Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review of Marc & Sons Professional Automatic Diver Sport

Model # MSD-045-1

Brand/Model:  Marc & Sons Professional Automatic Diver Sport, Item # 20790
Movement:  Japanese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet, ceramic bezel insert
Complications:  date display
Price:  approx. $344 USD

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

Marc & Sons is a small German watch manufacturer that produces its watches in Germany using high-quality movements sourced from the best movement makers.  Their lineup consists mainly of automatic diver watches with a few chronographs and pilot-style pieces mixed in.  The company has been on the move lately, introducing new models that continue the spirit and philosophy of the company, that is, ‘a perfect combination of functionality, personal style and way of life’ according to their web site.  This brand has intrigued me and I was anxious to see one of their watches in the flesh.

The Marc & Sons watch being reviewed here is one of their brand-new Professional automatic diver models, with an updated handset featuring an orange minute hand for enhanced visibility.  Service from the company was excellent, with the watch arriving well packaged and in perfect shape straight from Germany.

The Marc & Sons diver starts with an all stainless steel case that is polished on the sides and rear and brushed on the top, with slightly beveled polished edges on the lugs.  The watch measures 42mm without the screwdown crown; 45.5mm with the crown included. 

The crown itself is a nearly perfect size, not too small nor too large at 6.8mm.  It would be nice if the crown was signed, as I always think a signed crown adds a bit of panache to a watch, even a diver.  Crown action has a good feel, with slight spring tension and a smooth 2-1/2 turns to lock.

There are also crown guards on the case that protrude slightly to help protect the crown from impacts.  These guards are perfectly sized for the case and don’t overwhelm anything.

Case thickness is 15.3mm, with a brushed, screwdown caseback.  The caseback has standard watch information stamped into it along with the company name in the center.  There are six evenly spaced divots in the center of the caseback for a caseback tool to remove the back during service.  There is also a coin-edge around the caseback edge.

Lug-to-lug height of the Marc & Sons diver is 49.7mm, with a 22mm lug spacing.  The bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20mm at the clasp.

One nice thing about this watch is its overall proportions.  Everything seems to be sized just right, without any pieces being garish, overblown or odd-looking.  It’s sublime attention to detail like this that can make a watch a pleasure to wear.  This watch also has a solid heft to it and feels good on the wrist.

Overall fit and finish is very good and a tad above other brands at this pricepoint.  The Marc & Sons diver being reviewed here is factory rated for 300 meters of water resistance.

One thing that really stood out for me about this watch is the clean, easy-to-read dial that not only looks sharp, but somehow has a personality all its own even though it borrows cues from the ocean of other dive watches on the market (don’t they all?)  The dial is a matte black with properly sized applied markers with inset lume.  The markers at the five minute marks are round, while the markers at the 6 and 9 slots are rectangular.  An inverted triangle marker sits at the 12 position.  All the markers are rimmed in silver with white inset lume.

Simple white hash marks comprise a chapter ring, with hash marks for each second around the dial.  The handset also shines, with the hour hand being a semi-broadarrow style in white, while the minute hand is a sword style in orange.  Like the markers, the hands are rimmed in silver with white inset lume.  The seconds hand is a simple silver stick with a lume ball about 80-percent of the way up its shaft and a small round silver ball end extending slightly past the pinion shaft on its opposite end.  Simple and uncomplicated. 

There is a quickset date window at 3 with a black on white date wheel.  The window is outlined with a silver frame and alignment of the wheel within the window is perfect.  The quickset date itself functions as it should.

Finishing off the dial is relatively minimal printing (thank you), with the Marc & Sons name below the 12; above the 6, there is ‘1000ft/300m’. ‘PROFESSIONAL’, ‘AUTOMATIC’ and ‘SAPPHIRE’ all done in a small font size in white, so it’s fairly unobtrusive.  There is also a very small ‘MADE IN GERMANY’ at the bottom of the dial.

I would lose the ‘SAPPHIRE’ wording because it really does nothing but add clutter to the dial, and as the caseback mentions ‘sapphire glass’ there’s no need to restate this fact.  A small but necessary quibble.

Topping the dial is, you guessed it, is a sapphire crystal that is slightly domed.  The crystal exhibits no distortion and having less of a dome to it is a welcome change to so many crystals these days that seem to be overly domed.  The crystal could benefit from the application of more anti-reflective coating, as you can still see reflections in some of the photos.

The bezel is a 120-click unidirectional design with a gloss black ceramic insert and a coin edge.  There is an inverted white triangle at the 12 position, with minute marks through 15, then white rectangles at the five minute spots and white arabics at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50.  All the arabics and hash marks on the bezel are luminous.  The bezel operates smoothly with some backlash apparent.

And speaking of lume, the dial markers, handset and the aforementioned parts on the bezel all glow a nifty ice blue, since Marc & Sons uses SuperLuminova BGW9.  Lume quality is excellent, evenly applied and consistent between all the parts of the watch.  Nicely done!

Build and assembly quality under my standard 8X loupe exam showed no dial defects or dirt.  Everything looked good, with the quality of the applied markers being particularly nice.

Overall, the dial exhibits the same great proportions as the rest of the watch.  Nothing too large or too small and this design approach yields a great looking dial that compliments the entire watch and brings it together as a cohesive whole.

Powering the Marc & Sons diver is the high-quality Seiko (SII) NH35 movement that is also found in other watches at this pricepoint.  The NH35 runs in 24 jewels and beats at 21,600 vph.  It can be handwound and also hacks. 

The NH35 in the Marc & Sons diver winds and sets fine and during my testing, ran at +13 seconds over 24 hours in the crown up position.  Power reserve was a strong 46 hours.  No complaints in the movement department and I’m sure this engine will give years of reliable service.

The bracelet on the Marc & Sons diver is a solid link all stainless steel oyster style that is fully brushed with solid end links.  The bracelet links are slightly thicker than average without being too chunky.  The links are held in place by standard split pins, which I found hard to remove during sizing.  Sometimes split pins can be a pain, and although I was able to remove them and size the bracelet, it was tedious going at times.  The quality of the bracelet itself is very good, with none of the black gunk or manufacturing residue you sometimes encounter between links during sizing.

One curious thing about the bracelet, I have a smaller 6-3/4 inch wrist and I had to take out all of the removable links to size the watch and had to rely on the microadjustment on the clasp to achieve a proper fit.  There should be one more removable link on each side of the bracelet to help those of a smaller wrist get a good fit.

As previously mentioned, the bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and tapers to 20mm at the clasp.   The clasp is really the only disappointment on this watch.  The clasp itself is stamped steel with a signed flip-lock.  But the deployant is nothing more than stamped steel and there is no dive extension to be found.  For a 300 meter capable dive watch that is billed as ‘professional’, the deployant should be machined and there should be a dive extension.  Why Marc & Sons chose this rather cheap stamped steel deployant is beyond me; it doesn’t do justice to the rest of the watch.

The clasp does have a bevy of microadjustment holes on it, though, and it’s a good thing, because as mentioned above, I had to use them to get a good fit.  There are a total of seven microadjustment holes, well beyond the standard three or four you usually see.

Presentation is a standard black padded box emblazoned with the Marc & Sons name, along with a plain white cardboard outer sleeve.  Inside the box was the instruction manual and warranty card.  Marc & Sons gives a two year warranty, which is nice.  The presentation is simple and effective, nothing special but acceptable at this pricepoint.

Marc & Sons has created a superb automatic diver with its Model MSD-045-1.  This watch has the requisite features you would expect for a diver in this price category and is more than competitive and should be cross shopped against competitors. 

What really makes this watch shine for me is its overall proportionality.  It’s just about perfect in terms of the right dimensions everywhere you look and it also looks good just about everywhere you look.  All it needs is a machined deployant and a dive extension and it would be a breakout hit.  All-in-all, a superb piece from a brand that bears watching.

Pros: well constructed case and bracelet with great overall proportions, superb lume, reliable Seiko automatic movement, nice looking dial with easy legibility, strong build quality

Cons:  stamped steel deployant doesn’t match quality of the rest of the watch, bracelet split pins quite tight making sizing difficult, could use two more removable links on bracelet for those of a smaller wrist size, more a/r on the crystal would be nice

Verdict:  a very well-executed automatic dive watch from a smaller German company with fine overall looks and features that make it competitive at its pricepoint.  A nice piece to wear and show off in all situations.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review of Ticino Traveler Automatic Diver/GMT

Model # Traveler

Brand/Model:  Ticino Traveler Automatic Diver/GMT
Movement:  Chinese automatic
Material:  stainless steel case and bracelet
Complications:  date display, GMT function with independently adjustable GMT (third) hand
Price:  $240 USD

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

The Ticino watch company is an Asian-based producer of watches that represent ‘vintage watches that pay homage to classic models from years past,’ according to the company’s web site.  The company has been in business for eight years and has a U.S. authorized dealer in the state of Florida called Sizzlin’ Watches.

I became interested in the Ticino Traveler Diver/GMT because for one, I like dive watches as well as GMT watches and any watch that combines attributes of both designs is a winner in my book.  Secondly, this particular Ticino intrigued me because of the overall homage-style look with some interesting details added to its design, especially the cool micro-adjusting clasp (more on that later). 

I appreciate the high-quality photography that Ticino presents on their web site, as it accurately represents what their watches look like and makes a purchase decision that much easier.  I contacted Rob at Sizzlin’ Watches and received a Traveler Diver/GMT a couple of days later, so kudos to him for the excellent service and prompt shipping.

The Ticino Traveler starts with an impressive all stainless steel case with polished sides and brushed top.  The overall watch has a great solid heft to it and feels very substantial, with large shoulders that help protect the crown.  The Traveler measures 44mm without the screw down crown; 48.4mm crown inclusive.  Thickness is a fairly robust 17.6mm.  Lug spacing is 21mm and lug-to-lug, the Traveler measures 52.4mm.  The lugs are somewhat on the short side, so the watch does not sit overly large on the wrist and despite it being a bit thick, it is not top-heavy.  This is a large and robust watch but even a person with a thin wrist such as I have can pull off wearing it without a problem.

The crown is unsigned, screws down with about 2-1/2 turns and is just about the perfect size at 8mm.  I like crowns on the larger side because I like to wind my automatics prior to wearing them.  A larger crown also makes setting the watch easier and in the case of a screw down mechanism, makes is much easier to screw the crown down to the lock position.

The caseback is brushed and screws down and is also slightly raised.  It has just has some watch specifications and the model name stamped into it.  Nothing fancy, but purposeful and clean all the same.

One thing that impressed me immediately about the Traveler is the overall quality of the piece.  The polished sides of the case are mirror smooth and the brushed surfaces are evenly finished.  The fit and finish are totally acceptable at this price point and would be acceptable at several times the price point as well.  Nicely done!

Since Ticino also considers the Traveler to be a dive watch, it is factory rated for 20 ATM/200 meters of water resistance, so getting it wet shouldn’t pose any problems.

The dial on the Traveler is a deep black, referred to as ‘glossy’ in their description.  It is glossy, but not overly so, it is just a near-perfect deep black color that gives the watch a rich look.  Too many times lower priced watches fall down in the dial department, with cheap looking dials, off-colors or sloppy assembly.  Not so with the Traveler.  The dial exudes class and quality all the way.

The hands are crisp and sharp, silver in color with white inset lume.  The seconds hand is silver with a lume ball about two-thirds of the way up.  The markers are applied, rimmed in silver with white lume middles.  An inverted triangle marker sits at the 12 position, with rectangular markers at the 6 and 9 positions and round markers at the 5 minute marks.

The independently adjustable GMT hand is red with a large lume arrow tip.  And speaking of the lume, the hour, minute, seconds hand ball and GMT hand arrow tip glow a bright ice-blue, while the markers on the dial glow a more subdued shade of blue.  The lume pip on the bezel glows green.  The lume of the hands is excellent while the markers could be brighter.

There is a date window at the 3 position, with a black on white date wheel.  The window could be a bit larger, since the date is a bit hard to read without a cyclops, but I am glad Ticino didn’t bother with a cyclops, as they can sometimes be too distracting on a watch.  The date wheel could have a bit more even alignment, as it is about 97-percent centered in the date window, but not off enough to raise any real concerns.

The dial has minimal printing, which always gets a gold-star from me.  Below the 12 is a printed Ticino logo and the Ticino name.  Above the six is ‘200m ≈ 660ft’ and ‘TRAVELER’.

The dial is capped by a double domed sapphire crystal without any anti-reflective coating.  The lack of any AR coating made the watch somewhat hard to photograph.  Adding some AR would be a good move on Ticino’s part, but as is, the crystal is still a quality element. 

The GMT bezel is a 120-click unidirectional design, which is nice and tight and has no backlash.  Having a unidirectional bezel on a GMT watch is a bit odd, as most GMT designs either have a fixed bezel (not so good) or a bi-directional bezel (preferred) which makes for quicker GMT adjustments.  A small nit to pick here, but at least the bezel is very nicely machined and precise in its action.  But since the bezel on the Traveler is adjustable, it means the watch can track three timezones at once instead of two, which means a lot to certain buyers.

And speaking of the bezel, the red and blue insert (called a ‘Pepsi’ insert to most watch geeks) is the perfect shade of each color.  The insert looks terrific and is easy to read.  The top half is blue and the bottom half is red, with the 24-hour track indicated by silver arabics for the even hours and silver dots for the odd hours.  A silver inverted triangle with lume pip sits at the 12/24 hour spot.

Ticino makes a point of saying their watches are produced in a ‘clean environment’ and under my standard 8X loupe exam, this appears to be true.  The build is nice and clean and the quality of the applied markers under magnification is great.

Inside the Ticino Traveler is a Hangzhou 6460 automatic movement, which is a clone of the ETA 2836-2 modified for the GMT application.  The movement runs in 25 jewels and beats at 28,800 vph.  The watch winds and sets fine.  The GMT hands sets by moving the crown to the first click position and rotating the crown counter-clockwise.  This moves the GMT hand counter clockwise around the dial to the desired position.  Alignment of the GMT hand to the desired hour is good. 

The date sets in the same crown position by turning the crown clockwise.  Hour and minute hand setting is accomplished with the crown in the second click position.

During my testing, the Traveler ran at +15 seconds over 24 hours, in the dial/face up position.  Power reserve was a good 41.75 hours.  Overall, no complaints with the Hangzhou movement or time keeping functions of the Traveler and since this movement is based on the venerable ETA 2836 design, it should be a solid and dependable runner.

The bracelet on the Ticino Traveler is a solid link stainless steel Oyster style, with brushed links and polished edges.  The end links are solid.  The bracelet uses screws to hold the links together, so sizing presented no problems.  The bracelet measures 20.8mm just below the end link and tapers to 15.8mm at the clasp.

The clasp bears special attention, as it is a cool, nifty design that you wouldn’t expect to find at this price point.  The clasp itself is a brushed fold-over type with polished edges and a flip-lock safety clasp.  The deployant is machined and solid with a look and feel of a watch that costs much more. 

The neatest part of the clasp is the micro-adjustment or ‘glide-lock’ mechanism.  The center of the clasp lifts up the reveal a ratcheting mechanism.  You simply lift up the center of the clasp and move the glide-lock to the desired position and push the center of the clasp back down.  Doing this moves the part of the bracelet that is under the clasp in or out to achieve the proper fit.  I find this mechanism superior to other glide-lock designs that have two clunky push buttons on the side of the clasp that crudely move the bracelet in or out. 

Hats off to Ticino for including a well-designed and cool glide-lock clasp on the Traveler. The clasp itself is a bit tight in operation, which is better than a too-loose clasp and it’s my hope that the clasp with work in a bit over time and become easier to operate.

There is also a dive extension on the clasp, but it is very tight and hard to operate.

The only real part where the Ticino Traveler falls down is in its presentation.  A rather plain red box is all the watch comes in, without any documentation, just a warranty card.  I would have appreciated an instruction manual, because since this watch has a GMT function, the user needs to know how to adjust the GMT hand and how to use the GMT bezel for tracking various timezones.  Also, how the glide-lock clasp and dive extension operates should also be addressed.  

I will say that I have purchased watches at five times the price of the Traveler that came in similar boxes and truth be told, you don’t buy a watch for its box, so I can’t be too hard on the presentation, but I did want to make mention of it.

Overall, the Ticino Traveler in an excellent choice in the vast sea of homage-style watches.  The diver and GMT functionality of the watch, along with solid build quality, interesting details and a price that is hard to beat make this piece a worthwhile addition to any collection. 

Pros: solid fit and finish, cool glide-lock mechanism on the clasp, true GMT functionality, seemingly reliable automatic movement, superb looking dial/handset, true diver capability

Cons:  lume quality on markers could be better, presentation needs a bump up, no instruction manual, clasp a bit stiff/hard to open, dive extension hard to operate

Verdict:  the Ticino Traveler is a great watch that represents quality and functionality at a price point that makes it a no-brainer if you want a true GMT watch for your travels that can also double as a diver, whether it’s to points far away or just a trip to the grocery store.  Well done!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics.