Sword hands!

A few years ago, I’d not have considered buying a Seamaster. I thought they looked a bit bland, and really didn’t get the crown-operated HEV (I still don’t, in fact) for which there are seemingly far better design options. Over time, though, I’ve really warmed to them as an all-purpose watch and for the last couple of years I’ve been keeping a beady eye out for the right one to come along – not just here, but everywhere. I’ve missed a couple, rejected dozens, but a few days ago an absolute beauty was listed on SC by one of our resident watchmakers. In fact, by an ex-Omega watchmaker, no less.

The watch I wanted was the iconic, sword-handed 2254.50; not the most modern watch and superseded by god knows how many skeleton-handed, Bond or otherwise successors. Dated though it might be, the 2254.50 still houses a genuinely good movement in the calibre 1120. To quote John Holbrook from The Seamaster Reference Page:

The Omega cal. 1120 is an amazing movement, and an excellent choice for this watch. The movement was first introduced in 1996, and Omega uses the ETA 2892-A2 as the base ebauche, and heavily modifies it to produce the 1120. The base ETA 2892-A2 is widely considered the best movement ever produced by ETA (first introduced in 1975, with a lineage going back much further with Eterna). Many, many high end watch manufacturers (like IWC and Cartier) also use the 2892-A2 as a base movement. Why? Well, cost is no doubt a factor. However, I submit that many watch companies all come to the same conclusion: They could spend the money to design and manufacture their own movement in-house and still not match the technical marvel which is the 2892-A2. Don’t take my word for it – research the treasure trove of articles on Timezone by such horological luminaries as Walt Odets and others who closely examine the attributes of the 2892-A2.

In terms of looks, most people will know this watch, and will already have formed an opinion. In summary, though, the case is 41mm without the crown, wears very flat on the wrist and features the usual mix of brushed and polished facets that Omega does so well. The multi-sided bezel is as smooth as silk to operate, and the crown nestles nicely between the quite tapered guards. What I really like about the 2254.50, though, is the dial and hands; the former is the wave pattern – shame Omega ditched that for far less interesting alternatives) and the hands are the aforementioned sword style. I absolutely love the hands, in fact, and they’re the primary reason that I wouldn’t go for any other model in the Seamaster range. (Well, that and the fact that I wanted a mechanical movement.)

All in all, a fantastic watch, and a long-time target now acquired.

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There are Speedies, and there are…

After all, these forum darlings haven’t changed all that much for decades, right? Well, having had a few myself I can’t argue much with the fact that they’re hardly groundbreaking, but I’m also happy to have two of them now, both slightly different to the norm.

The latest arrived yesterday, after a wait of many, many months; in fact, even Bea said that I’ve been wittering on about them for ages! This one started off as a standard 3570.50 Moonwatch, but it’s been modded with a “Mitsukoshi” dial, steel handset (including an orange-tipped central chrono hand from a Planet Ocean) and a pulsations bezel. (By way of context, the Mitsukoshi “Domino Dial” Speedmasters were originally a limited run of 300 watches that were manufactured by Omega for the Japanese department store of the same name – this would have been around 2003). The dial is white, with an applied logo and black subdials, with the correct reference of those that left the factory with this configuraion was 3570.31.

These panda dials are bloody lovely, and they’re also extremely popular. The originals (which were all sold through the store in Japan) are as rare as gnashers on a hen and the consequence of this is that they’ve become a very sought-after mod as well. I’m delighted with mine, although the hesalite did need a Polywatch rubdown and I’ll also be sending the case off for a light refinish to bring it back to mint. Anyway, the dial is an absolute stunner…

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I mentioned that I have two that are a little different, though – the other one is the ’57 Broadarrow “Replica”… the obvious differences being the Broadarrow hands and stainless steel bezel. They make a nice pair, I think.

A bloody good week!

It really has – two amazing incomings, and two yearnings put to bed once and for all!

First of all, a Speedmaster. Now, I have a long history with these watches having owned a multitude in the past, culminating in a wonderful Ed White from 1967. I sold that during a very difficult period in my life when my mind was all over the place, and having tried unsuccessfully to agree a “current” value with the member who bought it from me I found it was then sold to someone else here (identity unknown and the least said the better, I suspect). Anyway, I tried (and flipped) a FOIS, having hoped it would scratch that particular itch; and then set about buying back my old ’71 145.022 from the present owner. I would have bought it too, but then – mid-negotiations – a friend on TZ-UK kindly offered me his gorgeous 3594.50 Broadarrow. I’d wanted one of those since I first laid eyes on them, and a deal was completed in minutes.

The 3594.50 is the watch that Omega marketed as the Speedmaster ’57 “Replica” (yes, really). In fact, it was the middle of three iterations of what started life as the CK295, housing the venerable 321 movement.The original was such a beauty that I think a photo is warranted at this point, courtesy of Fratello Watches…

The 3594.50 was released in 1997, and was produced until 2003. It differed from the regular 3590.50 Speedmaster Professional of the time in a number of ways, though. It had an applied logo, Broadarrow steel hands, a stainless steel bezel and a “non-Professional” dial; the cases, however, were identical.

Another difference to the standard Speedy Pro was the case back – the 3594.50 just had the seahorse logo and the word “Speedmaster” (like it’s predecessor, in fact). It had a Lemania 1861 ticking away inside, and early versions came on a bracelet – initially without pushers on the clasp – although later it was released on a calf strap similar to that on today’s FOIS.

The modern version of the ’57 trio is, of course, the current co-axial, which is nice enough but something of a lump IMO. It uses the cal. 9300 and – with its display back – typifies the trends that have more latterly defined Omega design. I think it looks great in photos, but far less great on the wrist… maybe that’s just me, though.

Anyway, some photos…

The second arrival really is a bit special, and culminates from my love of the Seiko MM300. I’ve had a few of those (!) and when I bought – very recently – the LE SBDX012 I did say that the only watch that would knock it from it’s perch was the 6159-7001 (a genuine grail amongst vintage dive watches, and not something that I ever expected to find). This was the first of Seiko’s “Professional” divers, made for just a couple of years from 1968-9; in fact, the next Professional diver was then some 7 years away in the shape of Tuna 6159-7010… another hugely important watch, in fact. Inside was the high-beat 6159 movement also found in Grand Seikos of the time, and this was housed in a monocoque case that we now see in the MM300 series.

The 6159-7001 that I’m wearing as I type is a seriously good example. Showing appropriate signs of use on the case (and it won’t be polished, ever) it’s been through my friend Duncan’s magical hands; in fact, you can read about his work on this watch here. Aside from the various NOS parts that were fitted, the really interesting thing is the “resist” dial… very scarce indeed, and all the more collectable because of that (yes, even though the dial would originally have been a “proof” – they’re far more common, it seems). It’s also quite mesmering to watch the sweep of the second hand as it traverses the dial at 36000bph; all too often the old divers had a much lower 21,600 bph (or even 18,800ph)… wonderful, really, and so elegant.

I have to say that to land one of these at all is fortunate – I’ve missed a couple in the past and had pretty much given up, despite expressing my interest on here more than once. However, to finally find one in this condition is nothing short of remarkable, and I’m over the moon with it. On the wrist it’s absolutely jaw-dropping, although I have to say that I seem to have failed miserably at conveying the real beauty of it in the photos below. I’ll take some more when I get some time (it was all a bit of a rush today, unfortunately).

See what I mean when I said it was a good week?

6th time lucky, or…

Perhaps it was just meant to be… me and the MM300, I mean.

Believe it or not, I’ve had 5 SBDX001s. I don’t actually know why I sold them all, because I do love the damn things… maybe it’s just been that I’ve had too many watches at the time, and that they’re not particularly… glamorous? Whatever the reason, I’ve always known that I’d have another and keep it although I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the limited edition ‘003 and ‘012.

The SBDX012 is a 50th Anniversary model, limited to 1000 pieces; they’re already quite hard to find, and I’m sure they’ll only go up in value over the coming years. In truth, they’re not radically different to the ‘003, save for the use of the gold accents for the bezel markings and the text “Marine Master Professional” on the dial. (From Seiko’s site, translated by google “the character on the bezel is subjected to a golden finish by anodic oxidation treatment of laser… By the electrolytic treatment anodised material, a surface treatment for generating the artificial oxide film. Colour is born by the refractive index of the light…”) They also come with both the steel bracelet and the rubber strap with matching gold plated buckle and keeper, whereas the ‘003 comes with a strap only. Oh, and one other difference that I really like – the ‘012 has a splash of red on the second hand, as a lovely tribute to its predecessors.

Much has been said about the bracelet in the past, but I’ve always found it excellent. Photos tend to show what appears to be a gap at the case, but this is merely a shadow from the faceted lugs, and in truth it has fitted to perfection on every watch I’ve owned. The non-signed crown is of no significance to me whatsoever, and the only thing I’d change in an ideal world is the crystal material – it’s Hardlex, and I’d sooner have sapphire. The movement is the Grand Seiko 8L35, as it’s always been in the MM300; beating at 28,800vph and rated at an unregulated -10/+15 spd out of the box. (They can, of course, be regulated but the one on my wrist as I type this is running at +4 seconds and has been doing so consistently over the last few days.) It’s worth noting, though, that – unlike the ‘001 – the movement used in the ‘012 features MEMS technology. What is MEMS?

“MEMS is an abbreviation for micro-electro-mechanical systems—a state-of-the-art processing technology used to manufacture semiconductors and other high-precision components. MEMS differs from the old metal processing methods of pressing, cutting, and polishing. Instead, shapes are made using photolithography (a process similar to developing photos using light-sensitive chemicals), on top of which a thick plating is deposited using electroforming technology. This processing method allows the manufacturing of complex shapes with greater accuracy than cutting, and also produces smoothly finished surfaces. In addition, hard materials can be used for parts while slightly adjusting the shape to keep the weight down, thereby greatly improving the accuracy and durability of the watch parts.”

Aside from MEMS, and (incidentally) the Diashield-protected case, what’s really won me over with this watch is the gold accents on dial, hands and insert… it looks absolutely wonderful but at times – when the light is right – it dazzles. I’ve tried to pick this up in the photos below, but have probably failed miserably. Suffice it to say my ceramic Sea Dweller is now up for sale, because this won’t be going anywhere.

More vintage loveliness

The biggest selling Rolex isn’t, as many believe, the Submariner. In fact it isn’t a sports watch at all – it’s the venerable Datejust. First released in 1947, this is the watch that – for most people – symbolises the brand, and before this week I’d already owned five different models. All of them were lovely, and I’ve missed having one in my collection for some time now.

The 1601 is one of the most classic of all, with it’s plexi crystal, non-quickset date and open sixes and nines on the date wheel. This one, from 1970, will have been one of the first to house a hacking movement (a calibre 1575, even though it will almost certainly have 1570 stamped on the bridge); it also has a “wide-boy” non-luminous dial, which I absolutely love. I’ve actually had it for a few days now, and have worn it almost constantly with both a suit and with jeans. it manages to bridge the gap between dressy and casual completely effortlessly, and whist it’s relatively small by todays standards at 36mm, it wears really well on my 6.75″ wrist.

Condition-wise, it’s about as minty as a 45 year old watch could be, and is keeping time within a few seconds a day. I’ve posted a few WTB’s for a jubilee bracelet but to be honest it looks so nice on leather that I don’t think I’ll bother. Its wearing a Hirsch Regent alligator strap in these photos, and although I’ve tried a few others this is by far my favourite.

The Aquanaut

I well remember a couple of years back, contemplating a dressy sports watch and a real dilemma at the time. I’d tried on the Aquanaut in both basic and dual time guises by the time I opted for a APRO 15400, and even at the time I was unsure as to whether I’d made the right decision. I suspect that if I’d gone for the Ultra Thin 15202 I may have stuck with what I had, but – gorgeous as the 15400 was – it was probably a tiny bit too large for a 6.75″ wrist; wearable, but just pushing the limits a bit. Anyway, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I found myself with two perpetual calendars, one of which was always likely to go. When a friend messaged me hinting at the possibility of a trade my mind was pretty much made up; consequently, my newly acquired JLC was soon being packed up for postage and my first Patek Philippe was heading my way.

The Aquanaut was first released by Patek in 1997, and it included a couple of notable innovations for the time. It was the first watch rated to 120m that had an exhibition back, and it was Patek’s first watch to be offered without either a bracelet or a leather strap. (The “tropic” strap, incidentally, is an absolute joy… I’ve never worn a strap as comfortable, and it is an absolutely perfect match for the watch IMO. The relatively small bi-fold clasp is also quite magnificent.) There have been a number of iterations over the years, culminating with the launch of the 516X series in 2007.

The 5167 is the “Jumbo” version, spanning 40mm measured diagonally from 10-4. The case is slim (the movement is only 3.3mm high) and the watch is incredibly light to wear, particularly on the Tropic strap. The dial is simply magnificent, taking on a kind of anthracite appearance that seems to radiate light – hopefully you can see this in the photos below. The finish on both case and dial is completely perfect, testament to the quality of engineering that, like with many watches that push the boundaries of the cost:value proposition, needs to be seen to be properly appreciated.

Inside is the same movement as can be found in the Nautilus, details of which are as follows:

Mechanical self-winding movement
Caliber 324 S C
Date, sweep seconds
Diameter: 27 mm
Height: 3.3 mm
Jewels: 29
Bridges: 6
Parts: 213
Power reserve: Min. 35 hours – max. 45 hours
Balance: Gyromax®
Balance spring: Spiromax®
Vibrations/hour: 28 800 (4 Hz)
Hallmark: Patek Philippe Seal

Again, the quality of finish is exemplary – even under a 10x loupe there really is nothing that would raise an eyebrow. Just perfectly finished, and beautifully decorated.

All in all, I feel that the long wait for this watch has been worthwhile. Yes, it costs a fair bit for a “simple” three-hander with date, but the residuals are exceptional and I anticipate that this watch will be worth a fair bit more in a few years than I paid for it; that alone puts a different perspective on the value proposition I mentioned earlier. It’s also wonderfully versatile, as even with the tropic strap it can be dressed both up and down with consummate ease. Most importantly, though – I absolutely LOVE it. Yes, the JLC that went in trade is a wonderful watch; however, this is the one watch I’ve been lusting after for years, and for me at least the trade made absolute sense.

And on the eighth day…

My GO Senator PC is one of my favourite watches, and at no time whatsoever have I wanted or intended to buy another perpetual calendar. That said, there’s no harm in surrendering to impulse every now and again, and accordingly it now has a sibling in the form of the JLC Master Eight Days Perpetual. To quote from the JLC website, its “the only perpetual calendar with an 8-day power reserve. Two barrels, 28,800 vibrations per hour and a variable inertia balance wheel. All the perpetual calendar functions (mechanically programmed until 2100) are activated by a single corrector.” I’ll add to that by saying it’s the most sublime watch I’ve owned – breathtakingly beautiful on the wrist, and one that it’s impossible to do justice to in terms of photographs.

JLC redesigned their Eight Days Perpetual for launch at Basle in 2012, and this current version is 1.5mm smaller than its predecessor at 40mm with a cleaner dial layout, longer indices and much more elegant lugs; the applied 12 has also gone, and the result is beautifully balanced. On the dial you have a complete perpetual calendar ( day / date / month / moonphase / year ) and a night and day indicator, which also provides a warning window as a reminder that the date must not be set from 10 PM to 3 AM (when the calendar mechanism is engaged). There’s also a power reserve indicator, which is especially important as the movement is a manual wind. The very long eight day reserve means that a weekly wind will keep the calendar set, and all in all it’s an amazing piece of horology.

I have a quandary now, because in truth I don’t want two perpetuals; however, I’ve had the GO for more than two years now and have never intended to sell it. That said, I can’t deny that the JLC is the more beautiful watch of the two… what to do? That was a rhetorical question, by the way, as I’m doing nothing for now.

And the obligatory wrist shot!

Something a little different…

The Bulova Accutron was the world’s very first electronic watch, manufactured and released 1960. Pretty immediately, it became the watch chosen by some of NASA’s astronauts to accompany them into space, although it was never “flight qualified”; that accolade went to the Speedmaster, as most people will already know. The Accutron is also a “hummer” – a tuning fork watch featuring a sweep second hand and a claimed accuracy of about one minute per month. It was designed by a Bulova engineer called Max Hetzel, and he managed to achieve a frequency of 360Hz (which was quite something at the time); in fact, Accutrons were used as time references in many satellites and also to control some of the Apollo moon experiments and became something of a horological milestone in the process. Some interesting facts…

> The index wheel boasts 320 teeth each of which is ten microns in depth
> For a thirty year old watch this means that over 2.8 E+11 teeth have have moved under the pawl jewel
> The Accutron was used to correctly dimension Greenland for the first time
> Each coil boasts 8000 turns of wire, the diameter of which is 15 microns
> The Bulova Accutron was the first wristwatch to utilize a Bipolar Transistor

The watch that’s presently on my wrist dates from 1965, although it was originally sold by Garrard & Co Ltd in 1968 (more on that in a minute). It’s an Astronaut model, and there were so many variations of this watch that it’s quite hard to pin down the correct designations. However, this guide suggests that it’s a Type 1 and what seems to be an Astronaut A (that is, black dial and straight/pointed hands with a non-luminous second hand). The GMT hand is coupled to the main hour and minute hands, and the second time zone is set with the bi-directional bezel, precisely as you’d do with a Rolex 1675.

All in all, I love it as a watch in terms of both looks and heritage; however, this one is even more special as a consequence of the package it came with. It has the original coffin-link bracelet, the outer box, the inner box, the original Garrard guarantee certificate dated 22nd January 1968, the instruction book, the battery changing instructions, a Garrard warranty repair receipt dated 10th July 1968 and the little tool for opening the battery cover. On top of all that, it’s recently been serviced at electric-watches.co.uk so is, basically, as good as it gets for one of these.

You may be able to detect a hint of glee… in any event, here are a few photos!