I currently own a few Rolexes (see the models I have in the collection by clicking here: Rolex Collection) and two of my current targets are the Explorer II and the Yacht-Master II. Unfortunately, prices have sky-rocketed and it has been a chasing game. In the meantime, I’ve decided to feed my craving by experiencing examples made by other brands as homage to my targets. The Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT is one such example that I’m keen on as it is designed as homage to the Rolex 1655, the inaccurately nicknamed "Steve McQueen" Explorer II. In reality, the actor has never worn a 1655 (for more see: http://www.rolexmagazine.com/2001/02/complete-history-of-steve-mcqueen.html).
All of you may be wondering why this particular homage since it does not look similar to the latest Rolex Explorer II. The honest truth is that I still have hopes of getting the latest Explorer II in the near future. This homage to a 1655 is just similar enough to get the necessary familiarity with the original.
Rolex originally launched the Explorer II back in 1971. The watch came in either Type 1 or Type 2 where the former is generally a generic 3-hand watch while the latter came with the GMT hour hand, 24-hour scale bezel and a quickset date with a Cyclops magnifier. Both were chronometer rated watches and water resistant to 100 meters. Production continued until 1984.
The Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT is based on the Ocean One line of divers and hence is water rated to 1,000 feet or 300 meters. Made in Switzerland, the material used for the casing and bracelet is the 316L stainless steel with satin brushed and polished finish surfaces.
The watch casing has a width of 42 mm across (excluding crown). Length is 49 mm from lug-to-lug while the thickness is 13 mm. It has a fixed GMT bezel with brushed surface and polished bevel that goes around the edge. The solid case-back is a screw-down. Meanwhile, the lug width is 22 mm. The Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT has a satin brushed stainless steel bracelet that tapers from 22 mm to 18 mm at the clasp. The end-links are solid and the bracelet sections are connected by screw links. The signed clasp has a flip-lock safety system with four micro-adjustments. Despite it being a diver, the bracelet does not come with a divers’ extension.
The Steinhart signed 6.5 mm screw-down crown is located at 3 o'clock and the dial is protected by a domed sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating for added clarity under different lighting conditions.
Powered by a Swiss Made ETA2893-2 automatic movement, apart from the standard 3-hands, it also has a GMT hour hand and a date wheel.
The dial on the Ocean Vintage GMT is matte black. The straight walled chapter ring is polished and all markers are printed on the dial surface. The single scale has a combination of line, square and rectangular markers to represent the minutes and hours. A special upside triangle is allotted for the 12 o’clock hour. A date aperture is provided to the left of the 3 o’clock position with a white background. All main markers are filled with old radium Super-LumiNova for illumination in the dark.
There are six lines of logo and texts. The upper part of the dial has the Steinhart logo, the brand as well as the series name. The lower part of the dial highlights the water rating, the type of movement used and the “SWISS MADE” tag. Although there are many lines of logo and texts on the dial, you can still see a lot of matte black dial as Steinhart uses smaller fonts to compensate. Despite that, I am not convinced that it was necessary to add that many statements on the dial. Some of them can be relegated to the case-back if needed.
The hours and minutes hands are straight broadsword design with old radium Super-LumiNova painted in the middle. The seconds hand has a ball section on the front end and it too is painted with old radium Super-LumiNova. The only unique designed hand is the GMT hour hand which is painted orange with a triangle front end painted with old radium Super-LumiNova.
The illumination from the painted sections of the watch is sufficient to allow one to refer to the watch in the dark (provided it did get the chance to absorb light energy first).
The bezel is fixed and the Arabic numbering as well as the border lines are etched into the metal surface and painted black. Running my fingers lightly over the bezel, I can feel the etched surfaces easily.
Unlike the original Rolex 1655, Steinhart decided to use a domed sapphire crystal to protect the dial. The brand also decided not to add a Cyclops magnifier over the date aperture. This is a wise decision as the date aperture is large enough to see unaided.
The screw-down signed crown is slightly off-set from the watch casing. It has a pair of protective shoulders which does not look that effective at protecting the crown from impact since the top half of the crown is still exposed when in the screw-down position. Although the pair of protective shoulders appears to be similarly designed like on the Rolex 1655, the choice of a longer crown on the Steinhart negated its effectiveness somewhat.
The watch casing is paired with a stainless steel bracelet. Attached to the lugs are solid end-links. To access the lug bars, you would need to go via the back as there is no pass-through lugs holes provided. This makes bracelet replacement more tedious. The original Rolex 1655 was provided with pass-through lugs holes but Steinhart appears to eliminate this design in their homage model. Instead, Steinhart provided the option to separate the link just before the end-link by the addition of a screw pin.
Sizing the bracelet is not hard. The only tools you need are a good precision mini slot head screwdriver and a bracelet brace. Do note that the screw pin used has been machined screwed at the factory, hence it will be tight to turn at first. It is because of this that a good bracelet brace is needed; otherwise, the screwdriver may slip and scratch the metal surface.
Although there is some ‘wobbliness’ in the bracelet (i.e. not as tight), based on the price point that Steinhart put on this watch, it is more than adequate. The machined bridge connector between the two sides of the bracelet exudes class. For the price one pays for this watch, it would not be wrong for you to expect just a simple and cheap pressed metal plate as the bridge connector.
The only part of the bracelet that I have a comment on is the clasp. Note from the picture below, the flip-lock safety system does not seem to fit properly when closed. The gap that you see appears to be too wide and should be further adjusted to be tighter.
The solid screw-down case-back has some nice graphics and full of information. It is decorated with the Steinhart Ocean logo featuring King Neptune brandishing his trident and riding a war chariot drawn by a seahorse. The serial number in not on the case-back but I suspect it is located on the inner part of the lug wall (Just speculating; not had the chance to take out the end-link to check. If anyone knows where it is located, do leave me a note in comment section below).
The engine that powers this watch is the automatic ETA caliber 2893-2. This caliber is part of the Mecaline Specialities line of ETA movements and uses the ETACHRON regulator system and regulator corrector. It has 21 jewels and operates at a frequency of 4 hertz or 28,800 BPH. It has a power reserve of approximately 38 hours and has both hacking and hand-wound capabilities. The caliber has the typical functions such as hours, minutes, central seconds, date as well as a second time zone GMT hand centrally located.
The GMT sets independently. Unscrew crown and pull to position II, turning forward/clockwise will adjust the GMT hand by one hour increments. Turning the crown backwards/counter-clockwise will adjust the date. This is very convenient because you can adjust the GMT hand without hacking (stopping) the movement. Meanwhile, position I allows the watch to be hand-wound while position III allows the time to be adjusted with the hacking or seconds hand stop device activated.
The Wearing Experience
Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT is very comfortable watch to wear. The size is well suited for an adult and can be used in all occasions. The inclusion of the dome sapphire crystal gives it that touch of class that belies the price of the watch.
My expectations have been exceeded after getting my hands on this watch. Reading reviews and looking at photos and videos does not do justice to the true utility of the Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT. Below is a video of the watch on my wrist.
I bought this watch via Gnomon Watches out of Singapore. Cost me USD550 (inclusive of courier charges by DHL) or MYR2,332.17. It only took 40 hours from the time of booking before the package was on my desk. No hassle at all.
Steinhart watches come with a 2 years Steinhart international warranty.
As highlighted earlier there is some wobbliness in the bracelet which tends to make rattling noises when on the wrist. The gap on the flip-lock safety system is also visually irritating. Apart from these two issues, the watch is as advertised; rugged and refined.
I also read with interest comments by other reviewers about misalignment of the watch hands and markers. I am happy to state that I don’t have those issues with my example.
Overall, the Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT represents a great value as a timepiece.