Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36mm Plastic Crystal Non Quick 1601 - Keep Running And Running; A Review On The Immortal Classic

I own a Rolex Datejust 1601. An old watch and based on its production number it was manufactured in the early 1960s (1962 is the best approximation).

It has a plastic crystal and its casing measures 36 x 12.3 mm. The casing is stainless steel with a 14 k yellow gold fluted bezel. Unfortunately, the original bracelet is missing and instead, I got a leather strap as a replacement.

Apart from the misfortune of not getting a complete watch, everything else about the piece is immaculate. Based on the information I got from the seller, this watch has been periodically serviced by the previous owners which kept it operating perfectly for the last 50 years.

The movement for this model is the 1575, with hacking capability. The 1575 uses 26 jewels.

Unfortunately, this movement does not have a quick setting mechanism for the date. To adjust, a rather tiring process of turning the hour and minutes hands over and over again until the correct date is displayed.

The dial itself is very clean apart from the standard notations such as the brand, logo and certification. The silvery dial surface creates the necessary contrast for the indexes as well as the hour-, minute- and hour-hands for ease of reference and visibility. There’s no artificial illumination material provided on the indexes and hands.

The screw down crown is smooth and it is easy to engage the screw thread to lock it in. The mechanism gives good feedback when winding using the crown.

The old Oyster case of the 1601 has pin holes on the outer side of the lugs. This allows quick bracelet or strap change to be done with a use of any small pin. The lugs are 20 mm wide. This gives you countless choice of straps to choose from. Like all Rolexes, the case back is clean.

I have a 7.5 in wrist. Relative to contemporary watch sizes in the 39 mm – 42 mm range, this watch is on the low side. Nevertheless, the size is sufficient enough to not make it look awkward.

Here I got to mention the acrylic crystal on this watch. Although there is a replacement sapphire crystal available for this model, the previous owners of this watch did not change the original. Although easily scratched, it is also equally easy to polish it away. Furthermore, replacing the acrylic crystal is not expensive.

I personally do not like gold on my watches. However, the yellow gold fluted bezel used in the 1601 is not overpowering. More often than not, you don’t realise that that the bezel is gold anyway.

As a fashion statement, this watch does not have the physical presence as some of the watches from Hublot, Panerai etc. However, its claim to fame is its ability to perform as advertised even after 50 years. Based on the last service of this watch, the performance is within COSC standards. Not bad for an old watch!

This watch is a “conscience statement” – it reinforce the notion that this watch can last forever if given the necessary TLC and it is directed directly to the soul of the owner.

The pleasure in wearing this watch is always to the wearer. Once you own it and appreciate its history, it starts to be a Holy Grail in your collection.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Schroeder Joailliers 1877 GMT Automatic Watch - An Elegant Piece Steeped In European History

In a small state of Luxembourg, there is a homegrown watchmaker called Schroeder Joailliers 1877. Founded in 1877, Maison Schroeder, suppliers of the Royal Family of Luxembourg, has a long family tradition. With two retail outlets in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in the city centre and in the City Concorde shopping mall, Maison Schroeder also has a design studio in Paris. The company has created its own "Pas de Deux" brand of jewellery and leather goods, and its own "Schroeder Timepieces" watches. These "made in Luxembourg" collections are updated every season.

I happened to visit its Luxembourg outlet and after going through the collection, I was impressed. So impressed that I walked out of the shop with this one...

The Schroeder GMT Automatic. This is a stainless steel watch with automatic movement, second time zone, a date window, exposed mechanism (see-through back plate), silvered dial and leather strap.

Sapphire crystal glass covers the dial as well as the display case-back. Nevertheless, the sapphire crystals were not provided for anti-glare protection. The glass protrude slightly above the side walls of the watch case. Any grazing hit with hard objects could mean the crystal taking the brunt of the impact.

The width of the watch is approximately 42 mm. It has a sunken dial design with slopped inner walls indexed at minute intervals. Apart from this scale, there are another 3 other scales provided on the dial. The next (after the first) is Arabic numbered 1 to 24 in 24 intervals. For this scale, half of it (from 6 to 18) is painted white while the rest is dark. This is the GMT reference scale. Next to it, the third scale, is a mixture of Arabic numberings and indexes at every 5 minute intervals. Finally, the last scale, also a mixture of Arabic numberings and indexes at every minute intervals. It is also on this last scale, the date window is located, at the 3 o'clock position.

The hour and minute hands are lumed. The GMT hand is also lumed but with an additional red border for ease of reference. Everything else is not lumed.

The crown is a push-in system. It has three positions. The safe position allows users to wind the main spring. In the first position, turning the crown clockwise adjust the date whereas turning the crown counter-clockwise adjust the GMT hand. The second position allows adjustment to the time itself.

This watch is water rated to 5 ATM or 50 m.

The picture above shows the ETA 2893-2 (or 2892A2) movement powering this watch. It is an automatic caliber with sweep second and quickset date capabilities. It also has a dual time or 24 hour function. It also has a second-hand hacking feature. The caliber uses 21 jewels and operates at 28,800 VPH. The main springs has power reserve of 42 hours.

The leather strap is approximately 20 mm wide and the buckle has the brand sandblasted (see below). The use of white thread in contrast to the black leather is very striking and exudes a "sporting" feel to the watch.

I have a 7.5 inch wrist and the size of the watch is just nice for me. It is also very elegant and can be used in all occasions.

Below is a picture I took in the dark. You can see the hands but in darkness that is not enough. The designer should have lumed part of the dials to provide some reference for the users.

Schroeder timepieces are relatively unknown outside of Europe. Some of the designs are refreshing and the build quality is first class. For the EUR875 (which was equivalent to MYR3859 @14 May 2011) spent, it was worth it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tissot Gents T-Classic Le Locle Automatic Watch Reference T41.1.483.53 - Uncomplicated And Classy

This is the watch that I got from Switzerland in February 2011. The Tissot Gents T-Classic Le Locle Automatic Watch has a nice classic look to it. It has a stainless steel case, grey-tone stainless steel bracelet with black dial with roman numerals.

Date calendar display at 3 o'clock position. Scratch resistant sapphire crystal covering the 39.3 mm case. The rounded edges gives it a very vintage feel to the watch. As you can see from the photo above, lume treatment is not provided.

This watch is also very thin at just 9.75 mm thick. Powered by the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, this caliber allows winding as well and second-hand stop hacking capabilities. The main springs can last up to 40 hours on a full wind.

The crown is a simple pull-out version hence the water resistant of this watch is only rated to 30 meters. The letter "T" is embossed on the top of the crown.

This watch comes with a unique display case-back. A clip-on domed stainless steel cover with two semi-circle windows cut into it is what comes with this watch. On it, some interesting graphics are sand-blasted including information about the watch. The Tissot brand and the year are etched on it. The glass used is also sapphire crystal, similar to the front.

The lug width of this watch is 20 mm and the bracelet that comes standard is a tooth-linked type with a butterfly clasp at the end. The bracelet tapers from 20 mm at the lugs to just 16 mm at the clasp.

Overall weight of the watch is approximately 123 g.

The size of the watch is just nice for those with wrist size 7.5 inch in circumference like I do. It is light and looks well in an office as well as formal situations. It is uncomplicated and classy.

If only there's some lume provided and this watch could be deemed perfect. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Reference M116660-0001 - A Technological Marvel And A Brute To Wear

The Rolex Deepsea was designed with the singular purpose; to enable extreme divers to make it their first choice watch for diving. Rolex incorporates the need for styling to cater for connoisseurs.

The Rolex Deepsea is water resistant to a depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet). The 44 mm case is made out of 904L stainless steel with thick 5 mm domed sapphire crystal and unidirectional rotatable bezel with a 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum.

Featuring the Rolex 3135 Automatic movement, this one undoubtedly a robust watch with a tough movement that already certified by COSC and featuring stop-second and quick date change. Its balance, that receives an accurate microstella screw setting, beats 28.000 alternations/hour and is now endowed with the Parachrom spiral. The rotor moves in both ways for a better winding.

The dial itself is a myriad of information about the watch. Some would argue the bulk of the information would be better suited to be on the case-back but despite the "wordiness" of the dial, Rolex is able to balance it out nicely. The indexes as well as the hands are covered with the blue luminous material (Chromalight). More about this later.

The only comment I would like to make against the dial design is substitution of the 3 o'clock index with a date window. For symmetry sake, it would better if the date window was placed on its own.

Meanwhile, the case-back is not as devoid as some might imagine a Rolex case-back should be. Around the outer part are some wordings about the model name and a few logos. Nevertheless, the central part of the case-back is bare and is of a different material than the rest of the watch. Made out of grade 5 titanium, it was design as such as part of the Ring Lock System utilised by Rolex to allow the watch to operate in extreme water pressure.

In order to remain complete, the pressure is directly transmitted between the convex-shaped sapphire glass of 5 mm thickness and the case back, made of grade 5 titanium, by means of the central 904L steel ring, that ensures the rigidity of the whole. Thus, the deformation of the case is avoided and the waterproofness level increases as and when the external pressure heightens.

The consequent of this innovative design is an imposing central ring that Rolex has covered with the words "ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE" and "RING LOCK SYSTEM".

Rolex made the effort to create a patented divers extension. The patented Rolex Glidelock fine adjustment system allows divers to adjust the length of the bracelet to fit over a diving suit, without using any tools. A toothed panel under the clasp cover provides an extension of up to 20 mm in 2 mm increments.

The helium escape valve mechanism utilized is unique. For Rolex, its engineers created a gas escape valve fitted with a spring: it opens when the difference in pressure between the inside and outside of the watch reaches 3 to 5 bars, allowing the helium to escape, thereby protecting the watch.

The wearing experience is all about being able to carry the weight. The watch is a heavyweight and the weight is obvious to wearers (if you do wear it often, it’ll become natural after a while). Like I mentioned earlier, these are tool watches hence cannot be used in all occasions. Contrary to popular believe or what the Rolex advert tries to portray, the Deepsea cannot be used properly if you are wearing tuxedos or suits. The height of the watch is too high and can never slip pass the cuffs (if you decide to use a wider cuff, it can disappear in it but then you won’t look good – style wise).

The width of the bracelet also plays a role. The Rolex’s lug width is 21 mm. To me, the Rolex appears slightly unbalanced. A 22 mm or 24 mm would have been better suited for the Deepsea.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Laco 1925 Squad Atacama “Ninja” Reference 861632 - A Black Ops Watch With Major Flaws

The company LACO (Lacher & Co.) was founded in 1925 by Frieda Lacher and Ludwig Hummel in Pforzheim. After Mr. Hummel left the company, Erich Lacher took over completely in 1936. The "Erich Lacher watch company" manufactured the legendary Pilot watches of the 1940's under the brand "LACO". The models were DIN certified and famous due to their precision and reliability.

I always admire companies and brands with strong historical past. As my first direct exposure to this brand, I decided to acquire their Squad Atacama “Ninja” model.

Laco’s Squad series are technical watches designed for the rigors of military service. Designed to be stealthy and capable for diving up to 500 meters, I was drawn to these specifications.

The Watch: The Laco Squad Atacama is a tactical style watch designed for military or law enforcement. Made in Germany and powered by a Swiss Made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with approximately 42 hours of power reserve, the watch uses IP black casing with display screw down case-back. The dial is also black with Arabic numbers and markers.

SuperLuminova C3 is used to paint the Arabic numbers, markers, hour and minute hands to enable ease of reference in the dark. The bezel is unidirectional with a 60-click interval. There is a date complication at 6 o’clock and the crown of the watch is positioned at 12 o’clock. The crystal is sapphire and the rubber strap is 22mm wide. Overall width of the watch is 46mm with a thickness of 13mm. Dive watch compliant and capable up to a depth of 500m.

As a tactical watch, the use of an orange lume for the minute hand is generally accepted in the military and other law enforcement agencies as it gives a reference anchor at a glance. The three level dial provides three distinct orientations for tactical planning. The unidirectional bezel with the necessary lumed pip at the 12 o’clock position allows the watch to be used as a timer or a reference for a second time zone.

There is a bit of play with the bezel. Compared to other makes in my collection, the bezel play on this Laco is obvious. For a tactical watch, this is not acceptable as it could imply it’s easy to accidently turn the bezel if brushed against something relatively solid.

The shape of the watch as well as the lug design is unique. In the following set of photos, the design features of the watch are highlighted. The first thing you would notice is the shape of the watch case which looks like a cone, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. This design was chosen as it provides the necessary strength to sustain 500m of water pressure with the least amount of steel. Also, a narrower end meant a smaller surface area for the display case back crystal hence reducing the force on the crystal at maximum depth. The photos below also show the extension lugs which are required due to the unique shape of the watch case. Unfortunately, the lugs are not interchangeable due to the position of the crown. The top lug has a special notch built into it to allow the crown to easily pass through it. This arrangement is much appreciated as it meant owners can easily source generic after-market straps of the 22mm variety.

The second issue I have with the watch is the crown. Honestly, I love watches with their crown either at the 12 or 6 o’clock position as it makes the watch look symmetric. However, for the Laco Squad Atacama, a design flaw makes such arrangement problematic. It is all because of the need to have an extension lug.

In the picture below, you can plainly see how close the crown is to the edge of the special cut-out lug. One cannot have a good grip of the crown to manipulate it. You need to use one’s nail to manipulate the screw-down crown hence is very difficult to operate. This is a major design flaw which Laco needs to address.

Another flaw to take note of is the weight distribution of the watch. Due to the additional lug extensions, the watch is top heavy. I would suggest a bracelet be better suited for this watch to distribute the weight evenly. To enable wearers to adjust the bracelet size, a bracelet extension mechanism can be incorporated similar to what Seiko has on its Marinemaster or what Rolex has on its Deep-Sea Sea-Dweller.

As it is, wearers must be very cautious when putting it on one’s wrist or it may slip away from you.

The cone shape casing could also be an ultimate issue to some. Its shape makes it a natural hook and could easily snag on anything it brushes against. As such, wearing this watch in a formal setting is troublesome as it often snag on the cuffs. Although I have not served in the military, common sense states that such situation in not acceptable as it could jeopardize a mission especially if one needs to crawl through bushes silently in the dark. Laco should flip the cone shape upside down and this should eliminate the problem.

The watch needs to be worn tight to the wrist. Otherwise, it can start flopping around and this can become uncomfortable after a while.

Looking at the construction of the watch, it should be able to take the expected punishment if used in its attended environment.

However, there are a number of flaws which should be rectified. If I am in military procurement, I cannot accept this watch due to the very high likelihood of snagging caused by the cone-shape design.

Other issues I have highlighted earlier such as the accessibility of the crown, the looseness of the bezel and the ungainly weight distribution of the watch reduces the desirability of this watch as a “tactical watch”.

Nevertheless, this watch does have good things going for it if used on casual or non-professional sports settings. It does have wrist presence and the dial design makes it looks quite macho. The lume is bright.

Overall, I give it a 6 out of 10.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bell & Ross BR02-92 Pro Dial Diver Watch - A French Connection (Updated)

Recently, I got the chance to acquire a new Bell & Ross BR02-92 Pro Dial dive watch courtesy of a closing down sale at a high-end watch shop in Kuala Lumpur. It was damn good deal.

The shape of the BR02 is a mix between the iconic square case of the Aviation series and the traditional round case of the Vintage series. Coupled with an internal bezel instead of external like other typical dive watches, it is quite common for people to initially assume it to be a sports watch or even a dress watch before recognizing its true design role.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Victorinox Dive Master 500 Black Ice Mechanical - A Well Balanced Dive Watch Design

Victorinox is synonymous with its famous red pocket knife. This is a company over a century old. Not a lot of people know that the company also has a watch division established in 1989. For the last two decades, a number of notable watch designs were introduced. One model that got me interested in this brand is the Dive Master. In 2012, I got myself the 500m Black Ice Mechanical in blue.

This watch has a depth rating of 500 meters and come standard with rubber straps. Powered by a mechanical movement, the casing is made out of 316L stainless steel and with sapphire crystal. The stainless steel casing is covered with gunmetal black PVD.

Built to exceed the ISO 6425 standard for dive watches, this watch has been manufactured to such high tolerances that a helium escape valve is not deemed necessary. To top it all, it comes with a display case-back! Both the front and back glass windows are made out of sapphire crystals.

The Victorinox is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist. The most interesting feature of the watch is the rubber compound used for the strap. Instead of feeling rubber to the skin, it feels smooth unlike other rubber straps that are in the market now. By far, this is the most comfortable rubber strap that I have even tried on. Interestingly, this particular rubber strap is made in Switzerland. On other aspects of the construction, the quality is exceptionally high.

The watch is well balanced on my 7.5 inch wrist. With a 43 mm watch face (excluding crown), it fits just nice. Meanwhile, the crown is a screw-down and protected from knocks by two ridges.

Due to the quality of the manufacture, this Victorinox comes with a display case-back. The logo of the brand is etched and printed on the rotor. Another important feature of this watch is the choice of automatic movement. Instead of using the commonly used ETA Caliber 2824, Victorinox chose the more refined and upscaled ETA Caliber 2892.A2 to power this model.

Although the watch is a dive watch, some elements of an army watch has been added. Apart from the main indexes that are lumed, there is also an inner dial with numbering from 14 to 22 (the numbers 13, 23 and 12/24 were excluded due to lack of space).  The uni-directional bezel has numbers that have been cut into the metal but not enhanced – a form of camouflage perhaps.  

An interesting element about this watch is the standard rubber strap provided. The strap is a 22 mm standard strap but with such thickness that you have to see to believe. What more surprising is the fact that it’s made in Switzerland.

My experience wearing this watch is thoroughly pleasing. Not only is the movement accurate (yet to formally test the accuracy. If you are anal to the last second, a mechanical watch is not for you anyway - get a digital!!), the strap is very comfortable. I wore this watch during a jungle trekking expedition in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Despite the appalling conditions of heat, humidity, mud, water, sweat and the constant bashing into trees etc, this watch came out pretty much unscathed.

The lume is not as good as what you can find on the Seikos though. Nevertheless, it’s adequate for the job at hand.

Overall, I would recommend this watch to anyone who wants a real value-for-money workhorse. Despite the weight balancing issue of a strap based deep diving watch, Victorinox is smart enough to choose a thick strap instead of a thin one. This help alleviate the issue of "flapping" on the wrist if not tightly secured. 

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