Formex 7030 Automatic Diver Watch – Review

CATEGORY : A watch I have been loaned for review.

I’m going to start this off with some self promotion, so please indulge me 🙂

The FTC are pushing through an “Endorsement Guide” :

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftcs-endorsement-guides-what-people-are-asking

But in a nutshell, it says bloggers / social media “influencers” have to be transparent:

“The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser – or someone working for an advertiser – pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product. If you receive free products or other perks with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the advertiser’s products in your blog, you’re covered.”

Well, as you know I pride myself on being transparent and taking absolutely nothing from watch companies sending watches to me. The only thing I insist on is that they pay for all shipping and customs charges.

This allows me to be honest in my findings. If I praise something, you can be sure it’s good, as I have no reason to say otherwise, and as a manufacturer, it has been proved that you can take this “to the bank” Look at the price rise of the Military Industries diver. Look at the price they went for before I published my review on 28/05/17 and what they went for afterwards…just saying it’s a nice co-incidence isn’t it.

If you send a product that has problems or isn’t great, be prepared for this to be called out.

I don’t publish figures…but I will say that this site regularly gets 35K individual visits per month, has a subscription list of thousands (you’d recognise a lot of the names as people you chat with on groups and forums) and my Google SEO is very good. Google “formex element review”…my review is the first hit…2 above ablogtowatch.

And that’s why it’s been quiet around here. I’ve turned down lots of watches that I would have liked to have shared with you, simply because I wasn’t going to keep them, I wouldn’t do a paid “fluff” piece, I don’t want to review more Rolex copies, nor would I promote the kickstarter in return for something that benefits me.

All I can conclude that a lot of brands aren’t sure of their products and don’t want to risk bad press on here, so they try to “buy” insurance.

Yes, this is said in the hope that I’ll get more watches sent to me to look at, allow me that indulgence please.

But back to the FTC, so what’s that going to produce? Bloggers that have to say they’re being paid for their promotion, so take what they say with a pinch of salt and schmoes like me who will get nothing.

And that’s why I doff my hat to Formex. They are lovely guys to deal with (especially Markus) that haven’t tried to buy me at all (I’m glad, as I would have been tempted to keep their watches) and are prepared for what I have to say.

As you’d have seen in my last review of their Element chrono, I liked it a lot. This is their current “divers” watch. The “divers” is in commas for a reason, but read on…

Here are the specifications:

  • Swiss Made
  • ETA 2824-2 (11 ½”’) or Sellita SW200 Automatic with date
  • Diameter: 46.5mm
  • Material: Stainless Steel / Titanium
  • Height: 14mm
  • Specials: Patented case suspension
  • Waterproofness: 20ATM (200 m)

Dial/Glass

  • Top and bottom sapphire crystal anti-reflective and hard-coated

Bracelet

  • Stainless Steel, Titanium, Silver

Like the Element chronograph, this is no shrinking violet. There’s nothing subtle about it. It’s big with its 46.5mm case. It’s out for attention and it certainly gets it.

Also like the Element, the most distinctive feature is its case. Described as a “signature suspension system” it really is beautifully crafted and is what makes this watch stand out from the masses, which are based around cushion cases and 52MAS reproductions of late.

Likewise the bracelet is very distinctive, especially with the “industrial” looking end links. I also like the little red line. Serves no purpose, but it’s nice.

It’s links are small and move freely, making the bracelet very comfortable. This is titanium, so it’s very light, yeah, the bracelet itself is fine, but I don’t like the clasp. There’s no wet-suit extension in it. Not only that, but the clasp is poor. I found that it was easy for it pop open, if I shook my wrist, it would pop open. If I bent my wrist a certain way, it would pop open. This wouldn’t be suitable for a diver and was annoying in day to day wear. There is a rubber supplied too, but I like bracelets, so that’s what I kept it on.

The crown is substantial and has a nice accurate action and is easy to grip.

The bezel is disappointing. Although it has a nice tight action and is easy to grip, the simple, unlumed, aluminium insert is decidedly downmarket for a watch of this price.

The face is nice. Nice sunburst dial. I like the design and legiability of the hands and I like the inner insert on which the simple markers and applied.

However, I’m not a fan of the “Casio Level” of text on there. What’s “4Speed” there for? There’s no chrono dials. There’s no tachymeter. I’ve not heard of “speed diving”, so why that is there, I don’t know.

The date window shows 3 days. Yes, it’s a stylistic thing, but I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t need to know what date yesterday was and I can guess what tomorrows is. It looked a bit silly at the end of February 🙂 Just keep it as a single day.

Also, on that note, I don’t like the “Date” with a triangle marking on the face. We know what this is, labelling it like this is the kind of thing Casio does, it shouldn’t be there on this watch.

The lume is decent. Not spectacular, I’d hazard it’s a C3 Superluminova.

The crystal is supposed to have an AR coating, but it either doesn’t or it’s so subtle that it’s invisible, as I found the face hard to photograph in sunlight due to reflection.

I don’t like it when a watch can come with more than one movement, that you won’t know until you buy it. This one comes with the Sellita as far as I can tell. The caseback is nice, the rotor is really well done and the movement is a well respected workhorse, that is right at home in a watch like this. I don’t know if it was regulated, but it’s was only showing +3/Sec Day by my measuring.

So why “diver” in inverted commas? The website actually calls it “the perfect dive watch”…but not only is it not that, I don’t really think of it as a diver.

Why?

Well, for a start, there’s the bracelet. Yes, you could put it on a rubber, but when £200 Seiko are coming on hardy straps with wet suit extensions, there’s no excuse here.

Likewise the bezel. There’s no lume on it. Not just that, its a simple printed aluminium affair. On a watch of this price, with the aim of being a diver, it should have lume and it should be ceramic.

The face has “speed” on it. Speed diving? Never heard of that. And that damned Date window.

This should be sold as either a “sports” watch, you know, something you can wear with anything, but that can also be worn in water or they need to add a divers extension, change the bezel, add lume to it and declutter the face to make it a serious diver.

So, not for me then?

Here’s the thing, yes, this watch isn’t perfect and I feel it’s my job here to eschew all the marketing and tell it like it is. The truth is, that in trying too hard Formex has made the watch out to be something it’s not and a bit overly fussy.

Formex are aware and have said that this watch came from a time before their new CEO took over…but they still sent in anyway, knowing that this wasn’t going to be a “loveletter” of a review. I like that. I trust them and they obviously believe in their products.

Like the Element, this watch is all about the case and the “wow” factor. This it has in spades. Just look at it, it’s homaging / saluting / inspired by…absolutely nothing I can think of. This watch is very much it’s own watch and is very original and that’s a rarity in the market of late.

This watch really gets noticed and I really like it, despite my misgivings about certain aspects.

A GMT version of this, with a ceramic “Pepsi” bezel, less cluttered face and a better clasp, and I’d happily buy it with my own money.

Otherwise if you’re not put off by what irks me, you’re getting an original, Swiss Made, stunning looking “go anywhere”watch, with a fantastic case, for about the same price as the higher echelon Microbrands or low end major Swiss brands…that’s good value.

I look forward to Formex next watch, in fact reviewing this makes me want to go buy an Element…

Formex Element – Automatic Chronograph Review

CATEGORY: Watch I have been loaned for review.

As life goes on, you learn more and more. It’s a cruel irony that when you have the most knowledge, you’re least able to do anything with it and when you’re physically at your best, you don’t have the knowledge to maximise that either.

One thing that has become apparent to me on “this journey” we call life is this: perception is more important than reality.

Let me give you an example. Recently I’ve got back into Hi-Fi, particularly analogue formats. Now, I’ve always loved music (I have enough musical failures of my own making from over the years, to attest to this. Any of you in Northern England want to sing in a band for me?) and I have missed acquiring physical media. Streaming is very convenient, but is it “magical”?

A lot of people think that their old hi-fi gear is worthless in the world of streaming and wifi connected players, so I’ve been getting some bargains out there. For example, this below is the “dream” hi-fi separates stack from my late teens. A Class A Technics with 3 head Cassette deck, CD, MiniDisc and a pair of Mission speakers. Something I just couldn’t afford in the mid 90s, but have got now for the price of a decent iPod dock.

To me, it sounds like God itself is streaming the music directly to my ears. However when chatting about it online, the “audiophiles” point out that it’s crap. What I really need is a Naim CD player, connected to a McIntosh amp, going through to some B&W speakers.

And they may be right, but that’s not important. If I perceive that my humble stack sounds fantastic, but in the grand scheme of things it’s mediocre, why should I care? Like I say, perception is more important than reality.

If I’m having a steak, and loving it, who cares if a restaurant I don’t know about and never likely to visit, has a steak that makes the one I’m eating seem like an old shoe?

So what’s this got to do with watches?

Well, a lot of the pleasure of collecting and owning anything is perception. Before you impress others, impress yourself. So you go out and spend thousands on a well known watch. You worked hard for this, you justified the expense to yourself, you got it and it’s a top marque. Add all this together and you’re happy with your purchase and it gives you joy every time you wear it. Others may not understand. Others may think that it’s a waste of money. It may be that the name carries a watch that in reality is far from special.

But who cares as long as you wear it and love it?

And this brings us on to this Formex Element.

Here are it’s specs:

Movement

  • ETA Valjoux 7750 (13 1/4”) Automatic, Chronograph with weekday and date display. 42 hour power reserve

Case

  • Diameter: 46mm
  • Height: 14.5mm
  • Specials: Patented case suspension
  • Waterproofness: 10ATM (100 m)

Material

  • Case: Stainless Steel 316L
  • Container: Titanium Grade 2
  • Bezel: Zirconium Oxide Ceramic
  • Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflection treatment
  • Strap: Black Italian calf leather with embossed croco pattern and black
  • stitching
  • Clasp: Folding clasp with carbon fibre composite frame with fine adjustment function and stainless steel 316L clasp

Dial

  • Black satin-finished base with machined indexes, 60 second scale on the flange and super luminova on hands and indexes

Here’s the thing, you really have to be impressed with a watch to pay over £1000 for it.

Let’s be honest, this steers this watch into the path of well established brands like Hamilton, Mido, Certina, Tissot, brands with a name and reputation. How can Formex hope to compete at this level?

Well, lets start with the case.

This is one of the most impressive cases I’ve seen on ANY watch. It’s in 2 pieces, held together with bolts that pass through.

Very 3D, textured, brushed and polished. Absolutely stunning with fantastic attention to detail.

The crown is nice and big. The chrono pushers are square and have a great action and when looked at on the side, in conjunction with the case, gives a view unlike any other watch I know.

The best endorsement I can give to how a watch looks is that my mum even noticed it. Usually I have a different watch on every time I see her, not a peep, but she commented on this.

I wore it on a recent business business trip. When I took it off at airport security, the guy said to put it in a pocket as “You wouldn’t want something that nice to go missing at the other end”. I’ve had Rolex go through those scanners in plain sight previously…

It is a big watch, and it does ride high, but I’m a big guy and so this suits me perfectly.

Now, as you know, I like a bracelet on my watches and when it comes to straps I usually say something along the lines of “the are what they are”, but I have to make a mention of the ones that came with this Element.

Firstly they have the quick release pins which make changing straps a breeze. For me, all straps should be like this.

It has a carbon fiber butterfly clasp, but this is a bit different insofar as you can actually do micro adjustments on it, very easily at the push of a button. Indeed the release of the strap is done by pressing in buttons on the buckle. Very nicely done.

My only criticism is that it’s a bit short, making the 2nd retaining band a bit superfluous, but this is a wonderful strap. As you can see in my wrist shot, I like it on a ISOFrane too, but the lug size is a bit strange, I measure it at 25mm, but 24mm straps work with it.

The face is the only sligt letdown for me. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just after the spectacle of the case, it’s a bit, erm, plain. A bit ordinary. Nothing wrong with it, it’s well done and finished, deceptively so. The subtle detail on the face, the subdials and the subtle brushed finish are all high quality, but just not “spectacular”

It’s not offensive, it’s just for me, I’d have liked the subdials in white to add contrast and perhaps a red second hand.

Speaking of hands, I do like them. With both lume and cutouts and a unique, broad design, I really like them.

Likewise the caseback with smoked glass and a view of the Valjoux and engraved rotor is very nice.

The Valjoux powering this is one of the great movements and I really like that the day date wheel is silver, a really nice touch that blends with the rest of the elements on the face.

The lume is what it is, but this isn’t a diver, so the fact it’s there is nice enough.

The bezel is ceramic, but cut and brushed. Unusual, yes. Un-needed, yes. Beautiful, definitely.

So what are my overall thoughts?

I don’t usually like hyperbole from a manufacturers website, but they say : “A timepiece priced at its real value rather than by its brand‘s name.”

And I agree. This is no mass produced case from a Chinese catalogue. This is no “me too” retro case. This is a wonderfully made, gorgeous, unique, case.

Indeed, this is no catalogue watch with a face changed in Photoshop.

With 100m WR, good for a chrono, superluminova, ceramic bezel and sapphire glass, this is really a take anywhere watch. That looks stunning.

Back to my earlier points, that perception is more important than reality, did I perceive that this WOULD compete with the likes of Hamilton, Mido, Certina, Tissot like mentioned earlier? If I wore this, did I think I would be impressing myself more that if I was wearing a similarly priced watch from one of these name brands?

No.

But then after actually wearing it, I still don’t think this watch competes with the likes of Hamilton, Mido, Certina, Tissot.

After wearing this for a while, I actually think it competes more with the likes of Tag Heuer and Longines.

The reality is that this is a bargain. A Valjoux powered, Swiss Made, chrono of this quality is a rarity for £1000.

Formex has an augmented reality app that allows you to virtually try on their watches before, to see if they will suit you. It’s good fun actually and there’s a few I fancy looking at in more detail, like their DS2100 diver (hint, hint!). But an app like this shows investment and a desire to actually be different, rather than just writing it in copy…

Yes, the name Formex makes me think of a company that makes plastic mouldings as opposed to watches. Yes, the face could be more striking and unique, like the rest of the watch. But taken as a whole, this is a watch that makes me question my “perception is more important than reality” statement, only for a while.

The reality is far more impressive than your perception of what this watch would be.

And then when you actually see it in person, your perception will be you’ve got a unique, wonderful watch and only end up impressing yourself.

I wish I was a commercial watch blog that gets to keep their review watches…

AVI-8 Hawker Harrier Automatic & Flyboy Lafayette Chronograph – Review

CATEGORY: Watches I’ve been loaned for review

I recently watched an old movie again. I remembered liking it a lot when I saw it about a quarter of a century ago and thought I would revisit it.

It’s a Dudley Moore film called “Crazy People”. It’s about an advertising executive who one day wants to advertise things honestly. He does a campaign for Volvo called “Volvo. They’re boxy, but they’re good” and “Sony. Because Caucasians are just too damn tall”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96iJsdGkl44

His employers think he’s gone nuts and send him to an asylum for help…until the adverts get accidentally printed and turn out to be a massive success.

So what’s that got to do with watches?

Well, it can’t have escaped your notice that more and more watches are being marketed without much honesty.

“Inspired by *enter defunct but fantastic thing here, that no one is going to sue over, because it’s defunct* and paying tribute to *enter something else that can be used for free to glam up this watch*, and disrupting *the industry they want to be in*, this watch will make you beat the women away with a splintery plank”

Is anyone actually swayed by this type of copy? Would it be too much to say:

“Buy our Chinese made watch. It’s good value, people won’t recognise it so they may think it costs a lot more than it does, but at least if it breaks, you won’t have lost too much money”

No. But you get the idea.

I can’t help but think that watches that are sold this way are made by people who don’t really like watches, only the money they can make from them. Either that or they simply don’t have enough faith in the watch itself, so try and smother on fake provenance.

So this little observation doesn’t bode well as the preface to the review of 2 x watches from a company called AVI-8, who name their watches after classic British Aircraft, of which one is called the “Hawker Harrier II”

From the website: “Our collection of timepieces seeks to honor both the aircraft and the untold story of the airmen who have dedicated themselves both in and out of the cockpit to bring these incredible machines to life.”

Oh yeah, “Honouring” someone. “Honouring” them by referencing whatever they did / made, as a free way of not getting sued. It’s like being endorsed, without having to pay anything.

Anyway,  let’s forget the marketing now and concentrate on the watches:

AVI-8 FLYBOY CHRONOGRAPH

Here’s the specs, from the website:

  • MOVEMENT:Japan Quartz Chronograph with Date and 1/5 second
  • CASE: Stainless Steel
  • CASE DIAMETER (mm): 42
  • CASE THICKNESS (mm): 12
  • CASE SHAPE: Round
  • CASE COLOUR: Stainless Steel
  • DIAL COLOUR: Black
  • BAND: Genuine Leather Strap
  • BAND COLOUR: Beige
  • BUCKLE: Strap Buckle
  • BAND WIDTH (mm): 22
  • WATER RESISTANCE: 5ATM
  • WATCH WEIGHT (g): 80

Now, the first thing is the vagueness of this spec list. Case Shape: Round. That’s there, but what the actual movement is, isn’t.

I can’t take the caseback off, it’s not my watch and I can’t pressure test it afterwards. But from all I can see, I’m pretty sure it’s a Seiko VK64 mechaquartz. If you know me, you’ll know I really rate this movement as probably the best quartz powered chrono out there.  By not mentioning it, I can assume one of 2 things:

1.  Associating with Seiko isn’t “prestige” enough for them

2. They aren’t trying to appeal to WIS, as on the whole we like Seiko movements. They’re trying to appeal to the general public, who think of Seiko as those cheap watches you can buy in all high street jewellers.

Not sure what the crystal is. I asked the question, they said “sapphire” but surely they should have mentioned that on the website, as that is a selling point?

So, let’s strap the watch on and have a look.

And this makes what I’ve just said even worse. Without all the BS, this is actually a really well made, good looking chronograph.

Face is multilayered, with raised lumed markers, with a big “0” instead of a “12” a subtle tachymeter scale around the edge and the date, outlined in steel, at 6.

The hands are big, vintage looking, full of lume and very nice. The subdials have red hands to compliment the edge of the chrono hand.

The crown is easy to grip and use. The chrono pushers are fairly anonymous, but work well.

The VK64 is a great movement, like I previously said, the only thing I miss is any seconds indicator. Instead there is that useless 24hour dial instead, but I guess on a “pilots” watch it has a use.

The case is nothing special as far as design goes, but it is decently sized and made. It’s nicely polished all over.

The integrated bezel is also nice and manly.

The crystal stands proud of the bezel and could potentially be subject to damage if hit at the right angle.

The caseback is a simple laser etched job.

The strap is very nice. It’s thick yet supple. The leather has “tanned” just by wearing it and my natural oils and I like that. I also like the blue, white and red stitches. Yeah, this is one of the nicest leathers I’ve had on a watch and it suits it well, considering I thought black would have been a better bet.

Overall, this is actually a nice watch. It’s well made, subtly detailed and very pleasant to wear.

For me personally, it’s missing a certain “je ne sais quoi” to make me want to buy one, but if you like the look of it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Now we go onto the “Harrier”

AVI-8 HAWKER HARRIER II AUTOMATIC

Here’s the specs, from the website:

  • MOVEMENT : Japan Automatic 3 Hands
  • CASE MATERIAL : Stainless Steel
  • CASE DIAMETER (mm) : 45
  • CASE THICKNESS (mm) : 13
  • CASE SHAPE : Round
  • CASE COLOR : Stainless Steel
  • DIAL COLOR : Silver White
  • BAND : Genuine Leather Strap
  • BAND COLOR : Brown
  • BUCKLE : Strap Buckle
  • BAND WIDTH (mm) : 22
  • WATER RESISTANCE : 5 ATM
  • WATCH WEIGHT (g) : 120

Now, the movement on this I’m going to assume it’s an 8 series Miyota. I asked if it was a 9 series, they said “yes”, but it doesn’t hack and is 21 Jewels, so I can only assume it’s an 8.

Again, the crystal, unknown.

So, on this one went.

And this is one of the most striking looking watches I’ve put on my wrist.

Let’s get its most striking feature, its handless face, out of the way first. It reminds me of the old “digital” mechanical watches from the 60s. Instead of hands it has 3 disks which rotate. One for hours, one for minutes and one for seconds.

Agreed, this makes the watch harder to read and because there’s no lume, it’s not really one for the true aviator. But I don’t care about either.

This is a really stunning, well made, well engineered and well finished face, considering it looks like it’s plastic. The different finishing of different parts, the overall design, which incorporates a silhouette of a Harrier, looks like nothing else I’ve worn before. This watch got lots of attention and backed it up under close scrutiny. I had to take this watch off my wrist a lot.

The case itself is nice and substantial too. chunky, but well finished and nicely brushed.

The crown is what it is, but since it has the same logo as on the Flyboy, I can only assume that is the company’s signature. It looks like the RAF logo, but without colour.

The caseback is see through. The rotor is decorated and it’s actually rather nice.

The leather again, is of high quality and really suits this watch, the buckle is plain but signed and nicely brushed.

But this watch is all about the face…that 3D Face.

So, this watch costs £350 on the AVI-8 site. The Flyboy Lafayette, is £175.

These are hard watches to sum up. On the one hand, they’re nicely made,  nice looking watches, that I enjoyed wearing.

On the other, I simply can’t get over the marketing and the branding.

The Flyboy is neat, but there are other VK powered chronographs I’d buy in preference at this price. It’s a lot better than the Yema Rallygraf however 🙂

The Harrier, I so wanted to love, but I can’t get over it’s name (right there on the face) nor the Harrier silhouette, slap bang in the middle. If it lost those, then I think it would be a watch I’d consider. But again, if that doesn’t bother you, indeed if you’re really into your planes it might be a bonus, then I don’t think the watch will disappoint.

To be fair, I wasn’t expecting much from these watches when I agreed to look at them, after reading the brands webpage whilst they winged their way to me (pun intended), but they did surprise me as they are nice watches…but the “secret sauce” isn’t appealing to me because I’m not really a plane man and have nothing to do with aviation.

If it does to you however…

Jubileon Superellipse Automatic Watch – Review

CATEGORY: Watches I have been loaned for review.

This is described as a “minimalist” watch.

I don’t own a minimalist watch. I don’t like minimalist watches. My eyes roll whenever I read about another “disrupting / redefining/ etc” minimalist watch.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some notable exceptions, like Junghans Max Bills, but most saw Daniel Wellington take a cheap, plain, Chinese watch and whack it on a loud NATO strap, make millions and thought “I want some of that”.

So what makes a watch “minimalist”? Lack of features and lack of detail from what I can see. Minimal thought + minimal effort = minimal output.

I’ve declined to review several minimalist watches. I know that I’m blunt and honest with my reviews, but I don’t want to be nasty on purpose (unless you’re Yema who sold me that piece of crap for hundreds of pounds) so didn’t accept any, knowing that would be the result.

Alvin Lew, one of the 3 guys behind Jubileon, is someone I’ve known for a while. Indeed, he writes for Microbrand Watch World and I like his views.

When he offered me a couple to review, I figured it would be a nice gesture to a stalwart to at least take a look. If I didn’t really like it, I figure I can say something at least nice about him and his work.

Anyway, here’s the specs:

• Designed and engineered in Singapore.
• Seiko NH35A movement.
• 41 mm wide, 11.9 mm thick, 50 mm lug-to-lug.
• Sapphire crystal.
• 100 m water resistance.
• Stainless steel 316L case, brushed and polished.
• Custom decorative screw heads for bezel and caseback.
• Engraved logo on crown.
• 2-colour pad-printed dial, 6H date window.
• Applied hour indices with Super-Luminova C1.
• Super-Luminova C1 on minute and hour hands.
• Custom straps by Hadley-Roma.

The Superellipse went onto Kickstarter last year, but didn’t fund.  It was slightly different.  I’ll be honest I wasn’t interested enough to back it myself.

So a bit of a redesign and it’s back. It’s no longer Swiss Made. The face is different. The display back is gone. It’s being taken “downmarket”. Not off to a good start then…

This new version goes on to Kickstarter on the 18th (the day after this review is published, see, I’m a pro :-)). I know I’m not here to promote KS watches, but here’s some blurb:

“The Superellipse will be launching on Kickstarter on 18 August 2017 at 10 p.m Singapore time. Initial collections include four dial designs – matte black, silver, cool gray, and pearl. Pledge starts from SGD 279 (USD 205) for the first 120 hours.”

So it will be live tomorrow.

I was sent 2; the “Cool Grey” and a baby blue. The blue, I’ve been told will be a stretch goal. The ones that are available at launch are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are options of black / tan / carbon leather and a Milanese mesh.

So, what are my thoughts…

Well, people ask me “Should I buy watch X or watch Y?”. As time has gone on, my answer has morphed from “Look at X spec, look at Y spec, see what others are available around this price, what are you going to wear it with, what others do you have…” to simply: “Try them on, you’ll just know”.

And that’s the case here. I don’t like minimalist watches, I didn’t like the pictures enough first time round to back it and I wasn’t bothered about reviewing this version.

But then I actually wore it.

This is being mis sold as a minimalist watch. Sure, it’s not fussy / complicated looking but this isn’t a stereotypical “minimalist” watch.

The case for a start blows this mis-marketing away. Initially it reminded me of the Heuer Monza, but it’s not direct copy.

This is a fabulous case. It’s not round. It’s chunky. It’s big. It has different levels. It’s beautifully finished. It also has 22mm lugs.

I’m not usually a fan of screws on the bezel, but these look good, almost giving a “tool watch” like appearance and these are actual screws, not just for show.

The contrasting polishing and brushing is well done and adds depth.

The signed crown is also substancial and has a nice smooth motion. And it should, the movement is the NH35, a great workhorse that I have in countless watches. Yes, accuracy wavers on different ones, but my life doesn’t need second by second accuracy. And these movements will be easy to repair / replace in the future. I love it.

The caseback is what it is, but is competently done, if unspectacular.

The face is my main bone of contention with this watch. The base sunburst dials are of good quality. I’m glad there’s a date here, and it’s nicely positioned at 6. The printing which is on there, especially the 2 colour “railway” gauge around the edge is well done and of high quality.

But on the whole, it’s missing something, to really make it extra special.

There’s C1 Superluminova on there too.

Personally, I’d have liked the logo applied in silver and even something as simple as “Automatic” written in the bottom half of the dial. But that’s just me.

The hands are simple, yet elegant and there’s a red second hand, which fits with other red elements on the face.

The leather straps are really nice Hadley Roma ones. As good as any leather strap I’ve had on any watch and really a notch above for an MB watch. There’s also an option for a Milanese mesh. I didn’t get that with my samples, so I put one on a sharkie, which I think really suits it.

So, a chunky case, screws in the bezel, red elements and Superluminova do not scream “minimalist” to me.

Indeed, I wasn’t quite sure what this watch is. Is it minimalist? Is it sporty? Is it dressy?

There was only one way to find out, so on the grey went for a recent business trip abroad.

It worked with my suit. It worked with my casuals. Comments from colleagues were that it’s a good looking watch.

So I still don’t know how to classify it.

Replace the red second hand with silver and get rid of the other red elements, it’s a big dress watch…but those elements are there. It’s not a sports watch. It’s certainly being sold short being classed as minimalist.

So I’m not going to pigeonhole it. It is what it is. And in my view, what it is, is a lovely, well made, well finished, manly watch that can be worn anytime you’re out of the water (and in it if you put it on a rubber / mesh as it is 100m wr after all) and look good.

It’s a shame that the “louder” colours are not available from the start. There was also a green and a pink. I think the blue, on this sharkie is the looker. It’s for when the sky matches the face colour, and the grey is for when it’s all work.

Back to my point, that you have to wear a watch to appreciate it, not read and compare, I really appreciated this watch.

So much so, that this time round, I’m going to back it on KS, as this is a watch I’ll wear, as I have while I’ve had them.

It’s hard to come back after a failed Kickstarter (I know!) especially to “cost cut” a watch, but this brave move has paid off. This is still a high quality piece, still has good specs, but now it’s at a more palatable price.

And the earlybird price of $205 is a very good price. This is a lot of watch for that. I know a watch is more than the sum of the parts, but a beautiful case, sapphire, superluminova, Seiko Auto and Hadley Roma strap for that price is bordering on me calling it a “steal”.

Sometimes you get up and don’t want to think about what you’re wearing and doing today and what watch will go with it. Sometimes you just want something good looking you can put on and know it’ll be just the ticket regardless.

This will be, and I like it a lot for that, identity crisis or not.

I really hope this funds, as it deserves to. If I can’t pigeonhole it, then all I can conclude is that it is something different; and that’s a rarity of late.

NTH Antillies Automatic Compressor Watch & Santa Fe 300m Automatic Divers Watch – Review

CATEGORY: Watches I’ve been loaned for review

I’ve been into microbrand watches for a while. If you’re a watch fan and you stumble across them, a whole new exciting world opens up.

But one of the most common questions is: “What’s the definition of a microbrand?”

There are lists of accepted microbrands. There are schools of thought that reference number of pieces made, turnover, employees etc as a way to define a microbrand. It’s hard to get those numbers accurate if that’s the criteria.

My thoughts on what defines a microbrand are simple and possibly incorrect.

A microbrand to me is a brand in which the owner(s) are very visible, can be contacted directly and who actively engage with people in places like Watch U Seek and the Facebook watch groups, on a regular basis. Someone who is still very much at the fore of running their company and everyone knows it.

Therefore, I don’t class brands like Squale, Steinhart, Magrette, Helson, Deep Blue, Halios and Christopher Ward as microbrands. They may have been in the past, but they’re not now. Remember the word, “micro”, as in microscopic. Not small, not independent, but micro. By definition anyone claiming to be a microbrand has to be microscopic.

But a lot of these, as I would class them, independent / small watch companies have a lot of fans. These guys post their watch pics, upcoming releases etc in the microbrand pages. The owners of the company don’t. Seriously, when was the last time the owner of Deep Blue chatted to people on an MB forum? Exactly.

And I think that these “legacy microbrand” companies, that now have a considerable turnover and reputation, should leave the forums and pages dedicated to MB watches alone, so that people who genuinely are micro and need all the exposure that can get, can have this dedicated space to help them. There are many more places for watch companies with decent turnovers and marketing budgets to post.

You may disagree, but think about it. Us WIS are not the biggest market for watches. The general public is. Look at Daniel Wellington… Anyway, you think you might be helping Magrette by flying their flag and posting in the MB domain on their behalf, but in reality, you’re just reinforcing their “microbrand” status. Did you not think for a moment that they might not want to be classed as a microbrand?

They want to be a big player. The general public likes the idea that if they’re buying a luxury item, there is a definite air of luxury, that there is a big support network behind it and that the resale is not limited to only those “in the know”. A watch made by one bloke and shipped out of his garage is not appealing to the ignorant masses. By keeping the idea that the likes of Helson is a microbrand alive, you’re actually damaging them in the eyes of the public. I think this point is backed up by the fact I can’t recall the last time the owner of Squale conversed in a Facebook microbrand group. They don’t care, they now have bigger fish to fry.

I’m not having a go at these companies for getting big, as ultimately it is the aim of every mb owner to grow their company so they’re sold in as many outlets as possible and they get rich beyond the dreams of Avarice. I know that was my goal for Deaumar.

What I’m saying is stop making them so prominent in mb circles. It’s a win – win. The brand owners get to go mainstream without keeping being dragged back into being classed as a microbrand, in the publics eyes, and the arena is then open for genuine micros, who need the air space, to chat, post and tell you about their wares.

So what does this have to do with NTH watches? Well, it can’t have escaped your notice that their owner, Sir Lord Chrisopher Vail Esq, is a very prominent person in the MB community. And we ARE a community.

I’ll be upfront, Chris and I first started conversing during my short tenure at Deaumar. We butted heads a lot, and at times I wanted to email him a slap or two, but truth be told he was nearly always right and that breeds respect, at least from my side. And he’s an Ex-Army Ranger. I like my kneecaps in the middle of my legs…

But more importantly, he’s the yardstick for an MB owner, in my book. Respected, outspoken, active, passionate and very much fighting tooth and nail to grow his brand.

I had to really cajole him to send me a watch for review. He just didn’t like the idea of paying international postage and taxes. If that’s not a sign that he’s a genuine micro company, I don’t know what is 🙂

So, we’re friends then, so it will be hard to do an objective review? Not at all, in fact I expect nothing but excellence from my friends, so this is going to be all the more tougher to be nice because of it. You have to be honest with your mates, if you feel there’s something they’re doing wrong, then as a friend yourself you have a duty to tell them, even if they might not appreciate it.

Chris sent me 4 watches. I’m reviewing 2 here (and have some pictures of a third). If you want to see the other two reviewed, then pop along to https://www.watchitallabout.com where that awfully nice chap Joshua Clare-Flagg will be doing the bizzo with them.

Anyway, let’s start the bloodba…I mean the review with the NTH Antillies Compressor.

Here are the specs:

Steel, Swiss Auto, Sapphire, Screw Down, 200m. All boxes ticked for a compressor then.

Let’s start with the face. This one is classed as “Champagne”. I’d say more “Bourbon”, but regardless this is a lovely, vintage, brown sunburst in the dark, and a blonde when the sun hits it.

I personally would have liked an applied NTH logo, but otherwise, it’s a beautiful face. My wife commented on how nice it was.

The hour and minute hand are large and kinda plain, but do their job. The second hand is really nice with it’s “lollypop” design. It matches the applied indices really well.

Again, the indices are applied and are really nice and keep with the vintage vibe. I would have liked a date at 6, but then you know me, I like dates on watches.

The bezel is simple and elegant.

It has a smooth action and the screwdown crown for the bezel is one of the easiest I’ve used. It looks and works well. It it also nicely lumed.

The case is nicely done.The brushing is very nice, and complemented by the polishing of the bezel ring and the centre of the beads of rice bracelet.  It’s a nice size for me. It’s long but svelte at the same time. The double dome sapphire is a bit proud and doesn’t distort the face from any angle. The AR is very good and doesn’t “colour” the face. It’s subtle.

The crowns are nicely engraved, easy to grip and screw / unscrew.

The bracelet is lovely. It looks great, a proper, individually linked, beads of rice.

The clasp is about as good as I’ve had on an MB watch. The divers extension is really well done and the whole thing looks great and works well.

However, I found it an S.O.B. to adjust. I don’t know whether it was me, whether I had a threaded screw, but I really struggled to adjust it. Regardless, once it was done, this is one of the nicest bracelets I’ve had on any watch, let alone a microbrand one.

As you know, I don’t really care about casebacks, but I have to say this is really well done. Nicely detailed and sculpted. I’d rather have something like this than a see through caseback, looking onto an un-decorated, ordinary movement.

The STP movement is by all accounts a good one. I certainly found it accurate, smooth and reliable. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s made by one of the biggest watch companies in the world…

I’ll not sum up the Antillies yet, as this is a 2-fer-1 review, so lets move on to the Santa Fe.

Ok, so, as I’ve said in other reviews, there are Homage watches and “Homage” watches. One is basically a replica with a different name, little bits changed and the other takes its inspiration from other watches, but puts enough of its own DNA in the mix, to make it no rip off. Which is the Santa Fe?

Here are the specs:

Well, straight away that case, the bezel, those indices, those “Mercedes” hands say “Submariner”. And it’s on an oyster. And it’s called a “Sub”

But a picture doesn’t really convey one thing…this is a 300m watch, but this is a very thin case for a watch of that depth. And it has drilled lugs.

It’s nicely brushed, like the Antillies. It’s a really nice case, complimented with a really nice, easy to use, signed crown. It really will suit all wrist sizes.

Now, the face on the Santa Fe is all lume.

And it’s good. It’s not “smooth”, it has a texture, but it’s very pleasing. I like the blackened hands, I like the blackened circular indices.

The bezel is steel. I would have expected ceramic at this price, to be honest. It’s matte, not shiny like most metal bezels, but this adds to the “tool” nature of this watch. You can’t see it well in my bad lume pic, but the bezel is lumed in blue, to contrast the faces green. The bezel has a nice, tight, action.

The sapphire AR is again good, yet subtle.

The caseback is plain. That doesn’t bother me, I hardly see casebacks, but for what it is, it’s well engraved and has nice indents for removal.

The bracelet. Well, after the Antillies, this feels a bit ordinary. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a screw link oyster with SELs, the clasp is competent, as is the whole bracelet, but nothing stunning, just decent.

Like I alluded to earlier, I was also sent the “brother” NTH Sub: The Amphion Dark Gilt. Joshua will review that, but I couldn’t resist taking a few pics…

Basically the same except for the face, bezel and handset. Both powered by the Miyota 9015, which is not worth talking about, as it’s a well known, high beat, auto with good reliability and accuracy.

So, what are my thoughts, I’ll start with the Santa Fe.

Is this a good type of homage? Yes. This is no rip off. With that lumed face and slim case, no one would mistake it for a Submariner, unlike say a Tissell or Ginault.

Yes, the entire NTH sub line is all aping vintage watches in some way, but at least in the case of the two I was sent, they have enough of their own DNA to stand on their own. It took a lot of knowledge and love of watches to make such a varied line using the same base ingredients.

Indeed, the Santa Fe reminds me of one of those expensive Rolex mods that the likes of Titanblack do. It would never be confused for a Rolex, and it really is a tool watch. Purposeful, functional, well made and good looking.

I often think what my “bug out” watch would be. I have often thought it would be a Seiko Turtle on a NATO (so when it breaks, I could use an old rag I might find as a replacement strap). However, if this was on my wrist if the bomb dropped, I think it would serve me well and be invaluable.

The Dark Gilt though, with the date, was hard to send to Joshua, I’ll just say that I thought it was stunning and I’m seriously thinking about getting one.

As for the Antillies. Wonderful.

Apart from stabbing myself in the hand whilst trying to adjust the strap, I loved the time I spent with it.

It’s well made and gorgeous. The smoothness of the crowns, that sunburst dial and the general vintage, yet modern, vibe made it a joy to wear. Everyone that saw it, loved it. Just wish it came with a date option, but again, that wouldn’t bother me enough not to get one.

So, although I was ready to pick faults of a friend, who is successful where I wasn’t, I really can’t be too harsh.

Yes, these aren’t cheap (especially when you factor in shipping and taxes outside the USA) but like the best MB watches, they are worth it. They’re well made, well finished, well specified and backed up by a true microbrand, who gives a damn about each and every watch he sells. If you like the look of them, get one, I’m sure you won’t feel let down. And if you are, you can speak directly to the guy who made them, not some generic email address…

All this really means is that I am going to be expecting great things from Chris’ next watch, the Devilray. I’m sure Chris isn’t going to be disappointing me there…are you Chris 🙂

Rebel Time Aqualung Automatic Diver – PROTOTYPE – Review

CATEGORY: Watch I Have Been Loaned For Review

I frown regularly of late when I look at the world of the microbrand watch company owner.

It’s like there are several words that have to be in your copy and promotion “Passion” “Disrupting” “Redefining” “Challenging”. However, the word “Original” doesn’t appear much lately.

The “Gold Rush” has just escalated and escalated. I know there’s only so many ways to slice a pizza, but I’m seeing little of late that has made me put my hand in my pocket and buy another watch.

So when Schneur Lakein of Rebel Time asked me if I’d like to look at the prototype of their new Aqualung Diver, I was a bit non plussed. Another diver. Bet it’s based on the Seiko 62MAS case…

But when it turned up, it was nothing like I expected.

It doesn’t look like a divers watch. It’s a compressor, but not trying to ape one from the past.

Here are the specs of the production version:

1. 42mm diameter.
2. 13.5mm thick.
3. Sellita sw200-1 Automatic movement.
4. Wave pattern dial.
5. Domed sapphire crystal front with AR coating & sapphire crystal back.
6. 30 ATM’s (300m) water resistance.
7. Screw down crowns and case back.
8. High-grade rubber strap.
9. Internal rotating bezel.
10. 316l stainless steel case.
11. Swiss Superluminova.
12. PVD in black or gun metal.
13. Limited edition, marked and numbered.

Now, this is a prototype so there are some things to note:

  1. The Lume is Japanese, not Swiss
  2. The internal bezel doesn’t work properly
  3. The strap isn’t the final one
  4. The caseback isn’t decorated
  5. The Sapphire is flat
  6. This prototype has PVD 2 coating, production will be PVD, but DLC will be an option on the
  7. I measure it a 41mm

So, I have to applaud Rebel Time for thinking about what a divers watch needs, and doing their own spin on it with this modern styled compressor.

The watch is launching on Kickstarter in August 2017.

The first thing I’ll say is that the watch wears small for 41mm. It has 20mm lugs. However, this is a very compact watch for 300m WR.

The case is solid feeling. I’m not a PVD fan, I would have preferred stainless steel, but it is nicely finished.

I like the side sculpting.

And the fact that the two crowns are different colours. However, I find the crowns hard work. The top one is to rotate the inner bezel (which doesn’t work on this proto, but will in production) the bottom is for the time.

The thing is, they’re slippery and hard to grip. They both only screw down a small amount (about a 1/4 turn) but I’ve been assured they will be better in production. It took me several attempts each time I unscrewed them, to screw them back in again.

The face is “3D” with a wave pattern, but honestly, I don’t think it really adds much, but that’s a personal preference.

The indices are applied and well done, if not entirely as “avant garde” as the rest of the watch. Same goes for the hands.

The logo is big and prominent, but again, doesn’t do a lot for me.

The strap that this came on will be offered as a stretch goal. It’s a decent enough rubber, but pretty generic. The production strap is a plain rubber with deployment clasp.

The sapphire caseback is un-inscribed on this proto, but you can see the Sellita automatic well enough, even though that is stock and un-decorated. I like this movement and it has proved very accurate.

I don’t like this bezel with the screws. Nothing wrong with its execution, but I don’t think it enhances the watch. Likewise the inner bezel is hard to read and there’s no lume on it all, not even at 12. This wouldn’t make it of much use if you were to dive with it.

The lume is fine, but this will be upgraded in production.

And here’s the thing. I agonised over what to say about this watch. The guys at Rebel Time have been very nice and obliging. The watch certainly looks like no compressor I know of. It’s an original design. Heck, I’d go as far to say it is “challenging” what we should think of as a dive  watch.

However, I just didn’t bond with it. It happens. I’m sure you’ve not liked every watch you’ve ever seen either.

The RRP for this Swiss Made watch will be $849 – KS will be $469 – $519

But I don’t want to end on a downer.

If they do all the “fixes” on the production watch, and if you’re looking at it and thinking “Wow!” then I’m sure the end product won’t disappoint. Certainly if you have a smaller wrist, there are few compressors available that will look right on you.

I want to applaud Rebel Time for thinking differently and not releasing another “cookie cutter” watch, that are flooding the market, and I don’t want the fact that I simply didn’t bond with the watch to be a detriment to them. I want them to keep on thinking differently and hopefully the next watch they send me will have me gushing with praise.

It could simply be that I’m an old fart.

 

Military Industries USA 1970s Pattern Automatic Divers Watch – Review

CATEGORY: Watch I Own

The Microbrand watch industry follows and then moves on from trends a lot quicker than the mainstream manufacturers.

In the years I’ve been an observer, the trends sort of went from big divers, to bronze divers, to retro divers, then retro chronographs and brass / titanium divers. These are what have been mopping up on Kickstarter. Minimalist and fliegers have always been there and those that go out of vogue still remain on sale, which mean there is a wide variety of choices in the MB space.

But the one style which has always been there and has never gone out of vogue is that of the “homage”.

There is no right side of the fence to sit on with this one. If you’re “pro” homage, then it means that you can’t afford the original and so are just fooling yourself because you lust after the original, but can’t / won’t pay the entrance fee. If you’re “anti” homage, then you’re a snob and a troll and you should let people buy what they want, and be happy for them, without “poo-pooing”.

But regardless, an homage done right, hitting the zeitgeist even, can be a way to make money with minimal creative input. And if it’s really close, then even the moulds are readily available (from the fake market) so it means lower MOQs and production costs.

I’ve made it clear I’m not a fan of re-branded copies (and that’s what they are) of expensive watches, however I am a fan of homages of which you can see where the inspiration came, but there is enough original DNA that makes the watch its own thing.

I’m especially a fan of homages of “lesser” watches that are long out of production, particularly if the original manufacturer is in business but haven’t got the grip of their market to know there is a demand for it.

Some manufacturers are starting to do re-issues after seeing them flourish on the MB market…eventually. And in some cases they’re too little too late, or in the case of the Seiko 62MAS, what the hell is that price all about?

And this brings me to the Military Industries USA diver watch.

They aren’t a Microbrand, as I don’t see them participating actively in the usual places, they just seem to be a tiny watch company. Heck, they’re  virtually unknown and their marketing makes most MBs look like they have the marketing budget of McDonalds.

I only came across this watch as a stalwart of the MB scene bought one and posted a picture. This was back in January. I instantly saw the watch and thought “A 62MAS case with a Seamaster 300 face…with a 70s style black sawtooth bezel”. Nice.

The 62MAS case is currently in vogue. There are already a couple of MBs making watches based on it and a few new ones, that are “inspired by X and celebrating Y” being pushed by a 20 something, whose “passion” for watches is born from his Casio F-91. They change the face and fire it at fans: “What do you think?” “Looks great…as we can’t be cynical / negative. If we say anything non complimentary, we a branded a Troll and told to simply not bother posting”… This is a problem I’m seeing more of. If someone is releasing something that is so much like so many others, perhaps they need to be told. Otherwise they could end up making a watch that won’t sell and getting themselves in lumber.

There is being a troll, but there is also being objective. Constructive criticism so to speak. I don’t like how this is getting muted. If what they say is true about their watch, then they will be able to argue the toss. If they have no rebuttal to non flattering, but factually correct statements, maybe their product isn’t as solid as they thought. Saying something nasty, because something isn’t for you is troll behavior, but pointing out things based on facts isn’t, or we’re just going to create a community of precious snowflakes. And snowflakes melt. Just my five cents.

Anyway I can’t find a website for Military Industries USA, here’s the closest I found: https://www.military-industries.com/products/military-industries-1970s-pattern-automatic-24-jewel-divers-watch

And here I found the specs:

  • Dimensions – 40mm diameter case, 47.5mm lug-to-lug, 20mm strap size
  • Case – 316L military grade stainless steel with typical 1970’s Pattern Finish
  • Crown – Screw down, stainless  steel
  • Dial – Black with enhanced luminosity
  • Movement – 24 jewel automatic with 41 hour reserve.
  • Screw Stainless Steel Case back with serial number
  • Glass – Hardened mineral crystal
  • Water resistance – 200m / 660ft
  • 20mm NATO Webbing Strap (1 x Black and 1 x Grey)
  • 24 Months Guarantee

The price: £395

I know I keep saying that there isn’t a list of what parts cost,  and that if you add up the cost of the bits, that’s what the watch should cost. But this is a 62MAS case with a Seamaster 300 face. This is not a Visitor Duneshore for example, a watch that is so unique and stunning that it transcends it’s specs. This is simply not a £395 watch.

However, a quick look on eBay and it was apparent that they were available in auctions. I bid. I won it for £135 shipped.

So, what’s the appeal. Well, let me take the words directly from their website:

“This Military Industries divers watch from Military Industries USA is typical of military divers watches made during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The details are super accurate and even the case finish and bezel design is very typical of the designs used at the time.

The watch has a 24 jewel self winding automatic movement with a 41 hour power reserve. The case finish is very retro in appearance and identical to the case finish used around 45 years ago on most other military divers watches. Although the watch is very retro in appearance the movement is contemporary and therefore can be maintained and serviced by any competent watchmaker.

The attention to detail is such that even the luminous pigment on the dial matches the colour used in the 1970s as do the hands.”

I like that idea. I like the idea of military issued watches, G10s in the UK. This is what the armed forces thinks anyone risking their life, in hard conditions, should have on their wrist. Tough, reliable, legible and cheap. Especially cheap. A proper “tool” watch. People in conflict, in inhospitable places, clutching only their weapons and relying totally on the watch on their wrist. As a mushy corporate man all my life, watches like this appeal to my inner Willard, who has never had a chance to break free in real life.

So, it turned up and everything about it says “Military Surplus”. It comes in a tin. Kind of like the tin you’d get a cheap “executive” pen from the Dollar store in. There are 2 x basic NATOs for straps. That’s it. You can almost see them being stacked in a supply room and then handed out en mass.

The case itself is basic in its finishing. Not slick, just adequate, but it feels weighty and well screwed together. All brushed, with a sort of circular effect on the top. The lugs are 20mm.

The glass is mineral, the worst kind of glass. Doesn’t have the scratch resistance of sapphire. Can’t be polished like acrylic. But it’s proud, like vintage watches, so I don’t like the idea of this being used as a beater as this glass won’t take scratches and will break if caught. It is the cheapest option though, so it’s in keeping. I’m sure those in forces procurement are just bothered there is glass there and have no idea what sapphire glass is.

The face is nice. It doesn’t say what type of lume it is, but looking at the colour and the brightness, I’d guess it was C1 superluminova and it does light up well.

The face isn’t matte, as would have been expected on a watch of this type, but in fact a deep grey sunburst. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but it’s out of character.

The indices are not applied, but it is very legible, functional and authentically well done. I think the logo is a bit OTT for this type of face, in reality it would just say “Military Watch Industries”. Also it has the “circle T” on the face. This used to mean that the luminous paint was radioactive Tritium, now I guess it’s just there for show.

The hands are simple sword affairs and are well done. Filled with lume again.

The bezel is not PVD or DLC from what I can see. Without scratching it, I’d say it was painted black. But again, I suppose that’s keeping to its basic design roots. It is however very tight to turn and not that pleasant, but it does line up well and the lume pip at 12 is nice and vintage looking.

The crown is not signed, but has a nice movement and screws down easily.

The caseback is simple. I don’t know if that number in the middle means it’s number 77 of 125 made, but it’s fine by me.

The NATOs are simple enough. Nothing special. I put it on this cheap “president” style strap. Adds charm in my view, like it was used in action, then when the soldier got home, he put it on a cheap bracelet before he sold it.

The movement, well, without opening the back, I won’t know for sure, but I’d hazard a good guess it’s the SII NH35A, the oem version of the Seiko 4R35. A great workhorse movement, with easy serviceability. It hacks, it handwinds, it’s accurate.

So what are my overall thoughts then, apart from me having romantic thoughts about places I’ve never been, battles I’ve never fought in and a military past I don’t have?

At the asking price of £395, it’s simply not worth it, in fact it’s cynically overpriced. No matter how authentically “cheap 70s” it is, it pales in comparison to a Seiko SRP777 which costs nearly less half that price. It is at the end of the day a faithful recreation of a 45 year old cheap watch. I’ll say that again, a 45 year old cheap watch. Nothing upgraded, basic auto, basic glass, basic bezel.

At £135 it’s worth having if you really like the “idea” behind the watch, but if you’re not bothered about having a watch that looks like a 70s military issue piece, and just want a cheap military style watch, then you can’t get a better watch than this Seiko SNZG15, at less money, in my opinion.

But back to the MIU watch, I like its authenticity. I like the fact that this probably would have been the kind of watch that was issued in the 70s. I like the fact it is well put together, even though it’s not elegantly finished. I do like this watch a lot and regardless of the “low end” nature of it, it recreates what it sets out to do and it feels like it’s going to last.

This is where I got mine if you’re interested:

http://www.ebay.com/usr/exexsec?_trksid=p2047675.l2559

If you like military watches, it’s a decent buy at around £130 and even at £395 it’s a much better buy than the SLA017…

Nodus Trieste Automatic Divers Watch – Review

CATEGORY: Watch I have been loaned for review

Being a “fan” of anything can be considered something of a personality quirk. Not a bad thing, but a part of your psyche.

Some people ask me why I would spend so much on a certain watch, why I have so many watches at all and why do I keep looking for more?

I simply reply with the fact that some people see millions of pounds in Ming Vases. I just see something to put flowers in. It’s horses for courses as the saying goes, it’s what floats your boat, bakes your cakes etc.

But like with life in general, once you get a “hit”, you want more. You start off with a cheap watch and like it, so you treat yourself to another, then you start going upmarket, then it becomes compulsive to search out more, see what others are wearing, post your pics online and before you know it you’re an addict. And as such, you keep looking for better “highs”.

Lately I’ve been getting watches and the “honeymoon” period just hasn’t been happening. I sometimes wonder whether I’ve really got all the watches I’m ever going to need, or whether I need to just go upmarket. Save more. Get the “grail” pieces I lust after. I’m just not getting the kick I crave, unless something is really different about a piece.

Manufacturers are trying to up the ante lately. I’ve never seen a Zelos Hammerhead in the flesh, but I like the looks of those. The H2Os look good too. I tried on a two tone Datejust II recently and really liked it. Maybe I’m getting old, but I think these watches would stand out on my wrist. Really look different. Give me a kick that my last few purchases have been missing.

Then this Nodus Trieste turns up. I open the plywood box and look at the watch.

It looks conventional. It doesn’t have anything that made me go “Wow! Look at this thing.” It looked boring. Simple as that.

But, I aim to give anyone who sends me a watch to look at a good crack of the whip, so although the watch didn’t excite me, I was going to wear it for a business trip so I could give it a fair appraisal.

Anyway, here’s the specs for the watch:

  • 316L stainless steel case
  • 41mm width | 13mm thickness | 50mm lug-to-lug | 20mm lug width
  • Swiss STP1-11 or Seiko (SII) NH35A movement (regulated in four positions)
  • Sapphire crystal | Double-domed with blue AR on underside
  • Sapphire bezel insert | 120-click uni-directional bezel
  • SuperLuminova BGW-9 (blue) lume
  • 200m / 660ft water-resistance
  • Steel bracelet with screw-in links and flip-lock clasp
  • 24-month warranty – First 50 purchases get a 36 month warranty
  • Wood packaging box, pine, charred finish
  • Branded microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Warranty/Regulation card

Wesley Kwok, one of the founders comes across as a really nice guy. When asking about the Trieste he was at pains to stress the following:

“Like many other micro brands, all our watches are manufactured in Asia. We receive the watches, which are then completely disassembled for a full inspection, regulation, and re-assembly. Any rejected parts will be discarded or used on samples/future prototypes. This allows us to really keep an eye on the granular details of each watch. We regulate to 4 positions, as you will see on the regulation/warranty card that comes with your watch. For the NH35A, we aim for a -/+10s per day while for the STP1-11 movement, which you have in your hands, we aim for a -/+5s per day in each position. Usually that means even more accuracy while on the wrist. So yes, final assembly does in fact take place in the US. Naturally, some faulty pieces may slip by, especially if the issues only arise after prolonged use, which is why we offer a 2-year warranty (3 years for the first 50 orders). In addition to the additional year of warranty for the first 50 orders, we are also offer a 10% discount coupon with the first 50 orders.

We are based in Los Angeles, where all our inspection and assembly takes place.”

Ok, that’s good. Indeed, I like to think that I may have had a little influence here as my Ensigns were the first watches I knew that included a QC card and timing. Ok, the timings here aren’t a watch grapher output like mine were, but they are doing them in many positions and they are accurate to me.

Indeed, look closer and you’ll see that the case, dial and hands are really well finished. No rough edges. No misalignment.

I really like the hands, they go fat to thin and almost look like baseball bats.

The face looks more Blancpain than Rolex. The writing is small and subtle.

The case is nicely finished, although it is nothing new in its style. Mostly brushed but with polished edges.

The bezel is really nice. I’m really liking the trend towards lumed sapphire bezels and indeed, this has a nice movement, no slop and lines up bang on. The QC’ing is showing through here.

Now that’s alignment. Take note Seiko!

The crown is laser engraved, I’ll be honest, it’s not the smoothest movement for setting and screwing back down, but it could well be because this prototype has done the rounds before it got to me.

The case is slender, the lugs only 20mm. I think elegant is the word, as it looks good on my 7 3/4″ wrist, but also good on smaller wrists.

But then we get to the bracelet.

On the plus side it has screw in pins, but I had to tighten them all when I got it as some were loose. But it’s another generic oyster style.

The SELs look like they need a bit more definition. They look a bit “faded” when compared to the rest of the strap links, but they are tight.

The clasp is a letdown. I had to adjust it to stop it opening by itself and the flip over clasp keeps popping open. It’s held in place by some bearings which are spring loaded and seemingly not loaded enough.

The caseback has decent enough engraving. I’m not sure what the logo is, but it is competently done. You know I’m not a caseback fan.

The lume is what C3 does. I’ve given up on lume shots as it’s obvious that I can’t really do them any justice…

There are 2 movements available. The venerable NH35 at $350 and the STP 1-11 at $500. The STP is in this version I’ve been loaned, but there’s no way of knowing by just looking at the watch.

There are 3 different bezel styles, the burgundy like I was loaned, a blue and a black.

If I was buying one myself, the black with a date (natch, and I like the fact it’s a black date wheel with white text) would be my choice.

So, I wasn’t blown away, but forced myself to wear it, to be fair to it.

And here’s the thing. Like I said earlier, I keep looking for a “buzz” a “charge” when I get a new watch. I want it to blow me away. Be better than the last one which is now consigned to the watch box. Post it around and get lots of “likes”. Just like going faster and faster in a car, we as humans are never satisfied with what came before and want more.

And sometimes in doing so, we miss the whole point.

This watch isn’t showy. It’s not meant to be.

Sometimes you don’t want that Hawaiian shirt, sometimes you just want a navy blue Polo.

After the initial disappointment, it’s quiet demeanor appealed more. It’s really well made. It’s subtle and well finished. It’s QCd so well and everything works as it should. It’s unassuming. Like I’d rather be chauffeured in a black S Class Merc than some limousine, the Trieste just does what it does well and without showing off.

And here lies it’s appeal. It does look good, it is well made and can be worn with anything. But with 200m WR, a lovely flat sapphire crystal and bezel and screwdown crown, I’m sure it could take a beating and yet it just sits there, smartly, on your wrist not shouting “Look at me” but rather “You carry on old chap, if you need the time, I’m right here”. And I’ve grown to like that about it and think it will always look as classy as it does now, regardless of what trends watch designs will follow in the future.

Just wish the bracelet was better.

Yema Rallygraf Autobianchi Quartz Chronograph – Review

CATEGORY: Watch I have bought for review

Oh look. It’s another retro chronograph review on Watch Thoughts. Yawn.

Anyone would think retro racing chronographs are the new “minimalist” watch, since they are a very prolific style of watch of late.

Both of the above statements are true.

But that didn’t stop this being the fastest watch purchase I think I’ve ever made on the internet (in real life it was seeing the new ceramic sub in the window of an AD, at rrp, in 2011 “I want that, give it to me, it’s mine, I saw it first” as I stumbled into the shop…)

So, why such a quick purchase? Well, I have been aware of Yema for many years, but honestly thought they were defunct as I’d not seen any new models on any of the watch sites I frequent, nor had I seen any wrist shots or talk about them from the FB groups I’m in.

I’m not going to go into Yemas history, but basically they had some innovative designs in the past and, with Lip, were one of the main French watch houses.

Then one day and advert for Yema popped up on my Facebook feed. I saw that it was for a reissue of their Superman diver. I looked, I liked, but not enough to spend over £600 on it. But I followed their Facebook page anyway.

Then one day last week, a Rallygraf reissue popped up. Yowtch!

If you’re British, you will have heard of a Sitcom called Only Fools And Horses. In it there is a road sweeper called Trigger. In one memorable scene, he said he’d used the same broom for 20 years…but it had 17 new heads and 14 new handles. What this means is that although there is continuity to the original, there is actually nothing of the original left. This can be said of many watch brands that have re-emerged over the years, they are original in name and continuity to the heritage only.

Now I suspected Yema went defunct, then has been resurrected now as a badge engineering exercise (asia made, assembled in France) by someone who has nothing to do with the original company, like Gigandet for example. Reading their website, they talk about their history, right up to about 1982, then nothing until their 2017 reissue of the Superman. Indeed, according to the website, the Superman has an in house automatic movement. I have been searching regularly for a Rallygraf, but only found things about vintage ones. Then all of a sudden…

Whilst searching further, I found a review on WUS of a Rallygraf from “Zippofan” from 2010. Then I also saw reference to Yema as being from “Seiko of France”.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/YEMA-Seiko-France-Silver-tone-Alarm-Chronograph/dp/B00026GJRA

The Rallygraf in Zippofans review was of a very different watch to the ones I’m seeing on Yemas website now. Different case, different logos, different crown and pushers. More on this later.

So, a new one is available. Yay…then I saw the one I wanted, the limited edition (200 pieces) Autobianchi version.

Now, Autobianchi won’t mean much to you if you’re not Italian. I remember seeing many of them when I was young when we used to visit Naples to see family. Little cars that were a sub brand of Lancia. If you’ve ever played the Konami game “GTI Club”, the little blue car in that is an Autobianchi. Outside of Italy, they were branded as Lancia (much like Lancia is now branded as Chrysler outside of Italy) Anyway, my aunt and a cousin had them, and like the smell of 2 stroke the logo and name just transports me back to Italy in my youth. Indeed, this was my first car:

Lancia Y10, but when I first saw them in Italy, they were Autobianchi Y10s.

So, a re edition of a watch I’ve wanted since I first saw them, but a limited edition in partnership with the make of my first car, with both the French and Italian flags on the face, made in France…at €299 shipped to my door. Done. Bought. No thoughts given.

So, what are the specs?:

  • Made in France
  • Movement MIYOTA OS21
  • Tachometer
  • 3 Needles – 2 Counters – Date at 6H
  • Steel case with blue rotating bezel and blue dial with mineral glass
  • Diameter 42 mm
  • Width 22 mm
  • Blue leather bracelet with openwork buckle
  • Waterproof to 10 BAR

So, not really remarkable for a watch at this price, but similar to Dan Henrys at this price level. It doesn’t say, but I suspect it’s a mineral crystal, otherwise they would say if it was a sapphire.

I’m not sure what “Fabrique En France” entails, but this has not got a French movement, it’s a Miyota. Maybe “Assemblé en france” could be more true.

The purchase didn’t start off well. “Free worldwide shipping”, but they used France’s domestic carrier. It took 7 days to get to me in the UK from France. Creation Watches will get a £100 Seiko to me from Singapore in 2 days with their free shipping…

The unboxing was an anticlimax. The box is poor. A generic wooden thing with Yema printed on the top on the outside but plain inside. No wow factor and not really usable for other purposes like a travel case is.

The watch case is fine. But it’s nothing unique or different and honestly, it’s no better than a £80 Gigandet that I bought recently. Generic is the word I want to use here. It feels light.

I hope Zippofan doesn’t mind me using the pictures of his 2010 version for comparison (If you do, let me know and I’ll take them down), but look at this case:

Looks a lot better doesn’t it.

The face is what it’s all about. The trademark Rallygraf slightly “unhappy” chrono subdials look the part. The flags at the side do too. The date at 6 is great, a slightly unusual position for this movement.

But the blue is flat, the printing competent, on the whole, but the applied indices have weaker lume than the hands, but worse, look at how rough they are done and on this shot, this indicies has corrosion on it and this is a brand new watch. Doesn’t say a lot for the manufacturing quality and QC.

Honestly, if you didn’t know what you were looking at, it would look cheap to you, and I think it does too.

Also, look at the quality of printing on the Autobianchi logo. Looks very uneven, even in this slightly “soft” macro shot.

The hands are notable in their plain-ness. Full of lume and easy to read whilst being boring at the same time, but they look OK. I like the arrow 24hour hand, even though that function of the movement is essentially useless.

The bezel is a plain, generic, blue aluminium insert. It doesn’t rotate like the website says, and nor should it, it’s a tachymeter.

The OS21 movement is not a movement I like. On this watch the big second hand is for the chrono, the dial at 9 is for chrono minutes, the dial at 3 is the increasingly ubiquitous and useless 24 hour dial. There are no seconds for the time on this watch. This watch arrived with the chrono minute dial not lining up on reset, so it took me 10 minutes, holding the start pusher down, to get the chrono second hand to go round 59 times as they are linked and it isn’t independently settable. The pushers are generic and stiff. The crown is a crown with the logo laser engraved on it.

The caseback is a simple laser engraved one. Even with the serial 77 (my birth year) it’s nothing special. The Nezumi Voitures back is much nicer.

Lets look at this version next to the 2010 version.

The “new” version just looks almost like a knockoff you’d find in a Thai market, not distinctive with no “premium” features.

Heck look at the difference in the strap buckles.

The strap says leather, I can’t be bothered to look further, but it’s nothing special again.

And here’s the thing. If this watch was £100, would I feel different? No, because if this watch was £100 I would have known what to expect (a cheap watch) and therefore wouldn’t have bought it. At €299 I expected something of Straton level and the Yema is in a much lower class than any of the Stratons I’ve seen. It’s not as nice as the Nezumi Voiture and although Dan Henrys are of a similar build, they have nice little touches and their faces are epic…and they are slightly cheaper in to bargain. I’ll say it again, Gigandet do it better at £80.

It seems that the 2010 Yema (with a different logo too) has a more striking design, and looks different from a catalogue Chinese quartz chrono with a Rallgraf face. The “new” Yema doesn’t and seems to be a cynical cash in on past glories. Replace the face with something generic, sell it at £70 and you would have a totally anonymous cheap chrono of Fossil quality, it’s the, sometime poor, printing on the face that ties it to the classic Rallygraf only.

I know I say that you can’t judge a watch by it’s parts, it’s about how it makes you feel as a whole, but this watch makes me feel pissed off. The profit on this will be phenomenal. Remember my failed Deaumar Chronova? That had a custom case, that had a custom SS H-Link bracelet, that had a sapphire with AR, that had a Seiko Mechaquartz movement. I know how much that cost to manufacture, so I know how much this inferior specced Yema does.

This is why Watch Thoughts must not be commercial. This is why from the messages and mails I get, you guys appreciate that, as no blog with paymasters / sponsors etc could review a watch this way.

I’ve paid my own money for this, so I can say what I see without second guessing myself, but I’m glad I didn’t get a Yema Superman as this watch can be summed up in one word: disappointing.

Marchand Watch Company Debonair Watch – Prototype – Review

CATEGORY: Watch I have been loaned for review

You see it a lot in the world of watches. There’s nothing new under the sun. There’s only so many ways to slice a pizza.

Look at Baselworld this year. The big boys are churning out remakes / homages / copies / whatever, of watches from the past.

Seiko with their overpriced 62MAS remake. Omega with their Speedmaster / Seamaster / Railmaster triple box set. 60s style, handwound, Speedmaster? It’s coming.

When I launched my Ensigns original renders, I got lots of “Can’t you make anything original?” “Looks like X Y Z” comments.

And these comments are still there. You launch a watch and someone is going to say “It’s nothing more than a rip-off of X Y Z”.

And to be fair, most of the comments are valid.

The bottom line is, you make a watch that looks like an aspirational, well recognised, luxury watch, or remake of a desirable vintage watch, you’re going to find customers. You can change the aesthetics a bit, but people will see it and will want it in their desire for the original.

There’s nothing wrong with that, well, unless its basically a copy with a different logo on it.

Yeah, I’m sure this is an officially certified chronometer…

And these watches sell, the same people who ask for something original will usually pounce on a slightly tuned Submariner copy.

Now, Kickstarter. It’s become just another marketing platform, in fact the best for the “creators”. Take your money, get their profit straight away. If they don’t deliver what they promised, boo hoo, you can slag them off on social media but you really haven’t got a legal leg to stand on. And Kickstarter doesn’t care, they’ve made their 10%…anyway…

There’s very little innovation on there any more. The idea was that someone with a dream, but no money, could generate enough money to make it a reality through crowdfunding. Now, we see some well established companies launching all their watches on Kickstarter when they could easily make them and then sell them direct, but why would they? This method averts their risk of making a watch that won’t sell. I’m not having a go at them, they’re only using the platform to the best advantage for them, but it seems so wrong to me that now, a platform for a person with a dream but no money, needs tens of thousands spent in marketing to stand a chance of funding.

So it’s saddening that when something original DOES come along, that hasn’t had tens of thousands spent on it, it doesn’t stand a chance of funding.

And this seems to be the case with the Marchand Debonair. I’ve followed this watches progress. I bagged an early bird. I asked to be sent a prototype for review. I want to see it succeed.

Why? Because this watch IS different and beautiful. The creator, Dan Brigham, HAS made something avant garde here…and it’s being ignored. I want to do my bit to help, as yet another derivative bronze diver, cheap minimalist watch or a watch that’s “challenging / disrupting” funds; this stunning, original, well made watch looks like it’s going to fail, and this is making a mockery of the whole KS “system”.

So let’s start at the basics, here are the specs:

Now, you have to bear in mind that I’m reviewing a prototype. The whole point of making prototypes is so that any problems can be ironed out before production and this proto isn’t perfect. Remember this, if you fancy funding a watch on Indiegogo that is based just on renders…the production batch could well be of prototype quality.

This prototype has a perfectly circular, 40mm case and takes 20mm straps. The production watch is going to be 43mm with 20mm straps. As it’s circular, with no bezel or lugs, it is very elegant in proportion and doesn’t look thick at all. People with smaller wrists shouldn’t be put off by the production versions size.

I have the PVD version and the black case with flat sapphire looks great with the red, machined, sides. I really like these machined sides, my personal preference would be the steel with the orange side with either the black or blue face, but this PVD version is not one I’d complain about having.

I’d worry about scratching the side, but as this isn’t something I’d do yard work in, I don’t think it will happen.

The case, I want to say, is almost “dainty”. It looks great on my wifes wrist, but with shrinking case sizes (on the whole) this really is a unisex watch, whether the production version will be as dainty, I can’t say, but again, I can’t see it being much more of a brute.

The rev counter is showing no revs, I was parked when I took this 🙂

The back is nicely done. Informative. It says 20ATM on this prototype, but the production version will be 10ATM. Why? Because this prototype has a one piece case, hence the “Monocoque Case” scribing on the back. This is quite a bold move for a watch at this price. Only usually “serious” divers have one piece cases, but they’re usually automatics. The problem with it, in the Debonairs case, is that to change the battery, you’d have to remove the bezel, the crystal and take everything out from the front. The production version will have a removable caseback, held on with 4 screws, and because of this and the non screwdown crown, the WR will be dropped to 10ATM. I think this is the right move.

The face is nicely done. When I first saw it, I thought BRM, as the wheel design reminds me of the hands on BRM watches, which are also “inspired” by vintage steering wheel spokes.

The wheel spokes are applied and not simply printed on. It’s the centrepiece and it’s well done. On the production version, this will be flatter as sometimes the second hand rubs along the crystal.

The hands are simple affairs. Their black outlines meld with the black of the face, so only the C3 lume is visible. The second hand is a simple affair, but it reaches the bezel. Functional and non challenging is what I’d say.

The indices are printed C3 done in the style of a car speedometer. They look right in place and suit the watch well.

No, I’ve yet to master the art of taking lume shots

The date window is simple and not really intrusive. Would it look better without it? Probably, but I’m glad its there. It is rather small, but this will be made bigger on the production version.

The Marchand logo at 12 is a very racing inspired logo, with the laurel wreath and the name written underneath and it looks well.

I don’t like the “Swiss Movt” text at 6. This watch doesn’t need to try that hard and this smacks of “fashion watch”.

The supplied PVD mesh is thin, flexible and suits it. The leathers in the campaign look like they will suit the watch well.

This watch honestly makes me think of something Benetton or Swatch would have made in the 80s, but of much better quality. “Bang per buck” people, note it has a Sapphire, C3 and a Swiss Movement for £179 (early bird price)

Yes, it’s a quartz. Yes it would sell more as an auto, but I like the fact a lot of people won’t entertain quartz. I don’t have a dislike of any type of movement (except unreliable ones) but it means fantastic quartz watches can be had at bargain prices as less people want them, so they have to be sold cheaper. Keep it up boys, those of us who realise a watch is more than just the movement thank you for making non mechanicals cheaper for us! I’d rather spend 5 minutes and £1 replacing a battery every 3 years than the pain and expense that is servicing an auto.

Marchand talk about a tachometer around the edge, but there’s no speeds marked on it, so it’s essentially not a feature at all and certainly can’t be used as a tachometer. The minute markings need to be there, but need to be represented as the minute scale it is, and not as a tachometer in their blurb.

Also, the crown seems short. There’s only one notch on this, to set the time. When it’s all the way in, the date can be set by rotating the crown, which isn’t as it should be. I’ve been assured this will not be the case on the production version. The crown does not screw down, but is signed with the Marchand “M”

But that detailed face, that puck like case and the colours make something special as a whole. I wore this recently on a night out. It was a short sleeve affair and EVERYONE I was with made a comment on this watch. It had to be taken off the wrist and passed round for their closer inspection. The feedback was good. Hopefully a couple pledged like they said they would. Yes, wear your watches for you, but let’s be honest, everyone likes it when our watch is noticed and we can talk about it for a bit. I talked about the Debonair a LOT. The ladies especially liked it.

This isn’t an everyday watch. This isn’t a “traditional” looking watch. This watch doesn’t go with everything. I don’t think it was designed to. Like the Roger Tallon designed Lip Mach 2000, it’s something special that looks odd at first, but then lets you know it’s special.

Some of you will love it, some really won’t, if you don’t like the pictures, it’s not going to sway you in the flesh. But I do. I want this in my collection as on the right day, with the right clothes, this looks epic on the wrist, it says “I’m not a sheep” and is built well enough to back that up. I think the improvements to the production version, and its slightly bigger size will help too, in my eyes.

We don’t wear our dinner jackets everyday, and that makes us feel even more special when we do.

I hope this funds, as I will really miss it if it doesn’t. You’ve got 7 days…

UPDATE:

And 7 days after this review was published, the Debonair funded on Kickstarter…