Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Basel 2010 - Some General Comments

Hello, sorry for the long period of time since my last blog update - I intend to make up for it by writing a couple more in-depth reviews over the next couple of days. But firstly, I thought I'd kick things off with a few words about the new watches of Basel 2010, now that they've had chance to reach reality.

I thought it was a slightly poor showing from Omega this year, nothing to really excite the senses, despite a raft of new models. We had yet another limited edition Speedmaster Professional, this time to commemorate the Apollo-Soyuz linkup. The main talking point is its Meteorite dial - a nice idea in theory, but in reality, it falls flat. The problem is, the Meteorite is too dark, and lacks the play of light that Rolex's Meteorite dials have, for example. If anything, it just makes it look as if the crystal has been scratched up. Then we have the price - at a smidge over £5000, you're looking at a £3000 premium over the standard model. Sure, you get a fancy box, but I can't see how it can be over double the price of the standard model, just because of the dial. In my opinion, Limited Edition Omegas being churned out every year is just damaging the collectibility of them, and surely that's what it's all about?

They also introduced a white version of the Plo Prof - not my cup of tea, but I think it may have a niche following. The only downside is that it is going to date horribly - I reckon this one will only stay in the range for 2 or 3 years at max. A new Double Eagle multi-counter chronograph has been launched (same movement as in the Olympic multi-counter chrono that came out a couple of years ago), which gives a very sporty look to the traditionally dressy Constellation line. However, I think with the black contrast bezel, crown and pushers, it looks too much like a TAG F1 for my liking. Plus, it's another chronograph in an already overcrowded range - I don't think it's going to have much of a following. The introduction of an Aqua Terra Annual Calendar is a nice idea, and gives a slightly more useful every day design option compared to the Hour Vision Annual Calendar, but I reckon the price might be prohibitive. Time will tell with that

Rolex's two big model revisions this year were the long-awaited introduction of the ceramic Submariner, both in black and green, and the much needed touch-up of the Explorer. Both subscribe to Rolex's new cutting-edge design ethos, and look brilliant in the flesh. The new Submariner is streets ahead of any other diver on the market (despite what some Planet Ocean LiquidMetal fanboys may say), and is a great example of what a modern sports watch should be. The Explorer has its own niche by being 39mm (sitting between the 36mm case diameter of the old Explorer, and the 41mm of the Milgauss), has a rather nice new matte dial, and, of course, a heavily revised bracelet. There has been some discontent over the size of the hands, but in reality, it really isn't an issue. I was very impressed by both of these models, in depth reviews will follow.

From other brands, the stand out for me was Breitling: they've launched a great looking and very affordable new SuperOcean. I love the choice of contrast colour chapter rings available, and the amount of performance for the price is very tempting. This could well eat into the market of the Omega SMP and the TAG Aquaracer.

There were, of course, plenty of other brands launching, but I feel these were the most worthy of commenting on. Hope you enjoyed the read, and stay tuned for more reviews!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Seiko Black Monster Review

As opposed to the usual array of luxury watches I review, I feel compelled to write down my thoughts on what I believe might just be the best value automatic diver's watch in the world. This is a watch that punches far above its weight, and makes similarly priced watches feel poor quality and overpriced by comparison. For me, the Monster is the new Diving Watch yardstick - I now compare all other divers to it.

Technical Features

*Model Ref: SKX779
*Stainless steel case
*Unidirectional rotating diving bezel w/ 60 minute graduations and glowing bezel pearl
*Case diameter: 42mm
*Black dial with Lumibrite baton markers, and luminous hands
*Screwdown crown @ 4 o'clock
*Hardlex Crystal
*200m Waterproofing

The Movement

In a nutshell, it's a non-hacking automatic movement with day and date complications - John Davis' review here is an authoritative walkthrough of the movement, and describes it much better than I could. In terms of accuracy, it's not too bad - mine gains roughly 8 seconds per day

UK RRP: Not sold here, eBay prices tend to lie around £150-180.

The Aesthetics

There's no denying the fact that this is a bold watch - but it does so in a way that befits it's purpose as a serious diver's watch. This watch looks purposeful, honest in its intentions, and I can only admire that in a watch. It's substantial without being overly thick, and sits well on the wrist. Simplicity in the dial, and a large, legible bezel makes it practical for every day use, particularly at night. I can't compliment enough the lume on this watch - it blows anything I've seen personally out of the water. Rolex and Omega are improving their lumes, but for intensity and longevity, no non-radiactive paint compounds can compare. It takes very little to charge it, and even on low light exposure, it can store enough power to be legible in the dark for several hours.

The bracelet is nicely finished - mainly brushed with polished highlights, and it's not trying to imitate another brand, which is always an issue at this price point. It's a little fiddly to adjust, but nothing impossible by any means. The clasp is also very impressive - a foldover push button deployment with a locking clip makes for a very solid and secure fit. However, it should be noted that I have had some problems with the locking clip popping open under stress, though the rest of the clasp remains secure - I believe this is because I need to loosen the clasp a little on account of the warmer weather, so this is by no means a major problem

The Feel

As some of you may have worked out by now, I like a substantial watch. This doesn't disappoint - the bracelet links are solid, and they don't skimp on the construction of the case. It's not as heavy as a Deepsea, for example, but it lies at a similar weight, at a guess, as a Seamaster 300m. When properly adjusted, it sits securely on the wrist, and is best with a little movement from the head. I haven't got the world's largest wrists (usually need 1 or 2 links out of most watches), but it doesn't look oversized at all. I think this can be partially attributed to the large bezel, which reduces the dial size to a reasonable level. This certainly doesn't feel as flimsy as a lot of watches at this price point, and I'd argue feels nicer than a lot of watches worth 10 or even 20 times more. It really is an understated hero, and it's a shame that more people don't know about it.


I see this as a great daily beater. You can wear it with confidence, and treat it with as little respect as you want, and it'll still keep ticking. Certainly a good idea if you don't want you multiple thousand pound watch getting messed up too badly. Not one for wearing with a suit, but for just about anything else, it'll do its job admirably


I really love this watch, it has so much to offer for such a small price. It having an automatic movement is, for many WISes, a notable plus point, and I feel it is a breath of fresh air from the soulless quartz watches that dominate this segment of the market. Unique styling is a major benefit, and I also see it as a conversation starter. It's eyecatching in a good way, and it has the engineering quality to back it up as well. If you are looking for a cheaper everyday watch, look no further - it may have a couple of minor niggles (the non-hacking movement for one), but it makes up for this with oodles of character and usefulness. Throw away your quartz watches, and embrace the Monster!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Rolex GMT-Master II 16710 Review

It's been a long time coming, but here's a new blog post! Time for a new review, and it's a horological legend: the GMT Master II 16710, a long time stalwart of the Rolex range until it was killed off in favour of the new 116710 GMT IIc. The GMT has always been a fan favourite, and, having a pristine example to hand, thought it was time to review this truly beautiful watch. The model reviewed had the "Pepsi" red and blue bezel fitted, and was on the Oyster bracelet, with sports clasp.

Technical Features

*Model ref. 16710
*Stainless steel case
*Bidirectional 24hr bezel, with choice of blue/red, red/black and black anodised aluminium inserts
*Case Diameter: 40mm
*Black sports dial with luminous (Superluminova) dot and baton markers w/ white gold surrounds
*Twinlock crown with crown guards
*Sapphire crystal with cyclops-magnified date
*24 hr. hand
*Independent hour hand - allows up to three time zones to be displayed concurrently
*Oyster Bracelet

The Movement

*Calibre 3185
*28.8k BPH
*Approx. 48 hour power reserve
*Self winding chronometer rated movement
*Semi-quickset date (done through independent hour hand)
*Nivarox hairspring

UK RRP: Discontinued. 2nd hand value of model posted: £2950.

The Aesthetics

That blue and red bezel combination makes this one of the most easily recognised Rolex models out there - it just screams "GMT." This might be too colourful for some, but I personally love it - practical, and iconic. If blue and red is too much, the other bezel inserts would certainly make it more understated. The numerals on the bezel are a little more subtle than on the GMT IIc, and I think it generally helps make the watch seem more rough and ready - a bona fide tool watch, as opposed to the "useful dress watch" appearance of the GMT IIc.

The brushed bracelet does help with this impression as well, and is classic Rolex sports watch through and through. The dial is clean and readable, even without the "maxi dial" of newer sports models. The red 24 hour hand contrasts nicely with the dial, and as such, is a very easy watch to read at a glance. My only criticism when it comes to looks is the small size of the twinlock crown - it doesn't quite look right on the case, and it is particularly fiddly to operate. Rolex addressed this problem by issuing the GMT IIc with the slightly larger Triplock. All in all, it looks great, and has aged very nicely - I certainly don't feel that it looks like a 20 year old watch, even though it first hit production lines that long ago.

The Feel

On this point, I feel I have to be a bit more critical of the GMT II. Whilst it might look fresh, it certainly feels like a 20 year old watch, much like the other Rolex models that have forgone updates for the time being. The bracelet is very light and rattly, even with solid end links. The clasp is functional, but doesn't inspire confidence - a very thin pressed metal clasp. Whilst purists will quickly point out that it's served the test of time (and they're spot on), I can't help but feel that the clasp seems cheaper than the one on my £150 Seiko Monster. It's not fitting of a watch of this reputation, and isn't a patch on the new clasps that Rolex have brought out. If you can afford it, a new Super Jubilee bracelet would be an excellent choice - it would completely transform the watch. Apart from that, it sits nice and closely to the wrist, and the micro-adjustments on the clasp mean you can get it to fit just right. I do realise this section is highly subjective, and for many people, the light bracelet and clasp won't be an issue: however, for me, if I was spending that kind of money on a watch, I'd want it to feel premium in every aspect.


Well, what can I say? The GMT has always been Rolex's most practical watch, and this one is no exception. The perfect companion to any traveller, the three time zone feature has made it a long time favourite of commercial pilots. The low profile of the watch makes it a great everyday watch, and I think it looks great with just about anything. The watch is also a real chameleon - get all three inserts, a Jubilee bracelet, and a leather/NATO band, and you've got 9 different looks. Even Panerais aren't that versatile. I think this is probably the watch's strongest point, and makes it particularly unique. Having a brushed Oyster is always beneficial too, it certainy masks the scratches far better than models with polished centre links.


I do like this watch - the history, the looks, the practicality. However, that bracelet keeps holding me back, the one niggling issue, the fatal flaw. If this was on the new GMT's bracelet, I'd have it in a heartbeat. I think I have to come to a similar conclusion to my review of the 16610 - a great 20th Century watch, but feels out of place in the 21st century.

Thanks for reading,

The GMT Master

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rolex Datejust II - Review

The Datejust II is the latest update to the long serving Datejust range, and this is arguably the most radical interpretation of the classic date watch that Rolex have ever done. It has a large size increase over the standard gent's Datejust, and is certainly a striking piece to look at. As such, the watch has divided opinion, with some arguing that it is simply too big to be a dress watch. On the other hand, it has turned what many perceive as a watch for the older man into very much a younger man's watch, and is certainly an interesting addition to the big watch parade. This article will assess features, looks, wearability and build quality, with a few pictures along the way. The model reviewed is the steel and 18Ct white gold model.

Technical Features

*Model number: 166334
*904 L steel case and bracelet
*18ct White Gold Fluted bezel
*Case Diameter: 41mm
*Choice of dials, model reviewed - Black baton dial, w/ luminous hands and markers, arabics around the circumference
*Twinlock crown
*Sapphire crystal w/ cyclops date magnifier (Antireflective coating on underside of cyclops)
*Oyster bracelet with Oysterclasp
*Waterproof 100m/330Ft

The Movement

*Cal. 3136 (exclusive to the Datejust II)
*28.8k BPH
*Self-winding, chronometer rated
*Quickset date complication
*Parachrom blue hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers

UK RRP: £4940

The Aesthetics

The two most striking aspects about this watch is how big it seems, and how prominent the bezel is. Although the case diameter is essentially the same as, say, a Submariner or a GMT IIc, it appears larger than them placed side by side. I believe this is largely due to the size of the dial - with the bezel being thinner than the rotating ones on the sports models, the dial stretches further, which gives the appearance of a larger surface area on the wrist. That's not to say that the bezel is a shrinking violet - far from it. The dial to bezel ratios are more biased towards the bezel than on the 36mm equivalent (ref. 116234), making it really sparkle. Some people have expressed that they think it's too prominent, but I disagree - if it was any thinner, it would mean the dial would be even larger, and would make the watch begin to look odd on the wrist. You really need to see the bezel and the way it catches the light to appreciate it - it truly is a thing of beauty.

Another aspect of note is the size of the crown in relation to the watch. Rolex have decided to utilise the Twinlock crown on the Datejust II, the same as on the 36mm model. Whilst it looks spot on on the smaller watch, it seems a little disproportionate on a 41mm case. In a similar way to how they upgraded the crown on the GMT IIc to the Triplock, they probably should have done the same on the Datejust II. Finally, despite the large case diameter, the thickness of the watch is quite reasonable, which should mean it'll still fit nicely under a shirt cuff.


I think this watch is a great addition to the range for those who want a smart looking dress watch that's a bit more substantial. I know I have small wrists, and the 36mm Datejust looks pretty good on me, but for men with larger wrists, it might not look right. Yes, it's a step away from classic Rolex sizing, but there's nothing wrong with offering more choice. People are wearing far bigger watches these days, with 45 and 50mm watches becoming more and more popular. In any case, the Datejust II isn't as radical as some would make out, and it is certainly more wearable than a lot of other oversize watches. Crucially, unlike the Deepsea, the thickness of the watch is reasonable, and that's the killer aspect when it comes to wearability.

In terms of comfort, it's on the latest incarnation of the Oyster bracelet - solid end links and solid centre links. Solid, practical, and comfortable - you won't have any problems with hairs getting caught. There is some room for microadjustment on the clasp, and it also features the Easylink - an extra half link that can be concealed or extended. It's not as good as the Glidelock adjustment you can find on Rolex's diving watches, but it means you can still get the watch nice and comfortable. The clasp itself is solid and well engineered - Rolex have gone from producing some of the most basic clasps on the market to some of the best. It certainly gives you a sense of confidence whilst wearing it. The watch is relatively weighty, but not to the point where it's unconfortable - you know it's there, it's a feeling of security.

Value for Money

Okay, at a shade under £5000, it's not a cheap watch. It's about a 20% increase on the price of a 116234, and are you getting more watch for your money? Hard to say - obviously there's more gold in the bezel, and the 3136 is an entirely in-house movement (I'm not entirely sure what differences there are between the 3135 and the 3136, my feeling is that there won't be a significant change.) It also goes with the usual Rolex practice of the larger the watch in a family, the more expensive it is. For the time being, dial choices are relatively limited compared to the 36mm Datejust and only the fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet are available. I expect a Jubilee bracelet and Polished bezel to become available in the future, as well as more dials - keep an eye out at Basel, they might decide to launch some then. In terms of engineering, it can't be faulted. Feels and looks like a premium watch should, and the quality is bound to be extremely high too. Initially, it'll be a relatively exclusive watch, but it won't hold its value as well as the sports models.


I have to admit, this watch isn't for me - just a bit too big for my wrists. However, I can appreciate and understand what Rolex are aiming for with this watch. The oversized watch market is big business at the moment, and, for me, the Datejust II fills a nice niche, and is certainly a lot dressier and practical than a lot of other large watches. It's helped to revitalise a staple of the Rolex range, and I really hope this introduces a new generation to the brand, and shakes off the "old man" image that Rolex seem to have developed recently.