Friday, November 28, 2014

Review of Breitling Superocean Héritage Chronographe 44

Model # A2337016-C856-OR

Brand/Model:  Breitling Superocean Héritage Chrongraphe 44
Movement:   Swiss automatic, COSC certified
Material:  stainless steel case, rubber ‘Ocean Racer’ strap
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing up to 30 minutes in quarter-second increments
Price:  MSRP approx. $5,620 USD

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

I will begin this review with a simple statement of fact:  I really like Breitling watches.  While their designs as of late (including the watch reviewed here) may not seem like ‘traditional’ Breitling designs, mainly due to the lack of their fabled rider tabs on the bezel, the company is producing some superb models and this Superocean Héritage Chrongraphe is no exception.

The Héritage Chronographe series comes in both 44mm and 46mm sizes, the later having three subdials for the chrono, with the 44mm models being the two-register chronographs.  I was smitten when this blue 44mm Héritage Chronographe went on sale and I have not regretted my decision to purchase it one bit.  The 44 model is available in several colors, including black dials with black, green or red gold bezels in addition to the blue dial/blue bezel reviewed here.

The case is fully polished to a mirror shine, something that Breitling seems to excel at.  The finish is exquisite.  The case is all stainless steel, measuring 43.5mm across the width of the bezel, the actual case size is a tad smaller due to the overhang of the bezel.  With the signed, screwdown, semi-onion style crown included in the case measurement, the size comes in at 47.6mm.   Yes, this is a large watch, but please don’t be scared off, it doesn’t wear large, partly due to the shorter lugs that are downturned towards the wrist.

Lug-tip-to lug-tip measures 52.9mm, case thickness is 16.1mm and lug spacing is 22mm.  The crown has a great feel to it and is easy to use, screwing down with about three full turns.  The crown features double gaskets for superior water resistance.

The caseback is screwed down and is fully polished like the rest of the case.  It carries a stamped signature of Breitling and the company’s logo, along with miscellaneous wording about the watch.

The chronograph pushers are fully polished as well and are simple, no-nonsense buttons that complement the design of the watch perfectly.

The Héritage Chrongraphe 44 is factory rated at 200 meters of water resistance.  It’s always nice to own a chrono that can take some depth, just don’t operate the pushers when under water.

Build quality is what you would expect of a watch of this caliber.  The polished finish is amazing, the dial is clean, the hands align perfectly and the insides of the lugs and case sides between the lugs are fully finished, which is an area many watchmakers overlook.   Nicely done!

This model is quite hefty and rather thick, and being on the rubber strap can make it a bit top-heavy at times, but not overly so.  If you like some mass to your watches, the Héritage Chrongraphe 44 is certainly a watch to consider, but don’t let this fact scare you off, either.  The watch does wear very well most of the time and looks great all of the time.

The overall look of this watch is what captives me so.  The shade of blue used for the dial and bezel (‘gun blue’ according to Breitling) is absolutely perfect.  It’s a great shade, not too dark, not too light, it’s really for lack of a better word, perfect.

The dial has applied silver rectangular markers and a beautiful, yet subtle, gold Breitling ‘B’ at the 12 position.  The hands are substantial, silver with inset lume.  The hour hand is a nifty arrow type and the minute hand is a stick type with a pointed end. 

There are small lume dots on the outer edge of the markers and a small inverted triangle of lume at the 12 position.  The hour and minute hands are the only other lumed pieces on the dial.  Lume quality is very good; it’s strong, bright and greenish-white in color.

The subdial at 9 is the watch seconds hand and the subdial at 3 is the 30-minute chrono totalizer.  Both subdials have a circular pattern to them with white printing and simple silver hands.  The red center seconds hand is the chrono seconds hand.

A simple white printed chapter ring encircles the dial, with hash marks for each second or minute.

There is quite a bit of printing on the dial, something which I am not usually a fan of.  The printing on this watch is small enough so as not to distract from reading the dial, but it still is a bit excessive.  Under the gold ‘B’ is the ‘Breitling’ script; below that is ‘1884’, then ‘Chronographe’, then a script ‘Automatic.’  But wait, we’re not done yet.  Above the six position on the dial is ‘SuperOcean’ and ‘200M/660FT’.  Like I said, a lot of printing, all of it in white.

The date window is at the 6 position, a black on white date wheel, with the window outlined in white.  The date function is non-quickset, as Breitling deleted this feature when they modified the base movement of the watch.  So in order to set the date, you have to do the moving of the hands past midnight, then back past 8pm, then past midnight dance until the date is set correctly.  This is fairly inconvenient for some, especially for a watch in this price category.  This is really pretty much my only gripe with this watch.  Luckily, the crown is a nice size and has suitable knurls on it to make it easy to operate and use.

The bezel is a 120-click unidirectional type that is a model of simplicity.  There is no lume on the bezel and just plain rectangular markers every five minutes.  The bezel has a coin-edge and is secured by small screws that are barely visible from the side.  The bezel clicks with a good sound and there really is no backlash.

The dial is capped by a very slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides.  All told, the Héritage Chronographe 44 is a beautiful watch to look at and is also very legible at the same time.

Inside the Héritage Chronographe is Breitling’s Caliber 23 automatic chronograph movement, which starts life as a Valjoux 7753 before Breitling modifies it and tweaks it to their specifications.  The movement beats at 28,800 bph and moves in 25 jewels.  It hacks and manually winds, but as mentioned previously, the date is not quickset.

As with all Breitling watches, the Caliber 23 is COSC certified and during my testing, it has run just inside of the COSC maximum at about +4 to +6 seconds per day.  Power reserve is an ample 52-1/4 hours and the watch has been easy to set and use, with all the chronograph functions starting, stopping and resetting perfectly.

The Héritage Chronographe can be had on leather, rubber or stainless steel mesh and it looks great on any of these options.  While I am not a big fan of rubber straps (although I have relented recently to some degree), the rubber ‘Ocean Racer’ strap not only looks cool with its retro rally holes, but is soft, comfortable and thankfully NOT scented.  It looks ideal on this watch and I am really enjoying it.

The strap is thick black rubber, measuring 22mm at the lugs and tapering to 20mm at the fully polished pushbutton clasp with polished machined deployant.  If you are going to do a rubber strap, this clasp is the way to go.  The clasp is signed and has a substantial look and feel to it.  You still have to trim the rubber strap to your wrist size, but Breitling has included a hidden pushbutton micro-adjustment (see photo) on the underside of the clasp to fine-tune fitment.  It works and works well.

Presentation is nice, but certainly not over the top.  A heavy plastic-type outer two-piece box opens to reveal the signed padded watch carrier that holds the watch and can double as a travel box if needed.  A yellow cardboard envelope holds the COSC certification, warranty card and instruction manual.

Breitling really did a great job with the Héritage Chronographe 44.  The watch wears well, looks stunning and still does a good job carrying on Breitling’s long Swiss tradition of quality watchmaking with unique style and features.  A total winner!   

Pros: beautiful blue dial and bezel, classic two-register chrono layout, great build quality, reliable and accurate Swiss engine, superb clasp design

Cons: could use a bit more lume, non-quickset date unnecessarily clunky, could be a bit large for some, still pricey

Verdict: almost perfect, the Héritage Chronographe 44 has it all; great looks, great functionality and top quality.  You can’t go wrong with this watch, it’s a real gem!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review of Anonimo Firenze Sailor Diver Automatic

Model # 1989

Brand/Model:  Anonimo Firenze Sailor Diver (limited edition of 199)  
Movement:   Swiss automatic
Material:  stainless steel case, ‘Kodiak’ waterproof leather strap
Complications:  date display
Price:  MSRP $2,890 USD

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

I have previously reviewed one Anonimo watch on this blog, the Anonimo Firenze Millemetri Ox-B (Drass) 10 Anni Automatic a couple of years ago.  Here, I am reviewing yet another Anonimo with a short recap on the company’s history.

Anonimo was founded in the aftermath of Panerai’s acquisition in 1997 by Richemont SA, when Richemont moved all of Panerai’s production from Florence, Italy to Switzerland.  This left behind many employees, who more or less launched Anonimo to carry on the Italian heritage in watchmaking and case making that they were famous for. 

Due to their short history, Anonimo watches are a bit of an enigma.  They have strong roots in Italy since their founding in 1997, but since 2013 (after the company was bought out) are now fully Swiss Made.  Previously, the watches had Swiss movements but had their cases made in Italy and were also assembled in Italy.  Either way works for me.

Anonimo is most well known for their quality cases, which resemble Panerai.  They have produced a variety of watches over the years, some with rather unusual crown placements, but when they make a straightforward dive watch, they do it right.

The Sailor Diver reviewed here is from around 2009; this watch was purchased in unused/unworn condition, or as some say, ‘New Old Stock’ (NOS) condition.  The cushion-like case is crafted of brushed stainless steel and while on the large size, does not wear big due to its stubby lugs.  This watch was a limited edition of 199 total pieces.

Not to confuse the issue here, but this watch was also released as a model known as ‘Tricolore’ which looks very similar to the Sailor Diver (hand, markers, arabics, etc.)

Case diameter is 44.2mm without the signed screwdown crown; 47.2mm including the crown.  The crown is located at approximately the 4 o'clock position.  Lug width is 22mm, which also helps to bring a smaller proportion to the watch.  The lugs are drilled to accommodate the screwbars that hold the strap in place.

Thickness is 13.8mm.  The caseback is screwed down, with the limited edition serial number stamped on the back, along with a few other things like ‘stainless steel’, ‘Made in Italy’ and ‘30 ATM’.  The caseback is also brushed, so it matches the rest of the watch.

The screwdown crown is polished and signed with the Anonimo logo (a stylized ‘A’).  The crown is suitably sized and has nice knurls on it making it easy to operate.  It screws down with almost three turns.  Having a nautical name like ‘Sailor Diver’, this watch is factory rated for 30 ATM of water resistance.

The dial on the Sailor Diver is matte black, with three large arabics (3, 6, 9) and markers in a pale yellow with reddish outlines.  The markers are asymmetrically shaped and have a slash mark that actually cuts through at a diagonal about one-third of the way down across the markers.  I think this is just styling, although it might be in reference to some sort of nautical sailing flag, because that is the flavor they exude.

The hands are skeleton style in white with green inset lume.  The markers and arabics are also luminous.  Lume quality is very good.  The seconds hand is a long white stick with a lumed arrow tip with pointer.  I especially like the length of the seconds hand, as it extends almost all the way to the inside case edge, making it easy to see and track across the dial.

Between the luminous markers and arabics are reddish hash marks for the seconds and minutes.  The date window resides at the 3:45 position, with a black on white quickset date wheel.  The wheel aligns in the window correctly and contrasts nicely against the black dial for easy reading.

Below the 12 position on the dial is the wording ‘Anonimo’ with a sailboat logo and very small lettering spelling out ‘sailing team.’  Below this is the word ‘automatic’ in red.

Above the six position on the dial is ‘30 ATM’ and above this is ‘Sailor Diver’, both in the reddish color featured elsewhere on the dial.  All this lettering makes for a somewhat cluttered dial, but the reddish color of most of it helps minimize its impact.

I wouldn’t exactly call this dial ‘multicolored’ but it may be a bit much for some.  My only real gripe is that the arabics are borderline ‘clown sized’ along with the aforementioned excessive lettering, but otherwise, the dial works (i.e.:  time is easy to read) and it also looks good overall.

Capping the dial is a flat sapphire crystal.  Build quality is great, with no distortion on the crystal, no dirt on the dial and a clean print job and lume application on the markers and hands.

Inside the Sailor Diver is either a Sellita SW200-1 with 26 jewels or the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2 25 jewel automatic movement.  I wish a company of Anonimo’s caliber would state exactly what movement is inside the watch I own, because at this price point, there should be no question as to what is beating away inside the case.  There is nothing wrong with either movement, but don’t be so vague.

The Sailor Diver hacks and manually winds and all the functions of this watch have worked perfectly, from time and date setting to crown operation and overall timekeeping.  This particular example has run a bit slow over 24 hours (about -8 seconds) but that may be due to the watch already being over five years old, despite having never been worn.  Power reserve is fine, at 42.25 hours.  Overall, no complaints in the performance department.

The strap on the Sailor Diver is of high-quality; it’s fairly thick yet lightly padded and is rendered in smooth black leather with yellow stitching.  The yellow stitch may sound loud, but it really doesn’t jump out at you as much as you might think it would.  The strap is signed on the inside and stamped ‘Kodiak’, which means the strap, despite being leather, is 100% waterproof.

The strap measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20mm at the large stainless steel buckle.  Curiously, the buckle is not signed or logo-ized, which seems like an oversight.  There are two keepers, one fixed and one floating.  Despite being rather thick, the strap wears well and is fairly flexible.  It’s a great complement to the watch itself.

Presentation on this example is by way of a leather pouch or carrying wallet, rather large at about 292mm x 114mm and crafted in soft, black leather with a microfiber tan lining.  Quite nice and more useful than a big old box.

The Anonimo Sailor Diver is a perfect watch for everyday wear.  It looks good, is easy to read and is something that you will not see the ‘other guy’ wearing.  Find one and you’ll have a keeper.

Pros: great case work, high quality throughout, strong lume, exclusivity of the limited edition

Cons: colors on dial a bit much for some, excessive printing on dial, undetermined movement source (ETA or Sellita?)

Verdict: a bold, attractive, quality watch that will stand up to the rigors of sailing, walking, running, driving, desk diving and more.  A good showing from the Anonimo craftsman in Florence.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review of Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Flyback Aviator Automatic Chronograph

Model # MP6178-SS001-12E

Brand/Model:  Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Flyback Aviator
Movement:   Swiss automatic with in-house modifications
Material:  stainless steel case, alligator strap
Complications:  big date display, month display (annual calendar), chronograph timing in 1/5 second increments up to 12 hours with flyback reset function  
Price:  MSRP $11,000 USD; now discontinued, can be found heavily discounted

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

Maurice Lacroix makes some mighty impressive watches.  The company takes high horology to some interesting places, with a variety of complicated watches featuring moon phases, dual time displays, great movement finishing, chronographs and much more.  The most fascinating part of all this is that many times, you can find Maurice Lacroix watches heavily discounted, which makes them an exceptional value and a must-have for any collection.

The Maurice Lacroix (‘ML’ for short) Masterpiece Flyback Aviator reviewed here is a prime example of the complicated watches the company produces.  This watch of course tells the time, but also features a flyback chronograph.  A flyback mechanism in a chronograph allows the user to reset the chronograph timing back to zero with one push of the reset button, instead of first having to stop the chronograph and then hit the reset button. 

I have to admit that it is a bit disconcerting at first to have the chrono running and be able to push the reset pusher and not have anything bad happen to the watch, but you get used to it and really start enjoying the flyback feature.  With the flyback function, you can also hold the reset button, which resets the chrono to zero and keeps it there until you release the reset button.  Useful in certain timing applications.

In addition to having a flyback chrono, this watch also features a big date display and a month display, which conspire to create an annual calendar.  If you were to wear this watch everyday for a year, you would only have to reset the date once, at the end of February.  In all the other months, the date self-adjusts for 30 or 31 day months.  Pretty slick.  The only thing better is a perpetual calendar, which does not need resetting at all during the course of a year, but a real perpetual calendar watch costs many, many thousands of dollars. 

To be able to have a watch that combines a flyback chronograph with an annual calendar as this ML does and be able to acquire it at a very modest cost makes this watch that much more special.  This watch currently holds the title of the most complicated watch in my collection.

The Masterpiece Collection from ML means that every Masterpiece watch the company creates has to meet specific criteria to carry the ‘Masterpiece’ moniker.  The Masterpiece watches all have the following features per ML’s official documentation:

-exclusive manufacture movements or complications, developed especially for the Masterpiece Collection
-customized and hand-decorated movements with components of the highest quality
-precision tested in 5 positions (fully wound and after 24 hours of operation)
-skeleton rotors on automatic movements (for some reason, the ML Masterpiece watch I am reviewing here does NOT have a skeleton rotor)
-precious solid silver dials
-high-quality folding clasps on straps and bracelets
-screwed caseback with sapphire crystal

This is quite an impressive list and assures the buyer that an ML Masterpiece watch is a very special timepiece.

What attracted me to this particular ML model, aside from its unique feature set, is the way ML has managed to infuse a slightly dressy watch with enough sporting design elements to make it a great all-around watch.  It’s not too fussy, not too casual and oozes quality.  It’s a very clean design that is easy to read and easy to wear.  Nice job!

The ML Flyback Aviator starts with a fully polished all stainless steel case that measures 41.7mm without the signed, screwdown crown; 46.2mm crown inclusive.  Lug width is 20mm, case thickness is 13.5mm.

The caseback is held in place with eight small screws and features a sapphire crystal that shows off the finely decorated movement and signed rotor.  The solid part of the caseback is polished stainless and has engraving signifying this watch as part of the Masterpiece Collection, along with an exclusive serial number.

The case lugs have a stepped design and are fairly short, making this watch wear smaller than its dimensions indicate.  The chronograph pushers are nicely executed and are oval in shape, while the crown has fairly large knurls on it for easy time setting and re-screwing back in.  A tachymeter bezel is set down from the top of the crystal and adds the appropriate amount of sportiness to this watch.  It’s a watch that looks great from just about any angle.

The ML Flyback Chronograph is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

The dial on this watch really shines.  It is made of solid 925 sterling silver and has a perfect satin finish.  All the hands are blued with inset lume and the printed arabics are in a vintage-style font with inset lume.  There are also small lume dots on the extreme outer edge of the chapter ring spaced every five minutes.  Lume quality is very good. 

Below the 12 position is a silver applied ‘ML’ logo and below that is the big date display.  The date is displayed in two separate windows that are asymmetrically shaped.  For the dates 1 through 9, the left window is blank, with the right window showing these single dates.  Some big date watches, such as my Glashutte Original Sport Evolution Panoramic Date display the single dates with a ‘0’ in front of them.  Either way is acceptable to me, but ML’s design looks and works just fine.  Below the big date windows is the ‘Maurice Lacroix’ name in black.

The month display is located at the 4:30 position on an angle and is a bit small and hard to read.  An under-crystal cyclops magnifier helps enlarge the month display, but this window and wheel could be larger for easier at-a-glance reading.  A small nitpick here. 

Alignment of the date wheels inside their respective windows and of the month wheel is good.  The date is a quick set and of course changes the month automatically at either day 30 or 31.  It’s actually fun watching the date wheels do their dance in the big windows and then watching the month wheel click over at the end of each month.  Setting this watch is a horological pleasure.

The subdials are also finished in satin silver and are ever so slightly recessed into the dial with traditional circular patterning.  The shade of silver on the subdials is slightly darker than the silver on the dial, making them easier to read.  The subdial at the 3 position is the watch seconds hand, the subdial at 6 is the 12-hour chrono totalizer and the subdial at 9 is the chrono’s 30-minute totalizer. 

The chrono seconds hand is a simple blue stick with a red tip and below that is a red ‘60’ on the chapter ring.  The chapter ring also has black arabics every five seconds, marking the seconds for the chrono seconds hand, with small black hash marks for the remainder of the chapter ring.  The only other red on the dial is the wording ‘flyback’ above the bottom subdial. 

Overall, the design of the dial is a bit vintage, a bit sporty and best of all, a stand-alone design that doesn’t copy from anybody else.  The blue hour and minute hands are a cinch to read and they look fantastic.  Masterpiece, indeed!

Capping this lovely dial is a flat sapphire crystal without any anti-reflective coating.  Overall build quality of this watch is excellent and under an 8X loupe examination, the dial is clean, the printing is clear and everything looks as it should.

Inside the ML Flyback Chronograph is quite the mechanical marvel of a Swiss automatic movement.  Maurice Lacroix calls this caliber ‘ML15’ and it starts with a base ETA 2892/A2 (itself a fine movement) and adds the popular Dubois-Depraz chronograph module.  Then the craftsmen at the house of ML add another module for the big date and annual calendar functions.  The total jewel count inside this ‘jewel’ of a watch is 49.  Wow!  Pretty cool!  The movement runs at the expected 28,800 vph and also hacks and manually winds. 

During testing in my atelier, the ML Flyback Chronograph has performed well.  All the functions, from setting the date/month, to starting, stopping and flybacking the movement work flawlessly.  Everything resets to zero as it should and the chrono restarts properly when the reset button is released.  Winding action is smooth and silent.

The only quirk I have noticed is with the big date and calendar function during quick setting.  If you adjust the watch to the current date and proceed to set the time, sometimes the date will not always advance at midnight for the following day.  I don’t think this is a defect, because the  month always clicks over at the proper date.  What I do is quickset the watch to one day behind the current date and then manually advance the watch to the proper date to assure the date clicks over at midnight, which it will do and no problems from there on.  There’s just a lot of mechanical wizardry taking place inside the date mechanism with this piece, so you want to make sure to treat it right.

Although ML rates the power reserve at 48 hours, I have achieved only 47 hours, but I can’t really complain.  Timekeeping has averaged +3 over 24 hours, so again, I rate overall performance of this watch as excellent.

The ML Flyback Chronograph comes on a good quality black genuine alligator strap that is moderately padded.  The strap has a matching black stitch and is signed on the inside.  The strap measures 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18.3mm at the deployant-style clasp.

The clasp is superb, with a polished pushbutton deployant that is signed on the outside and the inside.  It is the type of clasp that retains the loose end of the strap inside your wrist instead of placing it on the outside of the watch, so the strap wears more like a bracelet than a traditional strap.  This also gives the watch a cleaner, more upscale appearance.

Presentation is ‘typical’ ML.  I say ‘typical’ because all the ML watches I have owned pretty much come the same way:  a large two-piece outer cardboard box and a nicely made hinged-top woodgrained plastic inner box with the watch and paperwork inside to complete the presentation.  Nothing over the top nor skimpy.  Just about right.

To put it simply, the Maurice Lacroix Flyback Aviator chronograph is an impressive piece of watchmaking art.  If you are looking for a watch that does a lot, without looking like it does (it’s a clean, non-busy design) this is a great choice.  If you want a high-quality watch with true Swiss heritage that doesn’t look like everything else out there, this is a great choice.  If you want a complicated piece of mechanical movement craftsmanship at a discounted price, this is a great choice.  Pretty much anyway you slice it, the ML Flyback Chronograph is an amazing watch. 

Pros:  interesting combination of useful and unique complications in a clean design, exceptional value when bought discounted, good build quality with genuine silver dial, very legible, great big date design 

Cons: although genuine alligator, strap seems a bit cheap; hopefully all the complications will continue to function properly, crazy MSRP

Verdict:  a superb watch with nifty features that is highly wearable, even as a daily driver.  It’s called a ‘Masterpiece’ for a reason.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.