Some more horological husbandry!!!

It’s been a while since I last posted, and this piece once again is about changes to what seems to be an ever-growing collection (not through any planning or intent on my part, I hasten to add – I actually thought I might be able to get the numbers down a bit). That said, I’ve had some new arrivals over the past few months so I thought I’d write a quick update for those that might have an interest 🙂

Omega SM300 new build

I’ve admired these from afar for absolutely ages, as I love the originals and had a WTB for one for quite a while. There have been some lovely examples passing through SC but I’ve never quite managed to nab one, but finally this unworn example reared its head in Singapore and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It’s one of the sought-after Lewis Watch Company builds, and there’s a post on the Omega Forum that sets out the background very nicely. For those who don’t like to follow links, here’s the gist of it…

What I’ve done with these is a fair bit more thorough than what Watchco did with theirs a few years back.

The movements are still from donor watches (565 for date and 552 without date). However they have had no expense spared servicing performed which included as a minimum new centre wheels, cannon pinions, mainsprings of course, some have had new barrels, barrel bridges, balances. Essentially whatever they needed in terms of new parts as well as traditional techniques to reduce or eliminate the effects of 50 odd years of wear on someone’s wrist.

Add to that entirely synthetic lubrication and at least a month of testing and fine tuning. Each case back has been professionally engraved on the inside with the serial of the movement, the build date, my company initials and the sequence number (1 of 6).

They have all been tested waterproof to 100meters which is all the Witschi Proofmaster S will go to. – This is a professional grade machine and is extremely sensitive to case deformation under vacuum and pressure. They have also been wet tested. I then produced a certificate for each watch giving its particulars. It’s timing and waterproof test performance numbers are listed.

ALL parts are new stock except of course the movement. ALL parts used are Omega and the correct ones for this reference, right down to the case clamps and screws. ALL bezels align properly at 12, no dodgy factory seconds here.

I have added the latest deployant clasp and leather or rubber strap which are also Omega items. Perhaps controversially I don’t like the mesh bracelet ( apart from to look at ) as it’s hard to get a proper fit and is uncomfortable to wear. Likewise the 1171 / 633 is a $25 bracelet with a $400 price tag.

Wrapping it all up is a brand new wooden Omega box of the Planet Ocean / modern SM300 variety. Plus a 12 month warranty on my workmanship.

So… a great build, two OEM leather straps and a deployant, a bit of paperwork, some engraving, a lovely box set and lume like a torch. What’s not to love?

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Breitling Navitimer 806

I find the general love of all things Breitling a bit mystifying, if I’m honest. Whilst I don’t doubt their quality for a moment, I really haven’t seen many that I like and most are simply far too blingy for an old fart/traditionalist like me. That said, there has always been one exception, and that’s the Navitimer. Within the iconic chronograph hierarchy I believe it holds a place very near the top, and I shudder when I think that in the past I’ve simultaneously owned an 806, and Ed White and a white gold Daytona… all of which have slipped through my fingers.

Anyway, the Navitimer has a genuinely interesting heritage and history. After the great success of Breitling’s first slide-rule watch (the Chronomat), the Navitimer was launched all the way back in 1952. Whilst the Chronomat was focussed on the engineer and businessman market, the Navitimer was designed specifically for pilots; so much so that the “Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association” (AOPA) immediately decided to make it their official watch. This new Navitimer combined three essential tools for navigation – a watch, a chronograph and a slide-rule. It was, effectively, a navigation timer, hence the name it was given.

It was designed with the Venus 178 movement (although some later models contained a Valjoux), a well-respected column wheel chronograph, and the first to be produced were fitted with a black Arabic dial and the famous AOPA logo. In fact, on the very first models “Breitling” was only seen on the case back. Shortly afterwards, the Breitling name was added over the AOPA logo, sometimes topped with the “B”. The reference of this watch was 806, and remained so until the introduction of a completely new generation in the 1970’s.

Over the following years, there were a number of dial variations, each termed a “Generation” (numbered 1-7 or so up to the 70’s, at least); there are some reasonably good sources of information out there for anyone who may be interested, but it takes a bit of legwork and it can be a little confusing as not all historic accounts are completely consistent.

Anyway, this acquisition is lovely – a 2nd Generation 806 that dates to 1966. It really is in good all-original condition, with a white on black dial and incorporating the earlier/smaller subdials that I think are by far the nicer.

Aside from the fact that the case is unpolished but in great original shape, the patina on dial and hands is even and dark, and the subdials are gorgeous (it was also very recently serviced, but there was no attempt to clean the dial – there are obvious signs of discolouration, but on the plus side it means that it’s in untouched condition). Note the absence of red highlights too – seen on later/current models but unsubtle in comparison.

Just a little (more specific) information on the 2nd Generation variant, taken from the Net… in approximately 1960 – after the watch had already become a huge success – the Navitimer’s design was modified and thereafter became known as “2nd Generation”. The three subdials changed from black to white, the hands were remodelled and the Breitling name appeared in printing on the dial. During the 1960’s the slide-rule bezel was also remodelled twice. Moreover, the AOPA wing was removed from the dial and the official Breitling Navitimer logo became two aircrafts flying in close formation. At the same time, however, Breitling continued to supply AOPA with Navitimers sporting the AOPA logo on the dial.

So… here you go!

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Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary

Now, I’ll state at the outset that I love this trilogy of tribute watches released by Omega. I already have the Seamaster 60th (I’m actually wearing it as I type, and it’s one of my favourite watches), so I was delighted when an opportunity arose to add it’s sibling. I’m actually tempted to get the Railmaster too, but I’ll have to have a good think about that before taking the plunge yet again.

I won’t bother writing any kind of history of the Speedmaster, but will just say (as I’m sure most people know by now) that the proportions and design of the 60th Anniversary are an exact match of those of the first model launched in 1957, the reference CK2915-1.

The dial as also a faithful reproduction of its ancestor, as are the broad arrow hands (seen again, also, on the previously released Speedmaster ’57); the applied Omega logo has been reincarnated, and the Omega Speedmaster signature is in the original font.

Whilst the 60th is a very faithful tribute, the movement is of course the modern caliber 1861. The bracelet is identical in style to ye original, but is far more solid and sports a very sold clasp with micro-adjustment on the fly. The lume – yes, it’s been given an aged look like the other two watches in the “set”, and some people will no doubt find that a little marmite – is a lovely bright luminova, whereas the original would have been radium. Finally, the “Swiss Made” is now above the seconds, track while it used to be below.

For comparison purposes, then, here’s the original…

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And here’s the 60th!

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Actually, given that I mentioned its Seamaster sibling I may as well post a shot of that too, whilst I’m at it!

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Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec

Well, this is the last of the incomings, and to be honest it’s the one I’d been craving since I first heard of its release. In fact, I’ve paid more than one begging visit to the Bond Street boutique, even at one point trying to buy the prototype (only 500 were released globally, and the boutique were allocated just 2!).

To trace it back to it’s roots one has to travel back all the way to the early 1950’s – even before Rolex released the first iteration of the Submariner at 1954’s Basel Watch Fair. In 1952, the French “Nageuers de Combat” (combat swimmers) was formed by the French government as an elite team of tactical soldiers – effectively, they were France’s early equivalent of the Navy Seals. Led by Captain Bob Maloubier, the mission of this elite group of frogmen was undersea intelligence gathering and acts of sabotage, such as attacks in sea ports or destruction of ships, all accomplished by teams of divers often working at night.

Beyond their diving tanks, scuba regulators, masks, flippers and suits, Maloubier understood the importance of robust and reliable diving instruments, of which there were three: a compass, a depth metre and a diving watch. The watch was central to many of the key tasks confronting the divers. Of course the timing of the dive was an essential (it would not to do to over-stay the supply of oxygen). A second, and perhaps somewhat less obvious need was timing for navigation purposes. After running tests of the watches then available on the market, Maloubier concluded that none were up to the task. Thus, he decided to undertake the conception and design of a timing instrument that would target the needs of military combat diving.

Blancpain fulfilled these needs and provided the first model of this very specific divers watch in 1953, the “Fifty Fathoms”. The rest, I guess is history, but amongst the many models that have been produced since then the Mil-Spec (based closely on the original Mil-Spec that was produced in 1957 – so in fact another 60th anniversary release) is one of just two of the modern variants to be given a substantially more wearable case of “a mere” 40mm. I’ve previously owned both the standard auto and the Dark Knight, both of which were 45mm, and whilst I loved them both they were simply a little too big for me.

That half orange, half white circle you see prominently placed at six o’clock is an indicator for water ingress. If the dial is exposed to water – even a relatively small amount – the white part will begin to turn a reddish-orange to match the other side. However, with WR rated at 300m, one would sincerely hope that it’s not something that will ever be anything more than redundant functionality.

Inside, and unlike the larger FF’s, is the Blancpain calibre 1151 movement. In fact, it’s made by Piguet but has been used extensively by Blancpain, and also by Brequet, AP and VC. Only Blancpain is allowed by Piguet to have a 100 hour reserve, whilst other companies have to settle on a “measly” 70 hours. The movement doesn’t hack, either, which had me frantically consulting my Google-Fu to ensure that mine didn’t have a problem!

I’m absolutely delighted to have snagged this watch; I genuinely thought I’d missed the boat, so it was especially lovely to finally strap it to my wrist.

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Some Changes at HPTH…

I sealed a trade on a lovely watch last week, and in doing so I realised that there have been quite a few incomings over the last few weeks and months but my focus (excuse the pun) on other types of photography had meant that I hadn’t had any time to set up my lights and take some shots of any of them. That, and my recent decision to move my larger watches on and stick to watches of 36-40mm (with a couple of exceptions) mean that an update is probably long overdue.

Some lovely watches have moved on to new homes, including my Fifty Fathoms, PAM346, B-1 and vintage Seikos. It hurt, to be honest, but there have been some beauties coming in to replace them – all of which are a wearable size for me…

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

This was the last of the “Holy Trinity” for me to try, and I must confess that I had no intention of buying one until I had a beer with my good mate Howard and tried his on. It was about to go off to VC for a full service (and they certainly take their time), but it returned recently and as we often do we ended up agreeing a trade that suited both of us.

I’m delighted with this one, from 2001 and now in as-new condition again; in fact, it makes me wonder whether I’ll keep the ceramic Daytona that’s due any time now as I think the VC is a fair bit classier. The bracelet is absolutely wonderful too, which helps.

Launched in 1999 and in production until 2004, this Overseas was Vacheron Constantin’s first sports chronograph. It houses an automatic calibre 1137, was made in about 500 pieces in yellow gold and a bit over 2000 in steel; this uses the Frederic Piguet 1185 as the base but when VC were finished with it it looked quite beautiful, albeit that you can’t see the damned thing!

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Anyway, a couple of shots…

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Zenith Chronomaster Triple Date Moonphase

These amazing watches – possibly my favourite modern era Zenith, in fact – have taken on near-iconic status, and it’s easy to see why. Housing the marvellous El Primero movement in a beautifully finished 39mm case, this one (from 2006) is the second that I’ve owned. The first was the non-moonphase version, though, and for the last three or so years ‘ve been sitting in wait, looking for the right example to come up on the used market.

Finally, this popped up on SC and I was absolutely delighted to snag it. Yes, that’s two white dialled chronos already, so that Daytona (when it arrives) is going to cause some real angst.

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Grand Seiko SBGW033

This watch was released back in 2012 as Seiko’s limited edition 130th Anniversary model and a tribute to the first ever Grand Seiko (note the lovely dial text, and the somewhat anachronistic mention of the Diashock anti-shock system that nowadays wouldn’t even get a mention). In fact, this is another watch that I’ve waited years to find, and amazingly this one was first sold in 2016 so it really is as new.

It’s a lovely 35.8mm in diameter, and has a beautifully inscribed case back befitting of it’s deliberately vintage look and feel. Inside is the calibre 9S64 hand-wound movement, which I believe was made specifically for this watch. After such a long wait I’m delighted with it, and certainly prefer it to the SBGR061 that I’ve owned previously. The dial is a bit lighter in shade, the text more refined, and it meets my new criteria in terms of size (well, within 0.2mm).

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Dornblüth Kal 0.40

Now, this is a genuinely rare watch; only one year of production (2006) and in total 75 pieces were made, of which 50 were in stainless steel and 25 in rose gold. With a very wearable 38mm case, the other striking difference to Dornblüth’s other models is that the internals in these are based on a GUB movement from some time around the early 90’s. In fact, when I owned my first one of these (it’s unbelievable two have had a pair, as they’re so hard to get your hands on) I wrote to Dirk and asked for some more detail on the movement. His reply was as follows:

Kal. 04.0 movement includes 50% parts of an old GUB movement and 50% of the ebauche movement AS 1560 from the 1950’s. We have overworked and finished this parts to be able to create one movement.

The applied numerals are black steel whilst the hands are blued, and all in all it really is a wonderful watch. This one certainly won’t be going anywhere!

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Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Not much to say about this as everyone knows them. However, this is a tritium-dialled beauty from 1997, with a lovely sharp case and lume that’s just beginning to turn. A perfect example from my perspective, and currently on a Rubber B strap to make a change from steel and leather.

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Right – that’s it! A few months-worth of additions together with some recent exits, and I’m nearly there in terms of meeting my new 36-40mm rule. Happy days 🙂

40 years

This year marks the 40th anniversary of what I think is a pretty special watch. All the way back in 1972, Audemars Piguet had changed the world of horology with the introduction of the Royal Oak – a Gerald Genta designed watch that signalled the beginning of the luxury sports watch. It was inevitable that other brands would respond in similar vein, and sure enough Patek Philippe did so in 1976; interestingly, it was with another Genta design – the Nautilus 3700. Like the story behind Genta’s design for the Royal Oak, the Nautilus also provides some insight into the way this great man thought, designed as it was over a hotel dinner with the porthole of a transatlantic liner as his inspiration. He was aware of two PP executives sharing the restaurant with him at the time, and it took him all of five minutes to complete his first sketch before going over for a quiet word. Amazing.

The Nautilus 3700/1 had a patented case formed of a solid mono-bloc module into which the movement was inserted. Sitting on top of that module was the now iconic octagonal bezel, with brushed and polished faceted surfaces. The case had two “ears”, reminiscent of the hinges of a porthole, and was finished off with an integrated bracelet, as could also be found on the Royal Oak. The dark dial was embossed with horizontal lines, with gold baton indexes. Inside the 42mm case (no wallflower for the time, hence the “Jumbo” nickname) was a Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin movement, calibre 920, named calibre 28-255 C by Patek (a movement shared by the RO 5402 and the Vacheron Constantin calibre 222). Even if the watch was large for 1976 standards it was quite subtle on the wrist, thanks to a 7.6mm thickness. After that, the Nautilus range evolved with the addition of ladies versions, smaller editions (ref. 3800) and later complications including date, power reserve, moonphase, chronograph, etc.

And here’s Genta’s two sketches, side by side – amazing, really, when you think about what the future held for both brands as a consequence of these design icons…

Now, I’m going to fast-forward to 2006, because that was the year that the 5711 was released as a very faithful hommage to the original Genta masterpiece. In fact, whilst there are many differences the really striking thing is how similar the two watches look…

All of the basics are still there: stainless steel octagonal case, two lateral hinges, an integrated bracelet, a mix of brushed and polished surfaces, a simple display on a grooved blue dial… however, you can also spot differences.

  • Case: the 5711 has a 3-part case (central container, bezel and caseback). The 3700 had a monobloc case, with central container / caseback module and bezel. The 5711 also features a sapphire caseback (screwed) which make the movement visible. Water resistance is 120m on both watches.
  • Hinges / ears: probably the main evolution in terms of design. On the 5711, the hinges / ears are slightly curved (following the curvature of the bezel) while straight on the 3700 (as all the watches from the 1976 – 2006 period)
  • Size: the 5711 has grown a bit, to 43mm (ear to ear) and 40mm (from 10 to 4), while the 3700 was 42mm. Proportions are still the same, with a rather “fat” bezel.
  • Thickness: The 5711 is slightly thicker, at 8.3mm versus 7.6mm for the 1976 edition. This is due to the different construction of the case, the sapphire caseback, the new movement and the new display. Still, the Nautilus is a thin piece and has kept its vocation of luxury, high-end sports watch.
  • Crown: large screw-down crown on the 5711. Smaller on the 3700.
  • Bracelet: The 5711 has central links that are rather flat, while the 3700 had rounded central links. This evolution greatly participates to the more modern feel you have when strapping on the 5711. Evolutions are also noticeable on the buckle, which used to be rather basic on the 3700 (a double folding blade) and now is a triple folding buckle on the 5711. The flip-lock piece on top of the buckle is maintained.
  • Dial: Both have a blue dial, with horizontal grooves. However, the 5711 has a more electric blue tone and a stronger gradient finish. The grooves on the 5711 are also wider and deeper. The logo has a new font and is placed higher on the dial. Indexes are now bolder (filled with super-luminova instead of tritium) and hare shaped towards the edges of the dial, to follow the shape of the bezel. Hands are also lager on the 5711.
  • Display: while the 3700 was a 2-hand time-and-date, the 5711 adds a central second hand – something that gives the indication of a new movement.
  • Movement: the Nautilus 5711 has the in-house calibre 324 SC (for seconde centrale or central second), while the 3700 relied on the JLC-based calibre 28-255C. The new movement is modern – 4Hz frequency, Gyromax balance, Spyromax balance spring – with a nice finishing (Geneva seal and later Patek Philippe seal – introduced at Baselworld 2009), 35 to 45 hours of power reserve, automatic winding via central rotor… The movement of the 5711 is slightly thicker than the movement of the 3700 (3.3mm vs. 3.05mm), which result in the 5711 to be thicker (also because of the extra-space required by the central second, in-between the dial and the crystal).
  • I’m going to stop there, because to start talking about the various models under the Nautilus banner would take far too long; suffice it to say that I like them a lot. In fact, I’ve been on the waiting list with one of the nicer ADs for some time, and a few weeks ago popped in to have a chat with the manageress, who’s absolutely lovely and always prepared to spend some time on customer relations! Anyway, she asked me why I wanted a Nautilus, and I left the shop half an hour later feeling that I’d done my chances of snagging one of these beasts no harm at all. Then, two days later, she called me to say that – whilst she couldn’t offer me the blue dial – she had a while dial that the intended owner was unable to complete on. Apparently our conversation had elevated me up the list, and later that day I was sitting inside the shop, drinking a glass of champagne and confirming that the seal on the packaging should be broken.

    I have to be honest and say that, at that moment, I felt both excitement and disappointment; excitement that the timing happened to have worked for me (meaning that I could say yes to the offer of the white dial), and disappointment that it wasn’t blue. I’m still on the list for the blue dial, but I have to say that after a month and a half of ownership I may just prefer the white. In any event, I’ve rejected the offer of a dial swap (for now!), and will just enjoy wearing it and see what the future holds. It really is a sublime watch, and whilst I never intended (or thought I’d be able to afford) to own two PPs, I really think of them as the best of both worlds; and absolute joy to own and wear, and a rock-solid investment for my retirement.

    And a wrist shot…

    Who needs a DJ?

    A while ago, I posted a wanted ad on TZ-UK for a Rolex Datejust. I’d been thinking that I missed owning one for a while now, and to be honest I didn’t even care if it was vintage or modern, steel or two-tone. I just wanted one. That cry for help has now been deleted – not because I found one, but because I saw something else that I’d not even considered before. The something else was an Omega Globemaster, and it’s actually on my wrist while I write this post.

    Now, the Globemaster is a pretty special watch in my opinion, for a number of reasons, and the first of those is its heritage. The obvious link to Omega models of the past is the similarity to the old pie-pan constellations. This is clearly no accident, and continues the company’s nod to it’s vintage roots. Here’s a nice example that demonstrates what I mean (some models from the sixties even had fluted bezels, in fact)…

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    Now, what’s probably less obvious is that the name is a part of Constellation history as well, specifically in the US. The name “Constellation” was trademarked by another company over there, so Omega called some of the first Constellation models retailed in the US – going back to the very beginning of the family, in 1953 –“Globemaster” rather than “Constellation.” In fact, here’s an image of one of them…

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    The second thing of interest is the movement. This is the technical spec taken from the Omega website:

    Calibre: Omega 8900
    Self-winding movement with Co-Axial escapement.
    Movement and watch tested according to Master Chronometer certification process approved by METAS.
    Resistant to magnetic fields reaching 15,000 gauss.
    Free sprung-balance with silicon balance spring, two barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions.
    Time zone function. Special luxury finish with rhodium-plated rotor and bridges with Geneva waves in arabesque.
    Power reserve: 60 hours
    Type: Self winding

    So, it’s an anti-magnetic twin barrel movement with a time-zone feature (that is, the hour hand is effectively quickset, and is also the means of changing the date). There are some other nice touches as you can see, but especially interesting is that this watch is powered by Omega’s first ever Master Chronometer movement; that is, a movement that goes beyond COSC requirements and complies [U]in addition[/U] with METAS standards. I wasn’t entirely sure this meant, to be honest, but I found this definition amongst many others that are just a search away. “The METAS process will test complete watches, with individual records of each one accessible both online and via smartphone apps. Buyers and owners can thus obtain complete information about their watches’ performances. The certification process consists of subjecting the watch head (and not just the movement) to magnetic fields stronger than 15,000 gauss, and testing its precision during and after the magnetic field exposure, with a tolerable limit of -0/+5 seconds per day. The watch’s power reserve and water resistance will also be assessed.”

    The final thing of interest is the case, because aside from the vintage styling and perfect size (it’s 39mm, so right on my sweet spot), the unusually-fluted bezel is part-tungsten (Omega call it “hard metal”). Another search reveals that “Tungsten is alloyed with steel to form tough metals that are stable at high temperatures. Tungsten-steel alloys are used to make such things as high speed cutting tools and rocket engine nozzles”. Certainly good enough to provide a pretty robust element of a watch case, then!

    So, an interesting watch, as I said at the top of this post. More importantly, it really is beautiful, with a deep blue dial that really sets off the beautifully simple dial, that includes an applied logo and Constellation star made from rhodium. It’s going to see a lot of wear, and I hope I’ve managed to provide a sense of what it’s about in the photos below.

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    PAMtastic!

    I’ve gone through a slightly strange period of change with my watches of late, which I had actually thought that I was very happy with save that I had a few too many (I get quite uncomfortable when the number hits double figures, which probably suggests that I’m not really a collector). Firstly, I acquired a Fifty Fathoms that I had no real inclination to buy until I tried it on one day over a beer. Secondly, I bought a rather lovely two-tone diver (yes, really) that I sadly had to return as it needed to have a small fault rectified; and lastly, I sold four of my watches to make room for the two mentioned above. I therefore had something of a void that I tried my best not to fill, but I fell embarrassingly short in the will power department.

    The watch that filled that void – completely unexpectedly – was another Panerai. I say another as I’ve owned a 233, 268, 380 and 337 in the past, and I have to admit I’m a bit of a fan. In fact, the 337 was probably a perfect watch for me in terms of both size and adaptability, but it was that adaptability (whilst not really being one thing nor the other) that proved to be its undoing. Once it had gone I knew that I’d miss having a Radiomir in the collection so I suppose there was some method to my madness in buying its successor – the slightly larger 346. In fact, they’re very, very different watches.

    Firstly, then, the interesting bits excluding the movement. The 346 is a gorgeous mixture of materials, textures and colours, all brought together in a 45mm package (with the Radiomir’s small “wire” lugs, though, so eminently wearable even on my sub-7” wrist). The case is made from titanium with a brushed finish. It’s relatively deep (more on that in a minute) and is topped off with a polished titanium bezel. The caseback incorporates a sapphire window to view the movement, and whilst I admit to being a fan of the Radiomir generally I do think the finish – and finished product – in this instance is genuinely beautiful.

    Note: as an aside, this is what Panerai say about titanium on their website: “Light, strong and hypoallergenic, the remarkable physical, mechanical and corrosion-resistant qualities of titanium have made this metal one of the most valued in fine watchmaking, as well as a material of choice for the military, aeronautical and aerospace industries. From the engineering viewpoint, its lightness makes it an exceptional material: titanium has the same strength as steel but is 40% lighter.

    Titanium is impervious to corrosion by salt water or the marine environment and it has exceptional resistance to a wide range of acids, alkalis, natural waters and industrial chemical products. Although in nature it is the ninth most abundant element, and, after aluminium and iron, the third most common metal used in mechanical applications, titanium is found only in the form of oxides, hence the difficulty of refining the raw material and its consequent prestige.”

    The goodness doesn’t stop there, however, because the dial and hands are also a bit special on the 346. The former is the Panerai “tobacco” brown, with the lume in the sandwich green as opposed to faux vintage (shame, that, IMO, as the latter would work beautifully on this watch). However, the hands are 18kt rose gold, and when the light hits them they’re nothing short of spectacular. There’s a sub-dial at 9 for running seconds and a date with inverted cyplops at 3; however, you won’t find a power reserve indicator anywhere on the dial, unlike my old 268 that was otherwise very similar in terms of style and functions.

    Now, just a word about the strap that the 346 comes with. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong – dark brown alligator, 27/22 with a brushed pre-V buckle. However, I wanted a less formal look and have therefore added a lightish brown Assolutemante as well. These are quite simply the best straps I’ve worn in terms of both comfort and looks, but aside from that I’ve opted for a 27/20 taper; this really does work if you don’t have a huge wrist, for two reasons. Firstly, it just gives the whole package a slightly more streamlined and elegant look; and secondly, because a pre-V buckle in 20mm as actually a fair bit less obtrusive than the equivalent buckle in 22mm.

    Inside the case there’s yet more of interest, as the 346 is powered by the manufacture calibre P.2002/9 movement, executed entirely by Panerai. The key details are as follows:

    • Hand-wound mechanical movement
    • 13¾ lignes, 8.2 mm thick, 23 jewels, 247 components
    • Glucydur® balance
    • 28,800 alternations/hour
    • Kif-Parechoc® anti-shock device
    • 8 days power reserve provided by three barrels
    • Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, power reserve indicator, seconds reset, rapid set hour hand

    The P.2002 is the progenitor of the P.2000 series and it takes its name from the year in which the project was launched to supply Panerai watches with movements entirely designed and developed at the Manufacture in Neuchâtel. The P.2002/9 calibre consists of 247 components; it has 23 jewels and a thickness of 8.2 millimetres. Hand-wound and with a power reserve of 8 days with linear indicator on the rear of the movement (which I far prefer to seeing it on the dial itself), it has many of the key characteristics peculiar to all the calibres of the P.2000 series: three spring barrels; seconds reset device; rapid adjustment of local time; free-sprung balance; and balance wheel oscillating at 28,800 alternations per hour.

    The three spring barrels in series, the design of which is the subject of a Panerai patent, apparently ensures the delivery of an even, optimal force which remains stable and constant for the full 8 days of the power reserve. The operation of the seconds reset system is also unique to Panerai, it seems, although I don’t have the knowledge to draw comparison with other examples.

    There you have it, then. It may be quite apparent that I really do like this watch a lot, but then I really do like Radiomirs in general a lot so there’s no real surprise there. I do think the 346 is a bit special, though, and hopefully a sense of that comes across in these photos (apologies, by the way, but I don’t yet have a polarising filter for my new camera gear, so I had no way of cutting out the glare from my lights).

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