Lume Baby Lume, Disco Inferno…..A Guide To Lume Photography

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on November 14, 2019.

Two of our resident writers and photographer geeks Chris (@mr.c.mojo) and Gigi  (@timetotalk_watches) talk all things Lume Shot

Chris – So, Gigi, I think it is fair to say that we are both fans of a good lume shot! For me personally, my toolbox of methods and techniques has evolved over time and I finally feel like I am in a position to share some of my experiences from the last few years of research and trial and error. How did you first get into taking lume shots and would you say you’ve been on a similar journey of discovery? 

Gigi – Since childhood, I have been interested in photography and watches. Recently when my watch collecting “habit” started to become serious my focus naturally moved to watch photography in all its forms and with all its ups and downs. Lume shots, as a part of watch photography, have always fascinated me. Like you, through trial and error and calling upon my life experience as an amateur photographer (especially stage photography), I strive to get that perfect and interesting lume shot. 

Chris – For me, as with many watch photography things, it started with Instagram. It was quite early in my Instagram journey when I came across people like the @illumenauts posting amazing lume shots. I really liked the look of the lume shots and I knew that some of my watches had decent lume so I thought I would give it a go and take some shots of my own. It turns out that it’s harder than you would think to create a good lume shot. My first attempts were not great. Initially, I was trying to put my watch near a lamp to charge the lume and then I was moving it to where I wanted to take the photo, I would then compose the photo using my phone and take the shot. This often resulted in a blurry, dark lume shot and I would have to repeat this method a number of times before getting anything even remotely acceptable.  Did you have a similar experience with your early lume shots? 

Gigi – Instagram and Youtube were both a big source of inspiration for me as well though I didn’t use my phone to take the shots. I started with my mirrorless camera on a tripod, with a fast prime lens using full manual exposure and focus. The problem was getting the right balance of settings to show both the lume and the features of the watch. The first shots were not so good: not terrible but not what I had envisioned. I have since gained enough experience that allows me to get the shot I have pictured in my “mind’s eye”. 

Chris – Yes, I then moved on to using the torch on my phone and quickly changing to the camera on my phone so that I didn’t have to move and set up the shot from scratch every time. It was around this time that I found out that you could fix the focus on your iPhone if you press and hold on the thing you want it to focus on and that if you swipe up or down you can adjust the brightness/exposure. This certainly helped to improve my photos in general and added to my arsenal of tools for lume shots but I still wasn’t able to achieve the kind of results that other people seemed to be able to achieve. I did some research online and I realised I had been missing a trick – a UV torch – it was a game-changer. A UV torch essentially turbocharges the lume for a few seconds. Combine this with a fixed focus and some clever composition and I was finally starting to achieve decent lume shots. When did you first discover UV torches Gigi? 

Gigi –  At a RedBar meeting this summer in London. David “@floatlite” Sharp had one on hand and I was amazed at how it made the lume portions of the dial “pop” . I immediately bought one and since then lume photography has never been the same. Ordinary white light from LED’s just doesn’t cut it anymore. 

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Chris – Another element that started to click for me was the lighting. I realised that if I had the main source of light behind me so that I was between the light and the watch creating a shadow on the dial with my body or phone whilst the light still illuminated the background I could take lume shots that were not overly dark in terms of the overall shot. A similar method is using a light to the side and creating a shadow on the dial using, well anything to hand if I’m honest, an iPad, a magazine, a placemat, anything that’s the right size. The trick is to keep the dial dark and the rest of the composition quite light. A bit of trial and error in terms of compositions in the house really helped. How do you manage light and shadow in your lume shots? 

Gigi – It really depends on what I’m trying to achieve in terms of exposure. I use controlled studio lighting for my shots so I can decide exactly how much light reaches the dial, if any. Some shots I take in near-complete darkness so it’s only the lume that lights up the dial (and it makes for an interesting shot!). In other shots, I use a little light (mostly very soft sidelights) to bring up more of the case features and the dial. In any scenario though there must be very little light on the dial, too much illumination will wash out all the lume. 

Chris – For a couple of years I used the techniques I’ve described and my phone to take pretty decent lume shots, but over time my interest in photography developed and I became interested in how I could take better photos. Initially, I was just using an old compact system camera in intelligent auto mode and I was certainly getting more natural photos but sometimes it was difficult for me to take the exact photo I wanted to, I felt like I was fighting against the “intelligence” of the camera. I read a couple, okay several guides to camera settings and what they did and gradually started to play around with my setup. In terms of lume shots I started experimenting with the speed of the shot and the brightness/exposure. Too bright and the lume gets lost, too dark and there isn’t a lot of interest in the shot other than the lume. 

Gigi – Auto modes will almost certainly kill your lume shot. Careful lighting, manual exposure, manual focus, and experimenting are all necessary. Photography is all about light, and full-automatic modes are only keyed for general photography in good lighting conditions or specific conditions as set up by the manufacturer. In the scope of lume photography, it is you who must decide the settings, not the camera. 

Chris – Ultimately I have settled on a couple of different setups when taking lume shots with a camera, with both setups I will almost certainly be using a UV torch in order to give the lume a boost. One setup is a combination quick shot using an f/1.7 lens, placing the camera on a table or using a tripod and a two-second delay between pressing the button and the shutter operating. The delay helps to eliminate blur caused by hand-shake and the quick lens creates a nice bokeh effect.

There are a couple of places in our house where we have fairy lights, setting up my composition more than two meters from them helps to create a large light ball bokeh effect. The second method I use is to utilise a macro lens with built-in optical stabilisation, manual focus and the same stable surface and delay trick. I find that this is really good for taking close up detail shots that might focus on a single hand or lume plot. What are your tried and tested setups? 

Gigi – My lume shots are more focused on the watch than its surroundings so I usually use a black or medium grey background. I almost exclusively shoot with my macro lens for its incredible sharpness and close focus abilities so I can get as near as needed for the framing I have in mind. The camera is attached to a tripod vertically pointing down via a macro focus rig. I do not use full open aperture because the depth of field is just too low: only the hands or the case or the dial will be in focus. I use as low an iso as possible to get a clean grain free shot (usually iso 200 but sometimes iso 100 or even 64). Aperture is F8  and shutter speeds up to 30 seconds depending on the amount of ambient light I am putting into the shot. I also use a 2-second delay or a wireless remote shutter release. Because of the long exposure times, the watch is hacked to stop the second hand. The crown is put back into its original position in post-processing. I usually take 3 exposures: a no lume shot with the watch correctly lighted, a mid lume shot with medium to low lighting, and a low key lume shot with little to no lighting. The rig and watch are kept in the exact same position for each shot since I may use digital compositing techniques in post-processing to play with the dynamic range. 

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Chris – In terms of post-production editing, I try to keep it to a minimum. I will sometimes tweak the brightness, contrast, and shadows to make sure the lume pops and occasionally I will sharpen the image a little. I think if you mess with it too much people can tell. I guess as we wrap this article up it is worth reiteration that lume shots are fun, they can be a bit of a challenge but when the elements come together and you achieve a good lume shot it is really rewarding. I still use the iPhone methods from time to time if I’m out and about and feel inspired to take a lume shot but I also really enjoy using a camera and composing something a little bit special. Any final thoughts or tips Gigi? 

Gigi – I post-process just enough to achieve the shot I had in mind trying as much as possible to make it look natural. Sometimes that entails a bit of effort as compositing of up to four shots with different exposures is necessary. I have yet to try High Dynamic Range shooting that may free me of some of that post-processing work. But leaving aside the methods and techniques, I agree, lume shooting is fun and can lead to some very interesting shots of a timepiece. Like in the world of Star Wars each watch has a “Dark Side” and a “Light Side”. Lume photography brings them both out!

Watch Review: Spinnaker Wreck

This review was first published on Scottish Watches on September 15, 2019

When Spinnaker first approached me and offered to send me one of their watches they sent me links to the Croft, Wreck, and Fleuss.  I had seen some of their watches on Instagram and I knew that some of my watch friends were impressed with the standard of the watches for the price point, so I was definitely interested in checking them out.  What I hadn’t appreciated was the number of collections that they have and the number of versions within each collection.  There really is a vast array of options on their website with a number of different case styles, finishes, movements, colours, in some ways it was a little overwhelming.

Spinnaker is not a brand with a long, storied history.  Spinnaker draws inspiration from the world and lifestyle of yachting, they design watches for use on land and on the water.  My knowledge and experience of yachting doesn’t extend much beyond having a couple of beers on the back of my friend’s boat.  I love the idea of learning to sail, using new skills and knowledge to go on adventures.  I googled “Spinnaker” and it is a type of large lightweight sail that’s useful for a wide range of angles for catching the wind, it sort of looks like a parachute.  Spinnaker use a stylised sail motif on the crowns of their watches, which is a nice little detail.

Having been given a choice, I had to narrow down the options to decide which one to go for. Obviously this is fairly subjective, I have a few general preferences that helped to inform my decision.  I prefer three-handed watches with a central second hand rather than a sub-dial for running seconds.  I also prefer the look of watches without the date, although I do find the date to be a very useful complication (the age-old debate).  If a watch does have a date I would prefer it if it didn’t have some kind of magnifying cyclops over it.  These two factors ruled out the Croft for me so it became a choice between the Fleuss and the Wreck.  Both watches have 43mm cases, which is at the upper end of what I wear but still comfortable and appropriate for a dive watch.  The Fleuss has a 12mm thick case that’s 51mm lug-to-lug and the Wreck has a 14.5mm thick case that’s 50mm lug-to-lug.  The lug to lug width was definitely one of the deciding factors for me.  Yes, I know there is only 1mm difference but what I have found with watches in the past is that if I go much beyond 50mm the case starts to overhang my wrist and look a bit odd.  I am sure that in reality, the difference between 51mm and 50mm would not be that great but I used it as a factor for helping to inform my decision.

I then read the descriptions of the Fleuss and the Wreck.  The Fleuss is a vintage inspired dive watch.  The name comes from Henry Fleuss a pioneering diving engineer and master diver who got a patent for an improved rebreather in 1878 (according to Wikipedia).  The Fluess has a bit of a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms look about it.

The Wreck is inspired by wreck diving, exploring shipwrecks or aircraft under the sea and seeing what they look like after years of slowly decaying.  I liked the idea of the Wreck, I felt that it was something a bit different and characterful so I decided to go with one of the eight available wreck models.

Now, I know that faux patina is a bit of a chalk and cheese issue when it comes to watches. People seem to either love it or hate it.  Personally, I think it is all about the context.  The Spinnaker Wreck is inspired by wrecks that you might see under the sea, they have tried to create a patina that is reminiscent of the slow decay that happens under the sea.  They are not a brand with a long history so they have not tried to recreate a watch from fifty or sixty years ago and give it off-white lume.  They have taken a different approach and I like it.  I think the watch looks rugged, it has a used tool watch charm but at the same time is a new modern watch so you can be confident that it will work well and be reliable.

The case and bezel on the Wreck are finished by hand so each one will be subtly different in the way it looks.  I went for the Distressed IP Rose Gold Case with the green dial and green aluminium bezel.  At 43mm the case is quite large but it has relatively slender lugs and no crown guard so it wears well on the wrist.  I think that green makes a pleasant change from the usual black or blue dials.  The dial itself almost looks like an old green leather armchair, it is finished well in-keeping with the rest of the look.  The watch has relatively large indices and is easy to read.  I like the 6 and 9 on the dial, I think it would look even better if the date was switched out for a 3 and if this was a no-date model, again this is just my personal preference.  The lume on the watch is okay, it is stronger in the hands than the indices, depending on how you would intend to use the watch this is something to keep in mind.  The watch has a hardened mineral crystal which offers a reasonable level of scratch resistance.  It also has a water resistance rating of 10ATM (100m).  Inside it has a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, a respectable workhorse movement.  You can see the movement through an exhibition case back, the rotor has the company name and logo on, which is a nice touch.

The watch was supplied on a slightly distressed green leather strap with a buckle that matches the case of the watch.  I do think that this is a watch that will lend itself to distressed leather straps.  The only issue you may encounter is matching the hardware of third party straps to the case.  Alternatively, you could match it with a modern NATO strap as a contrast, in much the same way that people wear vintage dive watches on modern NATO straps.  Personally I would predominantly stick with the OEM leather strap because it is such a good match.

So how and where would I wear this watch?  I think that realistically this is not a watch you would wear for diving, it’s water resistance is okay, I imagine a leather strap isn’t the most comfortable for diving, the dial contrast and lume could be better, but I don’t think that is really what this watch is intended for.  It is inspired by wreck diving and it looks good for it.  I think this is a watch for on deck or in the bar.  It is not a watch that I would wear with a suit and tie to work.  I very much see this as a fun high days and holidays watch.  I can imagine wearing it with jeans and a t-shirt at a BBQ or in shorts on the back of a boat while drinking beer.  The spec of the watch is certainly sufficiently “tool watch” that you could wear it when walking, camping and exploring without having any concerns about its performance.  It is definitely a fun watch at a good price ($280/£220) and worth considering as an alternative weekend warrior watch to a Seiko.

Chris Morgan-Jones
@mr.c.mojo

Cocktail – Old Fashioned

One of my favourite cocktails is an Old Fashioned. It is such a simple cocktail but there are so many delicious variations to discover. Here is my recipe for a basic Old Fashioned. At the end of the article I will list some of the best ways I have found to play with this recipe and make tasty alternative cocktails.

Time – 10mins

Ingredients

  • Bulleit Bourbon
  • Angostura Bitters
  • A Sugar Cube
  • An Orange
  • A Glace Cherry (optional but tasty)

Step 1 – Sugar and Bitters

Grab your favourite heavy bottomed tumbler. Put in the sugar cube and a couple of dashes of the Angostura Bitters and then wait for a minute or two while the bitters soak into the sugar cube. A quicker method is to use simple syrup but there is something quite nice about the sugar cube slowly changing colour as it absorbs the bitters.

Step 2 – Muddle

After the bitters have soaked into the sugar cube you will need to use a muddler to break up the sugar cube. If you don’t have a muddler a rolling pin or large spoon will also work.

Step 3 – A Little Bourbon

Next, add a little bourbon and gently stir until the sugars has dissolved. The ideal tool for this is a cocktail spoon. A cocktail spoon is normally long and thin with a spiral handle (which you can use to carefully add spirits to cocktails in other recipes by pouring the liquid down the spoon). When stirring the cocktail you should place the back of the spoon against the edge of the glass and hold the spoon handle near the top between your thumb and one or two fingers. You are aiming for a quick smooth stir, lightly holding the spoon as it rotates between your fingers with the back of the spoon remaining against the edge of the glass. This technique does take some time to master but once you have got the hang of it it really speeds up making cocktails and reduces the effort involved. If you do not have a cocktail spoon a standard spoon or a stirrer will work, it might just take a little longer for the sugar to dissolve.

Step 4 – Ice

I like to use one of these Alchemy Crystal Clear Ice Ball Makers. It takes around 48 hours to make two clear ice balls, so you will need to plan your ice in advance. I find that the ice balls store well in a plastic bag or tub in the freezer for a few weeks after you have made them before they start frosting up. I usually try to have at least half a dozen ice balls prepared in the freezer for making cocktails. If you don’t have a large ice maker you can use standard ice cubes, you will need to fill the glass approximately two thirds full with ice. Personally, I prefer the large ice ball because it chills the cocktail for longer without watering it down.

Step 5 – Stir

After you have added the ice ball, gently stir the cocktail for a few seconds.

Step 6 – More Bourbon and Stirring

Add the rest of the bourbon and gently stir the cocktail for around 30 seconds to mix the ingredients together. This might seem like a long time but ensuring that the cocktail is well mixed really does make a difference to the finished drink.

Step 7 – The Orange

You’re on the home straight now. For this step you will need a strip of orange peel approximately an inch wide and two inches long. There are various ways of achieving this but I find that the simplest method (especially after a couple of drinks) is to use a vegetable peeler. Yes, I know it doesn’t look as fancy as some of the other techniques but it is less hazardous than creating elaborate shapes with a paring knife. If you have a better method please let me know in the comments. Once you have your orange peel you need to fold it in half, over the top of the glass, skin side out, and rub it around the rim. This releases some of the oils from the skin which gives the cocktail a wonderful light zesty aroma. Finally, give the orange peel a twist and gently slide it into the glass.

Step 8 – Garnish

This last step is entirely optional but it is something I always like to do – add a glace cherry to the Old Fashioned! I think it makes the cocktail look a little bit more fancy, it adds a little sweetness and it is a tasty treat after you have finished drinking your Old Fashioned.

So there it is, my basic Old Fashioned. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

One of the beauties of an Old Fashioned is that there is an almost infinite number of delicious variations you can make. One simple change is to try different bitters, I like the aromatic bitters by The Bitter Truth. Another great alternative is a Montreal Old Fashioned where the sugar is replace with a dash of maple syrup, it adds a real richness to the cocktail. You can also make a bigger change to the cocktail by switching the main ingredient, the bourbon, for a different whisky or rum. I like the Auchentoshan Bartender’s Malt because it adds a subtle smoky edge to an Old Fashioned. Honestly, the possibilities are endless once you get going. I hope you have a fun journey finding your perfect Old Fashioned.

Watch Review: Sternglas Zirkel

This review was first published on Scottish Watches on September 4, 2019.

A little background to kick things off – Sternglas is a small Hamburg based watch company that produces Bauhaus inspired watches.  The company was launched in 2016 by Dustin Fontaine following a successful crowdfunding campaign.  At the time of writing, they have a range of six watches in the 34 to 42mm range with a mixture of quartz and automatic movements.

I am an engineer, not a designer.  I would certainly never claim to be an expert on Bauhaus design but I am going to start this article with my thoughts on Bauhaus design just to give a little context.  When I think of Bauhaus design the first thing that comes to mind is the first-generation Audi TT with its clean lines, form following function, simple aesthetic and mass appeal.

I can remember when the Audi TT was launched in the late 90s, there was nothing else quite like it in production and certainly nothing with the same level of accessibility.  Sure, you can argue that the Porsche 911 is also Bauhaus inspired but, if we are being honest, it is a car that is beyond the reach of most people.  The Audi TT on the other hand with its array of engine sizes, drive trains and configurations made Bauhaus inspired car design available to a much bigger market.  I think it appealed to a lot of people, from traditional car guys and petrol heads through to hairdressers and mums.

It had everything you needed in a 2+2, it was sporty but at the same time you could fold the rear seats flat and have a decent loading area considering the size of the car.  Its bulbous look was approachable while at the same time suggesting that the car could be pretty nippy.  Sometimes getting the balance between function and form is difficult, if function is the only driving force form can suffer and things can start to get, well, utilitarian, in a bad way.  If you can package something up in a way that the function is there and then the details are layered on top in a simple, concise way that enhances the look it can often result in a beautiful product with a wide appeal.

Sternglas embrace the Bauhaus concept.  Their aim is to create high-quality watches that are affordable and timeless in their design, they are not trying to follow a trend as far as I can tell. They are also trying to design watches that are accessible to anyone at a fair price.  Their watches are minimalistic, and they have really embraced the clean lines and simple aesthetic associated with Bauhaus design, while at the same time they have tried to produce good quality watches using well-established materials and parts.

The watch that Sternglas sent me is the Zirkel.  I appreciate that this is somewhat subjective but for me, the Zirkel has the simplest dial in the Sternglas range and as such it is the dial that most embodies the Bauhaus look.  The dial fills most of the face of the watch and is protected by a domed sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective coating which obviously does a great job of protecting the watch.

Inside the watch is a MIYOTA 821A automatic movement, very much a reliable mass-produced movement accurate to -20/+40 seconds per day.  It may not be the most exciting movement in the world but you know that it is going to perform adequately and should it ever need a service a decent independent will be able to do it for you.  You can see the movement through an exhibition case back, it has a Sternglas branded rotor which is a nice touch.

The watch case itself is made from 316L stainless steel, it’s a 40mm case that is 10mm deep with a 20mm lug width and a lug-to-lug length of 48mm.  This is a comfortable size on my wrist, but I think that for a watch at the more dressy end of the spectrum is could be a little smaller, especially the depth of the watch for wearing under the cuff of a shirt.  I suspect it is the domed crystal and exhibition case back that contribute to the overall depth so there may have to be a compromise in one of those departments in order to shave off a mm or two.  It’s a minor detail, which is reflective of my personal preference, in an otherwise very consistent and coherent package.

The Zirkel comes with either a black or white dial and there are a number of strap options comprising of mocha, mahogany, grey, nero (black), a milanaise (milanese) bracelet or a five link metal bracelet.  They all come with quick release spring bars which makes strap changing very straightforward.  I went for the Zirkel in white on the milanese bracelet for a few reasons.  I had never owned a milanese bracelet before but I know some people prefer them so I thought it would be nice to try one out, I also thought that the milanese bracelet matched the clean aesthetic of the watch really well and finally I thought it would be the most adaptable choice.

The Zirkel is definitely at the smarter end of the spectrum when it comes to watches, I think that it is well suited to a bracelet or a plain leather strap.  I don’t think it is something I would wear on a NATO or rubber strap.  It is also not a watch that I would pair with a heavily detailed strap such as crocodile or snakeskin.  It definitely lends itself to a more simple, understated look.

So how and where would I wear this watch?  I think the smart functional look of the Sternglas is perfect for the office.  It would go really well with a suit and tie.  It would in many ways stand out, despite being relatively plain, in a sea of desk divers and sports watches.  I would also wear this watch if I was going to a nice restaurant for a meal or to a smart family event like a birthday celebration.  The Zirkel is rated to 5bar (50m) but it is not a watch that I would wear when swimming or playing sports, it is not a sports watch, it does not have the clear legible dial of a sports watch or any lume.  That’s not a criticism, it is just not what it is intended for.  I definitely see this as more of a mid-week work and smart events watch rather than a weekend warrior adventure watch.

When I first saw the watch I couldn’t help but compare it to a couple of other brands – Skagen and Nomos.  Now I know Skagen is a Danish company but I think that they share a similar simple aesthetic with clean lines.  With Skagen you are very much buying a look, albeit at a lower price point. My father-in-law has gone through half a dozen Skagen watches over the years, I don’t know if that is down to his unique ability to break things or due to the build quality and inability for them to be repaired.  On paper, the Sternglas is a much better specification and should survive day-to-day life well.  At the other end of the spectrum you have Nomos Glashuette, clearly also featuring Bauhaus inspired design.  Again a similar aesthetic but at least four times the price of the Sternglas.  Yes, Nomos have in house movements and numerous patents but in terms of accessibility and wide appeal they are the Porsche 911 to Sternglas’ Audi TT!

There you have it, the Sternglas Zirkel.  Bauhaus inspired design from a Hamburg based watch company.  A solid, elegant, and smart watch that’s perfect for the office or a date night.  If you like the simple, timeless design at a fair price point (£273) then this certainly a watch to consider.

Chris Morgan-Jones

@mr.c.mojo

Update – Sternglas must have read my mind. A few days after I finished writing this article Sternglas announced an update to the Zirkel. They have changed the movement for a Miyota Calibre 9015, moved the date to 6 o’clock and reduced the depth of the case from 10mm to 8.4mm. I haven’t seen the updated model in the metal but I think this design change is definitely an improvement in terms of the style and aesthetic of the watch. The slimmer case makes sense for a more dressy watch, helping it slide under a shirt cuff, it will look smart and understated. The updated model does come with a bump in price to £376 but as an overall package, I still think this watch makes sense and it pitches itself well when considered alongside other Bauhaus inspired watches.

Cocktail – Hazelnut Espresso Martini

I’m a big fan of coffee and a big fan of cocktails. For me, an Espresso Martini is a perfect after dinner cocktail; rich, full flavoured, delicious. My current favourite is a Hazelnut Espresso Martini. Here is a quick and simple recipe, I hope you enjoy it.

Time – 5min

Ingredients

  • Espresso
  • Hazelnut liqueur
  • Vodka

Step 1 – Espresso

I use my De’Longhi Dedica Espresso Machine to create a double espresso. I usually use Lavazza Rossa ground coffee, it has a mix of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans and creates an espresso with great body and a good crema. If it is getting late I will substitute the Rossa for a Lavazza Decaffeinato, it is the best decaf espresso I have found. Coffee is the star of the show in this cocktail so it is worth taking the time to make a decent espresso. If you do not have a coffee machine, I would recommend using a Moka Pot; achieving a good crema helps to create the final espresso martini look.

Now, for the other ingredients. To make a Hazelnut Espresso Martini, you will also need hazelnut liqueur, vodka and ice. The coffee and the hazelnut liqueur are going to be the predominant flavours in this martini, the vodka is very much playing a supporting role, so a basic vodka is more than adequate.

Step 2 – Assembly

Cocktails are all about getting the right ratios and balance between the ingredients. This one is really easy to remember. Fill your cocktail shaker roughly two thirds with ice cubes. Pour in the double espresso. Fill your espresso cup with hazelnut liqueur and add this to the cocktail shaker. Fill your espresso cup with the vodka and add the vodka to the cocktail shaker. That’s it, a basic 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, hazelnut liqueur and vodka, with a little water from the ice.

Step 3 – Shake and Pour

Make sure the lid on your cocktail shaker is secure and give it a good shake. Aim for 30 seconds or so to give the ingredients a good opportunity to meld together and to create a little foam from that crema. Next, gently pour the cocktail into a martini glass.

Step 4 – Wait

I know, I know, you want to start drinking your hazelnut espresso martini, but trust me it is worth waiting for a minute or two. The drink will clear, much like a pint of Guinness, and you will be left with a beautiful and delicious Hazelnut Espresso Martini.

There you have it, my super simple Hazelnut Espresso Martini recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

There are a number of delicious variations to this cocktail that you can try. You could make a more traditional espresso martini using Tia Maria or Kahlua Coffee Liqueur instead of hazelnut liqueur. Or you could make an Irish Espresso Martini using Irish Whiskey, I would recommend Bushmills 10 Year Old because it adds a sweetness to the cocktail. You could also try an almond liqueur such as Disaronno or a vanilla liqueur. Essentially, if you can find your favourite coffee syrup in liqueur form it will probably work well in an Espresso Martini, you might just need to tweak the ratios slightly depending on the strength of the liqueur.

Watch Review : Boldr Venture

This review was first published on Scottish Watches on July 19, 2019.

I did not know much about Boldr before they contacted me to ask if they could send me their Boldr Venture.

I had seen some of their watches on Instagram and I thought they looked pretty interesting but I didn’t know anything about the brand or their philosophy, so I googled them and perused their website.

Boldr is based out of Singapore and Malaysia, their aim is to make watches, apparel and gear for the modern adventurer that will be used and abused every day whether that is “traversing the forests of the world, or exploring the urban jungles of the cities.” Their website is peppered with the hashtags #toughenough and #readyforadventure, they are clearly aiming to make tough tool watches that can handle anything you throw at them and that will improve in appearance over time as they get used.

So here we have the Boldr Venture – Boldr’s take on the field watch. This is a modern grab and go field watch, it has a swiss quartz movement housed in a titanium case. The titanium case is tough, light and has a nice matte finish. I haven’t encountered many titanium cases before and I was struck by how much darker than steel this case is. I think the darker case and the finish really work well for a field watch. It’s a 38mm case which is 11mm thick with a 20mm lug width and a 45mm lug-to-lug length. I think this is a great size for a field watch, it strikes the balance between being comfortable and legible while at the same time being unobtrusive.

The case has a couple of other nice features, the crown is a 4 o’clock which offers a little more protection on a case without crown guards, crown guards are not part of the normal field watch aesthetic so this choice of crown position seems very sensible in terms of offering protection while producing something that is in keeping with general field watch look.

The Venture also has quite sharp angular lugs, these add a modern, robust look to the watch which contributes to the overall tough, tool watch vibe. It is a nice variation on the more traditional field watch theme.

The Venture has a flat sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, to my mind this is a great choice in terms of adding a tough, scratch-resistant face to the watch. Visibility is also really good with the combination of anti-reflective coating and flat crystal, this is a very appropriate choice for a field watch offering a great range of viewing angles with minimal reflections.

The dial has superluminova on the indices around the outer edge of the dial and the outer 1-12 digits, the inner 13-24 digits are not lumed. This really helps with legibility at night and makes it easy to tell the time. You’re probably thinking “obviously” but this hasn’t always been the case with field watches. A lot of the vintage watches manufactured to military specifications only had the indices illuminated and because the size and style of the indices was tightly defined there was very little to distinguish which way up a watch was at night if it wasn’t on the wrist. Having a distinctly different or oversized indices at 12 or illuminating some or all of the numerals addresses this issue and makes a field watch much more usable in darker environments.

One of the things that impressed me when the Venture arrived and I unpackaged it is that it is shipped in a four-pocket green canvas watch roll. I think that this is a nice addition to the overall package and much more useful than a watch box. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a good watch box, it is always interesting seeing how a company packages their watches and the materials they use in their watch boxes, what kind of image they are trying to portray through their packaging, how it ties in with their brand aesthetic or enhances their product. The problem is what to do with the box after the initial opening, it then becomes a tessellation tetris challenge to squeeze another box into an increasing congested box storage zone in the house… I am not an expert on watch rolls but I imagine that there is a full spectrum from something akin to a zip-lock plastic bag all the way up to a velvet lined, python skin lux version embossed with gold initials. The one included with the Boldr Venture is simple and utilitarian, very much in keeping with the rest of the brand. I could imagine the watch roll getting almost as much use as the watch, especially if you like to travel with multiple watches or meet up with other enthusiasts in order to discuss the minutia of watches.

So how would I wear it? I think this is a good solid grab and go quartz watch, a great weekend warrior choice. It has a water resistance rating of up to 100m, it isn’t a dive watch or boating themed watch but I can imagine wearing it in the water when kayaking (something I haven’t done in over a year) or when doing an obstacle course (something I haven’t done in over seven years) or camping (something I haven’t done in over a decade). Realistically I would be more likely to wear it when walking the dog, doing some gardening or going to a bbq but I am sure that if I was in the mood for something more adventurous it would be up to the job.

The Boldr Venture comes on a choice of “Jungle Green”, “Carbon Black” or “Adventure Khaki” premium nylon NATO straps. I went with the “Jungle Green” because I already have a few blue, grey, black and khaki strap options. The titanium hardware on the NATO strap is a perfect match for the watch. If like me, you like to change NATOs to match your outfit this is something to keep in mind. I think brushed or blasted steel hardware on a third party strap would be an okay, passable match, polished hardware, on the other hand, would be strikingly different and possibly detract from the overall look. I think the Venture will look great on a livid NATO or on a camo strap, I also think it can be dressed up a bit with a leather strap but it will not look as smart as a more traditional field watch case with smoother lugs.

That said, this is not designed to be a dress watch, it is designed to be a rough and ready field watch. Its place is not behind a desk, it is out in the world exploring and experiencing life, facing any trial you throw at it.

In conclusion, I think this is a handy tool watch, perfect for your weekend hobbies. It is understated and tough with its lightweight matte titanium case and flat anti-reflective sapphire crystal. It improves on some of the more traditional field watch niggles with regards to legibility and crown vulnerability while still being true to the overall field watch aesthetic. The Swiss quartz movement should keep it running accurately for three years, which is ideal for a grab and go watch. It is an adaptable strap queen that will look good on any number of NATO and military-inspired straps, making it easy to match with whatever outfit or activity you have planned. This is a fun watch, with a good spec, that at £118.99 doesn’t break the bank.

Review : Tudor Black Bay Bronze – Three Years On The Wrist (sort of)

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on June 20, 2019.

I like an in-depth review where someone has lived with a watch for a while, I think they can move beyond the basic technical stats and initial aesthetic details in order to give an overall impression of what it is like to live with and use a watch.  My plan with this article is to write a more in-depth review of my ownership of a Tudor Black Bay Bronze (79250bm).  I have called it “Three Years On The Wrist (Sort of)” for a couple of reasons.

I got the watch in September 2016 so I haven’t quite owned it for three years (although depending on how long it takes me to write this article that might change) and Two – it hasn’t been my daily beater, which I will expand on more later in the article.

In October 2018 my friend Cameron Wong interviewed me for Time and Tide Watches.  In the interview “WHAT SEALED THE DEAL: On Chris’s Tudor Black Bay Bronze” I run through why I purchased the Black Bay Bronze and what the deciding factors were.

I don’t want to regurgitate that article here, so I will start with a quick synopsis instead.  The Black Bay Bronze was released at Baselworld in 2016, it was generally well received and certainly helped to make the bronze watch trend more mainstream.  Personally, I thought it looked like a fantastic watch and it ticked a lot of boxes for me – bronze, no-date, 3-6-9 dial, in house movement, 70 hour reserve.  I already owned a couple of dive watches but this was sufficiently different and I could appreciate what it would add to my budding watch collection.  I do like dive watches (despite the fact that I am yet to go diving, it is certainly something I would like to do in the future) due to their robust build and reliability.  We live on a relatively small island in the U.K. and as such we are surrounded by water which results in inclement weather, as a result, a decent level of water resistance is always something I look for in a watch.

Before I take this article too much further, a confession – for the first 18 months of owning the Black Bay Bronze I almost exclusively took photos of it using my iPhone.  I saw it almost like a badge of honor for Instagram, only posting photos taken with a phone.  After a while, I realised that I wasn’t always achieving the quality of shot that I wanted and that I could achieve more interesting effects by using a “proper” camera.  Over the last 18 months, I have increasingly used a seven-year-old compact system camera which was gathering dust, neglected in a cupboard, along with a couple of different lenses.  Nothing especially fancy or expensive but I have slowly progressed from using it only in auto mode to experimenting with the manual settings, to having a couple of favoured setups for particular styles of shot.  When you are looking through the photos in this article you might see some of this evolution of style.

Boring bit over, now onto how, when and where I wear the Black Bay Bronze. Initially, during the honeymoon period, I wore the Black Bay Bronze a lot, in many different scenarios.  Before the patina developed the case had a brilliant gold like finish to it, I likened it to a budget chocolate Rolex Daytona.  I did wear the Black Bay Bronze on the OEM leather strap with suits a few times. It looked good but I found that it was too chunky under a cuff and a suit jacket.  The OEM leather strap is super comfortable, definitely one of the softest, most subtle straps I have experienced but at the same time, it is 23mm wide and relatively thick.  Combine that with a 43mm case that’s 14mm thick and 52mm long and you have a chunky combination which is at the upper end of what I can comfortably wear.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the size of the watch, the look, and the wrist presence, but ultimately I have ended up using my Black Bay Bronze as a high days and holidays watch.

Now the temptation at this point is to just list holidays where I have worn the watch and provide a selection of photos of the watch in front of monuments and/or cocktails.  I suspect that would have a very mixed reception so instead, I will try to give a more broad explanation of how, when and where I have worn the watch with a few specifics thrown in.

One question I often get asked on Instagram is along the lines of “what have you done to create the patina on your watch?” and the honest answer is nothing!  I have not tried to force it by sitting it in buckets of salt water or steaming it with vinegar.  I also have not tried to prevent it in any way.  I have worn my watch at the beach and I have taken photos of it in the sand but I have not worn it in the sea (and that is purely because I have not been swimming in the sea, I haven’t purposefully avoided taking it in the sea if you catch my drift).   I have worn it in the sunshine a lot and I have worn it in the rain and snow and waterfall spray.  I have also worn it whilst doing some fairly adventurous activities such as mountain biking and kayaking on Lake Ontario.  All of that is to say that I have not purposefully done anything to create the patina, it has just naturally developed as I have worn the watch doing all kinds of fun things.

Personally, I think the Black Bay Bronze makes a perfect smart/casual watch.  Its coffee tones and dull patina make it a good match for jeans, chinos, shorts, t-shirts and shirts.  It looks great on a beach or in a bar.  It has often been the only watch I have taken on holidays.  It is smart enough that it doesn’t look out of place at a restaurant or on a boat but at the same time subtle enough that it doesn’t draw unwanted attention if you are walking around a flea market.  It flies under the radar of most non-watch nerds but is recognisable and a good conversation starter with watch geeks.  It has sparked a few conversations over the last three years at work, in bars and on the New York subway.

So there you have it the Tudor Black Bay Bronze Three Years On The Wrist (sort of).  My smart/casual high days and holidays adventure watch!

Tudor Black Bay GMT Review

Review : A week(ish) on the wrist – Tudor Black Bay GMT

This article was first published on Scottish Watches on May 23, 2019.

I don’t know about you but I quite enjoy the “week on the wrist” articles that I read on watch websites. They provide a more in-depth look at a watch and go beyond a basic breakdown of form and function.

If I have one minor criticism it is that they often seem to portray an idealised view of how a watch is used, I get the impression that there is a team of people curating photo shoots and discussing concepts of how to most appropriately portray a watch. Don’t get me wrong, I really like these articles but they are slightly remote from reality. With that in mind I present to you “A week(ish) on the wrist”, my real-world experience of wearing a watch for a week, doing all the stuff I normally do.

A little about me. I am a professional Electrical Engineer with a regular 9-5 job, I am more familiar with writing technical requirements than editorial articles. I am not a professional photographer, I would describe myself as a developing amateur who is slowly improving through trial and error and tips from other people. I have a great wife and a cute dog. I like walks to pubs, beer, whisky, cars, and travel. I’m 6’ 4” with a ~7” wrist.

When Tudor released the Black Bay GMT (BBGMT) at Basel in 2018, it received a great reception. There are a plethora of articles out there by people with way more knowledge than me that explain the technical specs and the history of GMT watches.

The two-part article by Ross Povey on Revolution’s website is probably my favourite in terms of explaining the history of the Rolex GMT Master and Master II including some of the key details to look for. The real appeal for me of the BBGMT was the mix of vintage-inspired styling in a modern reliable package. If you compare the BBGMT to a 1956 Rolex GMT Master the inspiration for the look is clear. Compared to a modern Rolex GMT Master II the watches are strikingly different. Personally, I prefer the more understated vintage-inspired look, albeit in a larger size with all the advantages of modern manufacture. Who doesn’t love a reliable in house movement with a 70-hour reserve? After seeing the images of the BBGMT and reading a few articles I added it to my long (and totally unaffordable) watch wish list. Having sold a couple of watches and gathered some funds I was in a position to add my name to a waiting list (or two) in August 2018.

Fast forward to April and I got a call from an AD to say that my watch was in, I made the payment and arranged for the watch to be shipped to my local store. This is where the week(ish) begins:

Saturday.

I went to my local AD on Saturday afternoon, the store was relatively quiet so I was greeted fairly promptly. I introduced myself and explained that a watch had been shipped to the store for me. This resulted in a slight look of bewilderment and a couple of members of staff disappearing into the back of the store for 20 minutes, I sat quietly by myself having a drink. It transpired that they had not yet unpackaged the Saturday deliveries but eventually one of the team appeared with the BBGMT.

I got to experience the AD carefully unboxing the watch and showing it to me and then passing it to me to have a look. We discussed how many links needed to be taken out of the bracelet and they disappeared into the back of the store again. They reappeared 5 minutes later and explained that they dealt more with Rolex in this store so they were not confident with adjusting the bracelet. They asked me to go to their other store on the opposite side of town. They repackaged the BBGMT gave me a bottle of water and sent me on my way. I should highlight at this point that the staff were friendly, helpful and accommodating, the service was a bit slow and disorganised, but I wasn’t in a rush and I cannot fault their politeness.

I schlepped across town to the other AD which was quite a bit busier. I stood around for about five minutes before a member of staff was available to help me. The lady that helped me was obviously a fan of the brand, when I handed her the box she asked if it was a Black Bay 58 and explained that she was on the waiting list for one (I guess even if you work for an AD you sometimes have to join a list like the rest of us mortals). She also admired the Black Bay Bronze I was wearing and we had a quick chat about retaining the patina when it gets serviced at some point in the future. She disappeared into the back for 5 minutes to adjust the bracelet and then returned with the watch, I tried it on, we discussed fit and whether it might need to be adjusted for the summer (which may or may not happen in the U.K.). I thanked her for helping me and left town. Great customer service again, if I had known that there was a rough split in terms of what the stores dealt with I would have got it shipped to the second store in the first instance.
I took the watch home, took a few unboxing photos and took a more composed photo of it with a can of Pepsi MAX, it had to be done.

My wife and I then went to the in-laws for dinner and my in-laws admired my latest purchase. My mother-in-law is into sparkly fashion watches and has a blingy collection (I am trying to persuade her to get a more reputable watch), she could appreciate that it was a nice watch. My father-in-law commented on what a classic look it has with the two-tone bezel. I guess it is fair to say that even people who aren’t as interested in watches as me could appreciate that it was nice and had some good features.

That night I wore the watch in bed. Now, I know for some people this is possibly controversial, but for me, I like to be able to check the time if I wake up during the night without illuminating the entire room with my phone or having an offensive bright red digital alarm clock next to me. Having a clear, easy to read dial with good lume is therefore pretty important to me and I have to say the BBGMT with its luminescent hour markers and snowflake hands does not disappoint.

Sunday.

I wore a checked shirt that matched the matt burgundy and blue of the bezel (who doesn’t coordinate their outfit with their watch?). In the afternoon me and my wife took the dog for a five-mile walk finishing at a pub. As is often the case in the U.K. we had some inclement weather at times. A little drizzle was no concern though for the BBGMT with its waterproof rating of 200m. When I got home I wore my watch when mowing the lawn in the sunshine, I had no worries about the effect of the mild vibrations of the lawn mower on the watch.

Monday.

I wore the BBGMT to work, my time is split between the office and site. Today I was in the office so I was wearing a suit and tie. A common criticism of the Black Bay line is that they are chunky watches with a very deep case. It certainly is a substantial watch but it worked fine with a double cuffed shirt. That evening we took our dog to train, the BBGMT came in handy for timing one minute stays. I am pretty confident that most watches are capable of being used to time one minute accurately, but it is fair to say that the clear and easy to read dial came into its own again making the timing job that little bit easier.

uesday.

Another day in the office. I wore the BBGMT with a blue suit, white shirt and burgundy tie. I think it worked well with the outfit. I also had to sign some documents so the date function came in handy. I do prefer the symmetry and clean look of a watch without a date function but at the same time being able to quickly check the date without referring to my phone or a calendar is handy.

Wednesday.

It was the start of May so I needed to jump the date forward a day. It was quickly and easily achieved by moving the crown to the first position and jumping through the hours to move the date forward. Everything felt sharp and precise when making the change. I spent the day on site inspecting a High Voltage substation, an environment that is almost certainly subject to higher than normal electromagnetic fields. I expect I’m in the minority of watch collectors for whom this is a genuine issue to consider when buying watches. It is definitely something us engineers and scientists need to think about. I had no concerns wearing the BBGMT given that it contains a non-magnetic silicon hairspring, which offers a level of protection. The BBGMT is not anti-magnetic but a silicon hairspring is certainly a good step in the right direction. I probably need a Milgauss or Railmaster for when I’m inspecting electromagnetically dirty environments, although saying that I would always remove all jewelry when actually working on electrical equipment, the stories of injuries when things go wrong and people are wearing jewelry are truly horrific, I digress…

Thursday.

Another day in the office wearing a suit and tie. In the evening we were having dinner with friends so I made pizza dough. I didn’t bother to take off the BBGMT when making dough, I knew that if it got sprinkled with flour or splashed with olive oil I could give it a quick rinse under the tap and it would be as good as new.

Friday.

Dress down Friday in the office so I paired the BBGMT with chinos, a shirt, and a pink bomber jacket.

I think this it is a perfect smart casual watch on the bracelet, it can easily be dressed up or down. I do like watch straps and changing straps but at the same time, I do find it really convenient to have at least one watch on a bracelet because it works in so many situations and with so many outfits. The bracelet on the BBGMT is pretty comfy with a nice smooth clasp, much smoother than the clasps on my other watches. Some smart micro adjustment, that doesn’t require a tool, wouldn’t go amiss, but other than that I can’t fault the bracelet. In the evening I took a lume shot of the watch with an old fashioned, time to relax.

Saturday.

In the morning I did some volunteering at the Arches Project. This mostly involves carrying furniture that has been donated to the charity around a warehouse for storage before it is given to people in need. I didn’t wear the BBGMT because it would almost certainly have finished the morning with scratches and knocks, I wore a quartz chrono for the morning instead.

It did feel different after almost a week of wearing the BBGMT. I put the BBGMT back on the evening and it was still running perfectly, which is no surprise given the 70hr reserve, and is certainly better that some of my other automatic watches where I’m lucky to get more than 16 hours reserve!

Final thoughts – The Black Bay GMT is a comfortable, adaptable watch. It is a perfect smart casual option on the bracelet that is easy to dress up or down, I don’t think I would wear it with a tuxedo but other than that I think it works with most outfits and in most situations. It is a well built reliable machine that does everything I need day to day based on one week(ish) of wear. It has some neat added functionality in the form of the GMT hand and bezel which I look forward to using in the future when traveling. It references the past with an almost timeless look but also with all the advantages of a modern watch. I have now been wearing it every day for three weeks and none of my other watches are currently getting any wrist time, which probably tells you everything you need to know!

I hope you have enjoyed my first attempt at a watch article where I have talked through my slightly boring, real-world examples of how I have worn a watch for a week.

Chris Morgan-Jones @mr.c.mojo

Introduction

Hi – My name is Chris and I am an Electrical Engineer from the UK. I have started this blog in order to share some of hobbies and interests. I have had an instagram account since February 2016 that’s mostly dedicated to watches, cars, whisky and cigars. It is quite heavily weighted towards watch content because I wear watches everyday but I tend to indulge my other hobbies a little less frequently. I enjoy sharing and liking photos on Instagram, there is a great community and I have made some genuine friends through it.

More recently I have started writing some watch reviews which have been published on other sites. I have enjoyed the process and the feedback I have received so I have decided to create my own blog where I can publish more reviews and other content. There will be watches, cars, whisky and cigars but also with this blog I hope to expand into other areas that interest me such as cocktail making, photography and travel.

I hope you enjoy my first foray into blogging. If you have any feedback or suggestions please get in touch.