Saturday, March 25, 2006

Seiko Monster Review SKX779

On a nylon band for a change of pace

I wasn't originally going to write this review because it seemed to me that there was nothing much left to say about this excellent watch. However, after living with the Monster for a few weeks now, I just couldn't resist putting my own two cents in.

The Seiko Monster is one of those rare products that rightly seems like it should cost a lot more than it does. From its massive stainless steel case to its big solid-link bracelet everything about the Monster says first class. Its hard to explain it but this watch has that perfectly designed and assembled look about it that sometimes you don't see on watches that cost twice the Monster's price or more. Count on this big Seiko being noticed by anyone who appreciates nice watches. Its really that well done.

Externally, the Monster is 42mm in diameter (not including the crown), 12mm in thickness and has a 20mm band lug width (although the stock bracelet flares out to a width of 24mm thus making the lugs look much wider). The watch is equipped with a very large stainless steel unidirectional diver's bezel (with its own luminous marker embedded) and a screw-down crown. Water resistance is rated at 200 meters and the crystal is made of Seiko's proprietary Hardlex reinforced mineral glass (Hardlex sort of splits the difference between regular mineral glass, which scratches very easily, and sapphire, which is best at resisting scratches but is expensive and can shatter when knocked.) Additionally, it deserves noting that the bracelet on the Monster is exceptionally well done. It is a heavy, solid link design (including solid end-links thankfully) that frankly seems better made than any other watch bracelet that I have ever encountered, irrespective of price. The bracelet uses a double locking clasp and includes a diver's extension. Lastly, the Monster's lume is, far and away, the best light activated lume available anywhere. Expose this watch to light for a little while and it will remain visible in darkness for at least eight hours. It may last longer for all I know but that is as long as I have tested it. With the exception of tritium lume watches (and their lume does lose power over a number of years) the Monster is as good as it gets when it comes to visibility in the dark.

Internally, this Seiko is powered by a 7s26 21 jewel automatic movement. This is a very popular movement among Seiko models and is renowned for its durability and longevity. 7S26s have been known to run reliably for ten years or more with no maintenance and are reputed to be very resistant to abuse. It should be noted that the 7S26 will neither hack or handwind, if those features are important to you. To wind the watch, you just set it and give it a shake. The automatic winding mechanism takes over from there and your normal body motions throughout the day will provide a day or so worth of power at a time. Seiko's automatic winding mechanism is considered to be among the best in the industry. For a detailed explanation of its operation, check out this fine review by The Purists.

All told, it is my personal belief that you can't go wrong with this watch. Truthfully, if I could only own one watch (horrors!), the Monster would likely be it. It has no real weaknesses (the inability to hack or handwind might bother some folks but it has no practical effect on the use of the watch) and it possess loads of strengths. If you want a very high quality watch that will give trouble free service under all conditions for many years, look no further. Best of all, the Monster is a bargain. New examples regularly appear on ebay in the low to mid hundred dollar range, the PMWF Sales Corner seems to regularly have them in stock for very good prices (and Reto and Helen are a pleasure to deal with). I happened to get mine while vacationing in the Philippines at the Seiko store in the Glorietta Mall in Makati (Very nice folks there by the way. Great place to buy a watch.) I really can't sing this one's praises enough.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Vostok Radio Operator Review

On a newly acquired factory bracelet

The subject of this review, the Vostok Radio Operator watch is one of the new old stock (NOS) models that have been turning up of late on the worldwide tag sale. I got this particular example a few weeks ago in what looked like its original box with the factory paperwork. It did not have a strap, however, and I decided it would look good on a black Nilsen bund (Nilsen incidentally has a great selection of bund style straps for excellent prices. Quality is quite good too.) (For more information on the history of Vostok, check the monthly archives of this site for the Vostok Komandirskie review)


The watch itself is powered by Vostok's 17 jewel model 2409 hand-wound movement. It uses a thick acrylic crystal, the company's trademark two piece stainless-steel case back, the usual wobbly screw-down crown design (normal for this make), and Vostok's typically awful lume. The watch is rated at 200 meters water resistance but since this is NOS, I wouldn't rely on that figure without having it tested first. This Vostok has the old style octagonal stainless-steel case style that thankfully had nary a mark on it when it arrived. The case measures 38mm in width (42mm including the crown), 12mm in height and has an 18mm lug band width. Like most Vostoks, it has a bi-directional chrome plated bezel but this one also has a luminous marker embedded in it. So far, the watch has run flawlessly, gaining an acceptable 15 seconds daily.


Until recently, the radio operator was something of a rare bird. Even now, the examples available are apparently all there is of them as the style is not among the many being produced by the Vostok factory today. It is my understanding that the reason for the watch's name is that maritime law requires certain periods of radio silence between ships during which time they are supposed to monitor certain frequencies set aside for distress calls. The time periods in question are marked on the watch face, the first three minutes of each quarter hour. I have read that this system was developed in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. Apparently at that time, the ship's distress calls were hard to make out amidst all the other signal traffic. For a better explanation of maritime distress communications, see this site.


In all other respects the Vostok Radio Operator is very typical of most of the company's products. It is rugged, reliable and accurate and makes a fine field watch or daily wearer. Since this is a somewhat unusual model, I don't wear it under less than ideal circumstances the way that I do with newer Vostok models. That is more a reflection of a desire on my part to preserve this watch than a result of concern that it would be damaged easily. I have little doubt, in fact, that the Radio Operator could take all the abuse that I could normally dish out. Final thought, get one while you can.

Update-The top picture shows this Vostok on a factory bracelet. Turns out, the current generation of Vostok Amphibia bracelets will fit these older style Vostoks as well. Unlike a Swiss watch, whose accessories can be unbelievably pricey, this bracelet set me back all of $4 on the world wide tag sale, new in its wrapper by the way. The shipping at $4.50 was more. I think it looks pretty good.
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