Friday, December 11, 2020

How Low Can You Go . . . On Your Wrist? 

The Thinnest Watch title changes hands continuously. One must also be cognizant of the qualifiers used in claims to it. Bulgari and Paiget have been locked in a Thinnest Mechanical Watch Holy War for years now. Their mechanical watches are substantially thinner than any current quartz. The single biggest limiting factor for contemporary quartz watches is the battery. The thinnest Titan quartz, in a stainless case, remains 3.6mm, while nearly all their stainless steel Edge line is 3.9mm. It’s not the thinnest quartz watch ever made. Their ceramic cased version is 4.0mm and they claim it’s the thinnest ceramic quartz watch. Note the “ceramic” qualifier.

Citizen makes the Eco-Drive One, at 3.98mm, and claims it’s the thinnest solar quartz watch, which not only has a battery limitation, it also has solar panels sandwiched under the dial.

As of 2018, the thinnest mechanical watch is Piaget’s 2mm Altiplano Ultimate Concept. That’s not just the movement, it’s the entire watch, and it's the thinnest watch in current production, quartz or mechanical, but it's still not the thinnest ever made. Originally a concept demonstration, it has recently been released for special order with options such as custom colors, etc. Bring lots of money. You’ll need it. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. Someone will eventually shave a hundredth of a millimeter or two off of it, using some of the general design principles, and make a new claim.

Regarding quartz, the thinnest ever made occurred in 1978–1981, a feat that hasn’t been matched again for technical and technology reasons. The first salvo in the 
Thinnest Quartz Holy War was fired by Citizen with their 4.1mm Exceed Gold housing their cal. 790 movement. Thick compared to what followed, but still an ultra-thin quartz by today’s standards.

Seiko was hot on their heels unveiling a 2.5mm watch in July at Tiffany’s housing their cal. 6720 movement.

The Swiss watch industry had already taken significant blows from Japan with the quartz revolution turning their entire industry upside down. They weren’t about to be upstaged again. Enter the Concord Delerium.

  • Concord made the 1.98mm Delerium 1 in January 1979 with the ESA/ETA 999 movement using a 1.1mm Renata #32 battery. The 999 in several variants would be the basis for the Delerium that followed.
  • Seiko countered the first Delirium with a 1.79mm version containing the cal. 6720 in July 1979.
  • Six months after the first Delirium, Concord released the 1.5mm Delirium 2 in mid-1979. It is, IMO, the thinnest Concord made of practical use. (The Delirium 3 was a 1.68mm ladies.)
  • Omega made the 1.8mm Dinosaure in 1980 using their 1355 movement. They eventually reduced this to 1.48mm with their BA 191.0xxx, making only 595 of them in several variants (the last three ref # digits). I believe that to be the thinnest practical quartz made. They accomplished it in the same manner as the Delerium, by mounting the movement to the back of the case.

  • In December 1980, the Delirium 4 was introduced at 0.98mm with Renata creating a special 0.8mm battery for it.

    It was fraught with reliability problems. It may be the thinnest watch ever produced, but it had no practical use for everyday wear. Simply putting it on easily flexed the case enough to stop the movement. It was a market failure, and IMO its fragility with extremely poor reliability disqualifies it for any claim at being the thinnest ever made.
The Seiko Lassale 6720, Concord Delerium and Omega Dinosaure are all considerably thinner than the Titan Edge. Servicing them was an expensive nightmare, including battery changes. In addition to the case flex problem, which could be mitigated now with modern materials, the limiting factor is obtaining a battery for a quartz this thin. In 1979–1980, Renata created the 333, a special, very thin, small diameter 2V Lithium cell for the movements used in all these Delirium and Dinosaure. It has long since gone out of production without any replacement. Silver Oxide cells cannot be made that thin. No battery maker is interested in making an ultra-thin coin or button Lithium battery in a small enough diameter for a watch movement, in a package allowing it to be easily handled and replaced every 18 months, i.e. similar to current Ag2O and Li-MnO2 button and coin cells. There’s no profit to be made in it, and it would take much too long to recoup their development and production setup costs. I don’t know what battery Citizen used in their 1979–1981 ultra-thin. The Seiko 6720 uses a TR709SW. All sources I know, including watchmaker supply houses, state watches with that caliber must be sent to Seiko for battery replacement. I’ve not been able to find reliable information on the battery for the Citizen 790.

If you can't afford a Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, or the lower cost (by an order of magnitude) Citizen Eco-Drive One, Citizen's 4.7mm Eco-Drive Stiletto - in a variety of case finish and dial styles - at $150-$200 street price might be the ticket for you. It, and the Eco-Drive One have one major advantage over all the other quartz, including the 3.6mm Titan. You don't need to pop it open every 18 months to drop in a new battery, which risks destroying their paper thin circuit boards.

I have no connection whatsoever with any watch manufacturer, past or present, including all those mentioned herein.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Bauhaus Watch Design


Bauhaus Signet adopted in 1921 (Do you see the profile?)

Bauhaus (full name, Staatliches Bauhaus)

Bauhaus was a German art school founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar and operated from 1919-1933, when the newly formed Nazi government shut it down. In 1925, Gropius moved the school to Dessau, its most famous location, where it remained open until 1932.
Bauhaus Dessau - photo by Spyrosdrakopoulos - own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Gropius fled Germany to Britain in 1934, eventually emigrating to the US in 1937. There he created the International style of architecture for government, industrial and commercial buildings. Mies van der Rohe, another founder, who set up a school in Berlin, also fled Germany when Bauhaus was closed, and moved to Chicago, heading the School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Second Chicago School of architectural style. He and Gropius had the same minimalist concept of plain functional design with simple form following pure function without any ornamental adornment. The buildings they designed have strong visual similarities.

Watch Design

Bauhaus influence on watch graphic design continues a century later. During its period of German popularity from 1918-1933 in Weimar Era Germany, a number of watch makers incorporated the Bauhaus style into the graphic designs of their watches. These carried into the Nazi era until WWII began in September 1939 when watch production shifted to supporting the war effort.
Aristo Bauhaus Dessau 1; caliber ETA 2824-2 Automatic
The style is still seen today in its functional simplicity, with plain hour indices and thin pencil hands. Among German watch companies continuing to make Bauhaus designs from their past is Aristo in Pforzheim, one of the major watchmaking regions in Germany before WWII.
Aristo 7001H8; caliber ETA (Peseux) 7001 Hand Wind
Stowa is in Engelsbrand a few kilometers south of Pforzheim. Both have a long history in the region.
Stowa Antea Hand Wind
Stowa's classic is a recreation of their Weimar Era Antea, but it isn't the only Bauhaus style they offer.

The most widely known Bauhaus dial and hands graphic design came much later, after WWII in 1962, by Max Bill in Switzerland, having studied Bauhaus at the Dessau school from 1924-1927.
Max Bill Handaufzug; caliber J805.1 (ETA 2801-2) Hand Wind
Max Bill's designs came at the behest of Junghans, who asked him to design a series of clocks and watches for them. The original vintage clocks, if they're in excellent condition, go for a princely sum. New ones don't come cheap either.

NOMOS Glashütte, is a latecomer. Located in Glashütte, Saxony, formerly in East Germany (aka DDR), the company was founded in the traditional Glashütte watchmaking region two months after the Berlin wall was toppled.
NOMOS Tangente Hand Wind
The entire watchmaking industry there had been nationalized by the East German Soviet puppet Communists into the state owned VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe. With the fall of East Germany, NOMOS could employ watchmaking expertise now freed from their oppresive Communist dictatorship shackles.

Another newcomer is Laco, which has its roots in Pforzheim, established there in 1925.
Laco Vintage Automatic
Following WWII, Laco, which also founded the Durowe movement company, wasn't very successful in reestablishing itself and was sold to Timex in 1959, which was interested in its Durowe movements. In the mid-1960's, Timex sold the company to a Swiss watchmaking firm who wanted their Durowe movements. The Quartz Revolution took its toll and the company folded with its Swiss parent. During the 1980's they were resurrected and continued for a while with spurts of success, but collapsed again in 2009. After a brief period under Kienzle ownership, they they went under again with Kienzle's bankruptcy. Laco restarted again in 2010 with less than a dozen employees. Since then they've put together a modest watch line, including the Vintage and Wittenberg in traditional Bauhaus style.

Frederique Constant, a Swiss company founded in 1988 by a Dutch couple with the brand now owned by Citizen since 2016, entered the Bauhaus market within their Slimline collection.
Slimline FC-306G4S6; caliber FC-306 Automatic
They're one of the few more affordable Swiss Made mechanical with their own in-house movements, versus relying on ETA or Sellita for them. In addition, there are quartz models at extremely affordable prices.

Other watchmaking companies outside Europe, such as Orient, Japan's #2 watch company in prestige just behind Seiko, have adopted the style in their pieces. Some are in the version three of their second generation Bambino line.
Orient 2nd Gen v3 Bambino; caliber F6722 Automatic
Most recently, their new Maestro line is a Bauhaus style with very narrow hour and minute obelisk hands, a plain needle seconds hand, and no lume on hands or dial.
Orient Maestro on aftermarket Milanese; caliber F6722 Automatic
How do you know if a watch is "Bauhaus"? There's no absolute rigid definition, or they would all look completely identical. After seeing a number of prime exemplars, and the style of their hour indices, the style of their hands, and the style of arabic number font used (those with them) with how they're laid out on the dial, you will know one when you see it. These aren't the only brands and models, there are others.

Form follows function, Bauhaus' basic tenet.

Walter Gropius, 1919; photo by Louis Held
Bauhaus' founder, Walter Gropius, probably had little idea his concepts would be so widely used in wrist watch graphic design a century after he created his school in Germany.

I have no connection with Aristo, Stowa, Junghans, NOMOS Glashütte, Laco, Frederique Constant, or Orient, and have not received anything from them, or from any distributors, dealers or sellers of them in compensation or consideration for my remarks here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Tool Watch Doesn't Have to Look Like a Tool

Aragon 45mm Divemaster Automatic
SII NH36A: 21.6 kbph 24j automatic with day/date complication

  • Reference #: A064BLU
  • Also offered in lime green and purple dials, and in a larger 50mm size
  • Mfr. year: 2016; current model and currently available
  • Case diameter: 45mm (without crown or crown guard)
  • Dial diameter: 30.5mm
  • Case thickness: 17mm
  • Lug-to-lug length: 50mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Stainless steel case, crown, and back
  • Crystal: flat K1 hardened mineral glass
  • Back: Screw on with mineral glass display window
  • Bracelet: 4mm thick solid SS links, 22mm wide at lugs with no tapering
  • Clasp: signed double push-button z-fold with safety
  • Weight: 234 grams (with all bracelet links)
  • Movement: Seiko Instruments NH36A 21.6kbph mid-beat automatic with day/date complication and 42 hr power reserve
  • Diashock shock protection (per SII and Seiko specs)
  • Crown: screw-down 3 position push-pull for winding, quickset day & date, and time setting
  • Water resistance: 200 meters
  • Dial: Blue sunburst centered on the central hands with day/date window at 3.
  • Hands: Polished silver broadsword minute hand, short arrowhead hour hand, and dark red needle pointer seconds hand
  • Hour markers: Raised bold, broad batons at 3-6-9-12, and discs at the other hours
  • Lume: Hour and minute hands filled with lume along with the hour markers and a pip in the 0/60 minute wedge on the bezel ring
About Aragon Watch:
Aragon is a rebranding by OKO International in 2015 of what had been their Android brand of watches, founded in 1991 by Wing Liang. The trademarking of "Android" by both Wing (OKO Int'l) and Google wasn't a problem for some years as Wing made watches and Google made an operating system for cell phones. It's not that uncommon for a name to have multiple trademark holders so long as they're in different business and product sectors that prevents public confusion about who the trademark represents. The problem arose when electronics firms began designing and making "smart watches" using and/or interfacing with Google's Android O/S. Now both companies were in the business of watchmaking and both using "Android" related to watches would not work. The pragmatic solution for Wing was reaching an agreement with Google (et alia) and rebranding his watch line with a new name, Aragon. If there seems to be a strong resemblance in style between Android and Aragon watches, they have the same designer, Wing Liang. The Divemaster Automatic is one of six models that launched his new brand name in December 2015.

The 30.5mm diameter dial is a single layer with ultra-fine sunburst pattern radiating from its center. It's plenty large enough to see well without impinging on the width of the rotating dive timing bezel. The Aragon name and other labeling, along with the minute track is printed on it. A nice frame surrounds the day and date window. The broad, bold baton and disc hour markers stand proud from the dial. The long polished broadsword minute hand is beveled slightly which aids in maintaining visibility under different lighting directions. The bold and short arrowhead hour hand prevents any confusion between it and the minute hand, which is important for divers timing their dives. The central seconds hand is a fine pointer style in dark red, which provides significant color contrast to keep it from getting lost on the dial. Overall it has a simplicity that makes it very easy to read under all types of lighting without looking empty.

The 120-click rotating timing bezel in the same background color as the dial is smooth, firm and precise without any slop or lash, and it's unidirectional, as a dive timing bezel should be for safety reasons. It takes some definite torque to turn it, without any undue force required, which is also a Good Thing for divers. It's not going to accidentally get rotated very easily. The width of the bezel is in good proportion to the watch head and dial diameters, with nice bold, easy to read numbers and tick marks.

In a shade of blue slightly darker than the one commonly used in the Androids, the overall dial, hands and bezel design and layout get high marks for their unambiguous legibility.

The brushed finish bracelet has solid machined links, including the end links that attach to the watch head and integrate very smoothly with the lugs. Clasp is a signed double pushbutton Z-fold with a safety and three holes for micro-adjustment of the bracelet length. While it's not machined steel, the clasp is very heavy gauge sheet metal. It's not going to flex or bend, even with some harsh use. Closure is firm and solid, including the safety. Links are held together with industry standard "split pins" and the links have arrows on the backside showing the direction in which to remove them. At 4mm thick and 22mm wide without any taper, the bracelet has enough heft to counterbalance the watch head.

Movement under the dial is the SII NH36A, a caliber number SII and TMI use instead of the 4R36A caliber number Seiko Watch Company uses when they put the same movement inside Seiko branded watches. This 24 jewel, 21.6 kbph mid-beat is an evolution of the 23j 7S36, that includes hand-wind and hacking capability, and has the same ~42 hour power reserve with full wind. Even though the NH36A/4R36A is a relatively new movement, its design is based on a very mature and proven workhorse. In spite of the display back, it's undecorated, a "feature" that's pretty to look at and raises the manufacturing price of the movement (and hence, the watch), but doesn't contribute anything to reliability, durability, precision or accuracy. The one small nit I have with this watch is the Aragon logo and other data printed onto the display glass. Wing used to etch it into the steel frame around the display glass on the case back. Even though I used to sit and stare at the test pattern on TV as a young child (you have to be old enough to remember the test patterns - from when broadcast TV stations signed off the air at night for several hours), I don't stare at running watch movements, although a running balance is pleasing to watch for a short bit, so it's not anything significant. I did notice the back has holes for a case back wrench with round pins, and these are right in the middle of where the serial number and other watch data would be etched. The back wrench is less likely to slip out of these holes compared to the traditional shallow, rectangular edge notches found on most wristwatch backs. If that was the design trade-off, I'll go with the round pin holes for the case back wrench.

The Aragon logo in the signed screw-down crown is filled with red paint, a nice touch. The proportionally sized crown has good knurling with just a touch of radius added so that it doesn't feel jagged, allowing it to be screwed down, unscrewed and manipulated easily for winding and setting the watch, even with the ample crown guards around it. This is facilitated by the offset position of the crown relative to the crown guard. This offset allows it to be turned more easily and provides it with greater protection from above the watch, the most likely direction from which a blow to the crown would occur.

At 45mm diameter and 17mm thick, the watch head is not small, even though there are much larger watches now. It can still fit small wrists well in spite of its diameter with a 50mm lug-to-lug length that's not much longer than the main watch body diameter. The short lugs curve downward rapidly toward the wrist and away from the watch head, allowing the watch to wear "smaller" than its physical size. I have a 6-7/8 inch wrist (17.5 cm), which is not that large. This 45mm Divemaster fits on it quite easily without completely filling it, more easily than a couple slightly smaller diameter watches I have with longer, more horizontal lugs. It also fits under my dress shirt cuffs without any trouble, even with its 17mm height (your mileage may vary depending on how tight your shirt cuffs are).

Lume is very bright with excellent persistence. The bezel ring has a lume pip in the middle of its index wedge. The hour indices are filled with lume making them bold and very visible. Likewise, the centers of the hour and minute hands are filled with lume, making them bold as well. The hands are slightly brighter than the hour indices and bezel pip, making them stand out more and keeping them from being lost visually in the rest of the lume.

Even though it's rated to 200m, I strongly recommend having it depth tested by a competent watchmaker equipped to do so before using it for diving. After that it should depth tested at least every two years as long as it continues to be used for diving. This is a sound safety practice not just for this watch, but for all watches and dive computers regardless of brand, depth rating, or water resistance reputation, if they're being used for diving.

In summary, the Aragon 45mm Divemaster Automatic is an attractive watch that maintains the traditional diving tool watch style, elements and principles: bold and highly legible hands, indices and timing bezel markings. It's comfortable on the wrist, even a smaller wrist, in spite of its size and mass compared to many other watches. It's an excellent model in Wing's relaunch of his watch business under the new brand name. Divemaster is a very fitting model name as it shows Wing's mastery of dive watch design. It demonstrates a functional tool watch doesn't have to look like it's just a tool; it can also be visually very attractive with style and class.

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with the Aragon Watch brand owned by OKO International, its predecessor brand, Android, or any of their distributors or dealers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Black Pearl on a Cushion

Android Parma 9015 Automatic
Miyota 9015 28.8 kbph 24j Automatic

  • Reference #​: AD658BK
  • Diameter (W/O crown): 46mm
  • Dial Diameter: 35mm
  • Case Thickness: 13mm
  • Lug to Lug Length:55mm
  • Lug Width: 24mm
  • Weight (with all links): 280g
  • 316L Stainless Steel Case
  • Screw down case back with hardened mineral glass display window
  • Slightly domed hardened mineral glass crystal
  • Cyclops on underside of crystal over date window
  • 5mm thick 316L stainless steel bracelet with solid end links
  • Solid bracelet links with unique rectangular hole traversed by a steel dowel
  • Miyota caliber 9015: 24j 28.8kbph high-beat auto with quickset date, hand wind and hack
  • Miyota Parashock shock protection
  • Screw down crown with sunburst in lieu of Android logo
  • Water Resistance: 200m / 660 ft
  • Partially lumed skeleton broadsword hour and minute hands
  • Black mother of pearl dial with lumed hour indices

A brush finish case set off by a polished mirror finish bezel houses a Miyota 9015 high-beat movement. Its cushion shape makes the watch appear larger than its actual dimensions. Steep falloff of the lugs and end links allow it to fit smaller wrists.

The cyclops over the date window is on its underside, giving the date display greater legibility, and the very slightly domed crystal mitigates glare. The signed spiral knurled screw-down crown has plenty of grip without sharp or rough edges, extending sufficiently beyond the crown guards when unscrewed to be easily manipulated for winding, day/date quickset and time setting.

The Miyota movment's high beat rate is readily apparent in the smoother sweep of the second hand compared to mid-beat and standard beat movements. The movement is decorated with Geneva stripes on its bridges and a fine sunburst brush on its rotor. An idiosyncrasy of the Miyota 9015 is its unidirectional auto-wind. Most auto-wind movements are bidirectional which requires additional mechanics in the auto-winding mechanism (Seiko uses an eccentric wheel and a twin-pawl lever), but unidirectional aren't rare either. Miyota's auto-wind have remained unidirectional. The rotor only winds the movement in one direction and freewheels in the other. In a watch this massive it's very unlikely you'll ever feel or hear this (as some do with the ETA [Valjoux] 7750 chrono movement), nor should it make any difference in keeping the watch wound through normal wear, even office workers that work mostly at a desk. It does make a difference if you're using a watch winder, which will need to be set to wind (spin the watch) clockwise, the opposite of what you'd set it for to wind a Miyota 82XX series movement.

Each of the long and broad hour indices is filled with lume, the one at the three slightly smaller to accommodate the date window. The semi-skeleton hands are lumed at the tips and are slightly brighter, making them visually prominent among the bold hour indices.

The standout graphic design feature of this Parma 9015 is its black mother of pearl dial. Light plays off the dial with subtle metallic pastels in blue, green, pink and purple, constantly shifting as the lighting angle changes. Wing uses real mother of pearl, making each dial in the Parma 9015 MOP a subtle one-of-a-kind.

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with the Android Watch brand owned by OKO International, its successor brand, Aragon, or any of their distributors or dealers.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Celestial Harmony from the Far East

Orient Constellation GMT
Orient 40P51 21.6kbph 22j Automatic

  • Reference #: FDJ02003W0 (sometimes truncated to DJ02003W)
    (3W0 = stainless steel with white dial and polished silver hands)
  • Also available as “1W0” silver/gold 2-tone with white dial &“2B0” silver with black dial
  • Manufacturing Year: circa 2012 - 2014
  • Case Diameter: 40mm
  • Dial Diameter: 37mm
  • Case Thickness: 12mm
  • Lug to Lug Length: 46mm
  • Lug Width: 20mm
  • 316L stainless steel case, back and bracelet
  • Sapphire top crystal with AR coating
  • Screw down case back with mineral glass display window
  • 3.5mm thick 20mm wide bracelet tapering to 18mm with 2-button butterfly clasp
  • Solid bracelet links with solid end links (removable links use standard “split pin”)
  • Weight (with all links): 135g
  • Orient 22j 21.6kbph 40P51 automatic with GMT complication, hand wind and hack
  • Standard Orient shock protection (similar in appearance to Etachoc)
  • Decoration: Perlée on plates and bridges; Cotes de Genève on signed rotor
  • Crown: Push/Pull 3 position for wind, GMT/date correction, and time setting
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM/50m/165ft
  • No lume on dial or hands
  • Silvery metallic white sunflower pattern guilloche inner dial
  • Silvery metallic white concentric rings outer dial under the hour markers
  • Combination Roman and baton hour markers, and minute tick marks
  • Chapter ring with 1-24 hour Arabics and half hour tick marks
About Orient Watch Company:
Orient Watch Company was evolved out of Yoshida Watch Shop, a wholesale pocket watch dealer that opened in 1901, selling imported pocket watches. Yoshida began making gold watch cases in 1912, and expanded again into making gauges and table clocks under the name Toyo Tokei Manufacturing in 1920. They started making wrist watches in 1934. The economic aftermath of WWII resulted in Toyo Tokei going under and closing in 1949. It was reincarnated as Tama Keiki in 1950 using the former Toyo Tokei factory in Hino. A year later in 1951, the name was changed to Orient Watch Company, Ltd., and the first Orient Star was introduced, a tier above the standard Orient. The Royal Orient flagship line was introduced in 1960. Seiko-Epson (TYO symbol: EPSON) bought an interest in Orient in 2001. Epson gradually bought out the private shares held by family members and other long-time owners, eventually owning it outright in 2009. 
It’s important to note that Seiko does not own Orient, Seiko-Epson, aka “Epson,” (TYO symbol: EPSON) a very large holding corporation owns Orient Watch Company, Ltd. Seiko Holdings Group, a different very large holding corporation (TYO symbol: SEIKO), owns Seiko Watch Corporation. The two watch companies are entirely independent, with no common management up through and including their respective corporate boards of directors. Epson and Seiko have their own, different, public stock traded separately on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Seiko “ownership” of Orient is frequently claimed and parroted all over the Internet, and it’s completely incorrect. The only connection between the two corporations: Suwa Seikosha started a subsidiary, Shinshu Seiki Co, to build precision parts for Seiko. Seiko needed an electronic printer for their timers at 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and Shinshu Seiki made them for Seiko. Ultimately electronic printer modules became their core business culminating in EP-101, an electronic printer. Its successor, EP-Son, the son of EP, was concatenated into EPSON which became the subsidiary’s name in 1982. Suwa Seikosha and its subsidiary Epson merged in 1987 to form Seiko-Epson. There is substantial stock ownership in both corporations by members of the Hattori family, descendants of Seiko’s original founders, and various subsidiaries of each do business with each other.

The Constellation has a highly polished case in a standard round shape with a zero width bezel. The AR coated sapphire crystal covers the entire top, consuming 37mm of the 40mm case diameter. Lugs are also a standard shape flowing out from the case sides with gentle curves. The sides are slightly beveled which provides a softer appearance, avoiding a harsher cylinder shape straight vertical sides would have. Back is screw down with a full mineral glass display window that allows a complete view of the movement. The case, lugs and bracelet are understated, which allows the dial to dominate.

This Orient appears larger visually than its dimensions due to its zero width bezel, allowing a dial only 3mm smaller than the watch’s outer diameter. Dial color is a metallic slightly off-white, a little whiter than eggshell but not as stark white as a porcelain dial. Chapter ring contains the 24-hour markers with Arabics for the hours and tick marks at the half-hours. The main hour indices consist of 6-9-12 Romans with batons for the remaining hours. These applied on an outer ring with a texture of fine concentric circles. Small minute tick marks are at the outer edge between the hour markers. Inside this is a guilloche sunflower pattern covering the remaining inner part of the dial. Main hour and minute hands are narrow dauphine style with fine tips. Seconds hand is a fine narrow pointer. The 24-hour hand has a diamond shaped tip that easily differentiates it from the other hand. Highly polished silver, they’re readily visible against the dial. One important note is the lack of lume as this could be a deal breaker with some. There is none on the dial or the hands. Personally I don’t necessarily expect lume on a dress watch, which this clearly is.

The seven link wide bracelet has a nice combination of alternating fine brush and polished links, and it’s very flexible. The butterfly clasp is well hidden when closed giving a nearly unbroken continuous appearance. The links aren’t that long, which eliminates the need for half-links. Removable links are fastened together with standard “split pins” and the links have arrows on the underside showing the direction for removal (insert in opposite direction).

The 40P51 movement is among Orient’s newer ones that features hand wind and hacking. Like Seiko, Orient has been stepping up to adding these features in its newer movements, with a “trickle down” of features from their top tier Orient Star Royal through the Orient Star models and now into the upper price points of the main Orient tier. The lower price points are still using the workhorse 46XXX family of automatics which span a number of complications, but none of which have hand wind or hacking. Both Seiko (7S2X) and Orient (46XXX) have had a rationale for this related to marketing very inexpensive mechanicals with movements from these families to 3rd World countries in Asia and Africa.

Standout features are the Constellation’s spectacular guilloche dial and a true GMT auto movement with hand-wind and hacking underneath it. Add to it a sapphire crystal and a comfortable solid link bracelet (with SEL), and you have a real winner. This is an Orient Star quality watch with an Orient logo on the dial, and it’s at the top end of that tier. Why it’s not an Orient Star puzzles me some, but the Star line has two GMTs that I’m aware of using the same movement.

The Orient Constellation’s contemporary size, design elements and top end materials combine harmoniously to create a true GMT dress watch that is a sleeper at the top of the standard Orient line.

Orient ignored North America and its potential market for many decades, focusing on marketing domestically and with its lower lines elsewhere in Asia, with some presence in Western Europe. Their main products have been and continue to be mechanical with in-house movements. They have introduced some quartz models, but in small numbers compared to the rest of their collections. North Americans looking for Orient watches had to use Japan dealers directly, Rakuten Global, gray market storefronts and eBay, all via the Internet. There is a small official presence in North America now with one Internet based authorized distributor/dealer, but the many use the other sources. Orient now has four basic tiers:

  • The “Crystal” with three five pointed stars or an “AAA” on the dial are their lowest, basic economy line, targeted as affordable watches to economic regions with low GNP and incomes. They can be readily found on eBay.
  • The standard Orient bearing the corporate logo is a broad tier of price points, with variance based on materials such as sapphire vs mineral crystals, etc. There are a number of collections or categories in this tier. This Orient is at its very top end.
  • The third tier is the upscale Orient Star using an “S” inside an oval for its logo. Design, materials and build are generally a cut above the standard Orient line with a slight crossover from the top end Orients. Some Orient Star are Japan Domestic Market, and are not exported by Orient outside Japan. One can get the JDM models from Japan dealers and gray market, but it can take some searching. There are several collections that cover a variety of general styles within the tier from conservative to avant garde and edgy.
  • The flagship tier is the Royal Orient, a competitor with the Grand Seiko, commanding street prices in the Omega range. The Royal Orient have their own movement calibers, they are hand built in small numbers, and all are intended to be Japan Domestic Market.

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with Orient Watch Company, its parent Epson, or any of their other subsidiaries, distributors or dealers.

It's Hip to Be Square

Tissot T-Trend Quadrato Automatic Chronograph
ETA (Valjoux) 7750 28.8 kbph 25j Automatic

  •  Ref# T005.514.11.061.00
  • Also offered in a white dial, with leather strap and metal bracelet variants of each dial color
  • In addition, Tissot had made black and white dial quartz chrono Quadrato, readily identified with 2-6-10 sub-dials (versus the automatic's ETA 7750 6-9-12 sub-dials)
  • Manufacturing year: circa 2010 (I've not been able to date it); discontinued but some NOS can still be found
  • Case width: 41mm (3->9 without crown)
  • Dial dimensions: 31mm wide (3->9) and 30mm long (6->12)
  • Case thickness: 15.5mm
  • Lug-to-lug length: 52mm
  • Lug width: 22mm
  • Stainless steel case, crown, and back
  • Crystal: sapphire with AR coating, curved from 6->12
  • Back: Square display back; appears to be snap down style
  • Bracelet: 3.5mm thick solid SS links, 22mm wide at lugs tapering to 20mm with 2 half-links, and a subtle Tissot "T" in the solid end links.
  • Clasp: signed push-button butterfly deployant
  • Weight: 217 grams (with all bracelet links)
  • Movement: ETA (Valjoux) 7750 25j 28.8kbph high-beat automatic
  • Etachron regulator and Incabloc shock protection
  • Crown: signed push-pull domed octagonal with three positions for winding, quickset day/date, and time setting
  • Water resistance: 100m
  • Layered dial with with the subdial rings at the 6 and 12 giving it visual depth in addition to the hour indices
  • Subtle sunray pinstripes radiating outward to the chapter ring from the central hands
  • Hands: broad dauphine style, truncated with fine pointers at their tips
  • Bold, broad stick type hour markers from 1->5 and 7->11 that stand proud from the dial (none at 6 or 12)
  • Lumed hour and minute hands, with small lume strip at the tip of the central chronograph seconds hand, and in the centers of the hour indices.

Tissot produced their T-Trend Quadrato collection before the original August 2012 broadcast of Breaking Bad's season 5 episode 4 that featured the Tag Heuer Monaco and popularized square watches, particularly chronographs. While I don't have production dates, examples of the Quadrato automatic chronograph can be found on the Internet dating back to 2010. There's no doubt about its distant resemblance to the square (Tag) Heuer Monaco, although the Heuer is a two-eye with the minute and hour accumulators at the 3 and 9, plus the original Steve McQueen wore was a partial destro with the crown on the left and pushers on the right. (The Breaking Bad Monaco is a caliber 12 with the crown on the right.) While the Tissot Quadrato auto chrono has some resemblance, its dial graphics and sub-dial layout are unique enough to stand on their own. I don't know when the Quadrato collection was discontinued, but it was at least a year ago, if not two. NOS can still be found in the Internet storefronts of reputable watch dealers, although the scarcity of new ones is increasing.

The dial has considerable visual depth in layers. Four brushed silver bands extend the hour indices across the dial from 1-->7, 2-->8, 4-->10 and 5-->11. The minutes and hours totalizer sub-dials have gray rings with their index markings are overlaid on top of these bands, along with the seconds sub-dial and day/date window frame. Even the hour and minute hands have visual depth. A steeply beveled chapter ring enhances the visual effect.

A steeply beveled chapter ring enhances the visual effect, setting the dial well below the crystal giving the dial layers and hands plenty of head room. The gray totalizer rings with white indices enhance legibility. Not generally noticed immediately, all three hands for the chronograph complication are red, also enhancing legibility and distinguishing them from the timekeeping hands. The curved sapphire crystal prevents it from being a glaring mirror, and is virtually scratch proof. The dial is readily visible through it in all types of light.

For its size, this is a thick watch at 15.5mm. It's driven by the thickness of the ETA 7750, which is one of the thicker chronograph movements, combined with the layered dial and curved crystal. You can see how the back is extended downward with a bevel to mitigate this visually. Nevertheless, it will stand proud from the wrist some. At 217 grams, it's not a heavyweight, but neither is it a lightweight, and it's heavier than many watches in its size class. Part of it is the square case and crystal, and part of it is ETA 7750, which is also heavier. If you're not accustomed to a thicker watch or haven't worn one for a while, and you will notice its height when wearing it, a phenomenon common to nearly all ETA 7750 powered chronographs. In addition to the subtle "T" in the bracelet end links, the octagonal crown is also signed. The one small nit I have with the Quadrato is the octagonal crown. It fits the style very well, but it is a little more difficult to grip between the pushers when trying to manually wind the watch, requiring a little more time and effort compared to many other watches as it cannot be rapidly turned between the thumb and forefinger. Day/date quick-set and time setting are fine and without any problem as the crown is pulled out some, it's only when trying to wind it.

The brushed finish bracelet has solid machined links, including the end links that attach to the watch. Clasp is a double pushbutton butterfly deployant, with signed end links attached to it. It includes two half links for fine tuning the length to fit the wrist more precisely, a requirement when this kind of clasp is combined with links having any appreciable length. Closure is firm and solid. I've never worried about it springing open on me. Note that proper bracelet sizing will not have the watch tight on the wrist. It's hard on the clasp and the springbars that attach the bracelet to the watch head. Too tight can ultimately lead to a springbar failure even though they're quite surprisingly very robust. It should have a very slight looseness. If you open and close your fist completely a few times and feel it binding on your wrist, it's too tight. If it rides up onto the back of your hand, it's too loose.

Tissot put an interesting display window on the back. It is reminiscent of an old Victorian era window, with rays emanating from the semicircle positioned over the balance wheel, as one might expect from a sun. The smooth finished movement has a signed, gilt rotor with Geneva stripes. The back appears to be a form of snap on, which isn't surprising for a square back, the alternative being multiple screws. Even though the back doesn't screw down, nor do the crown or pushers, it still has a respectable 100m water resistance. I wouldn't swim, hot tub or shower with it, but you can be confident that it will survive a heavy rain and everyday encounters with hand washing without worrying.

Numerous reviews of chronographs containing the ETA 7750 mention "rotor wobble." It's not really a wobble. The rotor on most current automatic watch movements will wind the watch in both directions. Originally, the first auto-wind mechanisms in the mid-1920's could not make a complete rotation. There were bumpers to prevent it. These are referred to as "bumper wind" movements by collectors now, and one could feel the rotor hitting the bumpers, at least occasionally. The auto-wind mechanisms were improved in the 1930's to allow full 360 rotation eliminating the bumpers, but they only wound the watch in one direction and freewheeled in the other direction. Eventually several different types of mechanisms were designed to allow winding in both directions. The most elegant and simplest of these was created by Seiko, called the "magic lever." While the huge majority are bi-directional winding, there are a number of movements still made that only wind in one direction. The ETA 7750 is one of them. Other notable uni-directional movements include the Miyota 8000 family, the new Miyota 9000 family (which surprised me), and the ETA 2001-1, a reduced size movement based on the ETA 2892A2 design. A characteristic of the unidirectional wind is freewheeling in the other direction. Occasionally, rapid or sudden wrist motion will set the rotor moving in the non-winding direction with more energy than normal, and without any winding resistance it will freewheel rapidly. While it doesn't cause any harm as the rotor arbor and bearings are designed for it, one can hear and sometimes feel this when it occurs. This is the "wobble" that isn't a wobble, but rotor freewheeling.

The lume is surprisingly bright and bold, especially on the main hands, given that it's neither a tool nor a sports watch. That was a pleasant surprise. The other surprise was the small rectangular strip of lume on the chronograph central seconds hand. I wouldn't expect lume on the small timekeeping sub-seconds hand as it wouldn't be very legible at arm's length. I came to the conclusion the chronograph central seconds lume is to at least let you know the chronograph is still running and measuring elapsed time in dim light or darkness. The ETA 7750 hour totalizer can accumulate up to 12 hours. It's entirely possible someone might be timing a very long event starting in daylight that continues into the night.

Overall, the Tissot T-Trend Quadrato auto chronograph is a unique one in a world of overwhelmingly round dial chronographs. It's very solid and well built with a robust feel that gives confidence in its durability. It's definitely not fragile. While maintaining a bold and edgier Tissot style, it doesn't have a tool or sports watch appearance, which allows it to wear well with semi-formal social and business attire (i.e. coat and tie).

Eat your heart out, Walter White. I don't need a Monaco.
I've got a Quadrato!

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with Tissot, its parent The Swatch Group, or any of their distributors or dealers.

Pinstripes in South Tyrol

Bulova Accutron Corvara
ETA 2824-2 28.8kbph 25j automatic

  • Reference#: 63B101
  • (automatic with black dial and uncoated stainless steel case and bracelet)
  • Manufacturing Year (this example): 2008 (Year Code A8)
  • Width and Length (W/O crown or lugs): 42mm
  • Dial Diameter: 32mm
  • Case Thickness: 12mm
  • Lug to Lug Length: 50mm
  • Lug Width: 17mm (center link width; bracelet integral to case)
  • 316L stainless steel case, fixed pinstriped bezel and pinstriped center link bracelet
  • Sapphire crystal with underside AR coating and slight 6 to 12 curvature
  • Case back attached by six screws with sapphire half window and Accutron logo
  • 3mm thick bracelet tapered from 28mm to 23mm with signed 2-button butterfly
  • Solid bracelet links with solid center end links (removable links: notched pin and center sleeve)
  • Weight (with all links): 213g
  • ETA 2824-2 25j 28.8kbph high-beat automatic
  • Incabloc shock protection
  • Push-pull crown signed with Accutron tuning fork logo
  • Water Resistance: 10 ATM/100m/330ft
  • Partially lumed skeleton broadsword hour and minute hands
  • Black pinstripe dial with narrow trapezoidal lumed hour indices
  • Chapter ring with 5-second Arabics and ¼ second tick marks

Bulova’s Swiss Made Collections, Accutron Name and Logo, and Accu-Swiss logo: 
Prior to August 2014, Bulova had used the Accutron name for its top tier Swiss Made watches. The tuning fork logo was prevalent, but it was used even more so in the Accutron line, which included the mostly mechanical and most expensive watches. There were named collections within the Swiss Made Accutron line, each with their own unique case, bracelet and dial styles. Among them were the Curacao, Gemini, and the Corvara reviewed here. In August 2014, Bulova announced it was changing the Accutron label and its tuning fork logo usage. The Accutron name would only be used on high accuracy quartz precisionist movement watches with the label “Accutron II” to distinguish between these and the Accutron labeled watches that preceded them. “Accutron” alone would no longer be used. In addition, the tuning fork logo would only be used with the “Accutron II” labeled watches, and would not be used on any others. The Swiss Made collections that had been labeled “Accutron” would now be labeled “Accu-Swiss” with “Accutron” and the tuning fork logo removed from their dials, crowns, case backs, movement rotors, bracelet, presentation boxes and all other materials associated with them. The “Swiss Made” marked Accu-Swiss are just now finding their way into retail channels. It’s apparent Bulova is attempting to emphasize its Precisionist quartz line in its marketing with the Accutron II label and tuning fork logo. Bulova’s overwhelming market demographic is North American in which quartz is the overwhelming technology and mechanical watches are a very tiny niche.
Bulova named some of its Accutron collections after geographical regions. Corvara is a very small resort town in South Tyrol, an autonomous province in northern Italy that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to the end of WWI. Corvara is known for the Alta Badia ski resort, a regular stop on the Alpine Skiing World Cup schedule, and the annual single-day Maratona dles Dolomites (Dolomites Marathon), an amateur bicycle race with 9000 cyclists that climbs seven high altitude passes in the surrounding Dolomites. It’s definitely not for the casual cyclist; the Giro d’Italia (the Italian “Tour de France”) uses much of its 86 mile route. I suspect the Accutron Corvara’s graphic design may have been inspired by ski tracks on Alta Badia’s ski runs.

Pinstripes dominate the Corvara and its unique octagonal case, from its bezel, across the dial, and through the center links around the bracelet. Prominence of the dial pinstripes depends on lighting angle. The lumed tips on the skeleton broadsword hour and minute hands prevent them from being lost visually on the dial regardless of lighting. The seconds hand has a tuning fork tail, a nice design detail. The wide integrated bracelet has equally wide 17mm center links. Under 10X magnification the fixed bezel appears to be a separate piece attached with real screws, but I have not tried to loosen any of them (doing so would risk marring their slots). The Integrated bracelet attaches between the lugs with its 17mm wide center link. The sides of the first outer links align with the lug sides. This gives a continuous, smooth visual flow, in addition to the pinstripes, from case to bracelet. Pinstripe surfaces of case and bracelet are brush finished in the direction of the pinstripes. Smooth top and side surfaces on the case and bracelet have a high polish mirror finish. Strap lovers would be frustrated with the case and lug design. A custom made strap would have to be created specifically to fit the case and lugs in much the same manner as the bracelet does. The 42mm case length, and even more important the 50mm lug-to-lug length might worry those with smaller wrists. Whether a larger watch head fits a smaller wrist depends considerably on the lug and bracelet design. The lugs curve downward with the bracelet end link between them falling away at a steep angle. The watch appears visually large, but the lug design combined with a 12mm case thickness make it wear smaller than some 40mm watches with traditional straight lugs. It fits me without any problem or appearing too large for my 7 inch (18cm) wrist.

Build quality is impeccable with great attention to precision fit and finish. Aspects of the design show attention to small practical details. The slight curvature and AR coating on the sapphire crystal greatly mitigates reflections from its surface which could be an annoyance, particularly with a black dial. It is so slight that I did not notice it until measuring the case dimensions. Case and bracelet have ample radiusing on edges and corners. This produces a smooth, softer and pleasant feel from the stainless steel on the wrist.

The butterfly deployant with twin pushbuttons works much smoother and easier than the snap type that uses an interference fit closure.

Power plant under the dial is the venerable 25j 28.8kph high-beat ETA 2824-2 workhorse. There’s nothing exotic about this ETA movement, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s a precision made, high reliability and very durable movement with a proven track record.

Lume is bright and nicely applied to all the hour markers, except at the 12, making orientation obvious. Marker at the 3 is truncated by the date window. The semi-skeleton hands have slightly brighter lume at the tips to make them stand out from the hour indices.

The standout features of the Corvara are its pinstripes, unique octagonal case shape, excellent materials and build quality with a very robust ETA movement, and attention to small details that make it comfortable to wear and practical to use. Bulova’s Swiss Made line, formerly Accutron, now called Accu-Swiss, is a sleeper among the mid-tier watch brands. They’re in a class with Longines, Rado and Union Glashuette. Rated to 100m water resistance without a screw down crown, this is a casual sports watch that could easily transition from a morning on the golf course to a 3-piece pinstripe suit for a business meeting in the afternoon without looking out of place. With some perseverance, models such as this Corvara can be found NOS (Brand New in Box, Old Stock) on the Internet for a fraction of their original “street” price.
Bracelet sizing note:
Removable links do not have the common split pin. They have a solid pin with center notch and mating sleeve with notch that fits into the center links. Drifting them out requires a drift small enough in diameter that it can fit into the center sleeve without binding. Most link pin drifts are too large; I made one of my own specifically for these. In addition, when removing the pin and pulling the links apart, take care not to lose the sleeve as it will fall out of the center link as soon as you pull the links apart. It's small and you don't want to be searching for it on your floor, especially if it's carpeted! If in doubt about dealing with this type of link fastener, take it to a reputable jeweler with its own in-house repair shop. They'll know exactly what these are as it's a standard fastener, but not nearly as common as the split pin.
I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with Bulova, its parent company Citizen, or any of their distributors or dealers.

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