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.

Ancient Greek Formal Architecture

Xezo Architect 2001
ETA 2000-1 28.8kbph 20j Automatic

  • Reference #: Architect 2001 BAS
    (BAS = all black dial with oval inner dial, stainless bracelet and leather strap)
    Also available as “BA” with leather strap only, no bracelet
  • Limited Edition: 516 (total for BA strap only and BAS bracelet plus strap variants)
  • Manufacturing Year: Circa 2004-2006
  • Case Dimensions: 35mm wide by 48mm long
  • Dial Dimensions: 21mm wide by 33mm long
  • Case Thickness: 8mm
  • Lug to Lug Length: 48mm
  • Lug Width: 20mm
  • 316L stainless steel bracelet, back and curved case
  • Double curved AR coated sapphire crystal
  • Snap down case back with sapphire display window
  • 3.5mm thick 20mm wide bracelet with 2-button butterfly clasp and 2 half-links
  • Solid bracelet links with solid end links (removable links use standard “cotter pin”)
  • BAS (bracelet) model comes with black leather strap fitted with signed deployant
  • Weight (with all links): 134g
  • ETA 2000-1 Top Grade 20j 28.8kbph high beat automatic with hand wind and hack
  • Etachron Regulator and Incabloc shock protection
  • Decoration: Perlee on plates and bridges; Cotes de Genève on signed rotor
  • Crown: Push/Pull with 3 positions for wind, date correction, and time setting
  • Water Resistance: 5 ATM/50m/165ft
  • Lumed sword hour and minute hands; lume dots on dial oval at hour markers
  • Black 2 layer dial with guilloche oval basket weave upper layer outside dial oval
  • Silver and white oval chapter ring with minute/second tick marks
  • Flat black lower layer inner oval dial with small 10 second Arabics 
About Xezo (updated in 2020):
Xezo is a small micro-brand company in Texas that makes and sells men’s accessories: pens, sunglasses and watches. Their designs are inspired primarily by architecture and history. Many watches in the past were designed by Xezo and built to specification by a private label watch company in Lengnau, Switzerland. They have the “Swiss Made” label on the dial. Currently, with Swatch Group's reduction in ETA movement sales to companies outside Swatch Group (especially non-Swiss firms), Xezo is using the Japanese Miyota 9015 high-beat movement. Their quartz offerings typically have Swiss made Ronda movements. This one has a Swiss made ETA 2001-1 and was made while Xezo could still source movements from Swatch Group (ETA). Xezo makes all its watches (and its sunglasses and pens) in limited edition production runs, typically 500. While a case design may be reused, the dial and possibly the movement and its features will be different. Not that well known in watch collector circles, Xezo sells directly online through its web site, and puts some of their products on eBay (under Xezo), Amazon (also under Xezo), and Overstock.

An architecturally inspired design, the curved case pays homage to 1930’s era Art Deco rectangular tank watches in an updated larger contemporary size. The columns on each side and the rows of small windows at the top and bottom are inspired by the columns and porch in the ancient architecture of the 405 B.C. Erechtheum Temple on the Greek Acropolis. The curved case is unique with two outrigger columns on the left and right side with the crown located in the gap on the right side, providing it with protection. See-through windows at the top and bottom represent the temple’s porch. As with the 1930’s rectangular curved cases (e.g. the Gruen Curvex), the curvature allows its 48mm length to conform to the wrist better. It easily fits my 7-inch (18 cm) wrist. Back is a rectangular snap down with sapphire display window allowing view of the entire movement. 20mm width bracelet attachment using standard spring bars is concealed just under the case ends. The crown is large enough, and the case and column thin enough, that it’s easy to operate when not wearing the watch.

Dial is a two layer, with the upper one separated from the lower by a silver oval. The oval contains minute and seconds tick marks, with 10 minute Arabics just inside the oval. Unobtrusive small lume dots for each hour are also on this ring. Outer, upper layer contains the hour indices, a combination of Romans, Arabics and narrow lines extending to the dial edges. Texture is a subtle guilloche, oval basket weave that changes appearance with lighting and light angles on the dial. Lower layer inside the oval is smooth without texture, and contains the small 10 minute Arabics, model name and framed date window. Date wheel is black with white numerals to match the dial.

Bracelet is very high polish, mirror finish slightly curved panels with twin pushbutton butterfly clasp. 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). Two half-links are provided on each side of the clasp, which helps with more precise sizing adjustments. An interesting design, the curved panels have no gap between them. Their curvature allows them to conform to the wrist without having to flex much at the joint between the links. The same leather strap mounted on the BA model (leather strap only) is included in the watch box. A signed deployant is mounted on the strap. That’s a big plus for the BAS model as buying the Xezo Architect bracelet for the BA later would cost a lot more than the price difference between the BAS and BA.

The ETA 2000-1 movement is an 8¾’’’ (19.4mm) downscaled version of the 11½‘’’ (25.6mm) ETA 2892A2. It is designed for use in smaller watches that cannot accommodate larger 11 ½’’’ movements. With the same 3.6mm thickness as the 2892A2, it also allows for thinner cases than the 4.6mm 2824-2. The 2000-1 has many of its big brother’s attributes, with the notable exception of a unidirectional auto wind that eliminates the space required for a bidirectional mechanism. Found more often in women’s watches, this movement’s smaller size allowed for an 8mm thick narrower case with two outboard columns and a dial with a date window inside its oval.

The standout features of the Architect 2001 are its unique Art Deco architectural design, unique mirror finished paneled bracelet, case and bracelet curvatures to conform to the wrist, and a movement that allows a thinner watch in keeping with its style. Dial and hand lume are camouflaged by the oval ring and hand design. Build quality is excellent with top drawer materials, and precise fit and finish work.

The Xezo Architect 2001 contemporary size and design elements combine to create a watch that can be worn with informal (business suit) to formal evening attire (white tie) with ease. It’s the watch you want when the mondo wrist wart diver, military or aviation tool watch you normally wear looks out of place when dressed up to the nines. This is my second Xezo and it’s a high quality, well-made watch.

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with Xezo, or any of their distributors or dealers.

Good Things Can Come in a Small Package

Aristo Sport Handwound 7001H8
ETA (Peseux) 7001 21.6 kbph 17j Manual (hand wind)

  • Ref# Aristo 7001H8; Bauhaus style graphic design
    Offered in several dial colors, PVD case coatings, and leather strap or Vollmer Milanese band;
    H8 has a metallic silver-gray dial and no PVD coating
  • Manufacturing year: 2003
  • Case diameter: 34mm (without crown)
  • Dial diameter: 28mm
  • Case thickness: 6mm
  • Lug-to-lug length: 40mm
  • Lug width: 18mm
  • 316L stainless steel case, crown, back and Vollmer Milanese band
  • Crystal: Flat hardened mineral glass
  • Back: Snap down and solid (no display window)
  • Band: 1.5mm thick, 18mm wide Vollmer Milanese with standard hook and flip lock closure
  • Weight: 58 grams with the Vollmer band
  • Movement: ETA (Peseux) 7001 17j 21.6kbph mid-beat manual hand wind without hack
  • Etachron regulator and Incabloc shock protection
  • Crown: Push-pull onion shape with two positions for winding and time setting
  • Water resistance: 3 ATM (30 meters; rain and splash protection only; no shower, pool, hot tub or saturation diving)
  • Hands: Lumed bayonet hour and minute hands; stick seconds hand
  • Coarse basket weave textured central dial
  • Flat outer dial ring with Arabic 12 and stick indices for remaining hours
  • Seconds sub-dial inset just above the 6 with stick indices every 5 seconds
From the manufacturing year, this is obviously not a new watch and I've owned it for several years. It was found languishing as "new old stock" in the original box with tags a few years ago in the Internet store-front of a German watch dealer. I had been very patiently searching for a good watch with an ETA 7001 inside at an attractive price for several years. What I had been finding was either decidedly not my style or was priced higher than I wanted to spend. This Bauhaus style filled the bill exactly.

About Aristo:

Aristo is a German company in Pforzheim, one of several traditional German watchmaking regions. Founded in 1907, they're joined at the hip now with Vollmer, having merged under the same ownership and management. Vollmer, founded in 1922, is a maker of upmarket metal watch bands, also located in Pforzheim. The U.S. Vollmer distributor sells watches under that branding as well (very similar to Aristo in style). Some watchmaking has remained in the region, but it's not nearly what was there prior to WWII, or after the Japanese quartz onslaught. German mechanical movement and watchmaking didn't survive nearly as well as the Swiss did. There has been some growth in recent years, but it's been very slow. Aristo's main products for some years now have been aviation and aviation related watches, with some maritime, u-boat and marine watches. In addition, they currently offer several models in the style of vintage auto gauges, and some general military field watches. They're generally the contemporary standard to larger men's sizes (standard to large for watch brands other than Android or Invicta). The company owner also has a penchant for thin dress watches, creating his 7001 models in 2003. These didn't last more than a couple years in their collection, perhaps because dress watches of their size were so different from the Aristo norm. It was followed by a similar, slightly larger line and Aristo has quietly expanded their Classic and Bauhaus offerings paying homage to their 1920's-1930's Weimar Era, and their 1950's-1960's pre-quartz past.

The ETA 7001 movement was designed by Peseux and put into production in 1971. Peseux was folded into ETA during the huge collapse and consolidation of Swiss movement and watch companies in the 1980's as the Japanese quartz Juggernaut nearly wiped them out. Their 7001 is one of the movements to survive the drastic reduction in watch movement calibers, no doubt due to its unique 2.5mm thinness in a mid-size 10.5''' (23.3mm) diameter. Compare that to the 3.6mm, 11.5''' (25.6mm) ETA 2892A2, or the even thicker 4.6mm ETA 2824-2. One can argue that at 2.5mm, it's the thinnest standard mechanical caliber in current production available to watch makers (assemblage brands buying ebauches and whole movements versus manufactures making in-house movements).

(Updated July 2020)
There are thinner mechanical watches and movements, but the movements are in-house and proprietary (i.e. not available to other watch companies). The current record holder I'm aware of (as of July 2020) is Piaget's manual wind Altiplano Ultimate Concept Watch at a mere 2mm thick. Price is only available on request by serious buyers. (Hint: If you have to ask, you can't afford it.) Their 3.65mm Altiplano Ultimate Manual Wind is $32,500. Bulgari keeps challenging them and time will tell if they can get beat Piaget's 2mm. The rest of us mortal proletarians will have to settle for 4mm thicker watches like this 6mm Aristo, which boasts a seconds hand Piaget (and others) jettison in creating their thinner movements. As thick as it is by comparison, I haven't met a shirt cuff yet this Aristo won't fit under!

The 1.5mm thick Vollmer Milanese band is a good match-up for the thin watch head. It works well aesthetically with the shorter lugs, without the unduly large and unsightly gap watch heads with longer lugs create when straight end bands are put on them. The crown is also proportional to the watch head and its onion style shape provides a good grip for winding and time setting in spite of its smaller size. The coin edge bezel matches the crown knurling and Milanese band. It's a combination of function and harmonious aesthetic that shows thoughtfulness in the complete design.

In spite of their narrow width, Aristo put some lume down the center of the bayonet hour and minute hands. It's only about 1/3rd their width, but it shows up quite brightly. It's not a Seiko Monster beacon, but it does glow sufficiently for a while in dim lighting. One might wonder why no lume around the hour indices. A lume dot large enough to make it reasonably visible would clutter the dial. I've not had a problem discerning the hour and approximate minutes without hour index lume (the time above is approximately 1:50).

Most ultra-thin watches suffer from a two dimensional appearance, as if they were printed onto a strip of plastic, mylar or paper. It starts with plain flat enamel dials with ultra-narrow flat stick hands, and continues with smooth flat bezels surrounding them. The strap is typically very thin and flat with no texture. Their stark plainness is not very interesting visually. The Aristo has a textured, coarse basket weave dial, very slightly raised hour indices, along with a raised ring around the seconds sub-dial and around the inner dial separating the basket weave from the hour indices. The combination of dial textures, coin edge bezel and onion crown with the Milanese band give it visual interest and depth, in spite of its extreme thinness, and their subtlety maintains a simplicity of style.

There are formal and semi-formal occasions when the large sports or tool watch isn't an appropriate match for the attire. A smaller, thinner and less conspicuous dress watch is called for. It's why I have a few formal watches. This Aristo is one of them.

I have no affiliation, association or financial interest with Aristo, or its sister company Vollmer, or any of their distributors or dealers.

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