All posts in “Watches”

These Affordable Vintage Watches Will Delight Motorsport Fans

Watches associated with motor racing, especially those from around the 1970s, have led to some of the most colorful and offbeat watches. The vintage but vibrant style is more popular now than ever, and modern brands are tapping into that sporty mojo. Few of them, however, get as far-out as the designers of the 1970s did, and vintage watches from the era can be a truly unique wrist-statement today. Whether generally racing-themed or made for a specific motorsport team, the three watches below offer some great examples of automotive charm, each in a different way.

Caravelle Day-Date “Wynn’s Racing”

What We Like: Not all racing-themed watches have to be chronographs, and as a simpler three-hand model this one remains relatively affordable. Caravelle was a sub-brand of American watch company Bulova, now owned by Japanese Citizen Watch, but this one has a Swiss AS 1916 automatic movement inside. Also notable here is its dual-branded dial, adorned with the Wynn’s racing team logo. Orange highlights set against a blue dial with contrasting day and date displays at 3 o’clock add color and interest, and the addition of a Rolex-style fluted bezel adds up to a bold look for an otherwise simple watch.

From the Seller: Very nice original condition overall with minor wear consistent with age and use; sharp solid stainless steel case appears to be unpolished.

Mervos Chronograph

What We Like: Mervos? Mervos. Like Wakmann, this brand has also sometimes been associated with Breitling, but the connection is not clear in the case of this particular model. You might not have heard the Mervos name much before, but the terms “Swiss Made” and “Valjoux” might be more familiar, and those will be enough quality assurance for many who are attracted to this truly funky gradient turquoise racing-style dial. At 40mm wide with a manually wound Valjoux 7733 chronograph movement, this is a truly distinctive style statement.

From the Seller: Working well and keeping good time, all chronograph functions are working properly and returning to zero.

Tanis “Racing Team” Chronograph

What We Like: Tanis?? Yes, another totally obscure brand, but once again it features the Swiss Made designation and a Valjoux 7734 manually wound chronograph movement. It also has a 40mm cushion-shaped case, a steering wheel motif on the dial, and a race car at 12 o’clock with “racing team” text. Does it get any more funky, fun and automotive-inspired than this? The further addition of a red bezel and highlights help it stand out even more.

From the Seller: Watch is in unworn, new-old-stock condition.

Explaining the Amazing Mechanical Watch That Integrates ‘Smart’ Tech

“The concept behind it is improving on the mechanical watch, not building another Fitbit,” independent watchmaker Ressence’s CEO Benoît Mintiens explains as he taps the domed glass of his most ambitious product yet, the Type 2 e-Crown, to “wake it up.” The entire dial along with inner-mounted discs shimmy and glide in a coordinated movement that’s incomparable to that of any other watch, the hands robotically taking their time-telling positions.

Up Close with the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown

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Combining mechanical watchmaking and cutting-edge digital tech, the Type 2 e-Crown has been called possibly the most significant change in timekeeping in the past century. Though Ressence’s approach is certainly innovative, it will take some effort for many consumers to wrap their minds around what is essentially a new product category, and several key questions first warrant explaining: How does the technology work? Who is this type of watch for?

Coming from an industrial design background, Mr. Mintiens likes to think in terms of “added value in the relationship you create with the product.” Like Ressence’s other watches, the Type 2 e-Crown uses an automatic mechanical movement — that is, it’s powered by the tension of a slowly unwinding spring kept continually wound by the motion of the wearer’s wrist. However, on top of this traditional movement is an electronic module, battery-powered and solar-charged, called the e-Crown, which provides various optional but “value-adding” functions.

Ressence envisions a watch-wearing experience made totally hassle-free — setting the time, switching between time zones, keeping the watch wound, and ensuring it’s accurate are all ways the e-Crown is meant to improve user experience. Those who are familiar with mechanical watches will appreciate these touches most, and they are the brand’s target audience.

To be more specific: connected via bluetooth to a smartphone, you can use the Ressence app to select and set two time zones, and the module in the watch will remember them without the need to be connected to the phone. You can switch between these two time zones by tapping on the glass, which is convenient, but the e-Crown is also doing a lot more that doesn’t require the user’s direct attention. It’s these little touches and how cleverly it’s all integrated with a mechanical movement that makes the Type 2 e-Crown so remarkable. The reliability of electronics and computer technology provides that extra little element of “trust” that’s lacking from traditional mechanical watches, according to Mr. Mintiens.

“It’s not normal that you should buy a very expensive watch and yet you check your phone to make sure it’s on time.”

“With mechanical watches, we don’t trust them 100%. We trust them 99%. And it’s like your ‘70s car without electronic injection: it’s with a carburetor, and it’s really nice, and I really love it… but when I need to catch a plane I want to take a car that I’m 100% sure will start.”

Of course, one can opt to enjoy the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown simply as a mechanical watch and never make use its extended features (though this would essentially be the experience Ressence offers in its non-e-Crown-equipped watches). The e-Crown’s features are available when you need them, made to enhance the wearing experience, rather than function as a collection of smartwatch features that you don’t necessarily want. If you’d like phone notifications and fitness tracking, there are plenty of watches without mechanical movements that don’t cost the Type 2’s nearly $50,000. Though other watchmakers have tried to offer both experiences at once, Ressence is the first to create a watch where the mechanical movement is actually integrated with electronics — and it took three years of development, working with “father of the iPod,” Tony Fadell, to perfect.

You could compare the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown to a cyborg. The mechanical and electronic components are like separate organisms with independent power sources, but they work together. When the electronics’ batteries deplete down to 50%, small shutters open in the dial to let light reach integrated solar cells and recharge them. The user can also open the shutters via the app. The mechanical movement’s mainspring is wound automatically when the watch is worn via a traditional rotor — and the case back acts like a traditional crown for manually winding or setting the watch.

The interaction, however, is where the added value is — and where the concept becomes truly clever. If the e-Crown detects that the watch has been unworn for 12 hours, it will stop the automatic movement to save the mainspring’s power reserve. When it’s picked up again, not only will the movement restart, but the correct current time stored in the electronics will set the hands directly to that time. Anyone who has lived with a mechanical watch and has had to set one following a period of disuse will appreciate the value this offers. It’s a small convenience, sure, but the solution shows a great amount of care and thoughtful engineering, and a watchmaker’s approach.

The presence of an accelerometer is how the e-Crown knows when it’s being worn. It registers the acceleration of gravity, and is how smartphones (and other gadgets) detect directions, tilts, vibrations, and count your steps. In the Ressence Type 2, it’s also how the taps are registered on the crystal. (Tapping on the crystal is how one switches between functions and time zones.)

The e-Crown syncs with a smartphone via Bluetooth, but it stores data itself and doesn’t rely on a phone’s constant connection to offer its functionality. Time zones can be set manually by the user if desired, but setting them via the Ressence app means they receive the accurate time via your phone, and this time signal remains stored in the watch. So, even though, as Benoît Mintiens points out, “your mechanical watch is more than precise enough for your daily needs,” the electronics can update the mechanically driven watch with hyper-accurate current time. “It’s not normal that you should buy, let’s say, a $25,000 watch and that you check your phone to make sure it’s on time,” he convincingly asserts.

“The emotional connection you can have to a mechanical watch is a lot stronger than with a digital one. But the electronics give you the extra sense of trust.”

Ressence’s e-Crown tech is unique, though not the sole example of hybrid technology in the watchmaking landscape. Seiko’s Spring Drive is another well known example that uses the mainspring of a traditional mechanical movement for power, but regulates timekeeping with electricity and a quartz crystal. Frederique Constant’s Hybrid Manufacture watch features an in-house mechanical movement that incorporates a connected module to offer “smart” features — but its electronics aren’t directly integrated with the mechanical components the way the e-Crown is integrated into the Type 2’s movement.

Frederique Constant does provide analytics about its hybrid watches’ mechanical movements to the user, and another high-end brand, Urwerk, has offered something similar. The Ressence e-Crown collects analytics about the movement’s health, but rather than making it visible to users, it goes to a server’s back end so that Ressence can notify clients when their watch might need service. Offering this data directly to the user seems like something that customers might appreciate and a potential improvement to add in a future e-Crown “2.0” release.

Ressence was an unconventional and forward-thinking brand even before the e-Crown’s introduction. Like other Ressence watches, the Type 2 uses the brand’s in-house “orbital convex system,” which creates a unique visual effect — the dial not only follows the curve of the crystal, but moves in the unique, coordinated way you can see in the video above. Simply tapping the dial to see the entire dial move is a delight on any Ressence watch — and the e-Crown allows you to play with it, show your friends, and then simply tap to return to the correct time.

Ressence aims to offer the experience of a high-end mechanical watch, augmented by the benefits digital technology can offer to it. At $48,800, the Type 2 is still a niche product that only wealthy clientele can afford, but one that paves a new way for the mechanical watch industry as the world around it increasingly adopts smartwatches. “It’s the relationship between you and the product that we want to improve,” Mitiens says. “The emotional connection you can have to a mechanical watch is a lot stronger than with a digital one. That is why we do mechanical watches. But the electronics give you the extra sense of trust.”

Watch an Aerobatic Pilot Take to the Skies Over Namibia with This Pilot’s Watch

Large, monied watch brands have the capital to support some pretty ambitious projects. Some of these are directly watch-related, some less so, and some are philanthropic in nature and have little to do with timekeeping. Many of them are pretty badass.

One of the cooler ones to come across our desk lately is a short film called “Dreams of Flight” that was backed by Hamilton Watches, a Swatch Group member and a longtime maker of timepieces that have featured prominently in cinema. Hamilton brand ambassador Dario Costa, a professional aerobatics pilot from the age of 16, worked with British photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton to capture and produce a movie of Costa doing his thing in an aerobatic plane over the dunes of Namibia.

The film took an international team three days to capture and included a helicopter crew, a ground crew and cameras founded on the fuselage of Costa’s plane. Fittingly, Costa wore a Hamilton X-Wind 45mm pilot’s watch throughout the project, an automatic day-date aviation watch featuring multiple scales for calculating crosswinds and based upon the famed Valjoux 7750 movement.

The film is less than 2:00 and incredibly beautiful — if you’re into pilots watches — and more importantly, flight itself — it’s worth a watch.

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These Beautiful Watches Are Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before

Advances in affordable manufacturing techniques like computer-assisted design have utterly changed the horological landscape over the last 30 years. Today, even well-made timepieces can be mass-produced at breakneck speed, even by novice watchmakers, and are more affordable than ever.

That’s not the way Joshua Shapiro crafts timepieces. Growing up in a family of trained machinists, Shapiro began working with his hands at a young age. Even so, he pursued a traditional education in history (“I was the weird one who went to college,” he says), eventually becoming a school principal. Several years into that career, Shapiro decided he wanted to return to working with his hands, so he took up watchmaking. Now, he creates timepieces using a method that harkens back to the very beginnings of horology, while still administering a school.

After crafting his first watch dial for a client, in 2011, Shapiro became fascinated by the art of dial making, which in turn led him to purchase an engine-turning machine a few years later.

Engine turning is difficult, time-consuming work, in which metal or ceramic is engraved using a lathe to create a repeating geometric pattern. After perfecting the traditional geometric patterns found on engine-turned dials, Shapiro began work on a special pattern of his own — something he dubbed the “Infinity Weave.” The decoration includes basketweave patterns within larger basketweaves to mesmerizing effect; the pattern seems to continue forever.

Each of Shapiro’s enamel dials are comprised of nine different parts (not including screws) and takes take upwards of 150 hours to complete. The technique links Shapiro in a line of watchmakers going back to Abraham Louis Breguet, in the early 19th century, and continuing today with English watchmaker Roger Smith, a Shapiro idol.

“I wanted to pursue something that was extremely difficult to master, took extreme sustained attention to detail and that was an expression of all my passions: hand-craftsmanship, history and machining,” Shapiro says. “You can always improve it, always get better.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “In Good Hands: J.N. Shapiro Watches.” Subscribe today

Three Vintage Watches with Incredible Textured Dials

Waffle. Honeycomb. Linen. These are a few of the unofficial names for captivating dial executions found on some vintage watches. Watch dials with strong textures can add a lot of character and help an otherwise conservative design stand out — and yet dial texture usually remains a subtle, overlooked element of watchmaking. The majority of watch dials are matte or semi-glossy, the texture itself usually less emphasized than the color.

Watches like those below, however, stand out from the crowd with striking dial textures. Not only does texture add visual interest, but it also tends to help legibility — the importance of which can’t be overstated. These two factors together can go a long way in contributing to the longterm enjoyment of a watch, and the following examples from Wittnauer, Bulova, and Tudor each take a very different approach toward this aesthetic differentiation.

Wittnauer Automatic

What We Like: This Wittnauer from the 1950s has a “waffle dial,” so called for obvious reasons. It’s also got a crosshair motif, more commonly seen on watches from the ’50s and ’60s than on those from today. It measures 34.5mm wide with a 10kt gold-filled case (meaning a layer of gold, much thicker than gold plating, is bonded to a steel base) and a Swiss automatic movement. You’ve also got to love that very retro Speidel band.

From the Seller: The Swiss 17 Jewel movement & automatic system have been cleaned, oiled & timed. It is running strong and very accurately.

Bulova Jumbo Day Date Automatic

What We Like: This quirky but cool Bulova probably shouldn’t be compared to the far more expensive Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but the “APRO” is the most well-known representative of the “tapisserie” dial seen here. Bulova’s execution adds to that offbeat ’70s look when combined with the coin-edge bezel and sporty case shape. It runs on a Swiss automatic movement and would have been considered boldy sized for its time at 37mm wide.

From the Seller: Movement is cleaned and serviced, in excellent running condition.

Tudor Prince Date + Day 76200

What We Like: This watch has a silver dial that’s been embossed to give it its cloth-like, or “linen,” texture — resulting in an understated but quite unique and interesting look. At 36mm wide in steel, running an automatic movement with date and day-of-the-week displays, this offering from Rolex’s sister brand Tudor is a perfect confluence of tool watch utility and attractive design. It also looks killer on its steel bracelet.

From the Seller: Watch is unworn. Sale includes full box and papers.

The Monta Atlas Is a New Breed of GMT Watch

Last year I spent some time with the Monta Skyquest, a tank of a watch that tracks three time zones with Swiss name brand-quality for under $2,000. It offered incredible utility and was easily one of my favorite watches of 2018.

This year, Monta doubled-down on its GMT game and introduced the Atlas at Baselworld, a thin, bezel-less travel watch available in several dial and strap combinations beginning around $1,400. Though the lack of a bezel means you can only track two time zones (as opposed to the Skyquest’s three), it also means that the overall profile of the watch is much slimmer: at just 10.2mm deep, we finally have in the Atlas a relatively affordable yet extremely robust GMT that wouldn’t look out of place in an office or out for trek.

The Good: The Atlas is thin and unassuming, as well as simultaneously elegant and robust. It’s a seriously versatile watch available in multiple colors and configurations for not a ton of money given its feature set. It’s handsome and also serious, and will no doubt be a hit with office-dwellers and cave explorers alike.

Who It’s For: As previously stated, this is probably one of the most versatile GMT watches to ever come across the GP desks. It’s thin, the bracelet is lightweight (you can also order it on a rubber or leather strap), but still feels seriously well made. Whether you work in the city or on the high seas, in a factory or on a trading floor, this could be your “one watch.” Of course, being a GMT watch, it’s particularly geared toward those who travel, or those who need to track a second time zone.

Watch Out For: There’s not much to complain about here, but as there are no crown guards, the rather large screw-down crown might be digging into your wrist. This is more of a problem for some people than for others (I, for example, have a permanent “dimple” in my left wrist from watch crowns), but it’s something to be aware of.

Alternatives: The Tudor Black Bay GMT from Baselworld 2018 comes to mind, but good luck getting your hands on one of those in new condition — better to check out the secondary market if you’re after one in a hurry (these also start at $3,625, more than double the price of a base Atlas model). To my mind the most similar functionality and aesthetic is offered by the Grand Seiko SBGN009 GMT, but again, this watch retails for $3,000 — quite a bit more than the Atlas. The Farer GMTs, which start at $1,425 and offer automatic movements, offer similar function for money, but don’t come on an optional bracelet.

Review: Though I tried on several different Atlas variations at Baselworld, it was the Monta Blue dial on a stainless steel bracelet that I received from the company to review. This is a particularly handsome, glossy blue — not quite as deep as a traditional navy but not remotely sky blue or playful.

The rehaut of the Atlas dial contains the GMT’s 24-hour scale for tracking a second time zone in the form of white Arabic numerals for the odd numbers, and small red hashmarks for the even numbers. The main raised hour indices on the lacquer dial are filled with highly visible Super-LumiNova, with thicker indices at the 12, 3 and 9 hour markers.

Hands are of the sword variety and are diamond-cut and polished with a symmetrical bevel with Super-LumiNova fill. The GMT hand has been redesigned since the introduction of the Skyquest, Monta’s first travel watch, and now features a smaller and more refined shape. The spear-shaped tip of the GMT hand on the Monta Blue dial is red and matches the 24-hour indices and red “Atlas” text on the dial. Further, the hand is actually curved at the end in order to clear the raised hour indices.

The dial further features a date wheel at 6 o’clock behind a window that adds some depth to the design, and other than this, only some sparse text adorns it — the Monta logo and wordmark, “Atlas” in red, the depth rating of 150m as well as the word “GMT” and “Swiss Made.” The Atlas’s 38.5mm stainless steel case features a complex blend of finishes: the smooth bezel is radially brushed, while the lower lip that connects it to the case is polished. The lugs also feature multiple finishes, with an inner polished surface, a clear bevel and an outer brushed finish. The screw-down crown feels large with the absence of crown guards, but this was probably the right choice for the Atlas, as it lends the watch more of an elegant look and feel. The crown itself is trapezoidal and features sturdy knurling and the Monta logo.

The case back is composed of a transparent crystal contained within a steel 12-sided ring (“dodecahedron?” When else would I realistically have the opportunity to use that word) that shows off the custom Monta rotor on the Selitta SW330 GMT movement. These SW330s are made in Switzerland, tuned to chronometer spec (-5/+5 seconds a day), beat at 4Hz and provide 42 hours of power reserve. The GMT, rather than the hour hand, is individually adjustable via the crown, meaning it’s slightly easier to adjust a second time zone, rather than to quickly change the watch over to a new local time, unlike on a modern Rolex GMT Master II movement.

If you opt for the bracelet version of the watch, you receive a high-quality, 20mm stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet with tapered lugs and a 4-position micro-adjustment buckle. The fold-over clasp, while not fancily decorated such as that of a Rolex Oyster, is sturdy and adorned with the Monta logo. Overall, this is a handsome, comfortable bracelet that should last a lifetime. If you opt for a rubber strap, you’re getting a high-quality vulcanized FKM model made by Everest, Monta’s sister company, and if you opt for leather, you can choose from Italian vegetable-tanned chocolate, chestnut, tan, or black versions. Oh, and every customer also receives a NATO/RAF-style strap in a complimentary color. Not too shabby.

Alright, so that’s the watch — well made, handsome, and sturdy. So how does it wear? Well, I wore it around northern Scotland for a week and kept track of New York time with the GMT hand. It’s comfortable, unobtrusive and easy to set. Back in Baselworld, I wore it under a shirt and sport coat, and it was equally comfortable due to the thin case depth.

Setting the watch is fairly simple: the first crown position can be used to manually wind the watch; the second sets both the date via a quick-set mechanism and the GMT hand (the crown can be rotated both ways in this position for setting); and the third and final position sets the time (the movement also hacks — the second hand stops when the crown is pulled all the way out). Setting local time on the Atlas is done via the third position, as only the GMT hand can be jumped in one-hour increments. Keeping track of a second time zone is thus a cinch, however, as you can quickly jump the 24-hour hand around the dial without upsetting the local time hands.

Verdict: If you’re traveling frequently, the Rolex-style time-setting is admittedly a superior system for a GMT watch (wherein the local hour hand can be jumped in one-hour intervals). However, if you simply need to keep track of a second time zone, and this time zone changes, the ETA/Sellita method is superior. Either way, the Atlas is a cinch to use, and quickly updating local time is no more complex than updating local time on a 3-hand watch. (At some point, complaining about the relative virtues of a Rolex vs. an ETA-style GMT movement feels so incredibly #firstworldproblems-ish that one inevitably recoils at oneself.)

The Atlas is another hit, to my mind. Whether the average day finds you in a suit or a wetsuit (alright, the Atlas may not be a dive watch, but it is water-resistant down to 150m), the Atlas is versatile enough to unobtrusively adorn your wrist and help you navigate the world’s time zones. If you travel for work or operate in a business environment that requires you to interact with another part of the world frequently (most business ventures these days), the Atlas is an optimal wrist-companion. Knowing the folks behind Monta fairly well and having spent time with the Atlas, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one to anyone.

What Others Are Saying:

• “In my time with the watch, it’s been remarkably easy to wear whether I’m at work or enjoying the outdoors with my family on the weekend. And that’s the sense that I’ve gotten from others who have either tried this watch on or have owned a Monta. ” — Ed Jelly, Worn & Wound

• “I love a good wearable GMT that can go from the office to the weekend or even a vacation without feeling out of place and the Atlas does just that while respecting the details that set Monta apart in the microbrand space. ” — James Stacey, HODINKEE

Key Specs

Movement: Selitta SW330
Winding: Automatic
Case Diameter: 38.5mm
Case Thickness: 10.2mm
Water Resistance: 150m (~500 ft.)

Monta provided this product for review.

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This Was the First Electric-Powered Watch, and It Still Looks Futuristic

Among historic, technically significant watches, the Hamilton Ventura is quite possibly the weirdest-looking. There’s no pragmatic purpose for its angular, Art-Deco, retro-futuristic case shape, but it was fundamentally different from any watch before it, and it was imperative that it also look different. In 1957, it was among the collection Hamilton introduced as the world’s first electric-powered watches.

Until that time, wristwatches were exclusively mechanical, running on the energy of a spring (the “mainspring”) slowly unwinding. Batteries were finally getting small enough to feasibly fit inside timepieces and replace the mainspring as the power source, but this required a new kind of movement to be developed. Hamilton was the company to win the race as the first to bring such a watch to market.

At debut, the first Hamilton Electric watches were still buggy and would be improved upon in subsequent years. They were powered by a movement called the 500 (later upgraded to the 505), which in some ways looked like a traditional mechanical movement: it used a gear train and a balance wheel designed to oscillate in a similar way to that of a traditional mechanical system.

While some structures were similar to those in mechanical movements, naturally, the electric movement as a whole was technically quite different, using elements such as magnets and an electromagnetic coil. This was still long before vibrating quartz crystals would be introduced in 1969 as a far superior way to regulate an electric current for timekeeping.

The late 1950s were a transitional time for watchmaking technology: mechanical watches still had primacy, the first quartz-regulated watches were still over a decade away, and “electric” watches like those from Hamilton were expensive, cutting-edge technology. Elgin was another major brand to release an electric watch in subsequent years, and Bulova’s Accutron would end up being a major player until quartz was introduced and changed the whole game.

The Hamilton Electric, however, had the claim of being first, genuinely technically innovative, and designed in an avant-garde way that jived with the optimistic, forward-looking American mood of the time. That made it attractive to open-minded personalities like Elvis Presley who bought his own Ventura and wore it on the set of the 1961 film Blue Hawaii, gaining the watch significant attention.

The distinctive shape of the Ventura was the work of industrial designer Richard Arbib and reflected Hamilton’s futuristic vision. Other Hamilton Electric watches featured quirky, asymmetric, Art Deco cases designed by Arbib, as well as some more traditional round ones. The Electric appeared in episodes of the TV series The Twilight Zone in the 1960s, and despite the passage of 60 years since its release, the design of the Ventura case is still considered fitting for science fiction — it features prominently in the Men In Black movie franchise.

The Ventura remains popular as a collection of its own in Hamilton’s permanent lineup, and it continues to inspire new variations (ironically, including mechanical ones). The Ventura’s idiosyncratic design isn’t for everyone, but it’s objectively unique, eye-catching, and recognizable. Today’s Hamilton Ventura watches use quartz or mechanical movements, but they embody a fascinating technical achievement and cultural moment, and remain totally unlike any watch before or since.

These Vintage Military Watches Were Issued to British Forces

Cabot Watch Company, though perhaps not a household name, has a storied place in the annals of military watches. CWC was founded in 1972 by Ray Mellor, a WWII veteran and Merchant Marine sailor who had previously served as Hamilton Watch Company’s Managing Director for the U.K. When Hamilton decided that military contracts were no longer lucrative enough to warrant taking them, Mellor struck out on his own, taking the name of explorer John Cabot for his new company. Military contracts from the Ministry of Defense soon poured in, and CWC was in business.

In 1996, Mellor sold the company to Silvermans Ltd, a famed London-based supplier of military kit and surplus established in 1946. Silvermans had previously been buying CWC and retailing them to the public, and their purchase of the company allowed CWC to live on past Mellor’s retirement. Though CWC still produces watches that are up to MoD spec, budget cuts from the MoD mean that the watchmaker doesn’t secure as many MoD contracts as it used to — notably, however, they still have a contract for the SBS diver watch that’s also current issue to certain units of the Royal Marines, which has an ongoing requirement for the next two years. Also, many CWC watches are still in service, and the company continues to produce watches for the civilian market.

Recently, we were able to visit Silverman’s and check out their store of vintage and modern CWC watches, some of which have seen service with U.K. forces, from infantry to special operations personnel such as the Special Boat Service. Sadly, Ray Mellor passed away several months ago, but his watches live on under the care of Silverman’s, enjoyed by servicemen and the general public alike.

Military Stopwatch

This stopwatch from the 1970s was is a military timer that also saw service in television production, having been used in the cutting room for timing news features. It was used by the BBC and ITV, the two main news channels in the UK, which purchased several hundred units over the years and evidently still use them to time 60-second and 60-minute segments. The same model was also used by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Fallout last year, and are made to order to customer’s requirements.

Military Stopwatch, DHSS-Issued

This military-issued stopwatch, which features 60-second and 30-minute timers, was issued to the Department of Health and Social Security. This particular model is no longer in production.

CWC Harrier Cockpit Clock

This cockpit clock was used in a Harrier jump jet, and replaced the Heuer Monte Carlo. Featuring a 60-second counter and a jumping hour disk, the clock was in service on Harriers when they were in use on U.S. aircraft carriers. This model, too, is no longer in production.

Original CWC Royal Navy Diver, Automatic

CWC recently reissued this watch, a highly rare automatic issued to the Special Boat Service from 1980-1981, just before production switched over to quartz. Pictured above right is an issued original (next to a modern version, left), complete with 45mm steel case, tritium dial, fully graduated bezel, fixed spring bars and sword hands. CWC took over the SBS contract from Rolex, which had been previously supplying the MoD with its Submariner, now dubbed the Mil-Sub. The CWC version is ostensibly even rarer than the Rolex. (See below for the modern, commercially available CWC.)

1980 CWC Royal Navy Diver

The modern reissue of the above watch, which debuted in 2017. The new timepiece’s resemblance to the original is uncanny, even down to the “circle T” on the dial (the modern version does not use tritium, however, but modern lume available in Dark Vintage, Light Vintage or C3). Use of the ETA 2824-2 movement is the other notable concession to modernity, but other than that, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between an original and a reissue, which retails for ~$2,496.

CWC Asymmetrical Chronograph

Issued in the 1970s to the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, these asymmetric chronos were produce by four companies: CWC, Hamilton, Precista and Newmark. The watches were functionally identical with the exception of branding, and were based on the workhorse Valjoux 7733 movement with 30-minute totalizer at 3 o’clock and running seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The asymmetric case protected the crown and pushers, and fixed spring bars necessitated the use of single-pass straps, making it more difficult for the watch to be lost should one of the bars break. The modern version uses the Valjoux 7760 and retails for ~$2,766.

1981 G10 “Fat Boy”

After production moved to quartz in 1980, CWC began production of the G10 spec, which utilized a battery-powered no-date movement and a tritium dial. The old CWC logo was used until 1982, when production changed to the modern oval logo (these older models are affectionately named the “Fat Boy” due to the deeper case necessary to house the older, larger movements). Water resistant to 50m, 38mm wide and featuring fixed, 18mm spring bars, over 200,000 CWC are estimated to have been issued by the MoD. Over 20,000 were issued to the Royal Navy in 1991 alone. Modern G10s are available for ~$245.

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Luminox’s New Fall Releases Feature Dive, Field and Pilots Watches

Coinciding with the brand’s 30th anniversary and celebration of their first U.S. retail location at 430 Broadway in New York City, Luminox has released its fall 2019 watch collection. Several product lines are represented, which include dive, field and pilots watches.

Commando Frogman 3300 by Luminox

The Commando Frogman 3300 (~$548) series was developed with a military and law enforcement specialist who helped create the Luminox Recon line. Featuring a 46mm case, it’s a burly yet lightweight diver with a count-up dive bezel and no-decompression scale aimed at military and police professionals as well as outdoor enthusiasts.

F-117 Nighthawk 6440 Series by Luminox

Adding to the F-117 line of watches designed for use by Nighthawk pilots, the F-117 Nighthawk 6440 Series (~$794) is made from Carbonox, a carbon-based material exclusive to Luminox. Featuring a bi-directional 24-hour bezel, a quartz-powered Ronda GMT movement and a date display at 3 o’clock, the 6440 Series provides the wearer with access to two time zones.

Jolly Roger Limited Edition 3800 Series by Luminox

The Jolly Roger Limited Edition 3800 Series ($794) features a 46mm Carbonox case with 300m of water resistance and a unidirectional dive bezel, as well as Luminox’s tritium tube-based lighting technology. A Ronda quartz movement with 96 months of battery life powers the watch.

If You’re Going to Scuba Dive with a Mechanical Watch, Do It with This One

WWhat is to be gained from SCUBA diving in a mechanical watch? I’ve struggled with this question, even doubting the enterprise, but my hunch was that there was value in it. So I kept diving with watches, kept writing up my findings, and I’ve finally come to realize something that feels important: the aesthetics of a dive watch will never exceed the prowess of its functionality.

How would you feel about a Land Rover Defender that had the mechanical guts of a Honda Civic? A Ferrari with a VW 4-cylinder engine? What about a chromed-up, air-brushed, fancy-ass espresso machine that only made lame drip-coffee? How about a leaky boat?

Herein lies the crux of why the Bremont Supermarine S2000 ($5,5995) is such a compelling dive watch: it’s functionality underwater easily matches its tasty aesthetics. The S2000 is in the same class as a real Defender, a real Ferrari, an actual La Marzocco espresso machine. We may never take a Ferrari up over 200mph, and we will (hopefully) never rely on a mechanical watch while diving, but knowing that these machines — however beautiful — can deliver as machines is a major part of their sex appeal. Their functionality doesn’t just amplify their beauty; it is essential to it.

The Bremont S2000 As a Desk Diver

For well over a decade, Bremont has consistently created colorways that delicately balance pop and restraint. Moreover, their colorways are warm and inviting, like hygee on the wrist or staring at a campfire. Specifically, it’s been Bremont’s restrained use of red on small details — here the bezel pip, the top of the rehaut, and the tip of the lollipop seconds hand — that has been so consistently compelling. The other splash of color comes from the tip of the minute hand matching the 20-minute timing array under the sapphire bezel, a design move that creates a sense of intention and unity in this otherwise monochromatic watch.

The dial is a beauty, using vintage-inspired round and rectangular markers, a raised and etched center sector that contains the white text, a discrete and nicely framed date window, and a 60-minute rehaut. The hands are proportionately large, and divided into sections that are filled with ultra-bright Super-LumiNova.

The fit of any 43mm Bremont watch (and many are 43mm) is always surprisingly comfortable on even the narrowest wrists. This is because of Bremont’s unique three-piece Trip-Tick case, which sandwiches a ribbed, DLC-coated middle case section between the top unit with the lugs and the case back.

These unique lugs dive downward toward your wrist, but without looking too small in proportion to the watch (an aesthetic problem for a number of large-format dive watches). And even though the S2000 is a full 18mm thick, it manages to hug the wrist comfortably. Importantly, only the bezel rises above the lugs, making this a well considered design that avoids the “cat food can” effect we’ve seen on other thick dive watches.

The integrated rubber strap goes a long way toward giving the S2000 a finished look, and it accentuates those unique lugs while also curving downward for a snug and comfortable fit. The case back is adorned with a ship’s propellor, so deeply carved into the hardened steel that we have to call this a sculpture, not an engraving, and the crown at 2-o’clock is set into a bolted-on, polished crown guard that’s reminiscent of an exposed frame on a badass motorcycle — grunt and all.

Beating Up The Bremont S2000

The true test of a dive watch’s durability has to be how much of a beating it can take above the water. We don’t tend to beat watches up underwater, but hauling heavy tanks, getting in and out of boats being tossed by ocean swells, climbing out of the ocean onto rocks when shore diving, and making one’s way around the obstacle course of a dive boat can beat the shit out of a dive watch. You want to be able to bang the thing indiscriminately and then plunge to 100’ without worrying. It’s a tool, after all, and the S2000 is entirely up to the abuse.

Bremont uses a hardened steel that I can tell you from experience is nearly impossible to scratch. The bezel can be a weak spot on a dive watch, especially if it overhangs the case. It makes sense, then, to just keep the bezel inside the width of the case, but that results in bezels that are hard to get a grip on. Bremont splits the difference, with the S2000’s bezel overhanging just enough to bite into your fingertips, but not enough to get caught on anything (like a bit of boat rigging, or, in my case, the gate on a pick-up truck while hoisting tanks in and out).

Bremont hardens the hell out of the crystal, too, which is a positive because there is a slight dome to this crystal. Perhaps a flat crystal would be a better option for a wrist-banger like me, but keep in mind that domed crystals offer greater structural support under pressure, which helps this watch achieve its 2000 meters of water resistance. As a point of reference, the Rolex Sea Dweller DEEPSEA, which went to the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean, also has a domed crystal.

In short, the S2000 can take anything you throw at it — literally. It’s a watch you’ll never have to worry about, no matter what you’re doing. And that is sexy.

The Bremont S2000 Underwater

This is a seriously capable dive watch. The three things you’ll want when underwater are (1) water resistance, (2) legibility, and (3) good bezel grip and action. The S2000 delivers all three as well as any watch I’ve worn.

Water-resistance on the S2000 is 2000 meters. That’s 1.243 miles, or 2 kilometers. No, you won’t ever go that deep. Nor will you likely get your Ferrari over 200mph, or take your Land Rover Defender across the desert. But, unlike these vehicles, there are times when a watch can encounter high water pressure at recreational depths. This can happen when water moves across the watch at high speeds, causing the pressure to increase dramatically.

It’s more likely to happen if you’re diving in a cave with intense currents or if you were welding a submerged oil rig, sure, but the water resistance not only feels badass because it’s there, like some fall-out shelter full of freeze-dried food, but also because you’re simply never going to flood this watch, no matter what happens above or below sea level.

Legibility is a no-brainer. It’s bright as it gets, and the markings are smart, familiar, and obvious. The Super-LumiNova lit up inside a swim-thru (a small coral tunnel) at 100’ down, where light was simply gone for a moment. In fact, the watch provided some comfort during that descent into the dark.

Thirdly, the bezel is fantastic. Just enough overhang to bite into the fingers, even when they’re cold as hell and numbing up, but not enough that you’d catch the bezel on anything and hurt the watch.

“The S2000 can take anything you throw at it. It’s a watch you’ll never have to worry about, no matter what you’re doing. And that is sexy.”

Tools Are Beautiful

In the final analysis, as much as this watch is a luxurious and beautiful thing, it felt like a real tool underwater. Just as knowing that the V12 under the hood could launch you into the next county — even if it never will — it was thrilling to wear such a capable dive watch at depth.

I’d struggled to understand why some watches didn’t give me that “endless horsepower” feeling until I took the S2000 into the deep. Even a week diving in the Rolex Sea Dweller DEEPSEA didn’t give me that feeling, perhaps because I knew one had been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, thus making a mockery of my recreational diving depths. But the Bremont doesn’t brag like the Rolex DEEPSEA; it doesn’t compete for world records; and it doesn’t pose at all. No one likes a poseur, but who doesn’t love a beautiful and overbuilt tool?

These Swiss-Made Vintage Invicta Watches Show the Brand’s Forgotten History

Just the name Invicta can make some watch enthusiasts recoil, for good reason. Today, Invicta is often emblematic of iterative, over-the-top watch designs, as unrestrained in their mishmashed styles as in their size. However, the brand, founded in the 19th century in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, didn’t always make watches that look this way. Over the brand’s history, there have been everything from elegant grand complication pocket watches to cool mid-century chronographs, divers, and dress watches. Vintage Invicta watches are pretty hard to find now, but the interesting few specimens below show a different, largely forgotten side of a well-known brand. For many, it might be a challenge to see beyond the name on the dial and the strong associations it conjures, but they are definitely worth a look.

Invicta Two-Register Chronograph

What We Like: A straightforward, 36mm-wide chronograph in a familiar mid-century style like this example is far from what many people associate with the name Invicta. Alongside the hand-wound Landeron 48 movement found in many well-respected watches from the era, the syringe hands and two-subdial look give it a classic feel. It’s not a crazy price for a chronograph in decent condition, and it’ll make for a lively talking point, to say the least, at your next watch meetup.

From the Seller: In original collector’s condition, with brown leather strap.

Invicta Diver

What We Like: Here’s another example that shows the range of styles in the Invicta back catalog. This one might not have all the familiar traits of most modern divers, but it’s “super waterproof,” according to its caseback, and its inner rotating bezel can be operated via one of the two crowns. It appears the dial was originally black and has faded to brown — an effect collectors like to refer to as a “tropical dial.” At 41mm wide, this watch would have been large for its time period, the 1960s, but it fits right in with modern tastes.

From the Seller: Watch is in used condition; movement is automatic.

Invicta “Surfboard” Chronograph

What We Like: This one is actually pretty cool-looking (if you can see past the Invicta logo) with its funky “surfboard” dial — the oblong shape framing the subdials found on some sporty chronographs from this era. Combine that offbeat but simple dial with the tonneau case shape, a nice size at 40mm, and it all comes together for a really neat look. Inside is the common, manually wound Valjoux 7733 mechanical movement.

From the Seller: Our watchmakers have it winding, setting, and keeping time like the day it arrived on our shores in the 1970s.

A Rugged Watch for an Elite Counterterrorism Unit

The durability and functionality of Marathon watches is already known to the Gear Patrol readership, I want to speak here less about new features or styling and more about an interesting connection between a company and a watch, commissioned by a group of hard operatives willing to stare unblinkingly into the darkness of terrorism.

I first spotted the “Yamam” watch at the company’s products webpage a year ago, but the listing merely described it as built to Israeli government specifications with a dual-language day indicator in English and Hebrew, rather than the standard English and French or English and Spanish. Because I have seen photos on other forums of Marathon watches with the words “IDF” and unit numbers etched into the sides of the case, I wanted to know how this particular watch fit into the Israeli practice of official watch procurement, if at all. 

Gear Patrol editor Oren Hartov has written about watch durability testing he accomplished while on training maneuvers in the IDF. We’ve previously corresponded about protocols for military-issued equipment in the Israeli military and he informed me of a little-known and unique Hebrew marking found on issued items but absent on the Marathon watch (Editor’s note: the Hebrew letter “tzade” is often indicative of IDF-issued gear). I surmised that the Yamam was therefore something less than an issued piece in widespread service, but still more than just a commercially-purchased item.

I originally thought the Yamam watch might be associated with a specialized unit within the IDF, but as Adam Ciralsky made clear in his 2018 Vanity Fair exclusive, the unit is not subordinate to the Israeli army, Mossad (Israel’s rough equivalent of the CIA), or Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service).

“Yamam” is the Hebrew acronym for Yechida Merkazit Miyuchedet (Central Special Unit), which is a special operations counterterrorism unit organized under the Israeli Border Police. It is tasked with conducting a wide range of missions (with an emphasis on raids and hostage rescue) to interdict, neutralize and eliminate terrorist threats within Israel’s borders. Its operators are typically former IDF soldiers who have often served in special operations units and undergo a stringent selection process and lengthy period of advanced training before assignment to an operational section.

Marathon representatives were able to share that the unit’s selection of the Yamam watch involved over a year of evaluation in “their testing environment” and resulted in a modified Search and Rescue Jumbo Diver’s Automatic (reference WW194021BRACE-YAMAM). The original version is commonly referred to as the “Jumbo Day Date” and boasts a 46mm diameter, 18mm thick 316L stainless steel case with unidirectional bezel and sapphire crystal. At its heart is a 25 jewel ETA 2836 automatic movement, moving a handset illuminated by tritium tubes that are matched to tubes at each hour position.

Although the original Jumbo Day Date was built to satisfy a Canadian Government specification from September 1999, this version sports a unique dial with the Yamam unit emblem and the aforementioned bilingual English/Hebrew day/date wheels. The emblem is comprised of a tower rising above a Star of David, enveloped by a laurel wreath and flanked by a pair of wings. The Hebrew “Yamam” is the final element of the emblem.(some versions of the emblem feature “Mishmar Ha-Gvul” (Border Police) to highlight the unit’s connection to its parent entity.)

Because details on the number of watches sold to the Israelis — as well as the status of any current contracts — might disclose sensitive information about Yamam’s manpower and capabilities, Marathon reps could only annotate the answers to those questions as confidential information. They did acknowledge, however, that the watches retailing at Marathonwatch.com for $2,020.00 USD are new production and not contract overruns. This degree of confidentiality is understandable, as the unit operates in some of the most dangerous urban areas of the world and relies on every advantage it can get.

It remains unclear if the distinctive Yamam watches were procured as a one-time unit purchase (a common practice within units with a level of high esprit de corps), or were — and still are — issued to team members with the intent of daily wear. What is certain though is that an Israeli special operations unit has a direct connection to this watch, and that is the sort of claim very few watch companies can make these days (the Fifty Fathoms and Benrus Type I and II come to mind).

Marathon has produced thousands of automatic and quartz watches, designed to meet exacting performance standards for search and rescue crew, military service members and even NASA personnel. The 80-year-old company continues to deliver highly-functional tool watches with this distinctive offering from its catalog, and Joe civilian can grab one without enduring any basic training.

Is Aftermarket Watch Customization Horological Sacrilege, or High Art?

A version of this article originally appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine with the headline “Body Modification.” Subscribe today

Chris Ser knows his work upsets people. “I understand where they’re coming from,” he says, digging his pneumatic engraving tool deep into the metal of a $10,000 watch that most owners would be afraid to even scratch. “But Rolexes are not as sacred as some people make them out to be.”

Ser and his colleagues at Fin Des Temps, an artist-owned engraving house he founded in 2014, perform their sacrilege in a tiny sixth-floor apartment-turned-studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They are not simply engraving owners’ initials; they are carving intricate, original artwork onto nearly every available metal surface on high-priced luxury watches. Ser, himself heavily tattooed and with gold teeth in his smile, physically resembles his ornate, flashy designs.

Fin Des Temps and other engravers exist within a small but growing industry offering aftermarket customization in a variety of forms. At one end of the spectrum, DIY enthusiasts tweak design elements of their inexpensive Seikos or Casio G-Shocks, swapping in new hands, bezels, and even dials. At the other, highly trained craftsmen, like those from Les Artisans de Geneve, will refinish every component of a complicated high-end watch, from the dial to the movement, leaving it practically unrecognizable from its original form. In between you’ll find companies, such as Bamford Watch Department and MAD Paris, that will give your Rolex Submariner a black PVD coating, a layer of diamonds or other flamboyant features not offered by the brand itself.

Underpinning the customizing scene is a desire for something exclusive. “Anyone can buy a Rolex, but a one-of-a-kind piece? Nobody else will have that,” says Justin Counter, one of Ser’s colleagues at Fin Des Temps. Rolex is a popular brand for modifications; customers want something personal and unique, but that still retains the prestigious manufacturer’s name and the high-quality watchmaking it represents.

“I’ve seen people get mad at ‘em, like straight hate on ‘em, or people love them. That’s how you know it’s art, ‘cause it actually makes people feel strongly.”

“It’s really good for us to be able to put our art on something as solid as the Rolex brand. It’s like a ten-thousand-dollar canvas,” Ser says. But receptions are mixed: “I’ve seen people get mad at ‘em, like straight hate on ‘em. Or people love them. So they create emotion, and that’s how you know it’s art and not just a watch.”

Many watch engravers have backgrounds in gun engraving, a traditional and respected art form that dates back centuries. To see the type of intricate, leafy scrollwork one typically associates with a Purdey sidelock instead decorating a high-end watch is not only visually striking
but provides a direct link to historical craftsmanship techniques. But not everyone sees it that way — especially fans of the Rolex brand.

There is a seemingly disproportionate amount of emotion attached to the idea of customizing Rolex watches in particular, with much of the criticism coming down to the idea that modifications of any kind devalue what began life as a watchmaking masterpiece. Not only is it the height of hubris to try to improve a Rolex, the thinking goes, but doing so is tantamount to defacing the original art of the watch. On the secondary market, even Rolexes serviced by the company itself can lose value compared to “untouched” originals—such is the reverence shown for the Crown logo. (In any case, customizing any watch through a third party voids the manufacturer’s warranty.) As long as art exists, art critics will follow.

Many customizing outfits seem to delight in such controversy. To mark the 90th birthday of the Mickey Mouse character, in 2018, Justin Counter at Fin Des Temps produced an irreverent bit of artwork that could be seen as simultaneously blasphemous to Rolex, The Walt Disney Company, and one of America’s most iconic cartoons: a Rolex Datejust featuring numerous Disney characters melting in the throes of a psychedelic trip with Mickey engraved on the clasp, a gold tab of LSD on his tongue, licking Minnie’s eyeball.

Is it art? Like beauty, the answer to that is in the eye of the beholder. But the skill and craftsmanship of many such customized pieces is undeniable. Ser, of Fin Des Temps, sees the two as distinct but interrelated.

“Craftsmanship comes after the art,” he says. “The art is first and foremost.”

These Rugged Watches Were Issued to the British Military. And You Can Still Buy The Modern Versions

Cabot Watch Company, though perhaps not a household name, has a storied place in the annals of military watches. CWC was founded in 1972 by Ray Mellor, a WWII veteran and Merchant Marine sailor who had previously served as Hamilton Watch Company’s Managing Director for the U.K. When Hamilton decided that military contracts were no longer lucrative enough to warrant taking them, Mellor struck out on his own, taking the name of explorer John Cabot for his new company. Military contracts from the Ministry of Defense soon poured in, and CWC was in business.

In 1996, Mellor sold the company to Silvermans Ltd, a famed London-based supplier of military kit and surplus established in 1946. Silvermans had previously been buying CWC and retailing them to the public, and their purchase of the company allowed CWC to live on past Mellor’s retirement. Though CWC still produces watches that are up to MoD spec, budget cuts from the MoD mean that the watchmaker hasn’t secured any recent contracts. However, many of their watches are still in service, and the CWC continues to produce watches for the civilian market.

Recently, we were able to visit Silverman’s and check out their store of vintage and modern CWC watches, some of which have seen service with U.K. forces, from infantry to special operations personnel such as the Special Boat Service. Sadly, Ray Mellor passed away several months ago, but his watches live on under the care of Silverman’s, enjoyed by servicemen and the general public alike.

Military Stopwatch

This stopwatch from the 1970s was is a military timer that also saw service in television production, having been used in the cutting room for timing news features. It was used by the BBC and ITV, the two main news channels in the UK, which purchased several hundred units over the years and evidently still use them to time 60-second and 60-minute segments. The same model was also used by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Fallout last year, and are made to order to customer’s requirements.

Military Stopwatch, DHSS-Issued

This military-issued stopwatch, which features 60-second and 30-minute timers, was issued to the Department of Health and Social Security. This particular model is no longer in production.

CWC Harrier Cockpit Clock

This cockpit clock was used in a Harrier jump jet, and replaced the Heuer Monte Carlo. Featuring a 60-second counter and a jumping hour disk, the clock was in service on Harriers when they were in use on U.S. aircraft carriers. This model, too, is no longer in production.

Original CWC Royal Navy Diver, Automatic

CWC recently reissued this watch, a highly rare automatic issued to the Special Boat Service from 1980-1981, just before production switched over to quartz. Pictured above right is an issued original (next to a modern version, left), complete with 45mm steel case, tritium dial, fully graduated bezel, fixed spring bars and sword hands. CWC took over the SBS contract from Rolex, which had been previously supplying the MoD with its Submariner, now dubbed the Mil-Sub. The CWC version is ostensibly even rarer than the Rolex. (See below for the modern, commercially available CWC.)

1980 CWC Royal Navy Diver

The modern reissue of the above watch, which debuted in 2017. The new timepiece’s resemblance to the original is uncanny, even down to the “circle T” on the dial (the modern version does not use tritium, however, but modern lume available in Dark Vintage, Light Vintage or C3). Use of the ETA 2824-2 movement is the other notable concession to modernity, but other than that, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between an original and a reissue, which retails for ~$2,496.

CWC Asymmetrical Chronograph

Issued in the 1970s to the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, these asymmetric chronos were produce by four companies: CWC, Hamilton, Precista and Newmark. The watches were functionally identical with the exception of branding, and were based on the workhorse Valjoux 7733 movement with 30-minute totalizer at 3 o’clock and running seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The asymmetric case protected the crown and pushers, and fixed spring bars necessitated the use of single-pass straps, making it more difficult for the watch to be lost should one of the bars break. The modern version uses the Valjoux 7760 and retails for ~$2,766.

1981 G10 “Fat Boy”

After production moved to quartz in 1980, CWC began production of the G10 spec, which utilized a battery-powered no-date movement and a tritium dial. The old CWC logo was used until 1982, when production changed to the modern oval logo (these older models are affectionately named the “Fat Boy” due to the deeper case necessary to house the older, larger movements). Water resistant to 50m, 38mm wide and featuring fixed, 18mm spring bars, over 200,000 CWC are estimated to have been issued by the MoD. Over 20,000 were issued to the Royal Navy in 1991 alone. Modern G10s are available for ~$245.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

A Swiss Museum Made Its Own Watch, and It’s Striking

This is a watch with a story to tell, and it’s not your typical product made by a watch company. Rather, it’s the fruit of a project organized by a Swiss horology museum making use of the specialties of craftsmen in the local La Chaux-de-Fonds industry. The result is a remarkably clean and original watch called the MIH Gaïa, with elements that each proudly represents a different specialist. Coolest of all, it isn’t crazily priced like some unobtainable, high-end collector’s piece.

In fact, much of the watch industry works by bringing together various sourced parts and even design in this way. However, the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH, or International Museum of Horology in English) emphasizes keeping it all local as a way to highlight their mission of supporting the regional industry and preserving horological traditions. As a horology museum based in the Swiss watchmaking center of La Chaux-de-Fonds, they have access to many of the best such resources in the world. The movement maker Sellita, for example, is the choice of big brands and crowd-funded startups alike, but it happens to be local to the Museum and provided the movement in the Gaïa.

The watch itself? Its design is clean and striking, with the hours carried on a disc and displayed in an aperture, and the minutes indicated by a hand painted on a rotating disc at the dial center. In steel and water-resistant to 30m, it measures 39mm wide, a thin 9.74mm thick, and is powered by the automatic Sellita 400-1 with around 38 hours of power reserve. A total of eight local partners are named, including designer Atelier XJC, case maker Stila, and a dial maker you may have heard of, Jean Singer & Cie, who made Rolex and Patek Philippe dials in the past.

The project is named after the Museum’s annual Gaïa Prize for excellence in different categories of watchmaking, and proceeds from the watch sales will go toward “projects to restore, document and showcase the museum’s collection, and to promote the expertise of regional watchmakers.” The last time the museum made something like this was 14 years ago, and it was with a totally different design that was significantly more expensive. For 2019, there will be an initial production limited to 200 pieces in the museum’s official hue of blue, but future variations are possible, the MIH website says.

Early project backers can get it for the USD equivalent of about $2,400 with final pricing going up to around $2,900.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Hamilton Valiant Auto Watch ($595)
Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 Chronometer Watch ($925)
Frederique Constant Runabout Automatic ($1,595)

Three Nicely Browned “Tropical-Dial” Vintage Watches

Some like their vintage watches like they like their toast: nicely browned. A black watch dial that has faded to a nice brown is often referred to as “tropical” — and while you might reasonably think this means a ruined watch, collectors often go crazy for their interesting colors, organic textures, and the charming character it can add to a watch. It’s one of the more odd and interesting phenomena within the larger vintage watch patina “scene.”

Why “tropical?” Watches have usually faded in this way due to prolonged exposure to the sun and the degradation of the paints used — sometimes after a long life in tropical, short-sleeved climates. One might imagine the original owner with a wrist color similar to that of the dial but with a perfectly watch-shaped tan line. This probably won’t happen to watches being produced now even if they are worn in the sun every day, as modern brands have worked to address the problem and dial production techniques have changed.

Tropical dials are the result of a chemical that was mistakenly used with the intention of protecting the dial from discoloration. However, you don’t have to be a hardcore collector to appreciate that that coffee- or tobacco-like hue possibly looks even better than the original black did. Tropical Rolex and Omega sport watches are particularly popular, but below are three less commonly seen examples with that faded brown dial look.

Longines Sei Tacche

What We Like: This is, admittedly, a somewhat extreme example. But it’s just captivating to stare at those blue hands over a dial that’s aged in a way that would be hard to contrive. A lot of watches going back as far as the 1940s like this one have extensively patinated dials, but many have damaged hands and other elements that go beyond charming “character” and simply look decayed. This example, measuring 32mm with a manually wound movement, appears to have most of these elements intact — and that makes for an interesting contrast. These military-style Longines watches don’t have a specific model name but collectors refer to them — in Italian — by the number of notches on the case back. This one has six, so it’s a Sei Tacche.

From the Seller: Case is in excellent condition, showing few signs of wear/age. There are a few tool marks on the caseback. Movement is in excellent working order.

Rolex Air-King Oyster Perpetual

What We Like: It’s somewhat rare to see a tropical dial from as recently as 1999 such as that on this Rolex Air-King. Further, this example has taken on a particularly interesting coloration (or discoloration, rather), as it appears that the original sunburst-textured dial has faded unevenly in a circular pattern in different shades. Otherwise, it’s a solid example of Rolex’s aviation-themed Air-King at 35mm in steel with the automatic Rolex cal. 3000 movement inside.

From the Seller: Dial and hands show original tritium and remain in very good condition. The watch case appears to have been polished once.

Gallet Multichron 12 “Jim Clark”

What We Like: Gallet is a historic brand with a lot of respect in the watch enthusiast community, and while they aren’t cheap, they do offer incredible history, refinement, and value. Particularly well-known is the Multichron chronograph made famous by F1 driver Jim Clark. The “12” in its name refers to the notable (for its time, around the 1950s) ability of its chronograph to measure up to 12 hours in its 6 o’clock subdial. This example has an even fade to its earthy, tropical brown dial with other elements still appearing crisp. It’s powered by a manually wound Excelsior Park cal. 40 column-wheel chronograph movement, and it comes on a lovely “beads-of-rice”-style bracelet and brown leather strap.

From the Seller: In overall excellent condition. The case retains the original brushed finish with no major scratches or signs of over polishing. The movement runs very well.

These Are the 6 Watches We’re Obsessing Over in September 2019

As watch lovers, we spend our afternoons pitching, researching and writing stories, poring over the new timepieces coming in and out of our office, and hunting for deals on used and vintage pieces online. When a new watch comes across our radar, one that particularly resonates with our tastes, we can’t help but obsess over it. We talk about them, debate their relevance, orate on their greatness and rail against their faults. So, here’s a taste of that process — seven timepieces our watch-loving staff are obsessing over right at this very moment:

Bulgari Octo Finissimo

I have a Bulgari Octo in steel. It’s a great timepiece. Gerald Genta design cred with a touch of Italian flair and masculinity that only Bulgari can seem to pull off. It’s a sleeper steel watch. But damn if the Finissimo isn’t a watch I’ve become smitten with ever since it was released in 2017. Lately, I find myself falling in love with it again.

Our watch editor Oren and I have spiritedly debated the merits of this watch for some time now and I think I may have finally convinced him that the thinness and engineering merit respect, but here I am again gushing and he may edit this out, but I’m saying it anyway. The finissimo is titanium, svelte as an Italian Stiletto, and the triple-gray look just completely devastating. It may be the coolest titanium watch out there. Sure, I prefer my watches steel and on rubber or webbing, but the Finissimo makes me want to put on the black suit I own but rarely ever wear and whisk my wife away to a gala I rarely attend. –Eric Yang, Founder

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical

My interest has always been on the iconic pieces that have a story, particularly dress watches lately. But I was digging through some samples of Marathon watches and I’m certainly enjoying the General Purpose in Stainless Steel. Built to government specs for military issue, it’s got an ETA 2801 movement, tritium illumination, a sapphire crystal and a beautifully curved 315L stainless steel case. I’ve never been into military watches, but this one definitely has me thinking about them more than ever. –Brian Louie, Head of Commerce

Monta Atlas GMT

The Atlas is a perfect representative of what Monta does well and what has helped achieve its impressive rise. Namely: conservative, pragmatic tool watch design with a high level of finishing and refinement that is reminiscent of Rolex’s approach — though much more affordable and not mimicking its look. Getting to wear one recently, but only briefly, left me even more wowed by the value being offered and a lingering impression that won’t go away soon. –Zen Love, Associate Staff Writer

Patek Philippe Cataltrava ref. 2545

Though I’ve never been terribly attracted to yellow gold watches in general, I do own a few of them (two of which were my grandfather’s), as there’s really nothing that captures the platonic ideal of the dress watch, to my mind, more than a thin, yellow gold, handwound timepiece. This Calatrava from the mid-1950s is exactly that — a reference 2545 (cousin to the legendary ref. 96) with just enough patina to look make it looks properly worn, but not beat to shit. –Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The sleek black watch face paired with a silver bezel looks excellent on an all-black band or brown leather band meaning it’s basically like two watches in one. Initially, the X-Wind Auto Chrono was intended for pilots to calculate crosswinds (hence the name) along their journey, but it works just as well on land as it does in the air. And while this watch would likely dwarf my wrist, it’s still lovely to look at. –Meg Lappe, Editorial Coordinator

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Regulator 5235G-001

I don’t think there is anything more elegant than a regulator — typically marked by subdials for hours and running seconds with a centrally-anchored minute hand. While I am not typically drawn to Pateks, and certainly don’t need an annual calendar, there’s something about this 5235G that I find incredibly attractive; the blued steel hands, the simple, well-proportioned, two-tone dial marry with the 40.5mm case extremely well. Now, to find that $40K I left laying around… –Jacob Sotak, Content Director, Gear Patrol Store

Watches We’re Obsessing Over, September 2019

As watch lovers, we spend our afternoons pitching, researching and writing stories, poring over the new timepieces coming in and out of our office, and hunting for deals on used and vintage pieces online. When a new watch comes across our radar, one that particularly resonates with our tastes, we can’t help but obsess over it. We talk about them, debate their relevance, orate on their greatness and rail against their faults. So, here’s a taste of that process — seven timepieces our watch-loving staff are obsessing over right at this very moment:

Bulgari Octo Finissimo

I have a Bulgari Octo in steel. It’s a great timepiece. Gerald Genta design cred with a touch of Italian flair and masculinity that only Bulgari can seem to pull off. It’s a sleeper steel watch. But damn if the Finissimo isn’t a watch I’ve become smitten with ever since it was released in 2017. Lately, I find myself falling in love with it again.

Our watch editor Oren and I have spiritedly debated the merits of this watch for some time now and I think I may have finally convinced him that the thinness and engineering merit respect, but here I am again gushing and he may edit this out, but I’m saying it anyway. The finissimo is titanium, svelte as an Italian Stiletto, and the triple-gray look just completely devastating. It may be the coolest titanium watch out there. Sure, I prefer my watches steel and on rubber or webbing, but the Finissimo makes me want to put on the black suit I own but rarely ever wear and whisk my wife away to a gala I rarely attend. –Eric Yang, Founder

Marathon General Purpose Mechanical

My interest has always been on the iconic pieces that have a story, particularly dress watches lately. But I was digging through some samples of Marathon watches and I’m certainly enjoying the General Purpose in Stainless Steel. Built to government specs for military issue, it’s got an ETA 2801 movement, tritium illumination, a sapphire crystal and a beautifully curved 315L stainless steel case. I’ve never been into military watches, but this one definitely has me thinking about them more than ever. –Brian Louie, Head of Commerce

Monta Atlas GMT

The Atlas is a perfect representative of what Monta does well and what has helped achieve its impressive rise. Namely: conservative, pragmatic tool watch design with a high level of finishing and refinement that is reminiscent of Rolex’s approach — though much more affordable and not mimicking its look. Getting to wear one recently, but only briefly, left me even more wowed by the value being offered and a lingering impression that won’t go away soon. –Zen Love, Associate Staff Writer

Patek Philippe Cataltrava ref. 2545

Though I’ve never been terribly attracted to yellow gold watches in general, I do own a few of them (two of which were my grandfather’s), as there’s really nothing that captures the platonic ideal of the dress watch, to my mind, more than a thin, yellow gold, handwound timepiece. This Calatrava from the mid-1950s is exactly that — a reference 2545 (cousin to the legendary ref. 96) with just enough patina to look make it looks properly worn, but not beat to shit. –Oren Hartov, Associate Editor

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The sleek black watch face paired with a silver bezel looks excellent on an all-black band or brown leather band meaning it’s basically like two watches in one. Initially, the X-Wind Auto Chrono was intended for pilots to calculate crosswinds (hence the name) along their journey, but it works just as well on land as it does in the air. And while this watch would likely dwarf my wrist, it’s still lovely to look at. –Meg Lappe, Editorial Coordinator

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Regulator 5235G-001

I don’t think there is anything more elegant than a regulator — typically marked by subdials for hours and running seconds with a centrally-anchored minute hand. While I am not typically drawn to Pateks, and certainly don’t need an annual calendar, there’s something about this 5235G that I find incredibly attractive; the blued steel hands, the simple, well-proportioned, two-tone dial marry with the 40.5mm case extremely well. Now, to find that $40K I left laying around… –Jacob Sotak, Content Director, Gear Patrol Store

This Handsome New Dive Watch Is a Solid Vintage Tribute

Mido has a catalog of cool vintage watches going back around 100 years. It’s about time they got with the vintage reissue craze, and brought more of them back as the modern remakes so many people love. The new Mido Ocean Star Tribute Special Edition looks like a solid step in that direction, and it offers the typical strong value the brand is known for.

The Ocean Star is the brand’s modern dive watch collection, and the new retro-styled Tribute version is meant to celebrate 75 years since it was first introduced, in 1944. Rather than the original 1940s models, however, Mido chose to recreate the look of its 1960s divers — the ’60s and ’70s watch designs being hugely popular at the moment.

In a 40.5mm steel case water-resistant to 200m, the Mido Ocean Tribute is powered by the Swatch group’s ETA C07.621 movement with an 80-hour power reserve, automatic winding, and day/date display (at 3 o’clock). With Super-LumiNova-painted indices and hands, it comes in two dial variants: one with a black dial and one in “Mediterranean blue,” both with orange seconds hands. Notable is the box-shaped crystal made to look like acrylic ones of past decades, but here in modern, scratch-proof sapphire.

Both versions come on steel bracelets, also in a very period style, and each includes a textile (blue) or leather (black) to match the dial color. Both versions are currently available for the same price of $1,150 (European VAT inclusive).

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Orient Mako II ($315)
Unimatic Modello Uno U1-DN ($664)
C60 Trident Pro 600 ($795+)

How the ‘Freak’ Introduced Silicon to Mechanical Watchmaking

Welcome to “Watches You Should Know,” a bi-weekly (the once-every-two-weeks kind) column highlighting little-known or notable watches new and old that have interesting stories or have had a surprising impact on the industry.

Who says the mechanical watch industry is stuck in the past? The same incredible material that has made the computing revolution possible is also impacting the world of the tiny spring-powered machines that inefficiently and expensively display the time on our wrists — but which are somehow enchanting. That material is silicon; and when the historic Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin introduced the first watch to incorporate it in 2001, called the Freak, it was met with skepticism and controversy.

Less than two decades later its use is widespread, and it promises to be the watchmaking material of the future. Why is silicon such a good material for watchmaking? To begin with, it’s for some of the same reasons that it’s useful in microchips and solar cells, but silicon is beneficial for other reasons that are pretty specific to watchmaking.

Terms to Know: When people in some parts of the world say “silicium” they mean the same thing as silicon, but “silicone” (with an -e) is something totally different.

Traditional watchmaking materials like steel have inherent properties that have provided watchmakers challenges for centuries. Temperature and magnetism can affect a movement’s timekeeping performance, and friction from interaction between parts eventually causes significant wear. Silicon is unaffected by any of these problems. Since silicon is so hard, it obviates the need for the lubrication traditional watch movements require — and that alone makes a huge impact on movement health and longevity, in part because oil ages as well.

For those reasons, as well as its extreme light weight, silicon is ideal for watch movement components like those involved in the escapement, the part of the watch that regulates timekeeping. In addition to these qualities, critically, silicon is also a material that’s inexpensive and widely available. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s making mechanical watches less expensive, at least for the time being: Working with silicon requires expertise and equipment outside watchmaking’s traditional wheelhouse. Unlike metal, silicon (a metalloid) is also brittle. Needless to say, incorporating silicon into mechanical watch movements also required significant research and development.

2001 Ulysse Nardin Freak

In 2001, Ulysse Nardin caused a stir when they released the Freak using silicon in its escapement, but also with a totally avant-garde concept. The use of silicon didn’t necessitate the Freak’s audacious design, but it was an appropriately outlandish way to introduce the controversial material. What makes the Freak so freakish? Most of the watch’s movement itself forms the minute hand, and the mainplate (with an arrow on it) rotates and forms the hour hand. The time is set by turning the bezel, and the movement is wound by turning a case back bezel. In other words, it aimed to rethink a number of fundamental watch features.

Since the introduction of the first Ulysse Nardin Freak, the brand has continued to build upon the concept with an entire line of fascinating and increasingly out-there Freak watches. However, silicon is no longer controversial and has been enthusiastically adopted across the watch industry. Particularly used for its antimagnetic properties in balance springs, it’s now a premium material that prestigious brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Omega proudly emphasize. The Swatch Group has even begun equipping some of its inexpensive 80-hour-power-reserve movements with silicon hairsprings.

Ulysse Nardin “Flying Anchor Escapement”

Silicon is even providing watchmakers with new, cutting edge solutions that transcend the traditional escapement as in Zenith’s Defy Lab watch, which beats at 15Hz and is able to achieve unprecedented accuracy for a mechanical watch. Research and development of silicon in watchmaking continues, and promises benefits for accuracy, stability, durability, and even affordability in the future. It’s an exciting material for a wide range of reasons, not least for giving traditional watches room to grow into the century ahead.