I’ve been a busy boy!

I thought, at the risk of boring the pants off everyone, that I’d post a single thread about a few incomings I’ve had of late (when I say of late, they actually span some four months). Some planned and others not, there’s a real mix of styles and all of them are quite interesting in one way or another. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the read and the photos, anyway.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport

The root of this acquisition goes back many years, when I was promised a ceramic Daytona by the manager of a branch of WoS the location of which shall remain nameless. The Daytona in its new guise was a bit of a grail watch for me, and I’d previously bought not only a new Datejust for my other half from the shop’s stock but also the manager’s own AP Royal Oak from his personal collection.

I knew him pretty well by the time the Daytona conversation took place and had even been on an overseas trip with him. When he promised me a watch within 6 months I knew he meant it, but what I hadn’t allowed for was his subsequent heart attack and early retirement. The new manager proceeded to completely take the piss with false promises and outright lies, until he finally admitted I wasn’t on “his” list any longer. Nice, right?

Anyway, long story short and – since then – I’d been looking fruitlessly for an affordable example to no avail (yes, for years, having made the decision that I wasn’t going to pay the crazy prices being asked by the greys). Ultimately, I decided to give up and look for something else, not realising that the perfect alternative had been released by Zenith in the form of the Chronomaster Sport. Some threads on TZUK led me to look into it further, and the more I looked the more I liked. In fact, I very quickly decided that it was more than just a substitute – it’s a superb watch in its own right.

It’s slightly larger than the Daytona at 41mm but doesn’t have the appearance of bulk, helped by the relatively short lugs and the fact that its not “all dial”. The classic tri-colour subdials with their concentric circles look absolutely wonderful. In fact, the overlapping sub-dials and colour scheme go all the way back to the 1969 El Primero A386 and according to Zenith the general configuration of the case was inspired by the De Luca. The ceramic bezel – which changes from back to a matt grey depending on the light – just finishes the whole package perfectly.

Inside, though, it’s really interesting, housing as it does Zenith’s most recent iteration of the El Primero movement – the cal. 3600. In fact, a hint of what’s inside can be seen on the aforementioned bezel. Marked off in increments of 1/10th of a second it reflects the ten seconds that it takes the main chronograph hand to traverse the dial once.

There are a host of technical innovations in this new movement and – rather than bore everyone with them here – I’ll link to the Hodinkee article that explains them better than I could. However, I will say that the engine in this watch is a clear leap forward from the aging cal. 400 movement that’s been around for decades.

Fast forward, then, and a few nights ago a friend and I met in central London, consumed copious amounts of gin, and concluded a deal that saw me part with a large sum of cash in return for which I left with his watch. I’ve been wearing it since then and I’m beyond thrilled with it. In fact, I love everything about the Chronomaster Sport, and will no longer be wasting my time fruitlessly pursuing the mythical Daytona. I actually think that this is a better watch, and it’ll be with me for the very long term.

Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Day-Date

Now, this one really did take me by surprise, as although I’d been fending off an increasing desire for a day-date my thoughts had previously turned to the more traditional solution in the form of the classic Rolex. I really do like them and have done for a long time, but they represent a pretty major investment so I’d really just been biding my time until something irresistible found its way to me.

Now, I’d also been fending off another friend from TZUK who’d been pestering me for months for one of my watches (a watch that he actually sold to me and wanted back – and not for the first time, either). I’d declined some trades for beautiful watches, but when this one came up for grabs it was a pretty easy yes. Not just because I loved the watch, but also because I could plan (at the time) for the mythical Daytona’s arrival be selling my Overseas Chrono. It would also mean that I didn’t have two VCs in a relatively small collection and, in any event, I kind of felt like I wanted to move it on to invoke some change or other.

Anyway, the Fiftysix Day-date is a sublime thing. Here’s what VC themselves say about it on their website:

With horns inspired by the sides of the Maltese cross, an integrated crown, and sapphire glass this steel watch honours a model from 1956. It displays the power reserve, a day-date indicator, and seconds on the dial. Its openworked caseback reveals an elevated oscillating weight in 22K gold, inspired by the Maltese cross.

All good so far, then, and – at 40mm – it’s a perfect size for nearly everyone. The movement, bearing the Geneva Seal, contains 264 parts and 27 jewels, has a power reserve of 40 hours, and has a frequency of 28,800 bph.

The Fiftysix collection was designed with VC’s historic model 6073 from 1956 in mind (as mentioned in the quote above). See the connection? Anyway, aside from looking gorgeous in a kind of classic yet contemporary way, inside is a work of art. I can honestly do no better than to quote a rather lovely piece of prose from the Mr Porter website:

The Fiftysix Day-Date is powered by Vacheron Constantin’s calibre 2475 SC/2, an automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve, beating at 4Hz. Like all Vacheron Constantin movements, it is manufactured to meet the standards of the Poinçon de Genève. Often referred to as the Geneva Seal or Geneva Hallmark, this is an independently regulated mark of quality that’s among the most exacting in the industry. Not only does it demand that the watch measure up when it comes to accuracy, water-resistance, power reserve and all other functional claims, but it places strict requirements on the maker to use the best possible practices in the design and finishing of the movement itself.

If you were to imagine this movement – with its 264 components – as an orchestra playing in harmony, the requirements of the Poinçon de Genève elevate that orchestra to London Symphony or Berlin Philharmonic levels. Hence, you will find details such as radial Côtes de Genève finishing on the side of the movement plates hidden under the dial, never to be seen by anyone other than the watchmaker who services the watch. Every edge is perfectly bevelled, every jewel pristine; every screw-head polished and fitted in a matching countersink. Every surface is given some level of finish; in short, a truly virtuoso performance.

There you have it, then. “It’s a day-date, Jim, but not as we know it.”

Sinn U50

Okay, this one is going to demand a lot less time to read. Long story short, I’ve owned about half a dozen of the U series watches from Sinn, loving every one whilst eventually realising that they’re just a bit too big for me. Shades of the MM300, in fact, but not nine of them, at least!

When the 41mm U50 was released, then, it immediately appealed and I ended up ordering the fully tegimented version (that is, case, bezel and bracelet all with the hardened finish) form Jura watches. Nine months later I was still waiting for my bloody watch, irritating all the more because mine was the only outstanding order. I ended up losing all patience and cancelled the order, suffering further through the three week wait to receive my refund. As for Jura… well, never again.

Eventually, I managed to bag a minter on here, again fully tegimented so all ended up well in the end. In fact I subsequently picked up the rubber strap/clasp combo too, and that’s how I’ve been wearing it after a little experimentation with nylon (oooerrr, vicar). Sinn use Sellita movements these days, of course, but it runs very well and looks just like a U1. Only smaller.

And finally… drum roll, please…

Seiko SKX007

Well, it’s not just a 007, its an M&S 007. Or rather, a 007 modded by a bloke in the US to give it a vintage vibe, after which it then had an NH36 movement dropped in it. It now not only looks lovely but is hacks and handwinds. It runs at +14spd but the spec for the NH36 is -25 to +35spd, so it’s well within those parameters. And, seriously, could there be a better summer beater than this? No, of course there couldn’t!

Okay, that’s it. Four months-worth of horological excitement rolled into one little post with a few pretty pictures. Hope you enjoyed it.

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.

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 🙂

The Striking 10th

I was just looking – purely by chance – at an SOTC post from more than two years ago and couldn’t help but notice that despite all the changes since then I still have two of the watches featured at that time; one is the King of G’s (the JDM GW-5000) and the other is Zenith’s wonderful Striking 10th.

I’m not sure that the 10th is the most practical watch from a functional perspective, and personally find a regular tachymeter a little more useful. However, from a technical standpoint it’s a wonderful example of watchmaking, and the movement is of course quite beautiful. Mind you, the dial’s not too shabby either!

Blue for you

I tend to wear my Chronomaster with navy blue suits, and it really does look very special. The blue of the dial is dark and incredibly deep, and knowing it’s powered by an El Primero movement just makes it even better. It’s the only blue-dialled Chronomaster I’ve ever seen, actually.

Mind you, the view from the back’s not too shabby either…

What makes a dress watch?

I’ve seen (and even contributed to) quite a few discussions about this over the last few months. The die-hards will say that it has to be no more than two – or, at most, three – hands, and that a simple date complication is a complication too much. Some will contend that it has to have sub-seconds or no seconds at all, and that even a third central hand precludes a watch from the definition of “dress”. I’ve even heard the argument that the case must be of a special metal, and of course most will say that any dress watch must be on a leather strap.

Probably, at some point in time, all of these arguments would have held merit. To my mind, though, the informality of life these days makes a bit of a nonsense of the traditional view. When black tie events see a plethora of Disney waistcoats, bow ties and jacket linings, and when the majority of people will wear pretty much what they like without reference to the old definitions, the dress watch today can be almost anything you want it to be. It’s not as if anyone will take you to task on it, and I shouldn’t imagine many people care, anyway.

For me, “dressy” is more important than “dress”. Something that can also be worn casually means that they don’t just come out for special occasions, and that makes a lot more sense considering how much money we have tied up in these silly things. With all of this in mind, I reckon these two fit the bill quite nicely.

Filling the El Primero void

I’ve had two or three El Primero-driven watches in the past, and the last one I sold rather reluctantly was the De Luca. Zenith are a bit of a mixed bag, really, with some absolutely stunning models and others that are quite… well, not as stunning. One that seems to fly under the WIS radar, however, is the Chronomaster and I have to say that I don’t know why. It’s a genuinely beautiful watch, and is a great mix of sporty and dressy. With a case size a tad under 39mm it’s also very, very wearable unless you have particularly large wrists. Inside is an El Primero calibre 400 movement, dictating the consequent subdails at 3 (chronograph minutes), 6 (chronograph hours) and 9 (running seconds). Unlike, say, the Daytona the Chronomaster also has a date window between 4 and 5.

This particular watch is actually quite unusual in that it has a deep blue dial. Most that you see have a silver/white textured dial and whilst they’re lovely it’s always nice to find something less common than the norm. The indices are applied (I have no idea if they’re steel or white gold, and can’t find the info anywhere on the net) and the subdials have an outer ring in whatever material it is. With the deep blue of the dial the effect is absolutely lovely, and very striking.

This watch is in great condition (having just been serviced by Zenith) and came on a brand new Zenith alligator strap with Zenith’s single-fold deployant clasp. Its as comfortable as any watch I’ve ever worn bar the Aerospace, and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy wearing it a lot, either dressed up with a suit or dressed down with jeans, etc. I think it’s an amazing watch.

On straps, and Zeniths

One of the more surprising things (to me, anyway) that I’ve found over the last year or so has been the way that I’ve found myself gravitating away from bracelets and towards straps. Although there’s no doubt that a well-engineered bracelet can be a joy to wear, I think that leather gives a watch far, far more character. In fact, even though some of my experiments have met with a mixed reception I’ve always liked the result (and my 5513 will probably never be paired with it’s bracelet again).

The De Luca that arrived a few days ago is slightly different, in that it (the series 1, at least) was only ever sold on a strap; Coady managed to source a correct De Luca bracelet, but technically it was only ever really correct for the later models. I was finding the look a bit clinical but luckily I had an OEM strap and buckle in the package so I thought I’d give it a try. I absolutely love it, and much prefer it to the previous look. In fact, I’ve bought a couple of Di-Modell Jumbos – one in brown and the other in tan – to see how they look mounted on the watch.

I’ve just taken a few shots, so I’ll shut up now and let them do the talking…

Worth the wait

I’ve been looking for a nice vintage Zenith housing an El Primero movement for about a year now. Initially I had my heart set on one of the early chronographs but I decided to widen my search after a while, and see if I could unearth a De Luca.

Whilst this watch was only ever made for the European market I was aware that there were quite a few knocking about in NOS condition, particularly in Italy; however, many were the later versions with round applied indices. Zenith went potty with different series of this watch, but the nicest (IMO) and probably the hardest to find was the series 1 (ref 01.0040.400) that housed the cal. 400 El Primero movement, and had rectangular tritium markers on the dial without the applied surrounds.

From what I can gather, this series was only made for a year or two, from 1988-89. It was the only model to have a plexi crystal (a nicely domed one, in fact), and also had a non-screw down crown. The sword hands were also unique to the series 1, so all in all it was a bit special.

There were a host of changes through the 90’s. The plexi became mineral glass and then sapphire, the hands became straight and then Mercedes, and the crown and pushers both became screw down. Some of these changes might in many senses be considered improvements, but to my mind the original is the nicest, and the one that I was waiting for.

Fast-forward a few months, then, and having seen my efforts pretty much come to nothing I decided to switch my attention to a nice Heuer Autavia instead. And then, of course, it happened; the very De Luca that I wanted appeared on TZ-UK and an immediate message to the seller, saw it on it’s way to me. This one had spent the first 22 years of it’s life, from 1988 onwards, lying in an Italian watchmakers shop, unsold and probably unloved. It’s still in almost NOS condition, and actually had some stickers in place when it reached me. It also had the boxes, hang tag and manual so it’s a nice set.

I’m really, really pleased with it.

Let’s get dressed…

For a period of months, I’ve been searching for the perfect dress watch. Perfect for me, I mean, of course.

For a while, my craving was sated by the Omega Aqua Terra with the blue hands and markers; eventually, though, that one was moved on. It was succeeded by the rather beautiful Grand Seiko that almost fulfilled the purpose completely. To be honest, I don’t know why it was “almost”, but it was, and that too has now found another home. More recently, I owned a rather lovely Oyster Perpetual Date – for a day. I loved it but knew the moment it went on my wrist that it wasn’t the answer.

Over recent weeks, my head has been turned by a couple of watches that I keep stumbling across. The first was a Junghans Max Bill, that appealed because of the simplicity of its design; and the second was the JLC Grande Ultra Thin – perfect, but just too expensive. This watch is almost a hybrid of the two, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that I wanted it the moment I saw it.

With all of that in mind, I give you, then, my new dress watch – the Zenith Elite Ultra Thin. Like the GMTIIC and Striking 10th, it won’t be going anywhere in a hurry.