Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review of Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD

Model # Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD

Brand/Model:  Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD, Limited Edition of 1000 pieces
Movement:  Chinese manual wind chronograph
Material:  PVD coated stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  chronograph timing in one second increments up to 30 minutes
Price:  $545 USD direct from Magrette; $30 USD shipping

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

This is the second Magrette watch I have owned and reviewed, the first being the Magrette Moana Pacific PVD diver I talked about last year.  This Moana Pacific Chronograph intrigued me because of its fairly original design and strong feature set. 

This model is a Limited Edition as are all Magrette watches.  This model is limited to 1000 pieces.  I pre-ordered this watch via Magrette’s web site (the only way to get a new Magrette) over the summer and took delivery in late September.  Communication during the wait period was good and shipping from New Zealand to the U.S. took about five days, so no complaints here.  The watch arrived in perfect condition.
The Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD starts with a brushed and polished PVD coated stainless steel case that measures 43.5mm without the large, signed screwdown crown.  With the crown, it’s 47.7mm across.  Large, yes, but surprisingly, not too unwieldy on the wrist.  Thickness is 15.5mm, lugs are 24mm. 

The caseback is polished stainless steel, that screws down and displays the nicely finished manual wind column wheel chronograph movement.  Why the caseback is not PVD like the rest of the watch is a mystery, because even though you really can’t see the caseback while you’re wearing the watch, it still seems jarring to have an all black watch case with a silver caseback.
The chronograph pushers also screw down, as they should on a watch that is rated at 500 meters of water resistance.
The application of the PVD is excellent, being evenly applied in all areas and the way parts are brushed (matte) and polished (glossy) is nice to look at, although the polished parts are a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
The dial on the Moana Pacific chronograph is black, with raised markers and arabics.  The layout is classic two-register chronograph, with a subdial at 3 and another subdial at 9. 

The oversized arabics and the zero in front of the single digits are a Magrette design trademark.  There are so many watches on the market these days with oversized arabics, either all over the dial or at certain positions that look, quite frankly, stupid.  But the way Magrette does their two large arabics gives their watches a modern, clean and cool look.  Especially on a larger watch like this, the design of the larger arabics works well.
The hour and minute hands are black with inset lume.  The black end tips of the hands tend to get lost in the black of the dial, not a huge distraction, but something to be aware of.  The markers and arabics are luminous, along with the hour and minute hands and chronograph/seconds hands in the subdials.  Unlike the Magrette watch I reviewed last year, the lume on the Moana Pacific Chronograph is C3 SuperLuminova and is outstanding, like it should be. 
The subdial at the 3 position is the 30-minute totalizer for the chronograph and the subdial at the 9 position is the watch seconds hand.  The chronograph second hand is a thin black hand with a lume tip.  This hand is really too small and tends to get lost in the dial as it rotates.  It needs an arrow tip or a wider stance to work better.
The chapter ring has arabics at each five minute mark, with hash marks between the arabics.  The arabics at each quarter hour are red, as is the inverted arrow at the 12 position.  The red makes a subtle but nice accent.
Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of excessive dial printing and thankfully, Magrette complies here, with just ‘Magrette’ and ‘chronograph’ appearing on the dial.  Nicely done!
The dial is capped with a double domed sapphire crystal with anti reflective coating.  The crystal fits flush with the edge of the bezel.  And speaking of the bezel, this is another feature that attracted me to this watch.  Ceramic bezels are all the rage these days, with Rolex and Omega leading the charge and seemingly every other watch company coming out with a ceramic bezel of their own.  Just so you know, the ceramic part is really just a thin insert that replaces a traditional steel or aluminum bezel insert.  
The ceramic bezel on the Moana Pacific Chronograph is polished and has engraved arabics at each quarter hour, minute marks for the first 15 minutes and markers every five minutes thereafter.  The bezel does look very cool, but is a bit hard to read due to little contrast between the polished and engraved parts and the only lume being a lume pip at the 12 position. 

Bezel action is a 60-click unidirectional type.  The bezel rotates smoothly, but alignment could be better, as it is just ever so slightly off at the top.  This seems odd, seeing that Magrette watches always seem to exhibit very good fit and finish.  Not a major distraction, but improvement is needed here.
Inside the Moana Pacific Chronograph is the Chinese made Seagull TY-2901/ST1901 manual wind column wheel chronograph movement.  This is the Chinese copy of the Venus 175 movement.  I had this movement in an Invicta several years back and found it to be a high quality unit.  My feelings remain with this movement in the Magrette.  It winds smoothly, runs great and the chronograph functions are crisp and accurate.  And the movement is superbly decorated, with blued screws, Geneva stripes and polished parts abounding, so it’s no wonder Magrette chose to install a display back on this watch.
In testing, my Moana Pacific Chronograph ran about -2 seconds/24 hours; it’s a bit hard to time since the movement does not hack, but timekeeping has been excellent.  Power reserve is equally strong, with 51-1/2 hours on a full wind.  I believe that this movement is one of the best movements coming out of China at this time, too bad it’s quite large, because something like this in a 42mm or smaller watch would be super cool.
Magrette gives buyers a choice of straps when they order their Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD, ranging from black leather with black stitch, black leather with red stitch, rubber or the chocolate brown leather shown here.  The dark brown with the black PVD is a smashing combination.  The strap is well constructed, measuring 24mm at the lugs and tapering to 22mm at the brushed PVD buckle.  There are two large keepers, both floating.  If you have a smaller wrist like I do, you may want to consider removing one of the keepers to make the watch less fussy while wearing.  
The strap is rather thick, but flexible and has larger coarse style stitching in a slightly lighter shade of brown.  The lugs are drilled to make strap changes easier.
Even though this is a large watch with a wide strap, it wears well on my 6-3/4” wrist.  The keepers are a bit large, but otherwise, the watch is a looker.  Just remember to unscrew the chrono pushers before using them and to lock them back down if you plan on getting the watch wet.
Presentation is Magrette unique, with the watch coming in a cloth/canvas roll placed inside a simple slide-top wooden box emblazoned with the Magrette logo.  The warranty paperwork is hand signed by Dion Wynyard McAsey (founder of Magrette), adding a bit of personalization to this timepiece.
Overall, the Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD is not a watch everyone will have, so if being exclusive is something that appeals to you, this could be the watch for you.  It’s quite large and in-charge and will garner looks because of its bold black case and unique dial layout.  Quality is pretty much first rate and while the price may seem a bit steep for a Chinese movement based watch, the feature set and limited edition nature of this watch compensate somewhat for the origin of the movement.
Pros:  nifty black PVD finish, classic two-register chronograph layout, great lume, nice dark brown strap, ceramic bezel looks cool
Cons:  why the silver caseback on an otherwise black watch?  bezel could align better, large size won’t suit all comers
Verdict:  unique, quality piece from a boutique watchmaker that strives to deliver originality and value.  You can’t really go wrong with the Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph PVD if you want a large two-register chrono in your collection

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review of ORIS Aquis Maldives Limited Edition Automatic Diver

Model # 01 643 7654 7185
Brand/Model:  ORIS Aquis Maldives LE (limited edition of 2000 pieces)
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  titanium case and bracelet
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP: $2,800 USD, often discounted

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

Despite having four ORIS watches in my collection, this is the first ORIS I have the pleasure to review on this blog.  ORIS is a long-standing Swiss watch company (since 1904) that makes watches exclusively with automatic movements.  They tend to offer no-nonsense designs (although they do have some more fashion-oriented pieces as well) with high quality construction and pricing that puts them on the lower end of the automatic Swiss watch spectrum, which is a good thing.  Value is always a virtue, especially in an automatic Swiss watch.

ORIS has taken to producing a variety of Limited Edition (LE) watches as of late and this dive watch, from their Aquis Series, has been designed by ORIS to help save the Maldives atolls in the Indian Ocean. 

The Maldives consist of 1,190 islands spread over 90,000 square kilometers.  Known as a ‘treasure trove of marine life’ that features a variety of different environments including sea grass beds, mangroves, swamps and coral reefs in addition to a wide array of marine animals, the Maldives are an important part of the Indian Ocean’s ecosystem.

ORIS is also supporting the non-profit group Bluepeace, by donating funds to help this group implement programs to help conserve the Maldives.

The Aquis Series is one of ORIS’ newest lines of dive watches and builds upon their classic and well-regarded TT1 divers of the past ten years or so.  The Aquis Maldives is loaded with premium features and quality construction that puts it quite near the Omega Seamaster Pro in overall content, more on this in a bit.

The Maldives starts with a beautifully finished multi-piece titanium case that is brushed and polished.  I love when watch companies polish titanium, it looks superb with a light grey tint, but with a mirror finish just like stainless steel. 

The Maldives measures 42.9mm without the crown protector or signed screwdown crown, 46.9mm crown inclusive.  Like all modern ORIS divers, the Maldives features downward sloping integrated lugs, something I usually eschew in any watch design because they never seem to fit properly, but in the case of ORIS, their integrated lug designs fit great and are very comfortable.  The lugs are about 26mm wide as measured from the outside.  You are stuck with having to use ORIS rubber straps for this watch if you don’t like the bracelet, but if you’re getting ready to purchase a Maldives or other Aquis Series watch, you are probably comfortable in dealing with the integrated lugs.

Case thickness is 13.6mm.  The caseback screws down and shows a color Maldives logo of a Manta Ray, specially developed by ORIS for this watch.  The logo is under a crystal (presumably mineral) that fits flush with the rest of the caseback.  The caseback itself screws flush with the case, giving a nice smooth appearance to the watch and adds to the comfort of wearing.  Fit and finish on this watch is superb.

The crown is signed, fairly large and nicely knurled for easy grip.  The crown is surrounded by a crown guard that is screwed onto the case on either side of the crown and which fits flush with the case side and back for a clean look.  A helium escape valve (HEV) is located on the left side of the case in the center.

The Maldives color combination is rather unique, with a dark blue dial and ceramic bezel and orange colored markers and hands.  To me, the dark blue has a bit of grey in it, others have said they seen some green in the blue.  Regardless of how you see the colors, don’t let them scare you off from a great watch.  The color combo works and the look of the dial and bezel is fantastic.

The orange markers (somewhat of a faded shade of orange, it’s definitely not neon or ‘dayglo’) are luminous and applied to the dial with silver edges on each marker.  Small white minute marks are between each five minute marker.

The hour and minute hands are silver with the orange inset lume and the subseconds dial at the 9 position has a long seconds hand that is orange on one side and silver on the other.  ORIS makes the seconds hand long so you can more easily see that the watch is indeed running. 

Having a sub seconds dial on a dive watch is somewhat unique and helps to give the Maldives a personality of its own.  The sub seconds dial itself is rimmed in silver with fine silver markers at each five second mark.  It’s subdued and functional at the same time.

A white on black quickset date is located at the 3 position, with a white frame around the date window that makes it easier to read.  Fairly minimal dial printing consists of ‘ORIS’ and ‘automatic’ under the 12 marker and ‘pressure resistant’ and ‘30BAR/300M’ above the 6 marker.  Interesting to note that ORIS uses a BAR pressure designation in addition to the depth in meters.  So obviously, the Maldives is factory rated for 300 meters of water resistance or 30 BAR of pressure.

The dial is topped with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal that is slightly domed and fits flush with the inner edge of the ceramic bezel.

And speaking of the bezel, it’s a 120-click unidirectional style with a dark blue ceramic insert with black non-luminous arabics and markers on it.  The feel and quality of the bezel is first-rate, with nicely crafted knurls on the edge to grip as you rotate it.  No backlash was noted on the bezel.

An orange lume pip is at the 12 position.  For a serious dive watch, it’s not very practical to have no part of the bezel other than the lume pip be luminous, but on the other hand, the black inset markings look great and don’t scream out at you when you wear the watch.  If they were luminous and painted orange, the look would be overpowering.

While on the subject of lume, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and color of the Superluminova ORIS used on the Maldives.  ORIS calls the lume ‘dark orange’ but as stated previously, in daylight, the lume color looks more like a faded orange to me.  When illuminated in the dark, the lume is a super cool yellowish shade, almost an incandescent yellow, easy to see, bright and very sharp looking.  Nice job!

Inside the Maldives is the ORIS Cal. 643 automatic movement, which is a base ETA 2836-2 running at 28,800 vph with a jewel count of 27.  The movement hacks and manually winds and performance has been good, with a power reserve of 41-1/2 hours during testing and a 24-hour accuracy of +7 seconds.  Since there’s no display back on the Maldives, I would hope this movement still sports the famed ORIS red rotor, but I won’t know until years down the line and I watch my watchmaker crack the back to expose the movement.  For argument’s sake, let’s assume the rotor is red.

The bracelet on the Maldives is another thing of beauty.  Made of solid link titanium with polished outer links and brushed inner links, it looks great and is comfortable to wear.  The links have beveled edges on them, which gives the bracelet a modern look without being trendy.  A subtle but interesting detail.

The bracelet is 25.3mm wide at the integrated lugs of the case and tapers to 19.9mm at the clasp.  Screw pins secure the links together and sizing and adjustment of the bracelet was easy.

The clasp is signed, with a pushbutton closure that actuates two pins that securely lock over the machined deployant.  It’s not just a friction fit, but a real positive locking device.  A machined dive extension pops out from the rear of the clasp.  The clasp also has three micro-adjustment holes.  In keeping with the rest of the watch, the quality of the clasp, deployant and bracelet is top-notch.

Presentation is a large black outer box with separate lid and a nice zippered inner box that could easily be used as a travel pouch of sorts.  The inner box is rigid but constructed of somewhat flexible vinyl covered plastic.  A separate nook in the outer box houses the instruction manual and special insert talking about the Maldives islands and the Maldives watch itself.  The manual and warranty information is placed in a hardcover binder.

The instruction manual is quite comprehensive and detailed, which is a nice surprise in this day and age of minimal documentation or ‘find it online’ thinking.  The manual is of course in various languages, but the English portion is 24 pages in length, with accompanying photos to describe various features.  While universal for other ORIS models, the manual is still quite complete and useful.

Another interesting aside about the manual, there is a ‘proof of ownership’ page that has room for three owner’s names.  This is the first time I have seen a watch company acknowledge the fact that a high-end watch doesn’t always remain with the first purchaser and said watch is sometimes sold off.  Kudos to ORIS for being cognizant of this potential.

Overall, the ORIS Aquis Maldives is a beautiful, functional, well-made watch.  I have been telling many of my WIS friends that I believe ORIS has really stepped up their game as of late.  While I still love my ORIS TT1 diver and think it’s a good quality watch, the Maldives just takes what they were doing and adds to it, with superb fit and finish, high-end features and unique looks.

I said earlier that the Maldives, in my opinion, can go head-to-head with an Omega Seamaster Pro.  I have a new ceramic bezel Seamaster and in side-by-side comparisons, the ORIS is the equal of the Seamaster.  The only place where the Omega wins is in the co-axial COSC movement, but is that really worth a price that is 60-percent higher? (based on MSRPs of $2,800 USD for the ORIS and $4,400 USD for the Omega).  And remember, the ORIS is titanium, the Omega is stainless steel. 

I truly love both watches, but ORIS could certainly put a COSC movement in the Maldives (or other Aquis models) and the cost advantage compared to Omega would still be strongly in ORIS’ favor.

As it stands, the Maldives is an exceptional watch is all respects and a strong value to boot.  Since there are only 2000 of these in existence, grab one while you can, you will not be disappointed!

Pros: lightweight titanium construction, superb fit and finish, great lume, ceramic bezel, unique looks, lightweight titanium construction, Swiss origin through and through 
Cons:  integrated bracelet limits strap choices, no lume on bezel markers a disadvantage for serious divers, some people may prefer stainless steel construction
Verdict:  outstanding in nearly all respects, ORIS ups its game and produces a fantastic dive watch that can still be had for a relative bargain.  The Maldives is hard to beat.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.