Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Friendly Dive Watch Comparison: Submariner vs. Seamaster Professional

Firstly, my apologies for not updating the blog more recently - work has been catching up with me, hence why it's been a little quiet over here. However, I have a few new articles I've been working on, which should hopefully be written up within the next few days.

The first of which is a comparison between two icons of the diving watch world: the Rolex Submariner Date and the Omega Seamaster Professional. With the introduction of the black dialled version, as well as Omega's reluctance to push prices up as steeply as Rolex, the Seamaster is looking like a better and better buy every day. Conversely, despite coming to the end of its operational life, the Submariner continues to be one of the most popular models in the Rolex range, and has amassed a serious fanbase since its original inception in 1953. The models I will be reviewing are the Submariner 16610, and the Seamaster

Technical Specifications (Sub vs. SMP)

Case Diameter: 40mm - 41mm

Cal. Number: Rolex 3135 - Omega 2500
Automatic?: Yes - Yes
BPH: 28.8k - 25.2k
Power Reserve: ~40 hours - 48 hours
COSC Certified?: Yes - Yes

Material: 904L Steel - 316L Steel
Waterproofing: 300m - 300m
Screw-down crown?: Yes - Yes
Helium Escape Valve?: No - Yes
Crystal: Sapphire - Sapphire
Anti-reflective coating?: No - Inside only
Luminous Material: Green Super-Luminova - Blue Super-Luminova
Unidirectional Rotating Bezel?: Yes - Yes

Price (UK RRP): £3890 - £1860

The Aesthetics

With the introduction of the black dial on the SMP, there is very little to distinguish between the two at a glance, at least with an untrained eye. Indeed, the basic dial layout of dots-and-dashes hour markers is the classic dive watch look - simple, practical, legible. The biggest difference on the dial itself is the finish - the Submariner goes for a gloss finish, whilst the Seamaster adopts a wave finish, designed to reduce glare whilst diving.

The other large cosmetic difference on the face of the watch would be the cyclops magnifying bubble on the Sub - although some really don't like this feature, I, for one, think it's an essential part of the Rolex look, and handy for looking at the date quickly. The date window on the SMP is pretty small, and can be difficult to read at a glance. As a general rule, the Submariner is a lot shinier than the Seamaster, owing to the gloss finish and lack of AR coating, and whilst this makes for a "dressier" look, it could be a potential problem for legibility in bright light.

As such, there is little to separate the watches in terms of aesthetics, and it really boils down to personal preference. For me, the Rolex just edges it in this respect.

The Bracelet

It's my personal view that the bracelet is just as important as the watch head when considering a watch - after all, the bracelet and clasp determines the "feel" of the watch, and dictates how comfortable it is to wear every day. Certainly, there is a large difference between the two watches in regards to this.

The Submariner uses a brushed-finish Oyster bracelet, with solid end links, but hollow centre links, whilst the SMP uses an exclusive bracelet with polished higlights and solid links throughout. The first thing that I noticed with the Submariner bracelet is just how light the bracelet felt - a positive for someone who wants a dive-watch without the typical dive-watch heft - but also how rattly it felt. One has to bear in mind that the 16610 was launched 20 years ago, and it really is beginning to feel like its age. Submariner enthusiasts will point out that it's a strong and reliable bracelet, ready to take the abuses of every day life, and I completely agree. However, when you put it against one of the new-style Rolex bracelets, such as the one on the GMT IIc, the Submariner's band just feels cheap.

The Seamaster's bracelet, on the other hand, gives the wearer a feeling of confidence. It's substantial without being overbearing, and sits nicely on the wrist. It also looks a little dressier than the Rolex's, with the polished sections of the links just giving it a little bit of contrast.

There's a similar story with the clasps - the best word to describe the Submariner's clasp is outdated. It still uses the folded-metal clasp, which is wafer thin, and, to be quite frank, would feel wrong on a £500 watch, let alone a near-£4000 watch. Again, it can be argued that it's served it's purpose for a long time, and I won't deny that, but placed against the brilliant Glidelock clasp (see the Deepsea Review if you haven't come across it yet), it feels like an ancient relic:

I certainly think that the clasp is the biggest drawback on the Submariner, especially in comparison to the Omega clasp:

The Omega uses a push putton deployment clasp which won't have the same problems with the blades bending over time like the Submariner. It feels like a more heavy-duty clasp as well, and the quality of the engineering can't be faulted. Indeed, some argue that Omega's clasps sparked Rolex's drive for updating their own clasps. Omega wins convincingly here.

The Practicality

The Submariner has long been known as one of the best all-rounders out there - bash it around by day, and it'll still look perfect with a tuxedo. It truly is one of the watch world's greatest chameleons. The "James Bond" aspect has a lot to do with this, and applies to both watches - for someone who wants just one watch that can do everything, then the Sub or the SMP is a worthy choice. Neither are particularly chunky, so wearing one under a cuff isn't an issue. There's virtually nothing to distinguish between the two in this respect. A tie.

Value for Money

As I've asserted throughout the article, in many respects, the SMP is the equal of the Submariner, and in other respects, its superior. Indeed, the biggest difference between the two watches is the price, and I don't think this reflects the quality of the watches - the Submariner certainly isn't double the watch that the Seamaster is. It should also be noted that, due to the use of the Co-Axial escapement in the Seamaster, you get a 3 year guarantee on the Omega, as opposed to the 2 year on the Rolex. When buying new, there's also a bigger scope for discount on a Seamaster as well - most ADs will be unwilling to give more than a token discount on a Submariner owing to its continued popularity. Whilst buying new makes the Omega the rational choice, one also has to take into account resale value, and this is where the Rolex really comes into play. You can always rely on a steel sports Rolex to hold a substantial amount of its value, even a few years down the line. However, the depreciation on an Omega is brutal, and you'll struggle to sell it for muh more than half the RRP a year down the line. In some respects, you are paying extra for the Rolex marque, but it will help to give you a better return should you want to move on further down the line

However, it must be noted that an updated Submariner is expected to be launched in March 2010, hitting ADs in this country in around October/November. Whilst this might spark a small spike in demand for the 16610 as its phased out (in th same way there was a small hype for V-series Sea-Dwellers before the arrival of the Deep Sea), in the long term it will, in all likelihood, give second hand values of the 16610 a beatung. As such, the Submariner isn't quite the safe investment that it used to be.

Omega wins on value for money.


The Submariner 16610 has done the Rolex range proud for the past 20 years, and I'd argue that it's the pinnacle of 20th Century dive watches. The allure that it's created is simply phenomenal, and the fact that it's lasted such a long time pays a compliment to Rolex's overengineering at the time. However, its time has come to an end, and for the past few years, the Seamaster has been the sensible choice. I expect things will shift back into Rolex's favour come Basel 2010, and I can't wait for the rebirth of such an iconic watch.

If you asked me tomorrow which one to buy, I'd personally go for the Seamaster - it's quite possibly the best value luxury watch on the market. However, regardless of a rational approach, the Submariner does have the Rolex "magic," and that, for some, will be enough.

On a final note, if you want to get your hands on a new 16610, don't hang around - according to sources on TRF, Rolex USA has already run out of stock of them, and won't be getting any more steel Subs until the new model arrives. I don't know for certain whether this will be the case in the UK - as far as I'm aware, Rolex UK still has supplies in stock.

Thanks for reading

The GMT Master

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Rolex Sea Dweller Deep Sea

Big. Everything about this watch is big: the size, the depth rating, the price. It's the most extreme diving watch that Rolex have ever offered for sale, the only other watch they've ever made that can outdo it is the Deep Sea Special, which wasn't exactly a daily wearer. It's certainly an impressive watch - but is it as good as the hype would have you believe, and is it a viable watch for the ordinary watch wearer? I'll weigh up the pros and cons and come to my decision, and hopefully it might help yours as well.

Techincal Details

*Model Number: 116660
*904L Stainless Steel
*43mm Case Diameter
*Unidirectional rotating diving bezel, ceramic bezel insert with platinum numerals
*Maxi Dial and Hands, filled with Chromalight luminous material
*Ringlock system for extra strength at depth
*Automatic Helium Escape Valve
*Domed Sapphire crystal
*Titanium Caseback
*Oyster bracelet with Glidelock clasp
*Oversized Triplock crown
*Waterproof to 3900m/12800ft

The Movement

*Cal. 3135
*Self windng chronometer
*28.8k bph
*Quickset date complication
*Parachrom blue hairspring and Paraflex shock absorber system

UK RRP: £5790

The Aesthetics

Rolex have carried on their traditional diver's watch look: black dial, black bezel, easy to read and easy to see at night. Simple yet functional. However, this really does have a premium feel to it, and I, for one, feel that it is a huge improvement in terms of quality over the previous generation Sea Dweller. The bezel has a lovely feel to it, and glides smoothly into place, and has a lovely shine to it. Wisely, Rolex have kept the bracelet brushed, with only the case and bracelet sides being polished. This, for me, really means it stamps out its tool watch credentials straight away - it's not attracting attention to itself by being flashy, it's here to do a job and do it well. I love the honesty of it.

The size is a real "marmite" factor: some love the size of it, others hate it. In a world of Panerais, Breitlings and other oversized watches, 43mm for a case diameter is relatively modest. It's more the height of the watch which is an issue - I personally think it's just too tall for formal wear, there's no way of getting it comfortable under the cuff of a dress shirt. It absolutely dwarfs my Datejust:

However, it has the look of an industrial piece of engineering, it looks rough and ready to handle anything you could possibly throw at it. This is a watch crying out for outdoors activity, and I think that's the best place for it. In a business meeting, it'd look like a fish out of water, like a bodybuilder at a science fair. In it's element, however, it reigns supreme, and I'm sure the size and weight of it will give the wearer full confidence in it's abilities.


As already mentioned above, this isn't the most practical of formal watches. Not something I'd personally recommend as an only watch, but if you had this in conjunction with a more suitable watch for work wear, then you have yourself what I think is a brilliant weekend watch. It's waterproof to a depth no human can physically dive to without a submersible, its brushed finish means scratches will be only a minor concern, the ceramic bezel is extremely durable, and the Glidelock clasp makes a particularly heavy and cumbersome watch surprisingly comfortable to wear. In fact, the Glidelock is such an important feature of the Deepsea, it needs a little section all to itself.

The Glidelock, for me, is the best practical innovation Rolex have developed in years. Whilst the Yachtmaster II's movement is a fantastic piece of horology, it's way out of reach for the average watch colector. The Glidelock, on the other hand, is a revolution in clasp adjustment, and won't just be available on the Deepsea, but the Submariner range as well: the new 18Ct and two tone models already have it, and the new steel version is expected to have it when launched too. Whilst ostensibly designed with wetsuits in mind (the diver's extension link remains with the Glidelock providing an extra 1.8cm of adjustment), it is the perfect feature for an ordinary user. Hot day? Let it out a notch or two. Want to play tennis? Tighten it up. The Glidelock removes the need to move pins in the clasp around - whilst you could get a high level of fine adjustment on the previous generation Sea Dweller, it was a fiddly, complicated and time consuming task compared to the Glidelock. To use it, simply undo the clasp, lift a finger under the edge (as pictured) and slide the link as much as you need. Takes all of 5 seconds. If I was the head of Rolex, I'd have that clasp placed on every single watch in the line up - my only criticism of the clasp is that it's only available on divers' models.

Value for Money

You certainly get a lot of watch for your money. Incredible engineering, high quality parts, bragging rights ("Oh, so your watch can go down to 300m? Nice, but look at mine..."), and that little bit of magic that will appeal to the 10 year old inside you. Of course, it's not a watch for everyone: its critics will cite its size and ostentatiousness as flaws, it'll be simply too much for most. But you need to look at this watch from Rolex's point of view, and I think they've been incredibly clever with this watch. Firstly, they needed a watch that could realistically compete in terms of chunkiness with Panerai and Breitling, and no one can argue that they haven't done that successfully. Secondly, they needed to reiterate their reputation as the makers of watches that can survive the harshest of places - the Deepsea is an excellent example of this, and testiment to their overengineering. Thirdly, they needed to underline their reputation as a maker of the highest quality sports watches, something that the (please forgive me) Submariner and Sea Dweller 4000 lacked. I see the Deepsea as a statement for Rolex's future, a reminder of what they do best. Yes, it's a big price increase compared to the old Sea Dweller, but this is in a completely different league. The Sea Dweller was an excellent watch for the 20th century, but the Deepsea is a 21st century watch through and through.


Excellent technical achievement, but not for everyone. Quite possibly the best engineered tool watch of all time, and truly the new benchmark in terms of sports watches.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Daytona Update

Well, it's official, I've decided to remove myself from the Daytona waiting list. For me, at least, the love affair with the most sought-after watch in the world is over. I've just come to the conclusion that too many people have one these days, and I've never been one to follow the crowd. The GMT IIc is definitely my new mistress.


The GMT Master

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Chronoswiss Lunar Chronograph

This is another watch that has really caught my eye on my travels. Firstly, I should write a few words about Chronoswiss themselves, a largely unknown watch company that make some truly stunning timepieces. Founded in 1984 by Gerd-R. Lang, a former TAG master watchmaker, Chronoswiss is based in Germany, and makes timepieces focused on traditional watchmaking techniques, with some very modern technological advances. In the space of 25 years, Chronoswiss has grown to produce around 20000 timepieces per year worldwide, and win several prestigious awards. They have a very distinctive design ethos, with traditional case design, highly decorated movements, crystal display backs and the eponymous turnip-shaped winding crown. The movements themselves are largely heavily modified ETA movements, although recently they launched their own fully in-house movement. Their creative motto "Faszination der Mechanik" (the fascination of mechanics) is one that any true horology enthusiast can appreciate, and I for one love their bold designs, and impeccable attention to detail.

Technical Details

The particular model reviewed is the CH 7523 L bk, on a Louisiana crocodile leather strap.

*Case Diameter: 38mm
*Sapphire crystal both sides, one side Anti-Relective coated
*30m Water Resistance
*Stirling Silver dial

The Movement:

*Cal. c.755 (ETA 7750 base)
*28.8k beats per hour
*46 hour power reserve
*Self winding automatic
*Chronograph function with continuous seconds, minutes, hours and moonphase subdials
*Highly decorated finish

Retail price: £3920

The Aesthetics

The dial is quite a cluttered affair, with four subdials as well as an old-fashioned date display, so to the untrained eye, it can be somewhat daunting. However, this is one watch that can really sum up the "Faszination der Mechanik" mantra: there's always something intricate and intriguing to look at on both sides of the watch. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'm going to, a la Top Gear, look at it from the perspective of a 10 year old boy. There's a lot happening with this watch, there's a hand to measure just about anything. Having a moonphase on your watch is quite the impressive statement, and the kind of gadget that could appeal to the child in any fully grown man. The chronograph function is just begging to be absent mindedly be fiddled with, the firm click of the top pusher bringing the long seconds hand into it's full sweeping majesty. Turning it over, there's even more to look at, with the crystal case back offering a tantalising glimpse into the innards of the watch. If you move the winding weight just so, you can see the beating heart of the watch in the form of the balance wheel whirring away, the escapement powering the tiny cogs within. This isn't just a watch, it's a piece of art.

The Practicality

Okay, so this watch could potentially be a bit over the top for every day wear, but it certainly is practical. Whilst the moonphase might not be of the utmost importance for the casual wearer, it has clear, if old-fashioned, date on it, and the chronograph function can come in handy in certain situations - a handy cooking tool, for example. The case has a brushed finish and sapphire crystals, and if combined with a leather strap, like the one reviewed, you won't have to worry about the perpetual problem of scratches. Once the leather has been worn in a little, the watch will be as comfortable as any, and Chronoswiss provide a myriad of colours for you to choose from. The one I've been handling had a very attractive blue strap on, which worked brilliantly. The level of water resistance means you don't have to worry about the watch getting wet should you accidentally immerse it, but I wouldn't recommend it for swimming.

Value for Money

At £3920, this is not a cheap watch by any stretch of the imagiation. For that kind of money, you're in Rolex Submariner/Breitling Navitimer/high-end Omega/Cartier territory. However, what Chronoswiss provides is the element of obscurity and exclusivity. With such low production numbers, the only place you're likely to bump into someone else wearing the same watch would be at a Watch Fair like Baselworld, or happen to be in an Authorised Dealer whilst someone else happens to purchase it. In terms of numbers, they have a similar production rate to Patek Philippe: my take on it is that Chronoswiss provides a Patek-like manufacturing ethos, Patek-like excusivity and a wholly unique design philosophy, all for the price of a mass-produced luxury watch brand. I don't know about you, but that makes this Chronoswiss seem like a very tempting proposition.


Chronoswiss also offer this watch with a silver dial as well as a larger size, known as the "Grand Lunar". I strongly urge you to take a look at Chronoswiss' website: it's a great read, and make sure you check out the Lunar Chronograph under zoom and look at the workmanship on the dial. Truly phenomenal.

Thanks for reading

The GMT Master

Raymond Weil Tango Chronograph

It's been a little while since I last updated this blog due to doing a lot of what I love doing best: selling high end watches. A couple of very successful weeks mean I've been going round with a smile on my face. Anyway, amidst the manic atmosphere at the shop, I was able to get my hands on one of the new arrivals, the Raymond Weil Tango Chronograph, a great looking watch, and a lovely addition to the Raymond Weil range. As a general rule, I've been struggling to find a watch that really appealed in their line up - undoubtedly nice quality watches, but just lacking that certain something that appeals to me. No longer: as soon as I saw this watch, I knew I had to take a much, much closer look.

The Technical Stuff

The model reviewed was the ref. 4899-ST-00668, which comes with the very attractive charcoal and silver dial. The watch is also available in an all black dial (ref. 4899-ST-00208), as well as options on leather straps.

*Case width: 40mm
*Sapphire Crystal
*Water Resistant to 50m
*Stainless steel
*Double push deployment clasp
*Big date (a particularly nice touch)
*Quartz Chronograph movement, w/ continuous seconds, 30 minute totaliser and 1/10th sub dials

RRP: £895

All in all a very nice little package, and quite a lot of watch for your money.

The Aesthetics

This watch is certainly good looking by any stretch of the imagination. For me, there are elements of Lange und Sohne, Rolex and Cartier in the design of this watch, and that's certainly no bad thing. The silver subdials are pleasing to the eye, and give a nice, subtle contrast, whilst the dial itself doesn't feel too cluttered, despite the array of features it offers. It has a nice weight to it, the clasp is solid and feels very secure, and the bracelet is more dressy than sporty. This feels like a watch more at home under a suit than one designed for the great outdoors. As shown in the photo below, it sits nicely on the wrist, and isn't overly large - the quartz movement stops the case from being too chunky.

Value for Money

Whilst it might be expensive for a quartz chronograph, the Tango Chronograph provides an elegent and robust entry to the world of luxury watches. At the price point it's at, I can see it being in competition with the likes of TAG and Omega, but out of all the models in the Raymond Weil range, I think this one can really hold it's own. In terms of practicality, it packs a lot of features into a very well presented package - to get a split seconds chronograph with oversized date, plus Roman numerals onto one dial without overcrowding it is no mean feat. When put next to a quartz Seamaster or F1, I think the Raymond's inherent dressiness can see it through, and provides an interesting alternative to more mainstream models.


Whilst the quartz movement may be a deterrent to some, this provides an excellent and unique pathway to the world of luxury watches. Raymond Weil is a brand often overlooked in favour of more heavily advertised marques, but this watch prooves that they can headturning yet classic timepiece for an exceptionally reasonable price.

Thanks for reading

The GMT Master

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Rolex GMT-Master IIc

I thought it was high time to scribble a few words about the watch that inspired my username: The GMT Master, specifically the current GMT IIc, first launched in 2005. I think this is a truly special watch, and, for me, sums up perfectly what a modern Rolex should be: robust, practical, and at the cutting edge of technology.

The History

For those of you not familiar with the roots of the GMT-Master, it has a really nice story about how it came into being. The original GMT was commissioned by head of Pan-Am Juan Trippe in 1955, due to a need for his air crew to have a time piece that could display two different time zones. Rolex obliged, and came up with a modified version of the original Turn-O-Graph, featuring the iconic blue and red "Pepsi" bezel, and a modified movement with an added 24 hour hand and date wheel. A very simple solution that resulted in a watch that is firmly embedded in the hearts of every Rolex enthusiast. Interestingly, Rolex also made a white-dialled version of the 6542 for Pan-Am management, as the watches intended for crew members had been finding their ways onto the wrists of the office workers. In any case, the GMT-Master has been refined and changed over the years, with the biggest change coming in around 1983 when the GMT-Master II was launched. This introduced an independent hours hand, meaning you can set the watch to display 3 different time zones (standard hour hand to local time, bezel to time zone 1, 24 hour hand to time zone 2). The most recent GMT II, ref. 116710/116713/116718 for the steel, two tone and 18ct models respectively was first introduced at Basel in 2005, with all models becoming available by the third quarter of 2007.

(Information taken from fiftyfathoms.net's excellent article on the 6542)

Model Features

The current model features a raft of updates from the previous generation, including:

"Maxi" case and dial (bigger case lugs, bigger dial indicies)
Fat hands
Cerachrom ceramic bezel with Platinum or 18Ct Gold numerals
New solid centre link bracelet, with polished centre links
Updated Fliplock clasp with Easylink half extension
Cal. 3186 movement, with Parachrom Blue hairspring and Paraflex shock resisters

The Comparison

Compared to the previous generation of GMT IIs (16710/16713/16718), it feels like a much more solid watch. There's a noticeable weight increase (no bad thing, in my opinion), and the watch appears bigger on the wrist, despite remaining at a conservative 40mm case diameter. The bezel looks fantastic, although it is a shame that Rolex haven't released a "pepsi" coloured bezel to date - apparently, it's proving very difficult to produce a ceramic bezel with those two colours in one complete piece, but I'm certain that Rolex are working hard on it. If it can be done, it will. As well as this, the previous 120 click bezel has been replaced by a 24 click one, which makes for a very smooth bezel movement, but lacks some of the fine accuracy that certain people enjoyed on the previous generation.

The Competition

Whilst rival brands such as Omega, Breitling, Panerai and Cartier all do GMT variations of their watches, none of them have the rich history of the GMT-Master. The stylings of the Rolex might not be to everyones' tastes, and I'm certain that some would prefer to have one from another brand: perhaps the bold looks of the PAM 297, or the ruggedness of the Breitling Colt GMT. But me, I'd go for the assured simplicity of the GMT IIc every time - I think this is the best watch Rolex has to offer at the moment in terms of looks, durability and practicality.

My recommendation: for every day practicality, the steel 116710. If you can live the the softness of gold, get the steel and 18Ct 116713 - by far the best two tone watch Rolex produces.

Thanks for reading

The GMT Master

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Omega Aqua Terra - Omega's return to greatness?

If there's one watch that's really set my heart racing recently, it's the new Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. Launched earlier this year, it's quality and looks are simply stunning, and in terms of value for money...well, I'll come back to that later.

Firstly a bit of eye candy for you all:

The Aesthetics

The Aqua Terra, in its basic format, comes in steel, steel and 18Ct Gold, and full 18Ct Gold. You have a choice of two dials in the steel model, either silver or dark grey with a tapestry-esque texturing, triangular luminous markers and arabics around the edge of the dial. There's a modern looking date aperture at 3 o'clock, and overall, the design concept is clearly modern with a definite 1950s' influence. Like any good watch, the dial is simple and uncluttered, the hands easy to read, and has a unique look that can't exactly be found on any other significant watch on the market at this time. The bracelet is solid and feels comfortable, and the clasp is a standard Omega double folding affair - not the best clasp I've seen on a watch, but it gets the job done. Inside the mid and full sized models is the truly brilliant cal. 8500.

The Movement

This is quite simply the best finished movement I've ever seen on a watch at this end of the market, and is truly a piece of art. It really is a centrepiece, and is shown off beautifully through the Sapphire display back.

The technical details:

25.2k bph
Co-Axial Escapement
60 hour power reserve
Chronometer rated
Omega's free sprung balance
Rhodium plated
Fully made in-house

In other words, a really nice piece of kit.

The Competition

Taking the mid-sized 38.5mm steel model for our baseline, the big competition comes from the Rolex Datejust 116200. In terms of looks, they are incredibly similar - the cases aren't all that different, the bracelet links are virtually the same, they're around the same size, and they both have chronometer rated self-winding movements. Whilst I'd argue that the Rolex's polished centre links make it look more dressy, I honestly think that the cal. 8500 has the potential to be better than the Datejust's cal. 3135. The cal. 8500 has been designed from the ground up (unlike past attempts to integrate the Co-Axial escapement into their range), so the reliability problems that plagued the previous Aqua Terra should have been solved. I think aesthetically it's a big selling point - it's proudly on show for the world to see, and Omega have every right to show it off. Rolex's movements have never been pretty, with them preferring to concentrate on function over form, so I doubt a factory option of a crystal caseback will be coming to the Oyster range any time soon.

Rolex once again has the edge when it comes to versatility: whilst Omega offers three different sizes (lady's, mid size, full size)in the different metal combinations, so does Rolex, with the added versatility of a huge range of dials, different bezels and different bracelets. This ability to customise your watch has always been the real appeal of the Datejust, and was one of the reasons why I chose mine. With Omega, you get the choice of a light dial, or a dark dial, take it or leave it.

However, the steel Aqua Terra is priced at a very reasonable £2600, whilst the Rolex weighs in at £3300 for its basic 116200 model. £700 is a big, big difference at this level of the market, and I'd reckon that the Omega will have a better scope for discount as well.

The Conclusion

The new Aqua Terra is certainly an excellent choice for someone who wants a simple and practical luxury watch that looks great, and is still good value for money. Whilst it may lack the range of individuality a Datejust can provide, it still is a massive step forward for Omega in their desire to return to greatness. This closes the gap closer still between the two rivals, that cal. 8500 is something that should have Rolex quaking in their boots.

My recommendation: the mid-size steel model /w black dial, reference

Thanks for reading

The GMT Master

Monday, 20 July 2009

Rolex Daytona: Worth It?

One watch that is always holds a deal of aura about it is the Rolex Daytona, and not a week goes by at the shop where I'm not asked about it. So, for the uninitiated, I'll take a few moments to explain what it is, and why it's so revered in the watch world.

The current Daytona comes in three basic forms: in stainless steel, in steel and 18Ct yellow gold and 18Ct gold (yellow, white and rose). It's a chronograph watch (a watch with a stopwatch function), comes on either the Oyster bracelet or a leather strap (only on the 18Ct models), and is quite a good looking watch by anyone's standards. The steel model starts at £6170, the two tone at just under the £9000 mark, the 18Ct models go for £19000, and if you want added diamonds and the like, the price keeps going up and up. However, the steel one is the one I'm going to focus on, as it is this one that is the Daytona.

The steel Daytona, ref. 116520, has a reputation as one of the hardest watches to buy new in the world. It's not due to the cost, but rather the huge waiting lists. I'm currently 40th on the waiting list at the shop, and at the current rate of Daytonas coming into stock, I have another 9 years to wait. Wherever you go in the UK, you'll get told there's a huge waiting list, and I don't know how many people I've seen walk out dejected when I tell them this. For the casual observer, there's nothing too fancy about it: it has an excellent movement inside it (the cal. 4130), but doesn't have features that you can't find on any other number of luxury watches. I can appreciate that the hype is a little bewildering, but I now have to put on my historian's hat to explain it all for you.

Let's cut back to the 1960s - insert whatever nostalgic recollections or conceptions you have here - and find a watch. The one we're after is the original Daytona, the ref. 6241 in particular.

If we were to ask the manager of the Rolex dealership how well this Daytona was selling, he's probably respond that it was a complete dead weight. Zero popularity, and highly unloved. Now we need to fast forward to Italy in the 1980s, which is where Daytona-mania really took off. All it needed was to be featured on the front page of an Italian fashion magazine to spark a rush to snap up this watch, especially that with the fabled "Paul Newman" exotic dial, as shown in the above picture. The desire for the Daytona spread around the world, with vintage pieces commanding huge prices at auction, and current models flying out of dealerships like proverbial hot cakes. The Daytona had become an icon.

Prices today, even with the recent financial crisis, still remain high - not so long ago, a 6241 sold at auction for a staggering Aus$80000. Let me remind you that this was for a 40 year old, steel manual wind chronograph, with a notoriously dodgy bracelet. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely looking watch, but it's silly money for what it is. It doesn't even have an in-house Rolex movement, it uses a Valjoux 72 movement instead.

So let me get back to the current model: whilst it's difficult to get hold of brand new, it'll never be a collector's piece - it is, these days, a relatively common watch. You don't have to look too hard to find someone wearing one - Sir Alan Sugar, numerous football players, your run of the mill businessman, they'll have one strapped to their wrist. I think the thrill of getting a Daytona is trying to track one down - although I'm on the list for one, I'm not even sure if I want one any more. I think Rolex have better watches in their line up for less than the £6170 asking price of the Daytona, and I'd definitely want to look at those before a Daytona.

Then we have the prickly problem of the Daytona's biggest rival (at least in my eyes): The Omega Speedmaster Professional. There are plenty of similarities between the two: both launched at around the same time (the Speedy in 1957, the Daytona a couple of years after), both used manual wind movements, even aesthetically they were quite similar.

What's so special about this watch? The Speedmaster is the first and only watch worn on the moon, as well as the only watch that was NASA flight certified. When NASA were testing several chronographs for the Apollo programme, the Speedmaster was the only one that could withstand every single test thrown at it, beating several other chronographs, including the Rolex Daytona. Whilst vintage pieces do fetch handsome prices these days, the current model (pretty much the same watch as you could buy 40 years ago, albeit with a different manual wind movement and a much improved bracelet) is nowhere near as popular as the Daytona. It's a quarter of the price of a Daytona as well: you can walk away with a brand new Speedy Pro for £2090 retail, plus a little bit of discount too.

So, to get back to my original question, is the Rolex Daytona worth it? Well, for many it has a glittering alure, and I can see where they come from. I just personally think there are watches with more interesting backgrounds that can be had for a lot lot less, without the wait. If you buy a Daytona, you'll be getting a great watch in it's own right, but I often feel that the hype is a little unjustified.

Time to make a start

Well, this is my first foray into the world of blogging. Whether this'll keep me occupied for long or not remains to be seen, but whilst this does hold my attention, I aim to write some vaguely interesting and possibly witty lines about watches, my thoughts on them, and what they mean to me.

Firstly, a little background information about me. I'm British, fortunate enough to work in an excellent watch shop, and have a passion for all things horological. I'm a huge fan of Rolex and Omega, and as much as I love the mid to high end of the market, I also like honest, well made entry level watches as well, especially brands like Rotary and Citizen. I don't think I've ever had much choice in liking watches - I was pretty much raised in a watch shop, and from an early age, I found timepieces fascinating, with my Dad commenting that I was a "clock-obsessed toddler." Apparently I kept a close eye on the stock, and would be able to know exactly which ones had been sold. However, my passion had remained fairly dormant up until about two years ago when I got my first job at the local Rolex dealership, which sparked off a drive to learn more about watches and how they work. I've learnt from both the managers of the shop, as well as the fine community at www.rolexforums.com - hell, I've learnt nuggets of information that people who have been in the jewellery industry for close to 30 years didn't know. I've been able to pick up a great deal of information in a very short period of time, and I have some fairly solid opinions on what I like and don't like.

Anyway, I'm a fairly strong believer in the notion that you can tell a lot about a person by the watch they wear: perhaps you'll come to your own conclusions about myself and my collection as well. I have a rather modest selection of watches for the time being, but they are my pride and joy.

The first one, and the centrepiece of my collection is my Rolex Datejust 116200 - stainless steel, self winding chronometer rated movement, Oyster bracelet, polished steel bezel and a black arabic dial. Has a nice weight to it, measures in with a case diameter of 36mm, and has a classic look with a contemporary twist. People often have strong opinions when it comes to Rolex, as well as a lot of preconceptions, but I think this watch is as far away from the flashy, gaudy, impractical watch that people often think of when the word "Rolex" is mentioned. Here it is:

Pretty, no?

The other two watches in my possession are both Rotary chronographs, one in similar style to the Rolex Daytona, and the other in the style of a Breitling Navitimer. I got both of these for less than £100 each, and for the money, I challenge you to find a better watch in terms of looks, prestiege and quality. I'm currently wearing the leather strapped one as my daily beater - there's nothing more comfortable than a leather strapped watch on a hot summer's day.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the future articles I write.

Much love

The GMT Master