DW-5600MS

I really should be saving hard. I really shouldn’t be buying watches. I really shouldn’t be so easily swayed.

But I’m not, I have been and I am.

However, a mere £60 has been spent on this delightful G-Shock, which is just enough “to take the edge off” from my watch addiction. This one came in from a very helpful eBay seller in Singapore who was offering the watch and delivery for that price. In contrast, the few Amazon UK and UK eBay sellers still stocking this now hard to find model, were hoping to extract an extortionate £140!

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This is a DW-5600MS, with the MS standing for Military Series. The idea behind the watch and others in the series, is to be as stealthy and “tactical” as possible. These are overused marketing concepts and normally I would be suspicious of those who might be swayed by the appeal of having a covert watch. Incidentally in the real military situation, how useful would a blacked out watch be, what genuine advantage would it offer, given night-vision and infra-red technology. Anyway, I’ll confess that the small boy inside me, does in some way like the idea.

The main and rather obvious feature of the watch is the reversed, negative screen. Compared to the usual LCD display with dark numbers on a light background, the numbers in the 5600MS are negative and red tinted. I’m not sure whether the idea is to emulate the red light used to acclimatise military personnel’s night vision. Regardless, it does mean that the display is a little harder to read in some lighting conditions but overall it’s less tricky than I was expecting and better than a previously owned negative G-Shock, which had white numbers.

The other changes to the standard square G design are; a totally matte black finish to the case and strap, with the usually silver coloured push buttons and strap buckle being ion plated so they too are black.

Apart from those cosmetic changes, the watch is a DW-5600-E, the modern iteration of the redoubtable DW-5600C which was the first widely popular G-Shock, from the 80s onwards. The first run of DW-5600MS contained a 1545 module, which was updated a last couple of years ago to a 3229 module. Casio updated the module, literally, since the the new module’s calendar runs to the end of  2099 – when I will be 135. The 1545 module’s calendar only lasted to 2039 – I’ll then be 75, if I make it and obviously still in need of a tactical watch.

The module, compared to some other G-Shocks is basic, with only four modes; time-keeping, alarm, countdown timer and a stopwatch. I say “only” but what more would you need, for day to day time keeping. Less is more with these basic G-Shocks – there’s no atomic time syncing or solar battery charging but the watch should be good for +/- 15 seconds a month and the battery is easily changed every two years or so.

And yet there are some nice features which only appear on the basic models. When you’re in a mode other than timekeeping, you can see the current time in the top right section of the other modes. This is useful, as you can monitor whatever you’re timing without having to change screen to check the time. Most of the more advanced watches don’t allow this. I also like the Flash Alert, which when activated appears as a little star on the display. If you have set the watch to beep hourly (and why wouldn’t you) or have set an alarm, the watch will flash the backlight in time with the audible beep.

There are all the other usual things which make G-Shocks so good: excellent robustness and shock resistance, easily changed straps and bezels, 200m water resistance, good battery life and it’s nice and lightweight at only 60g. There was once a famous chap on WUS who in an extremely rash move, sold his Rolex Submariner, so smitten was he with a GW-5000-1JF (the more advanced cousin of the DW-5600MS) –  while I can appreciate the concept that a G-Shock will give you all you need in a watch, there are limits!

Absence

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Apologies to any readers who may have been disappointed by the lack of content on my blog over recent weeks. This may be simply explained by a lack of free time, I’m a lot busier at work and in the evenings, my time has been taken up by studying Dutch!

Why Dutch? I hear you ask – a good question! Well, I had a great time in Amsterdam and Den Haag last year and definitely want to return and perhaps venture away from the usual tourist haunts. When there I felt keenly the enduring British shame of knowing zero Dutch (or anything else,) relying on the perfect English of everyone I met. Next time will be different, despite several of my guide books saying not to bother learning anything beyond common pleasantries, as any Dutch English speakers will query your sanity attempting to speak “Nederlands.”

I’ve always liked languages, and being new to me, Dutch will help keep my brain active. It’s also a pleasure to learn a language closely related to English but different enough to prove a challenge. It’s also a pleasure not to worry too much about feminine and masculine word endings as in the Romance languages. Although finding there are two forms of the definite article and few guidelines as which should be used with which word did throw me a little. I’m sure more linguistic idiosyncrasies await me later in my studies.

I’ve equipped myself with a Hugo language course set, a dictionary and a grammar but have spent most time on the Duolingo site. Here there are many languages to learn, for free, at your own pace, with discussion groups to assist if you have a question or two. You set yourself goals and decide how many points you want to try to earn each day. So far, after a month in, it’s made learning fun and more than a little compulsive. However, I feel that their course needs the added rigour provided by a written grammar book which explains the language’s rules in more detail. But for the first time, I’ve decided to learn a language, rather than be compelled by teachers or expectation.

Pronunciation is of course the main problem. Most Gs are pronounced a bit like the CH sound in Loch or Och in Scottish – Vincent Van Hoch for example. I have an advantage there. Although not having studied German, one picks up the occasional word here and there and there are similarities. So the real trick, in these early days, is not to try to sound German when pronouncing some of the words. I find having a cider or two softens and slurs any harshness in my Dutch accent.

In an effort to increase my vocabulary, I’ve joined a Dutch watch forum, the idea being that if I read posts about a familiar subject in a familiar context, words will drop into place more easily and their idiomatic usage would become more apparent.

I hope to revisit The Nederlands (no, it’s not Holland) next year and by that time, I may be able to ask and say things without embarrassment.

Bedankt en welterusten!

Death List – BB King

Very sadly, “The thrill has gone.”

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I saw BB play in the Hammersmith Odeon in 1987 and he was stupendous. At that time his voice was so powerful he didn’t really need a mic or PA to be heard over the band which included a brass section. He was clearly a great player and a gentleman.

Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day!

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Tuna

After years of resisting the ugly appeal of a Seiko Tuna, the case shape should explain the nickname, I have eventually conceded defeat and ordered one from Japan. This is a double failure as I’m not meant to be buying anything semi-expensive this year, as I move towards a mortgage splash in September or October as part of the “Big Save.” However I have compensated for my weak willedness by selling a couple of guitar bits and pieces I wasn’t using.

As you can see this is not a subtle watch. The model is officially called the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 300 but more commonly, the SBBN015 Tuna. It’s one of those watches which has become a favourite among watch geeks but it’s not commonly seen, especially as you can only obtain it from a Japanese dealer.

The Tuna is a shrouded diver’s watch which means that the bezel, crystal and case are protected from damage by that metal shroud surrounding the upper part of the watch. The design first appeared in the mid 1970s and my model is comparatively new, being a 2010 release. I’ve been contemplating one since then. I remember there being a brouhaha about a steep price rise over the previous model but a new and highly thought of tapered bracelet with adjustable strap was the main reason. Other things such as changing the shroud screws to hex from philips and brushing the shroud rather than sand-blasting it, were only of interest in the WIS community.

The Tuna is designed as a professional diver’s watch and as such embodies particular features to take account of a harsh working environment. Clearly I’m not a professional diver, in fact I don’t really enjoy getting wet, but I do admire the aesthetics and engineering such a tool brings.

Let’s start inside the case and consider the movement. This model is a Seiko quartz calibre 7C46, which has been specially built for the range. It’s key features are it’s high torque to move those large hands and robustness While not a high accuracy movement (defined as being accurate to 10 seconds a year) it’s reported to have a far better performance than the specified +/- 15 seconds a month. The battery powers the watch for about five years, having an end of life indicator when it’s time for a replacement. As you can see from the dial, the movement has day and date complications. Part of the fun having a watch designed with the Japanese market firmly in mind, is that the day wheel contains both English and Kanji characters.

The case and bracelet are stainless steel. The case is a monocoque design, so the only way in to service the movement is through the crystal, which improves pressure and water resistance but means that battery changes are not for an ill-equipped but enthusiastic amateur. The crystal is hardened mineral, not sapphire, which raises some eyebrows at the watch’s price point but that choice was made to ensure the crystal will not shatter if hit under water. The downside is that a mineral crystal scratches more readily, there are plenty of scratched crystals viewable on online. Fitting a sapphire crystal is a popular modification.

The bracelet’s clasp is titanium and has a clever ratcheting expandable clasp which allows you to wear the watch over your wetsuit or more likely when your wrists swell when sitting at your desk in a hot office. It’s waterproof to a depth of 300 metres and uses a signed, screw down crown to maintain WR. It weighs in at 187g, 44mm diameter and is quite thick at 14.7mm. However compared to some other Tunas, that’s quite small.

I’ve always liked this particular watch, especially because of the classic appearance of the dial and bezel. The bezel is fully indiciseded and beneath the double curved, hardlex mineral dome lies the superb dial. As a working watch, the dial markers don’t have any fancy distractions such as the white gold surrounds on my Submariner. Seiko’s lume is legendary in the watch world, being the brightest and longest lasting available. The dial’s not encumbered with superfluous verbiage. The hands are functional and easily visible. I particularly like the two tone second hand. I’ve asked my seller to ensure that it hits the marks, which some quartz watches, even expensive ones, sometimes fail to manage.

I like its industrial appearance and given its size I can’t see it being one to wear every day but for weekends, holidays and fun it will be a great option to have. It has tiny lugs and these are apparently easily accessed, so changing to other staps is very much an option. The tiny lugs also mean that this big watch sits well on the wrist. At least I hope it will when it arrives in the next week or so from Japan.

NASA & Tunnocks

Who knew that NASA used massive Tunnock’s tea cake wrappers as parachutes for Apollo 16’s command module’s splash down!

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TU-3

After a year of using a Boss TU-80 and a Peterson Stroboclip I now have a tuner which makes my guitar sound as if it’s actually in tune. I bought a Boss TU3 pedal tuner. The tuner is almost the “industry standard” and makes it incredibly easy to tune up, without having to clip anything to your headstock or wonder whether the LCD blocks on the screen are behaving correctly.

Here’s the beauty. There are many reviews on-line and YouTube will show you all of the functions. I really only have one thing to say about it, in terms of praise. It makes my guitar sound better when I play. That’s all that matters.

TU3

My other tuners are now on eBay.

NOS valves

The joy of my Tweed 5 from Rift Amplification continues unabated. Last night I convinced myself I was as good a player as Roy Buchanan and Big Eric – that may have had something to do with some cider consumption. It may also have had a lot to do with the great sounds emanating from the amp. I even remembered to use the low gain channel in consideration of my neighbours. It allows me to bump up the gain on my overdrive pedal for a grittier sound at lower volumes.

One aspect of my joy is that with easy access to the valves through the open rear panel, I can change them to alter the amp’s tone. I’ve seen YouTube clips of a well-known (Australian) reviewer stating that changing valves never really changed the sound of his amp, whereas in his opinion, a speaker swap makes a large difference. While every element in the signal chain affects the sound and a speaker swap would clearly alter the tone it’s not a quick process. Turning an amp around and gently waggling a valve or two is a lot easier to achieve.

My Tweed has three valves; a 5Y3 rectifier which converts the AC current to DC, an ECC83 pre-amp and a 6V6 power valve. From my reading up about the subject, changing the pre-amp tube has the largest affect on the amp’s tone, as it passes on the signal to the power valve for secondary amplification, although of course as we know, every element in the chain has an effect.

It would be totally remiss of me not to experiment with different valves in the amp; they’re not expensive (although they can be) and there are many, many varieties available from on-line sellers.

The first valve I tried was a TAD 12AX7/Ecc83 Premium Selected RT001 which is a very close relation of the ECC83 WA TAD RT008 which Chris @ Rift Amps selects as the original valve. The difference in tone from two very similar valves, supplied by the same company is quite amazing. The 12AX7 valve produces a much brighter sound with clearer highs and mid-tones, it made the Tweed 5 sound more modern, like my Blues Junior, which uses Fender 12AX7s. The original  EEC83 has a much warmer tone and sounds Tweedier.

I next tried a NOS (new old stock) Philips JAN 5751 which was a little more expensive than the 12AX7. The tone produced by this pre-amp valve was very smooth indeed. Less bright than the 12AX7 and less woody than the ECC83 – so in the middle but very assured and even. I gave the amp a volume pump and the tone was still snappy. Overall, I preferred the original ECC83 but this is probably because it’s what I’m most used to and have played the longest.

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I tried both pre-amp valves combined with the TAD 6V6GT-STR power valve which the amp ships with. I did however have a NOS power amp to try, this US made Sylvania 6V6 which sounded absolutely fantastic with the ECC83. However, once again, on balance I think I liked the original valve configuration which the amp came with. This is almost certainly love of the familiar.

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I didn’t test all of the combinations possible – that’s for another time. Although I think what I may do is keep things as they are and if/when one of the original valves dies or starts playing up, I’ll choose a replacement from my small collection.  I’m tempted though to try this one, which is reputed to sound superb, coming as it does, through time from 1969!

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