Saturday, October 08, 2005

Marathon Watch Review

The subject of this review, the Marathon General Purpose Watch (talk about a generic name for a watch) is the first genuine military watch that I have owned. As it name implies it is manufactured by the Marathon Watch Company, a Canadian business that supplies watches to the U.S. and Canadian militaries and SAR (search and rescue) teams. It is my understanding that Marathon is currently the only official supplier of watches to the American armed forces. This particular model was made for the U.S. Army in March of 2005.

The watch itself doesn't look very impressive at first blush. It is a traditionally sized man's watch, which is to say rather small by today's standards. The watch measures 34mm in width (36mm if you include the crown) and comes stock with a 16mm wide nylon, one-piece band on fixed wire lugs. The case is made of some kind of supposedly durable plastic and uses an acrylic crystal. The watch is all black except for the markings on the dial, which also has the words U.S. Government and Swiss Made printed on it. In addition to its small size, the Marathon is also extremely light. If making a big visual impression with your watch is important to you, look elsewhere, this one isn't for you. Lastly, my model uses an ISA1198 Swiss quartz movement with an easily accessible, user replaceable battery.

The Marathon General Purpose does have a number of redeeming features, however, that make it one of my favorite watches of late. The watch's best feature is its lume. The Marathon uses tritium tubes (tiny glass tubes filled with gaseous tritium) on its hands and face to provide a steady bright glow that won't fade for over a dozen years. Unlike conventional glow in the dark technology, tritium lume watches do not need to be exposed to light to charge up the glow. In this respect the watch is like Luminox, Traser and Ball brand watches except that the Marathon is significantly less expensive than those brands. The lume, as those people who own tritium lume watches know, is simply terrific. In darkness and even low light conditions the watch is very easy to see and the glow does not fade over a few hours like a conventional, light charged lume system. For those of you who are concerned about exposure to radiation, the radiation output of the tritium tubes in the Marathon is very low. It is so low, in fact, that it is said that the radiation that the tritium emits cannot even penetrate the watch’s case or crystal. Unlike older watches with industrial radium lume (some of which were dangerously radioactive), there is apparently almost no possibility of exposure to dangerous radiation with tritium tube watches. The other feature of the Marathon that makes it a keeper to me is its ruggedness. The watch is built to meet a set of standards set by the armed forces (see also here) to ensure that it will continue to work under rough field conditions. It is thus unlikely that anything that I can throw at it in my day-to-day activities will cause any permanent damage. That makes wearing the Marathon a no-brainer in my opinion. It is the perfect beater. It is also the least expensive tritium lume watch that I have been able to find, other than closeouts on ebay. (It should be noted that when shopping for a watch with tritium lume, newer is always better. Tritium has a relatively short half-life as radioactive isotopes go, and the glow from a watch with this technology will last for only twelve to fifteen years. An older model, while probably less expensive than a new piece, will not work as well or as long.)

To sum up, if you are interested in a tritium lume watch, and don’t want to spend a lot, give this Marathon a long look. It isn’t pretty in any way but it is very light and comfortable and the sheer utility and ease of use that it provides make it the perfect choice for field wear or just general knock around. Add to that its military origin, which makes it historically interesting in my opinion, and you have a winner that you will want to wear for a long time.


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9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice watch. Do they market to the masses or just the uniformed types?

4:59 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Primarily to the military but the rest of us can get them here,

or on ebay.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does this watch have a "sweeping" second hand or does it beat at 60 beats per minute?

2:10 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

60 beats per minute. Typical quartz movement in that respect. There were earlier versions of this watch with hand wound mechanical movements that had sweeping second hands.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Men's Watch Review said...

Nice review, I love Marathon watches and own a GSAR myself.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

One of their best for sure

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Great watch. I am going to get a mechanical model. Do you recommand it? Thanks

11:57 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Depends on the age. If yoiu mean one of the new mechanical SAR models, go for it. An old mechanical Marathon might disappoint in the lume catagory though.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous LLD said...

Hi Ed...I just bought a watch on Ebay for my husband and now wonder if there could be a radiation issue. Supposedly made at Molnija factory in 1957. Any help would be appreciated, thank you. Here's the link to the item...


2:21 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

The link is no longer active I'm afraid. For what its worth though, I've never heard of a Molnija with radium lume. Do you see a flakey white or yellow paint on the hands?

2:29 PM  
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4:42 AM  
Anonymous bonodi said...

You may find it curious to learn that I acquired one of these watches for less than $20 in exchange for a 20-minute soldering job I did one time.
I know not how it reached the condition I acquired it in - must have had some rather hard knocks somehow - as two of the tritium pips on the dial had fallen off and rattled loose.
A brief bit of research on removing the crown to get access to the face and half an hour later I had all the pips glued in place - three more popped out of their places and so in the end I offered a dab of cyanoacrylate to either end of every pip.
In the few years since then, while definitely somewhat dimmed, all the pips have stayed in place very nicely. I have my doubts about the proclaimed mil-spec quality, for if it can start falling apart within a stranger's city life I shouldn't imagine it'd survive so kindly in harsher environments.
It has, however stood up well to my rather active lifestyle in the years since I repaired it.
Overall I'm happy with the little thing, it keeps good time, it has passive indiglo which is radioactive to boot (nerd cred yo), and it didn't cost me anything near the retail price.

9:07 PM  

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