Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review of Seiko 5 Sports Automatic

Model # SRP605K1

Brand/Model:  Seiko 5 Sports Automatic
Movement:  automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet (shown here with aftermarket rubber strap)
Complications:  day/date display
Price:  MSRP $370 USD

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

It has been quite some time since I have reviewed a watch made by Seiko, so I thought it would be nice to showcase one of their newer models this time around.  So much has been written and photographed about Seiko over the years that of course, the brand needs no introduction.  Known the world over for robust, reliable and value-oriented watches, the Seiko brand commands respect pretty much anywhere you go.

I don’t know exactly how many Seiko watches I have owned over the years, but it probably numbers around 20; not an immense amount by any measure, but certainly enough to have a good feel for the brand.

Probably the best-loved Seiko series among watch aficionados is their Seiko 5 line, which has been augmented in recent years with the Seiko 5 Sports line.  The Sports watches build upon the attributes of the traditional Seiko 5 line up with ‘Explorer’ or ‘Marine’ models that add rotating timing or compass bezels, larger hands and a myriad of colorful dials, straps and case finishes.  The range of the entire Seiko 5 Sports lineup is extremely varied.

What I like about the Seiko 5 Sports model reviewed here is its resemblance to the popular ‘Monster’ models.  It has the same (or very similar) hands, a slightly smaller but still bold bezel and less water resistance, but it also carries a lesser price, especially when purchased at a discount.  This particular model also has a striking resemblance to the limited edition blue Monster that has long since been sold out.

This Seiko 5 Sports starts with a fully polished stainless steel case (save for small brushed areas on the tops of the lugs) that measures 44.7mm without the knurled crown; 47.8mm crown included.  Lug-tip to lug-tip measures 50.9mm.  Case thickness is 12.7mm and lug spacing is 22mm.  Appropriately sized without being clownish.

The screw down case back is a display type with a polished stainless steel edge.  Various wording is printed in black on the display crystal which makes this printing a bit hard to read at times, but it’s the back of the watch, so it really doesn’t matter.

The case finishing between the lugs is good, but the finishing on the inside of the lugs is a bit rough, but this is par for the course with these watches and given the price point, acceptable.  Believe me, I have seen far worse finishing in these areas on watches costing much, much more that this Seiko 5 Sports.

Overall, the case fit and finish is very good and keeps Seiko’s reputation for value on-point.

This Seiko 5 Sports is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

What I like most about this model is its superb dark blue matte-finish dial.  The dial color looks great and with the gold handset, the look is one of class, without losing its sporty pretensions.

The handset is largely the same style as a Monster; in this model the hands are gold with infill lume.  The hour hand is a stubby, wide arrow, while the minute hand is rather long but not overly slender.  The center seconds hand is a gold stick with a flair on the pinion end and a long pointer tip with lume on the business end. 

The markers are a mix of round and rectangular and are placed on top of a gold background with a gold edge around them.  The effect is nice, with the markers having a 3-D look to them.  The markers and hands are luminous, and since the lume material is Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite, the lume quality is excellent, as is to be expected.

There’s also a chapter ring on the outer edge of the dial with minute markers in white; the markers for each five minute mark being wider than the others.

A quickset day/date window is located at the three position.  The day and date wheels are white on black.  The day wheel is English/Spanish and all days are in white except for Sunday, which is displayed in red.  Setting is accomplished with the crown pulled out to the first position; move the crown clockwise (up) to set the day and counter-clockwise (down) to set the date.  Alignment of both wheels in the window is good.

A fair amount of printing is present on the dial, but since the dial is a dark shade of blue, the printing doesn’t detract from the legibility of the dial.  Under the 12 marker is an applied ‘Seiko’ in gold, with an applied ‘5’ logo beneath and the word ‘SPORTS’ in red below the ‘5’ logo.

Above the six marker is ‘AUTOMATIC’, ‘24 JEWELS’ and ‘100M’.  As I said, for this amount of printing, the watch is still easy to read and I would not consider the dial ‘busy.’

A great looking blue ion-plated unidirectional bezel encircles the dial.  The bezel has infilled white markers and arabics, but nothing on the bezel is luminous.  The bezel is a 60-click variety, even though you can hear and feel a click between each detent.  The action is smooth, but the bezel rotates a bit too easily, which sometimes lets the bezel rotate unintentionally when worn, which can be annoying.  It’s not super loose, but I have found myself checking it when I wear this watch, since I like my bezels to line up at the 12 mark when I’m not using them to time something.  Demerits here for this minor infraction.

The crystal is a flat mineral crystal, what Seiko calls ‘Hardlex’, which is the company’s proprietary hardened mineral crystal.  No complaints here and for at this price point, it’s what you would expect to find.

The crown is unsigned and has nice knurls on it to aid in winding and setting the watch.  Due to the size of the crown (a bit undersized to me) and the crown shoulders on the case, it can be a bit difficult to wind or pull out for setting.  Thankfully, the crown does not screw down, so there is no issue with getting a too small crown to screw down.

Build quality is fine, with no dirt or defects noted under my standard 8X loupe exam.  Pretty impressive for this price point, which by now is a popular refrain in this review.

The automatic movement inside the Seiko 5 Sports is the company’s newer 4R36A (the ‘A’ simply means it’s the first generation of this movement) which was introduced almost five years ago.  This 4R36 is a big step up from the venerable and ubiquitous 7S26 movement found in so many Seiko 5 watches.  In addition to having 24 jewels, the 4R36 hacks and can be manually wound.  Finally! 

These features make owning and wearing this watch worlds better than a non-manually windable movement.  I have been unable to ascertain the country of origin for this movement, I believe it may be Malaysia, but it really doesn’t matter, as the movement is a good one regardless of where it’s made.

The 4R36 runs at a temperate 21,600 bph.  The movement also has a 4,800A/m (60 gauss) magnetic resistance.  The watch winds and sets with no problems and turned in a good 44.25 hour power reserve during my testing. 

Accuracy is not a strong point, as to be expected, with this example running at -19 seconds over 24 hours in the crown up position.  The movement can be regulated, but even though this performance isn’t the best, having hacking and manual winding in a Seiko at this price helps compensate for the less than stellar accuracy.

Even though this watch features a display back, the movement is really nothing to look at in regards to finishing.  Standard machining, no perlage or other decorations and a plain jane rotor, although the rotor is signed ‘Seiko’.

Overall, I find this movement to be a big step forward over the 7S26 and its variants, so kudos to Seiko for finally joining the rest of the hack/manual wind party.

This Seiko 5 Sports came on a stainless steel bracelet, which I changed out for a smooth aftermarket dark blue rubber strap, which I feel looks great on the watch and really compliments the dark blue dial.

The bracelet is pretty much standard issue Seiko, which is to say, acceptable.  There are no solid end links and the links themselves, while appearing to be solid links, are actually thinner solid links that are folded over to look like a thicker solid link.  Why Seiko does this I cannot explain, but it has got to be cheaper.  The bracelet is brushed with polished edges and you can see the faint line where the links are folded when you look at the edge.

The bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 19.8mm at the double locking signed clasp with pushbutton deployant.  In keeping with the somewhat budget nature of the bracelet, the deployant is rather thin stamped steel.  There are four micro-adjustment holes on the clasp to fine tune the bracelet fit.

The bracelet can be a bit noisy, but it does get the job done, I just felt that the rubber strap looked better on this model, so hence the change by me.  The watch wears well and is comfortable, despite its fairly robust dimensions.

Presentation is completely middle of the road.  A plain white cardboard outer wrap with a black hard plastic watch box.  The box has a slide out drawer on the bottom that houses the instruction manual and warranty cards.  Nothing exciting or special here regarding this presentation.

The Seiko 5 Sports line certainly delivers a lot of watch for the money.  The addition of a hacking and hand-windable movement brings this watch into an entirely different strata and makes this watch an even stronger value proposition than before.  The model reviewed here exudes a look that is both classy and sporty and would be a worthy addition to any watch lover’s collection.

Pros:  great dial color and handset combo, strong long-lasting lume, hacking and hand winding capability, excellent value

Cons:  bezel rotates too easily, crown a bit small, accuracy could be better, slightly cheap bracelet

Verdict:  the Seiko 5 Sports is a terrific watch that will last for years and deliver performance and good looks without costing a ton of money.  You can’t go wrong with this series, especially with the upgraded movement. 

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review of JEANRICHARD Aeroscope Automatic Chronograph

Model # 60650-21G211-FK2A

Brand/Model:  JEANRICHARD Aeroscope Automatic Chronograph
Movement:   Swiss automatic
Material:  titanium case, rubber strap with stainless steel deployant
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing up to 12 hours in one-fifth second increments
Price:  MSRP $5,400 USD

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

JEANRICHARD is the junior brand to Girard-Perregaux (think Tudor to Rolex) and is part of the Kering Group since 2012.  Gucci and Ulysse Nardin are also part of Kering. 

JEANRICHARD (‘JR’ for short) is a brand that I have been wanting to try for some time now.  JEANRICHARD has really upped their game as of late (just like Tudor has!) and has been cranking out some mighty fine timepieces that when bought at a discount, represent strong value and high quality.

JEANRICHARD can trace its roots back to Daniel Jeanrichard, a famous Swiss watchmaker from the 17th century, so the modern brand certainly has some serious ‘street cred’to their name.

The Aeroscope model range is varied with both standard and chronograph designs with different case finishes (sandblast or DLC), dial finishes and colors (vertical satin finish, honeycomb or matte) and rubber or leather straps or titanium bracelets.  They all feature a complex multi-piece case made of Grade 5 titanium (with carbon fiber pusher bumpers on the chronographs) and an in-house automatic movement.  A great start for this most interesting model range.

The Aeroscope chronograph being reviewed here starts with a polished and vertically brushed Grade 5 titanium cushion-shaped multi-piece case.  Supposedly Grade 5 titanium is the only grade of Ti that can be polished.  The case measures 45.9mm without the detailed signed crown; 49.8mm crown inclusive.  Case thickness is 12.9mm, lug spacing is 25mm.  Height lug-to-lug is 49.8mm.  These dimensions, while sounding a big large, conspire to make the watch surprising agile on the wrist, a fact that is also due in part to the lighter weight Ti construction.

The case back is a screw down type with a stamped JEANRICHARD logo in the center.  The case back is also titanium, but it is the more traditional shade of grey that Ti is usually associated with.

Even though the case is rather large, the short lugs help make the watch fit comfortably on the wrist and add a nice proportion to the watch, giving it an almost square appearance.  Fit and finish on the case is superb.

The Aeroscope is factory rated for 100 meters of water resistance.

The dial on the Aeroscope chronograph is the satin vertical brush technique that JEANRICHARD is so proud of.  It creates a look that ties the dial, bezel and case together, because these elements all have the same vertical brushed finish.  The dial is the same matte silver color as the case, with slightly raised arabics at the 12, 2, 4, 8 and 10 positions with slightly raised rectangular black markers at the other positions.  The black arabics and markers are done in black lume, which glows green in the dark. 

The hour and minute hands are skeletonized and also black lume, with the chrono center seconds hand being ‘red varnish’ accordingly to JEANRICHARD, but with a black luminous tip.  While skeletonized hands are not my favorite, I do like the arrow style of the hour hand and the long slender pointer style of the minute hand.  Another nice detail is that the ends of the hands where they attach to the pinions are finished in the same vertical brush technique as the case, dial and bezel.  It’s a very small but cool touch.

The arabics, markers and hands are all luminous but unfortunately, lume quality is terrible.  The lume photo shown at the end of this review was a six-second exposure and you can barely see the hands and markers glowing green. This is the biggest demerit on this watch, as there’s really no excuse for the lume to be so poor. 

There is a raised chapter ring with black minute markers encircling the dial.  The subdial at three is the watch seconds hand, which rotates in an unmarked subdial save for simple lines at each quarter hour.  The subdial at 6 is the chronograph 12-hour totalizer and the subdial at 9 is the chronograph 30-minute totalizer.  All three subdials are slightly inset with circular patterning and their hands are small skeletonized arrows in black, which are luminous.  Overall, it’s a clean, legible presentation.

The chrono pushers are rectangular with beveled edges that match the detailed angles present on the cushion case.  The pushers look sleek and activate with a distinct ‘click’.  The pusher bumper is black carbon fiber and is one piece that runs around both pushers and underneath the crown.  The crown doesn’t screw down, which is fine with me and is highly detailed as I alluded to earlier, with machined slots for grip and a lovely JR logo on the end.

A date window is located at the 4:30 position, with a black on white date wheel.  The window opening is slightly beveled making it easier to read the date.  Alignment of the wheel inside the window is fine.

Another highlight of the dial is the minimal printing.  Just the name ‘JEANRICHARD’ and ‘Aeroscope’, both under the 12 position is all the printing that’s on the dial, except for the small ‘Swiss Made’ at the bottom of the dial.  Very nice!

Encircling the dial is a fixed bezel with standard arabic timing marks on it every five minutes.  A triangle with a small dot on either side is at the 12 position on the bezel.  I do wish the bezel was rotating, as this would have added to the overall functionality of this watch.  The arabics on the bezel are infilled with black paint and the outer edge of the bezel is polished, with the face of the bezel being vertical brushed.

Covering the dial is a flat anti-reflective sapphire crystal.  Again, as with the rest of the watch, the fit and finish on the dial, hands, crystal and bezel is first-rate.  It’s a clean build, as examination under an 8X loupe showed no dirt, defects or sloppy application of paint or markers.

The Swiss Made automatic chronograph movement inside the Aeroscope is JEANRICHARD’s in-house caliber JR66, which as far as I can tell is a base JR movement with a Dubois-Depraz chrono module added.  The JR66 runs in 43 jewels and beats at 28,800 vph.

The Aeroscope winds and sets fine, although there is a fair amount of rotor noise on my example, nothing to be concerned about, but I know this can bother some people.  The chrono starts, stops and resets properly and the overall function of the movement is as it should be. 

Power reserve with a bit of incidental handling came in at a robust 48.5 hours, with accuracy measuring +4 seconds over 24 hours in the crown-up position.  A worthy performance.

While I haven’t always been the biggest fan of rubber straps, I have had a change of heart lately, due in part to the quality of the rubber strap on the Aeroscope.  First off, it’s an absolutely perfect shade of grey, which is a color not commonly seen in a rubber strap.  The strap is soft, flexible, unscented (thank you!) and has fine lines molded into the outside along with a subtle JR logo on both sides below the lugs.  The inside is smooth with an inset JR logo on both sides. 

The rubber strap is the type that does not have to be trimmed; the strap slides through the clasp on the inside to form a smooth bracelet-type fit on the wrist.  I vastly prefer this type of strap to one that needs to be trimmed. 

The strap measures 25mm at the lugs and tapers to 20.6mm at the signed, stainless steel pushbutton clasp with machined deployant.  While the clasp is of good quality with double pins that secure to the strap for added safety, I do wish it was titanium in keeping with the rest of the watch.

Overall, the strap is very comfortable and supports the unique look and quality of the watch.  And the shade of grey looks outstanding!

The Aeroscope chronograph also comes with a terrific presentation.  The two-piece textured cardboard box opens to reveal a brown leather watch holder with detachable carry strap.  The case looks like a camera case of yore and is beautifully executed and could be used in a multitude of ways.  There’s also a signed leather card holder for the warranty cards, but you could also use this as a business card holder.  A ‘one size fits all’ instruction manual is also included.

Definitely one of the classiest presentations I have seen in a long time and so refreshing to see instead of an oversized, dopey box that does nothing but take up space.

The JEANRICHARD Aeroscope is a superb watch, bar none.  The combination of a cushion case design, titanium construction and lots of nifty details make this watch a winner and a distinctive piece that is functional, comfortable and makes you proud to wear a Swiss watch with some real heritage.  These watches tend to be heavily discounted, making them an even more attractive proposition.  In  this case, ‘JR’ could stand for ‘Just Right’.

Pros:  great build quality, lots of nice details (crown finishing, pusher design, striated dial), unique look, strong value, terrific presentation

Cons:  fixed timing bezel, deployant should be titanium to match rest of watch, skeleton hands not a favorite, crappy lume

Verdict:  JEANRICHARD has created an awesome watch in the Aeroscope chronograph, with its own signature look and high quality Swiss heritage.  A great watch in almost every respect   
Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.