Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review of Sector 950 Automatic Chronograph

Model # 950/2623997045
Brand/Model:  Sector 950 Automatic Chronograph
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  titanium case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing in one-second increments up to 12 hours
Price:  MSRP:  $995 USD (1999 price)

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

This review is a bit different because the watch being reviewed is no longer available from the manufacturer, but several examples of this watch have shown up recently on the Internet in NOS (new old stock) condition, so if you look hard enough, you may be able to find one.  I’ve always respected Sector as a watch company, as I think they make some very nice pieces.  Their model lines seem to divide into two price points, lower-end quartz models and more expensive quartz and automatic pieces.  I’ve owned a number of Sectors from both price classes over the years and have always found them to be good quality watches with unique designs.
This Sector 950 automatic chronograph dates from the late 90s (about 1999 as far as I can tell).  Being only 40mm in diameter makes it seem somewhat small in comparison to the multitude of 42mm+ watches on the market today, but it’s refreshing to wear a smaller watch for a change, especially one that is a full function chronograph.
The 950 starts with a satin finish titanium (Ti) case in the familiar grey color that titanium is most often associated with.  The case measures 40mm without the crown or pushers; 44.5mm with the crown.  The crown screws down and seems somewhat fragile when unscrewed, it kind of reminds me of a wobbly Vostok crown, but so far no problems have been encountered with it.  The pushers look like they should screw down, with faux screwdowns ringed in red, but they don’t.
The caseback is satin finished titanium and screws down, and is emblazoned with the Sector ‘No Limits’ logo.  Lug width is 20mm and thickness is 15.5mm, which is to be expected due to the Valjoux 7750 movement.
The Sector 950 is factory rated at 300 meters of water resistance.  Since the pushers don’t screw down, I would have my doubts as to this rating, but let’s take them at their word.
The dial on the 950 is compact and a bit busy, but it works.  The dial is a great shade of metallic grey, which is one reason I wanted this watch.  I love grey dials.  Luminous arabics surround the dial, with satin silver hands featuring inset lume.  Lume quality, especially for an NOS watch, is very good. 

The quickset date window is located at the three position and has a black on white date wheel.  The window has a printed silver frame which helps make it easier to read the date.  There’s also a chapter ring with minute marks in red that you can barely see on the outer edge of the dial.
The subdial at the nine position is the watch seconds hand, the subdial at the six is the chronograph hour totalizer (12 hour) and the subdial at 12 is the chrono’s minute totalizer (30 minute).  Each hand on the subdials is tipped in red for easier reading.  The chrono seconds hand is nice and big and has a long and large luminous tip.  It’s one of the largest 7750 seconds hands I’ve seen and it makes it easier to read the seconds while the chrono is in use.
There’s a bit too much lettering (small lettering at that) that partially encircles the subdials at 12 and six.  Do we really have to be told that the 950 sports a sapphire crystal?  Apparently, this was a big deal in 1999.  The Sector name is located at the three position, along with a polished silver Sector logo.
The crystal is flat and is of course, sapphire, as stated on the dial.  A 60-click unidirectional bezel with red and black markings and a lume pip at 12 complete the dial’s presentation.  The bezel has knurled sections which look pretty cool and do help in rotating the bezel.  The bezel rotates easily and doesn’t have any noticeable backlash.
As previously stated, the 950 runs with a Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement.  The movement hacks and manually winds and for a watch that has never been serviced and is over 12 years old, it has tested well on the bench.  It runs about -12/24 hours and has a fine 46.5 hour power reserve.  It’s a bit hard to wind the watch because the crown is rather small, but the movement winds fine and the chrono functions all start, stop and reset crisply.  You really can’t go wrong with a 7750-based watch.
The bracelet on the 950 is fairly chunky for its diminutive 40mm case size.  Satin finish solid titanium links with knurled center links match the knurling on the bezel.  End links are solid.  The clasp is double locking and signed, with the foldover safety clasp being polished and displaying the Sector logo.  The deployant is machined and is stainless steel, not Ti like the rest of the watch.  Why this was done, I have no idea.  As is, the watch is light on the wrist.  
There’s also a stamped Ti diver extension and four microadjustment holes on the clasp.  The bracelet measures 19.5mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm at the clasp.  Adjustment is via standard split pins.
The Sector 950 represents the kind of watch that Sector was making in the late 90s and one that still works today as a functional, good looking piece crafted in titanium.  This watch is worth seeking out as a NOS find.
Pros:  lightweight titanium construction, solid 7750 automatic chronograph movement, more traditional 40mm case size, nice large chrono seconds hand
Cons:  crown seems fragile, small crown makes winding difficult, case rather thick compared to other dimensions
Verdict:  the Sector 950, while a watch from another time (and century!), still works in today’s smartphone world.  Worth seeking out if you enjoy the NOS watch hunt.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review of Hamilton Khaki Field/Pioneer ‘Team Earth’ Automatic

Model # H60 455 1/H60 455 533
Brand/Model:  Hamilton Khaki Field/Pioneer ‘Team Earth’ Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP:  $895 USD

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

Hamilton watches seem to make quite a few appearances here at my blog and for good reason, they represent strong value and excellent build quality for their price point, which is usually quite affordable.  This Hamilton Khaki ‘Field’ or ‘Pioneer’ series automatic is no exception.  This watch offers outstanding vintage looks, great quality and good performance with a reliable Swiss automatic movement.
If you’re familiar with Hamilton’s Khaki line, you know that there have been and continue to be a myriad of different models in this popular series.  I won’t even attempt to describe how many different iterations of the Khaki line there are, but suffice it to say that there’s something for everybody. 

This Khaki model comes in a beige/cream colored dial and the dark brown dial featured in this review and in two sizes, 42mm and a ginormous 45mm model.  Don’t be fooled, the dial is dark brown, not black like most descriptions of this watch state.  And it’s not a root beer shade, it’s a deep, chocolate brown that could pass for black in certain lighting. 
This brown dialed Field/Pioneer model is a special ‘Team Earth’ edition that Hamilton put out with actor Harrison Ford, who is the Vice Chair of Conservation International.  CI’s mission as stated on their web site is “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.”

The Khaki Field/Pioneer starts with a fully brushed 42mm stainless steel case with a classic fluted fixed bezel (the bezel could also be referred to as ‘coin edge’ or ‘reeded’).  The case measures 46.7mm including the crown.  The large onion style crown is signed and is very easy to grasp and use.  The caseback is polished and is secured by six small screws.  The caseback features a ‘Team Earth’ signature along with Harrison Ford’s autograph.  Case thickness is 11.9mm, while the lugs are the increasingly popular yet still odd 21mm.

The Field/Pioneer’s chocolate brown dial is offset by vintage style hands and simple arabic markers.  The inset lume on the hands and the lumed arabics are a greyish or ‘dirty’ looking color, which mimics aged lume.  It’s not yellowed looking or orange, but a shade that perfectly re-creates a true vintage feel in a modern watch.  Superb!  Lume quality is also quite good. 

The seconds hand is a thin matte silver with no lume.  A simple 60-second timing track encircles the outer edge of the dial.  The fine pointed end of the minute hand makes this timing track quite useful.

The quickset date window at the three position is a bit small and can be hard to see clearly at times.  The date wheel is standard black on white and alignment within the window is good.  Minimal printing on the dial consists of the name ‘Hamilton’ under the 12 position and the words ‘Khaki’, ‘Automatic’ and ‘Antimagnetic’ above the six position.  A slightly domed sapphire crystal caps the dial.

The Khaki Field/Pioneer is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

The Swiss made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement is the standard in work-a-day automatic movements and since Hamilton is part of the Swatch Group, there’s no problem in Hamilton sourcing this well admired movement for this watch.  With 25-jewels plus hacking and hand winding capability, you should be able to expect a lifetime of yeoman service from this movement.  During testing in my atelier, the Khaki Field/Pioneer ran at +8 seconds/24 hours and turned in the expected 42 hour power reserve.  Nothing to complain about here.

Another thing I like about Hamiltons is the quality of their leather straps.  Many are handmade in Germany and at times surpass the quality of straps on watches costing two or three times as much.  The strap on the Khaki Field/Pioneer is no exception.  While unnecessarily fussy in its design (Hamilton wanted the strap to resemble a vintage aviator or pilot strap I believe) the deep dark brown hue, the graining of the leather and the soft, tactile feel of the strap is first rate.  And there’s enough of extra strapping and buckles on this thing to make two separate straps if you really wanted. 

Comfort of the strap on the wrist is not as bulky as the design would indicate, but there’s still too much over-and under-wrapping of the strap, clicking of snaps and trying to figure out if you’ve got the strap on correctly to make it fun.  I would have appreciated a simpler and cleaner strap execution, but Hamilton wanted to keep the vintage feel of this watch through and through.

The strap has white contrast stitching and measures 21mm at the lugs, with two stainless steel screwed rivets on each side of the lugs, tapering to 19.7mm at the satin finish buckle.

Presentation is in keeping with the conservation-minded Team Earth concept, which is a simple recyclable cardboard box.  Nothing fancy, but it fits.

Overall, the Hamilton Khaki Field/Pioneer ‘Team Earth’ automatic is a nifty watch that is simple in its design and execution, offers a great vintage look and remains in reach of most WISes.  Well done!

Pros:  just about the perfect vintage look, nothing feels contrived or forced on this watch, venerable Swiss engine, nice quality, especially for the price; high quality strap

Cons:  overly complicated and fussy strap design, date window a bit too small

Verdict:  every watch collection should have a modern piece that resembles a vintage piece and this Hamilton Khaki Field/Pioneer is my ‘pick to click’ in this department.  A well thought-out design that keeps Hamilton on the leading edge of the value/quality/price equation

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.