Monday, February 27, 2012

Review of Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver

Model # CFD0C001B/EL02001B

Brand/Model:  Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet, included rubber dive strap
Complications:  date display, power reserve meter
Price:  MSRP:  $2,150 USD; Street Price:  $1,505 USD

Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.
In the world of watches, nothing can ignite debate like asking the question, which dive watch is better, a Seiko Marine Master or an Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver?  It’s like the eternal question, which castaway would you rather go out with, Ginger or MaryAnn?  Or at the grocery store, paper or plastic?  The list could go on and on.  

I’ll squelch the debate about the dive watches right away, so we can concentrate on the review at hand.  The Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver beats the Seiko Marine Master hands down.  This is not meant to be a comparison review, as I don’t own or haven’t owned a Marine Master, but I have handled and inspected a couple at various watch meets, so my opinions are grounded in reality.

The Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver debuted about five years ago and was marketed as both an Orient and Orient Star, depending on which region of the world you lived in.  The watches were identical, except for the name.  The Pro Saturation came in yellow, orange and black dials, with I believe a two-tone black dialed model as well, if my memory serves me correctly.

The current lineup (at least in the U.S.) is a black dial and orange dial, with both branded as an Orient.  The prices have gone up considerably as of late, but with Orient USA’s standard 30-percent discount, this watch can be had for $1,505 USD brand new, and often can be purchased used in the $800 USD range.  The cheapest I’ve seen a Marine Master would be $1,200 to $1,500 USD used and new, the price is the same or more than the Orient’s MSRP, up to nearly $2,600 USD.  So just on price, the Orient wins the race.

During the past year or so, Orient has upgraded the Pro Saturation Diver with three useful and wanted features.  The bezel is now a 120-click variety, but most importantly, the movement can now be handwound and hacked thanks to the new Caliber 40N5A movement.  Hurrah!

What makes the Pro Saturation Diver unique is that it is designed for mixed-gas diving but does not have a helium escape valve, because the case has been designed to prevent any build up of helium without the need for an external valve according to Orient.

The Pro Saturation Diver starts with a stainless steel case with beautifully polished sides and brushed lug tops.  The case is substantial, measuring 45.4mm without the large signed screwdown crown.  With the crown, the case diameter is 50.4mm, with the crown itself coming in at 6.8mm with suitably sized crown guards protecting it.  The Orient ‘O’ logo is etched on the end of the crown, with the crown having full flutes, although they are not especially deep.  Due to the size of the crown, it is easy to screw/unscrew and use to set the watch.  The screwdown action could be a bit smoother, with about three turns to lock.

Case thickness is hefty, at 16.9mm.  Lug width is 22mm.  The lugs are also drilled, which makes strap changes easier.  The caseback is polished and heavily embossed with the Orient logo, which looks very cool.  This watch has definite wrist presence and is not for the faint of heart!

The watch is factory rated for 300 meters of water resistance.

The flat sapphire crystal is anti-reflective coated and is almost 5mm thick per Orient’s web site.   The crystal has a slight beveled edge and fits flush with the bezel.  The bezel is a beauty, as previously stated, it’s a 120-click unidirectional style, with a super slick anodized aluminum insert with nicely painted inset numbers and markers.  The bezel resembles a ceramic style and has a super smooth viscous fluid-type action with no backlash.  Superb!  A lume pip is inset on the bezel at 12, but the inset painted bezel arabics and markers are not luminous.

The Pro Saturation Diver has mild detailing on the dial.  The black color is a deep, pure black, but not glossy, I would call it semi-matte.  The large lumed markers are applied and the silver toned hands have ample amounts of lume on them.  Needless to say, the quality of the lume is excellent and shows how far Orient has come in this regard.

The quickset date window is located at the 9 position, directly across from the standard 3 position you normally see a date display at.  The date wheel is black on white and could align better within the fairly small date window.  It would be better to have a white on black date wheel (would look much cooler against the black dial), a larger window and proper date wheel alignment, especially at this price point.

The power reserve meter takes up the upper right quadrant on the dial and is slightly recessed, with a simple silver pointer showing how much power reserve the watch has, calibrated in hours.  The meter goes from 0 to 40 hours and is accurate.  I’ve always liked power reserve meters on watches and this is one complication that Orient seems to specialize in, as many of their models have this feature. 

Above the 6 marker is the Orient logo, the words ‘Orient’, ‘automatic’ and ‘300M’ (in red).  Tasteful and not overdone.

The new 40N5A movement hacks and manually winds and turned in a fine 46.75 hour power reserve in my testing.  Orient specs on this movement are 22 jewels, with the movement beating at 21,600 vph.  Accuracy has been +15/24 hours, which is acceptable, but I wish it was tighter.  Orient specs are +25/-15 seconds per day, so it is definitely performing within the stated range.

Orient also claims to install a heavier rotor in these models, to assure winding when under water.  Second hand sweep isn’t the smoothest, but I’ve seen worse.

Many owners of the original Pro Saturation Divers without the hack/handwind movement reported chronometer spec time keeping. 

Marine Master fans will say loudly that the Seiko 8L35 (26 jewels/+15/-10 seconds per day stated spec) automatic movement in the Marine Master is better and I will concede that it is a finer caliber, but not so much so to command a $500 to $1,000 USD price premium.

The Pro Saturation Diver comes with a very nice stainless steel solid link bracelet with solid end links and a ‘glide-lock’ adjustable deployant clasp.  The bracelet has three links across and is brushed and polished.  The clasp is signed, with a pushbutton release and a double lock safety clasp.  The glide lock portion is heavy stamped stainless steel.  A push-pin mechanism next to the flip lock on the clasp activates the glide lock and allows the clasp to extend for fitment around a diving suit.  Fully extended, the glide lock allows almost 31mm of extra length to the bracelet. 

I sized the bracelet (with those damned Seiko style collars that are located on the ends of the pins instead of in the middle of the pins like most watches that use a pin and collar system) and found the glide lock clasp to be too long for my thinner wrist.  The clasp, while curved, measures about 47mm straight across compared to a more standard clasp measurement of 42-43mm.  This extra length caused the clasp to jut out too far from the bottom of my wrist and made the watch too floppy while wearing it. 

Since I’m not a fan of rubber straps, I didn’t install the included rubber dive strap (nice quality, signed Orient).  I purchased an aftemarket Morellato black leather strap that has been treated to have the feel of a rubber strap on the outside.  This aftermarket strap has met my needs and is the strap that is shown in the photos.

I wish the stainless bracelet would have worked for me, but please, Orient, get rid of those collars and pins and either use screws, standard split pins or a pin with the collar in the center link.  I’m sure the bracelet would work well with those of a thicker wrist and the quality of the bracelet is fine, and better than the wider linked bracelet on the Marine Master.

Presentation is in keeping with a diver/tool watch, large inner and outer black boxes with the watch, included rubber strap and strap change tool (quite nicely done in aluminum) all inside.

In my opinion, the Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver is a true tool watch and a superb piece of work.  It beats the Seiko Marine Master handily, because it has a sapphire crystal vs. a Hardlex mineral crystal, costs substantially less, has a power reserve function and a much nicer bezel.

The watches are equal in terms of water resistance, bracelet/clasp features and quality, fit and finish and lume brightness.

The only place where the Seiko outshines the Orient is the movement, but the movements in both watches hack and handwind and are very comparable in specs, so this is somewhat debatable.

At the end of the day, the Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver is hard to beat.  It’s a watch for the ages.  An outstanding piece!

Pros:  great all-around feature set, new hack/handwind movement increases functionality, superb looking bezel, unique case design 

Cons:  pin/collar system on bracelet has got to go, bracelet glide lock mechanism too bulky for some, date window too small, date wheel alignment should be better

Verdict:  the Orient 300M Pro Saturation Diver is better than the Seiko Marine Master and at a considerable cost savings.  If you want a beefy, cool, quality Japanese dive watch that won’t break the bank but will do everything you ask of it, this is the watch for you.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review of Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT Automatic

Model # H77615833

Brand/Model:  Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, dark brown leather strap
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable 24-hour GMT disc
Price:  MSRP:  $975 USD; Street Price:  $600 USD

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


This is one Hamilton model that I have always wanted, because it has great, clean looks and superior functionality all at a true value price.  I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Hamilton is one of several Swiss brands that represents what I believe to be an incredible value.  Their quality, their features and their movements represent what many other Swiss brands deliver, but with one exception:  price.  Succinctly said, Hamiltons are tremendous bargains in the world of Swiss watches.

The Khaki line is one of the most popular and extensive of Hamilton’s offerings.  Military-inspired, the Khaki line features both quartz and mechanical movements (manual wind and automatic) with standard, GMT and chronograph models on stainless bracelets, rubber or leather straps and in a variety of dial colors, configurations and styles.  There’s truly something for everyone in the Khaki lineup.

I have a penchant for GMT watches and for GMT world timers as well.  Even though it is hard for me to read the cities on most world time watches without the aid of my readers, I find this style of watch hard to resist at times.  This Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT world time brings a lot to the table and it all starts with a nicely finished brushed stainless steel case that measures 42.4mm in diameter without any of its three signed and screwdown crowns.  Include any of the crowns and the size is 45.4mm.  Thickness is 12.1mm and lug size is the increasingly common 21mm.  Fit and finish on this watch, especially for its price point, is exceptional.

The caseback is polished stainless steel with a mineral crystal display back showing off the automatic movement sporting a suitably signed rotor.  This Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT is factory rated at 200 meters of water resistance.

Underneath the front sapphire crystal (which is ever so slightly domed) is a very dark brown dial that looks black in 98% of all situations you would wear this watch in.  As a matter of fact, it was only during the photo session for this watch that when I had it in strong sunlight did I realize the dial is a very dark shade of brown.  Super nice!

The hands are standard issue Hamilton Khaki, which is to say fairly plain, but extremely useful.  Silver with inset lume.  I have never been a big fan of these Hamilton hands as they seem awfully plain, but on this watch, they work very well.  The hands have fine pointer tips.  The seconds hand is simple silver tone with a lume-filled arrow tip.

The arabics that surround the dial, the lume dots above the arabics, the markings and arabics on the inner rotating bezel, the hands, the pointer for the 2nd timezone and the inverted triangle at the top of the bezel all glow very well and rewarded me with an excellent lume shot!

A quickset date is located at the 3 position with a standard black on white date wheel.  The date opening is framed with a white square.  Alignment of the wheel within the window is acceptable.

The inner rotating bezel is operated by the large screwdown crown at the 4 position.  Being screwdown, it prevents the bezel from being accidentally moved or having it creep around the dial on its own (see my previous Seiko 5 Sports review for a watch with ‘bezel creep.’)  The bezel can be rotated in either direction using the crown.

There is an opening between the ‘40’ and ‘50’ marks on the bezel for display of the selected city used for tracking the time in that location.  When the bezel is rotated, of course this window rotates as well, so you really can’t track the time in the chosen location and use the rotating bezel at the same time, but this is not a major inconvenience.  Most world timers forgo a timing bezel, I for one am glad Hamilton chose to include this convenient feature on this watch.

The crown at the 2 position adjusts the main time and also quicksets the date and rotates the second time zone disc that is located just to the right of the ‘9’ arabic on the dial.  The crown at the left side of the case at the 9 position adjusts the cities disc that resides underneath the rotating bezel. 

All three crowns are the same size (7.2mm), are polished and signed with the Hamilton ‘H’ and are nicely knurled for ease of operation.  They all screwdown and have crown guards, for water resistance and prevention of accidental movement.  Kudos to Hamilton for going the extra mile with these crowns.

I was somewhat concerned that a 42+mm case with three large crowns affixed to the sides would make this piece ungainly on the wrist, not to mention uncomfortable.  I am happy to report that this is not the case.  The crowns don’t intrude on comfort or looks and just go along with the extreme functionality this watch offers.

The cities bezel can be rotated in either direction using its crown and some of the cities on this watch are not the usual world locations found on most world time watches.  This is a nod to the history of this watch and its ‘Navy’ designation.  The cities listed on this watch are:  Honolulu, Juneau, Los Angeles (abbreviated), Easter Island (abbreviated), Acapulco, New York, Cayenne, Rio de Janeiro (abbreviated), Azores, Reykjavic, London, Monaco, Capetown, St. Petersburg (abbreviated), Dubai, Karachi, Colombo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Noumea, Auckland and Midway.  Quite a unique and varied list of 24 cities.

This Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT is also the only GMT watch I own that features a second timezone disc instead of the usual third hand used for the GMT function.  The disc is a variation on the theme and functions well, the window for the timezone disc is located to the right of the ‘9’ arabic and has a wide-angle window showing almost five hours of the disc, with an arrow and the designator ‘T2’ printed on the dial that  points to the set GMT time.  The disc sets in one-hour increments via the crown at the 2 position, when moving the crown clockwise.

Inside this Hamilton GMT beats the well-regarded ETA 2893-1 21-jewel automatic movement that both handwinds and hacks.  This movement winds almost silently and has achieved superior performance during my testing regime.  It has run consistently at +4 seconds or so over 24/hours, with a fine power reserve of 50-1/4 hours.  Second hand sweep is smooth and the accuracy of the second timezone disc is spot on.

Hamilton certainly doesn’t scrimp when it comes to their leather straps.  This Khaki Navy GMT has a beautiful dark brown leather croc pattern strap with white contrast stitching.  The strap measures 21mm at the lugs and tapers ever so slightly to 20mm at the stainless steel ‘H’ buckle.  The strap is handmade, is signed and has moderate padding.  There are two rows of holes to accommodate the ‘H’ buckle and its double tangs.  Two keepers are featured, one fixed and one floating.  I usually see this Hamilton Khaki GMT on a stainless steel bracelet, which works fine, but I really think it rocks on the leather strap; it jives very well with the overall look and feel of the watch.

Presentation is typical Hamilton, a fairly large black cardboard box with removable lid and a thick owner’s manual/warranty guide.  Nothing fancy, but in keeping with this watch and its no-nonsense functionality.

Overall, this Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT World Time Automatic (say that three times fast!) is a practical, good-looking and very well constructed watch that should exceed the expectations of its owner, especially at its relatively low price point.

Pros:  great fit and finish, reliable and well-regarded Swiss GMT movement, screwdown crowns all the way around, superb functionality, sapphire crystal 

Cons:  three crowns on the case may be a bit much for some, somewhat odd cities selection on world time disc, window on inner bezel limits functionality at times

Verdict:  a winner in pretty much all categories, this Hamilton Khaki Navy GMT provides functionality, reliability and no-nonsense good looks all at a remarkable price.  A salute to the Khaki Navy, indeed!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.