Bulova Chronograph C (96K101) review

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This is a watch that has intrigued me for some time and for a reason that makes it perfect for Bulova to market in a way that is sure to generate sales.

The 96K101 is different to other watches and impossible to define for many people. It looks like a 1970’s watch because the design is from 1970 when the original was born, and Bulova has made sure that it is very much a clone from 47 years ago. The original was 43mm in diameter which is huge for a vintage watch- watches really started to get small in the 1980’s, but in the 1970’s brands like Bulova did not worry about size too much and this worked well to highlight the colours, the design and the general look of the watch.

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As you can see in the advert above, Bulova promised a lot and largely delivered in a product that did what it needed to and by all accounts better than much of the competition. If you want to purchase the original today you will need about £2,000 for one that is in good condition and I can only presume that the uniqueness of the design is the main reason added to the fact that the size makes it fit in with today’s preference for larger watch dimensions.

I must admit that my first impressions of the 96K101 were not too favourable. This could be because I am currently wearing an Oris Aquis Date which feels like a product in a completely different league. The build quality, presentation and everything else about the watch makes it one that you could enjoy for decades and it has certainly become a watch that I genuinely enjoy every day. For me it is almost faultless and looks and feels like a high-end product that sits well above the likes of Seiko, Bulova, Citizen and other manufacturers who sell watches well below £1,000.

The problem for the Chronograph C is that my Oris cost £900 and the Bulova offering is retailing at +£500 at this time. That is a lot of money for a watch which does not feel like a high-end product and from the perspective of ‘bang for the buck’ it simply cannot compete with any Oris.

So, I shall ignore Oris at this time and look at what this watch offers otherwise the review would be pointless.

In the box

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The ‘Archive Series’ box is a step up from the standard Bulova boxes and you get a blue leather strap and a strap adjustment tool alongside the watch. The manual is a standard high frequency booklet so is not aimed at this particular watch, but it tells you what you need to know. For me, the blue strap actually looks nicer than the mesh strap that is attached to the watch, but it would be nice to see an easier way to change it than the classic ‘scratch the hell out of your watch’ tool that is supplied.

I love the fact that there are no lugs on this watch, which is yet another area in which Bulova has cloned the original, but I am not so convinced by the 20mm strap width in comparison to the large 46mm diameter face. Historically a thin strap on a big round watch accentuates the dimensions in a positive way, but here it feels just a little too thin aesthetically. Overall, however, the box contents and presentation are good enough for most buyers to be please with the package. It adds a sense of completeness even if those who truly understand watches can see the gimmickry and lack of quality in was is on offer here.

The watch

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It is big at 46mm for sure, but it does not feel big on the wrist in any way. I have 7.5” wrists which are not huge and the lack of lugs ensures that at no point does it feel too wide. I would say that my Oris feels larger when worn and is heavier for sure. The lack of weight here suggests what the watch really is, a quartz offering that is not using the best materials. I don’t mean to sound demeaning to this level of watch, but pick up a new Seiko Turtle for £350 and you will see that the quality and feel is much higher than the Bulova.

However, this watch is not about quality or offering a timepiece that you will wear for many years. You could do that of course and will enjoy it, but to me it feels like a homage that has been made to be exactly that. It is designed to offer something new in a world of similar watch designs and it succeeds. Where it fails is that it feels like a copy of a vintage watch rather than a modernised version of the same product. It is hard to explain, but the Bulova Snorkel was a clever re-design which feels well built and the same is true of the new Seiko Turtle, but this feels just a little light to me and there is a sense of building to a budget rather than to a standard.

And then there is the face which is of course the stand out feature that sets this watch apart from the rest. The colourful combination is striking and makes for extremely clear chronograph dials, but at the expense of the clarity of the overall face. Telling the time requires more than a glance and at times it feel far too busy to be practical in any way. To me this is a problem because for a watch to not offer a clear view of the current time is a bit like a car with an engine which is far too small for it. I get why the face is the way it is and understand that it is a clone, but good design has to be practical as well as beautiful looking and this watch only offers one of those.

There is no date window which make sense and the buttons work perfectly well for timing things with lots of information surrounding the face for timing speed etc. Strangely for a high frequency watch the second hand moves twice a second rather than 16 times which is what you may be used to in recent watches from Bulova. There must be a good reason for this, but considering the tiny hands and large dimensions of the watch, I wouldn’t expect battery power to be a problem here.

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The crystal is nicely domed and offers a decent balance between clarity and offering a sense of strange perspective when viewed at a certain angle. For me, this is a highlight of the design which lifts the form a little and I have no complaints about the form or how it looks on the wrist. I just wish it felt more substantial and less like a budget copy of a real watch.

Conclusion

I’m struggling to like this watch to be honest. I should like it because it is a 1970’s design, it is made by Bulova and it is big, but I feel zero attachment to it. When you try a new watch it can be difficult because reasons to like or dislike a watch are impossible to quantify. Sometimes a watch will feel perfect and other times it just won’t work for you which makes it a personal choice as to what you really like. For me, however, the new Chronograph C suggests that Bulova is aiming for the look and the memories of the original rather than taking the time to make a good quality product. A big chance missed.

Oris Aquis Date Review

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If there is one watch brand that has always fascinated me, it is Oris. The company has made watches for more than 100 years, but has strangely only moved to producing high-end pieces in recent years.

This would normally be a recipe for disaster because moving to the creation of high-end watches is far from easy and has to be built up over many decades. However, today we have a company making some of the best value watches in the market and one which is managing to create individuality in the most subtle of ways.

I bought the Aquis Date last weekend for £900 (haggled down from £1,200 which you can do in most jewellers by the way) and it was the culmination of thoughts I have been having for the past 2 years. To get to the amount involved selling 4 watches, buying 2, fixing them and then re-selling them at a profit. The end result was that I had £1,000 to spend on a daily wear watch that satisfied my watch nerd brain and which also ticked a few horological boxes.

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It had to be a diver’s watch and ideally one which mixed the past with the present.

It had to be mechanical (automatic) and using a movement that could potentially work for many years without assistance.

The lume needs to work all through the night.

The build quality must be exceptional with decent finishing.

It had to be an Oris.

The Aquis Date ticks all of those boxes and more because the form and function are easily some of the best I have experienced in my time wearing a variety of watches. For value vs quality, only Seiko is comparable alongside some smaller manufacturers. In my opinion, the likes of TAG Heuer, Gucci and so many other watch makers who sell their watches from and up to £1,000 only offer a name and little else. When I walked into the jewellers I was wearing a £1,000 TAG Formula One watch which, while looking quite smart and being exceptionally accurate thanks to whatever quartz movement it is using, is effectively an charmless piece of steel with little to no class. It may come over that I have something against TAG Heuer and that is because I have.

The problem with brands like TAG is that for 98% of people they will look at the TAG on your wrist and be impressed. They will think it is one of the best watches in the world and that is, sadly, the admiration many watch wearers are after. Say you are wearing an Oris and they will look at you perplexed. But then again I wear a watch for me, not for strangers. And as Oris says in its marketing ’Real watches for real people’.

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Anyway, on to the watch itself.

I tried a couple on and this one just felt right. At first the yellow markings did not jump out at me because I am a sucker for orange in anything and tend to prefer blue faces (the blue that TAG uses ironically), but there is a simplicity to the colours here that makes the Aquis Date feel classic in a modern way. Also, in the different lighting the colours change to the human eye. In bright sunlight the yellow pops and at night in artificially lighting, there is a classic gold texture to the markings. Both work well and it’s kind of nice to have a watch that looks different depending on the time of day.

Build quality really is superb and this is demonstrated in the watch itself, the strap links and the buckle which all offer a sense of robustness that could take literally anything that is thrown at them. Add to that the way it all comes together to create a timepiece that flows over the wrist in a way that I have never experienced with lower-end watches. It comes down to the lighting again. Light catches the face, which is anti-reflective to a point, and it continues to flow over the bezel so that it looks as if the two pieces are actually one. The effect next to the steel bracelet is super impressive and there is no doubt that the quality shines through every time I check the time, to the point that it often leaves me staring at the watch for longer than I need to.

Safe to say I am loving the visuals of this watch and my reservations over the face design are long gone. The simplicity really does work with the sword hands adding a very slight vintage look as an added bonus. My only criticism is aimed at the date window which is a touch too small to read, especially when 2 digits are displaying.

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Accuracy has also been excellent and I am currently 5 seconds fast after 5 days which is exceptional for any mechanical watch. This could be luck, it could be a fluke that changes over time, but I could live with under 5 seconds off a day so I am more than happy with the performance so far.

The display window at the back is lovely and highlights the unique Oris red rotor with the very smooth screw-down crown finishing off the list of goodness in this watch.

This is probably the best watch I have owned from a technical perspective and in terms of how well it is built. It feels right, it feels like a small luxury on my wrist and it feels like it is mine. Fortunately for me, it is now mine and Oris has exceeded all of my expectations so far.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Mens Watch review

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The actual model number for this watch is WAZ2113.BA0875 which is useful to know because TAG does not differentiate its models much when it comes to describing them.

It is a stainless steel watch with a 41mm face and it uses the Calibre 5 Automatic movement which is otherwise known as the ETA 2824-2. It has been decorated by TAG, but can also be found in the Hamilton Khaki Field for around £350. Then again, the likes of Breitling use the same movement so it is possibly a good example of where the majority of the cost of a watch comes from- nowhere in particular.

The fact that this movement can be bought on its own for less than $90 should not concern you because that is quite common in the watch world, but it does make me think of Seiko in terms of value and that was the first thing I thought of when I saw the TAG.

I had it for a couple of days to re-size the strap for a friend and instead of writing a full review I will lay down some bullet points to sum it up-

The strap is rattly and feels almost hollow in terms of weight and the design.

The finishing is good, but no better than a £200 Seiko in my opinion

The movement is held in place by a white piece of plastic- yes it really is.

It has virtually no presence and from a distance looks like a Sekonda. Or a Sekonda looks like a TAG, but either way there is a lack of originality in terms of the design.

The hands don’t seem to fit the design and the flatness of the ends does make it hard to set it to the exact time.

The accuracy is not great to be honest. A mechanical watch needs time to settle down, but +20 seconds per day is not great.

And now the main point about this watch- it costs £1,300!

In a world where most people who buy new TAGs are doing so for the name this maybe makes sense. I mean, people spend £200 on a Michael Kors watch which is effectively a £5 quartz movement in a £15 case.

Sorry to say, but in my experience people who understand watches don’t buy TAGs and I have always avoided them for this reason. Finally getting some time with one reinforced that opinion as fact.

This is an appalling watch for £1,300 and I would argue that £300 spent on a Seiko automatic would give you the same quality of product. Spending £1,000 on an Oris or £600 on a Hamilton would make so much more sense I would be unable to measure it.

The Apple Watch series 2 experience (part 1)

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You don’t need me to write a review of the latest Apple Watch because far too many people have already done that. What I thought I would do instead is write about the experience and how the changes make a difference to daily usage, which I guess could be called a review.

Anyway, you likely know that I have a thing about watches and that after a lot of time and words demonising smart watches as pure evil, I have been wearing a 1st generation Apple Watch for the past 2 months and I am really enjoying the experience.

I have enjoyed it so much that I decided to upgrade to the series 2 by part exchanging my stainless steel original version and paying out just shy of £100 for the upgrade. I’m not sure that I would have paid out £399 for an aluminium version, but was comfortable with the money I had to pay for the benefits.

Waterproofing

I’m not particularly amazed by this feature, and especially because it requires you to lock the watch if you are going near water. I get the idea when swimming to avoid accidental screen taps, but all of the instructions suggest that you do need to lock it first.

The ability to turn the crown and blow excess water out is nice, but an example of something that is quite un-Apple. Watches by their nature tend to be waterproof, at least decent ones do, and it would be nice to see the Apple Watch be waterproof without the need to fiddle about before and afterwards. Being able to shower with the watch on though is a bonus even though I rarely do this- I tend to wear watches fairly loose and I like cleaning them every day just because I can.

Battery life

I tended to end the day on 30% with the original Apple Watch, but have seen this rise to between 50 and 60% on the series 2 which is a big leap. This has meant that I can pop the watch on the charger while having a shower and keep it powered all through the day and night. With theatre mode activated, I can wear the watch when asleep and tap it to check the time if I happen to wake up early. And when the morning alarm sounds on my iPhone, I just tap the Apple Watch screen to silence it. Little features that are nice to have.

Speed

If I am honest, I have not noticed any speed increase yet. The original series would occasionally stall, but that was rare and if you had told me that there was the same processor in the series 2, I would have believed you. There is one however though in that I have noticed that lifting my wrist brings up the time quicker than before which is a HUGE bonus to someone like me who checks the time often.

GPS

Again, as someone who does not go out on long runs, this is a feature that means little to me, but I understand why some people will find it beneficial and perhaps one of the most important new features.

Screen

Much better in bright conditions and a big advantage over the original. You may not always notice the improvement, but it is there and welcome.

As a collection, these improvements may not seem like much, but they come together to bring something that was needed to the Apple Watch. I will explain what this is tomorrow.

Casio G-Shock Aviator GW-3000M-4AER Review

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The GW-3000M-4AER is a watch I have looked at for some time from afar and I was never quite sure why. The orange strap married to the aluminium and black resin body make for an unusual combination, but one that works in my eyes. The side view of the watch body is stunning; resin atop aluminium atop more resin with clearly defined buttons that are glossed rather than matt. Add blue accents on the face and an extremely busy interface and you end up with a watch that you will either love or hate with a passion. The reason I love the design is because it is different from most G-shocks, but not childish, it is premium without being pretentious and it contains everything I need in a watch.

I don’t require Bluetooth connectivity to my phone, I don’t want to be running apps on it and I certainly don’t want it to beep and buzz every time someone tries to contact me. I want balance. A good looking watch that is deadly accurate and that can take daily knocks with no problems at all. If it happens to look fantastic as well then all the better, and that is why the G-shocks have long appealed to me. I get that many people feel that G-shocks are ugly and that they are not for adults, as evidenced by the messages received below when I showed a picture of the 3000M to Neil-

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OK, so let’s presume that Neil is incorrect and move on to the watch itself. It is obviously very different to most G-shocks purely because of the strap, a bright orange design that first attracted me to the watch. However, within 10 minutes of receiving the watch I had ordered a black strap because the colour is just too much. It does work, don’t get me wrong, but I’m 43 years old and it just doesn’t suit me. I find myself worrying about what colour shirt I am wearing and if it will clash with the orange strap (shudder) and the realisation that a watch should be subtly impressive dawned on me quite quickly. I want to enjoy the watch I wear, but I guess I don’t want to show it off.

In other areas the design is striking, but there are many practical aspects of this watch that deserve some attention. The domed glass front ensures that reflections are kept to a minimum and at times it magnifies the display when viewing from obtuse angles. It is a simple touch and one that I would like to see used more in other watches. The two pronged strap attachment ensures that there is minimal horizontal movement when the watch is worn. Again, a touch that most will not even consider, but in daily use it is a practical addition that offers benefits.

The luminous hands and numbers work extremely well and supposedly only a small amount of light is needed each day to ensure they work throughout the night. I was initially concerned about the lack of a backlight, but in truth I haven’t missed that function so far. And finally the bizarrely traditional date feature which works better than any digital display for me. It harks back to a previous time, but also does not feel out of place. Unlike the day marker which is an odd way to tell you what day it is- difficult to read, takes up too much space and is completely unnecessary anyway.

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The multi-band technology is as ever quite superb. Set your location and then let the watch do the rest. The exact time will be checked in the background each day, often multiple times, and you will always have accurate timekeeping. The watch will also auto-correct the hands every hour to account for knocks or strong magnetism. Solar power will keep it powered with ease provided it is exposed to sunlight on occasion. In my experience with any G-shock bright sunlight, even for a short time, will push it up to the maximum levels, but the official specs suggest that 8 minutes of sunlight will keep it going for 24 hours and less behind glass or under fluorescent lighting. Seeing the current power levels on the 3000M is a bit vague. In the timekeeping mode you need to look at the second hand; if it’s moving at 1 second intervals the power is good and if at 2 second intervals it will need a top up. That’s all you get, but the reality is that it doesn’t really matter because you will likely never need to charge it consciously. The sun, and other light sources, will do that for you during normal daily activities.

There are many other features included such as a daily alarm, a stopwatch which bizarrely indicates elapsed time up to 23 minutes, 59.99 seconds and the expected world time functions alongside automatic calendar functionality. I admit to not having played too much with these features for a number of reasons. They are somewhat fiddly to use on a non-digital display, I prefer to use my phone for stop watching and world times and the calendar takes care of itself. The fact that this watch takes care of itself once set up, like all G-shocks, means that you can just strap it on and you are done.

Concluding a review of a watch is not always giving opinions of how well it works and how feature-laden it is. The 3000M does indeed pack in the features and offers much technology in a very small space, but that to me is not what’s important. My GWX8900B which offers multi-band timekeeping, solar power and many other features present in the 3000M will be replaced by the latter. The 3000M costs £250 (rrp is £285) and the GWX8900B can be bought for less than £80, but that really isn’t the point.

To me, this watch is stunning and offers everything a G-shock enthusiast could want, but with a design that sets it apart from the rest. Even forgetting the orange strap, the actual design is completely different to most other G-shocks and indeed almost every other watch. I spent some time recently considering Citizens and Omegas, but came back to the G-shock and it was this particular model that settled the choice for me. It can be fiddly to use, the styling may not suit everyone, but this is by far the most likeable watch I have ever owned. It has personality, deadly accuracy and every feature most people could possibly need in a watch. I don’t want a smartwatch, I want a smart watch, and this is the smartest watch I have owned, both physically and technologically.

This is the last of the recent batch of watch reviews. Many, like the one above, were written some time ago, but have been re-published to keep them somewhere on the web.

Timex Weekender Watch Review

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Brand: Timex

Case width: 38mm

Case depth: 9mm

Gender: Unisex

Case material: Stainless steel

Water resistance: 30 metres

Movement: Quartz

MPN: T2N654PF

Price: £25 – £49.99 (link)

The Timex Weekender is unique because it is so completely derivative. If you think of a basic watch, the Weekender likely comes to mind and this is what makes it so unbelievably cool. When you wear a Weekender, you are saying “I just need a watch and I don’t care what others think of me.” That’s cool.

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Of all the watches I own, the Weekender is the most obvious at displaying the time. The pure face is decorated with a 24 hour arabic presentation, the red second hand stands out just a little and the hands are as clean as you could wish for. Within the case, it all comes together to produce the most minimalist of watches which retains a form which really is hard to match.

At only 38mm wide and 9mm deep, it does feel small when compared to most watches today, but it just about works on my 7.5 inch wrists. Unisex appeal is obvious here and in particular because Timex pushes a range of straps to be worn with it, and the simplicity of the design means that the entire look is changed in an instant.

Such simplicity makes the Weekender hard to criticise because it is an icon, but I wish that Timex would work on the loudness of the tick. No watch ticks as loudly as a Timex and my first conclusion can only be that the materials are cheap and are thus letting sound through, but much cheaper watches I have owned don’t tick anywhere near as loudly as the Weekender.

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That really is my only complaint because the watch has worked perfectly over an extended period of time, and of course the INDIGLO® night-light makes it useful 24 hours a day. I could be picky and say that the light is very bright, which can cause you to wake up further than you may want too in the early hours, but that really would be being picky.

Build quality: 7/10

Accuracy: 8/10

Design: 8/10

Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 30/40

Conclusion-

An icon that does everything it needs to well without ever daring to be exceptional. Then again, if it tried too hard, it wouldn’t be what it is.

Bulova 96A143 Automatic Men’s Watch Review

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Brand: Bulova

Case width: 44mm

Case depth: 13mm

Gender: Men’s

Case material: Stainless steel

Water resistance: 30 metres

Movement: Automatic

MPN: 96A143

Price: £369 (link)

Bulova was the brand that first got me into watches and this was purely down to one special watch. To this day, I have great respect for the ultra-high frequency models the company produces and the way some of the quartz models are designed to remind us of a time when watches were seriously simple and supremely cool.

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The 96A143, however, sits somewhere in-between most of the other Bulova models. Besides the ones mentioned above, there are high-end mechanicals as well and a selection of novelties that cross every possible spectrum of watch styling. This watch is not cheap even if it can be bought for much less than the RRP, but there is a sense that the price feels too high. It is an automatic watch which offers a glimpse of the heart from the front and a larger view through the display case on the back. There are problems with this though and the first is that the finishing of the movement is quite crude. At no point when looking at it is there a sense of top-class finishing or that the movement has been put together with care. Don’t get me wrong, for the price we cannot expect Omega levels of workmanship here, but displaying something that is not finished well feels like it is aiming for those who know no better. Patronising maybe, but a look at the Tissot PR50 Le Locle shows a completely different level of care, and for roughly the same price. It’s like Bulova decided to make a mechanical watch to a budget and the end result is Rotary-levels of quality, a watch brand I will never buy again.

The form of the case is attractive and thick enough to offer a real presence on the wrist with the second markers being the only focus on colour in the large face alongside the end of the second-hand. The industrially styled hands do the job, but with no lume and with a sense of poor finishing remaining throughout. A watch has to have something special to make it feel worthy of wearing every day, but the short lugs, unnecessarily thick bracelet and general look of the watch do not come together very well. There is a sense of the bulky UHF watches that Bulova makes going on here and it does not work well as an automatic. You have a few choices really when making a watch; if it’s an automatic make it elegant or make it a diver’s watch. If it’s quartz, make it anything you like, but don’t try to make an automatic watch that fits nowhere. OK, Hublot fans would disagree, but that’s just the way I see it.

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The accuracy was also quite poor on the model I tried with +20 seconds per day not being unusual. I should also mention that the resale value of these is not great at all so try to avoid buying one at RRP. As you can probably tell from this review, I would say to avoid it anyway.

Build quality: 5/10

Accuracy: 6/10

Design: 6/10

Value for money: 5/10

Overall: 22/40

An automatic watch that looks good on the wrist, but it is somewhat let down by a lack of authenticity. It’s also expensive for what it is.