Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review of Victorinox Swiss Army Infantry Vintage Mechanical

Model # 241377 (discontinued)

Brand:  Victorinox Swiss Army
Model:  Infantry Vintage Mechanical
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  none
Price:  MSRP  $925 USD

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

It’s always a pleasure to review a watch that is simple and functional in its design, good looking and rugged.  The Victorinox Swiss Army (‘VSA’ for short) Infantry Vintage Mechanical certainly fits the bill.  Although this particular model is now discontinued, they can still be found new on the ‘net and at pretty good prices, too.

I have already reviewed the big brother to this watch, the VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical Chronograph and gave that watch high marks.  The manual wind, non-complicated version is equally enjoyable.

The VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical starts with a 44mm stainless steel case that sports a brushed and polished finish.  It’s nice that even though this watch sports a large-sized movement, VSA managed to keep the case diameter as small as they can.  Many watches that have the Unitas manual wind movement clock in at 45 or 46mm in size.  The shortness of the lugs on the watch also make it much more manageable on the wrist (lug-tip to lug-tip measures 50mm), so kudos to VSA for designing this piece to a usable size.

Case diameter with the signed crown is 47.4mm.  The screwdown caseback is brushed stainless steel and has a mineral crystal display window that shows off the minimally decorated but still attractive workhorse movement.

Thickness is 12mm and lugs are an odd 23mm.  The fixed bezel is stepped in its design and adds just the right amount of panache to this admittedly simple watch.  The VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

Overall quality of the finish work and assembly is first-rate on this VSA.

The dial on this VSA is a real beauty.  The dial is one of the highlights of the chronograph version and the dial on the manual wind is pretty much the same design.  A black center circular section has a 13-24 hour track, which is surrounded by a slightly recessed and textured section that has the raised arabics on it.  

Thankfully, VSA has not ‘hacked off’ any of the numbers on the dial.  Instead of putting a half or third of a 5, 6 or 7 on the dial, the designers simply left these numbers off....way to go!  It always hacks me off when some dials have arabics that are so cut off that they are barely recognizable as a number...why not just leave it off?  That’s what VSA did here and it looks great.  

Another design element that works is the restraint VSA had when the decided how large to make the arabics on the dial.  Like many watches these days, they have made a couple of the arabics on the dial larger than the rest (the 3 and 9 are about 50-percent larger than the other arabics) but they are not clownishly large, which is good.  And given that the dial on this watch is larger to begin with, the slightly oversized arabics don't look out of place.

A chapter ring on the outer edge of the dial has lume dots at each five minute mark (pointer style marks at 12, 3 and 9) along with hash marks for minute markers and small arabics every five minutes.  The larger arabics on the dial are luminous as well as the hour, minute and seconds hand.  Lume quality is good.

The hour and minute hands are sword style, silver with inset lume.  The lume used on this watch is also the cream or ‘aged’ kind of Superluminova, which is in keeping with the vintage aspirations of this model.  It looks fantastic.

The subdial at 6 is perfectly sized to the overall proportions of this watch.  It has a slightly heavy silver ring around it and has an inner circular dial in black with a cream colored seconds track on the outside with arabics at each quarter minute and simple marks every five seconds.  The seconds hand is the same design as the main hands and features inset lume as well.

The dial is topped with a flat anti-reflective sapphire crystal.  The entire dial is well executed and makes this watch very easy to read.

Inside the VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical is the long-running and well-regarded Swiss Unitas 6498 ‘six eater’ 17-jewel manual wind movement.  There are several grades of this movement available and this VSA sports the version with brushed plates, for a nicer look through the display back.  

The watch does not hack, but I have measured timekeeping accuracy at about +7/24 hours with a good 48.5 hour power reserve.  The watch winds and sets smoothly.   Absolutely no complaints from this tried and true workhorse of a movement.

The VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical is equipped with a smooth black leather strap with a slightly coarse off-white contrast stitch.  The strap is moderately thick without any padding.  The strap measures 23mm at the lugs and tapers to 20.2mm at the buckle.  The signed buckle is brushed stainless steel.  The look of the strap fits the overall tone of this watch; nothing fancy, but totally purposeful and attractive.

As I stated at the start of this review, although this VSA model is discontinued, you can still find them brand new if you look hard enough and many places are discounting them, so they represent a very good value for a Unitas 6498-based watch that has high quality and an acceptable size.  The VSA Infantry Vintage Mechanical is a superb watch that shines through its simplicity.  If you enjoy the basic joy of a manual wind watch without any complications, you can’t do much better than this one.  Highly recommended.

Pros:  good fit and finish, very legible dial, basic and rugged Swiss manual wind movement, manageable size

Cons:  still a large watch, too simple for some?

Verdict:  VSA hits all the right notes with this one, the Infantry Vintage Mechanical is a great watch and can be easily appreciated for its classic/vintage style, quality and simplicity.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review of Oris Chronoris Grand Prix ‘70 Limited Edition

Model # 01 677 7619 4154
Brand:  Oris
Model:  Chronoris Grand Prix ’70 Limited Edition (total of 1970 pieces)
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display, second time zone hand, chronograph timing in one-quarter  second increments up to 12 hours
Price:  MSRP  $4,650 USD

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

Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to like Oris watches.  I have three of them in my collection at the present time and this Chronoris Limited Edition is the standout of the bunch.  Oris makes a ‘standard’ Chronoris watch in orange and black that has one major downfall; it does not have a seconds hand for the non-chronograph portion of the watch.  This may not bother some people, but for me, and especially for an automatic, a watch needs to have a seconds hand.

The Chronoris LE takes care of this problem simply because the watchmakers at Oris decided to include a second hand on this model.  The Grand Prix LE Chronoris has a full 12-hour chronograph and an independently adjustable 24-hour GMT hand and is presented in a great black and green motif.  When I saw it, I had to have it.  The Chronoris is a limited-edition run of 1970 pieces.

Oris has made the Chronoris model for decades and vintage examples pop up for sale from time to time.  For the current LE model, they pretty much loaded it up with contemporary features while retaining a vintage look and created a stunning, functional and exclusive watch.

The Chronoris LE starts with a retro ‘disco volante’ cushion case shape with partial hidden lugs, in a brushed and polished finish.  The large signed crown is a thing of beauty, as it quick-locks with a quarter turn of the finger.  Oris calls it a ‘quick lock security crown.’  Totally nifty!

Case diameter is 42.3mm without the crown, 46.1mm crown included.  Case height is 44.1mm end to end, lugs are 21mm.  Thickness is 14.7mm.  This is a fairly large watch, but it wears well and imparts a terrific look on the wrist.

The chronograph pushers are polished and of good size.  The polished case back screws down and is a display type with a mineral crystal.  A slightly domed sapphire crystal has its edges flush with the case.  Anti-reflective coating is on the inside.  The Chronoris LE is factory rated for 50 meters of water resistance.

The dial on the Chronoris LE is easily described as ‘busy’, but not to the extent that it detracts from the functionality of the watch.  The innermost part of the dial is black, surrounded by a green chapter-type ring with white hash marks for the chronograph seconds hand, although the marks and ring are interrupted by the top and bottom subdials.

Outside the chapter ring is another circle of black, which is surrounded by a green and white 24-hour ring (a.m. on the ring is green, p.m. is white).  The 24-hour ring is in turn surrounded by a black tachymeter ring. 

Silver applied markers with luminous dots at the ends are placed every five minutes on the dial, going from the inner green and white chapter ring to the outer black ring.  I know this description sounds incredibly busy, but look at the pictures and you’ll see that it somehow all works together.

The subdial at the 9 position is the watch seconds hand.  The subdial at 12 is the 30-minute chronograph totalizer and the subdial at 6 is the chronograph 12-hour totalizer. 

The 30-minute totalizer also has an inner white 10-minute countdown ring inside the 30-minute ring, counting down 10 minutes starting at the 15-minute mark and going to the 25-minute mark.  According to the Formula 1 web site, the rules state “ten minutes before the start the grid must be cleared except for team technical staff, race officials and drivers. With three minutes to go all cars must have their wheels fitted (any car not complying will receive a 10-second time penalty).”  Hence, the reason this function appears on this watch.

The top and bottom subdials are oversized and are ringed in silver, making them stand out on the dial and also making them easier to read.  This design element almost makes the watch appear to be a two-register chronograph instead of a three-register style.

The subdial at 9 has only basic marks at each quarter hour and is not delineated by a ring or circle, making the seconds hand very subdued, but still present, which is appreciated.

All the subdial hands and the chronograph seconds hand are simple silver, with the hour and minute hands of the watch being silver with inset lume.  Lume is C3 Superluminova and quality is good.  There’s not an overabundance of lume on the Chronoris LE, but just enough for adequate time reading in the dark.

The 24-hour GMT hand is executed extremely well.  The tip is medium yellow, while the hand portion is black, so all you tend to see is the tip at the outer edge of the dial; it’s as if the yellow pointer is floating around the dial.  This helps lessen the complexity of the dial while retaining great second timezone capability.

A white on black quickset date window is located at the 6 position, inside the lower subdial.  The window is rimmed in silver and is easy to read.  Alignment of the date wheel inside the round window is good.

Inside the Chronoris LE is a 25-jewel Oris Caliber 677 Swiss made automatic movement, which starts as a base Valjoux 7754.  The movement beats at 28,800 vph and can be manually wound and hacked.  In my testing, I achieved a fine 53 hour power reserve (Oris lists PR at 48 hours) and in my accuracy tests, it runs at +7 seconds over 24 hours.  Totally acceptable. 

The movement runs great, sets and winds fine and the action of all the complications (GMT hand setting, chrono start/stop/reset) are good.  A fine movement for a fine watch.  And of course, the famous Oris red rotor is visible through the display back and is signed with the Oris name and Grand Prix ‘70.

The strap on the Chronoris is very nice.  A black perforated leather strap in a matte finish, a bit thicker but not really padded, with green stitching inside and black stitching outside and green edges.  A super look.  The strap is 21mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm at the deployant style clasp. 

The clasp is also a beauty; it’s one of those designs that keeps the extra part of the strap (the part that normally would overlap and fit through keepers) on the inside of the strap for a clean look.  The clasp itself is a signed pushbutton machined deployant that has a satin finish on the inside and a bit of perlage on one part of the clasp.  A small but great detail.  The clasp and strap are comfortable and make the watch a joy to wear.

Overall fit and finish on the Chronoris LE is first rate.  I said it in my review of the Oris Maldives diver and I will say it again, I believe Oris has really stepped up their game recently and is producing even better quality watches than they did a short five years ago. 

Presentation of the Chronoris LE is a square cardboard outer box with a rubberized inner box in the shape of a racing tire.  A pair of driving gloves is also included in most sets (I did not get the gloves with my watch, perhaps because I bought this watch at a discount).  No biggie, the presentation is totally in fitting with the race theme of this watch.

In summary, the Oris Chronoris LE is a fantastic watch, if you can find one.  It combines a great retro look with modern functionality and has a color combination and style that is tough to beat.  A superbly executed watch.

Pros:  great functionality with multiple complications, super looks, nifty quick-lock crown, reliable Swiss engine, quality strap and deployant clasp 
Cons:  case shape may not suit everybody’s tastes, dial is rather busy, modest water resistance
Verdict:  in most respects, the Chronoris LE is a watch that almost does it all without going over the top in any way.  A well-done watch that will definitely get the looks.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.