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.

Citizen AT2100-09E Watch Review

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Brand: Citizen

Case width: 42mm

Case depth: 10mm

Gender: Men’s

Case material: Stainless steel

Water resistance: 100 metres

Movement: Japanese Quartz (Eco-Drive)

MPN: AT2100-09E

Price: £99.99 (link)

Buying a decent watch for under £100 is not easy. The Citizen AT2100-09E, however, lessens the burden because it ticks so many boxes that competing watches cannot even get close to at this price point.

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Technically, it is just another Citizen watch, of which there are countless models in a variety of styles. Personally, I like Citizen for the quality of the timepieces alone and have owned a few in my time. The Eco-Drive technology is tried and tested and is one of the most efficient setups in the market with minimal light keeping a watch running for months. The movements are very impressive and have always proved accurate, and there is usually a lume that will run throughout the light and provide more than enough visibility without being overbearing. As it happens, the lume on this watch is blue which is a nice touch.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this watch is the numbers which are huge in comparison to most others. They are slightly raised from the face and intersect the dials. It is slightly busy, but does not hinder readability of the time when you are in a hurry. The date window is tiny and hard to read at the best of times, but overall I believe that the end result is a playing look that works well within the case.

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And it is the case that impresses me the most about this watch. The pure flatness of the front and back aligns perfectly with the short lugs and minimalist detailing around the edges. This is an area that is obviously hard to describe, but when you wear it, you will see what I mean. It sits proudly on the wrist and does not stand out, but it works perfectly with the busy face to create a professional and classy look that belies the asking price. Seriously, this is one the best looking watches I have ever seen at any price, but you may find that the strap is not as comfortable as it should be. Put this on a brown leather Nato strap and it pops!

Of all the Citizen watches I have worn over the years, this one remains by far my favourite. It is a workhorse which does everything it needs to and it looks gorgeous, it really does.

Build quality: 8/10

Accuracy: 9/10

Design: 9/10

Value for money: 9/10

Overall: 35/10

For under £100, you get a pilot style watch with excellent lume, superb legibility and very good accuracy. Throw in a case that is ultra-stylish and you can’t go wrong. A superb budget offering.

Seiko SKA369P1 Watch Review

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Brand: Seiko

Case width: 43mm

Case depth: 14mm

Gender: Men’s

Case material: Stainless Steel

Water resistance: 200 metres

Movement: Kinetic

MPN: SKA369P1

Price: £219 – £299 (link)

The SKA369P1 is not a watch that receives as much attention as the automatic diver’s watches from Seiko, but it does offer a variety of advantages that make it hard to ignore. It is a bulky timepiece which is designed to look bigger than it actually is thanks to the casing below the bezel, but it is the bezel that adds a sense of classic style to the overall look to turn it into something that would otherwise be quite a bland looking affair.

The face of the watch is actually quite small compared to the diameter of the casing with the bezel sitting flush to the edges. This adds to the bulky look of the watch, but at no point does it become difficult to read or feel inconsistent in terms of design. Indeed, the depth of the watch and the diameter work perfectly with the Pepsi bezel to offer a sense of a classic diving watch, a hard wearing tool that can go anywhere and a form that commands attention without appearing like a fashion piece.

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In my tests over 3 weeks, the watch has lost just 2 seconds which is more than acceptable for a quartz driven watch. The fact that it is kinetic adds some interest because some may argue that there is a touch of the ‘mechanical’ about it which is kind of true. It does tick rather than sweep and it requires movement to produce the energy to power it. Potentially, this is a better system than a mechanical because the power reserve is not measured in hours, but in weeks and months. Having said that, after 3 fairly busy weeks I have still not managed to get the Seiko to the maximum setting. It’s not the end of the world because it is keeping charge well, but the nerd in me wants to know that months of use is available to me from this moment.

The lume is a case of brilliant and a missed opportunity. It is, as you would expect from Seiko, extremely bright and capable of lasting throughout the night with ease. However, the skeleton hands are somewhat difficult to read and you have to get used to the circle (hour hand) and triangle (minute hand) to know the exact time in darkness. I have seen this watch with aftermarket solid hands and it works a lot better so that may be a customisation I look at in the future.

The Hardlex glass is very tough and should wear well over extended periods, but it does not offer as invisible a view as you may see on other watches, with the occasional smudge visible. This is a minor quibble though because it is better to have a material that will look new for a long time than one which looks super clear for a limited period.

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Finally, the bracelet is a beast with a fold over safety clasp and a diver’s extender for diving suits. It suits the watch perfectly, but when you put this watch on a brown leather strap, it feels very 1970’s. This watch can take different forms with the simple addition of a strap and the end result is something new every day if that is your thing.

With a screw down crown and only one other button to check the current charge, there is a minimalism at play here which belies the size and shape of the watch itself, and it comes together to create a charming timepiece that will work for you 24 hours a day.

Overall ratings

Build quality: 9/10

Accuracy: 9/10

Design: 9/10

Value for money: 9/10

Overall: 36/40

An understated yet attention grabbing watch that does all of the basics well. It is super strong and will work underwater, at night and in every other situation you can throw at it. This is one of the very best dive watches you can buy for under £500.

Authentic, Older Than Me And Technically Brilliant

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Technology today is quite wonderful and it always has been. We are getting used to letting computers do things for us and are starting to trust the internet and the companies that dominate it with our data. It is all around us and feels more like mere software every day.

It used to be that the TV remote control was a thing of wonder and that stereo systems containing record players, radios and cassette players were must have items, but ‘objects’ no longer seem to hold such a reverence today. This is not a bad thing because it is arguable that the demise of physical music and movies save money, the environment and makes every easier, but there are examples of objects married with technology that still grab my attention today.

I recently bought an Avia Swissonic electronic watch which is dated as produced in 1968 for an extremely good price as it is a type of object that has fascinated me for some time. This particular one is in pristine condition and looks as good inside as it does out. It offers a genuine sense of late 1960’s fashion thanks to the gracefully sculptured case and glass which protrudes like few watches would dare do today. The strap is also striking in appearance, looking like something an astronaut would attach to the outside of his space suit in times of need. There is something so unique and special about late 1960’s and early 1970’s watches that draws me in, but there is something even more special about the Avia Swissonic.

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It is one of a breed of watches that took the mechanical tradition and turned it on its head by being able to keep time more accurately than ever before, and this model loses approximately 1 second a day. That is incredible for a watch that is close to half a century old. And that is what attracts me to the Accutron watches and variants of this age. They are the only pieces of technology I can think of that are authentic from before I was born and which can satisfy my needs today. I can think of no other mechanical or technical object that can do that- only these particular watches offer the best of both worlds to me.