Friday, July 29, 2011

Review of Herc 178 Series Automatic

Model # 0178bkobk

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Herc 178 Series
Movement:  Chinese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  day and date display, 24-hour subdial
Price:  MSRP:  $78 USD

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

For those who appreciate value, features and good looks, Herc has done it again.  I’m not super big on homage-type watches, but this Herc pays tribute to the much-loved Omega Planet Ocean.  What attracted me to this particular Herc was the good looking bezel, great hands and overall sporty nature of the piece.

This model starts with an all stainless steel case that is polished and brushed.  I am amazed at the quality of the finish on the case.  There are no imperfections or sharp edges to contend with.  The case back is all stainless and has a display window, to view the now ubiquitous Herc automatic movement with mild decoration and embossed rotor.  Of course, the movement hacks and manual winds and is keeping very good time.  Power reserve is a fine 44 hours.

The case measures about 43.5mm w/o the beautifully signed, screw down crown; about 47.8mm inclusive of the crown.  Lugs are 22mm, thickness is 15.5mm.  The sapphire coated mineral crystal is slightly raised above the bezel and is very slightly domed.

Factory water resistance is a very modest 3ATM, so don’t plan on getting this one wet.  A screw down crown on a watch with this low degree of water resistance seems silly; I would prefer a standard, non-screw down crown.

The bezel is a 60-click unidirectional type with a typical amount of ‘slop’ in it, but not obnoxiously so.  A lume pip is on the bezel at the 12 position.  The bezel lines up perfectly with the markers on the dial.  The printing on the edge of the bezel at one spot near the 56 mark could be a bit tighter.

The dial is a bit busy, matte black with red arabics at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions.  There are also applied luminous markers around the dial at five minute increments.  Lume is very good, but not long lasting.  And practically everything is lumed:  the markers, the hands, the second hand tip and even the tips of the subdials.  Under an 8X lupe, the dial reveals no discernible imperfections.  Well done in this regard!

The hands are steel arrow type and have a rather expensive cut look to them as opposed to a cheaper stamped steel look.  The subdial @ 6 is the 24-hour indicator (something I always appreciate on a watch), subdial @ 9 is the day indicator and the subdial @ 3 is the date indicator. 

I’m not a big fan of day/date subdials because they are usually too small and hard to read, which is pretty much the case here.  At least these are functional subdials and they are actually textured with a circular pattern, giving them a more expensive look.  The pusher @ 2 adjusts the day, the pusher @ 4 adjusts the date.  Both of these pushers have black trim rings on them.  It can be easy to accidentally hit either pusher and change the day and/or date while the watch is being worn.

The crown @ 10 is a faux helium release valve that does absolutely nothing, it’s just a crown on the side of the case that rotates but doesn’t unscrew or move out.  Useless.

The strap is smooth signed leather, padded and slightly glossy black with subdued orange stitching and twin keepers; I think it looks great.  The buckle is signed and is a standard stainless steel variety.  The strap tapers to about 20mm at the buckle.

Again, for the price point, I cannot complain.  The watch came in a black cardboard presentation box, which is different than the dark red rectangular box that all the other Hercs I have ordered have come in.  The instructions are still on CD-ROM, the watch had a hang tag and one nice touch, it had the clear plastic protectors on the rear display back, the crystal and a separate protector on the bezel.

The Herc 178 Series is also available in blue, orange, green and black variations.

Pros:  great Planet Ocean homage looks, gotta love the bezel and hands, all subdials are functional, superb fit and finish for the price point

Cons:  lose the faux helium release valve, subdials are quite hard to read because they’re so small, day/date pushers may be too big for some and are easy to accidentally activate

Verdict:  for the price, it’s another Herc hit, with great looks, a very good automatic movement and style that can’t be beat for the price

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.




I sold this Herc model shortly after I purchased it mainly because the day and date subdials were just too hard to read without my readers on.  The propensity for the pushers to accidentally change the day and/or date while wearing were another annoyance.  But this watch was superbly executed for its price point and if you’re looking for a strong value, a Herc watch is a good choice.

-MCV, 7-29-11

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review of Breitling Aeromarine Colt II Automatic

Model # A17380

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Breitling Aeromarine Colt II Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP:  $2910 USD

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

Part of the Aeromarine series of watches from Breitling, this Colt II automatic is a superbly crafted piece, which, sadly, has been discontinued by Breitling, but, happily, can still be found brand-new from various retailers if you search hard enough.  As my watch collecting has taken an upswing in price and quality lately, as I was preparing to write this review, I said to myself ‘there’s something about a Breitling.’  Yes, there is, and it could even be an advertising slogan for them.  As Swiss watch prices continue to skyrocket, snagging a Breitling Colt II while you still can will reward you with a beautiful watch that oozes quality and value.

About 12 years ago in the early days of my watch collecting addiction, I purchased a 1990s Breitling Callisto chronograph, a semi-rare model with a manual wind Lemania chrono movement in it.  That watch had a blue face and gold rider tabs on the bezel.  It was fairly small (about 38mm) but was an acceptable introduction to the brand, although a lot has changed since then.  As with so many companies, Breitling has moved up-market and continues to do so today.  Breitlings have cache, an identifiable brand name even among non-WIS personnel and a ‘wow’ factor when the name is mentioned.  An aspirational watch for sure.

But the nice thing about the Colt II is that while, yes, it’s a Breitling, it doesn’t look or feel the part of a snob.  It’s a perfectly sized, functional, well-made timepiece that just happens to have the Breitling name on it.  Do you see where I’m coming from?  Colts can also be had with black or white dials and with third hand GMT functionality as well.

The Colt II is named as such because there was an original Colt series about seven or eight years ago with a slightly smaller case size, different dial layout, etc.  Breitling upgraded and improved the original and as is not always the case, produced a better watch than the original. 

The Colt II is a fully polished watch (case, bracelet, clasp, deployant, caseback, etc.)  The only part of this watch that is not polished is the top of the bezel, which is brushed and looks magnificent against the full polish of the rest of the watch.  Please note, though, that the fully polished nature of this watch does not mean gaudy or ‘look-at-me’ bling.  It is actually rather subdued, partly because of the near-perfect dimensions of 41mm case size without the crown, 20mm lug width and a case thickness of 13mm.  It’s svelte without being small, substantial without being hippy.

The quality of the finish is absolutely superb.  It looks, feels and shines like nothing else.  Details abound on this watch, from the fine screws that are part of the bezel edge, to the small engraved cursive ‘B’ on the bezel side as well.  The signed, polished deployant clasp is an eye-catcher all on its own, not so much because it’s polished and engraved, but because it just looks and feels so nice. 

My Colt II has the Professional II bracelet (which I call the classic Breitling ‘slanty’ bracelet).  Between the bracelet and the rider tabs on the bezel, the Colt II says ‘I’m a Breitling.’  Lately, Breitling’s designs have gotten away from the classic rider tab bezel and other elements that identify a Breitling as such, and it’s a shame, because while I’m sure the quality is still there, the look of some of the new models just don’t seem like Breitlings.

The Professional II bracelet is a nifty design, with small short screws that hold the bracelet’s outer links in place.  To size the bracelet, you remove two screws, take off the outer link and then remove the rest of the link.  It’s kind of like a puzzle, a bit confusing at first, but then kind of fun once you figure it out.  Of course, the bracelet has solid end links, a signed double locking clasp and the fully polished, jewel-like deployant clasp described above.  The bracelet is 20mm at the lugs, tapering to 18mm at the clasp.

The dial is another work of art on this watch.  Many pictures of the blue dial on the Colt II depict this dial as an electric blue, but it is a darker blue, blue-grey or slate blue in actuality and it looks magnificent.  It has circular patterning on the outer edge, with applied polished markers with a lume dot at their ends and relatively simple stick hands with inset lume. 

A point of concern with me was how much the red-tipped second hand would stand out, because I’m not too crazy about watches that look red, white and blue.  Well, the red tip of the second hand is rather subtle and doesn’t stand out too much, so I am fine with it.

Lume quality is outstanding, as any watch that is rated at 500 meters of water resistance should be.  A superbly anti-reflective sapphire crystal covers the dial and it’s the amazing kind of anti-reflective coating that doesn’t have any off-color tint to it, but truly disappears in certain light, as if there is no crystal installed.  Super cool!  And Breitling even takes the extra step of covering the lume dot on the bezel with a small sapphire disc.  Another intriguing detail.

The Breitling ‘wings’ logo is applied under the 12 marker along with a military 13-24 hour inner track and a zero to 100 gradation chapter ring on the dial, used in flight calculations.  A quickset date window is located at the 3 position.

The bezel is a 120-click unidirectional design with good, tight action and no backlash or play.  The rider tabs make it very easy to grasp and rotate the bezel as needed.  The bezel also features the same size numbers all the way around, with only the 15, 30 and 45 in the rider tabs being a bit larger in size.  There’s a great symmetry about this watch that makes is look and feel balanced.

The Colt II, like all Breitlings, is a COSC chronometer, using the Breitling Caliber 17 automatic movement, which starts life as an ETA 2824-2 (25 jewels, hacking, manual wind capability).  I was a bit surprised at how loudly this movement winds, but timekeeping is outstanding, running +1 over 24 hours with a power reserve of 42 hours.  Excellent!  The signed crown also screws down with authority and with at least four full turns, which inspires confidence.

This watch wears extremely well, with its stylish size and great looks.  Hopefully, the full polished beauty of this watch won’t be a scratch or scuff magnet as time goes by.

Presentation is in keeping with the overall quality of this watch.  A large, patterned stiff cardboard outer box with an inner Bakelite-style box with raised lettering and another padded box inside that actually holds the watch.  The overall look reeks of quality (and $$$)!

I am thoroughly impressed with the Breitling Colt II automatic and would recommend this model to anyone looking for an appropriately sized, superbly constructed and super accurate watch with a level of panache that only a fully polished watch with ‘Breitling’ on it can impart.  Bravo!

Pros:  quality all the way through, details galore, COSC accuracy, fully polished delight, superb blue dial

Cons:  bracelet can be a bit tricky to size at first, a pushbutton mechanism on the clasp would be nice

Verdict:  if Breitling is not on your list of ‘must haves’ or on your wish list of ‘hope to have’, please put it on, as this Colt II deserves all the attention it can get, an outstanding watch in virtually every respect

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review of Wenger Swiss Army Commando Traveller GMT

Model # 7474X/T

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Wenger Swiss Army Commando Traveller GMT
Movement:  Swiss quartz
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable third/GMT hand
Price:  MSRP:  $275 USD; Street price about $150 USD

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

This Wenger Swiss Army Commando Traveller GMT popped up at certain discount stores in the U.S. about a year and a half ago at a great price and many WISes jumped on the bandwagon and bought one, myself included. 

The satin finish stainless steel case measures about 42mm w/o the twin crowns, case is a bit thick at 14.3mm, lug width is 20mm.  Bracelet is solid link, satin finish stainless steel with a double locking signed clasp and standard stamped steel deployant.  Caseback is polished and screws down.

Inside this Wenger ticks a quartz Swiss Ronda movement, deemed to be accurate and reliable.  Many quartz GMT watches feature Ronda movements and they seem to do a good job with minimal backlash of the GMT hand when setting.

The bracelet is solid link stainless steel and has a bit more flex or looseness to it than some, due to the style of the links.  Some owners of this watch prefer it on a strap; the bracelet is fine with me.

The bright blue dial reminds me of the Orsa Pro Diver I had; a vivid, bright blue that aids visibility.  The red second hand and GMT hand stand out against this shade of blue.  If you like red, white and blue color themes, you will definitely enjoy this watch.

Both crowns are signed, the crown at 3:30 is the standard hands and time setting crown.  It does not screw down.  The quickset date at 3:30 and the GMT hand are set through this crown. 

The crown at 2 screws down and is used to rotate the GMT cities bezel that displays the city name in the window located at the 9 o’clock position.  I love this feature and it makes it a breeze to tell the time in the selected city, just look at the GMT hand and see where it’s pointing on the 24-hour scale (after setting the GMT hand to local time).

The mineral crystal is slightly domed and is somewhat reflective, which could be distracting to some.   The lume is decent and is present on the hour and minute hands, the GMT hand tip and the marker dots on the dial.

Overall, this is a functional, nifty watch for a killer price when caught on sale.

Pros:  functional independent GMT hand and cities bezel, Swiss cache, good fit and finish

Cons:  crystal is bit reflective, bracelet may be too ‘sloppy’ for some

Verdict:  superb deal at my purchase price, blue dial will get comments, nice twin signed crowns

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.




I sold this watch about six months after purchasing it brand new.  It was a very well executed piece, but something else caught my eye (I can’t remember what!) and this one had to go.  Still an excellent value in a true GMT/World Time watch.

-MCV, 7-23-11