Thursday, May 27, 2010


Last weekend Rob Minuteman stopped by our local weekly flea market for a browse. This flea market features tables selling everything from tube socks to pet rocks to wall clocks. Maybe six or seven of the tables are dedicated to selling watches, all kinds of watches. There are the dubious assortment of Gee-Shoks, Tag Hoyers, Sitizens, Ohmayguhs and Roleks. You know somethings up when you can buy two G-Shoks for $8. Anyway, one table had a display of Seiko 5 watches selling for $40 apiece. To the naked eye the watches looked right and the price was excellent. And here was a fifteen or twenty year old Seiko with the legendary 7009 movement in perfect condition. Ahhh, buy them all before someone else does.

What a brilliant use of psychology in marketing. Price the item low enough to make it irresistible yet not low enough to raise suspicion and, bingo, another Feiko finds a customer.

The Feiko seems well made and solid but close examination reveals the differences between it and the real thing. Click on the images to enlarge them and you'll see that the printing of the hour and minute markers are fuzzy. The words "Automatic" and "21 Jewels" are also fuzzy. And, correct me if I'm wrong but, didn't the 7009 movement have 17 jewels. The metallic SEIKO located at 12:00 looks sloppy. The "5" underneath the word Seiko looks more like an S than a 5. At 6:00 the text "Made in Japan 7009-0464 R2" are partially hidden under the inner bezel. The crystal above the 6:00 is etched with a fake Seiko 5 logo.

The back of the case is another dead giveaway. The stamping of the serial number and all other text are crude and indistinct. The sixes look like eights and the depth of the stamp is uneven. A real Seiko's caseback text is crisp and highly legible. The serial number also indicates that the watch was made in October of 1987 or 1977. Besides the fact that the O in the serial number looks exactly like the zero, how can a classic watch that is a least twenty three years old look brand new and cost only $40?

And now the movement. A real Seiko movement will be engraved with such text as "Seiko", the quantity of jewels and the caliber of movement. This movement has none of the above. In fact, this movement has nothing, absolutely nothing engraved in it.

Overall the watch feels solid and actually runs well but the devil is in the details and the details are lacking. Seiko would never in a million years allow something like this to roll off it's assembly line. Unfortunately, Seiko's reputation could suffer if anyone looks at this watch and determines that Seiko's quality is second rate. Damn you, Chinese knockoffs, damn you all to hell. Ooh look, a Pathetic Philippe.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm Having a Bad Day tona

As you know, in a previous post, I've had only good things to say about the Alpha Watch Company. They produce a line of homage watches that can't be beat at least not when it comes to price. My own experience with this company and it's products has been a positive one so I'd have no problem recommending them to anyone.

One of their products is an automatic version of the Daytona chronograph. Not that it's really a chronograph, the extra dials are for day of the week, day of the month and 24 hour time. Supposedly the watch is made entirely of stainless steel. My brother-in-law (former Army Ranger) ordered one on-line after I extolled the virtues of this miracle watch company. He's admittedly rough on his watches and this one was no exception. He wore the watch for about a year before the hands fell off. No, really! The hands fell off two of the dials. The odd thing is that he doesn't remember what he did to cause this to happen.

Did you spot the AWOL hands between 8:00 and 9:00?

Signs of wear and tear. The plating has worn off of the "day of the month" pusher.

A shot of the back.

I must admit though, the watch is still running and keeping good time. So, now we have a watch that we could: a) Throw away, b) Throw in the drawer and forget about, c) Try to fix ourselves, or, d) pay someone else to fix for us. I'm afraid that d) would cost more than the watch itself. And I know that I can't bear to throw away anything let alone a watch so a) is out. That leaves b) and c). Unfortunately I don't have the proper tool to open this kind of watch case back which makes b) Throw it in the drawer and forget about it, the winner, Yay!

But seriously, my brother-in-law is pissed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Orange Mako

1933 - 2006

No, not that Orange Mako, the other one, as in Orient Orange Mako Model #CEM65001M.

I have to admit that up until a couple of months ago I would never have considered buying an Orient watch. Maybe it was the name or maybe it was the look of the watches. I also didn't know anything about them. All I know is that one day I woke up and decided that I could no longer live without an orange faced watch. I knew I didn't want to spend a lot of money but I still wanted something decent. I found the watch being praised on several fora and finding out that Seiko is the parent company of Orient gave it more credibility and made the choice easier. I found out that Orient is also the #1 selling watch manufacturer in Asia as well. Hmmm, the plot thickens. Orient seems to be making a run at the North American market as well because there is always some kind of a deal going on on the company web site. Now, depending on when you visit the site there may be different deals in place. At the time I purchased the Mako the company was offering 30% off the retail price of the watch plus free shipping, plus a bracelet link removal tool plus a double watch winder. I'd have to be an imbecile not to buy this watch. So I did.

I have to say that, aside from some minor cosmetic complaints, this watch seems to be well worth the money. It's solidly built and has good weight to it. The mineral crystal is slightly raised and the beveled edges are polished. Nice. The 22mm bracelet has a double push button fold over clasp with a safety and is well made and comfortable. The case measures 41mm x 13mm thick and is about 46mm from lug to lug. So far the watch has been on the automatic winder for over a month and hasn't lost or gained enough seconds to warrant adjusting the hands. Excellent. The movement is an "in-house" design with 21 jewels that I admit to knowing nothing about. My guess is that it's a variation on a Seiko design. Much like many Seiko movements this movement does not hack.

And now the complaints:

a) The unidirectional rotating bezel is too dainty and the edge treatment is over designed. This is just my opinion.
b) The numbers on the unidirectional rotating bezel are a bit anemic. Also, just my opinion.
c) Why is the arrow head tip of the seconds hand red? It's almost invisible, therefore not a good color choice. This isn't a problem with the black or blue faced version of this watch.
d) Is it me or does anyone else find it odd that the day function on this watch requires it's own pusher button?

So maybe it wouldn't be my first choice for s.c.u.b.a. diving but that shouldn't take away from the fact that it's an excellent watch with a look that's all it's own. I would, if asked, recommend this watch to others. In fact, I wouldn't mind adding the Mako's big brother, the CEM75001B to my collection.

Overall a nice profile. The day function pusher is on the right.

Double push button clasp with the engraved Orient logo.

The case back sports a hologram sticker over another engraved Orient logo.

You've got to admit, this watch looks killer on an orange Nato band. Yeah, this baby's goin' for a swim this Summer.

One final note with all due respect: Makoto Iwamatsu passed away on July 21, 2006 of esophageal cancer. His last film was TMNT where he provided the voice for the character Splinter. The movie was dedicated in his memory. He was an icon in American cinema and will be missed greatly.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Seiko Atlas/LandShark

Seiko SKZ211 Atlas/LandShark.

This past December saw the arrival of a brand new bouncing baby Seiko "5". The Seiko SKZ211 a.k.a. the Atlas, a.k.a. the LandShark was one of those watches that caught my attention years ago and one that I couldn't get out of my mind. I don't know why I never got one except that I had just gotten the Seiko Diver's SKX007 and didn't want to overdo it on the Seikos. Since then I've learned that there is no such thing as overdoing it, especially with Seikos. Considering the price to quality ratio of most of the watches available today Seiko represents a super value. The Atlas is no exception. In fact, I was surprised at the quality of this watch. It's a solid watch with a stainless steel case, case back and bracelet. It's a relatively heavy watch that wears so comfortably that I often forget that it's there. And it has the serious look of a watch that does more than just tell the time.

The five attributes of a Seiko "5" are (1) Automatic movement, (2) Water resistant, (3) Shock resistant, (4) Date display and (5) Day display.

The stainless steel bracelet.

One of the selling points is the rotating compass ring on the face of the watch. If you can locate the sun then you can determine your direction. It's actually very simple and once you get it you really don't even need the compass function anymore. But it's a neat feature to have and one that I'm going to test for real in the field someday. I would use it in conjunction with a map by placing it on the map after locating my north and orienting the map accordingly. No different from using a magnetic compass except that it requires your input. The advantage is that it cannot be influenced by other metallic or iron bearing objects which might throw off a magnetic compass. One of the two common complaints I've read about this feature is that the inner compass ring rotates too easily and the mere action of your arm moving is enough to cause the ring to spin. Well, it does. But, so what? You would reset the ring each time you double checked your heading anyway, wouldn't you? So that argument is pretty much moot. The other complaint is that using the sun for navigation isn't accurate enough or dependable. I guess before the invention of the magnetic compass everyone stayed home.

Case: Stainless steel.
Bracelet: Stainless steel double folding safety clasp with push buttons.
Movement: Automatic, 7S36, 23 jewels.
Crystal: Hardlex
Dimensions: 40mm at bezel. 13mm thick. 48mm lug to lug.

A nice view of the knurled bezel and the compass ring crown. Another "5" in case we missed the other two on the face and the back.

One design question I have is why the time set crown is so small. It's perfectly manageable for my little fingers but it is small. The compass ring crown is twice as large for some reason and it's protected by high shoulders. These shoulders have purely cosmetic pins located at the top. A second design question is how the watch maintains a water resistance of 200m with that free spinning compass crown. I'm sure that someday someone will explain it to me and it'll be obvious and I'll feel like a dimwit.

22mm lugs with drilled pin holes. The end links are indeed solid and do squeak a bit but that goes away after awhile.

The face is excellently laid out with illuminated "6", "9" and "12" hour markers in between illuminated stick indices. The use of a black date wheel framed in chrome is brilliant. And the icing on the cake are the yellow hour, minute and second hands. Irresistible.

The rotating outer bezel turns smoothly with 120 clicks per minute. The surface of the bezel is nicely knurled and very grippy. The look of this bezel is actually another one of the design elements that made me a fan of this watch.

The heart of this watch is the Seiko 7S36 movement which is essentially a slightly upgraded version of the Seiko 7S26 movement introduced in 1996. The 7S36 uses 23 jewels as opposed to the 21 jewels in the 7S26. The overall concensus is that the two additional jewels in the 7S36 don't really do anything except to allow Seiko to claim that it has two addition jewels. I can say however that the Atlas has kept amazingly good time (+2 secs/day) since I've gotten it as compared to the Seiko Diver 007 with the 7S26 which easily gains 15 secs./day. It's probably just hit or miss with these things. I don't think the extra two jewels have anything to do with it. Either way, the 7S family of movements is known for it's toughness and dependability.

SKZ211 with the 7S36 movement and the SKX007 with the 7S26.

All in all I'm a very happy camper with this watch. I would recommend it to others. It could very well turn out to be one of those quirky little watches that, after a relatively short production run, becomes the object of collector fascination.

and on another note

Tempest in a teapot in Switzerland:

Check out the following link to a blog called Perpetuelle.

It's just one of many sites chiming in on a subject that has the watch world abuzz. Somehow I missed it and I'm only finding out about it now. Basically, I have no problem with outsourcing movements, it's the lying about it that troubles me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Alpha Since 1993

How do they do it? They make a stainless steel watch that looks like a (insert famous, expensive watch name here) with an automatic movement, presumably with Swiss machinery and Swiss testing devices, ship the watch 10,000 miles to your front door at no cost and charge a mere $35.99 and $60.99. They feel reasonably well made. They seem to be as water resistant as promised. And...

They are made in China by the Alpha Watch Co.

Despite the sometimes unflattering comments that I've read on some of the fora on the internet I am surprised at how many watch enthusiasts out there have Alpha watches. Some of these commentators actually have several. I have three, the Alpha Explorer, Alpha Triple Date Sun/Moon and the Automatic Regulator. Actually I have two now that I gave the Regulator to my wife who wears it several times a week to work. My remaining two Alpha watches are a steady part of the rotation and have been for the last two years. So far, so good. I should break my review into three parts: The case/bracelet, the face and the movement.

The case and bracelets of these two watches are stainless steel. I don't know what grade the steel is though. I did find that the back of the Triple Date developed a small blue spot. Unnoticeable when worn. I wasn't crazy about the brushed finish on the top of the case as I thought it looked uneven and rough. My solution was to polish the brushed finish right off with Cape Cod cloth. It didn't take very long to do so I suspect that the steel is pretty soft. The cases at the lugs of both watches are somewhat crudely finished with sharp edges. The steel bezels are polished and the crowns of both watches bear the Alpha "a". The bracelets are well made but feel a bit light. Overall, the complaints are minor and few. Remember, you're not going to get a Rolex for $35.99.

The crowns of both watches sport the Alpha "a".

The faces are well made as both have applied or raised hour markers. The Alpha Explorer has lume applied to the hands and hour markers while the Triple Date has none. The Explorer has a salmon colored face with no date function while the Triple Date has a silver face with day, date, month and sun/moon complications. Hence the $60.99 price for the Triple Date. Day, date and month are adjusted independently by push buttons in the watch case.

Side view showing the Day push button.

The movements are a mystery. Are they made by Sea-Gull, a China based watch movement company or what? The Triple Date has an exhibition caseback so I can see the number 98-1229 and 35 jewels. The caseback of the Explorer says YL98-12-29. Again, I don't have any definitive information on these movements, if these are indeed the movement calibers. I have observed that the second hands on both watches sweep smoothly without any lags or jumps.

The casebacks of the Alpha Explorer and Triple Date respectively. The Explorer movement uses 21 jewels while the Triple Date uses 35.

Performance is very acceptable with a loss of approximately 3 - 5 seconds per day. I did notice once that the Explorer lost five minutes in one day. I think that might have been because I set it wrong, did not wind the watch adequately or a combination of the two. Performance of any automatic movement can be affected by temperature, position or amount of time left idle.

All in all I'd buy them both again and would consider buying more Alpha watches in the future. They provide the watch enthusiast on a budget the opportunity to own a decently made, automatic watch that looks far more than it costs. And now the specs.:

Alpha Triple Date, Sun/Moon

Case Material: Stainless steel
Cas Back: Glass exhibition.
Case Size: 37.5mm without crown. 45mm lug to lug. 13mm thick.
Bracelet: 20mm stainless steel, Jubilee style. Non-solid end links.
Crystal: Domed acrylic.
Movement: Automatic, 35 jewels.
Water Resistance: 30 meters.
Weight: 106 grams
Current Price: $62.99 with Oyster style bracelet.

Alpha Explorer

Case Material: Stainless steel.
Case Back: Stainless steel.
Case Size: 35mm without crown. 44mm lug to lug. 12mm thick.
Bracelet: 20mm stainless steel. Oyster style. Non-solid end links.
Crystal: Flat glass (sapphire?)
Movement: Automatic, 21 jewels.
Water resistance: 30 meters.
Weight: 105 grams.
Current Price: $50.99.

You may also wish to check out AlphaUSA at

In the meantime I'm considering the Alpha Multi or the Newman or the Planet or the Daytona or the MilSub or the... well, you get the picture.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Plastik Fantastik

A couple of months ago I lucked into a limited edition anniversary issue Luminox Navy Seal dive watch. By "lucked into" I mean the following: Fellow collector, Rob Minuteman ordered a Luminox Model #8817 and was accidentally shipped two of them. Being that we're aspiring petty criminals we split the cost and split the watches. We're bad people. Someday I suspect I'll be standing in front of St. Peter and I'll ask him why I'm going to that other place and he'll remind me of a watch I got for half price back in '09. Yeah, you don't want to mess with us, man.

The Luminox 8817 Limited Edition Anniversary Navy Seal Watch came in a nice, zippered, hardshell case which can now be used to carry Tootsie Rolls in.

I got the watch just in time for opening day of deer hunting season. It was nice to have a watch that could be easily read in pitch darkness as we were up two hours before the sun and walking into the woods shortly thereafter. The tritium illumination works like a charm and is surprisingly bright. Gas filled glass tubes are set at the hour makers and each hand of the watch. There is also an illuminated dot at the zero position on the rotating bezel. According to the manufacturer the illumination will last for 25 years. Also, according to the manufacturer, the amount of radiation produced by the tritium is well within legal limits and is harmless. Nonetheless, I try to keep the thing away from the front of my pants. Just in case.

The micro gas light tubes are clearly visible in this picture. Click on the image to enlarge.

By my own measurements the carbon reinforced polymer watch case is about 48mm wide and 51mm lug to lug. The lug width is 22mm. The band is resin (rubber) and the crystal is mineral. The movement is Swiss quartz but I don't know whether it's a Rhonda movement or not. It does have a "hacking" ability which is necessary for military use. Whatever it is, it has lost a total of 2 seconds in the last two months. Now that's good.

A little big for me. The 8817 might look better on the outside of my wetsuit.

The water resistance is claimed to be 200 meters but I'm a little wary of that claim because the crown pushes in and pulls out. Shouldn't a water resistant watch have a screw-in/out crown? I can vouch for the water resistance as far as my shower goes but that's about it. I have to believe though, that the watch is as water resistant as they say since it meets or exceeds Mil. Spec. #W-4637 4F. The instruction manual, however, warns that aftershave or other cleansers may harm the gaskets and compromise the water resistance of the watch. Therefore take extra care when engaging an enemy that may be using weapons grade Hai Karate.

A grayed steel crown that pushes in/out rather than screw in/out.

The mortal enemy of your Luminox 8817.

Also, it's just my opinion, but, shouldn't a military watch have a domed acrylic crystal? I mean, it is made for use by active military forces such as the Navy Seals, underwater demolition teams and Army Rangers not the girl scouts. Glass crystals, sapphire crystals and mineral glass crystals shatter don't they? Flat glass is also much more reflective, isn't it?

Ah, that's right, John Q. Public prefers flat mineral glass.

Complain, complain, complain. The bottom line is it's a great affordable watch even at full price. It's easy to read in light or in dark, it's lightweight, water resistant, is made to withstand the elements and to meet the demands of people whose lives may very well depend on it. It's not allowed to be poorly made. It can't be.

USN SEAL emblem on the case's back plate. Proof of the standards met by Luminox.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Bitch Therefore I Am

I post today not to complain about taxes or the cost of living or the government. I'm not going to offer my opinions on wars, past or present. I don't want to discuss terrorism, religion, famine, global warming, disease or racism. Today I want to pet the sweaty things. I feel like making a short list of the little things that don't really matter just because they may strike me as absurd, annoying or just plain stupid. Of course many of them have to do with this little watch hobby of ours. They are as follows:

Exhibition case backs. If I see one more glass window on the back of a watch I'm going to yak. I don't know how long exhibition case backs have been around but ENOUGH ALREADY. It's like a fad that won't go away.

I get the impression that manufacturers of cheap watches use the transparent back to prove that their claim of automatic movements is genuine. Then they go ahead and decorate and doll up the rotor on their questionable movements so you don't feel like you've been ripped off for having bought a 99 cent watch for $100. Now I admit that I own several watches with see-through backs like Alpha and Seiko but I didn't buy them because of the glass. Maybe I'm supposed to take my watch off during the day to stare at the movement and marvel at it. Maybe I can use the exhibition back to attract potential mates. Hmmmm. "That's right, baby, 21 jewels. How 'bout we go to the park and watch the submarine races?"

I can understand the fascination of the first time watch owner who is blown away by all the little moving parts. It's like a fishbowl. You look in and watch the fish swim back and forth over and over and over again. But they're never really going to do anything different or somehow surprise you with new tricks. So after awhile you stop looking and begin to wish that that fishbowl on your wrist had a real caseback.

What surprises me is that even Rolex and Omega, among others, now have models with these backs.

Invicta. Why do you make a watch that I can't wear. I'm afraid that if I wore an Invicta watch people aren't going to say "Wow, that's a really nice big watch you're wearing". What they'll say is "Damn, are you dying or just shrinking?" And Eyal Lalo, I've seen you on ShopNBC and you know what, you look a little embarrassed hawking your gigantic novelty watches. And another thing, you can stop stamping the name Invicta into the case sides of your watches, or is that the only thing keeping Rolex from suing you?

Casio. You make great watches that have wide appeal and have stood the test of time. However, someone in your company came up with the names Gulfman, Riseman, Mudman and Baby G. Fire this person.

Entry Level. When anyone says that a product is "entry level". What the hell does that mean? This has got to be one of the most idiotic and condescending phrases I've ever heard. This phrase implies that the watch or tool or motorcycle or house that you just bought labels you as a beginner, immature and naive. Better think about upgrading or they'll laugh at you.

Can I infer by this phrase that the manufacturers of fine watches, motorcycles, tools, etc. also produce a line of crap suitable only for the imbecilic novice who isn't ready for a real man's watch or a real man's motorcycle. Must I work my way up the model line or am I just going to be a constant source of shame to my family and friends.

What if I started with the most expensive model? Would that not be my "entry level" item? Would I be pressured into buying the next level down? Whatever, salesass. I'm happy with my "entry level" watch and my "entry level" bike and my "entry level" wife so I have no need to upgrade just to make you a buck.

Someday I hope to have a conversation that includes the following: "You don't want that casket, that's an "entry level" casket".

Presence on the wrist. When I read anywhere that a watch has "more presence on the wrist" I cringe a little. You mean it's a big watch. So just say it's a big watch. You, the salesman, are stuck with a line of watches that are too big for humans to wear so you have to come up with bullshit doubletalk like "more presence on the wrist" to sucker in customers with girly wrists. Shame on you.

Movado Museum watch. Mies van der Rohe's philosophy was "Less is more". In the case of the Movado Museum watch, less, is actually less. How does a quartz watch with no hour markers, no minute markers and no second hand qualify as a quality timepiece? Obviously, accurate timekeeping is not the prime directive of this watch nor is the water resistance which is a mere 30m. Therefore the watch should only be worn as an accessory and a real watch should be kept handy just in case. I think it would be funny if I asked a guy wearing a Movado Museum watch if he had the correct time and he said "I don't know". Ah, fashion.

Any watch that comes in pink.

American Watch Manufacturers. There are no substantial American watch manufacturers anymore. Sorry Timex, the Virgin Islands is not the 51st state.

Unruly Arm Hair. When I turn the bezel on my O & W Ranger I invariably grab some hairs and tear them out of my arm.

Any Quartz Rolex.

When A Watch Salesman tells me that Casio makes the best G-Shocks.

When A Watch Salesman told me that he spent $3,000 to customize a $1,000 Tag Heuer but didn't know what movement was in the watch.

Tourneau-Roosevelt Field. For telling me I'd have to wait four hours to have my watch bracelet sized while another customer, who arrived after me, was taken care of immediately and left after only five minutes. Those big tits sure come in handy sometimes.

A special award goes to the Tourneau salesman who held up a Luminox 3901 with tritium tubes to a light bulb to "charge it up" for me. Moron.

Overall an award goes to Tourneau for charging full retail on everything in the place.

Well, that's it for now. If there's anything else I can think of I'll be sure to tack it on. Better yet, I'd like to hear your gripes and peaves and we could bitch together. Bye.

Addendum, 11/27/09:
In order to dispel any doubt regarding the exhibition casebacks used by both Rolex and Omega, I submit these images of the Rolex Cellini Prince, circa 2008 and the Omega Aqua Terra, circa 2009.

Back of the Rolex Cellini Prince.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Chronometer in stainless steel and 18k rose gold. Ref. 2303.30.00