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.

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