Saturday, 26 January 2013

My Knuckle Duster - Oris Pro Diver Chrono

Like most working folks, I need my drinks. On Mondays, to beat the blues. On Tuesdays, to drown the stress. On Wednesdays, to celebrate my ability to survive till the half-way mark. On Thursdays... Well, you catch may drift, I suppose.

My usual buddy on these self-prescribed therapy sessions is none other than my trusty knuckle duster, I mean my Oris Pro Diver Chrono. Well, you never know when some drunken moron will drag you into a bar brawl, right? So, always go drinking well armed!

How is this harmless timepiece possibly be a defensive weapon? Simple. Size matters.

This may not be the largest watch on the market but it's the biggest I have that can fit comfortably on my poor excuse for a wrist. I bought this at a relatively decent deal from a local AD when I first caught the diver's watch infection. For a full titanium (both case and bracelet) piece, I must say the price I paid is a bargain (my apologies that I am bound by blood oath never to reveal the price I paid to anyone, except my family, best friends, golden retriever etc).

This beast is by no means intimidating. Despite it's full titanium construction, it's not too light (unlike the Tudor Pelagos). It boast a pretty comfortable heft. Not too heavy, but just right. Sitting next to some of it's average sized stable mates, it looks quite a fair bit larger.

For a watch of this girth, it is no surprise that it is reasonably chunky as well, about 18mm, actually. This, however, means it is not easy to tuck under shirt cuffs. In addition to a traditional uni-directional, it is equipped with a bezel lock system, which Oris officially dubbed it as the Safety Rotation System. 

The ceramic bezel can only be turned when it is unlocked by pulling the bezel upwards. to lock it, one simply needs to push it back down to snap it in place on the case. To ensure easy turning of the bezel, the design team have fitted a vulcanized rubber bezel ring as well. 

The bezel is a breeze to operate. It ratchets with confident clicks that lock the bezel in place with each turn. There is no free play at all. The vulcanized rubber ring is soft to the touch but yet rather hardy and durable, although it looks kinda plasticky.

As it is made for professional divers in mind, it is not surprising to find a HRV on the case.

Unlike the Rolex Deep Sea Sea Dweller, and the Seiko Sumo, the lug size to case diameter ratio is more proportionate - 28mm. However, I echo the common gripe that almost every Oris diver watch owner share. The lug design limits the watch to using the proprietary bracelet and rubber straps.

The dial is well laid out. The designers have made full use of the large surface area to arrange the sub-dials and indices properly to ensure legibility and ease of reading the dial, well almost. They got it right except for one area - the minute counter of the chronograph sub-dial at the 6 o'clock position. It's unnecessarily cluttered. The checker-board layout helps to a certain extent but I personally feel that alternating the Arabic markers would have made it less busy looking.

The date window, in my opinion, should be placed in a less cluttered position instead of within the minute counter of the chronograph sub-dial at the 6 o'clock position. It would have been better at the 3 o'clock position.

The dial features the signature wave pattern featured on most Oris divers. The depth rating is indicated at the 3 o'clock position on the dial. The fang-like sliver markers is another neat touch, in my opinion. It differs it from most of the other diving watches on the market.

To ensure an absolutely tight seal, Oris has fitted screw-down pushers and crown. Despite the big, signed crown, the relatively huge crown is not easy to pull out. thanks possibly to some seals (o-rings) in the crown housing and the shoulders that act as crown guards.

Note that the lugs are heavily curved. This is essential for big cases as it ensures that the watch contours as much to the wrist as possible. Straight lugs would make the watch a difficult fit for many.

The case bace is engraved with the usual literature covering the basic specs of the watch as well as a meter/ feet scale.

The brute of a case is fitted to a tapered titanium bracelet (screwed links) which ends in a signed folding single-lock clasp. The bracelet tis a mix of polished and brushed surface.

The clasp features the requisite diver's extension which operates easily. The clasp is not the most awe-inspiring. It is operated by two pushers on each side of the main clasp housing. It unclips far too easily does not inspire confidence. As a professional diving watch, a double lock clasp, that can even be found on entry level divers like Seiko's offerings would have been more adequate. 

The lume is an awesome sight. Somehow, auqa-marine comes to mind. They look like bright turquoise neon sticks.

Thanks to the curved lugs, the watch wears pretty comfortably on my insignificant 6 3/4" wrist.

The watch comes with an additional rubber strap and strap changing tools. 

This is a handsome beast. Being large, and chunky, one has to be careful as they are natural ding magnets. However, it's well laid out dial and overall construction makes this a truly value offering. Don't leave for the pub without it!

Case diameter : 51mm.
Lug width : 28mm.
Movement : ETA Valjoux 7750.
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours.
Crystal : domed sapphire.

- Value for money.
- Use of modern, high-end materials (full titanium, vulcanized rubber, ceramic bezel).
- Domed sapphire.
- Bright and beautiful lume.
- Avant-garde yet simple design.
- Well laid out, uncluttered dial.
- Bezel "Safety Rotation System".
- Curved lugs.
- Tight but easy to rotate bezel with no free play.
- comfortable heft.

- Single lock clasp.
- Clasp unclips too easily and doest not inspire confidence.- Ding and scratch magnet.
- Chronograph minute counter too cluttered.
- Position of date window.
- Lug design.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Classic Reborn - Rolex Explorer 2 (Ref 216570)

What is a classic? What defines a classic? To a wine freak like me, a well aged burgundy like a DRC, Vosne- Romanee or even a new-world pinot noir, like a Dry River or even a Scorpo, comes to mind. To my wife, it's an iconic handbag like a Chanel 2.55 with a vintage buckle. To the true admirer of the female form in me - Michelle Pfeiffer, Cate Blanchette. But let's not go there...

But as someone who spends a coupla minutes every morning pondering over which watch to wear, the Rolex Explorer 2 has always topped my list. Strangely enough, this was an unplanned purchase. I thought the 42mm case was a tad too small. The hype building up to its release did not help either, egging retailers to add a premium on the watch.

I was actually holidaying with the family in Hong Kong last March when I chanced upon a retailer that had stock of this model. I was actually getting bored of not having anything to buy there. When I was quoted the price of SGD9,500, I could not resist. It was retailing at around SGD13,000 back home then.

The latest incarnation of this iconic piece (one of many from the Coronet's stable) boasts several new features  and advances over the previous model. Firstly, it's grown by 2mm, it's got a new heart, and most noticeably, an orange hand for the second time zone.

The orange hand is a salute to the original Explorer 2 (ref. 1655) that was first released in 1971. In my opinion, the orange hand and text stands out better on the matt black dial than the white dial. I had first asked for the white dial at the shop but decided on the black because of this reason. The Mercedes hour hand adds a classic yet modern look to this classic.

Another plus for the black dial is the "phantom effect" hands. It makes it seem like the hour, minute and orange hands are floating on the dial. The clean and simple dial gets my vote. More is really less in this case. Looking it straight in the face, it's hard to find any flaw with this design and construction. It's perfectly proportioned in almost every aspect.

The simplicity extends to the case back. Although this is typical of Rolex, I reckon the usual literature, e.g. model reference, water resistance etc be engraved on the case back.

The slim profile of the case renders it easy to tuck under shirtsleeves as well. The engraved screw-down crown is easy to operate. The marking on the crown tells users that it's a twin lock as well. However, as with most Rolexes I've come across so far, the logo never seems to be positioned upright when screwed down completely.

The case is finished with both brushed and polished surfaces. The bold 24-hour markers and brushed stainless steel bezel are handsome touches as well. the lug ends on this latest model do not just out like the previous model (ref. 16750) and not as sharp as well.

The tapered, brushed stainless steel bracelet is another classic touch. All the links are solid. the gaps in between are tiny and closely meshed as well.

The latest Explorer 2 is also fitted with a new clasp that is chunkier and sturdier. However, the main clasp feels a little loose and far too easy to remove. It unclips with almost zero effort.

However, the main attraction of this new clasp is the micro-adjustor. It allows micro adjustments to be made effortlessly. All you need to do is clip and unclip. I never realise how useful this is until I started using the watch. It's usefulness is obvious when you are exposed to temperature fluctuations, e.g. moving out of an air-conditioned environment into an unsheltered area bathed in bright high noon heat.

This pieces has one of the most beautiful lume as well. It glows with a beautiful turquoise hue.

This watch fits perfectly on my 6 3/4" wrist. There's no overhanging lugs and it doesn't feel awkward either. It looks and feel better than the previous 40mm model.

This "grown up" Explorer 2 really is a beautiful watch from almost every perspective. It's versatile enough to be worn on the weekends or tucked under shirt sleeves on work days. It simply exudes classic elegance, but not in a dressy way.

Case diameter : 42mm.
Lugs : 22mm.
Crystal : Sapphire.
Movement : Rolex in-house Calibre 3187.

- Versatility.
- Simple, clean design.
- Excellent fit and finish.
- Micro-adjustment clasp.

- Price.
- Main clasp doesn't inspire confidence.
- Logo on crown does not align upright.

Monday, 14 January 2013

My Hor(r)o Journey - My Crazy 2012 Revealed

Last year began with my usual resolution - No more watches! But it all went down the drain when I discovered Gnomon Watches. Ironically, it sounds almost like my resolution. I've always been into watches but I think I might have gone overboard a little. Just a little.

Anyway, let's get rolling...

The Lure of the classic

My first acquisition began in March when I was holidaying with the family in Hong Kong. It was an unplanned purchase (aren't they all?!) but it was one that I have absolutely no regrets.

I went on a hiatus following this purchase. More like a self-imposed exile, really. But three months later, I embarked on another chapter of my watch adventure.

The Japanese Invasion

My watch salesman introduced me to the world of affordable, reliable, value for money entry level automatics. The build quality of these beauties are remarkable for something that cost a fraction of even some entry level ETA-driven Swiss numbers. I went into a buying frenzy. All those in the pic above were acquired in a 4-month window. The fun was really in the hunt.

During the reign of my alter-ego, the Seiko Psycho, I was introduced to numerous forums. These forums were the catalysts that spurred me into the next phase of my journey.

The Gnomon Dynasty

My appreciation for affordable, value for money Swiss and German timepieces. I began to compare the quality and prices of some of these pieces against some Swiss offerings using the same generic movements (namely those from the ETA bandwagon). I began to realise that these ETA workhorses have a longer and more remarkable history than some of those newer in-house movements. Furthermore, some of these big Swiss boys are using the same ETA movements in their pieces as well. And they cost a lot more! That was, you might say, a wake up call.

I literally went into another frenzy and assembled the above Gnomon Ensemble in a period of 5 months. But apart from Purchasing from Gnomon, I was also on the look out for interesting pieces, particularly divers.

The Minor Incursions

These beasts above are some of the pieces that caught my attention. Most are of rather decent value. One of which - the Tudor Black Bay can easily considered my Grail watch for 2012.

I'm adamantly sticking by my resolution this year - Gnomon Watches! Oops! I mean NO MORE WATCHES!

But truth be told, I've already bout 2 more and one's waiting to be picked up. Resolution out the window again. But seriously, I really do plan to stop soon.

Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Two Of A Kind - Dievas Vintage Kampfschwimmer Sapphire and Dievas Vintage California

It has been a hectic week in the office. Physically and mentally draining. Thus, I've not been able to start on another review. But I've decided to stat on one since it's the weekend.

After I picked the Dievas 3646, I couldn't stop thinking of the Kampfschwimmer. So, as soon as the next shipment of the Kampfschwimmer came in I snagged 1 for myself.

A couple of months later, Anders of Gnomon informed me that a new of a variant of the Kampfschwimmer would be launched soon. this was released on Friday (11-01-2013). Once again temptation got the better of me and I bought this as well.

The two watches are almost identical. The only telling difference is the arrangement of the Arabic and Roman numerals on the dial.

The other obvious difference can be seen from the back. Yes. the movements used, according to Anders, are differnet. The Kampfschwimmer has a Unitas 6497 under the hood while the new Vintage California is equipped with a Unitas 6498. Both feature the usual Cote-de-Geneve stripes.

I never thought I'll enjoy myself so much, winding watches. Winding my three Dievas will never be a chore but a form of relaxation for me. The clear and crisp ticking of the workhorse Unitas movements, and the pulsating of the hairspring through the exhibition case back can be rather calming and therapeutic.

The usual inscription borders the screw-down exhibition case back. However, it's indicated as 6497 on the case back of the new California Vintage as well.

Both watches come in a highly polished stainless steel cushion case. The crown is signed with the Dievas logo. The shape and relative thinness of the case allows it to be tucked neatly under shirt sleeves.

My usual concern with high gloss or highly polished surfaces is that they are likely to be ding magnets.

The two models look great both from the front and the rear. However, changing the straps is a bit of a nightmare thanks to the polished case. You'll scratch the case if you're not careful so caution is advised. Use scotch tape to cover the surrounding areas before attempting if you have issues with your dexterity. To add to the problem, the screws used to secure the lugs are not very big thus can be hard to focus on. I actually used a loupe when unscrewing them.

The domed sapphire crystal adds to its vintage appeal. I understand from Anders the very first series of Kampfschwimmer were fitted with acrylic rather than the sapphire crystal of the current and later batches. The acrylic would raise the overall thickness of the watch significantly.

The stock pre-vendome buckle is polished as well and is signed with the brand and slogan.

The Kampfschwimmer comes with a pair of black smooth leather straps with light tan/ gold stitch and an additional pair of brown straps. The new California Vintage comes with a pair orangey/ tan straps with list coloured stitch and the extremely soft brown strap seen in the pics here. It's so soft I initially thought its lamb skin. This makes it exceptionally comfortable on the wrist.

Both watches wear very comfortably on the wrist despite their relatively huge 47mm girth. the new ultra-soft brown calf leather straps that came with the new California Vintage is further adds to the comfort. Even though I've opted a stiff glossy grained croc strap for the new California Vintage, it sits very comfortably and neatly on my relatively small wrist.

The lume on both watches are a sight in each of their own right. Naturally, the sandwich dial of the new California Vintage stands out. The lume on the Kampfschwimmer, imho, looks like it's electrically charged, while that of the new California Vintage is more akin to green florescent tubes.

In a nutshell, these two are beautiful watches. Beautifully crafted and an exceptionally great value for money. The versatility of the overall design make these watches suitable companions in the office as well as capable weekend warriors. I don't think I'll part with my dough for a PAM 249. For me, these two beauties will suffice.

Case diameter : 47mm.
Lug size : 26mm.
Dial : Black California dial with applied lume (Kampfschwimmer), Black California dial - sandwiched (California Vintage).
Movement : UNITAS 6497 (Kampfschwimmer), UNITAS 6498 (California Vintage).
Power reserve : +/- 40-42 hours.

- Reliable movement.
- Great construction and finishing.
- Very comfortable on the wrist.
- Beautiful, soft and comfortable brown straps (California Vintage).
- Versatility.
- Great lume.

- Polished case = ding magnet.
- Tiny lug screws make lug removal difficult.
- Polished case requires extreme caution when changing straps.
- Incorrectly labeled movement on the California Vintage.

Trivial for the uninitiated.
The dial is nicknamed the 'California Dial" because one of the companies that used to supply the dial to Rolex was based in California. Another reason I read was this dial was designed in California.