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.

Excelsior!

-Marc


7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review...I'm wanting to buy one of this (makes me remember a hublot's big bang): but the not clear 300m, the HEQ (I love the movement of the second hand!!! but that means that the battery will drain in 1 year, also will make that the watch will be opened and get some humidity sooner :(...Also I read many reviews that people said that had fog in few weeks of usage ) and haven't got a chronograph for an 300-500 dollars watch...makes me think about it...thanks again...

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  2. Great review. I'm thinking of buying one as I love the style and the second hand movement. Compared to Tissot and Victorinox in this price range it seems like a good value, but the Citizen Eco-Drive draw is obvious for those not wanting to change the battery every 10 months.

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  3. Nice review. One question: What function does the 24-hour ring serve? I don't see a 24-hour hand or GMT hand on the watch, so I take it the 24-hour ring is superfluous? THanks.

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  4. Thanks, Andy. The 24-hour track is for military time, running from 13-24 and is for those who like to read the time in a 24-hour format. Not really necessary for a watch like this, but a lot of watch companies add this feature to their dials.

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  5. Thanks for the explanation. However, I still don;t see how the 24-hour dial can be used on this watch, since there is no hand that takes a full 24-hours to go around. I have some watches that have a 24-hour dial that cannot be set independently from the main hands, and the dial is simply used to track whether it's day or night (which I can do just as easily by looking out the window, LOL). But without a hand that tracks the 24-hour dial, it seems like a useless add-on. Maybe I'm missing something. Thanks!

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  6. Hi Andy...you are confusing a 1-24 hour track with the 13-24 hour track on the Bulova. Yes, if this watch had a full 24 hour track on it, it wouldn't be of any use without a third hand to indicate either a second time zone or use as an am/pm indicator, as you say. Having a 13-24 hours track simply gives the wearer the opportunity to read PM time in military/24 hour format, ie: 1 pm is 1300 hours.

    -MCV

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