Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stührling Original Lifestyle Voyager II GMT Automatic

Model # 164.3345K1

At a Glance:

Model/Brand:  Stührling Original Lifestyle Voyager II
Movement:  Chinese automatic
Material:  rose gold plated stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable GMT hand
Price:  MSRP (fantasy) $675 USD; street price $150-$200 USD

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

This is my second Stührling Original watch, since I was so impressed with the Stührling Tuskegee Flier I purchased late last year.  A review of that Tuskegee Flier can be found on this blog.

I was attracted to this Stührling for several reasons.  It is an automatic with an independently adjustable GMT hand, so it’s a ‘true’ GMT watch.  The addition of a world cities rotating bezel makes it a true ‘world timer.’    Although I really have no practical use for a watch with a world time GMT feature, I have always liked this complication and therefore, I am drawn to watches such as this.

The clean dial layout, overall look of this watch, and of course, its price sealed the deal for me.  These can usually be found in the $150-$200 USD range, I paid less than $150 USD delivered.  For an automatic GMT, that is a very good price.

The biggest departure for me with this watch is the rose gold finish.  The Lifestyle Voyager II GMT Automatic is also available with a white dial and gold tone finish and a black dial with a standard stainless steel finish at the same price points.

I really don’t care for gold finishes on watches, but for some reason, rose gold strikes my fancy.  The rose gold on this Stührling is really more of a copper tone and is not pinkish like some rose gold finishes can be.  That is a-okay by me.  The rose gold finish on this watch reminds me somewhat of tarnished metal, with a luster and patina that speaks of quality.  It may not resonate with some, but I think it’s quite nifty.

The case is solid stainless steel with the rose gold finish applied (don’t know if it’s a PVD type deposition or more ‘standard’ plating, but the finish is fairly evenly applied with only one or two slight spots where the finish could be more even or consistent).  The case is brushed with the top bezel being polished.  Both the main time-setting crown @ 3 and the world cities crown @ 8 are signed.  The main crown screws down, the world cities crown does not (a slight demerit here for that).

Watch is factory rated for 100 meters water resistance.

Case measures approximately 44.2mm without the crowns, 48.1mm with the main crown @ 3, 12.8mm thick with a 22mm lug width.  The medium/dark brown alligator print leather strap is signed on the inside and features medium padding and color coordinated stitching.  The strap is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20mm at the buckle and is of acceptable quality and is claimed to be ‘French leather.’ 

The strap includes a pushbutton release signed butterfly style deployant in matching rose gold finish.   I’m not crazy about deployant buckles on leather straps, but it does, once again, add a level of cache to this watch that is appealing.

One odd thing about the strap, it was installed backwards on this watch, at least to me (long side of strap at the 12 o’clock position, buckle end at the 6).  Some people claim the factory orientation on the strap is correct, but I’ve never seen any other straps come like this from the factory. 

The case back is a screw down type with a display window that shows off the Chinese-made ST 90104 22-jewel automatic movement running at 21,600 bph.  The case back has machined holes instead of notches as the screw down points, which gives this watch a more expensive look. 

The movement can be manually wound and hacks and so far, has kept good time.   The independently adjustable GMT hand is easily set by turning the main crown @ 3 in the downward position when in the first click date-setting position.  The GMT hand seems to NOT exhibit the backlash after setting that some GMT movements seem afflicted with.

The movement is nicely finished with Geneva stripes, pearlage and a rose gold finished signed rotor secured by a blued screw.  Sharp!

The crystals on this watch are Stührling’s ‘Krysterna’ variety, which I believe to be their version of a sapphire crystal.  Both crystals are flat and have no anti-reflective coating. 

As for the inner rotating world time bezel, the action of this disk could be smoother.  It seems to hang up or get hard to turn for about 35 to 40-percent of its entire rotation.  I at first thought it was detents to lock in each city, but that’s clearly not the case.  This bezel also seems to rattle when the watch is shook, as I hear something making noise and it’s not the rotor winding or the strap or buckle clicking.  Demerits here, too, for this QC issue.  I just hope that it isn’t noisy as the watch is worn and that the selected city stays in place and doesn’t rotate out of position.  Time will tell.   A locking world cities crown would be a very desirable upgrade to this piece.

The dial is matte black, with rose gold non-luminous hands.  The minute bezel seems to be printed on the backside of the crystal.  It would be nice if they could have made this an actual rotating inner bezel.  That would rock.  Also, if you look at the watch at a fairly severe angle, you can see the world cities bezel underneath the minute bezel printing.  The world cities bezel is not shrouded by a chapter ring.  You have to look at a pretty strong angle to see this, but it may be off-putting to some.

The 24-hour track is done in two shades of rose gold, with a darker hue running upwards from 9 o’clock to the 3 o’clock position.  This is a subtle detail that looks good.  The seconds hand is red and the GMT hand is black with a large red tip that is very legible and easy to spot on the dial.  The markers and arabics are rose gold and are applied to the dial.  The calendar wheel @ 3 is black on white, date quicksets through the main crown in the standard fashion.

Some may find the main hands to be a bit thin and/or slightly too short, but so far, they are pleasing to me and are appropriately classy for this design.

Once again, though, on the dial, some QC issues are present.  The biggest issue is a noticeable spot between the 5 and 10 markers on the dial.  It looks like a dust speck, but I believe it’s an imperfection on the dial.  If you look at the dial with an 8X loupe, more imperfections surface and the arabics even look somewhat dirty.  It’s been said that you shouldn’t look at a watch dial with a strong loupe because ANY brand will show imperfections and I’m not trying to be overly critical here.  With the naked eye, the speck that I previously mentioned is the most obvious defect on the dial.  Otherwise, the dial is a clean, easy-to-read design.

Overall, I’m fairly pleased with this Stührling Lifestyle Voyager II world time automatic.  Yes, there are some QC issues that should be addressed at the factory, but the overall presentation and look of this watch far outweighs its relatively modest purchase price.  For true GMT/world time functionality, you can’t go wrong or for pure bang-for-the buck looks, it’s hard to beat. 

Pros:  expensive looks, true GMT functionality with an automatic movement, decent size, several flavors to choose from, low entry price

Cons:  QC issues, while not deal-breakers, need to be addressed if Stührling wants to be considered a real player in the industry, world time crown needs to screw down, maybe add some lume to the dial?  Strap installed backwards, at least to me.

Verdict:  superb value for what this watch is and what this watch represents, an overall clean, attractive design with a decent movement

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures!




I only owned this watch for a short time before selling it.  While I admire the overall design, I felt the quality control on this example was lacking, as mentioned in my review.  This watch comes in a variety of colors and I wouldn’t rule out giving a different color combo a try somewhere down the line.

-MCV, 4-27-11

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review of Invicta Signature II Chronograph

Model # 7284

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Invicta Signature II
Movement:  Japanese quartz
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing up to 60 minutes in one-second increments
Price:  MSRP (fantasy) $595 USD; $100 USD street price

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

This Invicta Signature II chronograph was admittedly an impulse buy from Jomashop, as they had a special on select Invictas and for some reason, this two-tone model caught my eye, which is especially interesting because usually I’m not a two-tone sort of guy.  I have always liked the combination of black and gold, though, and this watch reminds of the livery on the famous Johnny Player Special Lotus Formula One race car from the ‘70s.  Also, the amount of gold tone on this watch is not overdone and harmonizes well with the silver stainless steel case.  So I clicked ‘Buy’ and just a couple of days later, I had this Invicta in my hot little hands.

I know we all have our opinions about Invicta and I’m certainly not immune to my ruminations about their at times spotty QC, horrendous customer service, garish designs, etc.  But, they do often times produce an amazingly nice watch for relatively little money.  I feel this Signature II chronograph falls into this category, as it exudes class, quality and precision at around $100.

This Signature II chronograph is available in several different flavors, including one with a black dial and brown strap that is pretty much a direct copy of a certain Citizen Eco-Drive model.  I would have considered this model, but it was not as greatly discounted as the one I purchased, so I took a pass. 

The case is solid stainless steel, which is beautifully polished on the sides and brushed on the top, with a brushed gold tone bezel sporting polished edges.  Two pleasant surprises with the bezel upon delivery were that it indeed rotates (the specs. on the watch listing stated the bezel was fixed) and that the top of the bezel was brushed rather than polished, which to me, gives the watch a more subdued look instead of screaming ‘look at me!’ like Britney Spears in tight black leather pants.

The caseback screws down and is polished, with the Invicta Signature II logo and model number, etc. printed on the back.  The crown and chrono pushers are polished gold tone.  The crown is unsigned and does not screw down.  The watch is factory rated at a modest 50 meters of water resistance.

The case measures 43.3mm without the crown, 46.1mm crown inclusive.  Medium sized crown protectors protrude from the case.  Case thickness is 12.6mm, lugs are 22mm.  The watch is of medium weight, not too heavy, partly due to the leather strap instead of a heavy stainless bracelet. 

Comfort is average on my thinner wrist, which should improve somewhat as the strap breaks in a bit.  This watch, due to its larger diameter, has a tendency to rotate on the wrist, depending on if you’re wearing a jacket or sweater or something that covers the watch.

The crystal is flat mineral and protrudes just the slightest of millimeters above the bezel.  As previously mentioned, the bezel does indeed rotate, a 120-click unidirectional type with a satisfying ‘click’ and a slight bit of play.  No lume pip is installed on the bezel, just a black inset painted dot at ‘12’.  The markers and numbers on the bezel are also black inset painted.  The overall look of the watch head is one of elegance and class.

The dial is a deep gloss black with applied gold tone Arabics.  Most of the Arabics are presented in their full glory, only the ‘2’ and the ‘10’ are slightly hacked off, but not so much so as to look strange or be distracting (one of my pet peeves). 

The hands are what I would call sword style, with gold outlines and inset ‘Tritnite’ lume, Invicta’s trademarked name for their luminous material.  The only other lume on the dial are the ball on the end of the center seconds hand and the chrono seconds hand in the subdial @ 6, which seems pretty useless to have this hand lumed.  Lume quality is decent, but nothing really to write home about, especially given Invicta’s hype about this and how great they make the lume seem.

A quickset date window framed in gold resides at 4:30, the date wheel is standard black on white, alignment and setting action are fine.

The subdials are slightly inset and feature the ubiquitous record-style circular patterning, with white lettering.  The subdial @ 3 is a 24-hour indicator (a handy feature to have), the subdial @ 6 is the chrono seconds hand and the subdial @ 9 is the chrono minutes counter (up to 60 minutes).  The subdial hands are plain gold tone.

There is a tachymeter track that encircles the entire dial, with white lettering and white printed hash marks.  This tachymeter/chapter ring also has a deep-dish design to it, which I have always liked.  Another note about this watch that has greatly pleased me, the center running seconds hand hits all the markers straight on, which was an unexpected bonus.

The winged Invicta logo does not appear on the dial, which suits me just fine.  I find that logo at times to look cheap and overly large.  Instead, Invicta has christened this dial with their name below the inverse gold triangle at 12, along with a cursive ‘Signature II’ script below that.  And that’s the extent of wording on this dial, although with the subdials, date window, tachy scale and markers, there’s really no other space for any more wording.  The dial is a tad busy, but still works in my book.

The chronograph movement is Japanese quartz, the trusty Seiko Caliber VD-53 B, a relatively simple but effective design.  It’s the same movement that was installed in the Bellagio Ravello chronograph I reviewed last year.  The center seconds hand is the watch second hand, while the chrono seconds hand is in the subdial @ 6.  This design doesn’t suit all comers, but for a dressy chrono like this, where chrono timing would be secondary to style, this movement fits perfectly.  The chrono times in one-second increments to 60 minutes, with lap timing capability. 

Accuracy has been superb, gaining just one-half second during two weeks of testing, after calibration to my lab’s atomic clock.

Fit and finish on this Invicta Signature II I am happy to announce, is very, very good.  The hands align perfectly at midnight, the seconds hand hits all the marks around the dial, chrono action is accurate and reset to zero is perfect.  The crystal is clear and has no distortion and the build quality of the dial and hands is clean and shows no abnormalities under my standard 8X loupe exam.  This is what amazes me about Invicta, given the chance, they can produce an outstanding watch for a great price.

The strap was another nice surprise.  It is a 22mm croc-pattern leather, in a perfect matte black, not gloss.  I was concerned the strap might be glossy or semi-gloss, but the matte finish is preferred and much appreciated.  The strap is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 19.6mm at the heavy signed stainless steel buckle.  The strap itself is signed, medium-to-heavy padded, with same-color black stitching and twin keepers (one fixed, one floating).

Even the presentation was unexpected.  Instead of the traditional Invicta big dopey cheesy yellow box, this Signature II arrived in a simple signed square black cardboard box with white cardboard overwrap, very similar to the box two of my Victorinox Swiss Army watches came in.  If this is cost-cutting, bring it on!

Invicta’s fantasy msrp on this watch is $595 USD, which of course, no one has ever paid.  Street price new is around $100 USD, which represents a fair value.

Overall, Invicta presents a solid watch in the Signature II chronograph which can’t be faulted for features, quality or price.  Dressy without being over-the-top, functional without being boring and at a price that certainly won’t break the bank.  I recommend this watch.

Pros:  reliable and accurate Seiko quartz chronograph movement, quality fit and finish, good looks without garishness

Cons:  a subtly signed crown would add extra class, perhaps 100M water resistance, a bit more lume on the dial would help

Verdict:  not much to fault here, Invicta does itself proud with the Signature II chrono, a watch that works when out for a special dinner, on the tennis court or around the house, with classy good looks and quality to boot!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics!