Behind the dial

While in these respects Tudor and Rolex movements diverge, both companies test their prototypes the same way. In a lab just a few metres from Tudor’s conceptors, designs are put through their paces using identical processes and equipment to the sister brand – indeed, many of the machines here bear the Rolex logo. The common goal of the machinery is to artificially age prototypes and see how they fare. So, there’s a device that rapidly twists the winding stem, another that repeatedly sets the date and one that pushes and pulls the crown – some of these simulating up to 27 years of use. Elsewhere on the premises, there’s a room shared by Tudor and Rolex where prototype watches are subjected to shocks – dropped from heights, smashed with hammers – to make sure they can survive even the most careless owner. The only time Tudor uses its own dedicated equipment is to test unique functions, such as the alarm on the Tudor Heritage Advisor… More here.

Always good to see what justifies the cost of the better timepieces.

The Citizen Eco-Drive Promaster Tough

The design is simplicity itself: a steel case with monocoque construction (the movement’s inserted on the dial side) 42mm in diameter, and 10.75mm thick; the exterior of the case is clad in Duratect, which is Citizen’s proprietary titanium alloy and which is about 5 times more scratch resistant than standard stainless steels. The crystal is synthetic sapphire. The case exudes solidity; the screw-down crown is protected by crown guards; water resistance is 200 meters and resistance to magnetism is 4800 A/m (amperes per meter). The rechargeable cell inside the watch is a potential point of concern if you’re looking for a timepiece that will run indefinitely without any need for a watchmaker’s attention, but the manual for the Eco-Drive Tough says, bluntly, that “the energy cell should last for the life of the watch,” which given its simple and robust construction, should be a boringly long time… More here.

That’s a lot of watch for not a huge amount of money. Lovely clean design.

Tudor Black Bay GMT thoughts. Too good for me?

A grail watch that is so good it just doesn’t feel right

For many years I have wanted a Tudor Black Bay Heritage. It has always been the watch I look at and consider to be ‘the one’. I cannot explain why, but the cliche of ‘it needs to speak to you’ is 100% true in the case of watches and the invisible emotions that can make you love or hate a watch are completely real.

When I found myself in a position to finally get my grail I made some enquiries with regards to the red Heritage and was advised by my authorised deal that he had none. I was ready to check elsewhere, they are readily available, but he mentioned that he had just received a Black Bay GMT. That made me stop in my tracks.

You see, the GMT is not easy to find at all which is evidenced by this snippet taken from a watch forum discussing the availability in London last August-

So far:

John Lewis Oxford Street – Long Waiting List
Ernest Jones – Cheapside – 70 people waiting
Goldsmiths – Victoria – 200 people waiting
Watches of Switzerland – Regent St – 120 people waiting

Will update information as when I know more…

This has not changed much at all and to this day many people have been waiting for a long time to get their hands on one. So I asked him to keep it aside and I popped into the store the next day. £2,780 later it was mine.

A huge amount of money for a watch, but the picture is much bigger and far deeper when it comes to this particular watch. I shall try to explain why this amount of money makes perfect sense-

1/ It is a Tudor Black Bay. Try to buy a second-hand Black Bay and you will pay close to the original asking price so it is hard to lose money if you keep it in decent condition.

2/ The GMT is scarce and they are regularly changing hands for between £3,000 and £3,500 and in some cases even higher.

3/ The Rolex GMT Master II is £6,850. Yes, it is in some ways a very different watch, but in others the similarities are stark.

4/ It is an asset which holds its price in a way almost all other products fail to do. If troubling times come, I have +£2,500 to sell at any point. Potentially I will have a lot more once a few years have passed.

There was logically no reason to turn down the GMT even though when I sat in the jewellers with it on my wrist I was not overcome. It was not speaking to me as I expected it to.

I bought it anyway.

A strange thing happened over the next few days and especially so on the first wear. I was paranoid of getting any scratch or mark on it, presumably because of points 2 and 3 above, and so I was being extra careful with resting my arm on the desk etc. It took 30 minutes for me to pull out a second watch from my bag and replace this one in a safe place so that it did not gain any mark.

What was more strange, however, was how I felt wearing a watch that is worth approximately £3,000. It felt overwhelming in a small way. I didn’t feel like someone who should be wearing such an expensive watch. It’s not me and I simply did not feel worthy because it felt so out of place on my arm.

I am not a Rolex guy. Never have been and I never will be. There are many reasons for this; the designs feel as though they have been put together for other people to see and not for the wearer to enjoy. The Submariner is wonderful, but now so generic that everyone who gets into watches owns one. When people reach a certain financial position in life that they want to stamp they buy a Rolex. They don’t look for something different, they go for a Rolex because it is the safe choice.

The Pepsi icon. Rotary has tried to copy it, but failed in a big way. As have many other brands..

For all of the greatness of Rolex, and there is much, the designs feel as though they are aimed at people at least a generation ahead of me and maybe more. Look at the GMT Master II and compare it to the Black Bay GMT- the Master II comes over as far too decorative whereas the Bay feels somehow younger and cooler.

Anyway, I digress. I wore the Black Bay GMT the next day and it managed to get more wrist time than in the previous 24 hours, and the sense of ‘not good enough to wear it’ started to dissipate. But then another feeling clouded my thoughts. The red and blue bezel, which is made up of two perfectly matched subtle colours, pops in the subtlest of ways. It is not noticeable most of the time, but now and again I appreciate the colour scheme used on GMT. The white snowflake hands work perfectly with the grey(?) dial and the GMT hand of course makes sense in red. However, the sense of silver, red and blue all together can come over as too cautious. It is hard to put into words, but it is perfectly possible that I am truly smitten with the Black Bay Heritage and the gold hands and markers. It will sound silly to those of you who don’t have an interest in watches, but when you see something that fits the way you are, it is hard to move to the opposite.

The lack of a date window on the Heritage helps a lot as does the full red bezel and the gold of course, and it is these little things that make it feel special to me. It makes it feel just more special than the GMT. I cannot of course criticise the GMT for this because it is a true tool watch with a brilliantly intuitive movement and it makes no apologies for that. It should be perfect for me because it ticks every box, but the Heritage feels just a little more perfect.

Overall though I am left with the feeling that a £3,000 watch is too much for me. Do I not feel worthy to wear an expensive watch? Does it feel like a risk carrying something like this with me every day? I don’t know, but it makes me feel uncomfortable and somewhat guilty deep down. It feels arrogant and unnecessary which is bizarre because I have always wanted a watch like this. My iPhone cost £1,000 and I don’t have any guilt about carrying that around so why is a watch a problem?

I don’t know why it is, but I suspect that I will end up wearing a £300 Seiko again and will continue to ‘look up’ to watches like the Black Bay GMT. Something about not being able to attain an object makes it seem more special to me than when I have it on my wrist, and it is kind of a disappointing feeling.

If you have no such worries, however, get this watch. It is wonderful and probably the best value watch on the market today when compared to its peers.

Wena Pro by Sony

Turn your favourite watch into a smart watch, all of the latest smart features are incorporated into the smart wena strap, giving you the perfect balance of style and convenience. Leave your bulky wallet behind thank to the contactless payment system built into the wristband. Get notifications on smartphone calls, apps and texts, all with an optional vibration mode. Monitoring your health has never been easier. Just wear your Wena wrist pro and check steps walked, calories burned, track sleep and more from a dedicated application.

Wena wrist Pro combines the beauty of analogue timepieces with the convenience of technology. Add your favourite watch face to the wena pro to create a personalised smartwatch that’s literally like no other or choose a face from the extensive wena lineup. The wena wrist pro smart strap is compatible with 18mm, 20mm and 22mm watch faces so you can truly make it your own… More here.

A good idea and I’m pleased to see a real company like Sony trying this approach. My main concern would be the quality of the fitness tracking, but time will tell.

The U1-EN BGW-09

High horology is a rarified world. We are, after all, talking about a space in which you can create mechanical feats that seem almost impossible—and that come with a price-tag to match. The Unimatic U1-EN BGW-09 isn’t cheap, but it’s priced fairly. It’s made in a (very) limited edition of 300 units, and a Seiko NH35A movement ensures it keeps good time for, well, pretty much forever. I’m not going to even attempt to bullshit: More than $600 is a lot for a watch right now. But when that watch is punching this far above its class, it deserves some attention… More here.

Crap name, great design, brilliant price.

Seiko SBJG003

SS case & Bracelet / Bezel: Aluminum
Water resistance: 10 ATM
Curved Hardlex Crystal
Rotating bezel
Rotary switch function
Tachymeter/ Stopwatch/ Alarm/ Timer
Full auto calendar function (until December 31, 2067)
Panelite function/ Calendar function/ Sound demo function. Buy here, if you are in Japan.

Amazes me how reluctant watch designers are to tackle new designs for the modern age, or at the least to step away from vintage inspired looks. We are in stasis at the moment and someone needs to shake things up to even have a change of staying relevant in a smartwatch world. This may not be a new idea from Seiko, but it is different to almost everything else on the market today.

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight (M79030N-0002) thoughts

The Tudor Black Bay is an unusual watch within the Rolex family. Yes, it is not a Rolex, but the influence is clear throughout and there is no doubt that the standards are very high when you inspect the finishing, the feel and the general sense that this is something special.

This watch is technically the follow up to the Oyster Prince Submariner ref. 7924 which was released in 1958, hence the name of this watch, and it has been cut down to 39mm to more closely match the 37mm diameter of the original.

Where it becomes unusual is in the fact that it has also been slimmed down to 11.9mm from 14.75mm (the current Black Bay thickness). This follows the thickening of the Black Bay from 12.8mm when Tudor previously used an ETA movement. Some people prefer the ETA movement purely because the Black Bay was slimmer at that point, but others will prefer to have a Tudor movement inside and cope with the extra depth. This is not the Rolex way which above all else is one of keeping the watches almost identical year after year with changes inside the watch to justify a new reference model number.

The Black Bay Fifty-Eight is the culmination of the confusion above and for many the smaller form factor finally gives them the Black Bay they want. I am one of these people, or at least I thought I was, because the Black Bey Heritage is a bit of a beast on the wrist. It all comes down to the sides of the watch which are almost vertical and which can tend to make it feel like a square slab when worn. Look at the Heritage from above and it’s lovely. Look at it from the side and it seems like a completely different watch. This does not happen with the Fifty-Eight.

The form feels consistent at every angle and especially so when on the wrist. The vertical harshness of the sides is gone and the way it sits on the wrist makes it feel like an extension of the arm rather than a tall slab of metal that takes up too much space.

It is also very hard to get hold of at this time with many dealers offering the watch with a 9-12 month lead time. At £2,340 this is not a cheap watch, but many many people are clamouring to get hold of the Fifty-Eight purely because of what it is. It often happens in the watch world that people (mainly men) have a gene that means when something is hard to get they want it even more, but this is not the whole story with the Fifty-Eight. From the moment it was announced the watch world went crazy for it and for good reasons. The watch world went crazy purely because of what it is and not what it represents which is unusual.

When I first tried it on I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed. I am not a small guy, but my wrists are not large yet the Fifty-Eight didn’t quite suit me. It felt just a touch too small when look at from above, but there was still something there that was special. Moving up to a watch like this from the likes of Seiko, Oris and Longines highlights that there is indeed a gap and that it is not all a myth. Sure, a lot of the price is usually the badge, but that does not seem to be the case here.

A Rolex Submariner is twice the price, if you can find one, and in many respects it does not feel twice as good. If you look at it through a magnifier you may see differences, but we don’t have magnifying eyes and so the Tudor looks very special to human eyes. It looks special because of the materials, the minimal use of stark colours and the fact that it is obviously a Black Bay. If you know what a Black Bay is, you will automatically know that this is a quality timepiece which kind of fools the brain before you even start.

The use of gold markings on the bezel has not been welcomed by some who see it is leaning too far to homaging a vintage look and rather false. I disagree because to me it perfectly matches the hands and dial markers to the point that the consistency is only broken by the glorious red pip surround at midnight.

Of course it is the snowflake hands that make this look like a Black Bay above all else and to me this is just about the perfect watch in terms of the colours and the form, but there is a problem that is specific to me.

The Black Bay Fifty-Eight is simply too small for my wrist which is a surprise because I don’t have large wrists (7.25”), but maybe they are a little flatter and wider than many other people which means the Fifty-Eight does not reach either side. It looks strange to me which is a shame because the slimmer depth and everything else excites me in the way only a watch that feels right should.

My problem is that the Heritage Black Bay is very thick and the sides of the watch are too angular and stark, in my view, to offer any meaningful elegance. This puts me in a position where the Black Bay as a design feels close to perfect, but the form factors on offer are either too big or too small. There is of course the older model with the ETA movement which is form-wise perfect for me, but I am not spending +£2,000 on an ETA powered watch.

The Fifty-Eight was, in my mind, my modern grail watch, but it turned out to not be right for me. It is a fabulous watch, it really is, and those who see are almost always impressed which my 18 year old son proved in an instant. He is now walking around with the watch on his wrist having paid for it with cash and through the sell of his Oris Artelier. My 18 year old son is wearing my grail watch and I am kind of jealous.

The Nixon Dork Too

The Nixon Dork Too ‘90s retro watch with the analog answering machine look embraces its own kitschiness with proper passion and ups its own original voice watch ante from the first Dork they released in 2005. The Dork Too actually minimizes the red LCD display an opts for a larger speaker area… More here.

I like.