Saturday, January 30, 2016

Oris Aquis Date in Blue 01 733 7653 4155-07 8 26 01PEB

Oris is a rare breed among Swiss brands. There simply aren't that many relatively well known, independent Swiss watchmakers with a design aesthetic truly unique to themselves, and not derived nor shared, with any other. The majority of it's timepieces are priced in the realm of reality, not artificially bloated in order to jack up the prestige of the brand, nor devalued to avoid crossing into some arbitrary market segment or competing with a stablemate brand.

None of that nonsense here. As Oris' tagline goes, real watches for real people.

Case in point is the subject timepiece for today's review, the Oris Aquis Date 300m dive watch, first introduced in 2011. Just one look at the watch and one cannot help but be struck by it's uniqueness. The shape of the case, the dial, hands, the lugs, it simply does not look like most other watch, and no other watch looks like it...except perhaps other Oris dive watches.

The Aquis Date features a 43mm diameter (excluding crown), 13.5mm thick stainless steel case with an integrated lug system with an overall lug-to-lug length of 50.25mm. The case itself is tapered in such a manner that while the case may be 43mm large at the base, at the bezel the diameter is reduced to around 42mm. All of these elements conspire to bring emphasis to its circular shape which makes the watch wear somewhat smaller than what the 43mm figure would suggest. Make no mistake, it looks big, but wears small, and the short protrusion of the lugs from the case itself is at least partly responsible for that. The crown is at the 3 o'clock position, and is surround by finely machined crown guards secured by screws, which complement the dressy-tool dive watch look the timepiece is recognized for.

The case is topped off with a rotating unidirectional 120-click ceramic scratch-resistant bezel, a material choice usually found on significantly more expensive watches, like the 116610 Rolex Submariner or the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. The bezel is coin-edged all round for easy grip and with a solid action characterized by clear clacks indicating when the bezel is rotated. The aforementioned tapering of the case means that the bezel edge extends free over the case itself, providing clear purchase whether rotating the bezel with bare or gloved fingers. The bezel insert itself may feature a polished or brushed look, depending on the color scheme chosen. On this particular blue model, the ceramic bezel is polished.

Speaking of blue, the blue on the dial is not your typical blue, but a dark blue-grayish hue which may appear blue, gray or black depending on the angle of view and the lighting. Indices are applied, with bluish Super-LumiNova® BG-W9 luminous compound which is also on all hands and the 12 o'clock position of the bezel. Lume is short of Seiko expectations for duration and intensity, but nonetheless very usable, and pretty good in its own right. Far better actually, than the Longines HydroConquest (reviewed here). A date window with white text on a black background is elegantly situated at the six o'clock position. Capping off the dial is a double-domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside.

Powering the timepiece is an Oris 733 hacking and hand-winding automatic movement, based on a 28,800 bph Sellita SW-200-1 with 26 jewels and a 38 hour power reserve. Crown manipulation and action are both very good and smooth. Hand-winding is a lot smoother than in most other ETA based movements, though ETA movements seem to be already renowned for that. The movement features Oris' signature red rotor, which is visible through a mineral glass exhibition caseback.

Because of the integrated lug system, your choices of straps or bracelets off the bat are limited to what Oris offers with the watch...which is either a stainless steel bracelet or a vanilla-scented rubber strap. The stainless steel bracelet is a somewhat massive and robust folding clasp affair with solid steel construction, brushed finishing on the center and polished on the sides, a dive extension, secured with screws instead of mundane split pins or pins and collars, and measures 26mm at the lugs, tapering down to 22mm at the clasp.  Aftermarket straps are a no-no unless you invest in one of those lug adapters, but if you're really into aftermarket straps, then this is probably not the right watch for you.

On wrist, the Oris Aquis Date is by no means uncomfortable, though a lot of other watches beat it in wrist comfort. What it is, is substantial. It's not bothersome by any means, but you will always be aware of the fact that you're wearing it. For those who like to feel the heft of their watches, this is a boon. For those who would rather forget that they're wearing a watch at all, look somewhere else, or consider the Oris Aquis Titan, which is made from titanium (albeit with a larger 46mm case), or go for a version with the rubber strap.

If you have smaller wrists, this particular model is also available in 40mm and in ladies' size of 36mm. There are also several color combinations to choose from.

This may not be an investment piece, but if you're looking for a no non-sense affordable dive watch from a respected and well-known Swiss matchmaker with quality rivaling, and at times exceeding  that of more expensive brands, the Oris Aquis Date should be on your list.

Here in the Philippines, they can be bought from authorized dealers at a discounted rate of around 900 USD. It seems they are a bit more expensive in other countries though, with prices in the 1,000 to 1,200 USD range.

Some photos:

Aquis Date.

Screwed crown guards and signed crown.

Tapered case.
Oris' signature red rotor.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Turtle comparison: 6309 vs SRP77x

For all of you who are curious how the new reissued "Turtle" stands up to the original, here's a straightforward comparison:

SRP777 (l), 6309-7040 (r).

Case diameter (excluding crown):

6309-7040 - 44mm;
SRP77x - 44.3mm;


6309-7040 - 46mm;
SRP77x - 48mm;

Lug width:

Both 22mm;


Both 14mm.

Based on the above measurements, while the 6309 and SRP77x series have very similar shapes and aesthetics, they are not an exact match insofar as dimensions are concerned. The SRP77x has a slightly longer lug-to-lug length, meaning it will wear slightly larger than the classic 6309.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

2013-2015 Longines HydroConquest in Black L3.695.4.53.6

For a change of pace let's discuss a Swiss timepiece instead of the usual Japanese fare. Today, that Swiss timepiece is the 2013-2015 Longines HydroConquest dive watch reference L3.695.4.53.6.

Longines is a well known watchmaker established in 1832. As you might imagine, there is a lot of history and heritage behind the brand itself. Today, it's owned by the Swatch group, and it is positioned in the high range along with Rado and Union Glashütte, which is lower than stablemate Omega, but higher than fellow stablemates Tissot and Certina.

This version of the HydroConquest with an all Arabic numeral dial was first released in 2013, replacing the earlier model which only had Arabic numerals on the 12, 6, and 9 o'clock position. This was (and probably still is) available in a variety of colors for the dial and bezel, as well as with quartz movements and chronograph variants, but this review shall only focus on the black dial 3-hand automatic version.

The case diameter measures a conservative for modern day standards 41mm (a smaller 39mm version is also available) with a lug width of 21mm and a lug-to-lug length of about 50mm. As such, despite the relatively small case diameter, it wears large for its size because of the relatively long lug-to-lug length. Case thickness is a slim 11mm, meaning it will have no trouble sliding under most shirt cuffs. The case and bracelet are all stainless steel and features mostly brushed surfaces, except for the sides of the case and the crown guards. Bracelet is a typical folding clasp type with solid end-links, dive extension, H-links and split pins holding them together. The caseback is solid, with a handsome and detailed engraving of Longines' winged hourglass logo.

As a dive watch, it ticks most of the necessities, including a screw down signed crown, 300m water resistance and a rotating unidirectional 120-click bezel with a lume pip at the 12 o'clock position. The feel of the bezel while being rotated is more akin to heavy machinery than precision tool, with loud clacks instead of smooth clicks, but it gets the job done, and the bezel is stiff enough to resist unintended rotation. It uses an aluminum insert, which is acceptable, though a ceramic scratch resistant one would have been more desirable. The bezel surrounds a flat sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the inside.

The dial is a mostly black affair, with white details and red hash marks and a red second hand tip. The full numerals give the watch a military vibe, with the Arabic hour markers painted rather than applied. There are three lines of crisply printed text and an applied logo. There is a date window with black text on a white background at the 3 o'clock position. The hands are beveled and rhodium plated, with the hour hand sporting a diamond/snowflake design while the minute hand sporting an sword design.

The overall design of the whole timepiece itself seems to indicate a nod more to form rather than function, as there a number of style elements which do not contribute, and actually even detract, from the usability of the watch as a true diver. Example of these design choices include the use of Arabic numerals as indices, the rotating bezel which is coin edged for grip, yet features smooth sections at the 12 and 6 o'clock position, the oversized and sharp-edged crown guards which make winding and setting the time a bit of a chore (particularly with gloves on), and the lack of luminous material on the second hand tip.

Speaking of lume, the low light visibility of the entire face is at best okay, if not poor. Lume intensity and duration, despite the use of Super-LumiNova® C1, are well below what we typically see in Seiko dive watches, but are, for the most part, acceptable except in the most extreme situations, such as one might face in, well, diving.

One thing Longines didn't skimp or compromise on is the movement. Instead of the Longines L633 movement based on the Elaboré grade ETA 2824-2 found in its predecessor, this version of the HydroConquest uses the L619.2 movement based on the higher end Elaboré grade ETA 2892-A2. The 2892-A2 is slimmer, has a slightly higher power reserve (42 vs 38-40 hours), and typically exhibits slightly better accuracy compared to a 2824-2 of equal grade. The 2892-A2 in this particular watch also seems to wind more smoothly than most 2824-2s, almost as smooth and effortless as, say, Seiko's 4R36 or 6R15. Both beat at 28,800 bph. Ironically, the L619.2 uses just 21 jewels, while the L633 uses 25.

All things considered, one may conclude that the Longines HydroConquest was intended to be as a desk diver, and from that perspective it actually over-qualifies for the role.

Competitors from the same market segment it has been known to hold its own with include the Oris Aquis Date and the Rado D-Star 200. To some extent it can even keep up with watches marketed on the higher end of the spectrum, such as the Tag Heuer Aquaracer, and perhaps even Omega's own Seamaster. Interestingly enough, the HydroConquest today perhaps represents what the Seamaster was before it went further upscale (the 1988-1994 "Pre-Bond" Omega Seamaster 200).

With Omega poised to take on Rolex on the higher end of the market armed with an upgraded movement featuring the Co-Axial escapement and its prices reflecting the move, Longines may very well take on the market slot formerly occupied by Omega.

As of the middle of 2015 Longines has apparently ceased actively marketing of this model and reverted to the old, pre-2013 HydroConquest. This Arabic numeral dial version can still be found or ordered at a number of authorized dealers or online retailers, for approximately 1,000 USD thereabouts.

As a mid-level luxury dive watch, it may have its flaws, but for bang-for-the-back, it is one of those Swiss watches whose value is hard to beat. It may very well end up a future classic.

Some photos:

2013-2015 HydroConquest.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Seiko SRP779 Pepsi "Turtle" Reissue

Rounding off Seiko's quartet of new reissued "Turtles", here are some photos of the new SRP779 "Pepsi" "Turtle" on rubber:


Note that the dial is black, not blue, unlike the difference between the SKX007 and 009.
Red and blue "Pepsi" bezel.
The only difference between this particular model and the SRP777 is the bezel color combination, with this one sporting a red and blue "Pepsi" color scheme on the bezel insert, with the red portion extending up to the 20 minute mark, and the blue portion covering the rest.

For more information on this particular series of Seiko divers, you can refer to my earlier post of the SRP777 here. Based on all the interest hype on these particular models, it would seem like Seiko has another winner here, and if production is able to keep up, these may end up replacing the classic SKX007/009 as Seiko's definitive entry level mechanical diver.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Seiko SRP775 Black/Gold "Turtle" Reissue

I've posted about two variants of the "Turtle" reissue before, the black SRP777 on rubber and the blue SRP773 on stainless steel. You can check out an overview of the design of this particular series based on the black SRP777 here.

Today's post is about the black with gold highlights on stainless steel bracelet, the SRP775. It features a black dial with gold-colored surrounds on the hands and indices with a yellowish tinge on the generous application of Lumibrite luminous compound in well lit conditions. The yellowish tinge of the lume is either an attempt to match the yellow of the gold highlights, or to simulate a vintage vibe by giving the appearance of patina. Either way, it seems to work pretty well, and blends with the overall color scheme. Of course, in low light conditions the lume glows the typical shade of green with the intensity and duration we've come to expect from Seiko. The unidirectional 120-click bezel is black, with the markings also in gold to match the dial.

As mentioned before in a previous post, the 22mm stainless steel bracelet features solid end-links, a three-link brushed design with polished horizontal highlights on the center link, fold-over clasp with a diver's extension, and is put together using a pin and collar system. Overall, it is functionally similar to the stainless steel bracelets used on the Monster and Solar Chronograph series, though appearance-wise, they look different.

Note that my particular sample has a minor alignment issue with the chapter ring on the 12 o'clock position. It doesn't bother me all that much, but if you're particular about these quality issues, it may be better to see one in the metal before purchasing.

All other descriptions in the earlier post featuring the SRP777 apply.

Some photos: