Watch Review : Bamford Mayfair or NoFair?

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on February 17, 2020.

Bamford Watch Department is one of those companies I’ve been interested in for a few years. They’re very much a chalk and cheese company that people either seem to love or hate. The murky world of watch customisation is at best controversial and at worst illegal. Rolex have been cracking down on some watch customisers. The line between customised, franken-watch and counterfeit can get a bit blurry if brands are not careful. The ongoing LaCaliforniene saga is a prime example.

For quite some time Bamford have been one of the biggest players in the customisation game. If you wanted your Milgauss coated black and to have a purple lightning bolt hand, they were the guys to send it to. Sure, it would invalidate your warranty, but you could have something totally unique, modified to your requirements, with a distinctive Bamford look. Predominantly dealing with high end watches Bamford have had to ensure that their modifications are high quality, using the best materials, tools and techniques. I’m an electrical engineer, not a metallurgist, so I’m not an expert on the materials and techniques but I do have a friend, Dennis, @rpm_london on Instagram, that used to own a Bamford modified GMT master and he said- “I had a Bamford GMT master and wore (it) constantly as my only watch for about 5 or 6 years I traveled a lot then with it also was never overly precious with it. One of the very early ones they did (they did some GMTs and some Subs, all on black Nato straps). The finish was just incredible! A beautiful satin very dark grey and felt like the watch was made of it rather than coated. I knocked it and made a big ding in a lug (from a GT3 roll cage) scratched it and it gained a lovely patina but never did the coating rub off and you could never see any shiny steel through a scratch or even the big ding. Lovely watch, great finish and miss it!”

In more recent years Bamford have moved away from Rolex and they have partnered with the LVMH group, so they now have a range of Bamford TAGs, Zeniths and Bvlgaris on offer. Much like the relationship between AMG and Mercedes, they have gone from totally independent modifier/customiser to approved partner.

You have the option to “build your own” on their website. At the time of writing, there are about 30 models from across the LVMH group that you can choose to modify. The options are all the things you would expect when customising a watch – special coloured coatings, dial colours, logo colours, minute markers, adding your initials etc. There are also a number of fixed design limited editions, again featuring LVMH watches.

So what about the Mayfair? Where does this fit in, in the world of Bamford Customisation? The story goes that when a customer left their watch with Bamford Watch Department, for customisation, they would be loaned a service watch to wear. In much the same way that you might be given a courtesy car to use when your car is in the garage for repair or customisation. Customers liked the service watch and they kept asking if they could buy one. So eventually George Bamford and the team decided to develop and sell their own watch based on the service watches. This resulted in the launch of the Bamford Mayfair in November 2017. The Bamford Mayfair is sold by Bamford London, I think the Bamford brand has tried to separate out their high-end customisation from their own line of watches by using two separate companies, although there seems to be a considerable amount of overlap between the two.

The Bamford Mayfair is a 40mm tool watch with a Benrus style asymmetrical case, rotating ceramic bezel, and a Miyota Quartz Calibre 2035. If you want to find out more about the Benrus Type I and Type II there is an interesting article on Worn and Wound

As you would expect there are a number of different case finishes, colour combinations and customisation options, such as engraving. The stainless steel case is finished with a military grade titanium coating, and in addition to the ceramic bezel the watch features sapphire crystal. So in theory it is a very tough and hard-wearing package. The watch is water-resistant to 100m (10ATM) which is more than adequate for any weather or a dip in the pool. The combination of no-date and quartz would make this watch a good grab and go option.

I have been interested in the watches since the launch. The specification combined with the distinctive Bamford look has a certain appeal for me. I had been thinking of reaching out to Bamford to see if they would lend me a watch or two to check out and review. Whilst I was contemplating this a couple of the Bamford watches appeared in a Mr. Porter sale. So I made a spur of the moment decision and I ordered one. Based on the options on the Bamford London website I think my first choice would have been the matte black predator black dial with solid black accents and black rubber strap. Essentially the black on black on black look. I think that it is stylistically bold and distinctly “Bamford” being all black, my only concern would be legibility, so it would definitely be a watch that I would like to see in the metal before purchasing. My second choice would be the all black option with the blue hands and indices. This would be a safer choice in terms of legibility and I like the distinctive neon blue. Unfortunately neither of these options were in the sale so I opted for the matte grey with white and BWD (Bamford Watch Department) aqua blue accents on a black leather strap. This would have been my third choice on the website. I think it is a safer choice overall but it still has the distinctive Bamford look.

Bamford have chosen to use a 12 hour bezel on this watch which to my mind makes perfect sense. Like many people, I like the look of a dive watch and the robust build, but I have never been diving. The closest I have got to diving is snorkeling. Learning to dive is something that I would like to do someday. A 12-hour bezel is a great feature because it allows the wearer to tell a second-time zone. It might not have the same functionality as a true GMT complication in terms of showing whether it is AM or PM but it is still a useful feature if you are traveling, or have family abroad, or are arranging conference calls with colleagues overseas. The bezel on the Bamford Mayfair is unidirectional which, for a 12 hour bezel, is unnecessarily restrictive. Depending on where you are travelling or what you are doing it would be advantageous to be able to move the bezel in either direction. I also found the bezel action to be a little loose compared with many of my other dive watches. It is hard to describe, but the click as you rotate the bezel just doesn’t feel as sure as most of the other dive watches I have handled. The bezel also has almost a minute’s movement when it is in a position. This isn’t the end of the world with a 12 hour bezel but would be concerning if it was a 60min dive bezel.

The matte grey military-grade titanium coating on the watch looks darker in the metal than it did on the website. Personally, I think this is a good thing. Part of the appeal of the Mayfair for me is that it is a stealthy, under the radar, tool watch that you can wear anywhere without drawing attention to yourself.

The caseback of the watch is stainless steel and the contrast with the colour of the case is striking. Yes, I would still love to check out the all black version but the matte grey is still wonderfully subdued.

The watch features luminova on the indices and hands. The lume plots are black, so I wasn’t expecting much from the lume, but actually, it is okay. It is not in the same league as my dive watches with their large white or off-white lume plots, but it is okay. I think the aqua blue hands stand out well against the black dial and legibility is generally good. The sapphire crystal doesn’t appear to have an anti-reflective coating, which results in lots of reflections when trying to take photos and can also have an impact on legibility in certain light and at certain angles.

The 20mm handmade leather strap seems to be reasonably good quality. The aqua blue stitches match the hands and Bamford logo on the watch and the buckle has the same coating as the case. All in all, it makes for a coherent package. I am slightly surprised that Bamford have not chosen to use quick release spring bars. I would have thought that a company that is known for its customisation would be keen to sell extra straps and give customers the option of further customising their watches. It could be because they are very confident in their overall designs and that they do not think people are likely to want to change the straps or maybe it is because their target market is not the watch geeks that like to change straps on an almost daily basis. It would be interesting to know if this was a conscious design decision or if it something that they are likely to change in the future.

So, where and when would I wear this watch? I think this would make a good everyday watch, especially if you travel or have family or colleagues abroad. Personally I would use it as more of a weekend or holiday watch because I prefer to wear a watch on a bracelet during the week for work. I would probably take it on holiday as a second watch. If my main mechanical GMT happened to stop working it would make a good backup or if I was going somewhere where I was more concerned about damage or theft, then I would go with this option. It is tough, understated and will work with most outfits.

In terms of price I think that £425 is at the higher end of the spectrum for this specification of watch. Especially considering the choice to use quartz rather than a mechanical movement. I do not know how much of the cost goes into the specialist coating. Based on the specification alone there are a lot of other good options at this price point or lower. Take the new Seiko 5 range for example, it has a lot of interesting colours, at a lower price point. But I think this misses the point of the Bamford Mayfair, it is a distinctive design from a company best known for its high-end customisation. It is Bamford on a budget, but in a good way.

Now for a little rant. The watch I bought was on sale on Mr. Porter. It was 40% off which obviously makes the watch considerably more affordable and quite a good value proposition. When I first received the watch I made an unboxing video, which I uploaded to Instagram.

then started to take some photos with my macro lens and I noticed a couple of flaws on the ceramic bezel. Both Bamford Watch Department and Bamford London had reposted a couple of my photos on their Instagram stories so I messaged Bamford Watch Department to say that I had noticed a couple of flaws on the bezel.

Their initial reaction was to suggest that it was a trick of the light. I pointed out that you could see one of the marks in the photo that they had reposted and the unboxing video. They said that I would have to contact Mr. Porter because the watch was purchased through Mr. Porter and they gave me contact details for one of the BWD members of staff in case I had any problems. The next day Bamford London asked if I would send them copies of my photos to use, I said yes and I also made them aware of my conversation with the main Bamford Watch Department account. I think that either account could have been a bit more on the ball with their customer service but I do understand that the watch was purchased through a third party and that in the first instance I need to go back to the third party.

And this is where things started to unravel. I emailed Mr. Porter customer services with photos of the bezel and over 24 hours later I had not heard anything from them. So I phoned them and I spoke with a very helpful member of staff who explained that because the item contained a battery a special department would have to arrange a return. She advised that I would receive an email with instructions. Three days later I had not received any instructions so I phoned them again. I spoke to a second assistant who was also very friendly, she advised that the watch would need to be returned to Mr. Porter, they would assess it and then get in contact with the manufacturer. Because it was a sale item I did not have a return slip but because it was a fault they would accept a return for exchange. I was told to write a note and put it in the box and that I would be sent a link with courier collection details. I was sent a link but when I clicked on the link it referred to a parcel that had already been collected in Germany and that was being delivered to Italy! I responded to the email stating that I could not use the link and again I heard nothing from them. A day later I phoned Mr. Porter again and I spoke to a third assistant, who again was very friendly and understanding. She arranged a courier collection for me and provided me with details for the collection via email.

I appreciate that this is a bit of a rant, but considering that I was dealing with two “luxury” brands it is incredibly frustrating that it has taken over a week, a number of messages, three emails and three phone calls to arrange for the watch to be returned so that it can be assessed and a replacement arranged. It is fair to say that I have had far better customer service at my local Goldsmiths, they are considerably more proactive in dealing with watch purchase and warranty issues (a TAG that kept stopping and the dreaded Black Bay GMT date issue). I currently have no idea how long the issue will take to resolve and when I will receive either a replacement bezel or a replacement watch.

With hindsight I should have probably have tried to arrange to take the watch to the Bamford Watch Department store in Mayfair next time I am in London so that I could get it sorted out quickly face to face.

So, what are my closing thoughts? I like the look of the watch, it is distinctive and bold. I can imagine wearing and using the watch. I think the price point is a little high and, based on the model I received, there appear to be some quality control issues somewhere in the supply chain. Do I like the brand? Yes. Do I like the watch? Yes. Would I recommend them to someone? Based on my experience to date I would be hesitant. It is possible that I have been incredibly unfortunate and that my experience is unique, but based on it I would advise people to check their purchases from Bamford carefully and to seriously consider if Mr. Porter is the best place to buy watches when there are more specialist retailers available.

Watch Review : 007 v No5 – Spys v Robots (Ok So It Is A Seiko Review)

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on February 26, 2020

My grandad led an interesting life. He worked for Shell and did a couple of long stints working overseas. In the early 80s he lived in Japan with my grandma and uncle. My grandparents really enjoyed their time in Japan, the culture, the art, the food, riding around Tokyo on their mopeds. They brought their love of Japan back to the U.K. Visiting their house as a child it was always fascinating, it was filled with paintings, lamps, delicate paper ornaments, hand painted dishes and cups. I can remember looking through books about sumo wrestling and origami, having Japanese meals with sticky rice and learning to use chopsticks. It was like a little glimpse of Japan. My grandad was also an accomplished recreational diver and a lover of gadgets and technology. Every Christmas he would give me little electronics kits or tools. Thinking about it now his influence and encouragement has ultimately contributed to me pursuing a career in engineering. He also appreciated quality and value. Whether it was cars, TVs or holidays he would do his research, read extensively and make an informed decision. In recent years his daily watch was a steel, blue dialed, quartz Seiko on a bracelet. I don’t know the size or the model number, but I think it was the perfect watch for him. It was smart, robust, reliable, and functional. A watch that he could wear with anything, anywhere, any day without thinking about it, but at the same time it hinted at his love of Japan, his love of technology, his personality. I know that watches are antiquated in this digital age but they can still tell a story.

In early 2019 my grandad was diagnosed with cancer and sadly he passed away. He led a life that I think most people aspire to, filled with family, friends, travel and adventure. When I think about him there’s a strange mix of happy memories and grief. It was while he was ill that I decided to buy my first Seiko, the SKX007. The fact that it was the same brand that he wore, a Japanese brand, a dive watch, a sensible choice and according to Jack Forster “probably the single best value at any price point”, made it the right watch for me. I appreciate that it is only a watch and that it isn’t his watch, or even the same model that he wore, but every time I look at it or wear it, it reminds me of him.

The SKX007 is a modern classic with a big fan following in the watch community. Jack Forster’s article “The Value Proposition The Seiko SKX007 Diver’s Watch” gives a better summary of the watch and its appeal than I ever will.

I like the jingle jangle bracelet, it is embarrassingly comfortable when compared with the bracelets on much more expensive watches. I also like the fact that the dial, chapter ring and bezel don’t quite line up perfectly, it’s a known quirk of the SKX007 and, if I’m honest, I would have been disappointed if they lined up perfectly on mine. The watch meets the ISO 6425 criteria for a dive watch so you know it is going to be robust, hard wearing and more water-resistant than most people will ever need. It is also watch that has been very popular with moders over the years. People have done everything from changing the bezel and hands to forcing patina or PVD coating them. There’s a remarkable variety of modification out there.

As an engineer I work with a lot of people that are into tools and toys. I would say that in my office there’s a wide range of watch ownership groups represented. There are a lot of people with Apple watches, smart watches or fitness trackers. Probably an equal number of people with their one good watch, mostly TAG or Omega with the odd Breitling or Rolex thrown in. One guy that double wrists a Datejust and a Fitbit every day. And there are a handful of collectors. Some of them are at the more fashion watch end of the spectrum, which I totally understand and respect, matching your watch to your outfit and having a selection of pieces to choose from is fun regardless of the cost. Then there are the guys that are into mechanical watches and micro brands, the people whose watch fascination is closer to my own. I have probably over simplified things while trying to categorise the kinds of watch wearers in my office, but it is fair to say there is a sliding scale and a wide range of appreciation. I guess the same is true of every hobby.

A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my colleagues, who’s at the mechanical watches and micro brands end of the spectrum, was wearing a new Seiko 5 and that he very quickly put it on a bond NATO. When an appropriate moment arose I asked him about his new watch, when he got it and what he thought about it. I then offered to bring in my SKX007, currently on a Barton BandsFlatwater silicone strap, so that we could do a comparison.

I think that it’s interesting that despite the fact that both our watches are unmodified we have both currently chosen to put them on third party straps. I guess changing straps is all part of the watch geek fun.

So how do the watches compare? I posted a couple of photos on my Instagram and it is like a game of spot the difference. Beyond the case shape, almost every feature is different yet at a glance they look virtually the same. The Seiko 5 has a push-in crown and 100m water resistance whereas the SKX007 has a screw down crown and 200m water resistance, both of which are more than adequate for what daily life throws at them.

The Seiko 5 has applied indices, an exhibition case back, fewer bezel markings, a much smoother bezel action, a different font size, other than the shape everything is subtly different. You could easily justify both watches in your collection, although if you’ve read this far you probably don’t need any further encouragement!

A big part of the appeal of the new Seiko 5 is the broad range of standard colours and styles that are available. It is almost like Seiko have seen how people like to modify the SKX007 and they have created a pre-modified range. If you want a dark coated case, as per my colleagues watch, or a green dial or a Milanese style bracelet then they have an off the shelf option for you. For the moders, this might be less appealing but for the watch fans looking for something with a little more personality, beyond a stainless steel dive watch with a black dial, there are some great options. My colleague has actually said that he’s considering getting another Seiko 5, which I can understand, there’s a lot of variety within the range. I think the range is an interesting move when you think about the variety of micro (and not so micro) brand options available at a similar price point. Brands like Spinnaker appear to have a constantly expanding range of colour and finish options, in some ways the Seiko 5 range seems to be like one of the big players trying to keep up.

So would I wear a Seiko 5? Absolutely, Seiko has a special appeal for me, but beyond that, I think they have created a good value watch with lots of appealing elements. In fact I would go as far as saying that the applied indices, the bezel and the exhibition case back are all better features than those on the SKX007. I could definitely imagine wearing one on a bracelet as my daily watch. A good dive watch can easily be worn with a suit or shorts and works seamlessly in most scenarios. This watch definitely fits the bill.

New Watch : Teddy B And The Omega Daytona (Sorry 321 Moonwatch)

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on January 7, 2020

I have always had a soft spot for Omega. I was in my early teens when Goldeneye was released. I can remember watching the video of the film over and over again and playing the game on the N64 for hours on end. It is fair to say that I was a big fan of James Bond with all of the action, adventure and gadgets. That interest extended to the watch he was wearing. For years the Omega Seamaster was my dream watch, but over time tastes change and it has fallen down my wish list. Don’t get me wrong I would still love to own one, and probably one day will, but it isn’t my top priority right now.

Scottish Watches Omega Seamaster Professional Video

I am an Engineer so the history of the Railmaster interests me and I am a little obsessed with space, I have done some MOOCs on stargazing and moons. So it is fair to say that I am a fan of the Omega tool watches. Do I get a little frustrated by the unlimited limited editions and a bit confused by the pricing? Yes, but that doesn’t stop me from having a great respect for the brand and what they do.

Teddy Baldassarre Interview with Omega CEO – Raynald Aeschlimann

The evolution of the Bond watch over the last 25 years has been interesting. The watches have become more distinctive and more expensive with every iteration. I think the collaboration between the Bond franchise and Omega has strengthened over time. In Teddy Baldassarre’s interview with Raynald Aeschlimann it was interesting hearing about how involved the Bond franchise and Daniel Craig have been in the development of the latest bond watch. Daniel Craig always comes across as a serious and pragmatic chap, it is not surprising that he has an interest in Omega and also in military watches. Omega were part of the “dirty dozen”, supplying watches to the British Ministry of Defence during the Second World War. So the decision to draw on these elements and encompass them in a watch designed for a fictional military man, in a way that doesn’t make it a cartoony pastiche, is impressive.

When asked what types of customers Omega were targeting Raynald gave a very political answer choosing instead to focus on the ranges of watches that Omega produce. Omega is clearly aiming to be a universal brand with something for everyone while at the same time wanting to maintain an air of exclusivity. A number of times Raynald referred to achievers, people who are informed, they want a watch, they know about the watches, they are in a position to buy one and they will be proud to wear it. Certainly covering all bases. He referred to the Bond watch but also the moon watch and Olympics pieces, clearly wanting to demonstrate the range of offerings and not pigeon hole the brand. Even when the interview was in theory about the launch of the new Bond watch he managed to make his answer more broad and encompassing.

Teddy then asked Raynald about how they were planning to sell to younger consumers that do more of their purchasing online. Raynald reference the e-commerce that Omega now have available in many countries and the success of some of their online releases such as the Speedy Tuesday limited edition Speedmaster. I think it is fair to say that Omega are further ahead than many of their competitors in the conservative Swiss watch industry. It will be interesting to see how much more they make of their online presence in 2020 and how many online only limited editions they release.

Their conversation then moved on to ambassadors. If I’m honest I sometimes struggle with Omega’s approach to ambassadors. I understand that they want to build long term relationships with recognisable people that share their values, it certainly sounds like a reasonable approach, but I think they sometimes miss the mark. Take the Railmaster for example, I am an Engineer, I think it would be entirely appropriate to use a Scientist or Engineer to promote this watch given the history of the model, but instead they have chosen to use a male model. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Next, there were some questions from Teddy’s followers. Raynald strongly hinted at a non limited steel Speedmaster with the 321 movement in the coming year. I know that this will make a lot of enthusiasts and space geeks happy. If it’s priced right it’s hard not to see how this could be a runaway success for Omega. There was also a discussion around the trend for smaller sizes, Raynald essentially said that Omega is a universal brand, they aim for 50% sales for women and 50% for men. There should be something for everyone across their four lines already (Constellation, Seamaster, Speedmaster and De Ville), they are not opportunistic about evolving lines but they will be introducing more sizes.

Then Teddy asked Raynald which watch he would wear in 2020 if he could only wear one. His first answer was the new Bond watch, the obvious choice given the subject for the interview, and a perfectly fine choice. He very quickly moved on to the one watch he has always loved, the Speedmaster moon watch. The 1861 was the first Omega he bought when he joined the company. A Speedmaster with with the 321 movement or the 3861 master chronometer movement, would be a watch he would love. Clearly he is a big speedy fan and understands the fanatical obsession members of the watch community have with the speedy.

All things considered, I thought it was a good interview. Raynald Aeschlimann, the CEO of Omega, is obviously a polished, corporate, political guy, but at the same time he came across as a true watch fan and he hinted at some future releases that I am sure will make a lot of people very happy. It will be interesting to see what Omega releases in 2020, both the watches that they’ve hinted at and the ones that we know nothing about. They may be a big corporate machine but I think they are genuinely trying to find a balance between producing watches for the fans, the collectors and the general public, and in that regard they do a good job.

UPDATE: Two days after I finished writing this article Omega announced the launch of the steel Speedmaster with the 18k SednaTM gold PVD coated 321 movement. This progressed very quickly from a strong suggestion to reality, and I am certain it will make a lot of people very happy. I think it is a good demonstration of some of the points that were made in the interview. Beyond the obvious, the watch itself, it is interesting that the release was announced via their website, emails and Instagram. Once again demonstrating how progressive Omega are in terms of their use of e-commerce and digital marketing when compared with many of their contemporaries. They have not waited until a stuffy old fashioned watch show to release a new piece, they have set the internet alight on the first #speedytuesday of 2020! This also demonstrates how in tune they are with their fans and collectors, it is a prime example of giving the people what they want, in a way that they want it. I suspect that this watch will be available in weeks rather than months. Consumers nowadays are used to seeing something, liking it and being able to get it within days or even hours, the prospect of having to wait months between something being unveiled and it being available is outdated.

So what about the watch itself? Historically the 321 movement is highly coveted among collectors, it is an important part of the history of the watch and there have been essays written about it. It was the first movement to be used in the Omega Speedmaster and was used in the models that were worn on the moon. Omega reintroduced the movement in 2019 in their platinum Speedmaster, but disappointingly not in their limited edition Apollo 11 50th anniversary watches, after digitally scanning original movements. It was a step in the right direction but what a lot of collectors and fans were really after was a more traditional, affordable and unlimited version of the Speedmaster with the 321 movement. Omega have delivered just that a steel Speedmaster based on the 3rd generation Speedmaster with the 321 movement and some notable updates. The watch now features a black ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale in white enamel and sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. It also features a sapphire crystal case back so you can admire the movement. A thoroughly modern update to a classic watch.

All of this comes with a significant bump in price through, according to Fratello Watches it will be CHF13000. Now this is prime Rolex Daytona territory price wise. The two aren’t directly comparable, the Daytona has an automatic movement and 100m water resistance (vs 50m for the Speedmaster) but the Speedmaster has a more traditional look and movement. The two watches have often been compared in terms of history, technology and appeal. In recent years it could definitely be argued that that the Daytona is the more advanced of the two watches, but with the updates to the latest Speedmaster the gap has closed. In terms of a robust, scratch resistant face to the watch, the two are now quite comparable. Many of the other features are very much a personal preference, it will depend to a great extent on which story you prefer and how you intend to use the watch as to which you will want to own. Yes, the Rolex will still be viewed by many as the luxury option, but if the Omega is readily available and can be ordered directly from the website then it will certainly add to its allure. I suspect it could become an even more appealing proposition for people looking to buy their first luxury watch or mark a special occasion.

This brings me almost full circle back to the interview. Omega strive to know their market and know their consumers. The seek to produce watches that are both luxury items for achievers while at the same time having something for everyone. They are a brand steeped in tradition but at the same time unafraid to embrace e-commerce and social media. They clearly have an enthusiast at the helm and I for one cannot wait to see what they do next.

2019 Watch Trends

This article was first published on Fifthwrist in January 2020.

So here are the watch trends of 2019. Well, my take on some of the watch trends. I should start this article with a caveat, I haven’t done any kind of statistical analysis in terms of the number of releases or sales, this article is purely based on my observations from the the articles I’ve read, the blogs I’ve seen, the podcasts I’ve listened to and the social media I’ve been bombarded with. There is probably a much more scientific way of assessing the trends, but where would be the fun in that.

One of the biggest trends of the year has been steel sports watches. So what do I mean by a sports watch? I tend to think of a tool watch as being a watch with an extra function or complication that allows it to serve a particular function such as a dive bezel, a chronograph or the ability to tell a second (and third) time zone. A sports watch is a go anywhere, do anything kind of watch which is more robust than a dress watch but in its most basic form doesn’t have the additional functionality of a tool watch. Generally a sports watch will be a three handed watch, with a reasonable level of water resistance and a date. Often it will come with an integrated bracelet. It is the kind of watch you can wear in the office or the bar or at a pool party without worrying about it. It is a watch that bridges the gap between dress and tool, and that can work in any situation. Now, on paper that could seem like a compromise but to my mind it is the ideal one watch collection. The relative simplicity of the formula also encourages creative design. The watch needs to be interesting enough that it is desirable but it shouldn’t stand out too much. There are a couple of classic examples of sports watches, the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. To my mind, these really set the benchmark when it comes to sports watches. I know what you’re thinking, these watches also come in precious metals and with complications, would that make them dress watches or tool watches? I don’t think so, I think a family of watches needs to be judged by its most basic model, that is the baseline and it helps to define the category that the watch lives in. Saying that, there aren’t any hard and fast rules, this is just the approach that I adopt, hopefully it is helpful in terms of setting some context for this article.

The Nautilus and Royal Oak are popular models, they are expensive (in the grand scheme of watches) but they are also desirable. The basic steel versions often have waiting lists and nearly new second hand models can go for considerably more than the RRP of new models. If you were a watch company looking at the market and thinking about what might sell well then the steel sports watch sector would certainly look appealing. Having listened to a number of interviews with watch executives it seems to take in the region of 1-5 years to develop a watch from a basic concept to a product that can be taken to market. So in some ways there is an element of a coincidence that so many steel sports watches came to the market this year. The pieces that stood out for me were the Bell and Ross BR05, the Chopard Alpine Eagle and the A Lange and Sohne Odysseus all for slightly different reasons. On the one hand they are all similar in that they are steel sports watches on integrated steel bracelets with a mixture of polished and brushed finishes, blue dial options and date complications. On the other hand they are all very distinctive and different. The BR05 with its almost square case and round dial is very clearly a Bell and Ross. I tend to think of Bell and Ross watches as being more fun, playful weekend watches. The BR05 feels like a more grown up piece, it is certainly a healthy chunk of steel with a nice mix of brushed and polished surfaces. It has all the hallmarks of a sports watch but with an injection of Bell and Ross DNA.

The Chopard Alpine Eagle is a slightly different prospect but it is still firmly rooted in the sports watch camp. It is also not Chopard’s first venture into this arena, in the 1980s they released the St Moritz which was designed to be a modern watch for active sporty people of St Moritz. The Alpine Eagle is very much a reimagining of this earlier watch, it draws on a number of the design elements, in fact the lineage is quite apparent but the modern Alpine Eagle feels a lot more refined and together. I guess the advances in design, technology and machining over the last 40 years are apparent. The thing that really stands out for me is the textured dial, which is designed to look like the iris of an eagle. It is one of those subtle elements that add to the appeal of a sports watch.

Then there’s the A Lange and Sohne Odysseus, their first foray into sports watches. They have taken a typically A Lange and Sohne approach to creating their sports watch, it is certainly at the more elegant end of the sports watch scale with its beautifully symmetrical day date dial but it still has a lot of the sports watch traits; stainless steel case, integrated bracelet, 120m water resistance. It also has some desirable features such as the buckle that allows the bracelet to be adjusted up to 7mm without opening the buckle, I think it would be great if all bracelets had this kind of feature. It makes wearing one watch so much easier. The exhibition case back will allow you to view movement, I am not a movement expert but I think it looks fantastic. There’s no denying this is an expensive steel watch, yet it is also something very special.

Another big trend of the year has been two-tone. I don’t know if it’s been driven by the lack of availability of popular steel models or not, but two-tone has definitely been more prominent this year. I think two-tone watches can look great although I’m not sure when and where I’d wear them. There is a slight oddity as well when a tool watch adds some gold details, in my view it moves it away from its tool watch roots and into more of a luxury accessory arena. Would you really dive with a two-tone watch, that’s the question. The watches that stood out for me for various reasons were the Oris Divers Sixty-Five in bronze and steel, the Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G, and the Rolex Sea-Dweller in Oystersteel and yellow gold.

The Oris Divers Sixty-Five is the most affordable off the two-tone watches I’ve listed and in many ways one of the most interesting. I like bronze watches, I own a Tudor Black Bay Bronze, the way they develop a patina and tell a story is great. They are not necessarily the most practical options day to day though, they often look more casual and the muted tones can be more difficult to pair with some outfits. I think combining bronze with steel is a best of both worlds approach. When the watch is new and the bronze still has its shine, it will look similar to a steel and gold watch. As the bronze ages and darkens in hue the watch will become more understated. The combination with the steel helps the watch to retain a smarter look while also showing off the character that has been developed depending on when and where the watch has been worn. I think the choice of the blue dial helps to keep the watch consistent and it ties together the bronze and steel. I don’t think a black dial would work as well, there would be the potential for it to clash with the bronze as the tone changes.

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G (steel and gold) is quite a different prospect with some interesting features. The all steel chronograph was released at Baselworld in 2017. The movement was developed in collaboration with Breitling. It was an interesting addition to the Black Bay range, being a chronograph. Tudor has produced some chronographs in the past so it says something about the popularity and marketing power of the Black Bay range that they chose to release this chronograph under the Black Bay banner. The all steel Rolex Daytona has been a very popular and exclusive watch in recent years, many people prefer the steel bezel version to the more modern ceramic bezel versions. The all steel Tudor Chrono made absolute sense for the first Black Bay Chronograph as it is a more affordable and available chronograph. Like the Daytona there’s a lot of scope to play with the finishes and colours of the Tudor Black Bay Chrono. A classic example of a Daytona is the “John Player Special” colour way, the Black Bay Chrono S&G captures this classic vintage look at a fraction of the cost. Okay, it’s gold capped steel not solid gold, but that’s okay at this price point. It’s a good looking watch and as it’s a chronograph the two-tone feels more appropriate than with other tool watches.

The third two-tone watch that stood out to me this year was the Rolex Sea-Dweller in Oystersteel and yellow gold, and not in a good way. The Sea-Dweller has always been Rolex’s more robust tool watch with an enhanced water resistance compared to its sibling the Submariner and, more latterly, a larger case. The lack of cyclops has also made it distinctly different from its stable mate. For years the Sea-Dweller has been the choice of professionals while the Submariner has been the everyman fashion tool watch, available in two-tone or solid gold. Releasing the Sea-Dweller in two-tone feels unnecessary and it blurs the line between the two dive watch offerings. If it was a special release or a limited edition celebrating an anniversary then maybe there would be a case for it but in my opinion it does not make sense. I am a Rolex fan and a dive watch fan but this one is not for me.

Another trend of 2019 has been green dialled watches. I’ll be honest, I was initially on the fence about green dialled watches but UNDONE watches sent me their green dialled Basecamp Cali and I have really come to appreciate green dialled watches. In a sea of black and blue dialled watches green stands out but not too much. It can be very understated and it is a colour that goes well with silver or gold tones.

The three watches that stand out for me are the Seiko 5, the Glashütte Original Seventies Panorama Date and the Patek Philippe Jumbo Aquanaut. I briefly considered including the Breitling Superocean Automatic 44 Outerknown in my list of green watches, it is certainly a handsome looking dive, but I think the variety of options in the new Seiko 5 range make it my first pick of the green watches. I’m sure someone will call me out for picking a range rather than an individual watch but I think it’s appropriate because the watches are essentially variations on a theme. There’s a very dedicated watch subculture that has built up around modding Seiko watches, especially the SKX007. There are some fantastic mods out there, such as steel twelve hour bezels and PVD coatings, and there are some pretty awful mods too. I think Seiko have seen how people like to play with their watches, own multiple watches, match their watches to their outfits and the trends for different coloured watches. They have observed all of this and have purposely created a range of watches which will appeal to a variety of people and that work in a number of scenarios. The SRPD61K1 and SRPD63K1 are at the more classic dive watch end of the spectrum with their three link bracelets. The 61 is more of a turquoise green whereas the 63 is more of a dark holly green. The SRPD75K1 in the suits range is a much more muted khaki green and the SRPD77K1 in the sense range is dark teal with a textured dial. They are all the same and yet all quite different. I think it is quite telling that four of the twenty seven watches in the range are green.

Next up we have the Glashütte Original Seventies Panorama Date. This is the most complicated of the watches I’ve picked for this article and it would be easy to venture down a rabbit hole of flyback chronographs with power reserves and 100m water resistance, I’ll save that for another article. The thing that really stands out is the varnished green and black dial with dégrandé effect, sunray decoration. It is a shimmering vibrant emerald green dial that, based on the photos I’ve seen online, can look almost entirely black or brilliantly green depending on the lighting. A perfect fumé style dial. Combined with the complications, the symmetry of the dial and the fact that this is a limited edition of 100 pieces, there is a lot to like about this watch.

Finally in the green dialled watches category we have one of my favourite releases of the year, the Patek Philippe Jumbo Aquanaut reference 5168G-010. This “Jumbo” Aquanaut in white gold is a watch that absolutely makes sense to me. The Aquanaut is often considered to be Patek Philippe’s other sports watch, personally I prefer the look of it to the Nautilus, the less bulbous case is more understated and I like the mixture of brushes and polished finishes. This isn’t the first jumbo Aquanaut (jumbo being 42.2 vs a standard 40mm), but it is the first model in khaki green. For me, the green is perfectly understated yet still interesting when compared with the blue, black and brown offerings. The embossed pattern on the green dial ties in perfectly with the green composite strap. It is such a coherent look and a perfect example of when the green
watch trend works. The white gold case adds to the stealth wealth, understated look. I think this is the kind of watch that has a lot of interesting features and details but it doesn’t stand out too much. It doesn’t scream rob me like a yellow gold watch with multiple complications might, it is something that the owner could wear and enjoy every day. I think that it is largely thanks to the khaki green dial and strap.

So there you have it, my take on the trends of 2019. It will be interesting to see what trends continue in 2020 and what new trends emerge. Will we see an explosion of green dials and sports watches? Will salmon dials become mainstream or will there be a new colour trend? Will watches continue to get smaller? Will there be an abundance of reissues and faux patina? I guess only time will tell. Let me know what your favourite trends of 2019 were and your predictions for 2020 in the comments.

What’s left to say about the Seiko SKX007?

This article was first published on Fifthwrist on March 11, 2020.

What can you say about a watch that has had so much written about it before? According to Jack Forster’s Value Proposition article for Hodinkee “It’s probably the single best value at any price point”. I don’t think you would find many people who would disagree with Jack’s view. It has also been a popular choice of watch among the modifying and customising community. Neither of those factors were my primary motivation for buying the watch however.

Last year my Grandad was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately he passed away. It is sad, but he did live an amazing life. He retired early, traveled extensively and was an accomplished recreational diver. Most of his working life was spent with Shell, developing and testing new products. During his time with them he did a couple of long stints overseas. He thoroughly enjoyed the expat lifestyle and made lots of lifelong friends. During the early 80s he lived in Japan with my Nanna and Uncle. My grandparents loved their time in Japan – the culture, the food, the artwork. They brought a lot of Japanese artwork and ornaments back to the U.K. As a child it was fascinating exploring their house, it was like a glimpse of Japan.

My Grandad was also a very practical man, who loved his tools and gadgets. His watch of choice in recent years was a blue dialed, quartz Seiko on a stainless steel bracelet. I think it was the perfect watch for him, a watch that he could wear anywhere, with any outfit, on any occasion. It was smart, functional, reliable and a little piece of Japan on his wrist.

I know my SKX007 wasn’t his watch or even the same model that he wore but every time I look at it, it reminds me of my pragmatic, Japan loving, scuba diving Grandad.

Watch Review: Tudor Black Bay GMT a modern interpretation of a classic GMT

This article was first published on Fifth Wrist on December 16, 2019

In 1954 Rolex launched the GMT-Master ref. 6542. It featured a 38mm steel case with a 6mm screw down crown, slim lugs, no crown guards and a red and blue bezel. The 24hr hand and two tone bezel was developed in partnership with Pan Am for their pilots. The red half of the bezel representing day and the blue half night. This was the birth of an iconic design – the classic Pepsi GMT.

Tudor was trademarked in 1926 on behalf of Hans Wilsdorf the founder of Rolex. Wilsdorf took it over in 1936 and founded Montres Tudor SA in 1946. The aim of Tudor has always been to provide Rolex quality at a more affordable price point. The majority of early Tudor watches feature Rolex waterproof oyster cases but with off-the-shelf watch movements. Tudor’s foray into in-house movements is a relatively modern development.

At Basel 2018 Rolex released the GMT-Master II in steel with a ceramic Pepsi bezel (it was previously only available with the ceramic Pepsi bezel in white gold) and Tudor released the Black Bay GMT. The Black Bay range by Tudor has been incredibly popular since its launch in 2012, combining vintage inspired looks, modern practicality and, more recently, in house movements.

The BBGMT really combines so many good features and aesthetic. The profile of the lugs and the lack of crown guard echo the early Rolex Pepsi models. It is chronometer certified, with 200m water resistance and an impressive 70hr reserve. It has a modern 41mm case and an aluminium bezel. All in all it is a modern, practical, understated tool watch. Perfect for travelling and adventures. Ever since picking mine up it has been the watch that I wear most often. On the bracelet it looks good with almost any outfit. It doesn’t stand out like a modern Rolex and that’s the way I like it!


  • Vintage inspired looks
  • Modern reliable package
  • In-house movement with 70hr reserve


  • Case height
  • Date issues
  • Waiting list

Watch Review: Tudor Black Bay Bronze three years of patina!

This article was first published on Fifth Wrist on December 11, 2019

Tudor unveiled the Heritage Black Bay Bronze at Baselworld 2016. I can remember seeing the press coverage on various watch websites and Instagram, the watch seemed to be generally well received. Personally, it wasn’t instant love for me, but I was intrigued and I wanted to learn more. Beyond knowing that Tudor was the sister brand of Rolex I knew very little about Tudor, but I got the impression that they had a dedicated fan base. I started to do some research and I soon realised that Tudor had both a shared heritage with Rolex and an interesting history of their own, with various military commissioned watches.

The Tudor Heritage Black Bay range was first released in 2012 with an ETA 2824 movement. The watches proved to be incredibly popular and the range soon expanded to include versions with blue, black and red bezels (the blue featuring white lume plots, black and red featuring yellow lume plots and gilt hands). In 2016 Tudor rolled out an in-house movement with an impressive 70hr reserve which went into the existing range, the new Black Bay dark (a black PVD-treated 41mm steel watch) and the new Black Bay Bronze. Historically Tudor has been positioned as the more affordable alternative to Rolex, the aim being to produce a quality watch at a more affordable price point, generally through employing off-the-shelf movements in Rolex Oyster cases.

I soon came to realise that the Black Bay Bronze ticked a lot of boxes for me; bronze case (which will develop a unique patina), no-date (perfect for the weekend), in-house movement with 70hr reserve, shared story and heritage, 3 6 9 dial. A lot to like! Also, I am 6’ 4” with 7” wrists so I can pull off a 43mm watch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big bold watch and not generally one I wear to work but it has been a great highdays and holidays watch over the last three years.


  • Bronze patina
  • In-house movement
  • Weekend warrior


  • Chunky monkey
  • Not as practical as steel
  • Is bronze just a trend?

Watch review:TAG Heuer Aquaracer- the watch that saved Heuer (sort of)

This article was first published on Fifth Wrist on December 9th, 2019.

It’s the late 1970s and the quartz crisis is taking hold. Heuer is a brand known for its mechanical stopwatches and chronographs, what can it do survive? The solution, launch a quartz dive watch, the Heuer 1000.

The Heuer 1000 was intended to be an affordable yet robust dive watch. The aesthetic was very similar to the popular Rolex Submariner but it was roughly 20% of the price. Over the years the range expanded to include automatic models in an extensive range of colours and sizes. The Heuer 1000 and the subsequent ranges of dive watches proved to be very popular.

Fast forward to 2004 and TAG Heuer launched the 2000 Aquaracer. This was the first time the Aquaracer name was used and ultimately the launch of an entirely new range of watches. Some of the design elements of the modern Aquaracers can still be traced back to those early Heuer 1000 models. Critics of the Aquaracer often say that it is a Submariner knockoff or a poor man’s Rolex, this does the Aquaracer a great disservice. It has always been intended to be a more affordable dive watch that has a classic aesthetic but it’s approachable and available in a wide range of styles.

So what about my Aquaracer, what’s the spec and why did I buy it? I had a significant birthday coming up, I wanted to get the one watch that I was going to wear for the rest of my life. Little did I know that it would be my gateway drug into the wider world of horology. The WAN2110 is a swiss made Calibre 5 auto model, rated to 300m with 41mm steel case, bracelet and sapphire crystal. I wanted a classic look and a go anywhere, do anything watch that would work with a suit or shorts. This was within my budget and it comes with a common movement that most watchmakers will be able to service, which appealed to me. It is the watch I have worn the most often over the last five years.


  • Classic dive watch style
  • Looks good with any outfit
  • Known brand


  • Lots of good alternatives at this price point
  • A dozen people in my office have Aquaracers
  • Vanilla

Watch Review : Snake Eyes Or Dog? The Creux Automatiq Diamondback CA-06

This review was first published on Scottish Watches on December 11, 2019.

I will be honest, Creux Automatiq was not a brand that I was in any way familiar with before one of my friends @ian_cognito started posting pictures of their watches on Instagram.  The Creux Automatiq Diamondback stood out for me in a sea of dive watches and dress watches.  It is smart but with a sporty edge, much like a Vacheron Constantin Overseas or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the bracelet was quite unlike anything I had seen before.  I contacted Creux Automatiq to ask if I could review one of their watches and they obliged, sending me the Diamondback CA-06 to try out for a few days.

A little about the brand (gleaned from their website and their marketing guy).  Creux Automatiq is an Australian company that was founded by some luxury diamond jewelry specialists.  They are interested in creating affordable, high-performing luxury timepieces but with their own creative design input – “Australian design meets Swiss production”.  

Founded in 2015, it is a brand that looks to meld together respect of the classics and elements of modern design.  Their mission is to offer quality pieces at an affordable price point.  Their first piece, the CA01, was launched in 2016 and they have subsequently released the Diamondback, which is the subject of this review.

My first impressions of the watch were very good. It comes in a sleek gloss black octagon-shaped box, which is nice and not too large.  No major issues with box storage here.  That’s more than enough watch box talk!  The watch itself looks smart, verging on blingy, with its mixture of fine-brushed and polished finishes.  The thing that really struck me was the integrated bracelet – the links really catch the light and pop.  It reminds me of when I tried on a friend’s Royal Oak: in a static photo the bracelet looks nice, roll your wrist and it comes to life as it catches the light.  It changes from the cold practical 316L stainless steel bracelet of a tool watch to a more elaborate and eye-catching piece of jewelry.  This is far removed from your standard three-link steel dive bracelet. It is almost remarkable that both are made from the same material.

According to Creux Automatiq, “The bracelet design draws inspiration from one of nature’s most fierce and resilient desert predators – the Diamondback Rattlesnake.”  I am not an expert on snakes – I clearly do not watch enough nature programs – so I googled it.  Apparently it is the largest and scariest rattlesnake in America, responsible for the majority of snakebites in Mexico and the U.S. I would have thought that an Australian company had an abundance of venomous creepy crawlies on their doorstep that they could take inspiration from, but I guess there is nothing as striking as a Diamondback Rattlesnake.  To be fair to them, the rattlesnake has a very distinctive look and you can see how this inspiration has carried through to the design of the watch.

The bracelet itself is very comfortable on the wrist. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is the most comfortable watch bracelet that I have tried to date.  I think the size of the links and the degree of articulation is near perfect.  I do appreciate that this is, to an extent, subjective and that it will be influenced by the size of your wrist. But for me, the bracelet – with its butterfly deployment clasp – curved around my wrist really well without voids.  It certainly adds to the smart jewelry look of the bracelet.  One consideration with the bracelet is the lack of micro-adjustment.  Like many people my wrist size changes depending on the temperature.  Whilst right now in Autumn the bracelet is very comfortable, in Summer (or if I was on holiday somewhere warm) I would be concerned that it would feel too tight.  I think that some form of micro-adjustment or a quick tool-less way to add a half link would take this bracelet from very, very good to outstanding.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a very fine bracelet; my niggle regarding micro-adjustment goes way beyond Diamondback.  I should probably start my own R&D department and patent a universal solution!

The integration of the bracelet with the watch case is really good.  I am sure you could switch the bracelet out for a smart leather or rubber strap to make the watch look a little more dressy or sporty, but in all honesty, having tried the bracelet I am not sure that this is something you would ever want to do.  The bracelet has quite a quick taper to it, which is certainly in keeping with the Diamondback-inspired look. I think that this adds to the comfort of the bracelet and it is a lot smarter than the chunky dive watch bracelets that I normally gravitate towards.

The watch is finished with a 1.2um (micron) clear IPS PVD coating which is intended to add additional protection to the watch.  A micron is 1/1,000,000 meter; a human hair is roughly 75 microns.  Physical Vapour Deposition is a process (or more accurately a number of methods and processes under a common banner) as opposed to a material.  Generally, when we think about PVD in terms of watches, blacked-out watches or rose gold finishes come to mind, but there are actually a lot of different finishes and applications available.  PVD finishes are often in the 0.15um – 5um range, but it really depends on the material used, the technique it is applied with and the desired finish/effect.  A 1.3um PVD coating won’t make the watch a diamond-hard scratch-resistant tool, but it will certainly help to protect the watch and maintain the desired finish for longer.  In many ways it would be interesting to wear the watch for six months while typing at a desk and inadvertently bashing it into door frames (we’ve all done it) to see how the finish holds up.  Or maybe an even better test would be to have two: one with the PVD coating and one without. You could wear one on each wrist and see how they compare after a few weeks.

I’ve realised that I am quite a way into this review and so far I have only really talked about the bracelet and the PVD coating.  I guess that is the engineer in me honing in on the technology.  I will get on to some broad sweeping lifestyle statements soon, I promise!

The fantastic bracelet integrates really well with the 40mm case which is 10.6mm thick and has a lug-to-lug length of 47mm.  This is a fairly safe, conservative size of a watch by modern standards that will suit a wide range of wrist sizes.  Whilst it is not big, bold and in your face, it is also not dainty.  I know the current trend (amongst us watch geeks at least) is for slightly smaller watches, but in my opinion, this is a size of watch that absolutely makes sense.  It is easy to read at a glance and will work well in many settings.  The overall case shape is a well-proportioned oval with a large polished bevel between the face and sides of the case.  The large polished bevel is a clever bit of design that makes the case appear both substantial and slight at the same time.  It is a similar story with the crown guards, which are long but slightly slimmer than the case.  They almost look like buttons or pushers as opposed to crown guards; maybe a future Creux Automatiq will change them into pushers for a chronograph function.  I am speculating, but this would certainly be a nice feature to be able to add whilst maintaining the overall aesthetic of the watch.

As the crown guards are slimmer than the case, I don’t think they detract from the symmetry, whilst at the same time adding an asymmetrical element depending on how you look at the watch.  The crown on this watch is gold and it has a CA symbol, which interestingly is different from the CA symbol on the face of the watch.  I think the gold crown is going to be one of the most divisive elements on this watch.  Personally, I think a steel crown would have been more consistent in terms of the overall look.  If there were more gold elements, such as the screws on the bezel then the gold crown would have seemed more appropriate to me.  Speaking of the screws on the bezel, they kind of remind me of the security screws on the floor panels of substations.  They add a slightly more rugged, industrial edge to the design – in a good way.

The dial itself has some quite interesting features.  Underneath the flat anti-glare coated sapphire crystal, the dial features Creux Automatiq’s signature diamond dial pattern.  According to their website, “The signature diamond pattern dial is meticulously crafted from a single sheet of brass, plated with anti-corrosion tinted lacquer.”  It is probably my engineering mind doing overtime again, but I would love to watch a video of how they create this.  It is certainly an interesting looking dial that changes its appearance depending on the light.  There is a gentle black to grey fade on the dial from the edge to the center which adds to this effect.

In general with three-handed watches I prefer a central second hand.  The Diamondback has a gold ringed sub-dial at 6 o’clock for the running seconds and you know what, I really like it!  They have managed to make something that often feels like an afterthought into a real feature of the watch.  It somehow adds a luxurious classic element to the look of the dial.  There is also a small round date window at 3 o’clock.  I think I have touched on my thoughts on date windows in previous articles.  I prefer the symmetry of a watch without a date window, but at the same time I find it to be the most useful complication, especially in a watch I wear day in day out to work where I have to sign and date things every day.  The date window is relatively small and discreet, so I don’t think it detracts too much from the look of the watch whilst at the same time providing important information.  The hands and indices on the watch are a decent size.  They are not large and in your face like on a dive watch, so they feel very appropriate for the style of the watch.  Where the points of the hands fall in relation to the indices and chapter ring feels very well proportioned.  Finally, the hands and indices are coated with a decent amount of Super-LumiNova.  If like me, you like to be able to check the time at night without illuminating the entire bedroom with your phone, then you will be pleased to know that the watch performs well at night.  It’s not dive-watch-night-light bright, but more than adequate for telling the time.

Inside the watch is a Swisstech CA24-041 movement that was manufactured for Creux Automatiq.  It has 33 jewels, a 36-hour power reserve, operates at 28800A/H and has a recommended service period of 5 years.  There weren’t a lot of details on the website or in the manual regarding the movement, so I contacted Creux Automatiq to find out more.  They advised that its function and operation is very similar to ETA 2824, but with Swisstech’s own twist to it.  “It has been tried and tested for years and has proven to be extremely robust, reliable and accurate.”  They did advise that they would supply some more information about movement materials.  As and when that information becomes available I will write an update to this article.

The watch has a water resistance of 5ATM (50m), which is perfectly respectable for a watch that is more at the smart/dressy end of the spectrum rather than a tool watch.  I am sure it is more than adequate for sitting in a hot tub with a glass of champagne.  As it is, in the manual, it recommends against wearing the watch when undertaking sporting activities that could result in vibrations such as tennis, golf or mountain biking. (Realistically, I think a G-Shock is going to be your best option for serious mountain biking).  It also recommends avoiding extremes of temperature, chemicals and magnetism.  Based on that, it is certainly not a watch I would wear in a HV substation.  Interestingly, in the preamble in the manual it says that the watch can be worn in the office, skiing in the alps or sailing on the weekend.  I guess gentle skiing when it is warmer than 0C is allowed.

Joking aside, I think this would make a great Monday to Friday work watch.  It will look fantastic with a suit and tie, it is a smart functional watch, which is a little bit flashy but not over the top. (I saw someone wearing a Rolex President in a meeting the other day and it was more than a little distracting).  It is also perfect for when you want to dress up for a nice evening or occasion.  I see this as more of a restaurant-with-a-nice-view rather than splashing-in-the-surf kind of a watch.  During my week with this watch, I did wear it with a suit where it felt right at home.  I also wore it on a rainy day with my Barbour lightweight waxed jacket. It really popped against the waxed jacket and it did make me think that it could elevate a more casual outfit.

In terms of price point, it retails at $1850 (£1480), which obviously is prime TAG Heuer, Oris, Longines territory.  But in a sea of dive watches, pilots watches and dress watches, I think this Diamondback CA-06 makes a good case for itself.  It has a bold but not crazy look that stands out. It is distinctively different like a Royal Oak or Overseas, yet in many ways shares that kind of aesthetic.  It has an exclusive movement (okay it is not in-house, but it is unique to the brand) a two-year warranty and a good specification.  I know that ‘affordable’ is a relative term, but in the grand scheme of watches, this seems like a good proposition.

Circula Classic Automatic Anthracite

The Circula Classic Automatic Anthracite is a 390€, 39mm, no-date, 3 hander, with a mass produced Japanese movement.  So what makes it so special and why would I choose it over the myriad of other dress watches that are available on the market?

Circula is a German watch brand that was first created in 1955 by Heinz Huber.  He named the company Circula after the circulating motion of the balance wheel in mechanical movements.  The company produced everything from chronographs and dive watches to alarm clocks and dress watches. In 2018 Cornelius Huber, the grandson of the founder resurrected the brand, drawing inspiration from the first watch that his grandfather produced.

The watches they offer today are hand assembled in Pforzheim, Germany.  Their aim is to create “extraordinary masterpieces with precise horological craftsmanship, high quality materials and new ideas.”  At this point you are probably wondering how the first sentence of this review and Circula’s aim align, well there is another piece to this puzzle.  Circula also have a range of Heritage models in the 790€ – 890€ price bracket which use historic, previously unused 1970s movements from P.U.W. (Pforzheimer Uhren-Rohwerke GmbH).  They have both hand-wound 17 jewel P.U.W. 561 and automatic 21 jewel P.U.W. 1661 models available.  

Circula use a watchmaker that did his apprenticeship with P.U.W. (and who is now a teacher at a watchmaking school) to build the watches and assembles the movements by hand exclusively for Circula.  As you can imagine, utilising historic movements from the 70s means that only a finite number of watches can be produced. The heritage ranges are limited to 499 pieces each. The movements are a genuine piece of German history and as such Circula target these watches at the German market, although they are available for anyone to buy online.

The same watchmaker also builds the non-limited Classic Automatic watches and regulates the Miyota 9015 movements.  The 3-piece 316L stainless steel cases are polished by hand and brushed on the sides. They feature a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback and a double domed, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal on the face of the watch.  The watchmaker assembles the watches using his decades of knowledge and experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to claim that this is a “Haute Horlogerie” watch but it is certainly a step above the carbon copy three handers that are churned out by chinese factories.  There is a level of care and attention in the assembly of these watches that sets them apart.

A little more about the specs of Classic Automatic watch.  The 39mm case is 10.1mm thick including the curved glass; which is quite impressive for a watch with an exhibition case back containing a Miyota 9015 movement.  It also has a water resistance rating of 5ATM (50m), not that this is a watch you would wear when swimming, but you certainly don’t need to worry about it if you get caught in a shower.  It is 45.5mm lug-to-lug and has a 20mm lug width. The relatively discrete lugs add to the dressy look of this watch. Yes, it is on the large side for a dress watch but it still looks very smart.  The version Circula sent me has the Anthracite dial which I can best describe as a dark grey sunburst dial. It looks really good as it catches the light. I have found it quite hard to capture the effect in still photos, it is easier to show off in a video, but needless to say it is very handsome.  The dial has silver applied indices, silver hour and minute hands and a white seconds hand. Personally, in terms of the overall look I would have preferred it if the seconds hand was also silver, although I suspect it might have made it difficult to distinguish against the Anthracite dial. The indices and hands do not have any lume, which is not unusual for this kind of watch.  I did find that in low light and at certain angles it was a little tricky to read the time at a glance, a slight turn of the wrist usually resolved this. Overall, it is a very clean, handsome and classy dial. The crown of the watch is embossed with a balance wheel which is a nice nod to the founder and brand name.

The watches come with a choice of leather or mesh straps.  The model I was supplied with came with a nice black leather strap.  The straps are handmade in Germany and have quick release spring bars.  The supplied strap has a pleasant soft and supple feel to it. I think the plain black is perfectly fine and a good match to the watch but it is possibly a little safe.  I would be tempted to switch it for something a little more more exciting like a black crocodile print strap with a butterfly deployment clasp or maybe a distressed grey with contrasting keepers.  I think this is a watch that could definitely be paired with something a bit fancy.

In terms of how I would wear this watch, I think this would make a great option for the office or for a smart event.  It would certainly go well with a suit and tie, I would even go as far as saying that it would pair well with a tuxedo.  I think that it is quite a classic look but in a modern practical size. The lack of date and lack of screw-in-crown makes it a good grab-and-go option if you need something a little more classy for a meeting or an evening do.  A quick wind, set the time and you are good to go. It is also a good option if you are used to wearing a tool watch in the 38-42mm size range, it will feel a little more delicate on the wrist but it is not a million miles away from the size of watch you are used to.

All things being equal, I think this watch makes a good case for itself.  At a glance it would be easy to dismiss as just another micro-brand three hander with a Japenese movement but if you dig a little deeper you soon realise that Circula is working to produce something far more special.  Yes, the Classic Automatic is their more affordable option and yes it is using a common Miyota movement, but they are applying the same philosophy and quality control to the assembly of these watches as they do to their more expensive and exclusive Heritage models.  I think it will be interesting to see where they go next as a brand, especially when the existing supply of P.U.W. movements runs out and they move on to their next headline project. Maybe they could draw inspiration from the art deco alarm clocks and watches that the brand created in the past and incorporate some of those elements into their designs.

Whatever they do next I am sure they will apply the same considered level of care and attention.  I think this will be a good brand to keep an eye on over the coming months and years. They have a history that they can draw on with a strong family connection, an aspiration to produce quality watches and a desire to do something different from the norm.