A winner from Time Factors

I well remember my business trip to Sweden back in 2011 that saw me hooking up for lunch with a fellow WIS based in Stockholm. Carl and I had chatted on line for a while and it was good to meet him; what I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d leave the restaurant with two beautiful vintage watches from the 1970’s – the first an IWC Yacht Club, and the second a Seiko 6105 in near-perfect condition. Funnily enough, Apocalypse Now is possibly my all-time favourite film, so wearing the watch that adorned Captain Willard’s wrist felt kind of cool. Of course, it’s also just a cool watch.

Anyway, that was moved on at some point, but fast forward to last week and I was delighted to pick up Time Factors‘ latest offering – the Smiths PRS-68. It’s a wonderful watch that pays fitting tribute to the inspiration for it’s design. However, Eddie Platts (as always) ensured that there were a few improvements to the “original” specification and in this case that included:

Water resistance improved to 200 metres
Screw-down crown replaces bayonet locking crown
Sapphire crystal to replace original mineral crystal
Lug spacing increase to 20mm to enable a greater variety of straps to be fitted
Movement uprated to hi-beat (Miyota 9015)
Quality stainless steel bracelet with solid end links

One thing I particularly like about the TF watches is that the design details are made freely available on the website, and also become the subject of much debate on-forum until such time as the watches go into production. You can see the thinking behind the PRS-68 here but these are the drawings I referred to, from which you can see the level of detail that goes into the production process:

On the wrist, it’s a delight to wear. Whilst being true to the original in terms of overall design there are also marked differences, specifically on the dial; the Smiths logo and red “200 metres” reveal it’s origins quite clearly and – to me, at least – are perfectly proportioned. The surround on the indices is a little thicker than those on the 6015 and the lume (C3 Luminova, and very bright) a little greener. I’m not 100% sure what I think about the raised bezel pip but that’s a minor detail and not one that will keep anyone up at night. The sapphire crystal is flat and flush with the top of the bezel but is curved on the underside, with an AR coating that in some light gives it a blueish tinge. Legibility is excellent, and the look of the dial is clean and uncluttered. What I really love, though, is the second hand, with it’s red dot harking back to one of Seiko’s design triumphs.

It’s also very, very comfortable. The case is a tad larger than that of the 6105 at 44.5mm but is sits very flat, and with it’s very short lugs can be worn by those with relatively small wrists. Luckily the lug width has been increased to 20mm which means that strap choices abound (I’m wearing mine on black nylon, which seems a perfect match to my eyes). In fact, that additional 1mm between the lugs makes a massive difference visually albeit that the general appearance of a relatively narrow strap on a wide cushion case is retained. In essence, there’s just enough difference in the design to make it a watch in it’s own right whilst still clearly harking back to one of the great dive watch icons of all time.

There’s been much discussion on the net regarding this watch and one or two other 6105 homage’s that have been mooted but not yet brought to the market. Regardless of that, however, the PRS-68 continues a tradition that followers of Time Factors watches in all their guises have come to expect. They’re always well-priced, beautifully engineered and offer the opportunity to wear a modern take on watches that in most cases are either unavailable to most as a consequence of cost, or tend to be babied (or simply locked away) because of their scarcity. This one really does hit the spot for me, to the extent that I’ve subsequently turned down an opportunity to buy back my old 6105 because the PRS-68 is just about perfect for what I want.

Dive straps – Isofrane and Tropic

Isofrane changed the perception of dive straps back in the 60’s, releasing a model made from the hitherto unknown compound called Isoprene. Before that, they were usually made from rubber and they were sticky, uncomfortable and would often blister and crack in extreme conditions. These straps were even harder on the divers wearing them, because without ventilation the skin doesn’t breath.

Around the same time (in the 1960’s and 70’s), Rolex offered both Rolex and Tudor Submariners mounted on a Tropic strap as an OEM option. Indeed, Blancpain did similarly with the Fifty Fathoms and a number of other divers (those collectively known as super-compressors, like the Longines Legend Diver and IWC Aquatimer amongst others) were also issued with the Tropic option.

Over the last week or two, I’ve managed to get my hands on both an Isofrane (the reissued version) and a NOS Tropic. I’ve been trying them in different combinations but have settled on these two for now – both look “right” and both are very comfortable to wear.

Submariner 5513 on Tropic

Precista PRS-18A on Isofrane

From G-shock to Precista

I’ve been supplementing my older watches with various G’s of late, as I need one modern watch that doesn’t require mollycoddling. I knew that Casio wasn’t the answer for me, though, so when I saw a Precista PRS-18A advertised for sale I decided to go for it.

I can see now why it’s so sorely missed in the current TF line-up. I really am impressed!

Top-notch from Time Factors

I must be honest and say from the outset that I’m really not an homage sort of guy. I suppose I would have to accept that I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to adopt that stance but I’ve always taken the philosophical high ground and assumed that I’d sooner opt not to have a watch at all if I couldn’t have the real thing.

The Time Factors Speedbird III (PRS-22) has become my first – and probably only exception to that rule. Time Factors is a brand owned by Eddie Platts of TZ-UK fame, and his watches (which include the Precista line) are becoming famous way beyond these shores for providing genuine testament to an age gone by whilst in most cases substantially enhancing the quality of those watches to which they pay tribute. In fact, they represent possibly the best value for money of any brand, anywhere.

The SBIII is an homage to the IWC Mark XV. The XV is quite recent, of course, in that it only went out of production in 2006, but the SBIII follows the I and II which were modelled on far earlier IWC “Mark” variants. There’s a really good review here and if you have the time I recommend reading it from start to finish as it really does demonstrate the quality of this watch.

Anyway, I’m delighted with mine – fantastic quality, magnificent bracelet, uber-comfortable and unbelievable value for money. Can’t argue with that!

When the watch fund runs dry

Sometimes – actually, quite often – there’s not enough in the watch fund to scratch that perennial itch. And it doesn’t really matter how happy we are with the watches we have, that need for something new, something different, just won’t go away.

That, my friends, is the time to reach for the ubiquitous Bergeon. Because the next best thing to a new watch is an old watch that looks… well, new.

Diving into Precista

I must admit I hadn’t heard of the Precista brand until joining TZ-UK earlier this year. However, these watches form part of the Time Factors stable owned by TZ’s host Eddie Platts and they have a fantastic reputation both for quality and for value for money.

I’m no expert on the subject, but it seems that the intention was (and is) to produce a series of military-style homages (think Omega, Blancpain, IWC, etc) wherever possible upgrading the specification such that they were an improvement on the original inspiration. Judging by the reputation Eddie’s built for himself I’d say he’s succeeded as he has a loyal fan base that seems to be growing with each new acquisition.

You can check out the full range here, but I recently dipped by toe in the water by getting my hands on a PRS17Q; my first quartz watch for some time, and really comfortable to wear. In Eddie’s own words: “This model was issued in 1988 and 1989 only with the ordnance numbers 6645-99, 75733 14 and interestingly, was fitted with a different dial for each of the two years of issue. The dial on this model is in the style of that fitted to the 1989 original.

The original had a mineral crystal and was fitted with the ETA 955.114 seven jewel quartz movement. In keeping with my policy of updating the specification, the PRS-17Q is fitted with a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the underside and a Ronda 715Li 5 jewel quartz movement with a 10 year battery life. This watch is made in Germany by Walter Fricker GmbH & Co KG, the company which made the Dreadnought.”

Anyway, enough of that – it looks nice, doesn’t it?