Monday, October 31, 2011

Review of Glycine Combat SUB Automatic

Model # 3863.18AT-O

Brand/Model:  Glycine Combat SUB Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  Street price around $750 USD

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

This is the second Glycine Combat automatic I have owned, the first being a smaller 39mm model with a modest 50 meters of water resistance.  The Combat SUB automatic series is quite comprehensive, with a variety of dial colors and combos available.  This model appealed to me because of its orange bezel and deep blue dial color, a unique color combination to say the least.

This Combat SUB starts with a polished and brushed all stainless steel case measuring 42.3mm without the large crown, 47.2mm crown inclusive.  The crown itself is signed, screws down very nicely and measures 7.3mm in diameter.  Flared case sides serve as crown guards.  Case thickness is a rather svelte 10.6mm, especially considering this is a 200 meter diver.  Lugs are 22mm, although they don’t look it.  The caseback screws down and is polished and brushed, showing the Glycine dolphin Combat logo.

The orange bezel is a 60-click unidirectional type, with a smallish coin-edge for grip and a small protrusion at the 12 o’clock position, presumably to more easily know where the start of the timing ring is located by touch rather than by visual identification.  A flush-fit lume pip is in the center of the triangle on the bezel at 12.  The shade of orange used on the bezel is a bit more glossy than I would prefer, but it does look nice nonetheless.

The Combat SUB is factory rated for 200 meters of water resistance.

The deep blue dial is an absolute gem to behold.  The dial can look almost black in low light but comes alive when viewed under bright light or outside in the sun.  It’s a beautiful shade of blue, not so dark as to look navy, but an almost perfect shade of deep blue.  It both contrasts and harmonizes with the orange bezel for a truly unique look.

The arabics and small dot markers are screened Super Luminova and the white hands have infill lume, as does the box-end seconds hand.  The SL lume, as would be expected, is bright and long lasting and looks superb.

A quickset date is located at the 3 o’clock position and features a black on white date wheel.  The date tends to ride ever so slightly high in the window, but not enough to be a distraction.

There is a subtle 13-24 hour inner track and relative minimal dial printing (what printing there is is fairly small, so it doesn’t intrude).  This watch features the letters ‘SL’ after the ‘Swiss Made’ at the bottom of the dial, indicating the dial has Super Luminova on it, much like the old ‘T’ indicating the use of tritium as a lume material.

The crystal is flat sapphire and sits flush with the bezel.

Powering the Combat SUB automatic is the tried and true Swiss Made ETA 2824-2 25-jewel automatic, which both hacks and manually winds.  During my testing, the Combat SUB has averaged about +3 seconds over 24 hours, with the requisite 42-hour power reserve and a nice smooth seconds hand sweep.

The bracelet is a brushed stainless steel solid link Oyster style with polished side links.  Solid end links are secured with friction pins pushed out through the drilled lugs on the case.  I would prefer standard spring bars.  The bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to about 20mm at the clasp.  The clasp is a pushbutton double locking variety with a proper machined deployant and features five micro-adjustment holes.  The clasp is stamped with the Glycine name and logo.

Since this watch is fairly thin for a 200 meter diver, it is quite comfortable to wear.  I love the large crown as it makes the watch easy to wind and set and it has a nice, positive feel to it when screwing the crown in to lock it down.  This is a serious watch, but it doesn’t necessarily look like it at first glance.

Presentation is a black two-piece outer cardboard box and black composite material inner box with padding and pillow.

I have found this Glycine Combat SUB automatic to be a worthy addition to my collection.  It’s a great ‘grab and go’ piece that has solid construction, good quality and unique looks.

Pros:  Swiss quality in and out, beautiful blue dial, great lume, nice big crown 

Cons:  stamped part of clasp feels a bit cheap, would prefer spring bars on bracelet instead of friction pins

Verdict:  the Combat SUB automatic is a no-nonsense watch that delivers on looks, quality and overall value.  The orange bezel adds an extra bit of panache to a strong package.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review of Caterpillar Shockmaster

Model # S1 141 11 121

Brand/Model:  Caterpillar Shockmaster
Movement:  Swiss quartz
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  Street price around $75 USD

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

I’ve owned two Caterpillar watches previously and found them to be pretty decent pieces for the money.  All were bought deeply discounted, as the MSRPs on them are a bit ridiculous.  When I acquired this brand new Caterpillar ‘Shockmaster’ on e*bay, they were going for $50 to $75 USD, a decent price for this watch, although I’m pretty sure they have now been discontinued.

I don’t know who is manufacturing these watches for Caterpillar’s marketing arm, but at least the case is made in China.  This Shockmaster has a Swiss ETA quartz movement and has been keeping fine time.  The fine print in the box says that ‘Time Network’ is the global licensee of Caterpillar timekeeping equipment and is in care of Roamer Watch Company, so this may give insight as to who actually makes these things.  It would actually be pretty cool if Roamer was somehow involved.

The Shockmaster is named so because of the large black rubberized bezel on front and a removable black rubberized shock ring on the caseback.  This design is supposed to absorb shocks from a rough working environment.  I just liked the ‘tool’ watch look of the bezel and am glad the faux screws have their heads aligned for symmetry.  It kills me when I see any watch, but especially a multi-thousand dollar piece, with a similar design element and the screw heads are pointing every which way.

The Shockmaster is all stainless steel, with a brushed case and polished screwdown caseback.  The case measures 43mm w/o the large signed screwdown crown, which resembles a nut with its eight-sided design.  Lugs are 22mm, case thickness including the front and rear rubber bezels is 14.7mm.

The caseback screws down and features tire treads stamped into the stainless steel.  I did a battery replacement on this watch (it takes a rather odd #397 battery) and on the inside of the case, there is another rubber gasket that surrounds the movement and is placed there to offer additional shock resistance.  The caseback screws down against this gasket (in addition to the standard circular caseback gasket), but will sit proud of the watch a millimeter or so, to give the external rubber shock ring an edge to be seated over.  Overall, a fairly comprehensive system for a watch at this price point. 

This watch is factory rated for 200 meters of water resistance.  The overall heft and feel of this watch is substantial.  

The marketing hype included with the watch says that is has ‘high performance’ stainless steel, extra-thick mineral crystal, shock proof construction with special movement protection (see above) and ‘super light’ luminous hands and markers.

The heavy, flat crystal is mineral, with a useful cyclops over the date window.  The cyclops is installed straight and does a good job of magnifying the date, so I will not perform a ‘cyclopsectomy’ on this one.

The dial is gloss black with a horizontal texturing running down both sides.  The stick hands are silver, as are the applied markers.  The quickset date at three is black on white.  The second hand is Caterpillar yellow and looks great, but does exhibit a fair amount of shudder as it ticks around the dial.  The lume is good and fairly bright.  The second hand could align with the chapter ring markers a bit better, but is typical quartz quality in this regard.

The brushed stainless steel bracelet is solid link, with hollow end links and a signed double locking pushbutton clasp with a cheap stamped steel deployant.  It would have been nice to have a rugged machined deployant on a watch designed to take what is dished out to it.  The bracelet is signed on both sides near the lugs, one side with the ‘CAT’ wording, the other side with a bulldozer logo.  The bulldozer is also on the clasp.  A bit cheesy, but it’s fairly subtle and some people might love it.  

This watch comes in a nice black cardboard presentation box with an extra black and yellow nylon/cloth strap with stainless steel buckle and a strap changing tool.  I like the oyster style bracelet, so it will remain so, but the fact that a strap is also included is a nice touch.

This watch is also available with a white dial and in an all black case and bracelet.  There are also quartz chronograph versions of this watch. 

Pros:  rugged tool watch looks and performance, clean lines, solid construction, nifty yellow second hand

Cons:  needs a machined deployant and solid end links to play with the big boys, lack of a timing bezel could bother some, a Miyota automatic would seem perfect for this watch

Verdict:  no pretensions here, this watch does what it implies while looking good both in the field and in the boardroom.  Buy it right and you get a good value in a solid piece.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.




After owning this watch for a year or so, I decided to gift it to a friend of mine who has Caterpillar friends, so he can give it to them if he decides to.  If you can still find this watch, though, it is a worthy piece for the price.

-MCV, 10-25-11

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review of Invicta Sub Aqua Noma IV Mid-Size Swiss Automatic

Model # 0522

Brand/Model:  Invicta Sub Aqua Noma IV Mid-Size
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  black IP stainless steel case, rubber and metal strap
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP (fantasy):  $2395 USD; Street price around $500 USD

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

Say what you will about Invicta and say what you will about their popular Sub Aqua Noma series of watches, these are serious pieces of metal that should come with a parental warning:  be careful while wearing and keep bezel away from face, you could take an eye out with this one!

I’ve always admired in a sort of guilty pleasures way the Sub Aqua series for their sheer audaciousness.  At 50mm without crown, the original Sub Aqua Nomas were just too damn big for me and even the “mid-size” Sub Aqua Noma reviewed here at 45mm is pushing the upper limits of size and taste for yours truly.  Any watch that is considered mid-size at 45mm should have its bezel examined!

After owning numerous (at least 20) different Invictas over the years, I will admit that this Sub Aqua Noma IV is the finest Invicta I have owned, in terms of quality (absolutely zero QC issues) and presence on the wrist.  The model #0522 (‘522’ from here on out) Sub Aqua Noma IV is an all-black IP coated stainless steel monster that is a super cool stealth watch that actually can be used to tell the time, unlike other impractical stealth watches that look great but are useless when it comes to telling what time it is.

The 522 begins with a curved polished black IP case that measures 45mm without the nifty but large crown guard.  Including the guard, the measurement is a substantial 51.5mm.  Case thickness from caseback to crystal is 18mm, include the rider tabs and you're looking at 20.4mm.  The rubber and metal strap is integrated into the case and the width of the case at the strap is 31.3mm.  This watch, even as it's considered a mid-size, is not shy in any respect.

The bezel is a unidirectional 120 clicker and has four large upright rider style tabs at each quarter hour and are designed to be ever so slight off-set.  The bezel is tight and exhibits no backlash.  The tabs, while they extend upright quite dramatically and can catch on things/bang into doors, windows, etc. while wearing, they do make rotating the bezel quite easy.  There are light grey painted triangles on the inside of each tab which add a bit of style, but it would be really cool if these triangles were luminous, but alas, they’re not.  There are raised numbers at each five minute mark between the tabs and a 20-minute track on the inside edge of the bezel from 12 to 4.

The screwdown caseback is polished stainless steel with a display back.  Various specs about the watch are engraved around the perimeter of the caseback.  The 522 is factory rated at 500 meters of water resistance.

The fold down crown guard is beautifully crafted and signed and done in matte black IP.  The guard flips down to expose the large knurled screwdown crown.  Even though the crown is larger than normal, I found it hard to unscrew and use to wind the watch, partly due to the crown guard that never really gets out of the way.  It really would be better if they did away with the crown guard and made the actual crown a bit larger and easier to grasp.

Inside the 522 is the well-regarded Sellita Swiss-made 26 jewel automatic that hacks and manually winds.  My 522 sports the latest SW200-1 version of this movement, with a slightly upgraded and more durable gear train.  I have the SW200 in a couple of other watches I own and have found them to be good timekeepers and a nice movement overall.  That said, this movement in the 522 runs about +20 per day, which is quite a bit higher than my other SW200s.  Nothing that a regulation wouldn’t cure, but I was a bit surprised.  Power reserve is a fine 49 hours on a full wind.  The 522 also sports a cool signed rotor displaying the yellow Sub Aqua Noma logo.

I think my favorite part of the 522 is the amazing dial and hands and the way they are presented.  The dial is a gunmetal grey to matte black in color and sports an actual perforated surface which is placed over a black background.  The perforations are Invicta’s cross or plus-sign logo.  Very tastefully done and not as busy as you would expect.  There are twelve round markers that are part of the chapter ring.  The markers are grey and are luminous.  The hands are gunmetal grey with inset lume and are styled as fat blade type or fat sword style hands.  The seconds hand has a luminous arrow tip.  Lume quality is average, it should be much better on a serious diver such as this.

Minimal dial printing is another plus, with a fairly subdued applied Invicta Sub Aqua logo, a tasteful ‘automatic’ logo and a ‘Limited Edition/500 Meters’ logo.

Despite being gunmetal grey and black, the dial is easy to read and Invicta should be applauded for making a stealth watch that the wearer can actually tell the time with at a glance.

Capping the dial is an anti-reflective coated flame-fusion crystal, which is Invicta's version of a sapphire sandwich type of crystal.  The AR coating imparts a bluish to purplish tint which is in keeping with the sinister look of this piece.  A quickset date window is at the three o’clock position and in keeping with the colors of this watch, the date wheel is white on black as it should be.

The rubber strap also impresses on the 522.  While I’m not a rubber strap fan by any means, this strap is a quality piece all the way through.  Measuring 31.3mm where it attaches to the case and tapering to about 23.5mm at the buckle, the strap features inset metal bracelet links near the case sides that add rigidity and style.  The links are brushed and polished black IP and have raised screwbar bumps between each link.  The tip of the strap is signed and the buckle is signed as well, a hefty black IP stainless steel affair.  There are two floating keepers.  The inside of the strap is also textured for a better fit/grip on the wrist.  Even though this strap is integrated into the case and you’re pretty much stuck with using it, it is built to last and looks very cool, it’s simply a quality rubber strap with a lot of details.

I have a wrist that measures between 6-3/4” and 7” and surprisingly, I can pull off wearing this watch without it looking clown-like on the wrist or me looking like a clown while wearing it!  The curvature of the case helps and the way the strap hugs the wrist helps as well.

Presentation is standard Invicta yellow box.  I expected a more special presentation given the limited edition nature of this watch, although it is not serialized, so I really don’t know how truly ‘limited’ the production is.  This one should come in one of Invicta's Pelican-style plastic carry cases.

Overall, the Sub Aqua Noma Mid-Size Swiss automatic is a serious dive tool watch that is stealthy in nature due to its color, but not subtle in any other way.  The quality is there and for the price these can be had for on the street, a relative bargain.  Overall, a superb effort from Invicta.

Pros:  sinister stealth looks that actually function for telling the time, Swiss automatic engine, 500 meter water resistance rating, amazing perforated dial, cool hands, quality rubber strap

Cons:  big, big, big and definitely too big for some, integrated rubber strap cannot be switched out with aftermarket straps, crown somewhat hard to use, lume should be brighter, rider tabs can be unwieldy at times

Verdict:  if you want a large and in-charge dive watch with bad-ass looks and a unique character, the Sub Aqua Noma IV Mid-Size is hard to top for the price.  It’s big and bold and that’s the point!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.




I sold this watch after about eight months.  I truly enjoyed wearing it, even though the rider tabs can hit things as you wear it.  I really hemmed and hawed about selling this one, but in the end, I had just acquired another super tool diver (more on that, stay tuned!) and this one had to go.

-MCV, 10-24-11