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.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

More Than A Week's Worth - Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days (Ref: PAM 510)

Yes! Yet another 911. Oops! I meant PAM.I was at a PAM 514 launch event when I bought this. The sales manager at the AD had kept one of a handful of 510 that they had just received for me, well aware from our previous conversation that I am keen on getting one. Giddy and excited as a gleeful little schoolboy, I turned to the missus for an opinion. Pointing to my 320 on the tray, she remarked, "Looks just like the one you're wearing today." This was good enough reason for me to get it! Why? well, simply because she can't tell the difference, which means I have the opportunity to get a few more in future covertly. Thank you Panerai!

If this looks like a dead-ringer for the PAM 111, well it's simply because it uses the same Luminor case.  According to the rumour mill, the 510 is supposed to replace the 111. Looking at the initial price, it would seem that way. Prior to the official launch, I was quoted SGD8,800 RRP. This is a mere hundred bucks more than the 111. However, them folks at Richemont decided to raise the price to SGD9,500 on the eventful day. But basing on retail prices alone, I reckon its still a relative bargain for an in-house movement with 8 days of power on tap.

The PAM 510 is as utilitarian as it comes, for a PAM that is. Apart from the reminder about it's bigger capacity (8 days power reserve), there really are't many physical difference from the 111. LIke the 111, it sports a seconds sub-dial at 9 o'clock as well as a sandwich dial.  The real difference is beneath all that shiny metal. The 510 is powered by the latest addition to the Pamily of in-house developed hand-wound calibre - the P5000, boasting an impressive 8 days of power reserve. I have conducted a short study and have concluded that the actual power reserve falls in the region of about 9 days and 18 hours. As I have received several curious queries concerning the amount of time spent on a full wind as the main spring should be relatively long, I actually counted and concluded that it takes about 130 turns to complete a full wind-up. In comparison, the 422 (P3001 calibre) requires about 100 turns.

My main concern with this piece is the fully polished case - it is a potential ding magnet. The case is not very thick by PAM standards. It is thinner than the 320 and 442. Unlike the 422 and 320, the crown guard/ locking device is clean. I prefer it this clean simplicity, frankly. However, I would prefer it to be polished like the case. It is a rather odd pairing, in my opinion. The straps are fastened to the case by screw-in lugs. I would advise butter fingers to taped the surrounding areas with transparent tape before attempting to change the straps. Not everyone has the dexterity of a dental surgeon. I've done a visual comparison and the lugs of the 510 is thinner than the 320's but thicker than the 422's. However, it is shorter than the 422's and 320's and is more curved as well.

The case back provides the most telling clue that this ain't no 111. Firstly, the movement is obviously different. Secondly, the case back is reminiscent of the engine bay when you pop the bonnet of an Audi or Bimma. Everything is almost completely covered up. I do not see the point of having a see-through case back when all one can see is s sheet of blank metal plate with technical inscriptions on it.

On the wrist, it is pretty comfortable. Not much overhang compared to the 422 as it is smaller at 44mm. Furthermore, its lugs have a steeper gradient as well.

As always, Panerai's lume is next to legendary. I was tempted to place my oakleys over them to see how much of it can actually seep through. I dare say, in this case, a picture speaks volumes.

Sadly, the Panerai creative team seems to have run dry of ideas and have taken a leaf from Tudor's leather options. The 510 comes fitted with a pair of brown (bordering on black) distressed calves. However, unlike Tudor's offering, these are not the most well made Panerai originals. The sides are not burnished and fraying and premature wear and tear seems likely to set in. Unlike most of Panerai's original straps are of rather decent quality, these are not particularly confidence inspiring. The finishing lacks convincing quality. Perhaps they want to achieve a naturally vintaged look over (a relatively short) time. The only good thing going for it is the 24/22mm tapering which is a lot more proportionate than the 26/22mm of the bigger 1950 case.

In conclusion, this is a relative bargain considering it's got an 8-day power reserve and is driven by a brand new in-house movement. If the word on the grapevine bears fruit and this replaces the 111, then I reckon it is a worthy successor. Its clean, uncluttered, utilitarian simplicity, coupled with the afore-mentioned will likely tug the heart (and purse) strings of most PAM freaks. However, I really hope they can reveal more of the movement through the display case back. Oh, and provide a lifetime worth of free polishing!

Case Material : Stainless Steel.
Case Diameter : 44mm.
Lug Width : 24mm.
Crystal : Sapphire.
Movement : P5000.
Power Reserve : 8 Days.
Water Resistance : 300m.

Pros :
- 8-day power reserve.
- Actual power reserve is a little more at more than 9 days.
- Relative bargain for an in-house movement with 8-day power reserve.
- A lume with a view.
- Still rather new so a conversation piece still.
- Plentiful strap options.
- Still the same consistent build quality.
- Adherence to Panerai's, particularly Luminor's DNA.
- An absolute eye-candy.

- Ding magnet.
- Case back should reveal more of the movement.
- Original distressed calve leather straps not particularly well finished.
- Crown guard/ locking device should be polished.