Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Breil VD54 Chronograph Review


I first became aware of the Breil brand a few years ago when my sister-in-law returned from a trip to Europe with one. I was sufficiently impressed with the overall build quality of hers to put Breil on my "one of these days list." The example you see above is their VD54 Chronograph. I was initially drawn to it for its unusual sort of Bell and Ross looks and the solid looking bracelet design. I also like the fact that it doesn't have a date function as my phone gives me that information these days and I'm not thrilled about having to regularly reset the date on my watch anymore. Since Breil is not all that common in the US I think that a little background is in order.

When I first saw my sister-in-law's Breil, I assumed that this was more of a fashion piece than the product of a serious watch company. I was very wrong about that as it turns out. Breil is an Italian watch company that has been around since 1939. They have been producing a variety of men's and women's models that run the gamut from dress watches to automatics to quartz chronographs to sports models. Additionally, they have since added a jewelry line to compliment their timepiece offerings.

Visually, this Breil chrono is a very attractive watch to my eye.  The blend of angles and curves is an unusual look but Breil made it work well.  The watch case is stainless steel with a screw down caseback and an all solid link stainless steel bracelet that has good heft to it.  The crown and clasp are signed and the clasp feels solid and sturdy. The hands and hour indicators on the watch face (including the big 12) are lumed with what appears to be superluminova and low light visibility seems pretty good. The back of the watch case is angled to fit the curvature of the wrist resulting in a very comfortable wearing watch. Size-wise, the watch is 42mm in width (44 with the crown), 12mm in height, 50mm lug to lug and the bracelet is 28mm at the case. The crystal appears to be conventional mineral glass. Lastly, the water resistance is rated at 10atm which should be fine for most folks.

Internally, this model is powered by a Miyota JS00 quartz chronograph movement. Like pretty much all Miyota (Citizen) movements, it should prove to be a solid, trouble free, performer.  The three face chrono subdials are minutes at 9, seconds at 6 and a 24 hour counter at 3. The central seconds hand functions like that of a non-chrono, i.e. running at all times.

I'm a pretty happy camper with this watch.  It seems both well made and I really like the look. Breil now has a US distributor which should help increase their visibility a bit here.  Prices seem reasonable for what you get as well. If you are in the market for a stylish watch that isn't run of the mill, give Breil a good look.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Adi Hebrew Dress watch

Just a simple analog quartz dress watch that I picked up on a trip to Israel. Seems pretty well made. Should be good for work. Not a fancy watch at all but the Hebrew lettering on the face is unusual enough to be worthwhile to me. Adi is an Israeli watch company located on a kibbutz in the south of the country.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vostok Amphibia Tonneau Diver Reissue Review

The watch you see pictured here is the second factory reissue of the classic 1970's Vostok Tonneau cased diver. The first such reissue from a few years ago was pretty expensive in my opinion and reportedly had some issues with crystal durability. This second reissue uses Vostok's tried and true acrylic crystal and, at $100 shipped, is easy on the wallet.

The original 1970's Tonneau Amphibia measured 40 mm in width (44mm with the crown), 45 mm lug to lug, 14mm in thickness and had an 18mm band lug width. The new version has been upsized slightly. It measures 48mm lug to lug, 43mm in width (47mm with the crown), 15mm in thickness and uses a 22mm band lug width.

Another significant change from the original model is the movement. The original used a hand wound 2214 movement. It's successor now sports a 2415d automatic movement. From a water resistance standpoint, this is a good change as the crown need not be opened very often for winding purposes.

Visually, Vostok did a good job of updating things without giving up the watch's old style charm. Like the original, there is no date window. The dial design is similar to the old 300 meter version of the original Tonneau Diver and the bezel is similarly designed as well. The case actually resembles that of the now hard to find 300 meter version so much that I am wondering if that was the inspiration here. (Note-The new reissue here is rated at 200 meters water resistance, just like all other modern Amphibias) Like all Amphibias, the case back and crown screw down and the case back relies on the traditional Vostok two part screw down system.

Like most Vostoks, the watch does have two trademark quirks. First off, the stock bracelet (see picture above) is of so so quality and should be replaced with a higher quality band or bracelet. Don't get me wrong, it can be sized by a jeweler and used, but it is not up to the quality of the watch otherwise in my opinion. It should be noted that the clearance beneath this model's hooded lugs is pretty tight. A thick replacement rubber band or bracelet will likely not fit. Substituting thinner spring bars for the stock models (which are quite thick) frees up enough room for a nato or leather band like the Hirsch Trapper pictured here. The other subpar feature of all Vostoks, this one included, is crummy lume. Expect no more than one hour of visibility in darkness.

For $100, the Vostok Tonneau Reissue is a very good deal. It a solidly made automatic diver that should give many years of good service. Vostoks are renowned for their durability and this example with its heavy stainless steel case and acrylic crystal (whose scratches can be easily polished away with a little toothpaste and a cotton ball) should be no exception. As readers of this blog know, I have always been interested in this company's offerings. While not perfect by any means, they reflect an engineering perspective that places maximum emphasis on low cost and long term durability.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Citizen Eco Drive Nighthawk Review

It is easy to understand why Citizen is the number one watch company in the world after wearing the Nighthawk for the last few weeks. Citizen's unique combination of quartz accuracy, solar charging, water resistance and overall solid build make it just about the most convenient daily wearer I've ever owned.
The Nighthawk model seen here is an all stainless steel (including an all solid link bracelet thankfully) aviator/military/navigator style watch that features an independently settable 24 hour secondary hand. The watch measures 42mm in width. Water resistance is rated at 200 meters (which is plenty deep) and the crown screws down. An internal chapter ring can be moved via the second crown to allow for world timer capability. The lume is of excellent quality, a cool blue color that is very long lasting. (It isn't quite in a Seiko Monster's league but it's close) Additionally, the Nighthawk's second hand can be hacked if that feature is of importance. The crystal on this watch is made of hardened mineral glass. The choice of that material, as opposed to synthetic sapphire is the only disappointment I could find with this watch. Mineral glass is reasonably scratch resistant but nowhere near as good as sapphire.
The Nighthawk's most impressive feature to me, one shared by many other Citizen models, is the Eco Drive system. Most folks are familiar with the periodic chore of changing our watch batteries when they poop out. It is an acceptable compromise in exchange for the superior accuracy that battery driven quartz watches provide over their mechanical counterparts. Citizen, however, found a way around this problem by building a solar cell into the watch face that continuously charges the battery. Once fully charged, the watch will run in darkness for up to six months. The result is a watch that, in theory, should never need servicing. 

If you want to own only one watch that will faithfully get the job done with a minimum of fuss, an Eco Drive like this Nighthawk is a great choice. As long as it is stored in a reasonably well lit place so the battery remains charged, it should never need any other consideration. With its excellent water resistance, sturdy construction and good looks, the Nighthawk would be equally at home in the office or at the beach. It is really very well done.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Vostok Amphibia New Murphy Bezel mod

While clicking around on the Murphy Manufacturing website, I spotted a new bezel for the classic Vostok Amphibia.  Unlike the previous version, this one is designed to be a smooth, non-rotating bezel.  One of the things that always bothered me about the Vostok bezel design (aside from its use of chrome plated brass that scratches and dents easily) is that it has no ratcheting mechanism to keep it lined up.  This new bezel replacement make that issue moot.

Like Murphy's previous bezel design, this one is also a solid piece of stainless steel that should prove much more durable that the stock bezel.  I personally like how it gives the Amphibia the clean look and feel of an old fashioned 1940's vintage diver/military watch

Removing and reinstalling a Vostok bezel isn't terribly hard.  A description of the process can be found here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

TW Steel 50mm CEO Canteen

´╗┐Let's get this part out of the way quickly. The 50mm CEO Canteen is a big watch. Really big. So, if you don't buy into today's big watch fashion craze, stay away from this beast. Are we clear about that...good.

Now, having gotten that bit out of the way, on to the review. A few years back, I had another canteen crown monster of a watch. That one was the giant Russian Zlatoust diver. At 75mm from end to end and with a thickness that was bigger than the diameter of many watches, it was just too much for me. I loved the look of it but there was simply no way to wear that sucker. Off it went to the sales forum and a new home. (I can picture Shrek the ogre enjoying it to this day). Still though, I really did like the look of that Zlatoust. My solution for a comfortably wearable replacement is the watch you see here, the TW Steel CEO Canteen.

This is my second TW Steel watch. My first, the Icon, is their entry level model. The CEO Canteen, seen here, falls in the middle of their range. TW Steel is a Netherlands based company which specializes in big watches. For the most part, their models measure in at either 45mm or 50mm in diameter. Their line runs the gamut from quartz to automatics and from chronographs to aviators.

This version of the CEO Canteen (there are smaller 45mm models too) measures 50mm in width (60 mm with the crown), 14 mm in height, 58 mm lug to lug and has a 22 mm band lug width. It features a beveled, hardened mineral glass crystal. 10 atm water resistance and a thick, high quality leather band. The crown and caseback are of the screw-down variety and the canteen crown is sealed with its own gasket. Lastly, the dial indicators and hands are lumed. The lume on this iteration of the CEO is nowhere near Seiko quality in terms of brightness or longevity unfortunately but is isn't in the terrible league like that found on Vostoks for example. If you aren't a lume junkie, you should find the CEO's night time visibility acceptable.

Internally, the 50 mm CEO is powered by a Miyota 2405 quartz movement. The movement features hour, minute and second hands along with day and date functions. Accuracy is excellent as is the case with most quartz movements.

As watches go, the CEO Canteen has sort of a split personality. Canteen crown watches are meant to keep out water. The CEO doesn't disappoint in this category. It features a 100 meter water resistance rating which isn't bad at all. Additionally, that canteen crown isn't just for decoration. I was pleased to see that it really is a gasketed screw down crown whose purpose of keeping out water hasn't been diluted in this modern iteration. The split personality part though stems from the watch face and band that, to my eye at least, more closely resemble an old style aviator watch. Under most circumstances, I would find it unlikely that these two features could tastefully coexist on one watch. TW Steel, to it's credit, has managed to make these features work nicely together though.

Overall, the TW Steel CEO Canteen feels like a keeper to me. The build quality seems excellent and it's a real looker to my eye. While this is obviously subjective, I also happen to love the brown color of this example too. In a world where high end luxury is increasingly becoming both unattainable and difficult to justify, watches like TW Steel's CEO Canteen look better and better. I found this example on sale for sub $200 as a birthday present (officially from my wife, nudge...wink) and other great deals can be found with a little patience. I am looking forward to many happy years with it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New old stock Sea-Gull ST5

There seem to be enough of these new old stock (NOS) Sea-Gulls floating around on the world wide garage sale that I figured a review of one couldn't hurt, so here goes. Note-For another review of these ST5 Sea-Gulls, look here.

The watch you see above is a Chinese Sea-Gull model from the 1970s. Despite its age, it arrived in flawless condition (a feat that some new watches I have owned couldn't manage btw). The watch did not ship with a band so a trip to the parts box produced the combination in the photos. These old Sea-Gull models are, ahem, traditionally sized men's watches which is to say, small by today's fashion standard. The watch measures 35mm in width (37mm with the crown), 42mm lug to lug, 10mm thick and uses an unusual 19mm band lug width (You can probably squeeze a 20mm model on though). Despite the smallish measured dimensions however, this model wears a bit bigger than it is thanks to the high crystal and the thick, elongated lug design. As a dress watch, it is really quite good looking.

I was pleasantly surprised at the fine build quality on this model. Unlike many watches from the seventies which still used plated brass watch cases, Sea-Gull was already using a nicely polished stainless steel case on this design. That decision to go with the more durable metal no doubt contributes a lot to this watch's age defying looks. The hands appear to be polished stainless steel as well and the dial features raised metallic markers. The crystal is the only visual clue that this is an old design. It is a raised flat-topped acrylic type unlike the mineral and synthetic sapphire units common today. (For what it's worth, I happen to like acrylic crystals. Minor scratches can be polished away easily with a cotton ball and a little toothpaste. Try that with a scratched mineral glass crystal). The hands and face have no lume which is fine for a dress watch. While the case back screws down against a rubber gasket, I wouldn't trust any older watch near water so assume no waterproofing here.

Internally, this oldster is powered by Sea-Gull's ST5 19 jewel hand wound movement. The movement is a sight to behold. It features hand striped decoration on the bridges and plates. The workmanship of this striping is very well done and not at all the sort of thing I would associate with a socialist economy. A lot of pride clearly went into this little engine. In terms of accuracy, my example is gaining about 15 seconds daily which I can live just fine with. One thing that did surprise me is how stiff the crown is. You really have to grip it tightly to wind it. It's not a bad thing as far as I can tell but it is something to consider. For what it's worth, the mechanism is loosening up a bit as I use it. Could be just some old oil gumming things up. In addition to all the decoration btw, the movement also features what appears to be a polished, internal anti-magnetic shield. Yet another nice and unexpected touch.

All in all, I'm quite satisfied with my journey into Chinese horology so far. On two occasions now I have both been pleasantly surprised and had my prior assumptions challenged. I have a familiar feeling that these two Chinese watches (see the review before this one) will not be my only ones. I think a new watch box may be in order first though...
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