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.