Monday, December 19, 2016

Seiko SRPA19 Limited Edition Zimbe "Turtle" Reissue

Here's one more Seiko "Turtle" reissue variant for your consideration - the limited edition Thailand Zimbe SRPA19:

SRPA19 "Zimbe" Limited Edition.

As far as dimensions and mechanicals are concerned, this is basically identical to all the other "Turtle" variants featured on this blog in the past (see past posts for other variants). What this version has going for it, is its unique appearance and presentation brought about by the following:
  • Bead-blasted finish on the case, crown and bracelet giving it a gray, titanium-like matte appearance...inspired by the colors of the whale shark;
  • Unique gray/slate dial and chapter ring with orange highlights;
  • Orange second hand;
  • Silver bezel with black markings;
  • Use of a sapphire crystal instead of the typical Hardlex;
  • Day/date magnifier;
  • Extra rubber strap in matching shade of gray;
  • Unique box with Prospex and Zimbe markings.
The word "Zimbe" comes from the Japanese term "jinbei-zame" (ジンベイザメ) which means "whale shark".
Only 1,299 units of this particular model will be made, all intended for release in Thailand. That, plus the material upgrades and additional finishing makes this piece more expensive than your typical standard "Turtle" reissue, assuming that you can still find one for sale.

I managed to snag this from an independent importer a few months ago for around 800 USD, which was actually a reasonable price at the time. Nowadays, given the limited release and still ever-present demand, prices can go up to 1,300 USD and up, at least locally.

All-in-all, its unique color scheme and rarity makes it stand out from the rest of the Seiko "Turtle" crowd. A must-have for the Seiko dive-watch collector.

Some photos:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seiko Superior SSA005 Flight Computer "Cyclops" in Black/Red/Gold

This is the third post on my series of reviews of Seiko's SSA00x line of Flight Computers, nicknamed the "Cyclops" by Seiko fans. On this third installment, we focus on the SSA005:

SSA005 Flight Computer AKA "Cyclops".
This watch is mechanically identical to its siblings, the SSA001 (see review here) and the SSA003 (see review here), so you may refer to the previews posts for those details. The differences lie in the color palette selected for this piece which consists of red for the second hand tip and 24-hour hand, gilt markings for the outside bezel, and a black PVD crown with a red highlight.

Of all the three variants I own, this is hands down my favorite, though the multiple colors across several elements may make the design a tad too busy for some.

More photos:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Seiko Superior SSA003 Flight Computer "Cyclops" in Black

Yesterday I made a post about Seiko's relatively obscure Superior line of Flight Computers nicknamed the "Cyclops", with particular emphasis on the first watch in the series, the SSA001 in blue (see review here). Today I'll be posting some pictures about the second watch in the series, the SSA003 in black.

SSA003 Flight Computer AKA "Cyclops".
Much of what was written in the previous post applies to this watch as well, the only difference is in the color treatment, as this variant sports a somewhat more somber black and steel motif. Unlike the blue variant which sports a waffle dial, this model sports a smooth matte black dial, which if anything, enhances the already commendable legibility.

More photos:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Seiko Superior SSA001 Flight Computer "Cyclops" in Blue

Truth be told, I'm a fan of dive watches. So much so, that I have a whole slew of them ranging from Seiko SKXs, to Oris Aquises (see my review of the Oris Aquis Date here), to the Marinemaster 300. I haven't quite reached Rolex Submariner level yet, but it's definitely on my list assuming a ton of money goes my way someday.

Pilot watches, on the other hand, to me at least, are a mixed bag. I do admire pilot watches' emphasis on legibility and functionality even if they do not possess the ruggedness or tool-watch vibe of dive watches, with the latter being purposefully overbuilt to withstand extreme depths. It is that lack of ruggedness though, which ironically makes them more convenient as daily wearers, as they are typically lighter, easier to dress up with leather straps, and possess the at-a-glance legibility that is not only convenient for pilots, but for anyone in general. 
As such, while my collection mostly focuses on dive watches, there are a precious few pilot or aviation-themed watches in my collection. There is the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto (see review here), and then there is Seiko's line of Flight Computer slide rule watches, affectionately dubbed by Seiko fans as the "Cyclops".

The subject of this review is the blue version, the Seiko Superior SSA001, first introduced in 2011.

SSA001 Flight Computer, AKA "Cyclops".
A single glance of the SSA001 reveals the volume of functionality crammed into a 44mm case diameter, 13mm thick, and 50mm lug-to-lug length package. First to be noticed is the massive dial face with applied stick indices all the way around, with a pair of stick indices denoting the 12 o'clock position. There is a silver 24-hour subdial just below it, indicating at a glance military time or whether the current time is in AM or PM. It is this subdial which is essentially responsible for earning this watch the "Cyclops" nickname, given its very prominent location on the dial.  There is a date aperture with a silver border at the 4 o'clock position, displaying a high contrast date wheel consisting of white numbers on a black background. The hour and minute hands are slim, white bordered fencepost-styled ones which display excellent legibility against the dark blue waffle dial, while the second hand is arrow-styled with the tip in high contrast white. The indices, hour, minute and second hands are all generously filled with Seiko's proprietary Lumibrite compound, so lume performance is right up there with the best of them. There is minimal text on the dial, consisting of an applied "SEIKO" logo at the 3 o'clock position just above the date aperture, and "AUTOMATIC" and "100M" text printed halfway between the middle of the dial and the 6 o'clock index.  Surrounding all these dial elements is a precisely printed minute track chapter ring with hash marks every five minutes, every second, and every fifth of a second, and topping off the entire dial is a domed Hardlex crystal.

The 100m water-resistant case features a mix of brushed (on the top) and polished (at the sides) surfaces which gives the watch a dressy demeanor, though that impression is quickly tempered by the no-nonsense appearance of the bi-directional rotating slide rule which can be used in the calculation and conversion of various flight data, such as distance, altitude, fuel weight and volume. It is this feature which is responsible for the "Flight Computer" moniker, though to be honest I've never figured out how to use this myself, but then again I'm no pilot. The rotating outer bezel is in blue with gilt text while the stationary inner bezel is in polished steel with black text.
Powering this watch is Seiko's 24-jewel, 21,600 bph, 4R37 hacking and handwinding movement, a variant of the ubiquitous 4R36 movement which eschews the day complication for a 24-hour subdial. Performance is virtually identical to that of the 4R36, with a 41-plus hour power reserve and accuracy of +/- 30 seconds a day. Setting the time is accomplished through a non-screw down crown at the 4 o'clock position which features a blue ring to complement the rest of the blue of the watch. The minimally finished movement is visible through a see-through caseback.

The bracelet is perhaps one of the few weak points of this watch, with hollow end-links, split-pins, and a stamped-steel clasp. In typical Seiko fashion, the bracelet, which is mostly brushed with polished center highlights, is functional and adequate, but not much else. Those unsatisfied with the supplied bracelet may opt to use original Seiko or aftermarket rubber, leather, NATO or Zulu straps, thanks to the standard 22mm lug width.

All-in-all, the SSA001 is a unique spin on pilot watches done in Seiko's distinctive style. Even without the brand on the dial, there is no mistaking this watch for anything else other than a Seiko, and this has contributed to the following that this watch has. The looks may not appeal to everyone, but they have a strange way of warming up to you the longer you stare at it.

This watch can be bought new for 200-220 USD assuming you can still find one for sale.

More photos:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2007-2013, 2015-Present Longines HydroConquest in Blue L3.642.4.96.6

The HydroConquest is a relatively affordable line of Swiss dive watches produced by Longines since 2007. The line went relatively unchanged until 2013, when a fully Arabic dial version of the HydroConquest was launched (see my earlier review here). Curiously, after only two years, that version was dropped and the original iteration introduced in 2007 found itself back in Longines' catalog. It is this current version, in blue, which is the subject of this review.

2007-2013, 2015-Present HydroConquest.
The 2007-2013, 2015-present HydroConquest bears a lot of similarities with its 2013-2015 brother, but both have unique design elements that makes it virtually impossible to confuse one over the other. The most obvious difference is in the dial.

The current dial features applied numeric markers on the 12, 6, and 9 o'clock positions, and similarly applied circular and linear indices for the rest of the hours. These dial elements give the watch face a more upscale demeanor than the printed Arabic numerals on the 2013-2015 HydroConquest, though at the expense of simplicity, as the overall appearance can come across as being quite busy. Tastes obviously vary,  and I personally like both dial styles, though I have to admit the 12-6-9 dial strikes me as being a tad more eye-catching, perhaps in part to the sunburst blue dial.

Dimensions (41mm case diameter, 50mm lug-to-lug, 11mm thickness, 21mm lug width) as well as most other design details of the watch head are similar, from the applied Longines winged logo, the date window at 3 o'clock, the beveled and rhodium-plated  hands, the snowflake hour hand, the red-tipped lumeless second hand, the polished sides and brushed top, the angular crown guards surrounding a highly polished crown, up to the highly detailed engraving of Longines' hourglass logo on the caseback. Topping off the entire package is a 120-click rotating dive bezel with an aluminum insert and a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating.

The bracelets are basically similar in design, use of split pins and the lack of half-links and all, though the finishing is different. The 2013-2015 HydroConquest's bracelet is brushed all the way, while the current HydroConquest features polished center links, contributing to its slightly more upscale vibe.

Lastly this version of the HydroConquest uses an Elaboré grade ETA 2824-2 L633 movement, instead of the ETA 2892-A2 based L619 in the 2013-2015 model. The 2892-A2 movement is generally considered to be slightly higher end than a 2824-2, but for this implementation, hardly any differences in performance can be perceived.

So, which one to get? Both versions have their advantages and disadvantages, but the main point for deciding to go one way or the other has to be the preference for the dial design. The 2013-2015 HydroConquest has a cleaner, simpler design with the use of printed Arabic numerals, at the slight expense of looking like an ordinary field watch. The current model has a more distinctive and more upscale appearance, at the slight expense of design simplicity, with perhaps too many design elements on the dial itself.

Overall, despite the "Hydro" in the model name and the 300m water resistance rating, this watch is seemingly more of a desk diver than an actual tool diver, for the same reasons given in my review of the 2013-2015 HydroConquest, particularly in regard to poor lume performance, an unlumed second hand, the smooth sections of the timing bezel, and the oversized, sharp-edged crown guards.

From the perspective of a desk diver, it is more than up to the task, and despite its design shortcomings, it is still a fully capable dive watch.

While the 2013-2015 model seems to have been discontinued, it is still somewhat relatively easy to come by with new stocks still available, not to mention their availability in the second hand market. Because of the relatively short production run, it is speculated that the older version may very well end up as a collector's item or a future classic. While that may or may not happen, the current model is no slouch itself in terms of appearances. You won't go wrong regardless of version you opt for. Price for the current version is around 1,000 USD from authorized dealers or online retailers, but you can likely get one at a lower price if you look around.

In a future post I'll making a more detailed photographic comparison between the two HydroConquest versions. For now, here are some more photos of the current model:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Seiko SRPA21 Special Edition Pepsi "PADI Turtle" Reissue

It took it's own sweet time getting here, but the special edition PADI "Turtle" has finally arrived:

SRPA21 "PADI Turtle".
I won't be boring you with the specifications, dimensions, or other technical details of this watch considering that I have discussed this several times before in my reviews of the other "Turtle" reissue variants, starting with the SRP777 Black "Turtle", the review of which can be found here.

What this variant has going for it is it's unique color treatment and the PADI logo, a nod to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, a renowned diving organization which teamed up with Seiko in promoting the project AWARE ocean protection program.

It features a blue sunburst dial, white-lumed indices with silver surrounds, a dark blue chapter ring with a white minute track and red hash marks every five seconds. The chapter ring in this particular sample, in typical Seiko fashion, is slightly misaligned, but not significantly so to be distracting. The bezel is predominantly blue with a red portion extending from the twelve o'clock position up to the 20 minute mark. The Prospex insignia, love it or hate it, has moved from below the center of the dial in the other Turtle variants, to above it, making way for the PADI logo prominently emblazoned in its own distinctive font. The minute hand sports a red border, making it stand out from the rest of the dial, enhancing what is already a very legible overall package. This variant comes with a stainless steel bracelet.

All-in-all, this is a far cry from the color scheme of the original Pepsi SRP779 (see review here) which shares its black dial with the SRP777, it's only claim to the "Pepsi" moniker being  a Pepsi bezel using a shade of blue darker than the one on the PADI variant. Honestly, of all the reissued Turtle variants I've seen in the metal, this is hands down the most visually appealing.

This watch has been hyped quite a bit ever since rumors of its existence first surfaced early in the year, and as a result there has been a lot of anticipation with regard to its release. This anticipation has caused launch prices here to rise way above the levels of the other variants when they first came out. Being a special edition, production will be continuous, though there have been reports that distribution will be limited both in numbers and availability in some areas.

Locally, the SRPA21 can be purchased, assuming you can find one, for the equivalent of anywhere from 280 to 430 USD for the "K" models, and even up to 640 USD for the "J" models. Good luck finding one though here, as most have been snatched up by Seiko aficionados and collectors in less than a day after being made available. Time will tell though if availability, and prices, will settle down.

What is certain though, is that this is bound to be a much sought after future classic.

More photos:

Note the slight misalignment of the chapter ring.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto H64615135

Pilot watches are a bit of an enigma to me. I get that aviators have unique requirements when it comes to the timepieces they wear, but somehow, for the longest time, I couldn't rationalize getting one for myself. "I'm not a pilot." I would say, but then again, I don't dive either, yet I have a clutch of dive watches. "They don't have as much history." But they do. More history in fact, than dive watches. The first purpose-built pilot watch is the Cartier Santos-Dumont wristwatch, made by Louis Cartier for Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904 and sold commercially in 1911 in collaboration with Edmond Jaeger (of Jaeger-LeCoultre fame). Commercially available water-sealed watches first came out only in 1926 with Rolex's Oyster line, and the first mass-produced watches made specifically for diving came out in 1932 with the Omega Marine.

In a further effort to dissuade myself from getting one I toy with the idea that they aren't as aesthetically pleasing as dive watches, but a lot of pilot watches are in fact lookers, for example the Breitling Navitimer 01, the IWC Pilot's Mark XVII, or the Sinn 857 UTC TESTAF, albeit these particular models are not really within my price range. Okay, so pilot watches are expensive? Not necessarily so. Affordable models include the Seiko SNK809 or Orient FER2A002F0.

So it would seem I don't really have an excuse not to have at least one true pilot watch in my collection.  In finally getting one I set out some requirements before deciding on a particular make or model: at least 41mm case diameter, sapphire crystal, highly water resistant, automatic movement, highly legible dial, stainless steel bracelet, from a reputable watchmaking brand with a bit of relevant history, and relatively affordable.

After some research, I finally settled on one which ticks all of my check boxes, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto, or simply the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date, and here it is:

Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto.
This particular model was made famous as the watch worn by Matthew McCounaghey's character Cooper in the sci-fi movie Interstellar.

The watch itself is a standard model in Hamilton's line up, first introduced in 2010. It features a 100m water resistant stainless steel 42 mm diameter (excluding crown) and 11mm thick case, with a 20mm lug width and a 49mm lug-to-lug length. The bezel and shoulders are all polished, with the rest of the surfaces having a brushed finish. The adequately sized signed crown is at the 3 o'clock position, surrounded by crown guards which flow elegantly from the sides of the case. Curiously, the crown is ridged for added purchase, but the tactile benefits of the ridging are seemingly countered by the polished finish which may make grasping and manipulating the crown a challenge under some circumstances. The crown is not a screw down type though, and admittedly the polished finish of the crown matches the rest of the case. The caseback is crystal, through which one can see the minimally finished, but nonetheless attractive ETA 2834-2 movement.

This variant has a deep black dial with a subtle sunburst effect when viewed at certain angles. The dial extends almost the entire diameter of the case, and this, combined with the thinness of the bezel, makes the watch appear bigger than what its measurements may suggest.  The dial is unique in that the main indices are applied metal Arabic minute values in five minute increments ("60 minute dial"), while the hours markers are in a printed smaller inner ring, following the German B-Type Flieger (navigator) design. Printed and lumed rectangular blocks on the outside perimeter of the dial serve as  second and minute hash marks, with an applied inverted metal triangle marking the 12 o'clock position. There is a full day indicator just below this position, while a date indicator is slightly above the 6 o'clock position, both of which use black text on a white background. There's isn't much in the way of text in the dial, only the HAMILTON brand in the inner ring 12 o'clock position, AUTOMATIC in the inner ring 6 o'clock position, and SWISS MADE straddling the outside 6 o'clock hash mark.

The hands are sword-style, and nice details include lume on the minute hand which only extends from the inner ring outward, while the hour hand is only lumed from the inner ring inward. Both hands are semi-skeletonized, to aid in legibility, and the small hour markers in the inner ring fit nicely in the skeletonized tip of the hour hand. When both hour and minute hands point to the same position on the dial, the create the illusion of single lumed hand extending from the center to almost the very edge of the dial. The second hand is a metal arrow-style one, with a small triangular tip on one end and a small circular counterweight on the other. Unlike the other hands, it isn't lumed.

Topping of the face is a very slightly domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating.

The bracelet is of the brushed stainless steel variety, with a slight 1 mm taper from the lugs to the clasp. End-links are solid, and the bracelet is actuated via a single fold-over clasp with a pinch-to-release lock. Clasp is nicely brushed, and finished with a tasteful Hamilton brand. Links are attached via a pin and collar. The pins are rather large, unlike the tiny pins often used on Seiko divers, so there's little chance of losing one if you are into sizing your own watches.

As mentioned earlier, providing timekeeping duties is a highly reliable standard grade ETA 2834-2 movement which feature both a full day and date complication. The ETA 2834-2 is essentially a variation of the popular ETA 2824-2 movement with the addition of a full day indicator. As such it shares most of the same traits: self-winding, hacking and handwinding, 25-jewels, 28,800 bph, 38-40 hour power reserve. Also, it's a bit stiff to wind, so I don't really recommend winding this, or for that matter, any ETA movement fully. I prefer to use the crown to wind up the mainspring only to get it going, and let the rotor do its thing of winding it fully when its on-wrist. A lot of people have no qualms and had no problems about fully handwinding their ETA based watches, so, it's up to you.

This watch is available locally for about 680 USD, which is just about what you can get it for online as well.

All-in-all, a good first foray in the realm of true pilot watches.

Some more photos:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba H64515133

Hamilton was an American manufacturer of watches first founded in 1892. The brand became renowned for its line of railroad pocket watches, military wristwatches, and marine chronometers until the 50s and 60s when it ventured into electric watches and watches with self-winding movements. In 1971, it became the third brand under Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) after Omega and Tissot, and in 1984 with SSIH's merger with Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG) it became part of what we now know as the Swatch Group. Under this parent company, the Hamilton brand forms part of its middle range offerings alongside brands Certina, Mido and Tissot.

Hamilton is quite unique in its marketing and positioning, banking on its extensive history and tradition as an American watchmaker, even though today, it is technically a Swiss brand. This reflects  on its design language with strong Art Deco cues and references to its extensive railroad, military, and marine heritage, and the watch subject of today's review is no exception.

The watch being reviewed in this post the Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba with reference H64515133. First introduced around 2007, in some markets it is referred to as the Hamilton Khaki King Scuba.

First, let's get one thing out of the way. The watch may have the word Scuba in its name, but it's not exactly what one may consider to be a true dive watch for several reasons. It is however, water resistant to 100m, so it can be used extensively in various water activities, including swimming, without much concern for water permeating the case. From a usage standpoint though, it seems more comfortable as a desk diver as the design aesthetic weighs more on the dressy, formal side, as opposed to presenting itself as a functional tool dive watch.

The stainless steel case has a 41mm case diameter (excluding crown), a 14mm thickness, and a 49mm lug-to-lug length. The case overall is not one may really call an oversize case, 41mm being a contemporary diameter shared with similar dive or dive-style watches such as the significantly more expensive Longines HydroConquest (see review here), Tag Heuer Aquaracer or Omega Seamaster 300m. The polished screw-down signed crown is nestled flush with brushed metal crown protectors, and it's relatively small making using it a bit of a chore as will be explained later. Lug width is a rather modest, but similarly contemporary, 20mm. The bracelet is a high-quality, precision machined but relatively unremarkable solid end-link, 3-link design fastened with a pin and collar system and actuated with a single fold-over clasp with a pinch-to-release push-button lock. Not much in the way of micro-adjustment though, with only two positions, so getting the perfect fit may be hit or miss. Surfaces are mostly brushed on the case and bracelet, giving it a subdued, less eye-catching appearance. At first glance, the watch on wrist projects a Rolex-like vibe, but any notions of this being a Submariner homage are quickly dispelled once eyes are laid on the dial.

The dial itself has to be the most polarizing design element of the entire watch, with some people liking it, and some hating it. I myself like it, and find its busy overall appearance to be part of its charm, though I can see why some people dislike it. The dial is black, with an outer border of minute and second hashmarks with Arabic numerals every five minutes. Moving further toward the center of the dial, this is followed by a border consisting of a matte ring (actually many minute concentric rings if you really look at it) with applied polished metal Arabic numeral hour indices. The 3 and 9 indices are larger than the other indices, and the 12 and 6 numerals are absent to give way to a full day indicator at 12 o'clock, and a date indicator at 6 o'clock, both white text on a black background, with polished metal frames and with red triangle highlights. Past the concentric ring border are 24 hour markings, a nod to Hamilton's heritage in making military watches. Printed text on the dial include the HAMILTON brand, KHAKI, AUTOMATIC and 330ft. The hour and minute hands are lumed slim, sword-type style ones with needle tips. Second hand is an arrow-styled polished metal affair with a rear circular counterweight and a lumed arrow tip. Lume overall is pretty sparse, with dots representing the hour indices, but nonetheless functional. Topping off the watch head is a 60-click unidirectional dive bezel with an aluminum insert and a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The bezel doesn't have a lume pip at the 12 o'clock position, nor does the crystal have much in the way of anti-reflective coating. The domed shape and the lack of AR coating not only makes the watch a bit difficult to read at a glance, but makes it a bit of a pain to photograph without reflections ruining the shot.

Powering the watch is a base ETA 2834-2, which is essentially a variant of the popular ETA 2824-2 with a full day indicator at the 12 o'clock position. As such, it shares the same major characteristics: 25-jewels, hacking and handwinding, automatic, beat rate of 28,800 bph, and power reserve of 38-40 hours. Winding, as with most other 2824-2s, can be quite stiff, and manipulating the crown, with particular emphasis on screwing it down, seems a bit more difficult than it needs to be given the polished knurling given to the crown, its relatively small size, and the inherent stiffness of the 2834-2 movement when being wound. The movement is visible through a see-through caseback, though finishing seems minimal, the only decoration of note being the signed rotor.

It is available here at most authorized dealers at around 500 USD, which seems about the average for what is typically paid for it, even among online resellers, and it represents pretty good value for what it is, a high-quality, contemporary-sized, 100m water resistant, entry-level Swiss watch.

Some photos:

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Seiko SRP789 Black/Red "Turtle" Reissue

Here's the other half of Seiko's recent release of new "Turtle" reissues, the black and red "Coke" SRP789. The details of this line of watches can be found in my earlier reviews of the SRP777 (see post here), and this model's launch sibling the SRP787 (see review here).

The key feature of this model is the adoption of a black and red ("Coke") color scheme, particularly the use of red with the unidirectional rotating dive bezel up to the 20 minute mark, and the outline of the minute hand. Almost everything else is black, except for some white and silver highlights here and there. The effect is pretty much minimalist, but the overall execution provides for a very legible package which is on the whole pleasing to the eye.

Some photos:

SRP789, AKA "Coke Turtle".