Welcome to my new blog of watches
Yes. A watch blog. Not the first. Not the best. Just my blog. Enjoy.
My credo: The joy and pride of the owner is all that counts, no matter the price of the watch.
Welcome to my new blog of watches
Yes. A watch blog. Not the first. Not the best. Just my blog. Enjoy.
My credo: The joy and pride of the owner is all that counts, no matter the price of the watch.
Another pandemic year is almost over and I hope you read this new entry of my small blog in good health. As always I am writing only about watches I bought myself for my personal collection – no paid content.
Like 2020 the year 2021 for me was a year with a lot of new watches. At the end of the year I was thinking about my personal favourite of my new watches. This wasn’t an obvious nor an easy choice looking at my new additions. So what’s the winner? I chose the Serica 5303, a watch and a company you may never heard of before. So let’s first have a short look at the company. Serica is a very young company founded by French watch enthusiast Jerome Burgert. He showed his first watch in 2019 and the 5303 is the second watch in the collection. The name makes a nod to the first Submariner which was released in March 1953. But the spiritual ancestors of this watch are in the golden 60s, a decade of many, many diver watches especially in France. All of this brands vanished a mere 10 years later in the quartz crisis. Some of them are reborn in the last years as completely new companies using the old names, like Yema, Wolbrook, Jaques Bianchi or Le Forban. Some seem to be vanished forever and you may have never heard of them like North Star, Relliac or Jean Louis Fresand. But the terminus “French Skindiver” survived meaning a small watch for snorkeling. Jerome Burgert did not resurrect one of the old names but created a new name: Serica.
In the 5303 Serica put all this history together, mixed some design elements from this period like hands and big crown with modern elements like the steel/ceramic bezel and a really nice dial to create a modern skindiver. Although a watch expert can easily spot the traditional elements from other brands this is a true unique watch, a “face in the crowd” – and that’s the reason why I bought it. The dial is unique, the lugs are very special (though not unique) and the bracelet is very unique. At least I have never seen a milanaise bracelet tapering from 20 to 16 mm with fitting endlinks.
The movement also is not your obvious choice of Sellita, Seiko or Miyota but the new Soprod Newton. The Newton is available in two qualities N4 and N7, the number meaning the allowed defiance in seconds per day. Serica chose the better N4, so the watch does have Chronometer accuracy although it’s not COSC certified. The movement has a cross-through balance bridge, a double-cone shock-proof system and a cotes-de Geneve decorating which you don’t see because of the solid caseback.
I made a preorder of this watch in August 2021 for delivery in October. I got it deliverd at the end of November, mainly because the first delivery of the bezels had a quality issue. Gladly Serica decided not to deliver the watches but to wait for perfect bezels – and they are perfect! Communiation was made about this several times, so the customers were always informed. As the watch arrived I really liked the packaging. The watch comes in small jewelry case like some sort of expensive diamond bracelet and with a “Serica” seal. Truly made with love and taste!
Taking the watch on the wrist is a bit flimsy. You may have some difficulties at first attempt. But having it on the wrist it’s a very comfortable watch with perfect size. Diameter is 39mm, length is 46,5 mm and height only about 12mm. The customers can choose between left-handed crown at 9 o’clock or right-handed crown at 3 o’clock. Although I am wearing my watches on the right wrist I chose the “normal” crown position at 3 o’clock. Those “lefties” look strange in my eyes…but it’s your choice. The bezel with minutes and hours can be used to show a second time zone. My watch runs with an accuracy of 2,5 sec/24h. The watch – like every real skindiver – is a strap queen. It will look gorgeous on Nato or rubber straps. But I think the best look is with the unique milanaise stock bracelet. The watch on this bracelet is really the French Skindiver reborn.
My new blog entry is about a watch which most of my readers probably never will buy: The Seiko Astron SBXY017 from the new Astron series. At first glance it doesn’t fit in my collection which contains mostly vintage or vintage inspired watches. The SBXY017 seems to be quite the opposite. A solar powered movement with radio control. A modern everyday watch and a very comfortable too. Only 10mm thickness and made totally of scratch resistant titanium it’s easily the best wearing watch on my wrist I ever had. But no vintage connection. Really?
History is always important for me. So let’s make a short time travel. In 1964 Seiko was official timekeeper of the Olympic Games in Tokio. They use big portable quartz watches for exact time measure. A novum, in Rome 1960 traditional mechanic stopwatches were used. Seiko had alle the knowledge about this new technique and decided to develop a quartz wristwatch.
Some Swiss companies were working on the same “next big thing”, but Seiko had a big advantage. It was (and is until today) a fully integrated company, developing and producing all parts inhouse. The Swiss watch industry in comparison evolved over 200 years in a different way. Most companies specialized in watch parts like dials, cases, hairsprings etc. Almost all well known Swiss brands used at least a dozen suppliers to build a watch. To develop a whole new technology with many new parts means to share knowledge, talk about responsibilities and costs. No company alone was able to bring a new technology to industrial level, which means to produce watches in great numbers for a reasonable price. So they focused on other things like the first automatic chronograph movements. It’s a joke of history that Seiko too was the first company to deliver this watches in numbers. The 6139 movements were sold in the beginning of 1969 while Heuer/Büren still had problems with their prototypes and Zenith delivers only very few pieces. But that’s a different story…
Why didn’t make Seiko a big fuss about their automatic chronograph movements like the Swiss companies did? It’s very likely their first prototype beat Heuer and Zenith for some weeks. The answer is easy. The big thing in 1969 wasn’t the 6139 movement – it was the Seiko Astron, released in December 1969 as the first ever quartz wristwatch. For 450,000 Yen they delivered a watch with an accuracy of +/- 5 sec/month (better than most quartz movements today), a hundred times more accurate as any other watch back then. The design was a result of an in-house competition. The watch should look “luxury and slim”.
We all know what followed: Prices dropped in a very fast way. The Swiss companies had no answer and the so called “quartz crisis” began. In fact it was more of a structural crisis. Seiko opened their patents but the Swiss companies can’t bring all the parts form different companies together. The business models of most companies to build watch with the parts of several dozen suppliers collapsed. Some years later the Swiss watch industry was rebuild as an industry of big companies like the Swatchgroup and many famous names vanished for ever or for a long time.
So the SBXY017 bears the name of the biggest game changer in the 20th century watch industry. No history? The opposite is true. Think about that before you thrill up your nose about “a modern watch without a soul and no historical meaning”.
The last 20 years the Astron line always bears the watches with the newest technologies, adding solarpower, radio control and GPS. I admired the technique but they didn’t reach my heart, mostly because of their extremely modern design and the size. Of course the 2,000 Euro (and up) price point was another reason.
This year Seiko made a big move. Typical for this company they made no big announcements but new watches with the historical Astron name appeared. They changed design teams (they took people from Grand Seiko) and made a downgrade in technical abilities. This new Astrons don’t have a GPS sensor, time is only radio controlled. The biggest change is the new design, much smaller and more comfortable and looking like a historical chronograph with the big and colorful second hand. The SBXY001-023 are all made of hard coated titanium (Diashield) and with super clear coating technology, a combination called “Comfotex ©”.
The ”chronograph buttons” are for the radio control funcitions like setting the time zone or controlling the last sync. I don’t know why Seiko released this models only a Japan. They are from 600 to 1,000 Euros without taxes and believe me I have never seen a watch with such quality in details at this price point. They have a built in sleep function to save power. Even without using this function the watch will work for 9 months without light. The power safe function is activated if the watch is stored in a dark place or is not moved for more than 2 days. Once exposed in the light again the hands and the date wheel are moving like magic to the correct time and date – a feast for the eye!
I hope you can see one life and admire the very well executed details – although spotting this watch outside Japan might be a bit difficult. I highly recommend to take a closer look at this watch with such a great name in watch history.
It’s been almost half a year since my last article. Watches did come and watches did go. I decided to slow down a bit with my media. Two things are the same as ever: I only write about watches from my personal collection and the blog is not sponsored in any way.
The watch I will talk about today is one real classic although some of you may never heard of it: The Hanhart 417 ES. Let’s first have a look at the company.
Hanhart was founded in 1882 in Diessenhoffen / Suisse, a small town near the German border. In 1902 the company moved to Schwenningen in Germany and from now on Hanhart is a true German company. Schwenningen in the Black Forest was one of the capitals in watchmaking in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1924 Hanhart released the first of this type of watches they became famous for, their first stopwatch. Used to measure times in athletics, the former stopwatches were expensive pieces. Hanhart created the first affordable piece and produced them in an industrial level. From this time on Hanhart was the word leader in mechanical stopwatches and you can buy both mechanical and electronic sportwatches until today.
Having this know how it was no surprise Hanhart released their first wristwatch with a chronograph complication only a few years later in 1932. In 1957 the model 417 was released in two versions: a chrome plated brass model and a stainless steel version called 417 ES. ES meaning “Edelstahl” the German word for stainless steel. In the same year it became the first pilot chronograph of the airforce section of the German forces (“Bundeswehr”). That’s why it’s nicknamed “Bundeswehr Chronograph”. A piece of this watch found it’s way to Steve McQueens watch collection and he frequently wore it at motorcycle racing. It is said, that this was the favourite piece in his collection.
In 2020 Hanhart released a reissue of this famous watch and gave it the same name: Hanhart 417 ES (of course, there is no brass version today). They increased the size from 39mm to 42mm – the only thing I don’t really like on this reissue. I think they should have stayed to the original dimensions. At least for my 17,5 cm wrist.
Hanhart is a very small company today and did not have the ressources for an inhouse watch movement like in 1957. So while the original Bundeswehr Chronograph has a real Hanhart movement in it (Caliber 42) the new watch has a Sellita 510. A reliable workhorse with a handwinding mechanism like the Caliber 42. The movement allows to keep the height at a comfortable 13mm, the length lug to lug is 49 mm. The extremely clear an legible bicompax dial makes this watch a timeless stunner. The logo is the historical logo of Hanhart used in the 50s and 60s. Typical for Hanhart is the red dot on the rotating bezel to mark a fix point in time. With a price tag of 1,750 Euro it is very reasonable priced. I don’t think you can get a better executed chronograph for this amount of money. With excellent finishing, outstanding design and rich history it’s in fact a bargain to my opinion.
The perfect match to this watch is the black “Bund” strap, but if you don’t like this you can get a different strap. I strongly recommend the “Bund” strap not only for it’s perfect look but it feels very comfortable too.
No matter which strap you choose, the watch comes with a very nice and soft black leather watch roll.
From the first release date the Hanhart 417 ES was a big success in Hanhart’s portfolio and so you will have to wait some time until you can get one – the production is sold out for months. But believe me it’s worth the waiting.
I have a weak point for vintage diver reissues, that’s a fact. Sometimes I look for more modern watches but I always turn back to the vintage design. My collection really reflects this…I will mention one of my latest articles https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/07/03/legends-form-the-60s-reissued-seiko-sla017-doxa-silver-lung-and-zrc-grand-fonds/ about the Seiko SLA017, the Doxa Sub and the ZRC Grand Fonds.
I don’t think when the famous names of the skindivers of the 60s come to your mind you will think about Mido at first. You probably name the big names like Rolex, Omega, Seiko or Blancpain. Some thoughts later maybe Doxa, Favre-Leuba, Aquastar or Yema come to your mind. But Mido? I don’t think that the usual collector will think about Mido. Nor did I. But in June 2020 Mido released a colorful diver limited to 1961 pieces named Mido Ocean Star Decompression Diver 1961 (what a name…). I was interested a first sight but did know nothing about the original watch. The only hint was the year 1961 and since this is my birthyear I began my research. But there is very few material about this Mido from 1961. It seemed to be extremely rare and prices for a good example reached easily 5,000 USD. Wow, that’s a lot of money for a Mido! Finally I found a good source: https://alphahands.com/vintage-watch-research/mido-powerwind-ref-5907-deep-dive-timer/, so most of my information about the vintage diver is from this source.
The name of the vintage watch is Mido Ocean Star 5907 Powerwind Diver – seems like Mido loves long names. The name of the reissue “Decompression Diver” is because of the decompression scale on both the vintage and the modern piece and they added 1961 as the release year of the ref. 5907 (although some say it was released in 1959, but Mido should know I think). The decompression scale is the special feature of this watches and the dominating design element. The picture shows how to use this.
While the vintage piece only shows the table in either meters or feet, the reissue shows both. And that’s the first difference. The vintage piece was available in four different dial versions. The inner part was always white, the outer part black or white. The modern version has a black outer and a black inner part and that’s the second difference. The crown is signed Mido in both versions but the modern version has some crown guards, the third difference. In fact the whole case of the new version is taken from the common Mido Ocean Star line, Mido didn’t develop a special case for the reissue. So the case back has the Mido seastar engraved instead of a diver, fourth difference. The fifth and in my eyes biggest optical difference is the bezel. While the original 5907 had a steel bezel the reedition has a black one. So all in all the Decompression Diver is not a real reissue like for example the Doxa Sub 300. Seiko would call this a “modern reinterpretation”.
And of course the modern watch has a modern movement. Like most Swatchgroup mechanical watches in this price range the new Mido is powered by a Powermatic 80 from ETA with 80 hours power reserve and 21.600 bpH. Most of the watches with this movement I have seen have a rather good accuracy. My Mido is – with a defiance of +3,5sec/24h – no exeption.
As I said this watch is a limited edition of 1961 pieces and seems to be sold out right now. Prices on Ebay or on Chrono24 are above retail price now so it seems this piece also will become a collector’s piece – a big success for the Swatchgroup.
The watch comes with three straps. A Milanaise, a leather and some strap that seems to be made of something between leather and plastic. All straps have quick-release springbars. I like the Milanaise (a similar strap was delivered with the vintage 5907), but I don’t like the other two straps. It remains a secret to me why Mido didn’t throw in a Tropic style strap instead of this random extra straps, the watch looks gorgeous on it. To find such a strap is not easy because of the 21mm lug width, but the Kaufmann Nautic is available in this size and really a great match for the watch.
So the most colorful diver of today is now part of my collection. I wonder what will be the next 60s Diver reissue catching my eye (the new Aquadive would be absolutely great, but is too big for my wrist).
In this blog entry I will show you a watch which probably most of you never heard of: The Wolbrook Skindiver Automatic. Let me first say, I am no big fan of microbrands. And I am no big fan of Kickstarter. So why did I order a watch from a microbrand via Kickstarter?
First of all is design. Ok, an inhouse movement or things like a ceramic bezel or other fancy stuff might be interesting, but I am a man with simple taste. The watch must look gorgeous. Period. And this watch got 99 out of 100 points in my eyes. The design is truly sixties, every part of this watch has vintage vibes from the bright arrow hand to the domed sapphire.
Even the movement is almost vintage… 😉 Inside the watch works a Miyota 8215, no hacking, but handwinding, a workhouse, no modern movement. It rattles like a snake and nobody would choose this movement for its precision. Miyota guarantees -20/+40 sec in 24h! But Wolbrook promised to adjust the movement to +/-10 sec in 24h. And they kept their word, my watch runs +6sec/24h on my wrist. The second thing they did is they changed the date wheel. Odd numbers will appear in black, even numbers in red, both in a really vintage font. This is called a roulette date and looks terrific, adding even more vintage style. And look at that back with the “Eagle”!
Second let’s have a look at history. What is the story behind this watch? I must admit I don’t want to buy a watch without a story…maybe you are a frequent reader of my blog, then you know. Ok let us start: In 1949 Wolbrook and his sister Douglas (second brand of Wolbrook, named Douglas, but inside all parts were marked Wolbrook) were founded. You may never heard of this names and neither did I before. It was never a big watch company and it vanished only 25 years later in the quartz crisis. In the 60s they sold their Skindiver “Worldtimer” for a mere 20 USD (a Rolex Submariner was about 230 USD).
There was one well-known customer: Neil Armstrong, the to-be first man on the moon. He wore a Douglas Skindiver, not the one with the worldtimer bezel. His watch was sold in an auction in 2019: https://historical.ha.com/itm/explorers/space-exploration/neil-armstrong-owned-and-worn-douglas-diver-s-watch-directly-from-the-personal-collection-of-neil-s-brother-dean-armstrong/a/6206-51012.s
Let’s quote Wolbrook from the Kickstarter campaign:
“The 1960s Skindiver “Worldtimer” was a solid, water resistant and highly legible timepiece with luminous markers and hands, large sweep second hand, distinctive hour and minute hands, time zone, elapsed time and 24 hours indicators. This mix of features from a diving watch and a pilot watch, makes it the kind of tool-watch “a NASA engineer and test pilot” would personally choose and wear.”
With both, design and history, on my mind I backed the Wolbrook Skindiver on Kickstarter. And let me mention this: with twelve Kickstarter campaigns before (not only watches) I can admit this campaign was the most professional managed I participated. Of course there were delays, but with Covid-19 in the background ruining and disturbing every supply chain the new founded French company made a terrific job. Chapeau!
Of course I chose the watch with the original Wolbrook design. There were many other colors of dial and bezel and even a PVD version but I think this versions lack some of the vintage touch.
They delivered the watch with a leather strap which I removed first hand. It’s no bad strap but for me it was clear from the beginning that this watch looks best on a vintage Tropic style strap. I found one with the typical Tropic pattern and some holes and I think that’s the perfect couple.
Ok, you missed the campaign, but you want this watch? You can get one from Wolbrooks online store for a higher price. I think the current price of about 400 Euros is no bargain, but they improved the movement again. It now has a hacking feature. And you still get a watch with a unique design, a solid over-all quality and an interesting background.
A blog entry about the Willard? Isn’t it all said about this watch? Maybe, but this days the X-Willard arrived in Germany (and in my collection), with reference number SPB151 for the black version. And owning this watch for some days now I decided it’s worth a new blog entry.
Let’s first have a look at the vintage Willard. The reference 6105-8110 appeared in 1968 and was produced until 1977. It was the first diverwatch from Seiko with the Turtle shaped case and with a diameter of 44mm it was really a big watch in its time. It bears some of the features we all identify today as typical Seiko: the asymmetric case and the crown at 4 o’clock protected by bends in the case. The 6105 was an automatic movement with 17 juwels and 21.600 bpH. No handwinding, but with a date quick-set. The bezel rotates in both directions and the watch had a water resistance of 150m. The Hardlex glass bears the typical bevel giving the watch a very unique look.
The 6105-8110 was neither a cheap nor an expensive watch at it’s time but a very robust one. No surprise the Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Uemura) chooses this watch for his expeditions. He was the first man reaching the North Pole alone (in 1978). In 1984 he vanished at Mt. McKinley. In Japan the 6105-8110 bears the nickname “Uemura”.
But in most other parts of the world this watch is called “Willard” after the main character in the movie “Apocalypse Now”. The 6105-8110 was sold at PX-stores and many US soldiers were wearing this watch during the Vietnamese war. So Francis Ford Coppola (or his crew) decided this watch would be a good choice for his Captain Willard chasing Colonel Kurtz in the Vietnamese jungle. The movie creates the nickname Willard for this watch and most collectors use this name when they talk about the 6105-8110 today.
In 2017 Seiko started with the reissues of their famous diving watches. The first was the 62mas reissue, the SLA017 (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/25/the-seiko-62mas-reissue-an-important-first/). At the same time they released a so-called “modern reinterpretation” of the 62mas, the SPB051/053 (nicknamed 51mas/53mas), a more affordable version. While the SLA017 had a price tag of 3.800 Euro, the SPB051 was available for 1.050 Euro. This scheme – a limited reissue with a high price tag and an unlimited and more affordable modern reinterpretation – was continued in 2018 with the SLA025 (reissue) and SPB077/079 (modern reinterpretation, nicknamed MM200 oder Baby MM), modern versions of the 6159-7001.
When Seiko released in 2019 the next limited reissue SLA033 (reissue of the 6105-8110) there was no modern reinterpretation…The SLA033 was an almost perfect reissue of the Willard. The main difference in the design was the lack of the typical bevel in the glass (okay, a small bevel was left). I have no idea why they decided to install a normal sapphire glass. The SLA033 did not sell so easy as the SLA017 and you can still get one today with a great discount.
This year, without Baselworld and any other fairs, the modern reinterpretation of the Willard followed, a big surprise for most fans. They released the SPB151 (black) with a bracelet and the SPB153 (green) with an excellent rubber. I personally would have welcomed the SPB151 with the rubber…
Let’s have a closer look at this watch: The size shrinked to a more comfortable 42,5mm diameter and 46,5mm length lug2lug. Lugwidth is 20mm. The best of all: the bevel is back! The gorgeous and special look form every direction is therefore also back. But no ups without downs: The framed date is missing, it’s just a square hole in the dial. But beside of the date the vintage look with alloy bezel is perfect! The watch comes with a bracelet of good quality, but I think most fans, including me, will wear this watch on a rubber
The movement is Seikos recent mid-class 6R35 with 70 hours power reserve, 21.600 bpH and MEMS technology. My piece runs with +1 sec/24h.
The overall quality of this watch is perfect at this price range, the screw-down crown the best I had in a watch. And this is what my friends have told me, so maybe Seiko improved the technology for the screw-down crowns. The case is very nicely finished with polished and brushed parts and drilled lugs. It’s even better than the excellent case of the SPB051/053 and a step forward from the SPB077/079. Excellent job!
I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of the Willard and not willing to pay 2,5-3,5k for a perfect vintage piece or the SLA033. I think many people had similar thoughts and some bought the cheap Chinese copies instead. Well you can have now a real Willard from Seiko at a reasonable price point in real high quality! For the Willard III you don’t have to give away a kingdom. The SPB151 with the bracelet is priced at 1.350 Euro – not a cheap watch and not a very expensive watch just like the 6105-8110 in it’s times.
This entry is my first attempt to write about of more than one watch in one entry. So today you will receive information about three watches for the price of one 😉
I always was a fan of the 60s and 70s. This were two decades of great designs in watchmaking and almost ever single watch design today has its roots in this age. And not to mention – these are the decades of my youth.
In watch design it was especially the golden age of diving watches. The first icons appeared some years earlier: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (first watch with diving bezel) and the Rolex Submariner. But in the 60s designs explode and so did companies. I will mention Zodiac, Doxa, Yema…all releasing icons highly sought by collectors today. But this original watches are now often shattered pieces and the few ones in good condition are expensive and very hard to find. The companies today began to satisfy the longing for this old watches with modern reissues, more or less exact the same design. Often released in limited numbers some of them became collector pieces too. I will show you three of them:
Seiko SLA017, reissue of the 62mas
Doxa Silver Lung Annivesary, reissue of the original Doxa Sub Searambler Aqua Lung
ZRC Grand Fonds 300, reissue of…yes, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300
When I acquired my ZRC Grand Fonds I thought it maybe an interesting idea to talk about three watches in one article. It will not be longer than my usual entries, because two of the watches I reviewed in earlier entries.
The Seiko SLA017 in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/25/the-seiko-62mas-reissue-an-important-first/ …
and the Doxa Anniversay in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/01/31/doxa-sub-sharkhunter-50th-anniversay-the-legend-reissued/.
Truth to tell it’s not the same Doxa but the only difference is the dial with the silver color and black Aqualung Logo. Like the Doxa Sharkhunter in my article the Aqua Lung was released in 1967, in a very small batch, some say less than 10 pieces. To find a Doxa Silver Lung from this period is therefore quite impossible, don’t even think about it. In 2017, 50 years later, Doxa released the resissue. The so-called Silver Lung with the silver Searambler dial was built in 300 pieces and released with a retail price of about 2,500 USD – you can’t get one for this price right now. It’s a rare watch on second market and most of them are in the hands of collectors. Chrono24 lists no piece. I got mine from a fellow collector of dive watches in March 2020, two months after my Doxa Sharkhunter Anniversary, so I have two of them reissues in my collection. When it comes to retail price it’s the “cheapest” of the three watches. And it’s the only one which is really a 1:1 reissue, the other two have grown in size. The history and more details you can read in my blog article.
I think I have almost wrote everything about the Seiko SLA017 in my other entry. It was a sensation in 2017 (same year as Doxa!), a Seiko at this price point was unknown, the expensive Seikos were named Grand Seiko. Many fans were surprised while other fans of more expensive brands admired the watch. It’s the most versatile of the three watches, the least eyecatcher for the common people not familiar with watches. And it’s the one with the highest retail price with 3,800 Euro. It’s sold out like the Doxa and slowly it becomes a collector’s piece, now it’s the last time to get one for a reasonable price in my opinion. It’s my favorite one of this three watches and if I had to choose it would be the SLA017 (glad I have all three…).
Since I have already written about the Seiko and the Doxa this article will give more room to the ZRC. Probably some of you didn’t heard about ZRC until now. The company was founded in 1904 in Geneva by Edmond Ziccolo and Joseph Rochet, so ZRC is Zuccolo, Rochet and Cie. It was specialized in expendable metal bracelets – we will talk about the bracelet of this watch later.
From 1960 to 1964 ZRC developed their first watch, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300 – the ancestor of my watch. The watch was used by the French Navy from 1964 to 1982 and original pieces from this time are highly sought collector’s pieces. It almost looks like the recent watch expect the size which grow from a diameter of 36mm to a more modern size of 40,5mm. In almost every other aspect today’s Grand Fonds looks like the legendary watch from 1964.
The new Grand Fonds was released in 2015. In 2017 ZRC teamed up with Alban Michon for a Northpole expedition. They made a special edition of this reissue and distributed it via Kickstarter, so the watch was presented to a bigger community.
The bezel has a special cleaning system named ECS ™, allowing fresh water flowing under (!) the bezel to wash out salt from diving. You have to take a very close look at the watch to spot this system. What you see even from a distance is the most unique design feature: The crown is placed at 6 o’clock. The crown can only be unscrewed if you tilt the strap adapter (or with bracelet, if you tilt the bracelet). In unscrewed position you cannot put the watch on the wrist again, you first have to screw it again. So it’s a safety feature. If you have the watch on the wrist, the crown is screwed down. A cool feature….but a complicated thing to wind up the watch or to set the time. You can only use two fingers to operate the crown and they should better be not too big. The quality of the case is amazing and explains the price point.
Inside you find the common ETA 2824-2 (or a Sellita SW-200) Elabore, so that’s nothing special. The Doxa and the Seiko have significant better movements. You may think that’s no problem, because the good point is, every watchmaker can easily adjust, clean and service the movement. Well, wrong. The caseback has triangle shaped slots to open and requires special tools only available at ZRC. And talking about triangles: The strap/bracelet doesn’t have springbars but is attached with screwed pins on the lugs. A good thing, but you need a screwdriver with triangle pikes not available at your favorite hardware store. At least this special screwdrivers are now part of every ZRC watch set. And to remove the strap from the strap adapter you need a very sharp and thin normal screwdriver. ZRC delivers two screwdrivers with four tops with every watch. Two tops with the triangle pikes and two with sharp normal pikes. Did I mention you always need both screwdrivers to unlock one bar? So changing a strap means: First unscrew the bar at twelve o’clock with the triangle pike, then change the tops and unscrew the second bar from the adapter with the other tops. Let me say: This watch has character , but it’s the character of a diva when it comes to strap change.
So you may have the idea to order the watch with the bracelet and forget the whole strap thing. Ok, that’s 600 Euros more. And the bracelet is a diva, too. No micro adjustments, rather big links. In the last link of each side there is a built-in spring to easily put it over a wet suit and to “breathe” – means changing the diameter under water according to the water pressure. A real good thing for divers. If you are not a diver you have a very good chance the bracelet is either too small or too big. The springs are too tight to make a comfortable wrist if you like your bracelet close to your wrist. That’s the reason I ordered it with a leather strap although the bracelet looks absolutely gorgeous. Right now an Isofrane is on the watch looking very good in my opinion.
All three watches are very comfortable at the wrist. The Doxa is king here, I don’t know a more comfortable bracelet than the Doxa BoR. Which of the three watches ever is your favorite: you will receive a real legend reissued.
|Seiko SLA017||Doxa Silver Lung||ZRC Grand Fonds|
|Movement||Seiko 8L35||ETA 2824-2|
|3,800 Euro||2,500 Euro||3,200 Euro|
It’s been quite a time since I wrote a new blog entry. It’s not that there aren’t any new watches in my portfolio…but most of my the latest additions are new versions of watches I already own (like my new Kakume or my Doxa Silver Lung, see my Instagran channel) or other watches similar to them. It’s been some time since a brand new watch caught me – in design, price and coolness factor. Remember: The highlight in 2019 for me was Seiko’s New Arnie (read my article: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/18/why-the-new-arnie-snj025-is-my-favorite-seiko-release-2019/). But in January 2020 a watch appeared in sneak peaks and the first official pictures caught me at first sight: The Presage Tokio Limited, released in three colors (ivory SPB127, green SPB129 and black SPB131)
Let’s take a look back at history. In 1964 the Olympic Games took place in Tokio. Of course Seiko was the official timekeeper. And Seiko showed his first chronograph: the 5179 monopusher released for a short time before and after the Olympic Games and the discontinued. My friend ajiba54 owns one beautiful piece and like all of his vintage watches it is nearly in mint condition.
I made some pictures of it in September 2019 for a calendar and the watch appeared on the Januray page. Coincidence? Fate? I don’t know but it was in January 2020 in my bureau looking at this calendar when I first heard of this reissue of the famous monopusher. But the reissue would not released as a monopusher chronograph but as a three hand watch. Although some people laughed about this fact, most of them stopped laughing when they saw the first pictures. The watch is almost the same design as the 1964 chrono! The second hand of the stop function transformed into the second hand of the recent time. And there was no extra pusher at two o’clock of course. On the dial there is the “Presage” writing. But beside this minor details the design remains the same.
Ok, why didn’t they made the reissue as chronograph? Oh, they did! The SRQ031 was the first reissue of the Tokio chrono, released in 2019 with a price tag of more than 3.000 Euro. At the same time the reissue of the 6138 Panda chrono was released (the SRQ029) and I think this watch caught most of the attention of the fans. Of course the SRQ031 is no monopusher.
Seiko doesn’t have a monopusher chronograph movement in it’s recent portfolio. Developing a new movement would have burst the price tag way over 5k, I guess, maybe 7k or 8k. So Seiko did, what Seiko always does: They released a cool affordable watch for a reasonable price. And as special watch for the new Olympic Games in Tokio 2020 they made it a limited edition of 1964 pieces in each of the three colors. Knowing the original Tokio watch it was clear I had to get the ivory version. And it was also clear that I will not use the steel bracelet and replace it with a tropical style strap.
The announcement said the watch will be released in March 2020. And at the end of March the was available – but only in Japan. Then Covid-19 stopped almost every business and the watches didn’t come to Europe for the next weeks. Ans as we all know, the Olympic Games shifted from 2020 to 2021 (but the name of the Games will still be “Tokio 2020”). In early May I got the long awaited message that my watch is on it’s way to my address…finally!
Let’s have a closer look at the watch. It has a rotating bezel with a 60 minute scale, but no clicks – It is no Diver. It has very elegant dauphin hands and the word “Presage” on the dial, but a very sporty look – it’s no dresswatch. So what kind of watch is it? I will define it as an elegant sports watch. This watch will fit a business suit and a casual outfit as well. So It’s a prefect piece for every occasion.
The applied indizes and Seiko logo, the three-dimensional dial and the polished case adds a distinctive feeling of elegance on a design made for a sports event. I also like the little squares of lumibrite next to the indices, the framed date and the little difference between the 12 o’clock index and the other indices.
The movement is the nuew 6R35, evolved form the 6R15, Seikos choice for their midrange watches. With 21.600 bpH, hacking, hand winding and a power reserve of 70h a modern an reliable movement.
Let’s have a last look at the strap. The watch comes with a steel bracelet in oyster style. I do like this bracelet on the black version emphasizing the more modern look of this version. It’s not my choice of the ivory version. It’s too modern for this vintage style watch in my eyes. For a better choice we only have to look at the ancestor of the SPB127. The Tokio chrono came with a tropic style strap and this is in my opinion also the perfect choice of the reissue. If you are lucky you can get an original strap from the 60s or 70s. They are more shiny than todays straps form Borealis (my recommendation if you don’t get a vintage strap) or other brands. You can see this combo at the picture with the first day cover. With this strap the watch is my favorite Seiko release in 2020 and one of the highlights in my modern collection. Sixties vibes are back again!
Today I will talk about the history of the famous SKX007/009 and II will show you four of their predecessors from my collection: The 7548, 7C43 (two pieces) and the 7002. Today Seiko’s references begin with letters followed by numbers but back in the 70s Seiko uses a different system. First comes the four numbers of the movement followed by four numbers of the special model. So we are talking in this article about four different movements including the 7S26. The case of all watches look the same, but they aren’t. We will find some very sophisticated case constructions.
Let’s begin with the 7548. This watch is the first diving watch ever with the case design today we identify with a SKX007/009. But it’s a quartz watch! In fact it’s the first diving watch with a quartz movement. Released 1978, a time where quartz movements were state-of-the-art, the 7548 shares many parts with the mechanical 6309 movement which was used in the Turtle. You can exchange parts between this movements. In fact, the 7548 is a 6309 with a quartz section. It’s a high reliable movement, containing almost no plastic parts, seven juwels and a trimming screw to adjust the speed. A high end movement in it’s time and until today one of the best quartz movements ever. The case had a water resistance of 150m, the dial spells “WATER150mResist” on JDM and “SQ DIVERS 150m” on international references. There are the typical black and Pepsi versions, an orange version and even an extremely rare green version. The 7548 were produced until 1985.
My watch is a 7548-7000 international version with a German/English day-wheel. Production date was 1980.
Second watch I will talk about is the 7C43. The 7C43 is a quartz movement too and the direct successor of the 7548. It has seven juwels (7548: five jewels) and is adjustable, but contains more plastic parts. The trimmer of the 7C43 is different from the 7548, it doesn’t have a trimmer screw and can only be used once for a change of +/- 0,2 sec/day. It’s also a high torque movement with an advanced power use, so the battery will last at least three years. The successor of this movement is the even more famous 7C46 used in the professional Tunas until today. The movements are more or less the same but the 7C46 contains a larger battery lasting at least five years.
The major change to the 7548 is the construction of the case. There are many (some say 15) changes in this case such as the powerful glass screwing ring structure, the improved anti-magnetism shield and the twin side shield crown structure. So this watch bears the signature “Professional” with a meaning. It’s much more of a highly valued Professional Tuna than todays Solar Tunas, which have the same look but not the same technique as a Professional Tuna. The 7C43 had a different look but almost the same technique. I think this is the best SKX-like watch Seiko ever made.
Another difference between the 7548 and the 7C43 are the white hands of the 7C43 instead of the usual silver hands of all other watches shown here. It’s my favorite watch in this article and the only one of which I own two pieces: A black 7C43-7010 JDM from 1990 with Kanji-/English-day wheel and a Pepsi 7C43-700A from 1987 with German-/English day wheel. Like all international versions, the Pepsi has the “SQ”-sign on the dial. The 7C43 was produced from 1985 to 1991.
There was a transitional version 7548-7010 with some aspects of the 7C43 case (200m water resistance and screwing ring structure) but the 7548 movement. This is the watch Brian May from supergroup Queen wears.
Next watch we are talking about is the 7002 with a mechanical movement. It’s not really the first mechanical SKX-like watch. There was an earlier version of the Turtle, the 6309-7290, released 1982, nicknamed “slim case” because the usual 6309 has the typical Turtle-shaped case. I don’t own a slim case Turtle, but my friend @ajiba54 does. So here is a wristshot of this watch from him.
Have a look at the 12 o’clock index and the look at the 12 o’clock index on the 7002 – they are identical and very different from all other watches in this article. So the 7002 is more a successor of the slim case Turtle than of the 7C43. The 7002 appeared in 1988 and was produced simultaneously to the 7C43. The case is a much simpler design and so water resistance dropped to 150m. The movement itself is the successor of the 6309, but if you compare this movements you will find much more plastic parts and less expensive finishing in the 7002. The 7002 is a 17-jewel, non-hacking and non-handwinding movement, very reliable but sometimes not very accurate. BpH was the Seiko typical 21.600.
The watch was manufactured in many different versions, the later references evolved to a 200m water resistance. Unlike all other watches shown here the 7002 has no day-wheel. A second difference to all other watches are the rectangular hour markers instead of the typical round ones. The indices have a light green color (sometimes faded to a light grey) which is also typical for the 7002. You can recognize the JDM from the international versions by the “17 Jewels” on the dial. Mine is a 7002-700J Pepsi JDM from 1989. The 7002 was produced from 1988 until 1996.
Last watch is the icon SKX007/009 itself, released 1996 as the direct successor of the 7002 and produced for more than 20 years. This watch also came in many different versions, but that’s a story of it’s own. We will focus on the SKX007/009 which for many collectors is “the” Seiko diver. An obvious reason is the long production time, but that’s not the only thing. With its dimension of 42x46mm it fits on every wrist, its very affordable and one of the best-selling watches of all times. In fact it’s one of only two classic affordable dive watches (the other one is the Citizen Promaster) widely used for diving before the time of the diving computers. Of cource this was not the major use of this watch. Most people just wanted a reliable good looking watch for a few bucks. A real no-nonsense diving watch for every purpose.
The 7S26 is the successor of the 7002. It had four more jewels (21) but still no hacking or handwinding feature. Reliable, simple, affordable, a workhorse as one can be.
The references changed with the SKX from the 8-digit-numbers to the mix of literals and numbers all Seikos have today. There are still JDM and international versions, the JDM version with the number of jewels on the dial like the 7002. The references of the JDM versions do have a “J” at the end of the reference number, the international version a “K”. My watch is the SKX009K from 2018.
So what’s my conclusion if you like to buy one of this watches? Some hardcore collectors like me own every one of this four watches. If you are interested in vintages and technology look for a 7C43 while they are still affordable. Of all four watches the 7C43 Professional is in my opinion the best one. It sure has the best case construction and a pretty good movement. Don’t thrill up your nose because it’s quartz – the 7C43 (and the 7548 too) are much better movements than our todays cheap quartz movements (even from Seiko) and really worth collecting. I would value them higher than simple mechanical movements like the 7002 or the 7S26. Another good thing is: the 7C43 usually aren’t modded. Modding and AM parts are not widely available. So you have a good chance to get an all-original piece. Same counts for the 7548 which is my #2 in this ranking.
The 7002 seems to be available in unlimited pieces all over the world until today. The big problem is that only 5% are all-original. This was a very popular and very affordable watch especially in Asia and many watchmakers replaced the worn-out original parts with AM parts (bezel, dial and hands). Without knowledge or an expert at hand you will probably buy a watch with AM parts – which has no value for collectors.
The SKX007/009 is discontinued but there are still brand-new pieces out there. Only the SKX009 with Jubilee seems getting very rare. It’s one of the easiest entries in every watch collection. A true icon and still affordable. Of course the budget prices below 200 USD are over. In five years you will regret not buying one in 2020, I am sure. If you are not interested in history and collecting and just want to buy a cool looking watch, look for the new Seiko 5 Sports (“5KX”, my entry: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/15/seiko-5kx-thumbs-up-or-down/). The serious collector is looking for a 7C43 if he doesn’t own one already.
It’s been some weeks ago since I showed you my first “Flieger”. I was looking for a Baumuster A watch and, as I am a collector who values history, decided for a watch from one of the five original brands: A Laco Augsburg. You can read about the five original brands and the Laco Augsburg in my blog entry https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/01/laco-augsburg-blaue-stunde-affordable-history/.
Last year when I saw some beautiful photos of my friend @makespictures of his Laco Baumuster B I felt the urgent need to buy a Baumuster B for myself. I think you know this feeling…
Searching for an affordable watch I found the small German brand Dekla and emailed with …. the head of Dekla. Their retail prices are really fantastic. For a Flieger with your choice of ETA automatic (2824-2) or handwound (2801) movement, sapphire crystal, temperature blued hands and Superluminova you have to pay only 500 Euros. And that’s just half the story …
Founded in 2015 Dekla decided to make their own watches and ordered 200 cases from a supplier. The quality of the cases were rather poor and so they changed their business and bought a CNC machinery to make their own cases. The cases came out in good quality and the business began to grow from small roots to a supplier of cases for other companies. Today not only the cases are inhouse made. They make the hands themselves, hand-polish them and fill them with Superluminova, they print the dials for their watches and of course they assemble. Only movements and straps are from other suppliers. And they are working on an own movement based on famous Unitas. So we have true “made in Germany” watches here.
Ask them to make something individual and unique and they will make you an offer. Because of the inhouse parts they can help you with almost everything. One thing they offer for every flieger is the FL engravement FL23883. For a 35 Euro upgrade they are engraving this code on the side of the case. This code is the instruction code of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministry of Air Force of the German Reich). The instruction determines the specifications of the watch: diameter 55mm and onion-shaped crown for example. Of course a diameter of 55mm is not the best choice for your wrist today…
Dekla offers their Flieger in 40, 42 and 44mm. Have in mind, that only the 40mm has length less than 50mm. I have a 17,5cm wrist and watches bigger than 50mm doesn’t fit (unless the lugs are bent, for example the lugs of the Seiko Sumo). Important hint: the dials of all three sizes are equal, only cases are different. To avoid a rather thick case I recommend to choose the 40mm or 42mm version.
The next choice is the surface of the case. Most Dekla watches you can get with either a sandblasted case or a satin polished case. And last of all choices is the color of the indizes. The options are white, old radium or bicolor. That’s all in all a lot of choices available to get your individual watch.
I opted for the Baumuster B, automatic ETA 2824-2, 40mm, satin case, old radium indices. The last choice is the color of the strap. Brown or black strap are available. I chose the brown one.
Let’s first have a look at the things, I am not 100% satisfied with. And the first thing is the rather stiff strap. And it’s not only stiff, it’s too long. I had to punch an extra hole to get it on my wrist, but removed it other minutes because it’s not very comfortable. I talked to Dekla about this and they had already in mind to change the supplier. With a lug width of 22mm it’s no problem to change the strap and I mounted a leather nato from my fundus. To my eyes it makes an excellent combo with the watch.
The second little minus is the inner side of the lugs. They are a bit too sharp to my opinion. Of course if you wear the watch that’s no problem, but be careful while you change the strap.
And that’s it. All other things are excellent and would be even for a higher price point. The case is well-made, the dial has a flawless printing. With a height of 10,2 mm and length of 48mm this is a very comfortable watch on the wrist. And a reliable too, the defiance of the ETA to the atomic clock is only -1 sec/day! The Superluminova is bicolored green and orange, an interesting look at night.
A friend asked me to compare the Dekla with my Laco. The price difference is 160 Euro, but the Dekla has by far the better specs: A better movement (with a better accuracy) and the temperature blued hands to name first. And although I didn’t like the strap of the Dekla, it’s better than the simple nato strap of the Laco. The Laco has a different case which has almost the same proportions (not the same size) as the original Flieger watches from WWII, especially smaller lugs and smaller lug size. And it has one big advantage: the rich history, which a 5 year old company of course can’t have. But with no doubt Dekla has the better value for price. With similar specs you have to choose the Laco Paderborn, which is 980 Euro, double the price of the Dekla. With this in mind you can see what a bargain a watch from Dekla really is!