Rediscovering the G-spot

I’ve always liked my G-Shocks and have had a fair few of them over the last decade including intage from 1980, “neo-vintage” from 2000 and a host of modern variants, all of which I’ve enjoyed owning and wearing. Two, though, have always stood out to me as my absolute favourites.

The King of G’s is, of course the GW-5000-1JF; I’ve had one for the past seven or eight years, I think, and it gets worn a fair bit as it’s my running watch as well as seeing some football action back in the day when such things were possible (I also wear it sometimes just because I want to). If that’s the best of the best, then it’s closely followed IMO by the venerable Riseman GW-9200-1. There was a time that I had both the standard and the Men in Smokey Grey models but there’s something about it that just makes other Gs seem a bit unnecessary.

Anyway, the good news is that a lovely mint Riseman has just joined my GW-5000 and I couldn’t be happier. Now I have the pair together in my collection again I can say with complete certainty that neither will be going anywhere any time soon!

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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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A rather special incoming

Well, I’ve had a couple of incomings over the past month or so, but given that I spend my weekdays up in Newcastle right now I’ve not really had a chance to take any photographs of them until this weekend. in fact, I hadn’t unpacked my lights for the best part of a year as it’s such a palaver, but I decided it was worth the effort. So, to the first of them…

A Lange & Söhne 1815 Up/Down Special Edition

A Lange & Söhne was originally founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in Glashutte, Germany in 1845. However, the original ALS (along with the other Glashutte-based watch houses) was nationalised and ceased to exist in 1948, following the occupation by the Soviet Union after World War II. In fact, it wasn’t until 1990 that the current A. Lange & Söhne trademark was re-registered, when Lange Uhren GmbH was founded by Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange.

The number 1815 is a significant date in the history of ALS, as its the year Ferdinand was born in Dresden; now, the number represents a family of watches that pays a tribute to that legacy. The range consists of models with complications such as the chronograph, annual calendar, tourbillon, and perpetual calendar. However, the 1815’s all take their DNA from pocket watches (for which ALS was known prior to its nationalisation) by using traditional elements like railway minute track, Arabic numerals and club-shaped markers on the 15-minute intervals. The company has always had a history of innovation, and in fact a particular Patent – no. 9349 – was granted to ALS on 18 May 1879. The subject was a “device in pocket watches for recognising whether the watch is wound or unwound and for indicating how much time remains before it reaches the totally unwound state.” This was, in fact, the official moment that ALS’s characteristic UP/DOWN power-reserve indicator was born.

Looking at this watch (and in addition to the UP/DOWN power-reserve indicator) the blued hands, the recessed central segment, the Arabic numerals and the railway-track minute scale were all inspired by historic pocket watches. A top-mounted wheel train on the caseback side of the Calibre L051.2 movement and two additional screwed gold chatons are manifestations of the mainspring barrel that was enlarged with the 1815 and delivers power for three days. Also, because this is ALS, who have an obsessive attention to detail, the movement features a stop mechanism, which means that when the watch does eventually lose all of its stored energy, the seconds counter stops precisely at zero.

One thing that I didn’t know is that every ALS watch is effectively unique, because each movement that comes out of the manufacture with one component which is hand engraved; so, apart from the famous three quarter plates, gold chatons, and 245 individual parts, this one also features ALS’s individually hand-engraved balance cock. This tradition of engraving the balance-cock goes way back to the pocket watches. When ALS relaunched in the 90s they continued with this tradition, and because the engravings are done by half a dozen different craftsmen at the manufacture, each one looks different.

Anyway, the specification of the Calibre L051.2 movement…

Number of movement parts: 245
Number of rubies: 29
Number of screwed gold chatons: 7
Power reserve: 72 hours when fully wound
Oscillation frequency: 21600 bph
Beat-adjustment system: Screw balance
Movement measures: diameter 30.6 mm; height 4.6 mm

Finally, then, to this particular special edition, limited to just 25 numbered watches in rose gold and another 25 in white gold. It marks 25 years since the reborn manufacture released the first of it’s watches back in 1994 and also celebrates the association with Wempe (another brand that was nationalised back in the day), who were tasked with selling them all through their own dealerships. As special/limited editions go… well, it really is special, and it really is limited!

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A long-overdue update

A while ago, I decided that a consolidation of my collection was somewhat overdue. My target was to go from 16 to 10 in total, and having mulled over what to retain and what to let go a few very nice watches were moved on. Out went my Aquanaut (it funded my motorcycling adventure, and frankly the value of it as a wrist trinket was getting silly); my Royal Oak Diver (a bloody gorgeous watch, but just a little too hefty for my wrist); and both my Parmigiani and Zenith chronographs.

What I didn’t count on was any new arrivals, but – true to form – I seem to have struggled in achieving my objectives in respect of any meaningful reduction. As there are some nice new trinkets now fighting for wrist time, though, I thought I’d pop up a quick incoming post with an image or two to liven it up 🙂

Rolex (Zenith) Daytona 16523

I only recently moved a steel Zenith Daytona on, but when I saw this beauty from 1996 listed for sale I felt a strange compulsion to nab it. The seller was happy to take my Parmigiani in part trade, and given that I was thinking of moving it on anyway a deal saw very swiftly concluded.

I must admit that I was in two minds when it arrived. It was clearly a lovely thing, but I wasn’t 100% sure how I felt about wearing a steel and gold watch. A couple of days in, though, and I was absolutely loving it. Maybe it’s because I’m in my late fifties now, but in any event it makes a lovely change, and it’s surprisingly adaptable. My task now is to keep it away from Bea, who has an uncanny knack of nabbing the watches she takes a fancy to.

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Grand Seiko SBGE245G

This one was a real surprise, as – whilst I’d admired them from photos on the web I’d never considered buying one. However, when a trade deal materialised and I tried it on, it became a bit of a no-brainer.

It’s a Spring Drive GMT, and is a limited edition of 600 available from Seiko flagship salons, Seiko Premium Boutiques, and Seiko Premium Watch Salons across Japan (to quote Seiko, that is – they’re about to start appearing here in the UK, though, and this one seems to have been one of the very first received by authorised dealers here). Its water resistant to 200m, and offers three time zones using both the GMT hand and the 24 hour bezel. Unlike most GS Spring Drives, it also has torch-like lume.

Aside from the stunning sapphire bezel it has a mahogany-red dial with a very subtle sunburst finish, there’s a power reserve on the dial (which I think looks fantastic, and contrasts beautifully with the dial itself). It measures 44mm and is about as big as I’d want to go with it, but it wears nicely and (being a Spring Drive) features that mesmerising sweep of the second hand. I love it.

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Seiko SLA025J1

This is another watch (limited this tie to 1500 pieces) that came in a trade, but – given how much I liked the original vintage 6159-7001 when I owned it – it’s probably less of a surprising choice.

Anyone who knows the 6159 will see immediately that this is a very faithful homage in terms of both design and specification. It measures a fairly hefty 44.8mm in diameter, and features a monobloc case and coin-edge bezel; like the 6159, the lugs are long and angular. Inside is Seiko’s calibre 8L55, a hi-beat (36,000 bph) movement that’s essentially a less decorated version of the Grand Seiko calibre 9S85. What remains is a high-end movement with a 55-hour power reserve, 37 jewels and very decent accuracy.

The case is also finished in the same way as a Grand Seiko. This means that the polished surfaces are finished by hand using the traditional Zaratsu method, with sharp angles and perfectly flat surfaces.

The black aluminium insert has a golden track and numerals, designed just like the 1968 version. Seiko again harks back to the original with a matte black “gilt” dial, and having now owned both I would say that they’ve come up with a fantastic tribute to a real horological icon from the 1960’s. They even provide it on a classic waffle strap that – again – mirrors what one would have worn the 6159 on all those years ago.

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So, that’s about it in terms of changes. Oh, save for the fact that – a few months ago now – I sold the Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec on the sailcloth strap, and snagged the bracelet version instead (along with a sailcloth strap as well, so the best of both worlds). I’m not sure that I’ve ever posted a photo of the watch on the bracelet, but I finally managed to take one this evening.

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For what it’s worth, I have no worries whatsoever in having sold a few “high end” watches, and frankly no longer enjoyed wearing wrist jewellery worth in excess of £20-30k. In any event, they helped fund some work on the house and my newfound motorbike madness, which to my mind is money well spent.

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 🙂