Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Casio G-Shock DW-8080

Today I'm wearing a slightly oddball G-Shock. This one has the same 1180 module as the DW-8100 which is often called the "Gundam" due to the style of the case. My DW-8080 has a more compact case, but it's still a good deal bulkier than a typical 5600-style G-Shock, sort of like a 5600 on steroids. It really does seem like it means business and is carved out of a big chunk of tough resin. The "SHOCK" and "RESIST" embossed on either side of the face serve to drive that point home. As you can kind of see in the pics, when the backlight is activated the upper display changes from the date to scroll "Time to get Tough" follwed by a "G". Occasionally, the G will come up backwards. I'm not sure how often nor the reason for this, but it's interesting nonetheless. The display also has blocks numbered 1 through 5 which count with the seconds, they fill up then count down repeating their pattern every ten seconds. The color scheme on this one has a gold-tinted display and mostly gold printing, unlike most I've seen with a normal display and red printing. It actually reminds me of the new "Dawn Black" anniversary series but it's missing the gold pushers on the sides.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Orient CEM65006D "Mako" Automatic Diver

Yes, I know how you never tire of learning new nicknames for otherwise uninterestingly named watches. In this case it's the Mako, a name made up by some forum poster who didn't want to type "CEM65006D" all the time (or CEM65001B, CEM65002D or CEM65001M for the other color combinations.) This is a really impressive watch, especially for its modest price (around $150 or less.) The fit and finish of the stainless steel case, bezel and bracelet is every bit as good as a Seiko, as is the accuracy of the 21 jewel Orient movement. It has some features in common with the typical Submariner-style watch, but it's larger at 42mm wide (without the crown, closer to 46 with) with 22mm wide lugs and seems to have a lower profile as well. One bit of Orient quirkiness: As we've seen before, they tend to have pushbuttons to set the day of the week (something typical of the Orient movements) and in this case it is a somewhat oversized pusher with a screwdown lock to maintain the 200m water resistance. It definitely adds a unique touch to the watch. While it is available in with black and orange dials in addition to the blue, I really think the blue is the best looking and has the deepest, most reflective finish of the three, while still affording great visiblity in low light. I also like how the red on the "Pepsi" bezel coordinates with the red-tipped second hand and Orient logo on the dial. This is a real winner in the bang-for-the-buck category and should provide decades of great looking, trouble-free service.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Casio G-Shock GW-200TC-3V Frogman

I was reminded recently that 61 years ago today Thor Heyerdahl and his crew started their voyage to prove Heyerdahl's theory that ancient South Americans could have sailed to and traded with Polynesia. Their trip covered over 4000 miles and took 101 days on a very primitive sailing raft named the Kon-Tiki. What does this have to do with watches? Well, because Heyerdahl was friends with former Eterna boss Dr. Rudolf Schild-Comtesse, he and his team wore Eterna watches on their historic journey. And because their journey was so well publicized (Thor Heyerdahl's book about it was translated into 66 languages) in 1958 Eterna decided to make a watch called the KonTiki and has been making various models with this moniker ever since. I don't have any pictures of the watches that Heyerdahl or his crew wore, nor the very first KonTikis, but I assume both were similar to this. What does this have to do with the watch I'm wearing today? On the surface, nothing, but I unfortunately don't own an Eterna (either an older KonTiki Super or newer Israeli Defense Force-issued one would suit me just fine, thanks) nor do I have any real "sports watches" from the 1940s or 1950s. So, letting my mind wander a bit, I thought "What would Thor Heyerdahl wear if he was taking his trip today?" His personal associations notwithstanding, I don't know why he wouldn't wear a G-Shock, especially a Frogman like this, which is not only durable, but powered by the sun as well. Perhaps a Wademan, with its compass, or a Casio Pathfinder with a whole slew of functions would also be suitable, but one would think he would have more sensitive and practical navigation gear as well as GPS so having these functions in a watch would probably be redundant. Of course, the cynical side of me can see Heyerdahl and his crew being sponsored by Corum, Ulysse-Nardin, Rolex or any number of other high-end sailing watch manufacturers, making the most practical choice somewhat academic. So, with all that being said, today's Frogman is functionally the same as my red-strapped Triple Crown of Surfing Frogman but tends to be a little more understated.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Vintage Wittnauer Mechanical Chronograph

Today I finally got to wear one of my favorite vintage watches, a 1950s Wittnauer chronograph. This is another one that my dad picked up somewhere but never had serviced. I had it serviced last year and I think my watchmaker spent a month just trying to get the back open. Apparently when the seals in these watches deteriorated they turned into a kind of glue, and getting the caseback unstuck without damaging it was quite a challenge. The good news, after all that waiting, was with cleaning and adjustment this watch has been keeping phenomenal time. It's also great looking with the original dial and hands, although it appears the crown was replaced at some point. The dial has a patina to it that I find pleasing and have no desire to try and clean it. There's some good info here about the functions of the various scales on the dial and some other stuff, so I won't repeat it here. You can also see what an original crown looks like there.
My one complaint with the watch was its size. At 36mm wide, it felt very small on my wrist, especially since it's a chronograph and I expect them to be beefier. I finally got around to ordering a "Bund" strap for it. This style of strap was originally produced for the German Air Force which is part of the Federal Defense Force, or Bundeswehr. As I hoped, it adds some weight to the watch, both visually and literally. I have a feeling this is one vintage watch that I will be happy to wear on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Casio G-Shock G-9000-1V Mudman

Today's watch is exactly like my G-9000-3V Mudman except this one is black with red buttons and has a non-reversed display. I guess the colors were inspired by the DW-5500, or "G-Shock II" which was reissued a couple years back. I haven't added any new mudmen to my collection yet, but I fear it's only a matter of time. Surprisingly, prices of these fairly common models have gone up in the last 6-12 months even from authorized dealers. I guess Casio isn't replenishing supplies of some of the older colors (like this one) and so when they're gone, they're gone. There are a few other colors I'd like to have and I fear if I don't jump soon, I'll end up paying "collector prices".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alpha Automatic GMT Master II Homage

Today's watch is my Alpha GMT, pretty much a clone of the Rolex GMT Master II. Like the other Alpha watch I profiled these are exceptional quality for the price, but are very close to being counterfeits which makes some squeamish. Sorry about the haze on the inside of the crystal in the pictures. For some reason this seems to be common among my cheap automatic watches. I'm not sure of the cause, could be partially bad seals allowing moisture in, but it usually looks more to me like a greasy or oily haze, like the kind you see on the inside of new car windows due to the plastics and glues curing. In any case, I'll probably take this one apart (have to remove the movement to clean the crystal) and give it a good cleaning. The solid link bracelet is actually better than some real Rolex bracelets that used folded sheet metal links. The GMT function is a 24-hour hand (the red one with the arrow on the end of it) that allows you to keep track of a different time zone and is independently adjustable. It's a nice watch and I enjoy wearing it, but probably not the model I would choose if I was buying a real Rolex.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hamilton Khaki Navy Automatic Diver

The watch I wore today was my Hamilton Khaki Navy automatic. This particular model with the stainless case and bracelet and very attractive silver face and bezel was a limited edition model tied to the movie "Into The Blue". I don't know how many were produced, but mine has "0605" engraved in red on the caseback, so probably in the thousands, but not tens of thousands. Here is a screenshot of the watch as worn by the main character. The Hamilton website erroneously states the watch worn by Paul Walker in the film was the Khaki Navy GMT. I have no explanation for this discrepancy. This is actually my third Khaki Navy (not counting the GMT which I also have.) I bought a used Khaki Navy with the black face and black rubber band, then very shortly thereafter found a brand new one for less than I paid for the first one. I snatched up the new one, sold the used one (for more than I paid for it) then later sold the new one after buying the silver-dialed model. This was a few years ago when you could find slightly used Hamiltons for maybe half of their normal street price, but lately the prices have been much higher. I've seen a number of people trying to sell used Hamiltons for substantially more than you could buy them new. So, back to the watch. One of the unique features is the internal diving bezel. It's a movable bezel to track dive times just like the external bezel on many of my dive watches, but this one is set with the lower crown. One drawback to this is you must unscrew the crown to move the bezel, so you can't do it while in the water, but it is a unique feature nonetheless. Also, the large twin crowns give the watch a look similar to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor. I think this Khaki Navy will be one I keep for many years to come.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sector Aviation Instrument Compass Chronograph

The watch I'm wearing today is probably one of my most unique watches and definitely one of my biggest. Including the crowns it's over 2 inches across (over 56mm) but less than 12mm thick. From lug-to-lug it's 55mm and you can see in the wrist picture it's about as tall as my wrist is wide. I'd be lying if I said the ridiculous size wasn't one of the reasons I bought this watch, but it wasn't the only reason. First off, I have seen oversized "novelty" watches before from various manufacturers, typically "fashion watch" makers, like Nautica. Frankly, I don't like to throw away my money on junk (I throw away money on good stuff!) so when I saw that Sector made this watch, I was much more interested. They are a legitimate watch manufacturer, although not incredibly well known in this country. I've been very happy with my other Sector, and when I realized I could get this one on eBay for hundreds less than other similar watches and about half of retail, well, I almost didn't have a choice. It also comes with a similarly oversized box-o'-goodies that includes a spring bar tool, a wide velcro strap and a Sector-branded pouch containing an aluminum single-AAA flashlight and Sector-branded Leatherman-like multi-tool. But let's get to the design: It really shares very little with any other watches. Sure, you could compare the strap buckle to a Panerai buckle, or the case deign to the Bell & Ross Instrument Series watches, but the Sector is different enough to be judged on its own. It's definitely made to look like an aircraft instrument, and it would be just at home on the dashboard of an airplane as on your wrist. It has some nice little touches on the various dials that remind you of this, like the diagonal stripes next to the date and the red checked second hand. The plain black strap is quite an uninspired design with a lining more interesting than the visible side of the strap, but the buckle's not bad. It does have some features that you could call "practical", like the independent movement on the left, set by the adjacent crown, which I have set for west coast time. Or the compass on the lower left (which might be too small to be of much use.) Or, actually, the chronograph function, which works very well, is smooth and resets perfectly every time. I've really never had a complaint about a Japanese chronograph movement and this watch is no exception. So, in the end, this is an enormous, entertaining, unique conversation piece which you really shouldn't wear if you don't want attention. I'm sure opinions will vary between "hideous" and "cool" with more than a few people thinking it's equal parts of each, or feeling one way initially then the other later on. I think it's a fun watch, I look forward to trying some different straps on it and seeing what kind of reaction it gets out in the real world.