Thursday, 12 December 2013

For Purists Only - Glycine Airman "1953 Vintage" Limited Edition

Let's face it. Vintage is in. More specifically, vintage-inspired pieces are in vogue now. Either that, or designers are just getting plain lazy. I noticed it all started with Tudor's Heritage Black Bay. Following that, almost every major watch manufacturer with a long enough history and heritage, started rummaging through their dusty attics for inspiration.

Well, don't get me wrong. I ain't complaining. I reckon this is great. Simply because it allows the average Joe, such as myself, access to vintage pieces with a modern update.

The 1953 vintage LE is not a very big watch by current standards. Ensconed within the 42mm stainless steel case is a ETA 2893 ( badged as a GL 293 by Glycine) GMT movement. The most prominent vintage-inspired detail is the off-white/ beige dial and "patinaed" looking hands. the lollipop second hand is a neat detail as well. Like the Airman Mystery I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, this model utilises a 24-hour dial as well. However, unlike the Mystery, this is a "purist" 24-hr dial GMT watch. A full rotation by the hour hand marks the completion of a full day (24-hour cycle).

The entire watch face is split into AM and PM halves. For example, the time in the photograph above is 11:25AM, not 5:25am. The red date in the magnified date window provides a welcome contrast to an otherwise staid dial.

The alternating- sized Arabic markers, though a nice and necessary touch for a dual time timepiece, makes the watch rather cluttered. The 24-hour dial layout also makes reading the time with a quick glance rather difficult. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Unlike most dual time watches, the 1953 Vintage LE has three hands instead of the usual 4. The bidirectional bezel is used to represent the second time zone. The bezel is secured by a screwed-down lock at the 4 o'clock position. The screwed-down crown is surprisingly easy to operate despite its diminutive size.

True to it's vintage DNA, the 1953 vintage LE's case is rather thin. Looking at its profile, one is able to crack the magician's code, in a manner of speaking. The long pin-holed lugs creates an illusion of a watch bigger than it really is. Compare this photograph above with the wrist shot later, and you'll see what I mean.

The movement is visible through the exhibition case back. Lie the Mystery, the rotor is signed with the brand, model and the logo.

Although the lume is pretty good. I am rather disappointed as the markers are not lumed. It is rather difficult to tell the exact time. It's rather bland and boring, actually.

As I mentioned earlier, the long and relatively straight lugs appears to be "stretching the watch, thus making it look bigger. This is a really smart design as you can see, the watch appears to fit my wrist rather nicely.

However, the case is a tad too thin for my liking. Puffing it up a little would have been ideal.

The watch comes originally with with a black NATO strap but I prefer a more antique touch so bought a more suitable pair of leather for it. It is supposed to come with a vintage looking wooden box which I have yet to receive from the AD after 3 months as he claimed that the local agent, DKSH Singapore, had yet to send one to him due to some glitch in communication.

This LE is limited to 600 pieces worldwide. However, what draws me to the watch is not the limited production but the vintage cues and purist dial. However, I would have preferred the case to be thicker and chunkier, and instead of a flimsy NATO strap, a more vintage looking pair of calves to complete the vintage appeal. The cluttered dial and purist layout needs some getting used to. But then again, I'm tempted to use the purist dial as an excuse to be late!

Specifications :
Case Size : 42mm.
Lug Width : 22mm.
Movement : Calubre GL293 (ETA 2893)
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours.
Crystal : Sapphire - front and back.
Water Resistance : 200m.
Case Material : Stainless Steel.

- Vintage cues abound.
- Purist dial. A novelty I don't mind having.
- Proportionately sized crown that is easy to operate despite its diminutive size.
- Pin holes for easy strap removal.
- Built quality and finish.
- Long straight lugs to make up for the smallish size.
- A possibly good excuse to be late thanks to the purist dial.

- Case is a tad to thin.
- Case is a tad small. A 44mm would have been ideal for me.
- Purist dial needs getting used to.
- Bland lume.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Mysteriously (Un)Stealthy Black Beauty - Glycine Airman Base 22 "Mystery" (Ref: 3887)

Stealth watches are a bit of a paradox, in my opinion. Stealth, as far as my limited understanding goes, means to be inconspicuous. However, most stealth watches are anything but. In fact, stealth watches tend to attract more attention. The Glycine Base 22 "Mystery" is another such example.

Firstly, I'm a sucker for red and black combos. Ever since I saw it on the internet about a year ago, I had been waiting patiently for it to show up on our shores. I finally get to try it sometime during the middle of the year at a shop near me office. However, I was not entirely sold as it was kind of thin and it could do with a slightly larger case. But when I saw it again at Gnomon Watches a few months later, I caved and decided to get for my trip to Italy.

The Mystery is a tow-time zone watch fitted with a ETA 2836 movement. However, Glycine has christened it as the calibre GL 293. Under the anti-reflective coated Sapphire crystal is a 24-hour "blackout" dial for the second time zone. There are additional stick markers and a 12-hour Arabic inner rim for the main time zone. Yes, it does look a bit busy and I must admit it still takes me a while to read the time on occasions. Honestly, this is not a "quick glance" watch. Well, not without some practice and getting used to, at least. The red GMT hand is a neat touch providing a nice contrast to a dark facade.

The bi-directional bezel further facilitates a third-time zone capability. One unique feature that accompanies this bezel is the locking mechanism at 4 o'clock. Glycine calls it a "spacer system" and "hatched crown". These are actually fanciful names for a simple screw-down locking mechanism. I was initially concerned about the hatched crown hindering the operation of the relatively tiny crown at the 3 o'clock position. However, I am very pleased that not only did the hatched crown not obstruct time setting or winding at all, but the screw-down crown, though rather small, pops out with more than enough space to allow my very short fingernails to pull it out further.

The polished PVD case is surprisingly top notch. It looks well coated and soundly bonded. This piece comes standard with a black NATO strap with PVD buckles. As some of you might know, I'm not must of a NATO fan, so I fitted a pair of matte black calves with red box stitch instead.

The case is a tad too thin, in my opinion. However, it does allow you to tuck it under shirt sleeves easily. Notice the highly polished PVD case. The lugs are steeply angled and should fit those with small wrists really well as the case is not huge to begin with. Actually, the pin holes are a double-edged sword. While it allows straps to be removed easily, aesthetically, they are akin to pimples on an otherwise, flawless face.

Visible through the exhibition case back is the rhodium coated ETA 2893 movement. Th Glycine website advised that only the rotor is coated. However, the entire movement appears to be coated. What's neat is the Airman logo etched on the decorated rotor.

I believe the sapphire on the case back might be tinted as well. Here's the same watch, same place, taken from a different angel.

AS my wrist is not that huge, many feel that it looks ok on me. Unfortunately, optical illusion tends to come into play and make an all black object look smaller than it really is.

The biggest peeve from me has to be the thickness, or rather, the thinness of the case. It looks like a pancake on my wrist.

True to its stealthy and mysterious DNA, the lume is mediocre at best and you need a really bright source to jack it up to this level. Which is also probably its max.

It's a practical watch, especially when traveling. However, the busy and blackout dial makes quick time telling a bit of a challenge. The stock NATO straps are cheap and boring looking. The case could be thicker and larger to offset the effects of optical illusion. The lugs should be straighter. The lume sucks (but its a stealth watch, duh!). But all these gripes are, in my opinion outweighed by the very aesthetically pleasing design and unusual bezel locking device. As with any mass produced watch, it's not perfect but sure has the looks to grab attention.

Specifications :
Case Size : 42mm.
Lug Width : 22mm.
Movement : GL 293 (ETA 2836).
Power Reserve : +/- 42 Hours.
Crystal : Sapphire (Front and Back), Possibly tinted.
Case Material : Stainless Steel with PVD coating.
Water Resistance : 200m.

Pros :
- Reliable movement.
- Good loks.
- Sturdy and polished PVD coating.
- Easy to use crown.
- Bezel lock device.
- Relatively affordable price tag.
- Nice rotor.
- Rhodium plated movement.

Cons :
- Case is a bit too thin.
- Case could be larger by at least 2mm.
- Lousy lume (but it's a stealth watch!).
- Lugs should be straighter to make the watch look bigger.
- Cheap looking original NATO strap.
- Quick time reading not easy and needs practice.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Big Like Pam's - Panerai Luminor Marina 1950 47mm (PAM 422)

What do Panerai and Porsche have in common? No, not the same first letter in their names. Quoting a line which I remember vaguely from Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson " Porsche has launched a new 911. And it looks exactly like the old one!"

Like the 911's chassis, the Luminor's case shape has barely changed over the decades. Like Porsche, Panerai has decided to stick to a winning formula, it seems. The porsche 911 comes in many guises - the 911 Carerra, 911Turbo, 911 Carerra S just to name a few. Similarly, the Panerai 1950's case is used in a wide array of offerings like the PAM 320, 321and 359 just to name a few.

However, the reliance on a recognisable shape and design allows both Porsche's and Panerai's products to be instantly identifiable. Honestly, I see nothing wrong with that. When there's no need to design a better mouse trap, why bother?

The 422 comes in the wake of the immensely popular 372. It utilises the same 47mm case as the 372 and 423 but lacks the historic looks of the 372.  The matte black dial is married with gold stick and Arabic markers (12, 3 and 6). Golden hands add that vintage feel to a modern rendition of a timeless classic. I prefer the presence of a second sub-dial on my PAM's. I like just that bit of clutter. That lop-sided, asymmetrical look of an otherwise, overly plain dial. Oh, did I mention it's a sandwich dial as well? I personally prefer sandwich dials.

One of my main concerns lies with the case. The 1950 case is rather huge. but not that chunky. Yes I have larger and thicker watches in my stash but what worries me about this particular beast is it's completely polished surface. Which translates to a potential ding magnet. Otherwise, there is nothing not to like about the classy lines of this very well finished cushion case.

What sets this case apart from the other Luminors is its unique shape. From what I understand, this case shape is a little different from previous offerings like the 000, 005, 111, and even the later models like the 320, 312, and 359. This cushion case is similar to the Radiomir's. Now, instead of wire lugs, it is fittted with the Luminor's signature thick lugs, and and chunky crown guard.

I am rather let down by the crown guard, actually. No, the build quality is fine. I feel that at the price they charge for this watch, they should at least match it with a polished device rather than one that is obviously mass produced for their other offerings as a 'one size fit all' solution.

This piece features a transparent case back which allows you a glimpse of the in-house P3001 movement. The P3001 is the same series of in-house calibres used in the 371 and 423 as well. This is a 3-day power reserve hand wound movement. The former has no power reserve indicator (PRI), while the later has one on the dial. The P3001 has it on the rear of the movement. I am also rather let-down by the see-through case back. It is a huge window, granted, but the movement is almost entirely hidden, much like a continental car's engine bay. You'll know what I mean when you lift the bonnet of a Merc or Bimma.

It is a huge watch and it shows. There is that bit of overhang as a result of the relatively straight lugs. But I reckon it still looks pretty okay on my wrist.

I wouldn't say the lume is legendary but it is typical Panerai. Vintage green and neat. And most importantly, it does the job adequately.

The watch comes standard with a pair of assolutamente straps. These are the straps on the bottom of the photograph above which are not fitted to the 422. It's basically a Panerai-speak for nubuck. They are fantastic looking straps except for two minor details. Firstly, nubuck is similar to suede in texture. Therefore, if you wet it, it's doomed. Secondly, the stock straps are 26/22mm. I personally fel that the taper is too much. A 22mm Tang buckle is far too small for a 47mm case. As you can see, I managed to find a pair of straps that look almost like the original assolutamente, with a straigh 26/26mm dimension, and is not finished like suede or nubuck. And to top it off, it's a fraction of the price!

this is the second PAM i have. The other is the 320. What I like about Panerai is how similar they look. So much so, that my dear wife still does not know I have two Panerais! She still think this is the 320! However, it might seem like I am rather disappointed with this PAM but honestly, I am not. I am rather pleased with it, aesthetically. I like how Panerai has given a historic piece a modern touch. I like the overall vintage-inspired package. Most of all, I like the size and heft. And as with most PAM's the aftermarket strap options are endless. Unless it's a customised piece, it's impossible to own a watch that meets one's expectations in every detail. As such, I've chosen this watch for one simple reason - I like it!

Specifications :
Case Size : 47mm.
Lug Width : 26mm.
Movement : Calibre P3001 (Panerai In-house hand wound movement).
Power Reserve : 3 days.
Crystal : Saphire.
Case Material : Polished Stainless Steel.

Pros :
- Size. It'a a huge presence, literally.
- Aesthetically pleasing eye candy.
- Plentiful aftermarket strap options.
- Easy to smuggle hone without wife knowing.
- Classic design.
- Build quality and finish.

Cons :
- Ding magnet.
- High price tag.
- Stock straps (26/22mm) not proportionate to the watch size (47mm).
- Crown guard not polished, does not match polished case.
- Movement is too covered up.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

All That Glitter Ain't Always Gold - Steinhart Nav B 47 Handwinding Bronze

Yes, it's yet another Steinhart. Yes, It's another pilot.  But I's my first Steinhart Bronze! After Panerai launched the PAM 382 a couple of years ago, everyone has jumped onto the bandwagon. I admit, I'm rather attracted to bronzos but I am rather selective. The way I see it, there are bronzos (those that sing to me) and there are bozos (those duds with no tune). The line between them is more obvious then the missing letters in the latter.

I've never really been a fan of the Steinhart Nav B-uhr handwound range. The only exceptions being the previously reviewed ST1 Gold and this. But let's leave the ST1 out of the picture as it's already been reviewed. Let's, however, focus on this beast on our petri dish today. The obvious difference, as the name suggests is the bronze case. The other, which I am personally drawn to, is the sunburst dial. The third, though not that important to most folks, is the straps. It's one of the most matching and best looking pair of leather hide that I've ever received on a watch from these Teuton lads. Let's focus on each of these aspects individually.

I was initially skeptical about a pilot watch dressed in bronze. This is a relatively rare marriage. Archemede did it recently, I think. But in a smaller case (42mm). And that's the only example that comes to mind. Thus, I broke my golden rule when I purchased this watch. I actually ordered it without first trying it on. But I'm glad the gamble paid off. I like it. When I opened the box, I thought I had won the first prize and not the third. Yes, it actually looks more gold than bronze. The composition of copper and tin might be a little different from the other bronze watches in my collection. This bronze case is brighter and boasts a shade that is closer to dull yellow gold. It is not the dull and dark coloured alloy I am used to wearing.

The satin-brushed case is elaborate yet clean at the same time. It shares the same case as its stainless steel brethren. The lugs are angled in the same manner. It is just as slim as well. It really fits the bill of an elegant dress watch in this form and shade of colour. The standard 22mm lugs translate to a wide array of after market strap options.

I reckon I have figured out an apt description for this crown - chalice. I reckon it kind of resemble a chalice. Especially in this colour. And yes, I still don't quite like the overly protruding crown.

Now, the dial. I really DIG this sunburst dial. It radiates symmetrically from the centre like rays of light in a dark room. I always find such neatly crafted sunburst dials soothingly elegant and enticing. What more need I say.

The case back offers a view of the Soigne grade UNITAS 6497 movement. Now, There was a limited dealer/ boutique edition of this particularly offering (also in 44mm) but instead of the UNITAS 6497, a lower grade ST1 (minus the swan neck regulator) is installed instead. Due to a miscommunication between the local AD and myself, I missed out on the that variant.

Now, the third thing that I like - the straps. The light brown straps that came fitted as standard are the best looking from Steinhart I've ever seen. It's got a natural uneveness in the tone and colour that makes it look almost untainted. And the actually match the bronze case very well. Oh, the bronze tang buckle is a nifty touch as well, especially as it is of the exact shade and colour as the case.

On the wrist, it sits rather pretty on my 6 3/4-inch wrist except for that tiny bit of overhang thanks to the lugs.

On the lume front, it's no Seiko but I wouldn't recommend this to a ninja. Or if you're intending to sneak home after a late night out without drawing attention.

On the whole, I am beginning to like the way Steinhart differentiates the different variants in their model line-ups. Some touches are subtle yet prominent enough for even the laymen to notice. This piece beats most of the other Steinharts that I have despite its simplicity. It's not perfect, well, let's get real, no watch can ever be perfect unless its customised to one's specifications, but this piece is close. The sum of its parts make it a compellingly different timepiece that deserve special mention and attention, if not, recognition.

Specifications :
Case Size : 47mm.
Lug Width : 22mm.
Case Material : Bronze.
Crystal : Sapphire.
Movement : UNITAS 6497.
Power Reserve : +/- 42 hours.

Pros :
- Case colour/ shade compliments the watch theme and design.
- Well finished sunburst dial.
- Elegant, clean and not bad looking.
- Nice leather straps.
- Affordably priced.
- Overall, a very well designed, finished and handsomely stylish watch.
- Tried and tested movement.

Cons :
- Protruding crown.
- Relatively straight lugs resulting in overhang on smaller wrists.
- Not very versatile. More a dress watch (at least until the patina sets in).