Friday, April 20, 2018

Review of Glycine Airman SST-12 Automatic GMT

Model # GL0074

Brand/Model: Glycine Airman SST-12 Automatic GMT
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and stainless steel mesh bracelet
Complications: date display, independently adjustable GMT hand, inner rotating 24-hour bezel
Price:  approx. $2640 USD (can be found heavily discounted)

Plenty of photos follow the review. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

About two years ago, the Invicta Watch Group purchased the Swiss watch company Glycine, presumably to give themselves more of an ‘in’ with the genuine Swiss-made watch market and because many Swiss makers are struggling these days and I’m sure the price was right.  I won’t go into the whys and maybes associated with the acquisition, but I am glad that since the deal was done, existing stocks of Glycine watches have gone down in price and can be had at ‘steal’ prices at many retailers online.

Glycine was founded in 1914 and was for the majority of time a small, independent watchmaker that made its name with the iconic Airman series of 24-hour and GMT pilot watches that made their debut in 1953.  There are far too many variations of the Airman line to dissect here, but if you’re looking for a true GMT watch that can track up to three timezones at once or a true 24-hour format watch with GMT capability, look no further than the Airman.

I have previously owned a 24-hour format Airman (the hands make one full rotation every 24 hours instead to two (a.m./p.m.) and it was a nice piece (reviewed by me on this blog, May 2012); I just never warmed up to nor needed the 24 hour format. 

As I do enjoy a watch with a GMT complication, I’m always looking for another one to add to my collection and when the Airman SST that is the subject of this review popped up at a great price, I pulled the trigger and haven’t looked back, as it’s a superb piece.

And before we go any further, I wanted to make it clear that this model of Airman is a standard 12-hour timepiece, with a.m. and p.m. cycles and is part of Glycine’s ‘Vintage’ Airman series.

The Glycine Airman SST-12 starts with a stainless steel cushion-style case that is polished on the sides and finely brushed on the top.  The case measures about 42.4mm without the perfectly sized signed and screwdown crown; 46.7mm crown inclusive.  Overall height is 46.4mm which makes for a nice placement on the wrist.  The curve of the case hugs the wrist extremely well.

Case thickness is a relatively svelte 11.1mm with lug spacing at 22mm.  The polished caseback screws down and displays a beautifully embossed design of a supersonic Concorde jet with a polished relief and a satin grey background.  Super cool.

The crown at three is the watch setting crown, which is signed and screws down with about four full turns.  The crown is a bit wobbly when fully extended, which is a bit odd, but it never feels like it’s about to fall out. 

There is also a screwhead slotted crown at the two position, which is used to turn the inner 24-hour rotating bezel.  This crown is very stiff, so once it’s moved to the desired position, it will stay put.  Glycine supplies a nickel-sized ‘coin’ that fits into the slotted crown to rotate the bezel (see photo).  You could use something else, but this ‘coin’ fits perfectly and looks pretty cool as well, as it’s emblazoned with the Glycine name and SST nomenclature.

Fit and finish on the watch is strong, and the quality of the mesh bracelet (to be discussed shortly) is great. This watch is very comfortable to wear, in part due to the very comfy bracelet.

The Glycine Airman SST-12 is factory rated for 20 ATM of water resistance.

Part of what drew me to this particular model Airman is the color of the dial.  I’m one of those watch guys that dig lighter color dials, like white, ivory and cream and while the dial on this watch is not entirely one of those shades, it is close, more like silvery cream.  It’s a very pleasing hue. 

While the dial might look plenty busy with all the arabics on it (and regular readers will know I don’t like overly busy dials) this watch is actually very legible and not confusing to look at.  The outer track of the dial is a 24-hour chapter ring with orange numbers, with another 24-hour ring with black numbers that is the inner rotating bezel controlled by the screwhead slotted crown at the 2 o’clock position.

On the inside of the first chapter ring are hash marks for the seconds and standard arabics every five minutes, both in black.  Lumed rectangles are also positioned above each of the black arabics, with small lume dots between each five minute arabic.

Below the 12 position is the Glycine crown logo (printed, not applied), ‘Glycine’ and ‘Airman’ all in small black type.  Other than a small ‘Swiss Made’ at the bottom of the dial, there’s also ‘Automatic’ above the six position and small AM and PM markings in orange (AM on the center right and PM on the center left.

I know this dial sounds like there’s a lot going on, but trust me, it all works together nicely.  And remember, all this info on the dial means you can track three timezones at once.

The hands are simple stick style, done in silver with inset lume.  The seconds hand is a simple silver stick as well, with a lume ball about two-thirds of the way up.  A red arrow-style GMT hand extends all the way to the inside of the 24-hour rotating track.

While there’s not an abundance of lume on this watch, what there is appears to be of good quality.  The hands glow green and the rest of the markers are a green-blue.

A quickset date is at the three position, with a black on white date wheel.  Alignment of the date wheel in the window is fine and the quickset date mechanism functions perfectly.

A flat sapphire crystal caps the dial with three layers of anti-reflective coating on the underside. 

There is also a fixed polished bezel (really more of a thin ring or rim) that has 14 sides to it and pretty much blends into the case and doesn’t stand out or distract.  One small nit to pick (at least to my fussy self) is that this bezel could be aligned a smidge better, so that the flat part of one of the sides is even with the top of the watch.  As you will see if you look closely in my pictures that it’s every so slight crooked, but most people won’t notice it or be bothered by it.  It doesn’t bug me, but I wanted to make mention of it nonetheless.

Inside the Airman SST-12 is the venerable ETA 2893-2 Swiss made automatic movement (Glycine caliber GL 293 with decorated Glycine rotor).  This is a great movement, proven in many different brands of watches and keeps great time. 

The GL 293/2893-2 runs in 21 jewels and beats at 28,800 vph.  I have read that due to the case size on some of the Glycine Airmans that there is a spacer to have the movement fit properly inside the case, but seeing that the caseback is solid on this watch and I don’t want to open it up to look, I will leave it at that.  Besides, spacers don’t bother me as they seem to do some people.

The GL 293 inside my Airman winds silently and sets properly, hacks and keeps outstanding time.  During testing in my atelier, it ran at +1 second over 24 hours in the crown up position, and also keeps this excellent time on the wrist as well.  Outstanding!  Power reserve is equally impressive, clocking in at 50 ¼ hours of run time on a full wind.

As with all ETA 2893-2 movements, the third GMT hand sets with the crown in the date setting position.  You rotate the crown up (clockwise) to set the GMT hand in one hour increments.

Overall, I have zero complaints about the engine in the SST-12 and it should provide years of reliable, accurate timekeeping.

Another design feature of the SST-12 that attracted me to this watch is the inclusion of a mesh bracelet.  As many WISes know, mesh bracelets come in a wide variety of styles and adjustment schemes.  This is a finer style mesh (fine chainmail or milanese type) that looks great and gives a dressier feel to this watch.  The bracelet is finely polished, but not glaringly so, and is fairly flexible so fitment is not a problem.  The bracelet is 2.5mm thick.

The bracelet measures 22mm at both the lug and clasp ends.  The lug ends are nicely capped where the spring bar fits through and the clasp is a signed double locking type.  What I particularly like about this style of mesh is that there are no links to remove, you simply release the ‘lock’ or clamp on the inside of the clasp and slide the opposite end of the bracelet through the clasp to the desired fitment and re-secure the clamp, no muss or fuss for a perfect fit.  The bracelet is comfortable and does not pull any hairs.

Presentation is standard, a black cardboard outer box with the Glycine logo and a black inner box with the instructions and warranty in a separate envelope.  A clean and straightforward setup.

I have owned several Glycine watches over the years and have always found them to be quality pieces with some unique design elements and this Airman SST-12 is no exception.  For one, it’s not a watch that you see every day, even with the storied history of the Airman line.  This watch is well built, keeps exceptional time and has very useful timezone tracking features for those who need such a feature, or those like me that just think it’s a cool watch that looks great and has some history behind it.  Grab one while you can and enjoy it to the max.

Pros:  storied watch series from an established Swiss brand, robust Swiss engine with superb accuracy, super nice bracelet, true multi-timezone capability, great overall look 

Cons:  dial might be too busy for some, top bezel ring could be aligned a smidge better, could use more lume

Verdict:  it doesn’t get much more iconic than an Airman from Glycine, no matter with flavor you choose, an excellent choice for pilots or anyone who wants a GMT watch with a story and one that will deliver the goods year after year.  Simply a superb watch!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review of Aquatico Aqua One Automatic Diver

Model # Aqua One Military Green ‘A’ (301)

Brand/Model:  Aquatico Aqua One Automatic Diver
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet, ceramic bezel insert
Complications:  date display
Price:  approx. $200 USD plus shipping

Plenty of photos follow the review. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

We are certainly living in the golden age of micro-brand watches.  Pretty much never before in horological history have there been so many affordable, diverse and interesting automatic watches available for the discerning collector (or casual collector for that matter).

As a dive watch enthusiast, I keep my eyes open for any new dive watches that might appear on the market and I literally stumbled on the Aquatico brand while perusing the Sales Forum on the popular worldwide watch forum WatchUSeek.  I was not familiar with this brand and it seems they haven’t been promoting themselves too much; even their web site appears to be somewhat of a work-in-progress.  But let’s get this out in the open right away:  Aquatico makes a darn good watch, especially for the price.

What drew me to the Aqua One diver, aside from its low $200 USD price before shipping (which was $20 from China to the United States via DHL, with arrival in four days after purchase) was this model’s great military green dial.  It just looks super nifty.

The Aqua One is also available in black and what looks to be a terrific blue dial, with your choice of either ‘classic’ Mercedes hands or the ‘snowflake’ handset you see here.  While I own a Tudor Black Bay and a vintage Tudor ‘snowflake’ Sub, I opted for the snowflake hands on my Aqua One for a nice change of pace compared to my other micro-brand pieces.

The Aqua One diver seen here starts with a polished on the sides and brushed on the top all 316L stainless steel case, measuring 41.4mm without the signed screwdown crown; 46.5mm crown included.  Case thickness is a relatively slim 12.6mm.  Lug spacing is 22mm and lug-tip to lug-tip clocks in at 49.5mm, so the overall dimensions of the watch are just about perfect.

The crown is signed, screws down with about 2-1/2 to 3 turns and has a nice spring-loaded tension about it, which exudes a feeling of quality.

The case back is brushed stainless steel, screws down and is engraved with the Aquatico logo (a mermaid on a dolphin).

Case fit and finish is good with no sharp edges, unfinished spots or ill-fitting pieces.

The Aquatico Aqua One is factory rated for 300 meters of water resistance.

The dial is one area where this watch really shines.  The military green is a perfect matte green, slightly olive toned in certain light and looks great against the white handset and applied white markers and arabics.  I wasn’t too sure about having just two arabics on the dial (at the 6 and 9 positions) but it’s much better than putting a bunch of arabics on the dial and then hacking them off at certain spots like some companies do, which is something I really dislike.  I’ve grown to like the two arabics on the Aqua One’s dial. 

The markers, arabics and hands are all white and coated with Super Luminova BGW-9 lume, which glows that cool blue that we’ve all come to love.  Lume quality is good and the lume is evenly applied, but it could be a tad stronger.

A quickset date window resides at the 3 position with a small silver frame around the opening.  The date wheel is black on white and aligns perfectly within the window.  Quickset date action works as it should.

The hour hand is the snowflake design (the diamond part of the hand could be, in my opinion, slightly smaller, but this is a minor quibble) and the minute hand is a simple sword style, which should be about one to two millimeters longer.  The second hand has a snowflake diamond about two thirds of the way out on its hand.  The ends of all the hands where they attach to the pinion are finished in matte black, which gives the watch a more expensive look.

A printed-on-the-dial chapter ring has small white hash marks for the seconds encircling the dial.  Fairly minimal dial printing (something I always appreciate) consists of the Aquatico name and dolphin logo (sans the mermaid) below the 12 position and ‘Aqua One’ printed in orange, along with ‘1000ft/300m’ and ‘AUTOMATIC’ all positioned above the 6.  All said, nothing garish or distracting here.

Under my standard 8X loupe exam, the dial looks clean and the quality of the applied markers and overall assembly look strong.

The bezel is polished stainless steel with a ‘bottle cap’edge which makes for an easy grip.  The bezel is a 60-click unidirectional and exhibits a bit of backlash but operates smoothly and positively nonetheless. 

The bezel insert is ceramic and has a combination of markers and arabics, along with an inverted triangle at the 12.  All of these items are finished in white and are luminous with the same lume as used on the dial.  The bezel insert also has a matte finish instead of the high gloss that some ceramic inserts feature, which is a pleasant change of pace and harmonizes perfectly with the matte finish of the dial.

The ceramic insert is military green and matches the color of the dial fairly well, which is nice, because I have seen too many watches that have a ceramic bezel insert that’s supposed to be the same color as the dial, but where the color match between the two is too far off and lends a disconcerting look to the watch.

The dial is capped by a flat sapphire crystal with internal (inside/under crystal) anti-glare coating.  The crystal is flush with the top of the bezel.

Inside the Aqua One is the Seiko NH36 automatic movement (which is pretty much the same as or identical to Seiko’s 4R36 automatic) that runs in 24 jewels, hacks and manually winds and beats at 21,600 bph. 

The NH36 is the day/date version of the NH35 (date only) and I have no idea why Aquatico chose a day/date movement for a watch that has just a date display.  My guess is that maybe the NH36 positions the date display farther out on the dial, which they found more aesthetically pleasing?  For whatever reason, I have no complaints about the choice.

I have the NH35 movement (same as the NH36 but date only) in a bevy of other watches and some are more accurate than others, so I don’t know if the more accurate ones are tweaked by the watch companies prior to casing, but it shows this movement is capable of very good timekeeping.  This movement has become nearly ubiquitous in the micro-brand watch world, along with the similar Miyota 9015 automatic movement.

The NH36 in my Aqua One is exceptional, running at +1 second over 24 hours in the crown up position and while on the wrist, it shows no variation at +/- zero seconds!  Superb!  Power reserve was an expected 45-3/4 hours.  The watch winds, sets and functions perfectly, which has of course contributed to my overall enjoyment of this piece.

The bracelet is a fully brushed all stainless steel Oyster style with solid end links and a double locking signed clasp with machined deployant.  The clasp has four micro-adjustment holes.  There is no dive extension or half links.  The links are secured with standard split pins and sizing the bracelet was a straightforward exercise. 

It would be nice if watch companies would include at least one half link on a bracelet, since lately it seems I have encountered too many watches that are either too tight or too loose and where a half link would make all the difference.  The Aqua One almost fell into this category for me, but I was able to achieve a comfortable fit after all.  Comfort while wearing the watch is good and the balance of the watch on the wrist is just right.

The bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20.1mm at the clasp.

Presentation is simple, with a small blue cardboard box with a white cardboard sleeve, totally appropriate for the price point.  No instructions or specifications were supplied, just a warranty card with a rather poor translation into English.  It’s also the only watch warranty card I have ever seen that specifically states no warranty coverage due to earthquakes (!)

As I mentioned earlier, despite the company’s web site being a bit incomplete in parts, the actual on-line ordering of the watch went fine and shipment occurred in less than 24 hours from ordering.  Delivery took four days from China, so no complaints here.

Overall, the Aquatico Aqua One automatic dive watch is a terrific piece.  It features excellent build quality, solid credentials and a not-totally derivative look to create an unbeatable value.  Aquatico appears to be an upstart company that has a future to it if they would only get the word out more.  A smashing first effort!

Pros:  perfect military green dial and bezel, high quality dial work, accurate Seiko automatic movement, solid build quality with good crown action, impressively low price

Cons:  minute hand could be a bit longer, lume could be a bit brighter, a half link in the bracelet would be nice

Verdict:  the Aquatico Aqua One is a micro-brand dive watch that merits your close attention if you want a good looking, well-made diver that won’t break the bank while looking and feeling like a much more expensive watch.  Nicely done!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.