Friday, December 20, 2013

Review of Longines Master Collection Triple Date/Moonphase/Chronograph


Model # L2.673.4.78.3

Brand/Model:  Longines Master Collection
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, alligator strap
Complications:  month/day/date display, 24 hour indicator, chronograph timing in one-second increments up to 12 hours, moonphase
Price:  MSRP:  $3,050 USD


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

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a ‘fancy watch’ kind of guy.  While I can certainly appreciate dressier watches, I usually find that if I buy a dress watch, I usually end up wearing it very infrequently.  But I do think that any serious watch collector needs at least one or two dress-type watches in their collection and for me, this Longines Master Collection triple date/moonphase/chronograph fills that ‘dress’ spot in my collection.

I’ve always been attracted to the complication of a triple date watch (a watch that displays the month, day and date).  There are further variations of this style, including a year display and perpetual complications that are very expensive, but for me, the triple date complication is plenty.  Add to this a real moonphase display and a 12-hour chronograph, wrap it up in a 40mm case and make it look really classy and you have the Longines Master Collection timepiece being reviewed here.

Longines makes quite a few variations within their Master Collection, but all of the watches have a dressier bent to them, with bracelet, strap and gold models all available, with varying degrees of complexity.  Longines makes two sizes of the watch I’m reviewing here, the 40mm version I have as well as a 42mm model.  The dial layout, functions, etc. are exactly the same between the two sizes.

For brevity’s sake and ease of typing, I will abbreviate the Longines Master Collection triple date/moonphase/chronograph as ‘TDMC’ for the remainder of this review.

The Longines TDMC begins with a highly polished stainless steel case devoid of any complex angles or cuts.  The case measures 40mm without the signed non-screwdown crown; 42.3mm with the crown included.  A polished rounded bezel is part of the case along with smooth polished chronograph pushers.  Lug width is 21mm, case thickness is 14.6mm.

The caseback is a display type, with the sapphire crystal exposing the nicely decorated Longines Cal. L678 automatic movement, replete with a beautifully rendered and signed rotor.  The caseback is a ‘pressure fitted’ type, which is a fancy way of saying it snaps on.  I guess a fancy watch needs some fancy superlatives.

The Longines TDMC is factory rated for a very modest 30 meters of water resistance, which is fine, because I cannot see anyone swimming or even showering with this fine watch.

Where the Longines TDMC really shines is with the highly detailed, complex but not unusable dial.  The silver ‘barleycorn’ dial is finely textured and is almost a silver-white in color.  The finely crafted semi-sword style hour and minute hands are blued steel and they look terrific against the texturing of the dial.  The long central seconds hand is the seconds hand for the chronograph.

The black painted arabics are presented in the perfect font and despite this watch having so many complications, the dial remains easy to read and easy to use.  Minimal dial printing also helps greatly in making this watch easier to read.  At the three position, there are the words ‘Longines’ and ‘Automatic’ with the Longines wing logo between the two words.  Subtle and unobtrusive.

A dished chapter ring serves as the minute track for the watch, with arabics every five minutes and hash marks in-between those markers.  Just inside the chapter ring is the circular date ring, with its numbers painted on the dial.  A half-moon central hand circles clockwise around the dial semi-enclosing or almost underlining the current date.  It works well and is easy to see.

The subdial at the 12 position is the 30-minute totalizer for the chronograph.  This subdial also contains the rectangular windows for the day (on the left) and month (on the right), both centered in the subdial.  The wheels for the day and month are black on white and centered perfectly in their respective windows.

The subdial at the 9 position has two hands, one being the watch’s seconds hand and the other, longer hand, being the 24-hour or a.m./p.m. indicator.  The seconds hand is sometimes hard to see running because it is so small; I almost think Longines could have made the seconds hand the longer of the two hands in this subdial.  A small quibble, but something to take note of regardless.

I always appreciate a watch that has a 24-hour indicator, it makes it easier to set the date because you know where in the 24-hour cycle the movement is and also because it’s just a nice feature to have. 

The subdial at 6 is the chronograph 12-hour totalizer, with the upper half of this subdial cut-out to reveal the moonphase function, which is designed in fair detail in blue and gold.  I’ve never really used the moonphase on this watch because I don’t wear it everyday.  It is a true moonphase and the instructions tell you how to set the dial so the phase will display accurately.  It’s a cool function, but one I don’t bother with setting when I wear this watch.

All the subdial hands are also blued steel.  There is also no luminous on this watch, it does not glow in the dark, but with so many complications, it’s really not the type of watch you need to see in the dark anyway.  But having just the hour and minute hands luminous would add practicality to this piece.

Finally, covering this most interesting of dials is a slightly domed sapphire crystal.

One thing that always steered me away from complicated watches like this Longines are the degree of difficulty in setting the watch.  Some triple dates have pushers that set each complication and make the watch overly fussy or ungainly in appearance.  Well, Longines nailed the setting problem and I am happy to say this Longines TDMC is as easy to set as any other watch in my collection.

The majority of the settings are controlled through the crown.  In the closed position, the crown is used to manually wind the automatic movement if you choose to do so.  The crown is rather small, so it is a bit difficult to wind, but I will give Longines a pass here because a dressy watch like this would not look right if the crown was larger.

In the first click position, the crown when turned clockwise (away from you) adjusts the moonphase indicator.  When the crown is turned in the counterclockwise (towards you) position, the date hand is changed and when it reaches the end of the month (31), the month indicator also changes to the next month.

In the second click position, the crown turns the hour and minute hands for timesetting.

The day display is changed via the flush-mounted pusher at the 10 position on the upper left side of the case.  It’s best to use a rubber or plastic pointed tool to activate this pusher, so you don’t risk damaging the polished finish on the case.

Inside the Longines TDMC is the Longines Caliber L678 automatic movement, running in 25 jewels at 28,800 bph.  This movement is a base ETA Valjoux 7751, so it’s tried and true and runs strong.  In my testing, the Longines TDMC kept time at +4/24 hours and ran a fine 52.5 hours on a full wind.  The watch hacks and can be manually wound.  All the complications work flawlessly, from the calendar and moonphase setting to the functioning of the chronograph (start/stop/reset are all good).

The movement is wonderfully decorated, with a variety of Geneva stripes, perlage and high-polish parts all visible through the display back.

Also, I wanted to mention that there are other brands of high-end watches that feature this exact same movement, complication set and dial layout which cost considerably more than this model.  The fact that this Longines can be had at a lower price with the same features as these other brands is a strong reason to consider this watch if you’re looking at the triple date/moonphase/chronograph complication.

The Longines TDMC is available in both bracelet and strap versions.  I think this watch looks classier on the strap, with is a genuine alligator strap in a medium brown with white contrast stitching.  It’s moderately padded, fairly soft and flexible and feels good on the wrist.

The strap measures 21mm at the lugs and tapers to 17.8mm at the polished and signed triple safety folding clasp.  Two keepers are included, one fixed and one floating.

The clasp is a pushbutton release butterfly style with a nicely machined deployant.  Longines even includes a separate manual with the watch explaining how the clasp works and adjusts.  It’s a bit over the top, as there really is no secret to adjusting or using the clasp.

I will say that at least for me, the pushbuttons tend to dig into the bottom of my wrist a bit while wearing, which is a somewhat odd, since I do not have the strap adjusted on the tight side.

Presentation is standard Longines, with a cream colored outer box and a polished inner box with separate compartment for the documentation.  It’s a fine presentation that doesn’t need any improvement.

If you’re wanting a triple date, moonphase and/or chronograph watch that’s on the dressy side, you should definitely take a good look at the Longines TDMC.  It’s a fine watch that has the look and the features to occupy a coveted position in your collection without breaking the bank and you’ll be ready for your next dinner party or corporate event. 

Pros:  complicated, highly decorated reliable movement, great classy looks, strong value, useful complications

Cons:  crown too small to easily manual wind the watch, no lume, snap-on caseback

Verdict:  a real looker, the Longines Master Collection triple date/moonphase/chronograph represents a superb watch that’s loaded with features at a price that’s hard to beat.  Stroll into your next black-tie event with this baby on your wrist and you’ll play the part with panache.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review of Graham ‘Silverstone’ GMT Automatic


Model # 2TZAS-S01A-L99S


Brand/Model:  Graham Silverstone GMT Automatic
Movement:  Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display, independently adjustable 24 hour hand
Price:  MSRP:  $4,550 USD


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

When I think of Graham brand watches, I usually envision absurdly large fighter style chronographs with oversized pushers and busy dials.  They always seemed like clown watches to me.  So when these Graham Silverstone GMT models started showing up on the grey market about a year ago at deeply discounted prices, my interest was piqued because, wonder of all wonders, this watch was ‘only’ 42mm in size!  A sensibly sized Graham?  Who knew!

Graham is an English watch company playing off the history of George Graham, who in the early 1700s was a master clockmaker in London.  All Graham watches are Swiss Made and utilize the highest quality materials with thorough engineering incorporated into each watch they make.

The Silverstone GMT gets its name from the famed Silverstone racetrack that hosted its first race in 1947 in England.  In 1950, the first Formula One race was held at Silverstone.  The track has since become known as the home of British racing and Graham saw fit to honor this grand dame of racetracks with a watch bearing its name.

So of course, since I discovered I could get a Graham for one-third the retail price, I got me-self one and truth be told, I have been very impressed with this watch since day one.  The overall quality, look and feel of this piece is superb and I wish and hope that Graham decides to make more watches in this size range.  Currently, it looks like their smallest watch is about 44mm.

The Graham Silverstone GMT came in a black or silver dial; I chose the silver.  The dial is a nice shade of silver that is surprisingly easy to read, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  

The Graham GMT starts with a beautifully fully polished stainless steel case that measures the aforementioned 42mm (actually 41.9mm) without the screwdown crown; 45.5mm with the crown included.  The case is shaped with a nice rounding to the case sides and nifty curved down lugs that help the watch hug the wrist.  

Believe me, they did not skimp in the manufacture of this case, although the screwdown crown is a curiosity for two reasons.  Why on earth use a screwdown crown on a watch rated at only 50 meters of water resistance?  Seems silly to me.  Also, the crown is incredibly plain, it is not signed nor does it have any distinctive features, like a larger size, deep knurls, etc.  I would have liked a nicely signed crown to compliment the unique look of this watch.

The caseback is brushed and polished stainless steel on the outer edge and is a display type held in place by 6 small screws.  The very nicely finished movement is easily examined through the caseback with a totally cool signed black rotor.

Case thickness is a svelte 10.7mm and lug spacing is 20mm.  As just mentioned, the watch is factory rated for a modest 50 meters of water resistance.

A fixed black 24 hour bezel insert surrounds the dial, a dial which does exhibit some of the traditional Graham excess, namely the somewhat oversized arabics and large pointer style GMT hand.  But the excess is restrained and it actually works well while telling the world this is not your usual watch.

The shade of silver on the dial is just about right, not too bright, and with the finely crafted hands with their thin pointed tips, this watch is easy to read.  The seconds hand has a luminous pointer about two-thirds of the way out, with a long red tip after the pointer.  It’s a nice long seconds hand, one that extends fully in the chapter ring that features small arabics every five minutes and minute markers between the arabics.

The large screened arabics on the dial look like they are luminous, but they are not.  Only the hour, minute and seconds hand glow in the dark.  Lume quality is good, but it would be nice to have some sort of lume on the dial, such as dots, markers, etc.  

While there is minimal printing on the dial, the texts are a bit large, but again, not too garish.  The name ‘Graham’ is prominently displayed under the 12, with a much smaller ‘Silverstone’ text underneath.  Above the 6 position is a small ‘automatic’ with a large red ‘GMT’ above that.  It might sound a bit loud, but it really isn’t.

I’m not sure why they didn’t make the GMT hand luminous, perhaps because the bezel with the 24 hour markings is not luminous or maybe they don’t think you need second timezone tracking in the dark.  Regardless of this somewhat odd oversight, the GMT hand is a plain black stick with an oversized open red pointer tip that is super easy to see.  Again, daytime legibility is a strong point on this watch.

Another unique feature of the Graham GMT is the location of the date window.  It’s at the unusual position of about 36 on the dial (or 7 o’clock depending on how you look at it).  Not sure why they chose this position, but it does the job and works fine.

The quickset date mechanism works well, the date wheel is black on white and is visible through the recessed window that frames the date nicely.

Capping the dial is a very slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating.  The build quality of the dial and hands is very good; no defects or dirt were noticed under an 8X loupe exam.

Doing duty inside the Graham Silverstone GMT is the venerable Swiss Made ETA 2893-2 automatic movement, with 21 jewels running at 28,800 bph with the GMT complication (Graham Caliber # G1714).  This movement is the workhorse for most GMT automatics around and in this application, it’s treated to a nice decoration regime (perlage and blued screws) and the cool signed black rotor I mentioned earlier.  It’s a joy to behold when viewed through the display caseback.  

The watch hacks and manually winds and the GMT hand clicks around the dial in one-hour increments.  The watch winds and sets well and keeps time to a fine +4 seconds/24 hours according to my testing.  Power reserve was clocked at a totally respectable 49.5 hours, more than the expected 42 hours.  Excellent!

The Graham Silverstone GMT comes on a high quality black leather strap with white contrast stitching.  The strap is smooth leather and is signed, as is the highly polished stainless steel buckle.  The strap measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18.2mm at the buckle.  

There are two keepers, one fixed and one floating.  The strap is a bit thick and mildly padded, but still soft and flexible.  A perfect companion to the rest of the watch.

Presentation is rather over-the-top, as would be expected of Graham.  A two piece black cardboard outer box encloses another oversized outer box has a damped hinged auto-open cover (once the latch is slide back) with yet another smaller zippered box inside that actually contains the watch.  The zippered box could be used as a travel box if needed.  

Full documentation in the form of a hardcover ‘watch passort’ is included.  The passport contains hand-written serial numbers and movement numbers, which is a nice touch.  No complaints with this presentation.

Often times a high priced watch from a smaller company like Graham will come off as either overdone or overstyled (which their Chronofighter models are, IMHO) or all flash and no substance.  This Graham Silverstone GMT exceeded my expectations of what I thought it might be and has been a great introduction to this English brand.  

While I can safely say that I will probably never own an oversized overwrought Graham Chronofighter, if they produce more smaller sized watches like this Silverstone GMT, I would definitely take a look and have interest.  This Graham Silverstone GMT is a superb watch in most all respects and if you can snag one for one-third of retail, consider it well-bought.

Pros:  great overall quality, highly legible in daylight, nicely decorated movement, superb case shape, manageable size, unique looks

Cons:  why a screwdown crown on a 50M watch?  crown too plain, modest water resistance rating, crazy MSRP, sparse lume

Verdict:  the Graham Silverstone GMT gets the job done with outstanding style, functionality and unique details that set it apart from other GMT watches on the market; overall, a high-grade watch for discriminating collectors.  Well done!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review of Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Cal. 8500 Ceramic

Model # 232.30.42.21.01.001

Brand/Model:  Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Cal. 8500 Ceramic
Movement:  in-house Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet, ceramic bezel insert
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP $6,200 USD


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

First off, welcome to review number 100 on my watch reviews blog!  Thank you to all my visitors and regulars for helping to make this blog one of the most popular watch review blogs on-line.  It’s been a great ride and I appreciate your support.

For this special milestone review, I thought a simply superb watch would be appropriate to mark the occasion.  Hence, I selected the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with the new in-house Caliber 8500 automatic movement.  I reviewed the first-generation Planet Ocean (launched by Omega in 2005) a couple of years ago and I gave that watch high marks.  

The new Cal. 8500 Planet Ocean (‘PO’ for short) continues the excellence started with the first model and improves on many points, and I will say it right now, this is one outstanding watch.  It’s one of those pieces that if I had to own just one watch, this could certainly be it.

The overall design of the Planet Ocean, with its broad arrow-style hands, stylish slightly thinner bezel insert, simple but functional bracelet and superb quality all conspire in a positive way to create a watch that is the perfect all-around timepiece, at home in the office, the country club or on date night.  It exudes presence, prestige and class.  Don’t I sound adoring when I gush about something?

The updated PO has several fairly significant cosmetic changes.  The most obvious are the fatter handset, applied arabics on the dial, an applied Omega logo and slight changes to the applied markers.  The lume is now blue, with a green lume bezel dot and minute hand. 

The bezel now has a ceramic insert in a charcoal grey shade instead of black and the clasp no longer carries an engraved ‘Planet Ocean’ signature, nor the words ‘Seamaster’ or ‘Professional’.  The clasp is ever so slightly different with oval pushbuttons and the bracelet has been upgraded using screws and pins for adjustment.

Aside from a healthy price increase (at $6,200 USD, this watch is getting very pricey!), the biggest news in the latest PO is the brand new in-house Caliber 8500 Co-Axial automatic movement.  Omega ditched the beautiful embossed caseback and added a display caseback, to show off the nicely decorated new movement.  They are obviously proud of their accomplishment and this movement is being used in a variety of other Omegas, including the Aqua Terra.

The latest PO is available in two sizes, just like the first-generation model, at 45.5mm and 42mm.  As before, I am reviewing the 42mm version here.  It starts with an all stainless steel case in a brushed and polished finish and those gorgeous signature Omega curved lugs.  The case measures 42mm without the signed screwdown crown; 45.1mm with the crown included.  Lug spacing is 20mm, thickness is 16mm.  

This newer version of the PO is substantially thicker than the first-generation model, which was 14.2mm thick.  This has been a point of contention with some people, as it does make the watch somewhat top heavy on the wrist, especially if you have a thinner wrist, as I do.  I really haven’t had any problems with the thickness, but do bear it in mind if you’re considering this watch.

The caseback, as previously mentioned, is a sapphire display type and screws down. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is still factory rated at 600 meters of water resistance despite the inclusion of the display back, so nothing has been lost with its addition.

The crown that sets and winds the watch is located at the 3 position, and is signed and screws down.  The helium escape valve is manually operated, signed with an ‘HE’ and is located at the 10 position on the left side of the case.

The dial on the PO is a matte to slightly glossy black and with the fatter hands and applied logo, it looks great.  The lume is not as bright as the older model, but I have yet to see a watch that uses the trendy blue SuperLuminova glow as brightly as their green lume.  Why this change was made, I do not know.  To me, it’s a bit of a downgrade.  

The broad arrow hands are silver with inset lume and the seconds hand is silver with an orange pointer-style tip.  A quickset date is at the 3 position, with a black wheel and silver numerals.  

A note on the quickset, with the new Cal. 8500 movement, the quickset works by rotating the hour hand through a 24-hour cycle (├ála Rolex GMT II) to change the date.  While this does take a bit longer than a standard quickset mechanism, it has the advantage of being able to change the date in either direction, so if the date you’re looking for is closer to the displayed date by going backwards, you can rotate the hour hand counterclockwise to get the date set.  And since the hour hand moves, it makes quick timezone changes super easy without upsetting the timekeeping, as the watch continues to run while you adjust the hour hand.

The words ‘Omega’, ‘Seamaster’ and ‘Professional’ are located on the dial below the 12 position, with ‘Co-axial’, ‘Chronometer’ and ‘600m/2000ft’ listed above the 6 position.  It sounds quite busy, but it really isn’t.  The quality of the applied markers, the applied logo, the look of the hands, it’s all top-notch.

The dial is capped by a slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides.

The 120-click unidirectional bezel features the new grey ceramic insert with a lume pip at 12.  The insert has a matte finish and doesn’t scream ceramic, but it looks good, with the standard timing markings to be expected of a true diver.  Bezel action is smooth with nary any backlash.

Much has been discussed about the new in-house 39-jewel Caliber 8500 movement, and I will quote from Omega’s web site as to the features of this movement:  “Self-winding movement with Co-Axial Escapement for greater precision, stability and durability.  Free sprung-balance, two barrels mounted in series, automatic winding in both directions to reduce winding time.  Bridges and the oscillating mass are decorated with exclusive Geneva waves in arabesque.”  The decoration is really quite stunning.  This movement also features Omega’s Si14 silicone balance spring for added reliability.  

Omega lists power reserve at 60 hours; during my testing, I achieved 64 hours, which is superb. The movement is of course COSC rated, which seems to be carrying less and less importance these days, even in high-end watches.  

As with my first Planet Ocean, this new version when running off the wrist in the crown up position runs at just inside the COSC spec. at +6 seconds per day.  But this summer, while on vacation, I wore my Cal. 8500 Planet Ocean pretty much 24/7 (taking it off only to shower) for nine days straight and it performed flawlessly, settling in at a consistent +3 seconds per day over the nine day period.  Just fine.

I won’t go into a technical analysis of this movement, but suffice to say that it appears to be a well-engineered design with some unique features and should stand the test of time. Well done!

The bracelet on the newest PO is pretty much carry-over, with a brushed finish and a pushbutton clasp with machined deployant and fold-out machined diver extension.  

The bracelet features Omega’s patented screw and pin link adjustment, which is so much easier than the old pin and collar system.  As I previously mentioned, the clasp is just signed ‘Omega’ only, with no ‘Planet Ocean’, ‘Seamaster’ or ‘Professional’ script as in the first generation.  

A bracelet half link is also included for a better fit, but as before, there is still no micro-adjustment on the clasp, which earns this watch one of its very few demerits.

The bracelet measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm at the clasp.

Presentation is standard Omega red box with vinyl holder for the warranty card, chronometer card, pictogram card, etc.  It works well and looks good, but as Omega’s prices continue to rise, will they spice up the box?  We’ll see.

Overall, the newest version of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean with the Caliber 8500 movement is a worthy upgrade to the original.  Yes, it costs more, but the new movement is a work of art and performance is robust and accurate.  If you’re wanting one watch that can go anywhere and look great, the PO is a fine choice.

Pros:  in-house movement with great decoration and long power reserve, high quality fit and finish, ceramic bezel looks good, high water resistance rating

Cons:  watch case is rather thick, too thick for some, blue lume is not super bright, bracelet somewhat uninspiring and lacks microadjustment, getting rather pricey

Verdict:  the Planet Ocean is truly a ‘must have’ watch and Omega pretty much knocks it out of the park with this one.  You can’t go wrong with this watch and you won’t be disappointed when you get one, it’s that good.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.

Excelsior!


-Marc