Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review of Certina DS Action Titanium Automatic Diver

Model #  CO13.407.44.081.00
Brand/Model:  Certina DS Action Titanium Automatic Diver
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  titanium case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP:  about $925 USD

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

Certina is a watch brand of the Swatch Group and is not widely known here in the states nor are they officially sold in the United States, so this bit of exclusivity is kind of nifty.  The brand dates to 1888 and its founding by brothers Adolf and Alfred Kurth who started in the manufacture of movements and supplies for watches, not making complete timepieces until several years later. 

The company’s first brand name appeared in 1906 as ‘Grana.’  It wasn’t until 1938 that the current name of Certina was used.  Certina is Latin for ‘assured’ or ‘certain.’  Not bad qualities to have in a watch.
The moniker ‘DS’ was introduced in 1959 as ‘double security’, as in a movement suspended inside a reinforced case, a form of shock resistance.  Their DS designs raised shock resistance to being able to withstand a 6 meter drop and 20 atms of water resistance.  This design innovation basically marked the beginning of the company’s sports and dive models, with a series of endorsements and action-related adventures featuring various Certina watches throughout the sixties and seventies.
What drew me to this Certina DS Action diver?  Its overall fairly unique look, exclusivity (at least in the U.S.) and lightweight titanium (Ti) construction.  And the price wasn’t bad for all that this Swiss watch offers.  The DS Action diver is also available in stainless steel, as well as automatic chronograph versions with both rubber and stainless steel bracelets.
The DS Action Ti starts with an all titanium case measuring 41.5mm without the large, widely knurled and signed screwdown crown (with two o-ring gaskets in the crown and one o-ring gasket on the stem for extra security against water intrusion).  With the crown, it measures 47mm.  The case is fully brushed in the familiar satin grey titanium color. 

The Ti caseback is screwed down, polished and showcases the Certina turtle logo.  According to DS standards, the caseback is reinforced and has a ‘specific’ gasket sealing it to the case.  Lug spacing is 21mm and case thickness is a fairly thin 12.3mm.  The watch sits comfortably on the wrist and does not wear large.
Overall fit and finish on the DS Action is quite good and while not the kind of watch that I immediately fell in love with, after owning it for awhile and wearing it, I have come to really enjoy what it represents (value, quality, functionality).  Please note!  I purchased this watch second-hand and the clasp has some bad polish marks on it where someone tried to remove some scuffs and didn’t do a very good job, as they show up in the photos.
The DS Action diver is factory rated at 200 meters of water resistance and is built to meet ISO standards for dive watches, being ISO 6425 compliant (which not all dive watches do).  You can be assured that this watch will take to the water without any problems. 
The dial and handset on the DS Action Ti is really where this watch shines.  The dial is a silvery grey with a subtle sunburst effect.  A very sharp color.  The hands are silver with white inset lume, with an arrow style hour hand.  The seconds hand is half white, half red, with a lume ball about two-thirds of the way up the hand, in the middle of the red section.  
Round applied luminous markers are at the five minute marks, with rectangular applied luminous markers at the 15, 30 and 45 positions.  An inverted triangular luminous marker is at the 12 position.  Lume is the currently popular blue color and is of good quality.
The quickset date is at the 4:30 position.  The date wheel is standard black on white and alignment within the smallish window is fine.  
About the only dislike of the dial is the amount of printing on it, with three rows of wording on the upper half of the dial and four rows on the  lower half.  It’s really too much lettering cluttering up the dial; half the amount would be much better.  A flat sapphire crystal with a non-reflective coating protects the dial.
The bezel is another winner on this watch.  It’s a standard 60-click unidirectional design but with widely spaced knurls, giving it a gear-like look.  The bezel rotates easily (almost a bit too easily), with positive clicks and nary any backlash. 

The insert is completely smooth and is finished in the same grey color of the dial.  Full markings (small dots for the minutes, arabics at each ten minute mark and marker bars at each five minute mark) are underneath the bezel insert.  The first 20 minutes of the bezel is luminous, being green lume instead of blue lume like on the dial.  An interesting treatment.  The lume quality on the bezel is not as good as on the dial.
Inside the DS Action diver beats a Swiss Made ETA 2824-2 automatic, a workhorse of a mechanical watch movement if there ever was one.  Timekeeping has been measured in my atelier at +12 seconds/24 hours, with a power reserve of 41-3/4 hours, all within expectations for this movement.  Of course, the movement hacks and manually winds.
The bracelet is solid titanium, with standard oyster style solid links, solid end links and a signed double locking clasp.  The clasp is just okay, it could be a bit heavier to keep up with the purposeful design of the watch; as is, it feels a bit cheap.  The deployant is machined titanium, with a stamped titanium dive extension. 

The bracelet measures 21mm at the lugs and tapers to 18.9mm at the clasp.  A simple, no-nonsense bracelet that gets the job done with a minimum of fuss.
Presentation is a decent looking white box with red lettering, appropriate for a watch of this price point.  There are two compartments inside the box, one for the watch and the other for the instructions and warranty cards.
Overall, the Certina DS Action titanium diver is a no-nonsense watch that is built to take a great deal of abuse and still come out functioning fine.  It’s a tool watch for sure, but has a bit more panache than some tool watches, which is a good thing.  Not overly bulky in any one dimension, this watch gets the job done while looking great doing so.
Pros:  great grey dial and bezel, very legible hands, nicely proportioned crown, lightweight titanium construction, bezel lume execution is slick, true Swiss heritage
Cons:  too much printing on the dial, date window a bit too small, stamped part of clasp could be thicker/of better quality
Verdict:  not a household name in the states, the Certina DS Action diver is a superb dive watch up to the task of actual diving as well as daily ‘desk’ diving.  It looks great, is well made and represents a good value for all that it possesses.  Well done!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review of Gucci Timeless Series GMT Automatic

Model # YA126211

Brand/Model:  Gucci Timeless Series GMT Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable 24-hour GMT hand
Price:  MSRP:  $1,595 USD; Street price around $950 USD

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


When it comes to designer brands, I usually look the other way.  I don’t subscribe to purchasing a designer whatever just to look cool or be part of the ‘in’ crowd.  I’ve often felt that many designer items are vastly overpriced and are not necessarily any better quality than a similar item that costs far less.  So why am I about to write a review on a Gucci watch?  The answer is simple, I bought a Gucci watch and have been extremely impressed by it.

Gucci is at the top of designer brand names and has a level of brand recognition that most companies could only dream of.  They have quite an extensive array of watches, from quartz fashion types to more serious Swiss automatics, including divers and chronographs.  For more than a few months (showing unusual restraint on a watch purchase for yours truly) I had my eye on this Gucci GMT.  I liked the design and looks, but just wasn’t sure if it would pan out in person, so to speak.

When it went on sale at what I considered to be a ‘pull the trigger’ price, I did just that and can honestly say, I am very glad I did.  This watch looks much better in person than in pictures, as there is a level of detail on this watch that has to be seen in person to appreciate.

I was initially concerned that it would be too large and just look dorky on my wrist, but the way the watch is designed, while still being on the big size, it is very comfortable, doesn’t wear clownishly large and looks fantastic.

Gucci does not actually manufacture their own watches, but rather has their higher-end Swiss models made by Bedat.  That’s good! 

The Timeless GMT starts with a fully brushed stainless steel case that measures 44.5mm without the signed (with the Gucci ‘G’) and thankfully non-screwdown crown.  Lately, it seems too many watch companies are putting screwdown crowns on watches that don’t need them.  If a watch has a modest water resistance rating, what’s the point?  So kudos to Gucci for being sensible here. 

With the crown, the Timeless GMT is 47.8mm.  An integrated crown guard protects the crown and is chamfered off enough not to look bulky but still manages to add a degree of protection.  Lug tip-to-lug tip measurement is 52mm, so while the diameter is generous, the overall height is manageable.  Think of it like the girl with wider hips but the rest of her being well proportioned.  Lots to like there!

Case thickness is 11.2mm, lugs are the odd 23mm.  This watch is available with either a stainless steel bracelet or black leather strap.  I opted for the bracelet, which for some reason, was priced less, so it was a no-brainer. 

The brushed finish on the case and bracelet is perfect for this watch, it makes it so much more casual and sleek looking.  Overall fit and finish is very good and the weight and balance of the piece will not disappoint.

I was initially disappointed to see that the caseback was not a screwdown type, but rather the dreaded snap back.  I despise snap-on casebacks because they are hard to remove and replace, but since I hardly have any quartz watches left in my collection and I don’t service my own automatics, the point has become rather moot. 

Still, the caseback on this watch is rather plain and unadorned, with the outer edge being the only polished area on the entire watch.  I was wishing they put more effort into stylizing the caseback rather than just putting the Gucci name on it, along with some miscellaneous wording and numbers.  But, there is sometimes something nice about a simpler caseback, so this one falls in-between.  Not the entirely sterile caseback of a Rolex nor the exquisite design of an Omega Seamaster.  I’ll just call it nothing special.

The dial on the Timeless GMT is really where this watch shines and where it exudes tons of class and style.  The center of the dial (which forms the 24-hour GMT ring and where the solid red arrow-shaped GMT hand resides) is black and semi-perforated.  A ring of small white arabics from 1 to 24 encircle this part of the dial.  I love the fact that this watch has a smaller GMT hand instead of a long, thin GMT hand as is usually found on GMT watches.  To me, the smaller hand seems easier to read and doesn’t get lost on the dial between the markers.

The hands are dauphine style, silver with inset lume, with the seconds hand being a simple silver stick, rather thin.  The seconds hand could be a bit nicer, but it keeps in context with the class of the watch, so no major complaints here.

The upper half of the dial is black, with the lower half a sort of shiny grey-brown.  This is Gucci’s take on the AM/PM delineation that some GMT watches offer.  It looks stunning!  Luminous applied markers are found at each five minute mark, with smaller markers at the 12 and 6 positions.  A painted red arrow resides above the 12 marker and is very subtle in its appearance.

The dial does look like it could be a bit too busy, but due to the larger diameter of this watch, it really isn’t crowded.  Below the 12 marker is the wording ‘Gucci’ and ‘Automatic’ and above the 6 marker is ‘Greenwich Mean Time’, a classier take on the usual ‘GMT’ of other watches.  I like it!  Under examination with an 8X loupe, I could detect no defects or dirt on the dial, just a nice clean build.

A quickset date window is at the three position, framed with a thin silver rim.  The date wheel is white on black and with the framing, is quite easy to read.  Date wheel alignment within the window is fine. 

Lume quality on the Timeless GMT is quite good, given this is not a dive watch.  The watch is factory rated at a modest 5 atm of water resistance.

Capping the dial is a flat sapphire crystal with absolutely no distortion.   A black anodized omni-directional cities bezel finishes off the dial area.  The bezel has 23 cities listed on it and clicks into position at each city location.  The cities are just printed on the bezel in a silverish color and hopefully will not rub off due to wear, but overall, the bezel is a quality piece of engineering and looks superb on this watch.  The black color of the bezel adds just the right amount of sportiness to this piece.

Inside the Timeless GMT beats a Swiss Made automatic movement, presumable an ETA 2893.  Since the caseback is not a display type, the documentation does not mention what the engine is and I’m not about to crack the back to check, this is my best guess.  The GMT hand is independently adjustable in one-hour increments.  The watch handwinds and hacks and keeps great time, running about +8/24 hours with a long 48-3/4 hour power reserve.

The stainless steel bracelet features solid multi-piece links (nine pieces) with solid end links and a continuous style design signed on one link where the butterfly style clasp joins together.  The bracelet is fully brushed, to coordinate with the finish on the watch case. 

The deployant is machined and signed, but unfortunately does not have a pushbutton release, so you have to just tug on the bracelet to get it opened.  It is not real tight, so you don’t have to pull too hard, but a watch at this price point and overall level of design needs a pushbutton on the clasp to do things right.  Demerits here from me. 

Also, due to the continuous style design of the bracelet, there are no microadjustments and no half-links, so getting a perfect fit may be tricky.  The links themselves are not too big, so this aids in getting a better fit, but this is one reason I tend to not like continuous style bracelets.  Luckily, for me, I was able to achieve a decent fit with this watch.  Link removal is by standard split pins. 

The bracelet measures 23mm at the lugs and tapers to 17.9mm at the clasp.

Presentation was fairly straightforward, a nice, but rather simple box that has a single cardboard piece that fits over the inner box.

Overall, the Gucci Timeless GMT is a classy, somewhat dressy, somewhat sporty very functional watch that exhibits great build quality, a unique and wonderful looking dial and the cache of the Gucci name.  Bellissimo!

Pros:  reliable Swiss automatic movement, great looking dial and bezel, brushed finish is perfect for this piece 

Cons:  a bit large for some, bracelet needs a pushbutton release, snap-on caseback looks cheap

Verdict:  stylish, dependable and well-made, the Gucci Timeless GMT is the perfect addition to your collection if you’re looking for a GMT watch that is a bit different but with tons of personality. 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.