Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review of Raymond Weil Nabucco GMT

Model # 3800-ST-05657

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Raymond Weil Nabucco GMT
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable third/GMT hand
Price:  MSRP:  $1,950 USD; street price:  $850 USD

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

I was talking with a WIS friend of mine the other day and I was showing him my new Raymond Weil GMT.  He’s the one that turned me onto this brand last year and since then, I’ve been wanting to purchase my first Raymond Weil (‘RW’ for short).  We talked about how RW seems to be a well-known fashion brand in the non-watch collector world but is not necessarily highly regarded among watch enthusiasts.  But whether this is the case or not, RW produces some very nice pieces and is the only fully independent Swiss watch company in existence, according to their promotional materials.  They can march to the beat of a different drum and go their own way without any corporate overlords to tell them what to do.  Good for them!

A bit of additional backstory first.  Late last year, I decided to purchase a quartz RW sport model to give the brand a try.  I purchased from Amazon at a price somewhere north of $500, violating my ‘I won't spend more than $200 for a quartz watch’ dictum.  That watch was a disappointment, as it had a mis-aligned hour hand (off by 15 minutes) and a sticking quickset date mechanism.  Whether this was a dud from the factory, a return that Amazon resent out or something else, I will never know, but it went back the next day.  I will say Amazon was great with their return policy and even picked up my return shipping cost, so I couldn’t complain.  So after this experience, I was a little gun-shy about getting another RW and bided my time.

Flash forward to last month, when this RW Nabucco (which I had been eyeing for quite some time) finally came down to a price I felt I couldn’t ignore.  I pulled the proverbial trigger and ever since this Nabucco GMT landed on my doorstep, I’ve been tickled pink!  (or actually, silver and blue!)

What impressed me immediately about this watch was the overall feeling of quality:  Heft, fine finishing, details galore, great fit, accuracy, looks.  It is a beautiful piece.  The Nabucco GMT comes in several different dial colors and bracelets with black inserts or all stainless steel.  Some of the other color combos didn’t do too much for me, but this model, with its light silver (not white, as some may think) dial and blue hands looked very classy.  It looks amazing in person and hopefully the pictures will help you revel in its beauty as I do every time I wear it.

The Nabucco is a large piece, measuring 44.3mm without the signed screwdown crown; 48.8mm crown inclusive.  The crown has deep engraving on it and is suitably sized (7.1mm on its own) and screws down smoothly and with sufficient turns.  This is a long watch, about 53.2mm lug tip to lug tip and the lugs don’t turn down very much, but I am pleased to report that it fits pretty well on my thinner wrist.  Lug spacing is 22mm, case thickness is 12.6mm.  The case is polished and brushed with inset detailing on the case sides displaying what may be actual hex head screws to add dimension and intrigue.  Whether they are real or not (the heads are not all aligned perfectly, leading to the speculation that they are real and tightened into the case side) they look unique and add a touch of cool modernity to this watch.  The caseback is screwdown, brushed and polished stainless steel and is deeply embossed with the RW logo.  The watch is factory sealed for 200 meters of water resistance.

Inside this watch is the ETA 2893-2 automatic GMT movement.  These movements come in four different grades and I have no idea how elaborate RW tweaks their movements or which base grade they start with, since the caseback is solid and not display and I do not want to crack the factory seal open to take a look.  But I suspect it’s been massaged to some degree because it winds butter smooth (as smooth as my Omega Seamaster, which is the smoothest winding watch I own), keeps great time (+7 seconds over 24 hours) and winds silently.  Power reserve is the expected 40+ hours.  Congrats to RW for putting such a nice movement in this watch.  This watch also has one of the smoothest second hand sweeps of any piece I own, it almost reminds me of a tuning fork movement because the sweep is so smooth.

The GMT hand is adjusted via the first crown click position, the same position for quicksetting the date display.  Turn one direction for the date adjustment, the other direction to adjust the GMT hand. 

One note, this is one of those GMT movements that adjusts the hand in 30-minute increments only, instead of a continuous adjustment sweep.  The 30-minute design makes it easier to guarantee a proper GMT alignment with the 24-hour scale, as the continuous adjustment GMT designs always seem to have some backlash in them and you think you have it set right, but then find out after the watch is running for a bit that the hand is slightly off.  This can be irritating and I’ve grown to like the 30-minute increments the RW adjusts in.  The GMT hand alignment on the RW is not perfect throughout a 24-hour period, but is very close most of the time and spot on others and it’s just the nature of GMT movements like this.  So no real complaints here. 

The dial is a masterpiece on this watch, open, clean and supremely legible.  Light silver with a mild guilloche-patterned center, quickset date with round window at 4:30, applied luminous markers and oversized arabics in blue at 12 and 6.  The somewhat large Raymond Weil logo plate with blue screws does not look as garish in person as it does on pictures, so don’t let it scare you.  All four hands are a perfect shade of dark blue, with the seconds hand being all blue (no lume), the pointer tip of the GMT hand being lumed, and the hour and minute hands featuring inset lume.  Lume quality is superb, bright and long-lasting.

A flat sapphire crystal caps the dial and has amazing anti-reflective coating on it.  It’s one of those crystals that has the anti-reflective coating applied (with no blue, purple or green tint) that makes the crystal disappear at certain angles or in certain lighting.  At times, it truly looks like there is no crystal installed, the coating is that good.  It’s a really cool effect and just adds to the enjoyment of this watch.

The 24 hour bezel is fixed and is also beautifully executed.  The triangle at 12 is a nice shade of blue to coordinate with the blue on the dial and RW even puts GMT lettering in black on the bezel at the 20 mark, which I think is a nifty touch.

The bracelet is another gem of a feature on this watch and something that really gives it that expensive look and feel.  The bracelet is 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20.7mm at the center of its signed butterfly clasp.  Each link is 5mm thick and consists of solid stainless steel in five separate pieces, lovingly brushed and polished.  Solid end links and a signed and polished machined butterfly deployant complete the bracelet, with a round RW tab that overlaps the other side of the bracelet when closed. 

The bracelet also includes half links to help assure a good fit.  The links are secured by screw pins and adjustment was a breeze, with a smooth feel to the screw pins.  I’ve had too many cheap bracelets with screw pins that don’t fit well, strip out, or that had tons of black gunk on them when removed, so these screw pins were a pleasure to work with.  The bracelet is quite comfortable despite its heft and looks magnificent.

Presentation is in keeping with the rest of the watch.  A large dark brown RW box that opens butterfly style with the watch inside, along with the instructions and warranty information on a separate flap.

As my first official Raymond Weil watch, I am duly impressed with everything the Nabucco GMT has to offer.  Its fit, finish, quality and details are truly first-rate and at the street prices these go for, represent an astounding deal in a watch that will impress both the WIS and the non-WIS alike.  Bravo!

Pros:  butter smooth movement, true GMT functionality, superb anti-reflective crystal, clean, crisp dial, details galore, great bracelet

Cons:  date window perhaps a bit too small, 44mm size may be too big for some

Verdict:  perfect in almost every respect, the Nabucco GMT is a gem of a watch plain and simple.  In a word, sublime!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Review of Orient Dolphin Automatic Diver

Model # CER1A001B

At a Glance:

Brand/Model: Orient ‘Dolphin’ Automatic
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  Street price around $100 USD

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

This new Orient ‘Dolphin’ diver marks a homecoming of sorts for this watch to my collection.  I originally purchased the white dial/navy bezel version of this watch about three years ago and sold it about a year later.  I was always on the fence about whether I should sell it or not, but obviously I ended up doing so.  I’m not exactly sure why I did, I liked the white dial, maybe it was the blue bezel with the white dial that didn’t sit well with me. 

This time around, I decided to go with the black dial/black bezel version of the Dolphin.  This watch is also available in a blue dial/blue bezel and I believe an orange dial/black bezel combination, although I haven’t seen one, so don’t quote me on it.  Price was $100 USD brand new, delivered; an outstanding value for an automatic diver.

The stainless steel case on this watch is somewhat cushion shaped, fairly roundish and beautifully finished.  The case sides are polished, the tops of the lugs are brushed.  The screw down case back is satin finish stainless with the Dolphin logo.  The crown is unsigned and screws down.  Water resistance is rated at 200 meters.

This watch is powered by Orient’s 21-jewel in-house automatic movement that does not hack or manual wind, so just like a Seiko 7S26, you have to shake, rattle and roll to get it wound up.  It has kept great time since I powered it up.

Case measures about 41mm without the crown, about 14mm thick with 22mm lugs.  The shiny black bezel is a unidirectional 60-click style with a lume pip at the 12.  The top of the bezel is rounded and fits perfectly flush with the heavy domed mineral crystal, giving a very smooth feel when you rub your fingers over it. 

The rounded nature of the bezel gives this watch a slightly dressier look and some non-diver WISes have commented on the pleasing style of this bezel.

The dial is black, but to my eyes, looks to be really more of a dark charcoal grey/black with somewhat of a mild sunburst pattern to it in bright light.  It is not a deep glossy black, which disappoints me to some degree.  The markers and arabics are applied and along with the hands, have superb lume.  This watch exhibits Orient’s continued progression towards great lume.  The arrow style of the hour hand is also nifty, as is the long red tip on the seconds hand.

Another nice feature of this watch is that there is no silly pusher on the case to change the day, since it only has a quickset date, changed through the crown in the standard manner.  Those who dislike the pusher that seems so prevalent on Orient watches will welcome this cleaner look.

What really pumps me up about this watch, though, is the quality of the bracelet.  The style is a winner to me, although there are some people that don’t care for the look.  Maybe it’s the wider center links, but I like their appearance.  The top of the bracelet is brushed, the sides of the links are polished.  All links are solid.

The clasp is my favorite part.  A signed pushbutton double locking variety with a proper machined deployant that is wide, beautifully satin finished and even has a fitted pin that the clasp securely locks onto.  Well done!  Why Orient doesn’t put this clasp and deployant on the Mako is beyond me, because the two watches sell at the same price point. 

To me, this is the nicest bracelet and clasp on any Orient watch I have seen (not counting Orient Stars or Royal Orients).  The only thing this bracelet lacks is solid end links (SELs), which would really put this one over the top.

Fit and finish on this watch is very good, especially the quality of the finish.  It’s super smooth and shiny on the polished parts and beautifully understated on the brushed pieces.

Pros:  superb overall fit and finish, great bracelet and clasp with machined deployant, super lume, just about the perfect size

Cons:  no solid end links, a signed crown and crown guards would be nice, dial could be a deeper black, no hacking or manual winding capability

Verdict:  $100 USD buys you one of the best values in a 200 meter diver, bar none, with Orient quality, good looks and solid performance.  You just can’t go wrong with the Dolphin!

Enjoy the pics and thanks for looking.




Well, you guessed it!  I sold this Orient Dolphin, too!  I really wanted to keep this one, but something about the roundness of the case didn’t sit well with me.  It’s still a superb piece, so don’t let my fickleness dissuade you from purchasing one.

-MCV, 6-24-11

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review of Tissot PRC200 Automatic Chronograph

Model # T014.427.11.081.00

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Tissot PRC200
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing in one second increments up to six hours
Price:  MSRP:  $875 USD; street price:  $550 USD

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

I had been considering one of Tissot’s new PRC200 automatic chronographs for quite some time and finally decided to take the plunge.  I am very pleased that I did!  The PRC200 series comes in a variety of dial colors with either stainless steel bracelets or leather straps.  The black dial looks like a winner, but being the iconoclast that I am, I chose the grey dial.  I really like grey dials on watches and this color is rather difficult to come by.  Please note that in the stock photos of the PRC200 with the grey dial, the color looks darker grey, like a charcoal grey, but trust me, the color is grey, the normal, medium grey color you would expect grey to be and that’s just fine with me.  The watch looks fantastic.

What makes this watch unique is the movement.  When the Swatch Group (of which Tissot is part of) introduced its new 15-jewel automatic chronograph movement about a year or so ago in several Swatch models, people were talking, especially since the watch cost about $350 USD, which is unheard of for a new, Swiss-made automatic chronograph in the 21st century.

People were also abuzz because the movement was reported to be non-serviceable, contained plastic parts and its reliability was unknown.  Well, from what I have gathered, the movement is based on the well-known and extremely rugged Lemania 5100 chronograph movement, which contained plastic parts and was known for its dependable service and accuracy for many years in a variety of Swiss branded watches.  I owned one Lemania 5100-based watch, a Revue Thommen Airspeed and it was a terrific piece.  Plastic pieces in a movement don't scare me and the plastic/nylon used has its own lubricity and helps to keep things moving as they should.

It is interesting to note that in the instruction manual, Tissot does not say anything about servicing this movement.  They only say it should be ‘inspected’ every three to four years at an authorized Tissot dealer.  So apparently, Tissot does consider the movement a non-serviceable item, but that does not necessarily mean that a competent watchmaker somewhere couldn’t disassemble it and service it.  Time will tell, as more of these movements make their way into the marketplace and people start looking into how they’re put together.  For now, I feel this movement is a winner.

This Tissot PRC200 starts with a nicely detailed polished and brushed stainless steel case measuring 43.3mm without the screwdown crown.  Lugs are 20mm, case thickness is substantial at 16.1mm.  The caseback is a display type which screws down and shows the automatic movement with its signed rotor.  What is great about the case is the detailing on the case sides, which has a groove machined into each side that run from lug to lug (see photos.)  This detail gives the watch a more expensive look and is something you don’t see everyday.  So a tip ‘o the hat to Tissot’s designers for adding this nifty touch.

The crystal is flat sapphire and fits perfectly into the case, with no distortion or undue glare.  The dial as mentioned before is perfect medium grey.  The dial has a nice design with its oversized seconds subdial and subtle red arabics on the chapter ring at each 15 minute mark.  The rest of the arabics on the chapter ring are white, along with the simple markers at each five minute mark.  The dial does look a bit plasticky, but it seems to come with being grey, as other grey dialed watches I’ve owned had the same look.  This is not a distraction and is not a reason to not purchase this watch.  I just wanted to make you aware of this and others may feel it looks fine.

The quickset date is at 3, with a round window framed by a stainless steel trim ring.  The top subdial at 12 is the chronograph minute totalizer (as printed on the dial with ‘minutes’) and the bottom subdial at 6 is the chronograph hour totalizer up to six hours.  The oversized subdial at 9 is the seconds hand for the watch, while the seconds hand for the chrono is a simple silver stick style hand with a ‘T’ at the end.  The hour and minute hands are silver with inset lume.  While they can look cheapish in stock photos, believe me, they look much better in person.  Another nice touch on the dial are the stainless steel rings around each subdial.  They don’t look garish and really add a touch of class to the overall presentation.  Lume quality is fine.

The watch is factory rated for 200 meters of water resistance.

The automatic movement winds very smoothly and has a winding sound very reminiscent of the Lemania 5100 which makes sense, since this is the movement it’s based on.  Accuracy out of the box has been about +10 seconds over 24 hours, which is very acceptable.  Power reserve is a fine 51-3/4 hours.  One thing I appreciate about Tissot is that they put plenty of threads on their crown tubes, as the crown on this PRC200 screws down with almost five full turns.  The crown is knurled, but could be a bit larger, as it’s a bit hard to grasp and turn.  Chronograph accuracy seems fine, and the movement stops, starts and resets with the expected crispness.  A six hour chrono is a bit odd, but it beats a 30-minute chrono.  The pushers are plain stainless steel with nothing to make them stand out.

I was initially concerned about the bracelet on this watch, because it looked very similar to the bracelet that came on the Tissot Seastar 1000 that I owned, which was somewhat rattle-prone at times.  I am happy to report that the bracelet quality has exceeded my expectations, despite having folded end links, which I knew going in.  The bracelet is 20mm at the lugs and tapers to about 18mm at the clasp.

The bracelet links are solid, polished and brushed and consist of five pieces.  Adjustment was straightforward, with standard split pins.  The clasp is a pushbutton design and is signed with the Tissot ‘T’.  One disappoint is the lack of enough micro-adjustment holes on the clasp.  There are only two, when there should be at least four.  The way the watch is sized for my wrist, it is almost too tight, but if I put a link back in, it would be too loose, because the links are rather large and with only two microadjustments, your options are limited.  If you’re concerned about this, maybe you should order this watch on the leather strap.  One strong positive about the bracelet, is that is has a proper machined deployant.  And so far, the bracelet is not noisy, so overall, it gets a thumbs up from me.

Tissot also gives you a beautiful presentation with this watch, with their drawer-style box that holds the watch and has a drawer on it for the history of Tissot book that they include.  A polishing cloth is also included.  A nice box is always a welcome surprise and especially for the price of this watch, this presentation exceeds many pieces priced the same. 

And about the price...getting a new, Swiss-made automatic chronograph with a brand name on it in the $500 to $600 USD range has to rank as a true bargain and that’s where the PRC200 automatic chronographs come in.  They exhibit strong value with really no drawbacks, the biggest being the serviceability of the movement, which is still under review.

So for the price, you cannot go wrong with the PRC200 automatic chronograph series from Tissot.  Great looks, good performance and pricing that’s hard to beat.

Pros:  low entry price, simple, but rugged movement, sapphire crystal, decent bracelet with machined deployant, great grey dial color

Cons:  clasp needs more microadjustment holes, solid end links would be nice, a bit too much printing on the dial

Verdict:  superb piece for the price available in a variety of colors and combos, Swiss automatic chronograph cache with brand name appeal, a very well done effort by Tissot

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures!