New lights!

Well, a couple of little Nanlite Forza 60s arrived today, and I just took a few test shots. The lights are small enough that they can be hand held with ease, so I took the opportunity to do so (at least with the key light – the other one was on a stand with a Fresnel lens attached), moving it to various positions to see what effect it had on the overall lighting. First impressions are good, although in hindsight I should probably have gone for a little more power as it would have given me more options with regard to modifiers and camera settings. However, I specifically wanted to try these Forza 60s for their lightness and portability, and the next model up (300w/s) is slightly heavier and requires quite a large and separate adapter/controller as well. Oh, and it’s three times the price.

This image was shot at f6.3, 1/60th of a second and ISO400; not much leeway there but it was dark/night time so there was no help with regard to ambient light (and to make matters worse – or better, depending on your POV – I had exposure compensation set to -2, albeit that it ended up at -1 after post production). I reckon shooting during the day (the lights are daylight balanced at 56,000k) might give me an extra couple of stops, though, so I’ll try again at some point soon. I also realised afterwards that I had a circular polariser on the lens, and that will have cost me at least a stop too.

The key light was just fitted with a reflector/spill kill but I shot through a light tent to soften it a bit. I’m thinking, though, that with some assistance from ambient daylight and with no polarising filter fitted, I should be no worse off shooting with a softbox instead of using the light tent. I’d probably put a softbox on the other light too, which would no doubt help a fair bit.

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The lure of Blancpain

A while ago I allowed myself to trade the Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec, a watch that I really liked a lot and missed immediately it was gone. In fact, it was my fourth Fifty Fathoms of one kind or another. I’d previously owned three of the 45mm models as well (the Automatique, the Dark Knight and the No Radiations) and whilst I thought the larger models were all absolutely gorgeous watches I knew they were a little too substantial for my wrists.

The Mil-Spec, being a whisker over 40mm, was perfect in every way but what they all had in common was a quality that became evident the moment you handled the watch. The flawless fit and finish, incredible depth of the dials & indices, the lumed sapphire bezels, the beautifully finished movements… in terms of divers, Blancpain take things to another level altogether, and – whilst clearly not cheap watches – at least you know you’re getting something more than a utilitarian movement housed in a relatively unremarkable piece of steel.

Anyway, back on track and the horological gods seem to have smiled on me (actually, it was planning rather than luck, and painful decisions were made). In any event, having missed out on one opportunity, I was surprised to see that not only was a second mint example of Blancpain’s latest tribute offering being listed for sale on my favourite watch forum. The result was probably always somewhat inevitable, and the Barakuda that’s on my wrist as I type is everything I hoped it would be. Certainly, it’s my favourite of all the Fifty Fathom’s I’ve owned, although there’s not a great deal to choose between it and the Mil-Spec. More on that in a minute, though.

The Barakuda is another beautifully executed tribute, this time to a watch that was originally released back in the late 1960s. Of course, the original FF dates back even further – to 1953 – and has a history that I’ve written about before so won’t repeat. However, whilst the French were the first to equip themselves with Fifty Fathoms models for their underwater missions other military elites followed. One of those – in the late 1960’s – was the German Navy then known as the Bundesmarine, which was supplied with Fifty Fathoms models via Barakuda – a German company specialising in the production and marketing of technical diving equipment.

Alongside the watches intended for the military, the company also introduced the domestic market to a civilian model adopting the Barakuda’s distinctive style, notably featuring the use of two-tone rectangular hour-markers, white-painted fluorescent hands, as well as a highly visible date display at 3 o’clock. Many were fitted with a Tropic-type rubber strap that was very popular with divers at the time and became quickly renowned for its durability as well as its wearer comfort. Production numbers aren’t verified, but it’s widely believed there were about 150 of these watches. This scarcity, along with the military provenance, have made the Barakuda a very prized watch among Fifty Fathoms collectors. In fact, many FF aficionados thought that it should have been the first limited edition tribute model that Blancpain produced. Here’s a shot of the original Barakuda, just as a point of reference; this one is from 1970 (and it’s a 41mm case, by the way). It was sold by Phillips at auction two years ago and fetched about £14k – not bad for one of the most iconic dive watches in history.

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Let’s jump forward again, then, to Blancpain’s reissue of the Barakuda that was released last year; just 500 watches in all, it’s actually a pretty faithful tribute. The Barakuda shares much of the Mil-Spec DNA in that it’s presented in the same 40.3mm case and is driven by the same Blancpain calibre 1151 movement. In fact, the movement is made by Piguet but has been used extensively by Blancpain, and also by Brequet, AP and VC. Interestingly though, only Blancpain is allowed by Piguet to have a 100 hour reserve, whilst other rival manufactures have been forced to settle on a “measly” 70 hours; the nenefit of being siblings, of course. In any event, it’s finished absolutely beautifully with a mere 3.25mm thickness that belies its twin barrels, 210 components and 28 jewels. Whilst you might not realise it whilst gazing at it in wonder, the rotor is solid 18ct gold; however, it’s coated with a platinum alloy (Blancpain’s “NAC”) which I have to say looks amazing.

The dial is a matt black that somehow seems to add depth to the dual-coloured indices featuring the wonderful pops of red seen in the original. Both the crystal and bezel are domed sapphire, the latter being fully lumed albeit not going so far as to feature a minute track across its full radius as per the original. The lume, by the way, is spectacular.

I’ve been asked how it compares to the Mil-Spec, and the truth is that they wear very similarly in many ways for the reasons mentioned above. It boils down to aesthetics, and I’m sure that there will be fans in both camps. For me, the Barakuda’s warmth, matt dial and unique colouring, coin-edge bezel and date window positioned at 3 o’clock wins the day for me; however, you really couldn’t make a mistake with either, and to my mind both represent everything that’s right about reissues. Genuine testaments to the past, whilst representing the very best of watchmaking in the present.

So, the customary photos… not an easy one due to the domed crystal, but I hope that they convey in some way the beauty of this watch.

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Newly-serviced loveliness

A while ago, I listed my Glashutte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar for sale. It’s the previous to current model with the 40mm case and the 100 series movement, and I’ve had it for quite a few years now; the problem is that I was wearing it infrequently, so told myself it was probably time to move it on.

When I posted the sales listing on TZ-UK it was running a bit fast – somewhere between 15 and 20 seconds, from memory. I was surprised that it wasn’t snapped up but assumed that the need for a service was a contributory factor. With that in mind I dropped it off at Wempe and waited the couple of months for it to undergo a full service and be returned to the UK. Wempe were superb, as having mistakenly quoted £600 – the cost should have been £900 for this movement – they kindly stood by their original figure, so I managed to save £300 on what it should have cost me. More importantly, its now running at +2s on the wrist, so the service obviously did its job and it also looks brand new (although there was barely a mark on it to begin with).

I think I may keep hold of it now, as I have something of an attachment to it; it’s one of the cleanest executions of a PC out there (Moser probably hold that title, actually) and to my mind it’s far, far nicer than the current 42mm model with the Roman numerals. For now, here’s a couple of photos to relieve some of the CV-19 related boredom. It’s a lovely thing.

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4 months-worth of incomings in one fell swoop!

Well, having had a strange (for me) watch-related experience a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that I’ve had some incomings over the past 4 months or so that I’ve not posted about. I do enjoy shooting watches and don’t do it very often these days, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and post a quick write-up on the various arrivals.

First up is a 1979-issued CWC W10. I’m not particularly into issued/military watches but I’ve wanted one of these for ages; the fact that it was issued but is still in such superb condition swung it for me and I have to say that I absolutely love the little thing.

It was serviced by John Senior back in 2017, when along with the mechanical work it also got a new crystal and a light polish. It’s therefore in gorgeous nick and looks particularly good on this hand-made bund strap that was sourced from the Ukraine.

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The next one is a watch that I’ve been after for a good couple of years – a Zenith Rainbow Flyback from the original run (the current model is a little oversized for my taste) and with a tritium dial.

This one is from 1999 and is all original save for the lume in the chrono hand. It was serviced by an Italian watchmaker before reaching me, and having decided not to wear it on the bracelet (which I have) I bought something that I’ve not needed for a while now; a Di Modell Rallye strap with red stitching. These have to be the very best bang for buck straps on the market, and it suits the watch very well in addition to being supremely comfortable.

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Next up is another watch that I’ve been after for a long while, albeit in Pepsi guise. However, the BLNR is also a gorgeous watch, and given that I’m completely fed up with the whole Pepsi saga I’m going to accept that the future is actually blue and not red.

Now, it may surprise some on here to know that I traded a lovely 16710 for this watch. However (and regardless of conventional wisdom, which is neither here nor there so far as I’m concerned) I’ve never really fallen in love with the more modern 5-digit GMTs. I do love the 1675 and 16750 a lot, but for some reason if it’s not going to be one of them then I’ve always preferred the current ceramic crop. Call me a heathen…

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Finally, something completely unexpected. I was out with Bea for a valentine’s lunch yesterday, and we had an amble down Oxford Street before heading home again. Anyway, I was looking in the window of WoS when one of the sales assistants caught my eye and started beckoning me in whilst waving something shiny at me. It turned out to be one of two steel and gold Submariners that he was about to put in the window, and no sooner was I inside the door than I was sipping some cold Veuve Clicquot and pondering over blue or black dials. In the end, and after much deliberation, went for the 116613LN – the one with the black dial.

Now, I don’t have £11k knocking around for impulse purchases, but I’m about to move a watch on and I’m also going to sell my GO perpetual calendar when it’s back from service (it’s been in Glashutte for the past month); I don’t really wear it, and it’s too lovely to spend its life sitting on a winder. So, having decided that I really do like the black dial a lot I took the plunge. I’m very happy I did, too.

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To wrap up, just a word about the modern Rolex range… I’ve never had an issue with the cases, nor do I have any time for those who commonly (and rather stupidly) say that they wouldn’t wear one if it was given to them. They’re amazing watches with some great innovations in recent years. These two will sit very happily next to my 4 and 5-digit references, and I’ll enjoy wearing both very much indeed.

And the other one…

Okay, the other incoming then – the Grand Seiko SBGK005, a limited edition of 1500 watches and already one that’s looking quite hard to get hold of.

First of all, what does Grand Seiko have to say about it?

A new manual-winding calibre. A new slim profile. A blue dial. The Grand Seiko Elegance Collection sets a new course.

Calibre 9S63 is a significant addition to the ever growing Grand Seiko family of movements. It has been eight years since the last manual-winding mechanical calibre in Grand Seiko and it has been worth the wait. Calibre 9S63 offers a small seconds hand at the nine o’clock position and a power reserve indicator at three o’clock. Calibre 9S63 has a power reserve of 72 hours and delivers an accuracy rate of +5 to -3 seconds a day.

A new slim design with blue Mt. Iwate pattern dial. The stainless steel cases are polished by a special Zaratsu method created to accentuate the beauty of the curved surfaces. The dials and the sapphire crystals are also curved to give the watches a classic look.

Blue accents for the movement and the case back. The blue lion mark and tempered screws can be seen through the sapphire case back.

A bit more about the movement, and the specification in general:

Type: Manual winding mechanical 9S63
Accuracy: +5 to -3 seconds per day
Power reserve: Approximately 72 hours
Vibrations: 28,800 vibrations per hour (8 beats per second)
Jewels: 33 jewels
Characteristics: Power reserve indicator, small seconds hand
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Strap: Crocodile with single-fold deployant clasp
Water resistance: 3 bar
Case: stainless steel with Zaratsu finish
Dimensions: 39mm diameter, 11.6mm thickness, 19mm lug width

The SBGK005 is part of a new line of Grand Seiko “Elegance” models (these tend to be dressier and more classic than the other GS collections which, to my mind, can come across as a little too austere and clinical at times). Most of the case is mirror (Zaratsu) polished, with only the central facet of the midcase brushed. Transitions between components are delineated either by razor sharp edges (for instance, where the bezel meets the case) or radiused curves (in the case of the lug shape), with the reflections emphasising the changes in geometry.

The 9S63 movement is Grand Seiko’s first new manual-winding calibre in eight years, but it actually builds on the well-established architecture of the tried and tested 9S64. It features a small seconds complication at 9 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 3; the movement boasts 72 hours of power reserve on a full wind, and the accuracy is rated to +5/-3 seconds a day. It has 33 jewels and a beat rate of 28,800 bph.

However, whilst both the case and the movement are impressive this watch is really all about the dial. Whilst it isn’t lacquered like some of the other variants in the new line-up, it shares their finish in boasting a surface that’s intended to symbolise the texture of Japan’s Mt. Iwate. Whilst it’s quite hard to photograph (because of the domed crystal rather than the dial itself) it really is nothing short of spectacular in the metal.

So, on that note to the photographs… with apologies for not really producing the quality of image that I was looking for. It transpired that the crystal – when under my lights – presented a challenge that I didn’t quite have the time yesterday evening to overcome but perhaps I’ll have another shot at it at some point soon.

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