Brellum DuoBox Pandial Chronograph Review

Brellum DuoBox Pandial Chronograph Review

By Michael Penate

More often than not, it's a chronograph that really ends up hooking oblivious, future watch maniacs. The layers of complication and sport utility are usually the biggest factors, and it's always stimulating to interact with the built-in features as you pass the time. There are some great options across several price ranges, but things really do start to get interesting once you pass the $1K mark - what the community usually considers a forbidden area for micro-brands to experiment in. Luckily, today we have a handful of boutique brands like Brellum that aim to bring quality and value at a price just below entry-level luxury. But what do you get, exactly? Let's take a look as I gather my thoughts after spending some time with the 2,490 CHF Brellum DuoBox Pandial Chronograph.

Now, I should be clear. We don't usually review too many watches in this price range. But I think it's important to understand what brands have to offer - especially when they venture into higher price brackets dominated by household luxury names. At 2,400 CHF this Brellum is facing pretty steep competition. Honestly, you can still score a used (no box + no papers) 1861 Speedmaster Professional for this kind of money. So what gives? Well, I'll start by saying that the Brellum is really for someone that wants something a little more luxurious than a beat-up Speedy. This is due to a cool set of features and finishing touches that elevate the watch above several competitors in this space.

Case

The case features consistent finishing along the lug tops and case edges - resulting in an immediately satisfying experience when you strap the watch on. The polished surfaces aren't too glitzy but somehow, everything feels like it's coming from the dressiest chronograph you can get under $5K. One thing to note is that the Duobox gets its name from the dual, chunky sapphire crystals over the dial and caseback. On the wrist, this really pronounces the 15.9mm thickness but thanks to the perforated calf leather strap, the watch can sit nice and snug without flopping around.

Pump pushers and a Speedmaster-like tachymeter bezel round out the sporty look. Case diameter is 43mm but for some reason, it wears more like a big 40mm or a 42mm. This might be due to the lug curvature and for some reason, I really wasn't put off by the sizing, even if it does look big on paper. Crown is a push-pull variant supporting 50m of water resistance, nothing I'll be complaining about when it comes to these motorsport-inspired chronographs. Overall, a beautiful case, even if it is a little thick.

Dial

Here we get a feel for why this series is referred to as the "Pandial." Each watch in the collection features some sort of high-contrast design between the sub-dials and primary dial space - ranging from traditional black/white to something a little more subtle, like this "Meteor Grey" version. I'll be straight with you. I simply could not be more impressed with the look and the construction on the dial side. The indices possess an incredible level of depth and polishing and the seafoam green touches are just something you don't see every day. Combine that with the smokey, brushed dial texture and the 7750 chronograph layout, and you have yourself one seriously cool-looking dial. Plus, you also get a telemeter scale (in addition to the tachymeter) in case you ever have to time enemy artillery shells... as you do. Honestly, I'd just cut the "Swiss Watchmaking" bit out from under the Brellum wordmark. It adds clutter, it's a little cheesy, and "Swiss Made" at 6 o'clock would take care of what they're trying to communicate.

Strap

One of the more pleasing aspects of this review experience came after handling the rally strap. It's a high-quality, black calfskin leather strap with comfortable perforations and contrast stitching. I'll be the last person to reach for leather, but this is one of the nicest options out there and I actually would even look to purchase it as a separate accessory from Brellum directly. The deployant clasp is straightforward with dual pushbutton actuation and perlage finishing throughout most of the hardware. Brellum also ships the watch with a rubber NATO (I didn't get to sample it) and you can even fit the Duobox with their Milanese mesh bracelet for the full stainless steel package.

Movement

I may be guilty of affectionately referring to the Valjoux 7750 as the Honda Civic of chronograph movements... but that's not what we're dealing with here. As you can see in the photo above, this is really the showstopper when it comes to the Brellum Duobox Chronograph. This is a chronometer-grade, COSC certified movement that has been beautifully finished to death. As with all 7750s I've handled, actuation is crisp and it features a 46-hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800bph. Again, the crystal over the movement seems to magnify the entire package and I was constantly catching myself removing the watch just catch a glimpse. Finally, we also see that the movement finishing is above average for your run-of-the-mill 7750 - with blued screws, perlage, and Côtes de Genève.

Final Thoughts

So I have to keep asking myself - "who is this watch really for?" Well, at just over $2K it may have difficulty scoring points with diehard, value-conscious collectors, but I actually think it's good that Brellum has the balls to put products like this out there. If this came from IWC, it would be a $6K watch, easily. What we have here is a COSC-certified chronograph with a luxurious feel to it and quality that matches, or even exceeds, that which you'd find in plenty of mainstream luxury products. I'm all for it and I want to continue to see smaller brands play in this price range while offering the best package possible. They have to fight harder for it. To me, it's for the collector that might be sick of fly-by microbrands, botched Kickstarters, and boring heritage brands. In that case, the Brellum is an excellent choice. Besides, it's a 7750 chrono at the end of the day and everyone should have one. Just pick the one that's right for you.

Brellum


Doxa Sub 200 T.Graph Stainless Steel Limited Edition

Doxa Sub 200 T.Graph Stainless Steel Limited Edition

By Michael Penate

It's been months of radio silence, but the Doxa brand has finally re-emerged after a change in management and personnel. After the puzzling introduction of the solid gold Doxa Sub 200 T. Graph Limited Edition at Baselworld this year, fans wondered if a more practical steel version would ever become available. Today - on Doxa's newly formed Instagram account - the group announced the introduction of the Doxa Sub 200 T.GRAPH Stainless Steel Limited Edition. It's one hell of a model to debut. But with a price tag hitting close to $5k and the recent departure of longtime Doxa General Manager Rick Marei, is this really the Doxa we've all been waiting for?

We can get back to that later but at first glance, this chronograph looks like the real deal. Case proportions seem to match what is found on the original Sub 200 T.Graph introduced in 1969. Construction is all stainless steel, the "beads of rice" bracelet looks similar to what we've seen in recent reissues, and the watch features the characteristic orange, "Professional" dial that we all know and love. Visually, the brand has done an excellent job.

One of the interesting marketing points the brand is pushing surrounds the movement. According to Doxa, the watch is powered by "original Valjoux 7734 calibers which had been conserved in pristine condition for over 30 years at Doxa." There's no denying the historical importance of the Valjoux 7730 series, and we even covered the upgraded 1969 version here. While it's impressive knowing that these movements have been preserved and restored by the Jenny family, I should also note that the original T.Graphs featured an Eberhard 310-82 twin register chronograph movement. Other garden variety features include Super-LumiNova beige “Light Old Radium" and 200m of water resistance.

Doxa Sub 200 T.GRAPH Stainless Steel Limited Edition Specifications

  • Case and Bracelet Construction: Stainless steel
  • Case Dimensions: 43mm x 46mm x 15mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Movement: Valjoux 7734
  • Crown: Screw-down
  • Price: $4,900 USD (300-piece limited edition)

So a lot of us are wondering - I'm sure - if it's all actually worth it. Well, it isn't a solid gold Doxa chronograph that retails for $70,000 so if that bugged you, maybe this is the one. To be honest, I'm torn and I'd have to know more about the kind of customer experience the brand hopes to deliver these days. Perhaps a white-dialed Searambler version would've set me over the edge (this version only comes with the orange dial), but I'm not sure. For now, I'll leave you with a recent quote from Dr. Peter McClean Millar - author of DOXA SUB: A 50 Year Journey - on the WatchUSeek forum shortly after General Manager Rick Marei's departure.

It also marks the end of my involvement with Doxa. Yes I will continue to own and buy and enjoy the vintage watches and those from the Marei era, but I'd rather eat my underpants than have anything to do with the new ones or the people who are now running the business. -Dr. Peter McClean Millar


Juvenia Sextant: An Early Settler of the Avant-Garde Watch Scene

Juvenia Sextant: An Early Settler of the Avant-Garde Watch Scene

By: Damon Bailey

If you've ever flirted with going vintage, you've no doubt wrestled with the dilemma of smaller cases sizes. For most adult men, this is a reality that we'd be more comfortable with if the watch were defined by several of the following categories:

  1. Family heirloom (any watch of your father's/grandfather's would be socially acceptable).
  2. Maybe it's a brand of certain prestige like Patek, which would eclipse the size concern.
  3. You suffer from Underdeveloped Wrist Syndrome (afflicts 7.5 million American men every year).
  4. Or maybe you're just Ryan Gosling, making it socially acceptable for the rest of us to wear a bubbleback (cheers, bud).

But if there were ever an argument for a vintage watch compensating for its size with personality, I'd lead off with the Juvenia Sextant.


With a protractor and ruler for hands, the novelty of incorporating found objects into a time-telling engineer theme would be, at most, "quirky" by today's standards.   But it's difficult to imagine how the Sextant would have been received eighty years ago. We're looking at "outlandish" horology of yesteryear with senses deadened by the rainbow Daytonas of today, so perspective is key here. This in mind, you can't get much more character out of a watch with a 33mm gold case.

It's this "restrained cool" that's made the Sextant a popular model with Juvenia, a brand best known for pushing the envelope with Avant Garde designs often associated with measurement instruments. Fun fact: They were the first company to release a calculator watch, the Arithmo.

Nitty Gritty:

  • Year: 1960 (produced as early as 1940)
  • Size: 33mm
  • Case: gold-plated steel
  • Movement: manual wind 17J (cal. 612)

The Case

The biggest hang-up for many would be the width across the case... 33mm.  If you think this is small, consider the ladies' version, which measures 20mm. Just for comparison, Hamilton was producing field watches for the military with the same dimensions of 33mm as late as 1988. This particular model is gold plated (20 microns), however steel versions were also available at the time in less numbers. The crown is signed "J."  Thickness-wise, it measures 9mm with the plastic crystal.  The lug to lug length is 40mm, while the strap width is 18mm. At the very least, your strap options shouldn’t be too limited.

The Dial

The years have turned the dial of this particular example to an egg shell white.  The "J" emblem sits at the twelve with "Juvenia" below.  Gold applied markers denote five-minute intervals at the outer edges of the dial. The index at the 30-minute mark is flanked by two “Swiss” scripts.

The Hands

As you'd expect, the characteristics from which the name "Sextant" is derived absorbs all of the attention. An actual sextant is an instrument used to measure angular distances between objects using key components of a graduated arc (60 degrees) with a sighting mechanism. For you etymology nerds, "sex"-tant is derived from the Latin root associated with "six"-ty. The tool's ability to measure vertical heights in relationship to distance was particularly useful for navigation.

That said, the hands are very minimalist renderings as key parts of the tool. In place of an hour hand, there's a white protractor with gray accents and black indices (the arc) which help to give it shape against the light backdrop. The gold plated minute hand is represented by an arrow, interpreted as the direction of angle or ruler. Last, the silver dauphine seconds hand spans the entire dial (think "compass needle"). The legibility definitely takes some time getting used to, but I was able to conquer the curve by the day's end.

The Strap

Originally, this watch came with a black leather strap with an almost velvet texture (maybe due to the decay overtime?). The case paired with gold-plated tang buckle signed with an ornate “J.”  I've opted for a cheap brown leather alternative that works well with the aged appearance.

The Movement: Juvenia calibre 612 (base ETA 2390)

This ETA base historically allows for 47 hours of continuous operation however I’ll admit that I haven’t yet put this to the test.

The Sextant continues to be produced today, but has been upgraded to a size of 40mm (along with an updated price tag of $4,200 msrp). Acquiring the early predecessors can prove a bit of a challenge.  You can thank Esquire magazine and Johnny Depp's taste for that one. In general, Juvenia is Swiss brand you'll never likely hear about. This is partially because they never recovered from the rise of quartz, but mostly due to the fact that ownership switched to Asia Commercial Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-based jewelry conglomerate with absolutely zero interest in marketing toward the United States.  Though they own several entities, Juvenia is placed at the top of their pyramid just as Omega would be the top tier of Swatch. Many of their watch models have been reproduced over decades (to include the updated versions of the Sextant and Planet).

In the wake of WW2, watches were often seen and designed as utilitarian.  Tastes were conservative and designs lack a lot to be desired by today's standards.  By contrast, Juvenia sought to establish themselves as the company known for their "statement pieces."  Their catalogs of the thirties included abstract table clocks and watch rings, often featuring heavy enamel detailing.

Juvenia is often an unaccredited trend setter for styles that would later be appropriated by Longines and Hamilton, including their mystery dial watch released in 1947, fifteen years before the trends became in vogue. For fans of Raketa, their website will tell you their 80's release of the Copernicus' design is, "entirely inspired by Copernic’s theory of the universe." However, a strong argument could be made that the design looks suspiciously similar to the Juvenia "Planet" released in 1950.

At the time of the Sextant's mass release in 1960, design was already beginning to push the envelope with Hamilton's Ventura and other asymmetrical cases akin to something you’d see from the Jetsons.  This came with the advent of the jet engine which infiltrated everything from vacuum cleaners to vehicle tail lights. While these were marketed toward a certain group of trendy demographics, they were never the majority of the brand's image.  Juvenia, on the other hand, worked to cultivate a niche of abstract visual elements since the 1920’s that had separated them from the rest of the Swiss brands as the guys that were “out there.” It's probable that their creativity came at the cost of mass appeal, which is a shame, because their oddities of the past are what make independent guys like MB&F so remarkable today.

Went on a bit of a tangent there.  My point is that if Mark Whalberg can wear a watch slapped with rainbow diamonds, believe that you can rock a 33mm watch with some inherent command presence.

#riseabove


Sinn 104 Review

Sinn 104 Review

By Greg Bedrosian

I woke up to a surprise email from my dad. His beloved Victorinox Swiss Army watch had stopped working. It needed more than a battery change. The quartz movement was broken and he faced the hard truth that it would make more financial sense to replace the watch than to fix it. He was “giving up” on Swiss Army after he had replaced several over the past few years.

We’ve all been there at some point. Luckily, my dad is aware that I’m a hobby horologist and asked for help finding a new watch. Of course I was thrilled to help. Not only because he was my dad, but because he was smart enough to realize how easy it is to get lost looking for a watch someplace between Amazon and a department store (and possibly make a bad decision).

I was determined to find some great recommendations for him. He did have a couple of criteria he wanted adhered to for the search.

  1. Not a Breitling Navitimer (his grail watch)
  2. Strong Lume
  3. Under $1,000 USD
  4. Durable
  5. Large Arabic hour markers
  6. Leather strap

I quickly narrowed it down to Sinn (pronounced Zinn) or Hamilton (pronounced Hamilton). After a little mental ping-pong on my part, I decided that the Sinn 104 St Sa would be the best choice for him. My Dad had a birthday coming up and a few conversations later with my mom we decided that she would buy him the $1,330 watch and that my wife and I would buy him a $90 Sinn reference SI-104 black leather strap (Good job, Mom!).

Sinn 104 Case

The case on the Sinn 104 is 41mm. Don’t let that spec fool you. I feel that it wears closer to 39-40mm. There are a couple of reasons for that. They nailed the slope of the lugs. I know everyone says the phrase “It hugs the wrist.” But this is for real. My Dad’s wrists are slightly larger than the 6.75” toothpicks that connect my hands to my forearms. Sinn really nailed the angle / lug-to-lug formula in the 104.

The lugs are straight, but instead of rounded edges they have a smooth 45-degree bevel. The lugs are about all you see of the case while it’s on your wrist. The short and flat crown guards are tastefully done.

Taking a closer look at the side of the Sinn 104 case reveals that most areas are polished. Considering how much of a tool watch this is, I was surprised to see that. I think that the polishing actually helped make the Sinn 104 more versatile and dresses it up just enough.

The case is constructed from stainless steel. Unfortunately, it’s not Sinn’s HY-80 “submarine steel.” That's OK because your chances of being on the receiving end of a depth charge are basically zero. Still, the Sinn 104 is rated for 20 bar (approx 196 meters) of water resistance. As long as the crown is screwed down, you should have no problems submersing it in water.

The Dial Design

There are a few different dial variations on the Sinn 104. The watch here for review had Arabic numerals (one of my Dad’s requests). I would have preferred the “stick” indices. Other options for the dial include colors such as blue, green, and white.

The white syringe style hands remain the same throughout the 104 model line. The white paint used on the dark colored dial provides ample contrast. My favorite combination is the black hands that are unique to the white dial version. Whatever combination you choose, the legibility on the Sin 104 is excellent.

The Sinn 104 has a very clean dial. I really like how the day of the week and date are each boxed. Most of the dial versions for the Sinn 104's day and date wheels are black. Just like the hands on the white dial, that model gets a white date and day wheel. I love a color matching date wheel. It would have been great to see matching blue and green date wheels.

On the 104, text is used sparingly. One thing that I didn’t understand was that the text “Automatik” was in German, but the dial also proudly stated “Made in Germany”. Shouldn’t it read “Hergestellt in Deutschland” instead? No, “Made in Germany” is actually used by German companies to show quality and reliability.

The Bezel

For me the bezel was one of the most interesting features of the Sinn 104. The bezel normally defines the “tool watch.” A tool watch bezel will usually have some sort of graduated scale with anything from minute increments to a siding calculator.

The Sin 104 appears have a dive bezel at first glance. However, going in for a closer look reveals that the bezel is bidirectional (rotated both ways). The five-minute increment scale is reversed, with “55” being at one o’clock and “5” being at eleven o’clock. This changes the 104’s “tool” function from elapsed time (like a “dive watch”) to a countdown timer.

“47 minutes until we are out of fuel and have to ditch” or “23 minutes until the cupcakes can come out of the oven and we can decorate them” ...depending on the user.

The 104’s bezel action is smooth and secure. The firm, but easy action is one of the first things that you notice with the Sinn. It feels very over-engineered (in a good way) like many other quality German products. Sinn uses ball bearings under the bezel instead of a spring (like your Seiko SKX). Sixty clicks in either direction will bring the luminous inverted triangle back to twelve o’clock. My dad told me that he’s been timing laundry with it.

The teeth aren’t as pronounced as a diver. There are also twelve smooth spots between the teeth that line up with the hour makers. Needless to say, the bezel was one of my favorite features of the Sinn 104. I can’t wait to catch my dad messing with it while he is supposed to be paying attention to something else. Welcome to the #watchfam, Dad.

The Movement: SW 220-1

Like every other day-date watch at its price point, the Sinn 104 is powered by the ETA 2836-2, blah, blah, blah... Just kidding! The Sinn 104 is actually powered by the Sellita caliber SW 220-1 movement. I think that it’s great seeing larger independent watch companies like Sinn and Oris using Sellita instead of ETA movements.

With the SW 220-1 in the Sinn you get a hacking three-hander. The day disc operates inside of the bilingual date wheel. The days of the week are in English and German. You can select either. I know my dad will keep it in German to keep him in the mood while he cycles through all of Richard Wagner‘s thirteen operas. The day and date wheels change instantly, unlike the slow “Seiko-slide.”

The biggest negative with the SW 220-1 is that the power reserve is only 38 hours. If this watch is worn daily, it won’t be an issue due the rotor winding it automatically. However, with a 38 hour paper reserve, you really only get to set this watch down for a day before it needs to be hand wound and brought back to life.

The Sinn 104 has a display back, which showcases the SW220-1. The movement is handsome without over-the-top decorative finishing. This is going to be a really great feature for my dad. “Display backs” are a great way for someone new to watches to really appreciate a mechanical movement. The rotor is gold (plated) and has the “Sinn” logo on it. I would have liked to see the logo cut out of the metal like Zenith does.

Focusing on The Sinn 104 Strap

Another one of my dad’s requests was a leather strap. Sinn has a few options for straps and bracelets. The brown leather with off-white styling is totally my dad’s style. My personal preference is to always buy the metal bracelet and pick up a leather strap afterwards. Sinn offers an “H link” bracelet that is actually more Nautilus than Oyster. The other bracelet option is called a “Fine Link” that is similar to something you’d find on the five-link Breitling bracelet. The bracelets add $300-400 to the price of the watch, bumping the Sinn 104 to over $1,600. That’s a lot to ask.

The Breitling comparison is interesting because the Sinn leather strap and tang buckle look similar to the leather strap and tang buckle on a Navitimer. I think that the reason is the thickness and the lack of taper. The 20mm width only tapers 2mm. The lack of taper is not to my liking but it makes the leather strap feel much more solid.

Another thing that I didn’t like was how tight the strap was between the 20mm lugs. It’s almost like the strap is actually 21mm wide. I realize that 1mm doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a big deal in watches. It’s so tight that the lugs dig into the bottom side of the strap.

My Dad is a big fan of black / brown leather. His watch band, shoes, and belt must color-match. The plan was to get him the matching Sinn black leather band. They aren’t cheap. An OEM Sinn Leather strap is $90. I’m also worried that digging into it with a spring bar tool is going to damage the watch and leave him frustrated. Instead my wife and I got him a plethora of Barton bands with quick-releases on the spring bars from Amazon. The finalist were the black and brown leather straps and a black canvas strap. He kept the black and brown leather straps and we returned everything else. My Dad was happy and could easily change out straps on the fly without tools. More importantly, he now knows what to look for should he want more straps or to replace the existing ones when they get worn out.

Closing Thoughts

Is it easy to tell time? Yes.

Could I #watchfast it? Yes, but on a bracelet.

I know that this watch is supposed to be a “flyer” but that wasn’t the vibe that I got from the Sinn 104. I couldn’t get the theme song from Das Boot out of my head every time that I handled the watch. If the prop master from Das Boot or U-571 snuck in a Sinn 104 it wouldn’t have seemed out of place (even if watches from the 1930-40’s were much different).

The Sinn 104 was a joyous birthday success with my dad. We found a watch that checked off enough boxes on his wish-list. Since he’s owned it, my dad has only taken it off to shower and do yard work. He even sleeps in it! My Dad is a physicist, an engineer, and aerospace enthusiast. I’ve always tried to push him towards a Moonwatch. He’s always quick to remind me that the Breitling Navitimer is the “real space watch.” I’ve imagined one day inheriting my Dad’s “would-be” Navitimer. As of this article, it looks like it will be a Sinn 104 instead. That’s pretty heavy to think about. Simply put, the Sinn 104 is good enough that he won’t be upgrading anytime soon.


Seiko Prospex SPB105 Dive Watch

Seiko Prospex SPB105 Dive Watch

By Andrew Gatto

On June 16th, Seiko USA (@seikowatchusa) posted a single photo of a new Prospex 200m diver reference on their Instagram account. The new Prospex SPB105 is a green dial variant of the 2018 modern reinterpretation of the famous Seiko 6159 dive watch originally from 1968. As many Seiko fans are aware, they released two versions of the 6159 reissue at Baselworld 2018; a faithful limited edition reissue as well as a non-limited modern reinterpretation that was more affordable and available in several dial colors and strap options.

This newly teased SPB105 has the same case and bracelet design as the modern reinterpretations; however, it is now being offered with a beautiful green dial and gold-colored hands. The rotating bezel is black, which some are saying clashes with the stainless steel case, green dial, and gold hands. But without seeing hands-on photos of this watch it is difficult to determine with certainty. At this time, it appears the new SPB105 is only offered on a stainless steel bracelet with no factory rubber strap option.

This isn't Seiko’s first green dial Prospex dive watch; the 2018 limited edition “Marine Master 300” SLA019 featured a similar green dial and even a green ceramic rotating bezel.

Seiko has given conflicting release dates of summer 2019 and fall 2019, so I guess it’ll be a pleasant surprise when it is actually available for purchase. The MSRP is slated to be $1,050 USD.

Seiko Prospex SPB105 Specifications

  • Case and Bracelet Construction: Stainless Steel (with possible DiaShield hard coating)
  • Case Diameter: 44mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Movement: Seiko in-house 6R15 automatic with 50-hour power reserve
  • Crown: Screw-down
  • Price: $1,050 USD
  • Release Date: Summer or fall 2019

Rolex Air King Ref. 14000 Review

Rolex Air-King Ref. 14000 Review

By Greg Bedrosian

The Air-King is an often forgotten, unsung hero of the Rolex sports model lineup. Its roots begin all the way back to June of 1940 before the United States entered World War II when Britain stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) launched air attacks on southern England. The next year would be a terrifying time for England as Germany launched wave after wave of aircraft to attack strategic military targets as well as densely populated cities such as London. The period is known in history as the Battle of Britain.

Air-raid sirens sounded and RAF (Royal Air Force) pilots scrambled to their Spitfires and Hurricanes to defend their countrymen seeking refuge in basements and shelters. Hans Wilsdorf (founder of Rolex) created the “Air” series of watches to honor the heroism of those pilots. The Air-King is the last remaining model from the series.

The Rolex Air-King literally flies under the radar. The Air-King is considered to be “entry-level” in the world of Rolex. It can be a tempting model when comparing the price point of the Air-King to other Rolex steel sports models from the 1990s. I was lucky enough to be lent a reference 14000 from my uncle, Rick Bedrosian. He’s a professional musician, photographer, and foodie. You can learn a lot about a person by connecting them with their watch. Click here for more on Rick’s adventures. Oh, there’s one more thing: prepare for a bunch of reference numbers.

The Case:

The Rolex Oyster case is familiar to most. In fact, it’s downright iconic. You’ll find variations of it on everything from the Datejust to the Daytona. While the design might be iconic, there are small changes to the shape between models and eras. The Air-King reference 14000 was produced from 1989 to 1999. Its predecessor, the reference 5500, was produced for 31 years, making it one of longest production runs of any Rolex model.

The hang-up for most is the case width of 34mm. For modern men’s standards, this watch would be considered “too small”. Even my wife thought that it “looked a little small” on my wrist. One of the modernizations to the Rolex case is the lugs. The drastic change is very recent (2012ish). The design change has trickled all the way through their catalog. As Rolex’s modern watches get thicker lugs, the thin and sharp lugs of the 14000 reminded me of a style that is much more “classic”.

The case is only 11.2mm tall, allowing the Air-King to slide under any shirt cuff with ease thanks to a smooth bezel. The lug to lug is 42.8mm. This makes the watch a great choice for anyone, male or female, with a wrist size of 7” or under. I was surprised how effortlessly the case wears. The case quality is nothing less than you would expect from Rolex’s reputation. That reputation is what drew my uncle Rick toward the brand when he was looking for his first luxury watch in the late 90s.

The only drawback is that on my 6.75” wrist when viewing the watch at a three-quarter angle, it can look a little small by today’s bulky standards. The Rolex signed 5.2mm crown has a single bar indicating that the watch is steel and has a twinlock winding crown. Keep it cranked down and you can go for a swim carefree!

The Dial:

The dial is one of my favorite parts about the Air-King 14000. It’s a sliver with a very subtle sunburst radiating out from the middle. It’s a great touch on an otherwise plain dial.

It’s beyond balanced. It’s so clean and pure with very little text. There are eleven sticks indicating the hours with the Rolex crown at twelve o’clock. There is no date complication and no magnifying cyclops. Some Air-King-Date variants did have this feature.

The hour markers each have a small dot of Tritium. They still work 20 years later after a bath in direct sunlight. On the bottom of the dial, you will still see “T Swiss T”. That signifies the Tritium is less than 7.5mC. This was the end of the trace amounts of radioactive materials used by Rolex. In the 2000s Rolex would switch to LumiNova on their dials.

The stick hands themselves have the same treatment. 20 years later they still glow, but not as brightly as the hour markers. Overall, they are easy to read. It’s no-nonsense, perfect for a quick glance while checking your flight log. Or in my Uncle’s case, watching the billable studio time escalate while the rest of the band goofs off.

The Movement:

The Air-King 14000 has an in-house (developed and manufactured by Rolex) caliber 3000 automatic, self-winding movement. The specs list it as having a 42-hour power reserve, but due to the age, most unserviced movements will have less than that. It is not COSC certified. I noticed an accuracy of -7 seconds per day. Not bad for its age and lack of servicing.

The caliber movement is shared with other Rolex icons of that area such as the no-date Submariner and the Explorer. Pulling this watch out of the box while I was borrowing it was very refreshing. The motion from just handling it started the movement back up almost instantly.

My uncle has never fully serviced the watch in the twenty years that he’s owned it. He has only had one issue: the rotor was spinning freely and not winding the watch. It wasn’t a cheap repair at the local AD (authorized dealer). At the time it would have been better to get a complete service of the movement for only a few hundred dollars more. The Rolex AD that he purchased it from in our area is not known for their post-sale service and didn’t even think to recommend a full service. With the manual winding becoming a little “crispy”, a full service should be done on this watch soon.

The Bracelet:

I thought that all men’s Rolex stainless steel sports watches of that era had 20mm bracelets. This model does not. The Air-King’s Oyster bracelet has its reference 76350 / 19 stamped on the back of the first link, which should have been the giveaway. The 19mm bracelet tapers gently all the way down to 14mm at the clasp. The important thing is that the size and taper are scaled correctly.

The clasp is different from that of an Explorer or Submariner of the late 90s. There is no safety lock on the clasp. Despite that, I never felt like the twenty-year-old watch was ever unsecured to my wrist.

Final Thoughts:

Is it easy to tell time? Yes
Would I #watchfast it? Yes

5 Things that I love
Outside of the Rolex bubble
Very clean design
The historical tribute to the RAF
Availability of pre-owned 14000 / 5500 models
Superb quality on all fronts

5 things that I hate
Preconceived opinions about Rolex
Getting used to the 34mm case size
Servicing is not cheap
Many alternatives at the same price-point
If not for a19mm lug width, it would be a “strap monster”

The size of the watch took me a little bit to get used to. Most things in life are relative. After a few hours on the wrist, the 34mm case seemed right at home. Some might think that the all-silver Air-King 14000 is too plain. I appreciated that I could wear the watch with just about anything. It reminded me of the watches of yesteryear. I felt like in its heyday, this could easily be your “one watch”. Keep in mind the ultimate power-move solid gold Rolex Day-Date (Ref. 18238) aka the “President” of this era only had a 2mm larger case.

Another thing that I really appreciated is how well my uncle takes care of things. The bracelet had almost no “sag” and was still very tight. My uncle didn’t hand me just the watch to borrow. He had the full 110% kit with it. One of my favorite parts about the experience was looking through the 1999 Rolex catalog that he had in the box. It was much smaller than the textbook-sized Rolex catalog of today. I imagined myself in his shoes looking at the 16610 Submariners and 16710 GMTs trying to make a decision. Would I have picked the Air-King as well in 1999? That’s a tough call.

If you want to toast champagne as you vacation around the world, a Rolex GMT Master might be a great “flyer” watch for your collection. If you’re more inclined to load up two wings full of .303 cal and pull some g’s to handle some business, the Air-King might be a better choice. Not to mention, the Rolex Air King 5500 and 14000 are the most accessible ways to get into Rolex. If you can get over the 34mm size, it’s a tremendous value. This watch has it all: the brand, the quality, the history, the style. And best of all, the Air-King hasn’t been sucked into the vintage Rolex price bubble... yet.


anOrdain Model 1: Enamoured with Enamel

anOrdain Model 1: Enamoured with Enamel

By: Aggressive Timing Habits

The Model 1 is the debut watch from Glasgow-based anOrdain. The brand’s name comes from Loch anOrdain in the Scottish Highlands, a lake apparently so remote that it can't be found neither on Google Maps nor Wikipedia. Perhaps the only way to find this loch, then, would be to study old ordnance survey maps, or OS maps, such as the ones which inspired the typeface and overall design of the anOrdain Model 1.

I had been following this brand since late 2018 and spent months trying to decide between the six dial colors they offered before finally choosing the pink-dialed Model 1 in February. The company’s founder, Lewis, arranged for me to be able to pick up the watch at Windup San Francisco from Morna and Sally, two of the enamelers, and it is my personal watch that I’m writing up for this review.

The dial is the most well-known and absolutely the most striking feature of anOrdain’s watch lineup. The dials are vitreous, or grand feu, enamel dials, crafted through a painstaking process that carries a relatively high failure rate and therefore a bit of a higher cost. The result, though, is a dial that can offer rich colors that don’t fade and offer tremendous depth, playing with light in a shimmery way that feels strangely watery or even organic.

It’s hard to capture this in photos or even videos, but seeing the brand’s promotional shots on Instagram drew me in and getting a chance to handle the watch itself has only increased my love of this enamel dial.

Due to the nature of the enamel dial, it’s impossible simply to cut out a hole for the hands. Instead the entire dial seems to pour gracefully toward the center, adding to that organic effect. I applaud the choice of going for a time-only dial, as it really adds to the tranquility of the whole piece. The pale pink dial of my watch looks a little speckly in the light or under macro, giving almost an eggshell effect that is frankly a little mesmerizing.

The hour markers, numerals, and subtle anOrdain logo at 9 o’clock are painted onto the dial in a more vibrant, reddish pink, and the minute track, minute numerals, and “vitreous” and "British Made” wording is applied in a bright blue. These colors vary on the other dial types and are done in a metallic silver paint on the darker dials which is very striking to look at in person.

Emerging from that center divot are skeletonized syringe hour and minute hands, as well as a simple baton sweeping second hand, all in polished steel. The hour and minute hands may feel undersized to some as the minute hand doesn’t quite make it to the blue minute track, but to my eye there’s good variation between the sizes of each of the three hands as a result and everything seems in proportion on the whole. Additionally, the choice to go with skeletonized hands adds to the simplicity of the piece and offers greater visibility of the dial. This handset offers utility in terms of making it quick and easy to tell the time without trying to steal attention away from the dial.

Atop the whole thing sits a double-domed sapphire crystal with six layers of AR coating. I’m normally a fan of the warm of acrylic crystals, but in this case, the crystal offers a great window from which to look at that dial. There’s nothing here pulling away from the star billing, and that’s the way it ought to be.

The whole watch is encased in a nicely-shaped, polished steel case which is hardened to 800 Vickers. Compared to regular 316L stainless steel’s hardness of about 150 Vickers this is a clear improvement, and indeed after a few weeks of fairly regular wear the Model 1’s case seems to be pristine. It doesn’t quite offer the durability of, say, a Tegimented Sinn case or ice-hardened Damasko, but it’s nice to see the watch offer a little extra everyday durability which fits in nicely with the surveyor theme of the whole piece.

Case diameter is 38mm and lug-to-lug distance is 45mm on stubby lugs that curve slightly toward the wrist, making this watch quite suitable for a variety of wrist sizes. The 12.3mm case depth makes the whole thing feel just a little bit tall, but I’d imagine that the enamel dial adds a little bit to the thickness, and regardless the whole thing still fits easily under all but the tightest of shirt cuffs (at which point you may wish to ask yourself, “why am I wearing shirts with such tight cuffs?”).

Water resistance is 5 ATM, and the signed crown is of the push/pull variety, so the watch should do fine in the rain but should probably not go in the shower or underwater. Speaking of the crown, it’s lovely but quite a tiny little thing and I occasionally found that the winding action was a little bit fidgety. Not sure if this is due to the small size of the crown, the clumsiness of my hands, or perhaps something to do with the resistance of the movement itself (I suspect it’s the latter, as I’ve found some SW200 movements to be smooth to wind but a bit resistant when new) but this is a minor nitpick on an otherwise excellent watch.

Speaking of the movement, we have here an Elaboré-grade Sellita SW200-1 movement with a signed, darkened rotor. It’s easily viewable through the exhibition caseback, which is surrounded by a nicely detailed ring that just shows the anOrdain name again, the watch number (each color is part of a limited series of 300), and the “model 1” moniker. Again, everything back here is simple and elegant. Lug width is 18mm, and my particular unit came with an 18mm gray suede strap.

The leather is quite supple and of a nice quality, and anOrdain offers a number of strap choices including a Staib Milanese bracelet that adds £150 to the total price of the watch. anOrdain also sells the straps and bracelet as standalone pieces on its website. All models come with a 5-year warranty, which is excellent from a microbrand and something that even many large brands don’t offer and says something very, very good about the company’s belief in the quality of their work.

All in all, I think anOrdain have put together a really intriguing piece. The decision to pick up one of these watches was pretty easy for me; the hard part, and the decision that took me almost four months, was picking which color I wanted most. I’m really thrilled with the pink dial that I chose, but I had a chance to check out all six colorways of the model 1 at Windup and honestly it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

Putting this watch on my wrist is almost instantly calming, and watching the light play off the imperfections in the enamel feels like I’m carrying this little perfect pool of light around with me, ensconced safely within a tough, hardened case (as long as I don’t take the thing with me underwater). Of all my watches, this is the one most able to settle my mood at any time - and honestly, that’s a pretty remarkable thing to say about a watch.

The anOrdain model 1 is available at anordain.com for £1050 (roughly $1350) on a strap and £1200 (roughly $1550) on a mesh bracelet.


CWC 1983 Quartz Royal Navy Dive Watch Reissue

CWC 1983 Quartz Royal Navy Dive Watch

By: Michael Penate

It might be time for me to admit that a mil-sub is my ultimate "white whale" grail watch. I can't explain why, but something about the design just speaks to me - it's been this way ever since I got into watch collecting. With Rolex 5517s commanding prices well into the six-figure range, I've always turned to CWC for a real alternative that has a special place in British military watch history. Now, CWC is announcing what is perhaps one of their most modest reissues - the CWC 1983 Quartz Royal Navy Dive Watch. While it isn't as glitzy or as rare as some of the original automatics, this particular quartz version is more in line with some of the earliest issued CWC designs.

After getting rid of my early-2000s CWC tritium dial automatic, I've been spending a ton of time thinking about a watch that would fill that hole. Do I spring for the $2,000+ 1980 reissue, look for an issued quartz version, or wait to see what CWC releases next? Well, while the heritage 1980 reissue is gorgeous, I was happy to see CWC approach the reissue trend from a different angle - quartz. It's still a little pricey, but it may just be the best potential watch to fill that mil-sub-sized hole in my heart.

Early 2000s automatic example that's no longer in the author's possession

CWC 1983 Quartz Royal Navy Dive Watch Specs:

  • 41mm Case Diameter
  • 20mm Lug With
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300m Water Resistance
  • ETA 955.122 quartz movement
  • Super-LumiNova
  • Supplied with 20mm NATO grey strap
  • MSRP £899

At the time of publishing, I think it's safe to say that nearly $1,200 USD for a quartz dive watch may be a bit of a stretch. To me, CWC is one of those brands that still have a ton of room to realize their potential and learn what their audience really wants. But, in comparison to the previously released 1980 reissue, I think we're headed in the right direction. Personally, I find myself very attracted to this watch and hope that CWC is able to generate a bit of a buzz after the release. The design is just perfect - and I don't use that word lightly when evaluating dive watches. Tell us what you think! Is this a reissue that's worthwhile? Be sure to visit the official CWC site for more.

CWC

Photos: CWC Watches – Silvermans Ltd.


The New Oris Divers 65 Chronograph (Ref: 01 771 7744 4354)

The New Oris Divers 65 Chronograph (Ref: 01 771 7744 4354)

By Kaz Mirza

Oris has just recently announced the availability of a new Diver 65 Chronograph on their site (as of May 2019). Unlike the previous Oris 65 Chronographs, it doesn't appear that this new model is limited edition (hooray!).

The Oris Diver 65 line is honestly an incredible execution of the often-chased "vintage-look-modern-design" aesthetic and with this new Chronograph line, we see that being continued. The case is composed from stainless steel with a flourish of bronze detailing in the grip of the bezel (which features an aluminum insert).

The interior elements of the Oris Diver 65 Chronograph continue the bronze-style detailing with the hour, minute, and seconds hands featuring rose gold PVD. You'll also notice that the lume has a touch of faux-tina to it. While controversial in the watchfam, I think it actually works pretty well here.

The Oris 771 Chronograph movement (based on the SW 510) offers a classic bi-compax sub-register dial layout. In addition, the movement itself has an impressive 48 hour power reserve. The 9 o'clock sub-register is your running seconds and the 3 o'clock one is your 30 minute chronograph counter.

Check out the additional specs below.

For me personally, I think it looks really incredible on the bracelet; however, at 43mm in diameter, perhaps the leather strap would be the better choice for my 6.75" wrist size. What does everyone else think?

Oris Diver 65 Chronograph Specs:

  • Model ref: 01 771 7744 4354
  • 43mm Case Diameter
  • 21mm Lug With
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance
  • Oris 771 Caliber Chronograph Movement
  • SuperLuminova
  • Available with a Leather Strap or Stainless Steel Bracelet
  • MSRP Approx. $4000 USD

Please check out the Oris site for more info. Photo Credit to Oris as well.


Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde - Small Seconds Radio Controlled Movement

Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde - Small Seconds Radio Controlled Movement

By: Kaz Mirza

I previously covered Junghans amazing technical feat with the creation of the J101.65 radio controlled movement in the first Meister MEGA last year. Back then I couldn't contain my excitement because the level of technical innovation and horological geekery that went into the J101.65 was incredible. However I did express a desire to have the technology featured in a watch that had a bit more design interest.

While not totally what I was expecting, Junghans just announced on 4/23/19 the release of the new Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde (small seconds). This new addition to the Meister MEGA line features the next upgrade to Junghan's Radio Controlled technology: the J101.66. At first glance I think this is so cool. There's a really fun design and contextual contrast occurring here by having such a timeless, almost vintage design feature some incredibly sophistical radio controlled time keeping technology.

Overall the functionality between the new Radio Controlled J101.66 and the previous J101.65 is the same. However it appears that the movement is slightly thicker (due most likely to the functionality of the small seconds hand as opposed to the central seconds).

The first Meister MEGA is 8.9mm thick while the new Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde is 9.2mm thick. But just to be super candid, that isn't a big deal. We're still talking about an incredibly thin watch that will most likely wear incredibly due to its classic dimensions and incredibly agreeable size.

Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde Specs

Below you'll find specifications for both the J101.66 movement as well as dimensions and features of the watch itself. Be sure to check out the original Meister MEGA piece I linked in the beginning for more background info on the new line of Junghans radio controlled movements.

Radio Controlled J101.66 Movement Details:

  • Intelligent Time Correction (ITC)
    • To ensure the hand position of the Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde is as accurate as possible, the ITC functionality performs a time correction test 1,440 times a day using the last radio frequency signal as its reference.
  • Smart Hand Motion (SHM)
    • SHM fosters ultra-precision by sending the signal to the second and minute hand a fraction of a second before the actual time change. The time it takes the signal to be received and acted upon allows the hands to move at precisely the correct time. Junghans purports that this allows for a much more accurate time readout.
  • The Junghans MEGA App allows owners to utilize the radio controlled smart time setting feature
  • A patented technology within the Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde automatically searches for the closest atomic time signal within 5 frequencies:
    • DCF77 (Mainflingen, Germany)
    • MSF (Anthorn, Cumbria, England)
    • JJY40 (Mount Ootakadoya, Japan)
    • JJY60 (Mount Hogane, Japan)
    • WWVB (Fort Collins, Colorado)
  • If outside a frequency range, a fail safe quartz mode activates that’s accurate to 8 seconds in a year (relative to the last time it synced with a radio signal)

Junghans Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde Size and Specs

      • Case diameter: 38.4mm
      • Thickness: 9.2mm (the stainless steel sapphire crystal version is 9.6mm)
      • Environmentally-friendly Superluminova
      • Strap: Available with leather strap or steel bracelet
      • Crystal: Available with plexiglass crystal or sapphire
      • 30M Water Resistance (5oM on the Bracelet version)
      • Screw down exhibition caseback
      • 058/4902.00 - White Dial on Leather
      • 058/4901.00 - Blue Dial on Leather
      • 058/4900.46 - White Dial on Bracelet

A Note on The Bracelet Version

The 058/4900.46 model is being offered as a more "sporty" version of the Meister MEGA Kleine Sekunde. The crystal on this model is sapphire (on both the front and back) and the water resistance is better at 50M. Plus the small seconds subdial features the reception codes and indicators. Personally, even though I have no inclination to be "sporty" I'm very much preferring the bracelet version - I love that dial.

No official word on the price yet, but I've seen one retailer offering the watch for approx. $1,200 USD. But once I have a proper breakdown of pricing from the brand I'll follow up here. Here's the Meister MEGA page from Junghans - I'm also including a video demonstration below of the J101.65 Radio Controlled Movement (central seconds movement) being demonstrated.

What're everyone's thoughts? I'm honestly surprised that Junghans isn't getting more coverage for their work on this new line of radio controlled movements. I'll see what I can do to possibly get better photos or possibly the chance for a hands-on review.