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 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!

The Dark Knight Rises

Some time ago, I wrote a fairly long post (I know – not unusual for me!) about a watch that I’d just acquired with a particularly interesting history – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. You can read that post here if you’re so inclined. A truly iconic watch, and to my mind one of the most beautiful looking dive watches you can buy.

Now, despite the above it ended up being moved on, as it just seemed a little too large for me; however, when I tried on the DLC’d “Dark Knight” version recently I was really surprised at how much better it wore on me, and the more I thought abut ti the more I wanted to add one to my collection.

I’ve been wearing it for about 24 hours now, and my instincts were definitely correct in that it looks far better on my wrist the the stainless steel version did. In fact, I’ve just ordered a custom strap from Camille Fournet (black sharkskin with red stitching) which i think will be absolutely perfect for it.

The best of both worlds?

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with incomings. It started with the two vintage Heuers that I’ve posted about already, and ended with the arrival of the EZM1 a few days ago. Sandwiched in between, though, I also took delivery a Speedmaster – my first for a while but one that I posted a “Want to Buy” on TZ for all of two years ago. The “First Omega in Space” is a numbered edition (limited to 1962 pieces) that was released at Basle in 2012, and whilst not a reissue of the Ed White that I used to have it’s certainly reminiscent of it. In fact, it’s based on the ref. 2998, but more about that in a minute.

This Speedy is a little smaller than the regular Moonwatch, with a case measuring 39.7mm – it certainly looks smaller, no doubt in part because it has no crown guards. The crystal is sapphire as opposed to Hesalite, and it has a nicely decorated solid caseback. It really does wear nicely on my wrist, which is a little under 7”, and I actually prefer the fit to the 42mm asymmetrical case of the Moonwatch proper. Inside is the rock-solid calibre 1861 movement – obviously manual wind, and a tried and tested favourite.

Most of the interest that has been sparked by this watch concerns the dial and hands. Reverting to the comment I made above regarding it’s origins, this watch is based on the reference 2998 worn by Wally Schirra on the Mercury Atlas mission back in October 1962; that watch had straight hands on all three registers, whilst this “reissue” has a leaf hand for running seconds. I have no idea why Omega did that, save that the earlier 2998’s (earlier than Shirra’s, I mean) did have leaf hands on all the registers… maybe Omega were hedging their bets a bit with that one. The main hour and minute hands are dauphine and rather lovely, as is the applied logo at 12.

Anyway, there you have it. I said when this watch was first released that it was my favourite modern Speedmaster, and now I’ve worn one for a while I feel even more strongly that it is (although that’s just my own view, and other mileages will vary).

The watch that wasn’t, then was

About two years ago, I posted a WTB on TZ-UK for a Sinn EZM1. I’ve always loved them, and I do have a lot of respect for the Lemania 5100 movement – and I was delighted when I received an email off-forum from a member there who potentially had one for sale. The watch was located in Europe, and there followed a flurry of emails as we tried to agree on an appropriate price; however, the deal was finally done and after a few days of waiting the package duly arrived. Sadly, it transpired that the watch needed a service, and under a loupe there were also some marks on the crystal that I wasn’t happy about. The seller acted as any seller should and took it back, planning to have the work done at some point in the future; I then proceeded to move onto other things, and pretty much forgot about it.

I’ve kept my eye out since, but the EZM1 is a bloody nice watch and owners tend to hang on to them. However, a week or two ago a lovely example did pop up for sale on TZ-UK, and shortly after that I attended a get together in Norwich and bumped into an old mate there. He was actually wearing the 3H version, and after trying it on I realised that my yearning for one of my own hadn’t really diminished. Long story short, I bought the one that was listed for sale and have been wearing it now for a couple of days. The funny thing is, though, that upon opening the box and checking the paperwork, it turned out to be the exact same watch that I’d bought and returned previously. The service and crystal replacement had subsequently been carried out by Sinn, the Argon gas had been refilled and seals replaced, and the watch had been pressure tested. Brilliant, eh?

So a bit about the EZMI, for anyone not familiar with them… it’s a titanium case (and bracelet), with a diameter of 40mm. In fact, the case is very similar in shape to my Heuer 2446C, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising bearing in mind the association (if that’s the right word) between Heuer and Sinn in years gone by. The crown and pushers are on the left (this was a particular request from the German ZUZ special forces, for whom it was originally designed, I believe) and inside is that absolute workhorse of a movement, the Lemania 5100. The 5100 has been criticised by some for it’s very utilitarian design, but it’s proved itself in the most trying of environments over the years and in the main is highly respected for what it is. It also provides for what is undoubtedly the cleanest of chronograph dials, in that there are no subdials whatsoever; a second hand is completely absent, and the chronograph counter is read from the minute track on the edge of the dial (the little hand with an aeroplane symbol on it, tucked under the main chrono hand when not in use, tracks expired time).

It’s a real fit for purpose watch, with no frills whatsoever; in fact, my son saw it for the first time yesterday and immediately said “It looks like a military watch, Dad”. I liked that, a lot :)