40 years

This year marks the 40th anniversary of what I think is a pretty special watch. All the way back in 1972, Audemars Piguet had changed the world of horology with the introduction of the Royal Oak – a Gerald Genta designed watch that signalled the beginning of the luxury sports watch. It was inevitable that other brands would respond in similar vein, and sure enough Patek Philippe did so in 1976; interestingly, it was with another Genta design – the Nautilus 3700. Like the story behind Genta’s design for the Royal Oak, the Nautilus also provides some insight into the way this great man thought, designed as it was over a hotel dinner with the porthole of a transatlantic liner as his inspiration. He was aware of two PP executives sharing the restaurant with him at the time, and it took him all of five minutes to complete his first sketch before going over for a quiet word. Amazing.

The Nautilus 3700/1 had a patented case formed of a solid mono-bloc module into which the movement was inserted. Sitting on top of that module was the now iconic octagonal bezel, with brushed and polished faceted surfaces. The case had two “ears”, reminiscent of the hinges of a porthole, and was finished off with an integrated bracelet, as could also be found on the Royal Oak. The dark dial was embossed with horizontal lines, with gold baton indexes. Inside the 42mm case (no wallflower for the time, hence the “Jumbo” nickname) was a Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin movement, calibre 920, named calibre 28-255 C by Patek (a movement shared by the RO 5402 and the Vacheron Constantin calibre 222). Even if the watch was large for 1976 standards it was quite subtle on the wrist, thanks to a 7.6mm thickness. After that, the Nautilus range evolved with the addition of ladies versions, smaller editions (ref. 3800) and later complications including date, power reserve, moonphase, chronograph, etc.

And here’s Genta’s two sketches, side by side – amazing, really, when you think about what the future held for both brands as a consequence of these design icons…

Now, I’m going to fast-forward to 2006, because that was the year that the 5711 was released as a very faithful hommage to the original Genta masterpiece. In fact, whilst there are many differences the really striking thing is how similar the two watches look…

All of the basics are still there: stainless steel octagonal case, two lateral hinges, an integrated bracelet, a mix of brushed and polished surfaces, a simple display on a grooved blue dial… however, you can also spot differences.

  • Case: the 5711 has a 3-part case (central container, bezel and caseback). The 3700 had a monobloc case, with central container / caseback module and bezel. The 5711 also features a sapphire caseback (screwed) which make the movement visible. Water resistance is 120m on both watches.
  • Hinges / ears: probably the main evolution in terms of design. On the 5711, the hinges / ears are slightly curved (following the curvature of the bezel) while straight on the 3700 (as all the watches from the 1976 – 2006 period)
  • Size: the 5711 has grown a bit, to 43mm (ear to ear) and 40mm (from 10 to 4), while the 3700 was 42mm. Proportions are still the same, with a rather “fat” bezel.
  • Thickness: The 5711 is slightly thicker, at 8.3mm versus 7.6mm for the 1976 edition. This is due to the different construction of the case, the sapphire caseback, the new movement and the new display. Still, the Nautilus is a thin piece and has kept its vocation of luxury, high-end sports watch.
  • Crown: large screw-down crown on the 5711. Smaller on the 3700.
  • Bracelet: The 5711 has central links that are rather flat, while the 3700 had rounded central links. This evolution greatly participates to the more modern feel you have when strapping on the 5711. Evolutions are also noticeable on the buckle, which used to be rather basic on the 3700 (a double folding blade) and now is a triple folding buckle on the 5711. The flip-lock piece on top of the buckle is maintained.
  • Dial: Both have a blue dial, with horizontal grooves. However, the 5711 has a more electric blue tone and a stronger gradient finish. The grooves on the 5711 are also wider and deeper. The logo has a new font and is placed higher on the dial. Indexes are now bolder (filled with super-luminova instead of tritium) and hare shaped towards the edges of the dial, to follow the shape of the bezel. Hands are also lager on the 5711.
  • Display: while the 3700 was a 2-hand time-and-date, the 5711 adds a central second hand – something that gives the indication of a new movement.
  • Movement: the Nautilus 5711 has the in-house calibre 324 SC (for seconde centrale or central second), while the 3700 relied on the JLC-based calibre 28-255C. The new movement is modern – 4Hz frequency, Gyromax balance, Spyromax balance spring – with a nice finishing (Geneva seal and later Patek Philippe seal – introduced at Baselworld 2009), 35 to 45 hours of power reserve, automatic winding via central rotor… The movement of the 5711 is slightly thicker than the movement of the 3700 (3.3mm vs. 3.05mm), which result in the 5711 to be thicker (also because of the extra-space required by the central second, in-between the dial and the crystal).
  • I’m going to stop there, because to start talking about the various models under the Nautilus banner would take far too long; suffice it to say that I like them a lot. In fact, I’ve been on the waiting list with one of the nicer ADs for some time, and a few weeks ago popped in to have a chat with the manageress, who’s absolutely lovely and always prepared to spend some time on customer relations! Anyway, she asked me why I wanted a Nautilus, and I left the shop half an hour later feeling that I’d done my chances of snagging one of these beasts no harm at all. Then, two days later, she called me to say that – whilst she couldn’t offer me the blue dial – she had a while dial that the intended owner was unable to complete on. Apparently our conversation had elevated me up the list, and later that day I was sitting inside the shop, drinking a glass of champagne and confirming that the seal on the packaging should be broken.

    I have to be honest and say that, at that moment, I felt both excitement and disappointment; excitement that the timing happened to have worked for me (meaning that I could say yes to the offer of the white dial), and disappointment that it wasn’t blue. I’m still on the list for the blue dial, but I have to say that after a month and a half of ownership I may just prefer the white. In any event, I’ve rejected the offer of a dial swap (for now!), and will just enjoy wearing it and see what the future holds. It really is a sublime watch, and whilst I never intended (or thought I’d be able to afford) to own two PPs, I really think of them as the best of both worlds; and absolute joy to own and wear, and a rock-solid investment for my retirement.

    And a wrist shot…

    Who needs a DJ?

    A while ago, I posted a wanted ad on TZ-UK for a Rolex Datejust. I’d been thinking that I missed owning one for a while now, and to be honest I didn’t even care if it was vintage or modern, steel or two-tone. I just wanted one. That cry for help has now been deleted – not because I found one, but because I saw something else that I’d not even considered before. The something else was an Omega Globemaster, and it’s actually on my wrist while I write this post.

    Now, the Globemaster is a pretty special watch in my opinion, for a number of reasons, and the first of those is its heritage. The obvious link to Omega models of the past is the similarity to the old pie-pan constellations. This is clearly no accident, and continues the company’s nod to it’s vintage roots. Here’s a nice example that demonstrates what I mean (some models from the sixties even had fluted bezels, in fact)…

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    Now, what’s probably less obvious is that the name is a part of Constellation history as well, specifically in the US. The name “Constellation” was trademarked by another company over there, so Omega called some of the first Constellation models retailed in the US – going back to the very beginning of the family, in 1953 –“Globemaster” rather than “Constellation.” In fact, here’s an image of one of them…

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    The second thing of interest is the movement. This is the technical spec taken from the Omega website:

    Calibre: Omega 8900
    Self-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement.
    Movement and watch tested according to Master Chronometer certification process approved by METAS.
    Resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss.
    Free sprung-balance with silicon balance spring, two barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions.
    Time zone function. Special luxury finish with rhodium-plated rotor and bridges with Geneva waves in arabesque.
    Power reserve: 60 hours
    Type: Self winding

    So, it’s an anti-magnetic twin barrel movement with a time-zone feature (that is, the hour hand is effectively quickset, and is also the means of changing the date). There are some other nice touches as you can see, but especially interesting is that this watch is powered by Omega’s first ever Master Chronometer movement; that is, a movement that goes beyond COSC requirements and complies [U]in addition[/U] with METAS standards. I wasn’t entirely sure this meant, to be honest, but I found this definition amongst many others that are just a search away. “The METAS process will test complete watches, with individual records of each one accessible both online and via smartphone apps. Buyers and owners can thus obtain complete information about their watches’ performances. The certification process consists of subjecting the watch head (and not just the movement) to magnetic fields stronger than 15,000 gauss, and testing its precision during and after the magnetic field exposure, with a tolerable limit of -0/+5 seconds per day. The watch’s power reserve and water resistance will also be assessed.”

    The final thing of interest is the case, because aside from the vintage styling and perfect size (it’s 39mm, so right on my sweet spot), the unusually-fluted bezel is part-tungsten (Omega call it “hard metal”). Another search reveals that “Tungsten is alloyed with steel to form tough metals that are stable at high temperatures. Tungsten-steel alloys are used to make such things as high speed cutting tools and rocket engine nozzles”. Certainly good enough to provide a pretty robust element of a watch case, then!

    So, an interesting watch, as I said at the top of this post. More importantly, it really is beautiful, with a deep blue dial that really sets off the beautifully simple dial, that includes an applied logo and Constellation star made from rhodium. It’s going to see a lot of wear, and I hope I’ve managed to provide a sense of what it’s about in the photos below.

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    And an even more dark & broody one 😀

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    PAMtastic!

    I’ve gone through a slightly strange period of change with my watches of late, which I had actually thought that I was very happy with save that I had a few too many (I get quite uncomfortable when the number hits double figures, which probably suggests that I’m not really a collector). Firstly, I acquired a Fifty Fathoms that I had no real inclination to buy until I tried it on one day over a beer. Secondly, I bought a rather lovely two-tone diver (yes, really) that I sadly had to return as it needed to have a small fault rectified; and lastly, I sold four of my watches to make room for the two mentioned above. I therefore had something of a void that I tried my best not to fill, but I fell embarrassingly short in the will power department.

    The watch that filled that void – completely unexpectedly – was another Panerai. I say another as I’ve owned a 233, 268, 380 and 337 in the past, and I have to admit I’m a bit of a fan. In fact, the 337 was probably a perfect watch for me in terms of both size and adaptability, but it was that adaptability (whilst not really being one thing nor the other) that proved to be its undoing. Once it had gone I knew that I’d miss having a Radiomir in the collection so I suppose there was some method to my madness in buying its successor – the slightly larger 346. In fact, they’re very, very different watches.

    Firstly, then, the interesting bits excluding the movement. The 346 is a gorgeous mixture of materials, textures and colours, all brought together in a 45mm package (with the Radiomir’s small “wire” lugs, though, so eminently wearable even on my sub-7” wrist). The case is made from titanium with a brushed finish. It’s relatively deep (more on that in a minute) and is topped off with a polished titanium bezel. The caseback incorporates a sapphire window to view the movement, and whilst I admit to being a fan of the Radiomir generally I do think the finish – and finished product – in this instance is genuinely beautiful.

    Note: as an aside, this is what Panerai say about titanium on their website: “Light, strong and hypoallergenic, the remarkable physical, mechanical and corrosion-resistant qualities of titanium have made this metal one of the most valued in fine watchmaking, as well as a material of choice for the military, aeronautical and aerospace industries. From the engineering viewpoint, its lightness makes it an exceptional material: titanium has the same strength as steel but is 40% lighter.

    Titanium is impervious to corrosion by salt water or the marine environment and it has exceptional resistance to a wide range of acids, alkalis, natural waters and industrial chemical products. Although in nature it is the ninth most abundant element, and, after aluminium and iron, the third most common metal used in mechanical applications, titanium is found only in the form of oxides, hence the difficulty of refining the raw material and its consequent prestige.”

    The goodness doesn’t stop there, however, because the dial and hands are also a bit special on the 346. The former is the Panerai “tobacco” brown, with the lume in the sandwich green as opposed to faux vintage (shame, that, IMO, as the latter would work beautifully on this watch). However, the hands are 18kt rose gold, and when the light hits them they’re nothing short of spectacular. There’s a sub-dial at 9 for running seconds and a date with inverted cyplops at 3; however, you won’t find a power reserve indicator anywhere on the dial, unlike my old 268 that was otherwise very similar in terms of style and functions.

    Now, just a word about the strap that the 346 comes with. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong – dark brown alligator, 27/22 with a brushed pre-V buckle. However, I wanted a less formal look and have therefore added a lightish brown Assolutemante as well. These are quite simply the best straps I’ve worn in terms of both comfort and looks, but aside from that I’ve opted for a 27/20 taper; this really does work if you don’t have a huge wrist, for two reasons. Firstly, it just gives the whole package a slightly more streamlined and elegant look; and secondly, because a pre-V buckle in 20mm as actually a fair bit less obtrusive than the equivalent buckle in 22mm.

    Inside the case there’s yet more of interest, as the 346 is powered by the manufacture calibre P.2002/9 movement, executed entirely by Panerai. The key details are as follows:

    • Hand-wound mechanical movement
    • 13¾ lignes, 8.2 mm thick, 23 jewels, 247 components
    • Glucydur® balance
    • 28,800 alternations/hour
    • Kif-Parechoc® anti-shock device
    • 8 days power reserve provided by three barrels
    • Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, power reserve indicator, seconds reset, rapid set hour hand

    The P.2002 is the progenitor of the P.2000 series and it takes its name from the year in which the project was launched to supply Panerai watches with movements entirely designed and developed at the Manufacture in Neuchâtel. The P.2002/9 calibre consists of 247 components; it has 23 jewels and a thickness of 8.2 millimetres. Hand-wound and with a power reserve of 8 days with linear indicator on the rear of the movement (which I far prefer to seeing it on the dial itself), it has many of the key characteristics peculiar to all the calibres of the P.2000 series: three spring barrels; seconds reset device; rapid adjustment of local time; free-sprung balance; and balance wheel oscillating at 28,800 alternations per hour.

    The three spring barrels in series, the design of which is the subject of a Panerai patent, apparently ensures the delivery of an even, optimal force which remains stable and constant for the full 8 days of the power reserve. The operation of the seconds reset system is also unique to Panerai, it seems, although I don’t have the knowledge to draw comparison with other examples.

    There you have it, then. It may be quite apparent that I really do like this watch a lot, but then I really do like Radiomirs in general a lot so there’s no real surprise there. I do think the 346 is a bit special, though, and hopefully a sense of that comes across in these photos (apologies, by the way, but I don’t yet have a polarising filter for my new camera gear, so I had no way of cutting out the glare from my lights).

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    More of those naughty incomings ;)

    Okay, I’m not going to ramble on this time (cue collective sigh of relief). However, if you fancy a bit of a read about the iconic Fifty Fathoms you could do worse than have a look here; I’ve had two previously, in fact, the other one being the DLC’d “Dark Knight”. I really have missed them both – I only sold them because I told myself they were a little too large for me – so when an opportunity arose to buy the limited edition (just 500 of this model released globally) Tribute to Fifty Fathoms I was quick to take the seller – a mate from TZ-UK – out for a beer or two, get him drunk and seal a deal.

    The Blancpain ref. 5015B-1130-52A shares both case and movement with the standard Fifty Fathoms that I wrote about in the post linked above. Aside from the ‘No Radiations’ symbol on the dial, the differences relate to the bezel and dial configurations. The Tribute version features a bezel with almost an identical appearance to the original Fifty Fathoms “No Radiations” from the late 60s ; that is, a slightly different font for the numerals and a minute track that continues all the way around, as you’d find on a Milsub. The dial dispenses with all four of the arabic numbers, and also features round super-luminova markers instead of applied arrow-shaped markers, together with a date aperture at 3 o’clock with white date wheel (the standard FF has the date window at 4.30, and a black date wheel). Obviously, it’s horses for courses as to which you prefer, but I love this one – the changes to the dial work for me (especially the no-rads symbol) and the LE nature of it adds a little to the ownership experience.

    Anyway, here’s a relatively quick and dirty photo, albeit that I lost my battle with the uber-reflective domed crystal (for now!!!).

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    The other watch that joined the fold recently is one of the new Seiko Turtles – this is the SRP779K1 with the black dial and pepsi bezel. I actually bought it in Tenerife whilst I was buying Bea a really nice Certina chrono – the guy in the shop offered me a reasonable deal on the two, and I’d wanted to try one of these since they were released. I’m not going to say much more about it, save that these watches are a reissue of the wonderful 6306/6309 vintage Seiko divers from the 70s/80s. Now, after ruining the rubber strap that it came on, and subsequently buying the OEM bracelet from another mate on TZ, I thought I’d share a photo of the matching navy and red two-piece Zulu that arrived from Sweden a couple of days ago… as you can see, it’s a lovely match and serves to pretty up what is essentially a very utilitarian design.

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    So, two very different watches, but both very welcome additions to the collection. I’d better stop now 🙂

    A couple of sneaky incomings…

    Given that it’s Sunday morning and the alternative is to get on with some paperwork/accounts, I thought I’d post quickly about two watches that have arrived recently, both of which have made an immediate impact.

    The first is a watch that’s I’ve written about in its other guises more than once already, and that’s the limited edition Aerospace Evo Night Mission – the “LE” signifying that it’s one of just 300 produced with the Cobra dial. Now, when I bought this a few weeks ago I knew that I wouldn’t keep both an Aerospace and a B-1, and I suppose it says something that the B-1 has subsequently gone. The Night Mission really is a very nice watch, and the two photos below are simply to demonstrate how the very deep yellow of the dial does still change in different light; and that it can look really good on leather. In fact, I find it much more wearable like this than on the OEM canvas strap, albeit that both look excellent. I do wonder what it would look like on a DLC’d bracelet, though!

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    The second arrival is, I think, a bit special. It’s the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial, a watch that I knew I would end up buying on its release (and in fact said so on here, which if nothing else demonstrates some kind of premeditation and therefore makes me feel better!). Now, there are two reasosns that i think this watch is no ordinary diver, and the first relates to its heritage. Back in the 1950s, the dive watch was beginning to capture the imagination, and to stake its claim in the world of horology. Earlier in the decade both Blancpain and Rolex “made a splash” with the Fifty Fathoms and Submariner respectively, but then in 1957 Omega released a trio of tool watches that would cement its position amongst its rivals for decades to come. These three watches ware the Speedmaster, the Seamaster and the Railmaster; the Seamaster reference was CK2913 and although branded as “300” it was actually rated for 200m. Still, it was a big improvement on the earlier Seamasters, that were dress watches if anything and so not really worthy of the name. Anyway, it looked like this… or at least, this variant did, as there were a few. Note, though, the lollipop hand now seen on the Spectre edition!

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    So the new Co-Axial Seamaster is yet another very firm nod to the past, and this trait of Omega’s is something that I personally like very much. However, there’s no doubt that the latest reference takes full advantage of whatever tech is available right now. The spec is very impressive indeed, and rather than just collate a summary from here, there and everywhere I’, going to quote from a Hodinkee review of this watch, that pretty much hits the nail on the head:

    The steel case is now 41mm instead of the original’s 39. Sure, the aforementioned “Wally Schirra” Speedy stayed true to the 39mm size, but 41 is just about perfect for a dive watch. The bezel, of course, is not fragile acrylic but Omega’s LiquidMetal, an amorphous metal alloy with extreme corrosion and wear resistance, but whose shiny appearance mimics old acrylic well. The crystal is naturally sapphire but domed like its ancestor. And the luminescence is provided by Superluminova instead of tritium, but is tinted a perfect faux patina gold as if the watch had aged in a retired diver’s drawer for 60 years. The dial is a matte black with a bit of texture that one might interpret to be further faux aging but looks wonderful from an angle. The dial markers, small triangles like the CK2915, are not painted on the dial but sandwiched in a layer underneath, which adds more depth and further highlights the dial texture. Best of all, in keeping with the vintage piece to which it pays homage, it doesn’t have a date function.

    In place of the trademark Omega hippocampus caseback engraving (which I would have liked), the Seamaster 300 has a broad sapphire display back, which fully exposes the “Master Co-axial” caliber 8400 that is part of the watch’s full name. The clear case back shows off the beautiful radially-decorated automatic movement but also is a bit of a subtle boast, since the watch is full anti-magnetic to more than 15,000 Gauss without the use of a soft iron movement cover, thanks to its silicon hairspring. In addition to its anti-mag properties, the movement sports two barrels for 60 hours of power reserve, a co-axial escapement and free-sprung balance wheel and is chronometer-certified. It also has the nifty “time zone” function, which means the hour hand can be advanced or retarded in one-hour increments without hacking the watch or moving the minute hand. While early Omega co-axial movements were modified ETA 2892 motors, the caliber 8400 represents the culmination of Omega’s R&D and is one of the finest automatic movements around today.

    All in all, a tremendously up to date watch with a real vintage vibe (and I LOVE the colour of the lume, which is used without comment by the likes of Panerai and JLC… it’s certainly better than lime green, FFS). I’ve had a real problem taking any decent shots of it, I’m afraid, as my lights are causing havoc with the domed crystal. However, here are a couple that came out reasonably well and I’ll try to take some more as and when time permits.

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    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 for sale on TZ-UK by one of its 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.