty normal, so no big deal.So to acquire a straight forward Triple Date Calendar and Moon Phase, as described above, isn’t too difficult and OK whilst not quartz cheap, can certainly be found at a relatively “affordable” price.

A Brand that does crop up quite often today is the German Nivrel and they produce excellent quality models such as their Calendar Moon Phase N436.001 AAAS and AHAFS.Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.06_11h34m36s_089_

The retail price appears to be around £1700 or €2100 which is not at all unreasonable for such a complication model from a decent Maker.  The automatic movement is based on the Swiss ETA 2898-2 and is neatly contained in a 38mm x 10mm case with 5 bar Water Resistance.

Now the point I started to make at the start of this Post was about the description of what a Calendar Moon Phase watch was all about.

You can have “Full Calendar” – where the Day and Date are accompanied by the addition of a month display, and – sometimes – also a moon phase.   Some movements switch to the next month when the date jumps from 31 to 1 of the next month and there are movements where the month display is not automatic and has to be advanced manually every month.  Regarding the two Nivrel models above I’m assuming the months change as the date moves from 31 – 1.

There is the “Annual Calendar” – where the disparity between months is taken care of automatically, except for February, so basically you have to make an adjustment once per year – hence the “annual”.

And finally there is the “Perpetual calendar” -  I suppose this is the natural progression from the “Annual” by taking into account the 28 day February and that every 4 years February will have 29 days (leap year).  In this case it more or less runs in a four year repeatable cycle so not strictly a “perpetual” either and an adjustment will still have to be made in 100 years time, not that it should bother you – but make sure your son has the instruction booklet! (basically as our Gregorian calendar drops a leap year in every 100).

This is where unfortunately the costs increase greatly with such complications and can be quite expensive.   A reason perhaps why so many people prefer quartz digital models, which of course can do “perpetual” using the power of electronics – but as I said at the start – it’s just NOT the same.

However models are available and again Nivrel have a mechanical Perpetual Calendar and Moon Phase model at perhaps the most reasonable price of any I can find.

Nevril

Nivrel

This is a 3 sub-dial style model that shows hours, minutes and central second, date, day, month, leap year cycle and the lunar phase.   This Perpetual Calendar model is the most complicated watch NIVREL produce and as they say on their web site -
“It is a very complicate mechanism that indicates to the year 2099 without external intervention the correct date of the Gregorian calendar.  Providing continuous winding up means that you do not have to adjust your clock, even at short months and not even on the 29th February in a leap year”.

The Nivrel Perpetual Calendar Moon Phase model N401.001-1 AAASS uses an automatic mechanical movement based on the ETA 2892-A2 calendar module and the watch is a really neat 38mm x 10mm, a Water Resistance of 5 bar and retails for around £8300 currently.  But if that’s beyond your purse, then the only other option is to look at pre-owned models and whilst there’s often stiff competition, there are good buys to be had.

So basically whilst the “perpetual” idea is easy enough to find today with quartz digital models such as Citizen, Seiko and Casio, we enter a different world in mechanical complications watches.  Yes we can fairly easily find good and sometimes exceptional quality “Calendar” models of varying degrees of sophistication and at often quite reasonable prices, but when it comes to true mechanical  “Perpetual” models – it can be a sometimes frustrating, wonderful, but expensive game – and if you’re really lucky – a rewarding one.

Finally just to make you drool somewhat, here is my absolute favourite – the H Moser & Cie Perpetual 1

H Moser and Cie - Perpetual 1 - the ultimate Calendar

H Moser & Cie – Perpetual 1 – the ultimate Calendar

Simple and elegant.  Check out the small center Month pointer towards 11 (November) and that big Date display (known as the Flash Calendar) which manages an instant change of date at the end of one month to the start of the next month, without any invalid numerals to appear in the date window, so avoiding that uncertain period in between – and lastly a 7 day reserve.

There’s nothing else to say, but I AM doing the European lottery next week . . . . in hope!

Aero Observer

Down to earth today – I feature a watch that has always interested me simply because of the way it looks.  It’s just one of those designs that appeals to me on all sorts of levels.  And it’s by no means what you’d call a high end watch, but the Brand in my experience, having owned 4 of them since 2008, has never yet disappointed me.  Each model has been totally reliable, surprisingly accurate and a pleasure to wear.

The attraction of this particular model to me is that it appears to conjure up visions of vintage aviation, Bomber Command and World Wars, or Boys Own magazine, Captain Jim “Red” Albright or even Biggles.  It has a large clear dial in that sepia coloured “vintage” look – all very subjective I know, but marketing by design has that trick – of influencing you without you realizing it.  And OK I have fallen for it, but I was already hooked when I first saw it some years ago and in saying that it doesn’t mean I’ve been conned – far from it.

Close up of the Observer Flier model A1408

Close up of the Observer Flier model A1408

Aeromatic is also one of those brands sometimes and unfairly in my opinion, called “Germasian”, and I have a few already, all of which have kept great time over the past 5 years, without problems.
Offices in Frankfurt and marketed in Germany, though whether assembled there I wouldn’t know.  The cases I would imagine come from Asia, perhaps using model “blanks” and they may have had a hand in the design, but whatever their sources,  they then badge them Aeromatic 1912.  Depending on function the mechanical movements will be likely sourced from Asia.  Quartz movements are probably from Miyota (Citizen) in Japan or Ronda from Switzerland.

Note the large "flat top" Onion Crown) - stiff but works OK

Note the large “flat top” Onion Crown) – stiff but works OK

As I say I find the term “Germasian” somewhat derogatory, as there are literally hundreds of Brands who use exactly the same sourcing policy these days, including Swiss – in fact finding a brand that makes every part of their watch is not easy and you might count them on two hands – maybe.

Anyway we’re not talking high end here, we’re talking practical and now that’s settled –

Note luminous dot markers include hour markers

Note luminous quality (stock photo)  – however in practice lume fades quickly in dark.

This is the Aeromatic 1912, Military Flier Observer Big Date Swiss Ronda Gents watch.

The movement in this model is the quartz Swiss Ronda Powertech 519.  What I like about the Powertech series is that they are extremely reliable and used by many watch Brands for that very reason.  I know that any watch I have with Ronda movements (and I have a few) – have never ever had a problem.

Military Flier, BIG Date from Aeromatic (A1408) in Nato strap

Military Flier, BIG Date from Aeromatic (A1408) in Nato strap

Anyway the A1408 features a big date double window @3 and the overall size of the etched stainless steel case measures 43 x 15mm.  The large beige coloured dial, which looks larger owing to the narrow bezel has  luminous hands and dot markers (both hours and minutes), domed hardened mineral crystal and comes with a good quality brown leather strap.

The Big Date has a quick change function, though as most normal Day/Date functions it will have to be adjusted forward on the short months – no big deal.  The clock will continue when adjusting.  When pulling out the crown to position 2, the seconds hand stops (hacking) and you can adjust the time as normal.

The dial itself is a rather pleasing design, big and VERY easy to read.  The large hour and minute hands are white filled with luminous material, though the luminous effectiveness is a little disappointing.   I note that the dot markers on the outer minute track are luminous, as are the inner hour track dot markers – a little unusual perhaps, but the inner track lines up nicely with the tip of the shorter hour hand, so the idea would be good if the lume was up to par.

Aeromatic, Nato strap and wrist. Looks quite big.

Aeromatic, Nato strap and wrist. Looks bigger than it is.

The watch back is absolutely flat, so although the watch case is 15mm depth, it sits very flat to the wrist, except when the Nato strap is fitted, as it tends to hold the watch off the wrist slightly.  The A1408 also “looks” big though is in fact just about 43mm wide (45 incl large crown), due to the narrow bezel and large face.  On the back are the model name, design, model numbers and so on plus the 5o meters depth rating.
Battery wise – it uses a 1.5v Renata 371 or equivalent which is easy to obtain.  Battery life according to Ronda is approximately 45 months and note if not using the watch for a while, pulling the crown out to position 2, allows the battery life to be extended.

Case back info: Observer Hawk design - 50m Depth Rated.

Case back info: Observer Hawk design – 50m Depth Rated.

So overall how do I rate this model?  First point is that I do like it, it has that solid etched case which is  built like a tank and is quite well made.  The dial is well figured and the painted numerals and luminous dot markers are well defined with no rough edges to them and the hands are excellent.  The large double windows for the date are well cut, defined and the date numbers are also large, clear and with good contrast. I note the second hand tick produces a slight over travel, but hardly noticeable and each tick seems even.  The back is a press fit and though I would have preferred a screw back, being very rigid steel construction it’s a nice tight fit.

The most disappointing aspect of this model is in regards to the luminous quality of both dial and hands – the stock image I used above shows the dial immediately after charging, for example under a bed side lamp.  However once the light source is removed the luminous effect fades quite quickly.  I would estimate perhaps 3 hours effective illumination is about as good as you’ll get depending on how well it charged.

I do note that although the watch is only 43mm wide, lug to lug is 50mm, so small wrists will notice this unless fitted snug.  I say this as the leather strap included (as shown above) is quite thick and stiff so doesn’t actually pull the watch in tight as I personally prefer (though for large wrists this will be perfect).  Hence my Nato, which although more comfortable may be a temporary affair and doesn’t resolve the snug fit bit.  I’m looking around for an alternative silicon or webbing style, which I’m sure will solve the problem and I will update the Post once I get something suitable.

Interestingly whilst the case height is 15mm, this is deceptive, as the hardened domed crystal is nearly 4mm thick to the centre, so effectively the watch wears like a 12mm thick watch.  Possibly the reason that with only a 170mm wrist, it actually sits OK and doesn’t look like a wall clock!

Am I happy with it?  Well yes – I do like the “vintage and flying helmet retro stone washed jeans look”, which looks more authentic than the first images I saw all those years ago.  But in the dark at 3am in the morning?  A diet of carrots or a torch might be handy.

Note – I’ll update as and when I get my new strap…….Done -

Well I removed the Nato strap as it caused the watch to sit off the wrist a little, which meant the Nato had to be tight to stop it moving – so – decided to use a conventional leather strap.  The difference here from the supplied strap is that it is much thinner and much more flexible.  The supplied strap was much to think and inflexible for me and was actually too long for my smallish wrist.  Now I think we’re getting somewhar and the watch now feels so much better on the wrist and is becoming a pleasure to wear – and for me that is very, very important.  After all you wouldn’t wear a pair of shoes that didn’t feel right – would you?

Here’s an imags with the new strap -

Another angle on a neat case/strap combination

Conventional leather – note the thick dome crystal!

Well I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the right strap and bracelet is so important to a watch, it can make all the difference.  Another reason why I always prefer standard lug/strap pins to any custom supplied one.
However I also tried and stuck with a FastWrap webbing strap as the perfect accompaniment – as here -

Aeromatic on modified FastWrap

Aeromatic on modified FastWrap

This FastWrap webbing strap like may others features a double strap, one part slips under the lug pins and the other bypasses these, and BOTH go under the back of the watch case.  I always find that on watches that are quite thick already (this one is 15mm) this can make the watch too thick to sit neatly on the wrist.  So I sometimes cut off the short part of the strap that would normally bypass the lug pins and rest against the wrist.  This means that one piece of webbing only goes under the lug pins and under the watch back – and that’s it.

Footnote -

Coincidentally the watch model that the Aeromatic basically is a homage to, comes up at an auction soon here in the UK.  With the appearance of a rare A. Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch, Circa 1940`s.  In an anti-magnetic silver nickel case, but with a black dial with luminous hands and hour markers. 

Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch Estimated £3000+

Lange & Sohne German observer aviators watch
Estimated £3000+

Note the case numbering is prefixed by the letters FL, denoting Fliegnummer or Flying Number FL”.  The Lanage & Sohne model is somewhat larger at some 56mm wide excluding the crown.  Note if you want to own this you’ll have to fork out at least £3000 which is the lower estimate.

The Watchmakers Art

It’s always been fascinating to me the extraordinarily different and diverse media surfaces upon which people will add their personal artistic talents. The street artist for example
directly on the pavement or sidewalk, the graffiti merchant to walls, under bridge supports, on the side of a bridge span in the centre over the river and even on the
sides of skyscrapers. The more conventional manage their stuff to paper, wood, canvas, metal, ceilings mural walls – in fact almost any surface that happens to be blank!
Even at bottom of swimming pools and cars don’t escape their attention and I’ve even seen stuff on grass! (maybe I should re-phrase that last statement!)

But there’s a specialist group of Artists who just happen to have a skill set that transcends them all and will be immortalized perhaps for all Time.

Yes this is  “Dial Art” -

Van Cleef & Arpels - California Landscapes (inspired)

Van Cleef & Arpels – California Landscapes (inspired)

Where the very best of the world’s top watchmakers create not only masterpieces to adorn the wrists of men and women, but engrave, paint and enamel some fantastic Art
to the face of your watch.
And they have the benefit of the fact, that the wearer or viewer, doesn’t walk past and no longer sees that nice picture on the wall, but looks directly at that art
perhaps many, many times a day, something few artists can manage.

Here are just a few of the amazing creations and for no other reason, but an appreciation of their collective skills.

Cartier - enamelling technique called grisaille of an Andalusian horse

Cartier – enamelling technique called grisaille of an Andalusian horse

Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz

Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_20h04m30s_066_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_19h51m28s_059_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_20h05m35s_068_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_19h53m39s_062_Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_19h46m08s_055_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_19h49m48s_057_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.02.04_19h51m56s_060_

From the gemstone mosaic horse of the Cartier Cartier Santos-Dumont in white gold to champlevé enamelling, hand Gilloche, added diamonds. Mother of Pearl engraving and goodness knows what other incredibly difficult technical art feats, they are quite amazing.  A far cry from my daily beater I can honestly say – though . . . . it has to be said that within the limitations of my own small budget it’s just possible that I can acquire an equally (well not quite equal) piece of immortalized Art work on my wrist too.

Ta Da!   I give you my personal favourit Classic of all -

Mickey O'Clock

Mickey O’Clock Watch – Mickey Mouse in red – Model OCD02.

And be honest – there’s not too many folks on the planet who don’t know who this is – Oh Yes!    OK – I’m sorry and no disrespect intended – but I’m retired (did I say?) ;-)