Saturday, 20 December 2014

Covering The Bases - Panerai Luminor Base Logo Acciaio PAM 000 & Panerai Luminor Marina Logo Acciaio PAM 005

Panerai's are like potato chips - you can't stop at one (I'm sure all Ristis can attest to that). There's no way to explain why we like them and why we want more. For those of us who like PAM's, we can wax lyrical about each of our precious PAM's just as our spouses or girlfriends can rant on about the differences between a Birkin and Kelly.

Of all the Panerai's currently in production, the Five and Zero need little introduction. Despite being the cheapest entry level offerings in the line-up, they appear to be the most sought after. The long wait-lists at boutiques and authorised dealers is a testament of their popularity.

The Zero and the Five are identical in every aspect except for the absence of the seconds sub dial at 9 o'clock on the former. The latter comes standard with COSC certification while the latter, due to the absence of a second-hand is not COSC certified. They are powered by the workhorse UNITAS 6497 movement but christened as calibre OP I and OP II respectively. Power reserve is rated at 56 hours but in reality I've clocked more than 60 hours on a full wind for each of them.

There isn't much I dislike about these two, except that they are too ding-friendly. The polished cases makes the slightest scratches and dings easy to spot. Though a military-styled watch, with the heritage to boot, it's not exactly very military in that sense. If my military training serves me well, I recall that reflective surfaces are one's enemies' best pals. No wonder the Italian's lost the war. But then again, what's a military watch if there aren't any battle scars to enhance its credibility?

One thing though, one can't dispel the versatility of the Luminors. Throw almost any straps at them and they are likely to pull off a different yet pleasing look each time. Well, not exactly a 100% hit rate but somewhere in the 95% region.

The familiar Bettarini case used on the the Zero and Five is similar to the one used to house the latest range of P5000 movements. However, these are slightly thicker as the movements used in these base models are thicker than the P5000. Despite its relatively large 44mm case, this range utilising the Bettarini case seems to be the PAM of choice, especially among those with smaller wrists, based on my observation. The lug design plays an integral part as they are steeply angled, thus producing minimal overhang.

Unlike the 510 and 422 which were reviewed earlier, these dials have applied stick and Arabic 12, 3, 6) markers. These applied dials have a more nostalgic feel somehow. Personally, sandwich dials seem a tad more modern by comparison.

The beautifully applied markers make for great masterpieces. It's no slouch compared to the stenciled neatness of their sandwiched stablemates.

The covered casebacks are definitely more interesting than a Rolex's and are etched with interesting information like serial numbers, production series, depth rating etc...

These siblings are an absolute delight on the wrist. The Zero looks slightly bigger as the dial is cleaner and less cluttered. But that's just an optical illusion. The steeply angled lugs keep the watches snug to the wrist.

A PAM is not a PAM without that legendary lume. Yes, as always, PAM's are no slouch in the dark arena.

In conclusion, it is my personal opinion that these are the quintessential PAM's. To a certain extent, these are the definitive pieces. Though unlike the 372 that has more of the original Luminor DNA, these basses utilises cases from the late pre-vendome era and are responsible for the PAM revival. Well, yes, Sly had a fair share in the campaign, but that's another story altogether. Furthermore, these are the only Luminors branded with the OP logo, too.

As if these are not reasons enough to join the line, there are strong rumours that Panerai is phasing out their ETA-powered base offerings with in-house alternatives. Enthusiasts, and even sales reps from boutiques and authorised dealers have openly said so. The 510, 560, 561, 563 and 564 are supposedly the 111, 112, 113, 114 and 177 replacements, respectively. Will this rumour bear fruit? Or is it just another sales pitch? Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt these are simple yet beautifully made timepieces. The finishing is top notch as always. Functionally and aesthetically pleasing.

Oh and most importantly, the wifey still thinks I have two PAM's!

Specifications :
Case Size : 44mm.
Lug Width : 24mm.
Case Material : Stainless Steel; Polished.
Movement : OP I (PAM 000), OP II (PAM 005); both modified ETA UNITAS 6497. OP II is COSC certified.
Power Reserve : 56 Hours (Stated); 60+ Hours (Actual).
Water Resistance : 300m.

Pros :
- Simple and nice.
- Reliable movements.
- Recognisable presence.
- Versatile - both on formal and casual occasions.
- Easy strap change system.
- Plentiful aftermarket strap options.
- Functional and easy to read.
- The spouses and girlfriends cant tell them apart.

Cons :
- Ding and scratch magnet.
- Price tag.
- Relatively short supply and slow to come by. Long wait lists.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Blue Collar Vs. White Collar- Steinhart Nav B-Uhr 47 Premium Automatic Vs. Steinhart Nav B-Uhr Gnomon Boutique Edition

Hi folks! It's been 6 months since my last review. Yes, the sinister combination of parenthood and a demanding day job had pretty much sapped me of the much needed time and strength to write another review... Until now.

On the pedestal today are two brothers that might have been separated at birth. One had probably spent his youth in swanky surroundings while the other had sprouted from humbler roots. Yeah, the hands are a dead giveaway, I guess.

Anyway, it was through sheer patience and coincidence that I acquired these two pieces. I had gotten the blue collared sibling about a year ago after a pretty long wait. However, when the sibling with the gold lapel was launched a couple of months ago, I was skeptical, to say the least. But when it finally hit our shores, I was sold, as soon as I wound it, but I'll get to that later.

Aesthetically, the two are rather different, although both cases are 47mm. The Gnomon Edition comes with a sterile dial (clean and spartan), white markers and hands, brushed bezel and blue out-lined hands. The Premium edition comes an almost sterile dial (Steinhart Logo at 12 o'clock), off-white markers, revised diamond crown (looks almost onion-like to me but not like the bulbous onion crowns found on Chronoswiss timepieces) and a polished bezel. The font of the arabic markers are also a little different between the two. The premium has bolder but slightly smaller fonts. However, it has a thicker and more closely spaced minute markers.

Other visual differences can be seen on the cases. The Premium edition is slimmer and bears a smaller crown. The lug arms are also thinner. The thicker case of the Gnomon Edition could be necessary as the the movement ensconced within could be thicker.

The Premium offers a window to the most important difference between the two pieces, literally. Safely encased within is a Soprod A10. The matching and distinctive off-white markers and matching gold hands pretty much got my vote but it was the Soprod A10 that really sealed the deal for me as soon as I wound it. Buttery smooth were the words that leapt into mind immediately. It does not have that loud winding sound nbut is a lot more muted and has a more pleasant feel compared to the ETA 2824. Not that much friction.

Now, though a little boring, the Gnomon comes with a solid case back. However, this is where it's status as a boutique edition is made known via a huge etched Gnomon Watches logo that occupies the entire case back.

On the lume front, the Premium has that bit of edge thanks to the slightly different markers.

Both fit rather neatly and comfortably on my average-sized wrist. However, the Gnomon edition's diamond crown, as with the other Steinhart diamond crown that I've experienced, can be uncomfortably painful. The revised crown on the Premium is a lot more tolerable. that said, both are equally easy to operate. Especially for someone like me, the best description would be - a manicurist's nightmare.

the Gnomon edition looks more rugged, in my opinion, while the Premium looks more refined. Mainly because of its gold accents, thinner case and smaller crown. I can't help but think of the Gnomon edition as a blue collar (thanks, coincidentally to the blue accents on the hands), beer guzzling guy who won't hesitate to get his hands dirty, modifying his alfa romeo on the weekends, while the Premium piece reminds me of a more refined gentleman, sipping on his single malt and dragging on his cigar every evening.

Personally, the unmarked, sterile dial of the Gnomon edition has a certain appeal. A certain subtlety that is difficult to put into words. Such unbranded pieces tends to tug my heart (and Purse) strings. It's got that sensual appeal. Kind of akin to a girl in a sexy outfit. Showing all but not showing much at the same time.

As with most Steinhart timepieces, you get what you pay for. Both watches are pretty much "bang for your buck" pieces. Oh did I forget to mention, the 22mm lug width makes strap options plentiful. So, what's not to like about them?

The sad thing, however, is the Gnomon Edition seems to have ceased production. I'm just guessing as I do not see it on Gnmon Watches' website anymore. Also, I have not seen stock replenishment for quite some time now. It will be sad if this is replaced by the Stenihart Nav B-Uhr 47mm Automatic.

But, fret not. As the Premium has come to the rescue! Man! I love the feel of the Sopord A10!


Steinhart Nav B-Uhr 47 Premium Automatic
Case Dimension : 47mm.
Lug Width : 22mm.
Case Thickness : 12mm.
Crystal : Domed Sapphire.
Movement : Soprod A10.
Power Reserve : +/- 42 hours.

Steinhart Nav B-Uhr Gnomon Boutique Edition
Case Dimension : 47mm.
Lug Width : 22mm.
Case Thickness : 14.2mm.
Crystal : Domed Sapphire.
Movement : ETA 2824-2.
Power Reserve : +/- 42 hours.

Pros :

- Value for money. Bang for your buck.
- Very smooth winding feel. Buttery smooth. (Nav B-Uhr 47 Premium).
- Versatile.
- Well made and finished.
- Workhorse movement that is tried and tested (Gnomon Edition).
- Beautifully clean sterile dial (Gnomon Edition).
- Simplicity at it's best.
- Very well balanced design.
- Very easy to operate crowns.
- Comfortable crown design ( Premium edition).

Cons :

- Possibly discontinued. No listed on Gnomon Watches website anymore (Gnomon Edition).
- The Premium would look better on a completely sterile dial.
- Painful diamond crown ( Gnomon Edition).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

An Offer I Just Could Not Refuse - Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner (Ref: 114060)

What is fate? What is destiny? Personally, I believe it is that little force that is somehow responsible for brining us to certain crossroads. It is the decision we make at these pivotal moments that shape the outcome aka destiny.

What has this to do with a timepiece?  Well, a couple of years ago, when the Deep Sea Sea Dweller (DSSD) finally hit the local market, it was sold at a premium over the list price at the local authorized distributors. I was offered a 'G' series at a discounted price (off the premium) but turned it down as I was getting a PAM 320 then. Looking at the current price of the DSSD, I have been kicking myself ever since.

My opportunity at redemption came last year, when fate came knocking on my door once more. Well, in a way. A good old buddy called me one weekend to inquire about the price of a brand new Rolex Submariner (no date). He explained that his father had won one at a lucky draw recently but did not want to sell it. A local pawnshop had offered SGD7,500 for it. I told him to send it over within the hour. I took care of its destiny.

This is the latest update of probably on of the coronet's most iconic piece.  The dial is nicely laid out and not overly cluttered. I particularly like the 4 lines of text at the bottom. It gives the watch a more balanced and professional facade. In all honesty, the no-date model has never been my favourite. However, I've started to appreciate this no-date variant. As this is not a huge watch, the absence of the cyclops date window makes the watch look bigger. Unlike the previous offering, this number is fitted with a uni-directional ceramic (Cerachrom, in Rolex-speak) bezel, with the markers and graduations coated in platinum. he bezel is firm but not tight and is easy to turn. It takes 60 clicks to complete a full revolution. The clicks are pleasantly muted but assuring.

This latest rendition is equipped with Rolex's 3130 calibre and is ensconced within the manufacturer's famed oyster case, clamping it safely shut. Pretty much how its namesake mollusc would its precious pearl.  The triplock crown is really tight. It requires more effort to unscrew and screw it back into position. The "O-ring" is also visible when the crown is unlocked. this ensures its water resistant capabilities, which incidentally, is depth-rated up to 300 metres.

Now a little more on the calibre 3130. Firstly, like all it's siblings from the house of the coronet, it is COSC certified. Secondly, it is fitted with their latest crowning glory, the Parachrom hairspring, which is ten times more shock resistant to shocks than conventional hairsprings. Furthermore, the Parachrom hairspring is blessed with anti-magnetic capabilities.

The one important design coup that Rolex scored has to be with the broader lug shoulders on this latest example. Unlike the previous model, the enlarged lug shoulders make the watch look larger than its actual 40mm girth. However, the relatively narrow lug width (20m) exposes the reality. Truth be told, I had intended to give this watch to the missus but thanks to the lugs, the watch is a tad too big for her tiny wrist.

The case is slim except for the caseback protrusion. I must admit I am rather taken aback by the sheer beauty of the watch's profile. Neatness, completeness, attention to detail - these adjectives come to mind whenever I look at the profile of the case. The bezel, form this perspective is a piece of art. However, the only eyesore is the upside down crown logo on the crown in the "locked" position. This is not a problem but just an eyesore. However, I reckon the least Rolex could do is to at least get this right for the price they are charging.

The satin brushed oyster bracelet is sturdily finished and feels solidly hefty. at the end of the tapered bracelet is Rolex's folding clasp which features its Glidelock system. This easy to use system allows the clasp size to be adjusted by sliding one side of the bracelet along the clasp enclosure, before locking it at the desired position. This makes fitting over wet suits a breeze.

The caseback is characteristically Rolex, which essentially means it's as spartan as they come. No inscription, absolutely nothing. A blank, boring rear. For a watch that commands a heavy price tag, the least that Rolex should do is brighten the caseback a little.

The watch looks surprisingly okay on my wrist. This, in my opinion, is due to the large lug shoulders. The only obvious tell tale sign that this is actually a rather small watch is the minute sections of exposed wrist that is usually covered by my other watches.

On the lume front, Rolex never fails to excite. The bluish/ turquoise lume is updatedly avant-garde. I can't help but think that I am staring at the poster of a sci-fi movie. Hey! Hang on, if memory serves me well, didn't Sharon Stone had a Submariner prominently on her wrist in Sphere, while the rest of the cast donned nondescript black numbers? Anyway, I digress.

Though the Sub has never been high on my list, I have really grown to like it. This broad shouldered beast is perfectly balanced, aesthetically, and bears handsome build and features. However, it will be great if the case is a tad bigger at 42mm. then again, considering I got this at a relative bargain, I shall thank fate for allowing me to decide my destiny.

Specifications :

Case Size : 40mm.
Lug Width : 20mm.
Case Material : Stainless Steel.
Crystal : Sapphire.
Bezel : Cerachrom (Ceramic).
Movement : Rolex Calibre 3130.
Power Reserve : +/- 50 hours.
Water Resistance : 300m.

Pros :
- Broad lug shoulders creating the illusion of a big watch.
- Simple and classy design.
- Use of shock and magnetic resistant hairspring (Parachrom).
- Visually well-balanced dial.
- Tight Triplock crown ensuring a tight seal (water resistance).
- Firm, easy to operate uni-diectional bezel.
- Beautiful updated lume colour.
- Solidly built and excellently finished.
- Relatively well priced for an in-house movement and a very well finished case.
- Easy bracelet adjustment through the Glidelock system.

Cons :
- A tad too small at 40mm.
- Overly spartan Rolex "signature" caseback.
- Logo on crown in upside down position when locked.


Sunday, 26 January 2014

It's Hip To Be Square - Steinhart Aviation Vintage, Chronograph and GMT Automatic

It's interesting where life's little detours can take you. I am pretty much a Henry Ford where watch is concerned. Give me any watch, as long as it's round. I surprised myself, too, when I picked up my first square watch - the Steinhart Aviation Vintage. I was doubly appalled at myself when I picked up my second piece - the Steinhart  Aviation GMT Automatic. I was convinced I should make an appointment with my psychiatrist when I went back to the ad to pick up my third and final piece - the Steinhart Aviation Chrono.

The Aviation range pays tribute to the pre-computerised aviation era. The case, dials, chapter rings, markers and hands are reminiscent of the gauges found on the gauges of early aircrafts. The case front is adorned with 4 hex screws. However, there have been several cases reported on forums that the screws have a tendency to come loose. The cases of the three watches in the limelight today are basically similar.

Measuring 44mm x 44mm, the case is relatively huge. It looks bigger than a round case with the same diameter. The fat lugs are proportionately sized to compliment the large case. Straps are fastened via lug tubes and hex screws. While the Vintage is DLC coated, its Chrono and GMT siblings are offered in satin brushed stainless steel

ETA movements are utilised for each variant - Valjoux 7750 for the chrono, ETA 2824-2 for the Vintage and ETA 2893-2 in the GMT. As such, reliability is not a major concern.

The case thickness vary across the different variants. The Chrono's case is of course, the thickest. The Vintage appears thinner than the GMT but this is nothing more than mere optical illusion. Thicker lugs are also used on thicker cases, proportionately. This is a nice touch but not adopted by all watch producers. Gladly, Herr Steinhart's team has not scringed on this aspect.

Among the trio, the Chrono, without a doubt, is the most macho looking beast. Thanks, of course, to the pushers and chunkier case. The orange details on the dial enhances an otherwise, boringly staid facade. My peeve with this macho man is its chrono pushers. The chrono pushers are too jiggly for my liking. The engagement clicks are hard and abrupt.

Although the orange detils might limit it to a casual number to some extent, the Chrono can serve as a worthy accompaniment to shirt sleeves, particularly french cuffs if paired with the right leather.

The dual-timer is the most subtle of the threesome. The only detail that hints at any form of excitement is the orange-tipped GMT hand. This is my usual pick on a regular workday.

There is a very unique characteristic of this watch, which is also present in the Steinhart Ocean Vintage GMT. It is almost silent when you wind it. It feels almost exactly like a quartz watch. There is almost no winding or grinding noise. Even the click of the date change is strangely muted. Did they mout some kind of muffler in the case?

The Vintage stands out with its DLC case. However, beauty, in this case, is really only skin deep. The matte DLC coating is not the most durable that I've encountered as it scratches rather easily. It has a slightly grippy texture but not rubber-like. This DLC coating is closer to some PVD coating that I've come across.

That said, the Vintage is my favourite of the trio. It is the most versatile and can take on almost every strap I've thrown its way. Every strap change reflects a different alter ego, bringing on a different personality. However, it excels in a military get-up the most, in my personal opinion.

The Vintage and the GMT models feature similar casebacks that ecthed with the model's logo. The chrono offers a see-through caseback which grants us a view of the Valjoux 7750 movement with Steinhart's signature gold rotor.

On the wrist, all three watches are equally comfortable. Not surprising as the cases are almost identcal. The angled lugs limit any visible overhang. The chunky chrono stands out more and might not be aesthetically pleasing to some.

Using old Superluminova Radium, the Vintage lives up to its name. The green lume adds a vintage element to the overall aesthetics of the watch. However, thought the most subtle in daylight, the GMT is the most handsome in the dark.

The Aviation range is a rather unique looking collection. Steinhart has managed to blend functionality and form very well in this product line. Although the Vintage is very much limited to a casual watch, it is very versatile and can be a head turner if shod with the right pair or boots.

The macho Chrono is the only schoizoid in the mix with its ability to function as a casual piece and daily office beater. However, the jiggly pushers is a bit of a let down.

The GMT works better as a subtle daily shirt sleeve man jewellery. However, it's will definitely grab a ton of attention when the lume is charged and the lights are dimmed.

These are really fun watches to own, in my opinion. They are refreshing substitutes whenever a need to take a break from my mundane routine of round cases.

Specifications :

Steinhart Aviation Vintage
Case Dimensions : 44mm x 44mm.
Case Thickness : 14.8mm.
Lug Width : 24mm.
Crystal : Sapphire, Domed.
Movement : ETA 2824-2
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours.
Water Resistance : 30m.

Steinhart GMT Automatic

Case Dimensions : 44mm x 44mm.
Case Thickness : 14.8mm.
Lug Width : 24mm.
Crystal : Sapphire, Domed.
Movement : ETA 2893-2
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours.
Water Resistance : 30m.

Steinhart Aviation Chronograph
Case Dimensions : 44mm x 44mm.
Case Thickness : 17.2mm.
Lug Width : 24mm.
Crystal : Sapphire, Domed.
Movement : Valjoux 7750 
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours.
Water Resistance : 30m.

Pros :
- Value for money. Relatively affordable prices.
- Big crown that is easy to operate.
- Nice lume, especially the Vintage and GMT Automatic.
- Very nicely angled lugs resulting in minimal overhang.
- Form meets function.
- Reliable and easily serviceable movements.
- Nice overall finishing and build quality.
- Versatile, able to use as casual and daily office beaters (GMT and Chrono).
- Versatile and able to match with almost any straps (Vintage).
- Easy strap change system.

Cons :
- DLC coating could be improved (Vintage).
- Ding magnet (Vintage).
- Very silent winding needs getting used to (GMT Auto).
- Jiggly pushers (Chrono).
- Reports of hex screws on case front loosening.