Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Reactor Gamma Titanium Review

Well, as much as I liked the Reactor Fallout (reviewed below), my son liked it even more. It's a pretty fancy watch for a teenager, I think, but he's a good kid so why not. That decision, however, left me with a conveniently empty slot to fill in the watch box. And, since I was quite impressed with the Fallout, I figured I'd give another Reactor a try.

Reactor, as I mentioned in the Fallout review, has stated that their mission is to build the best sports watches available anywhere period. The model you see above is the new titanium version of the company's Gamma model. This is my first titanium watch and, I've got to admit, I like this metal. Titanium is pretty nifty stuff. It is very strong and yet both light weight and corrosion resistant. From what I've read, it's strength is about equal to that of steel but at half the weight. As such, a big watch like the Gamma feels very light and comfortable on the wrist. The metal also has a unique color to it that immediately differentiates it from steel. I now understand why titanium watches are considered desirable.

Aside from Reactor's choice of materials, this version of the Gamma has a lot of other good stuff going for it. For starters, it is water resistant to a depth of 300 meters. That is a serious depth rating. Clearly, water is not going to be a problem here. (Like the Fallout, the Gamma also features Reactor's unusual crown seal. Even if left unscrewed for some odd reason, it is still water resistant to 100 meters. Good insurance I guess.) The watch also employs Reactor's solid screwbar system to attach the bracelet to the watchcase. This system is reportedly at least five times stronger than springbars. The screwbars are set in neoprene bushings, I believe, to keep them from unscrewing accidentally. The bracelet (also titanium btw) is an all solid link design with a locking clasp. Aside from looking good, it's quite light and comfortable too, not a "hair puller" thankfully. Additionally, the watch features a Miyota 2S65 movement which has a 10 year battery life. That goes a long way towards addressing one of my complaints with the battery life of many quartz watches. Other features include a rotating uni-directional bezel (with a very bright embedded lume marker), an anti-reflective coated crystal and a screw-down crown. The exterior dimensions of the Gamma are 45.5mm in width, about 14mm in thickness, and 53mm lug to lug.

The real standout feature of the Gamma is the lume system that Reactor uses. As readers of this site probably know, I'm a big fan of quality lume on a watch. Whether I'm traveling or just putting a watch on my nightstand, I find it very helpful to be able to read the time in the dark. Quality lume these days usually means either superlumimova or tritium tubes. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Superluminova is a light activated paint that, once charged, glows very brightly at first and dims over several hours. Tritium tubes are a self powered lume system that consist of small glass vials filled with radioactive tritium gas. (Radiation is not a danger from this system by the way . Tritium is not a strong radiation source to begin with and the vials that hold it are more than capable of blocking any emissions). Tritium tubes are very clearly visible in darkness but don't really glow all that brightly. With the titanium Gamma, the folks at Reactor took a best of both worlds approach and used superluminova and tritium tubes. They call this combo their NeverDark system (thus the letters "ND" on the watch face). The result is a remarkable lume method that really performs as advertised. The tritium tubes are set at the 3,6,9 and 12 positions on the watch face and on the hour and minute hands. (It you’re interested, Reactor uses MB Microtec tubes). The superluminova is applied to the hour markers on the face and to the triangular ends of the three hands. It is my understanding that reactor applies an unusually thick eight layer coat of superluminova to their watches. It shows nicely. The net effect of this combination system is a watch that can be read clearly in any light conditions. That is an impressive achievement and Reactor is to be commended for coming up with this system.

In my opinion, the Gamma Titanium is a really terrific piece. Between the solid build quality and the use of titanium coupled with the amazing lume, you can't go wrong with this one. Add in the ten year battery life and this model should give trouble free service for a very long time. At $550 (retail) the Gamma titanium isn't cheap but, considering it's feature set, I think it's well worth it. There are plenty of fancy named watches out there that cost significantly more than the Gamma that don't have half of it's features.

I usually don't put much stock in the boxes that watches ship in. As long as they protect the watch long enough for it to arrive, that's usually good enough for me. The Reactor box is cool though. In addition to looking like a nuclear reactor (like the Fallout's box) and having a magnetically sealed compartment in the base for spare links, the top part is meant to be used as a beer/soda can insulated sleeve (there is actually a diagram on the outside of the box about this feature). Gotta like that :)

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