Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lum-Tec 500M-2 Dive Watch - A Watch That Can Take On An Extreme Environment And Within The Means Of The Normal Joe

When it comes to watch brands, due to the prolific manufacturing capacity of original equipment manufacturers (or OEM) in China, many new brands are born every year. I tend to disregard these upstarts until they have proven themselves with a clever design that tickles my fancy. For me, one brand that fulfill my criteria at the moment is Lum-Tec. Established in 2008, this company is currently owned by the original founder, Mr Chris Wiegand - President. A USA based company, Lum-Tec has a watch making spirit that is seldom seen in many brands.

The model I have from from Lum-Tec is the 500M-2. This watch has a depth rating of 500 meters and come standard with rubber straps. Powered by a mechanical movement, casing made out of 316L stainless steel and with sapphire crystal to cover the dial.

When I got the piece, the package also included a personal letter from the Mr Wiegand expressing his thanks for the purchase. I felt honored by that gesture.

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The M-2 version is the black PVD model whereas the M-1 is the stainless steel version. Originally I wanted to get the M-1 but due to supply issues, only the M-2 was available at the time.

The case of the 500M diver has very aggressive sharp lines and corners, especially the lug area. This particular model, is bead blasted, then coated in a titanium carbide charcoal PVD hard coating. It is a very matte black finish, with just a light texture to it. The case wall thickness is 8.5mm thick.

The Lum-Tec 500M-2 is a bruiser. It comes with a 44 mm watch face (excluding crown - including crown it is 50 mm) and a height of 18.5 mm (including the domed crystal it is 20 mm). The length from one tip of the lug to the tip of the opposite lug is 57 mm. Due to its deep diving capability, the crown is screw lock with triple diamond sealing system while the solid case-back is threaded with double sealing system.

The large crown is well protected by metal shoulders. I like the etching of the brand's initials at the top of the crown. This small touches is what differentiates a watch maker from a typical run-of-the-mill watch manufacturer. The action is smooth, not much wobble at all and re-engages with the thread easily. Its really nice to grip and a pleasure to use.

Lug width is 24 mm and this watch comes with a custom molded anti static rubber strap. Total weight of the watch with the rubber strap is approximately 213 gm.

The strap is good quality and has a nice feel to it. It has a PVD buckle engraved with Lum-Tec, and two rubber guides, with notches at the side of the straps to hold them in place. It also has the words Lum-Tec molded right into both sides of the strap. Unfortunately, there is no balance between the case and the strap because of the weight. The watch is very top heavy. As such, it tend to slide all over the wrist if not worn tightly. A thicker and heavier rubber strap should be considered or maybe a bracelet could be an option.

The shape of the watch is dictated by the 5.5 mm thick curved sapphire crystal. In the following shot, you can see the distortion on the domed sapphire crystal.

The dial is a black dial. Due to the crystal, it looks a bluish purple. The sapphire crystal is double AR coated, and gives off a purple/bluish hue. The color of the AR is pleasing, and when looking straight on,  clear and vibrant. Unfortunately, the domed crystal does distort the dial when looking at any other angle.

The dial is pretty clean, with only the "LUM-TEC" and "MDV TECHNOLOGY" under the 12 o'clock and 500M above the 6 o'clock. It has the 12, 6, 9 and 3 numerals on the dial, and triangle-like arrow markers for the other hours. It has lumed dots all around the outer track for the seconds. The hour hand is white, and the minute and second hand are orange. Very easy to read at a glance. 

Diver bezel is uni-directional with a 60-click gradation for a full rotation. An important consideration is that it is aligned properly. It has a positive and a heavy feel - its a exudes confidence. The bezel has deep tooth-like grooves cut into it and is very easy to grip. Aesthetically I find the numbering on the bezel to be the weak point of the watch. Its printed on when it could have been an insert.

The movement used in the watch is the Japanese Sii NH15 automatic and handwinding mechanical movement. Part of the Seiko group of companies, Sii has been making basic Seiko low-beat movement to third parties. It hand winds but does not hack. It has a pretty coarse action, not as silky smooth. Nevertheless, it is accurate. I have not faced any accuracy problems thus far.

The case-back is a pretty standard. It is in brushed and textured stainless steel, as opposed to being PVD coated. There is no art etched on the back, just a plain engraved case back with the model number, L.E. number, water resistance, crystal type and an LT 500 M logo in the middle. It is a very thick, solid screw down case back, and it is relatively flat.

The watch is officially listed as water resistant to 500m. Nevertheless, Lum-Tec has pressure tested them up to 1400 meters without leakage, the maximum pressure their testing equipment could muster! Nevertheless, I would advise users to be weary when using this watch in a mix-gas diving scenario. Helium build up can occur and destroy the mechanism in the watch if not careful.

The illumination is by LUM-TEC MDV Technology® luminous material. The lume you get is impressive especially when the technology is not self-powering like tritium tubes. This watch basically glows all the time, and all parts of it glow, except for the seconds markers on the outer part of the dial. The lume is a very light blue/green lume, and is brighter than almost any other watch I have seen.

This watch is built like a tank. It is meant for anyone to use it for diving and to use it aggressively. For the singular purpose of that design scope, overall, the package fulfills its design requirement of a well balanced and affordable timepiece. Some may find issue with the choice of movement or the lack of even a date window. However, the bigger goal of creating a watch that can take on an extreme environment and within the means of the normal Joe has been achieved by a wide margin.

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