Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review of Herc ‘Panny’ style Automatic

Model #  205 Series

Brand/Model:  Herc ‘Panny’ style Automatic
Movement:  Chinese automatic
Material:  black stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP: around $70 USD 

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

Caution!  If you don’t like Panny homages or Chinese watches, move along, nothing to see here!  On the other hand, if you appreciate quality, strong value and good looks, welcome, and read on!

People seem to either love or hate Panny homages, the watch style that seems omnipresent these days.  With so many companies producing a dizzying array of styles as an homage to the original design, it seems that many of us either own or have tried one of these watches on for size.

I’ve had three so far, as I welcome my new Herc black steel Panny homage to the stable.  This is the fifth Herc I have purchased, with another on the way as I write this review.  I am constantly amazed at the value Herc delivers to the budget-conscious watch buyer.  This Herc Panny give new meaning to the term ‘strong value.’

The watch starts with a nicely finished black stainless steel case measuring 43.5mm without the crown and its associated guard and apparatus.  With the crown guard, the size is 50.5mm.  Lug to lug, it measures 53.1mm.  Thickness is 14.8mm, with a 24mm lug width.  Just about perfectly sized for this homage style without being too big.  And can you believe the case has drilled lugs?  Amazing at this price point.

I don’t know if the black steel is a PVD or ion plate or something else, but it is evenly applied and has a nice matte finish with just a bit of shine to it.  The domed mineral crystal has a round internal magnifier.  I love this feature.  If you feel compelled to put a cyclops on a watch, do it inside the crystal, so it doesn’t have that ugly, sometimes uneven bump.  Very nice design feature here.

The dial is black with luminous arabics and markers.  The hands are highly legible, being luminous with black outlines.  A sub seconds dial is located at the 9 o’clock position.  Lume is surprisingly good, but not long-lasting.

On the case back, we find a polished stainless steel screw down display back, showing a surprisingly well decorated automatic movement.  The rotor is even embossed in gold with the Herc logo.  Classy!

The movement hacks and manual winds and has been keeping great time, currently running +20 seconds over 24 hours right out of the box.  That’s fine by me.  I don’t have further details on the genesis of this movement or a jewel count, but it sets and winds smoothly. 

The action and fit on the crown guard is superb, with the black finish covering all parts inside and out.  Water resistance is rated at a modest 3 atm, but nonetheless, I wouldn’t get this one wet.

The signed strap is leather, nicely padded, with white contrast stitching against the black matte finish.  A stout Panny-style signed buckle finished in black steel completes the look.

I really love the way a Panny homage looks in black steel.  It is stealthy and bold all at the same time. 

Oh, and here’s the kicker.  All this watch, with the drilled lugs, automatic hacking and manual winding movement, crown guard, internal cyclops, good looks and all, set me back a whopping $41 USD, delivery included.  If this isn’t value, I don’t know what is!

Pros:  nifty black finish, internal cyclops, drilled lugs, legible dial, cool looks

Cons: I honestly can’t think of anything here for the price, except maybe the dial could be aligned a tad better inside the case

Verdict:  $41 USD for a black steel Panny homage with an automatic movement and looks like this?  You’re crazy for not wanting one!  Congrats to Herc for making one heck of a watch!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.




I sold this watch after about six months to a fellow WIS after putting it on a beautiful tan Hirsch strap that contrasted perfectly with the black steel case of the watch.  He got a great deal and I wasn’t out any money, so it all worked out in the end!

-MCV, 8-28-11

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review of Bulova Precisionist Champlain Series

Model # 98B142

At a Glance:

Brand/Model: Bulova Precisionist Champlain Series
Movement:  Japanese HEQ (high-end quartz)
Material:  black ion plated stainless steel case, rubber strap
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP:  $499 USD;  street price around $300 USD

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

I was immediately intrigued when Bulova (now a part of Citizen Watch Company) announced the development of their new HEQ (high end quartz) ‘Precisionist’ series of quartz watch movements.  Claiming a 10 second per year accuracy and the unique aspect of a continuously sweeping second hand (like a mechanical watch vs. the one second ‘click’ increments of a standard quartz watch), Bulova set the watch world aflutter with this new quartz technology.

Naturally, being the WIS that I am, I wanted to sample this new technology and waited until the time was right to purchase a Precisionist.  This example of the Bulova Precisionist was purchased second-hand from a seller on Timezone and is essentially in like-new condition.

The Champlain series is one of four different collections within the Precisionist model line-up and is the sportiest of the group.  Other Precisionist models are dressier and more subdued in their appearance.  There’s nothing subtle about the black Precisionist reviewed here.  Sporting a large 46mm black ion plated stainless steel case with black ion plated screw down caseback, this watch is not for the meek. 

One note, some Precisionist models are equipped with a snap-on case back, which is a design I am not fond of, because I feel it screams of cost cutting and also makes for more difficult DIY battery changes. 

The reason this Precisionist has a screw down case back is because of its 300 meter water resistance rating.  But, curiously, is it really 300 meters?  I don’t want to start a big discussion here, but according to the instructions included with the watch, Bulova includes this interesting wording regarding 300 meter water resistance:  ‘This product is recommended for recreational use only.  The depth in meters shown on the watch does not indicate the diving depth of the watch, but indicates the air pressure used in the water resistance testing of the product in accordance with industry standards.’  Hmmm.

But in another part of the instruction manual, they say ‘deep sea watches are further warranted not to leak when submerged in water to the depth shown on the dial….’  Okay, which is it?  Confusing to say the least.

Regardless of whether it’s truly 300 meters or not, I’m just glad this watch has a screwdown case back.  The screwdown crown is knurled on a slight angle and is signed with the Bulova ‘Accutron’ logo.  Case thickness is 14.4mm and lug spacing is 24mm.  Even though this watch is a big ‘un, the lugs are angled downward at such a degree as to fit the wrist better and even my thinner wrist can (barely) pull this one off.

A great looking curved mineral crystal caps the dial and even though it’s curved at a pretty dramatic arc, it does not exhibit any distortion of any of the elements on the dial.

The dial on this Precisionist is fairly busy, but in a good way.   Black carbon fiber is ‘multi-layer’ according to Bulova and adds depth and dimension to this piece, with faux screwheads at four positions in the center of the dial as well.  A wide-angle quickset date is located at the 3 position.  Black outlined hour and minute hands with inset lume and a bright blue second hand with ‘Precisionist logo personalized counterweight’ as Bulova calls it are also part of the dial.  Applied luminous markers, a 60-minute chapter ring with the ‘tens’ in the same blue as the second hand and a 13-24 hour inner track complete the dial’s presentation.

The black bezel with four large faux hex head screws and white inset numerals is unfortunately a fixed design.  If you make a watch 300 meter water resistant and include a bezel as part of the design, why have the bezel perform no useful function other than looks?  Demerits here on this decision.  Lume quality is good, with consistent application on the lumed surfaces.

Two quality control notes, which are tempered because this piece was bought used and I have no knowledge what may or may not have occurred prior to my ownership of this piece.  There is a small flat spot on the lower edge of the left-hand case side, as if the case was dented at some point.  But it’s hard to dent solid stainless steel and the black ion finish is undamaged, so it leads me to believe that perhaps this flat spot was on the case at the factory and got plated over?  I don’t know. 

Another oddity was the hour hand on the watch was 15-minutes off, so the hands would not line up at midnight or noon time.  This is completely unacceptable from a quality control standpoint if the watch left the factory this way.  Again, I do not know.  Was the watch dropped at some point resulting in the flat spot on the case and causing the mis-aligned hour hand?  I had Duarte at NEWW reset the hands, so all is well now.

Sweeping away inside this Precisionist is the new Caliber P102.10 quartz movement.  I refer to this movement as HEQ (high-end quartz) for two reasons.  One being that the MSRP of this watch is $500 USD, which is a lot for a quartz watch.  Second, since this watch exhibits a greater degree of accuracy than typical quartz movements, it more or less earns HEQ status.  You could also refer to it as ‘high accuracy quartz.’ 

I won’t go into the specifics as to the sweeping second hand technology as much has already been written about it.  In brief, Bulova’s design takes into account temperature changes and vibration frequency of the quartz movement by adding a third prong to the quartz crystal.  This design increases the total vibrations to eight times that of a standard quartz movement, with the Precisionist running at 242.144 Khz.  The result is the sweeping second hand that actually ticks 16 times per second, even higher than a mechanical movement's 8 to 10 times per second. 

The fluid action of the second hand on the Precisionist is quite nifty to experience, and it reminds me of a tuning fork movement sweep, like Bulova’s own iconic Accutron tuning fork movements from the 60s and 70s.  Bulova claims a 10 second per year accuracy.  So far, my Precisionist over about six weeks time is running at +4 seconds, so that would NOT fall into the stated factory accuracy per year, but we’ll see how it does six months from now.

One would also think that a continuously sweeping second hand on a quartz watch would be a battery hog.  Bulova rates average battery life at one year so we’ll see how my Precisionist performs in this regard.

The strap on this model is a high-quality grooved rubber design measuring 24mm at the lugs and tapering to 22mm at the black ion plated and signed buckle.  Two wide keepers are included (one fixed and one floating).  I’m usually not a fan of rubber straps as I have only two watches in my collection that have rubber straps, but this one works well for me.  I had originally intended on putting this watch on a leather strap, but I feel the way the lugs are angled and seeing how flush the rubber strap fits to the case would preclude a leather strap from fitting well and looking good.  So this one stays on the factory rubber strap.

Summing up the Precisionist, it’s an intriguing approach to a quartz watch albeit on the pricey side, especially the models with a snap-on case back.  I feel every collection should include several quartz watches and if you're intrigued by high accuracy movements or just want something a little different, you certainly couldn’t go wrong with a Bulova Precisionist.  Bulova/Citizen is to be applauded for breaking out of the crowd and trying something different and for the most part, succeeding in this endeavor.

Pros:  unique and hopefully more accurate quartz movement, sweeping second hand, big and bold design

Cons:  case too big and bold for some, fixed bezel, will it achieve stated accuracy?

Verdict:  if you want a quartz watch like no one else has (at least for now) give the Precisionist a try

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review of Invicta Second Generation ‘Scooby’ Automatic Diver

Model # 6925

At a Glance:

Brand/Model:  Invicta ‘Scooby’ Diver
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  Street price around $150 USD

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

This one came out of left field last year.   The original Invicta Scuba Diver (Model # 3076) is lovingly referred to as the ‘Scooby’ and has a legion of followers and is considered to be one of Invicta’s best dive watches.  I had one about four years ago, and it suffered from some of the annoying Invicta QC problems that should not have been present on a watch at that price point (bezel insert coming unglued, crown threads starting to strip and misbehave).  So I sold it, wishing I really could have kept it because there was a lot that I liked about that model.

Fast forward to last year.  Invicta reintroduced the ‘Scooby’ with a few changes and a lower price.  When I found out about this new model (#6925), it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Here is a summary of the changes between the original Scooby and the Scooby, Part Deux:

Original #3076                                     New Scooby #6925
Swiss ETA auto movement                 Invicta/Seiko automatic movement

Sapphire crystal                                   ‘Flame Fusion’ crystal (mineral/sapphire sandwich)

500M water rating                                 300M water rating

Embossed caseback w/ screws         Standard screwdown display back

White lume                                             Slightly greenish lume

What hasn’t changed:
Same case, bracelet, clasp and machined deployant, same bezel, same dial and hands.

Even though the new SII 21-jewel movement can’t be hand wound or hacked, it keeps superb time.  I have noticed that it takes quite a lot of shaking to wind this movement, as I had the same movement in my Invicta Pro Diver and if I don’t shake it for at least three minutes prior to wearing, the power reserve will be shortened.

What I always loved about the original Scooby and what carries over to this new model is the great overall look of the piece.  The size isn’t too big, there’s no annoying cyclops over the date and the grey granite-like dial is superb.  Pics just don’t do the dial justice.  The hand set is nice and the style of the case (very ORIS-like) is comfortable and impressive looking, without being too clunky or chunky.

This case and bracelet is used with several other watches from different makers; I have included a few comparison shots side-by-side with my SUG diver and it’s easy to see that these two watches share the exact same case.  Case measures about 43mm w/o the signed screwdown crown, 47.2mm with the crown.  Case thickness is 14.5mm.

The outside dimension of the lugs is 27mm at the case.  Even though this is an integrated bracelet design (something I usually don’t care for), it works well on this watch and it fits comfortably on my thinner wrist. 

Bracelet is solid link stainless steel, about 27mm wide at the case, tapering to 24mm at the signed double locking clasp with machined deployant.

The unidirectional bezel is a 120-click variety that doesn’t have real positive detents in it, I guess to give it a smoother feel, although the one QC issue I find with the watch so far is that the bezel tends to bind a bit from the 40 to the 30 minute mark.  Not a deal breaker, but it should be smoother.  The bezel has a lume pip at 12 (hopefully it won’t fall out) and is red for the first 15 minutes.  Let’s hope the bezel insert on this one stays put as well!

The dial has applied luminous markers and luminous hands, with the tip of the seconds hand painted red.  Quickset date @ 3.  As mentioned previously, the granite grey dial is awesome and probably my favorite feature of this watch.  Lume is acceptable, but not up to Seiko diver standards.

The new Scooby is also available in a variety of dial colors that the original never came in, such as blue and green.  You can also get gold plated cases with a variety of bezel colors along with the standard stainless steel with different bezel colors.  This model 6925 is the one that is the original 3076 configuration.

Since the new Scooby is priced considerably less than the original (I paid $250 USD for a used original Scooby), this new one has a street price brand new of about $150 USD, you certainly can’t argue with the price.  And get it discounted, you can find it for $100 USD or less. 

I know some purists will complain that it doesn’t have a Swiss movement anymore and that this new watch is no different than a Seiko Monster or something like that, but I feel for the price point with the new, albeit somewhat reduced feature set, it’s still a solid value for a great-looking watch.

Pros:  grey granite dial, great case/bracelet, reliable Seiko movement, no cyclops, low entry price

Cons:  they had to cut a few corners somewhere (but did so without too much compromise), bezel action should be smoother, lingering QC issues?

Verdict:  The Scooby is back!  Changed a bit, yes, but the spirit and character of the original lives on!  Welcome home!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics!




I sold this second generation Invicta Scooby since after awhile I felt it overlapped too much with my Bulova Accutron diver with a ‘coke’ bezel.  Still, the latest Scooby is a solid watch and a certified great deal for the price.

-MCV, 8-16-11