The PRECISTA 93-PRS-18 QUARTZ – A “historic” review.
The PRS-18Q is an extremely popular example of a Time Factors military re-edition which provides watch enthusiasts with the opportunity to purchase and enjoy an updated version of a now hard to find and comparatively expensive model, the Precista 93. As with all Time Factors’ homages, the PRS-18Q has been improved to provide an authentic re-edition which exceeds the original specifications and offers great value for money.
I thought I would attempt a “historic review” of my recently acquired PRS-18Q for a couple of reasons.
First, I’d like to see whether I could approach the quality of Ewan Wilson’s reviews at Watcharama. These have become a defining standard given his attention to detail and fascinating content particularly for Time Factors’ offerings. One of the Time Factors watches Ewan has not reviewed is the PRS-18Q, so this my attempt to fill that “gap in the market.”
Second, after over a month of regularly wearing my new watch and thoroughly enjoying it, I decided to expand my limited knowledge and conduct some on-line research. Since the PRS-18Q has been available for six years and the original Precista 93 is very much sought after, there was a wealth of material to sift. Collecting much of this information in one photo laden document will hopefully prove useful for those contemplating purchasing the watch and those who have an interest in the original. I’ve approached the subject, appending my review of the watch, very much as an enthusiastic amateur. As such, any errors or omissions are mine and I’d welcome clarifications or additional information, particularly on the original Precista 93.
The original Precista 93 was a quartz diver’s watch, issued in accordance with MOD and NATO standards from about 1989 until 1993, with an ordnance number of 6645-99 757-3314 which is comprised as follows; 6645 indicates the item is a wristwatch, 99 is the NATO country code for the UK, with the remainder being the item’s specific reference number. Issued watches also featured the watch number and year of issue, for example; 255/93. Finally the other mark one might find is the pheon or Broad Arrow, which has been a mark of government property since the 17th century.
It was fitted with a mineral glass crystal, which although hard wearing and less prone to shattering than sapphire, can be scratched if treated roughly. The crystal stood slightly proud of the unidirectional bezel, which was of a square type with markers for each minute, numerals at each 10 minute point and a triangle at 12 o’clock fitted with a luminous pearl. In other words, a standard military diving bezel. To aid grip, the bezel had pronounced serrated bars reminiscent of those found on other issued watches such as the Omega Seamaster 300. The bead blasted, solid steel case had fixed strap bars around which a NATO or open ended strap could be fitted. The movement was a Swiss ISA 1198 single jewel quartz, secured by an unsigned, screw down crown. This was powered by a 395 1.55v battery. The asymmetric case, a generic design originating from the mid-sixties with Benrus military dive and navigator watches, is similar in shape to other military diver and chronograph watches. The case protected the crown within its extended shoulders and to some extent also served to prevent the crown digging into the back of the wearer’s hand. The watch was water resistant to a depth of 300 metres.
EDIT: Since posting a link to this review on TZ-UK, Abraxas (John) provided this helpful link about the case shape and made the following comment.
In horological terms ‘transitional model’ is one of the highest accolades a watch can be bestowed with. And the first rule of ‘transitional models’ is scarcity. The Precista ’93 was transitional between the ‘Benrus Type’ and the mighty modern SAR. The SAR’s primary characteristic is the oversize bezel which we see on the Precista. A need for which the “other member of the Wein family” was addressing.
and my reply to John:
Thank you John, I did miss that link, which confirms that the 93 is indeed a rare beast. When writing, I was conscious that my knowledge of the case in particular was limited, so thank you very much for those additional details. I’ll amend the review to include more on the case history. That Sandoz certainly does contain genetic heritage from the 93, and what a crystal! This one from Sulaco on DWC on a tropic, emphasises the connection.
A matt black dial featured a prominent triangle marker at 12 o’clock, large batons at each 5 minute mark and smaller batons at the 3, 6 and 9 positions which are separately indicated with Arabic numerals. Beneath the triangle, the brand name Precista is printed in white in an italicised flowing script. Above the six o’clock position is the luminosity indicator, a T in a circle, to confirm that the hands, hour markers and bezel pip but not the 3, 6, 9 numerals, were treated with tritium. The final dial marking is the words “SWISS MADE” on either side of the 6 o’clock numeral.
The hour and minute skeleton hands were well proportioned, with the hour hand reaching to just below the hour markers and the minute hand stretching almost to the very top of the markers. The second hand was elegantly counterbalanced with a diamond shape, with a similar reach to that of the minute hand.
The Precista 93 was issued for the most part, but not exclusively, to RAF Search and Rescue divers and Royal Naval Reserve Port and Clearance divers. Issued examples rarely appear for sale and when they do, can approach £400 – £500 depending on condition. While I could find no definitive information as to the total number of watches issued or produced, there are indications, based on case-back numbers, that this may have been as low as 300.
These photographs of a fine original Precista 93 belong to Duarte and were posted on the TZ-UK forum in 2006 following his then recent acquisition.
This equally fine example is from Hyunsuk’s military watch site. These first appeared on-line in 2001 and provided many internet users with their first sight of a Precista 93.
The above images © H.Seung.
Discussions about creating a new version of the watch reached fruition at the beginning of 2006 when Time Factors owner, Eddie Platts met his then supplier Fricker. His Precista 93 was used as a template for the project, with quartz and automatic versions planned. From discussions on the TZ-UK forum at the time, this was clearly going to be popular release. The specifications were finalised in March 2006 and baring one or two hiccups from the supplier, the PRS-18Q became available in early August 2006, with the automatic arriving a month later. They immediately proved to be best-sellers, with both watches in this first batch selling out, so a second batch was commissioned. These became available in July 2009.
The second batch also sold out. However the popularity of the watch ensured that a third batch was ordered and went on sale in January 2012. This run with the watches dated 2011, saw not only a change of manufacturer but also a change of movement for the PRS-18A. These were manufactured by Roland Kemmner in Germany, who has an excellent reputation for producing high quality pieces under his own brand name and for other companies. Kemmner’s association with Time Factors reaches back for about a decade, across manufacturing suppliers and includes key work on definitive projects such as production of the PRS-2 Dreadnought.
The change of movement in the PRS-18A from the former ETA 2824-2 to the Miyota 9015 was forced on Time Factors since The Swatch Group, owners of ETA began restricting supply of parts and movements to competitors. The Miyota movement is equivalent to the 2824-2, running at 28,000 bph, has 24 jewels, hacking seconds and may be hand-wound. It has proved to be reliable and robust since its release in 2009. Acquiring parts or replacement movements should not be a problem in the years ahead. Despite these changes, every PRS-18Q has contained a Ronda 715Li.
One final notable date in this brief history of the PRS-18 is 16th May 2007. On that day and in keeping with the military heritage of the watch, Time Factors was allocated a NATO stock number for the quartz version of the watch. Stock Number 6645-99-891-0585 has been engraved on every PRS-18Q since June 2007 and indicates that the watch meets MOD/NATO standards and may be ordered and issued to British Forces, although this has not yet happened. Please scroll to the very bottom of this review for a complete copy of the NATO stock number approval form.
This interesting photograph shows an original Precista 93 sitting next to a PRS-18. Konrad’s Precista 93 suffered a serious bout of lume rot which required the watch to be stripped down and reluming the dial. Here’s another of his photographs showing the bare case.
I’ve been most fortunate to be able to include a number of additional photographs belonging to Duarte, which offer a direct comparison between a Precista 93 and a PRS-18Q from I believe the first batch, as the caseback serial appears to be from 2006. These photographs clearly show, how close the Time Factors re-edition is to the original. The subtle differences are the signed crown, the larger lug holes for the fixed bars on the original and the caseback shapes and engravings.
As is usual with Time Factors packages, and I believe the PRS-18Q is my fifth, the outer packaging is robust enough to survive any delivery or postal service’s most cack-handed operative. Inside the shipping bag was a firm cardboard box wrapped and sealed with shipping tape. Inside the delivery box were air filled cells which protected a padded Banda watch case and finally inside that was the watch. Only deliberate negligence will damage the contents.
The Banda cases serve as excellent storage, shipping or travel cases for a pair of watches. Similar cases with greater capacity may be purchased on line, although not currently from Time Factors. The provided case contains two velour lined interiors with elasticated restraining straps, with the head spaces positioned at 180 degrees to each other in order to separate the heads of two watches during storage. An internal padded divider rests between the compartments, further keeping the watches separate and scratches at bay.
Also included in the package are the international two year warranty card, Eddie Platts’ business card and a useful instruction leaflet explaining the watch’s features and specifications. Extras include a handy microfibre polishing cloth and a Time Factors pen. Receiving a new watch is an exciting experience in itself but the contents and extras definitely increase that feeling and add to the sense of value.
Case and Crown:
The PRS-18Q’s case is made from 316L grade stainless steel, a nickel-chromium steel with a maximum of 0.03% carbon offering excellent resistance to corrosion and pitting. The case is bead blasted all over which results in an attractive matt, non-reflecting finish, accentuating its rugged nature. Bead blasting is notoriously difficult for owners to refinish in the event of the case being scratched, with the only remedy being to have the watch bead blasted again. I am aware that one owner, took the trouble to polish his case to remove the matt finish. The results were interesting but not an improvement in my opinion. The style, cost and function of the watch means that it should be used and if not abused, certainly not overly protected. The finish on watches from the early 90s seems to have survived well after years of service and the same will doubtless be true for the modern version. The case is very attractive for a functional watch, it’s clean lines and angles all just work.
Contrary to the fashion for ever larger dive watches, the PRS-18Q retains the 39mm diameter bezel (43.5mm including crown) of the original and is therefore essentially similar in size to a Rolex Submariner 16610. The lug to lug distance is 47.5mm and the height is 12.5mm, the latter being again similar to a Submariner. It weights 80gms, head only. On the wrist, the watch appears to sit quite high because of the short lug length, their downward sloping angle and the depth of the bezel. Fitting a NATO strap would exaggerate that illusion due to the two layers of strap beneath the case. Comparing the PRS-18Q fitted with a rubber strap to my Submariner on its oyster bracelet, I found their heights to be indistinguishable to my eye.
The drilled lugs are 20mm which allows a variety of straps to be easily fitted and come with sturdy 2mm shoulder-less spring bars. The original watch had fixed bars which limited choices to either NATO or open-ended two piece straps. The flexibility offered by the current model is but one example of the useful improvements aimed at a modern customer base.
A large and easy to grip screw down crown is set at the 3 o’clock position. The action is positive and smooth. As this is a dateless quartz watch, one would not expect to have to unscrew it too often. As with the original design, the asymmetric case shoulders act as crown protector. Unlike the original, the crown is signed, engraved with a capital, italic P for Precista. It’s a nice touch and a sign of pride in the brand.
EDIT: 10th April 2013.
Since writing the above, I saw a PRS-18Q on sale on eBay with what appeared to be a rather rough and ready application of the NATO stock number to one of the original style casebacks.
Eddie has been kind enough to confirm that these were “official” casebacks:
The Fricker batches of the 18Q were made before I got the NSN and the numbers were engraved on fully-assembled watches in Sheffield. The marking on the caseback in picture is consistent with the first batch.
The 300m rated case is sealed by not one but two Viton O-rings to provide exceptional water resistance. While Viton is a new material to me, it has been used for a number of years by several watch manufacturers, including Damasko and Sinn, there may be others too. Its enhanced chemical and temperature resistance has proved attractive in a number of industries, including diving and solid fuel rocket manufacture. With this level of protection, the PRS-18Q will not readily admit water or spring a leak. Finally the case provides an anti-magnetic sanctuary for the movement. It’s rated to 4,800 Amperes per metre, meeting the ISO 764 standard. While not as important for a quartz movement as an automatic, this level of anti-magnetic resistance is still useful.
Crystal, Bezel, Dial and Hands:
The PRS-18Q’s crystal is a definite improvement over the original. It’s a 3mm thick sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the underside. The crystal is flat and exactly level with the bezel. The plain chapter ring matches the grey metal of the case. It slope inwards down to the dial providing the watch with a 3D impression of depth, especially when viewed obliquely. Only in the very brightest conditions does the flatness of crystal result in some glare, even with the anti-reflective coating. Nonetheless, to have a scratch resistant sapphire crystal with AR on a watch at this price point is astonishing and further emphasises its great value. Seiko and some other manufacturers could learn a few things here.
The aluminium bezel is unidirectional, featuring 120 clicks, displaying individual minute markings and numerals at the 10 minute points. The 12 o’clock marker is an embedded luminous triangle of Super Luminova C3 compared to the tritium pearl on the original. The distinct vertical bars of the bezel mean that it’s exceptionally easy to grip and turn, providing for precise alignment with the minute hand. My bezel aligns perfectly with the 12 o’clock dial marker and ratchets firmly with no play at all, it’s not particularly smooth but it is 100% functional.
The dial is a model of clarity, with beautifully precise printing. It’s virtually indistinguishable from the original, retaining the 3,6,9 layout, the Precista name and a luminosity indicator. This now shows an L rather than a T to signify the hour markers are filled with Super Luminova and not Tritium.
The dial is matt-black and depending on lighting conditions ranges from grey to dark black. The words “Great Britain” are printed below the 6 o’clock marker. Previous batches showed “England” – as a proud Scot I applaud the improvement. Joking aside, this seems entirely apt as Time Factors is a British company based in England, the watch’s heritage is British, despite being made in Germany and containing a Swiss movement.
The dial does not show a date, although the movement has the complication. Only the owner or potential owner can decide whether a dial is impaired or enhanced by it’s inclusion. Despite calls for the PRS-18 to be offered with a date, implementing it would probably stray too far from the original design. Although it has happened once by accident. The previous manufacturers confused which dial (and movement) belonged to which case; witness on the right, the incredibly rare “PRS-35” with date window showing at the 4:30 position. The handset is from a PRS-17 which was in production at the same time.
EDIT: Please note the reference to a “PRS-35” was simply a mathematical pun given the watch combined attributes of the 17 & 18. I understand this attractive but erroneous piece was returned to the manufacturers for corrective treatment. Since writing this review, Timefactors has produced a different watch with the official designation PRS-35.
The lume deserves special mention.It easily matches that of the Seiko “Orange Monster” which is widely recognised as possessing outstanding luminosity. The PRS-18Q’s lume is genuinely powerful, evenly and thickly applied, it will last through the night given an appropriate charge. As you can see how the “lumeshine” reflects most pleasingly from the chapter ring. The bezel triangle is especially potent.
The hands are white painted metal in either “pencil” or “skeleton” style which contrast with the matt-black dial. The hour and minute hands are generously filled with the same Super Luminova C3 as the dial and light up just as well. The second hand is elegant with a diamond luminous tip and pointed counterbalance. It takes but a glance to tell the time.
PRS-18Q contains is the Swiss Ronda 715Li. The full specifications are available on the link, however the salient features are:
- Swiss, 5 jewels, gilt, repairable quartz metal movement
- Very long battery life – theoretically 10 years from a lithium CR2016 battery
- End of life indicator and power saving of 70% with the stem pulled out
- Instantaneous rate (T=25°C) -10/ +20 sec/month
While the 715Li movement possesses a date wheel, the watch does not have a date window and the hands are not synchronised with the complication. So in theory one could add a date after some do-it-yourself dial surgery and resetting the hands. Eddie Platts has stated he chose this movement over other contenders, primarily because it offered such exceptional battery life. Minimising battery changes is always a good thing, preserving as it does case and seal integrity.
Many may consider timing the accuracy of a quartz movement indicative of OCD. Nonetheless, I timed my watch for a month (31 days) and in that period it gained 2.5 seconds. This clearly exceeds the stated specification and is accurate enough to allow me to use it as a reference watch for my automatics. I chose the quartz version precisely for this accuracy and reliability. A quartz movement additionally seems more in keeping with the style, purpose and historical antecedents.
Potential purchasers who obsess about quartz movements’ second hand aligning perfectly with the dial’s minute markers should note that the Ronda does not always achieve that alignment. This seems to be a characteristic of the movement and has been commented on since the watch’s release in 2006. On mine, I’ve noticed that from the 12 o’clock position to 6 o’clock, when travelling “downhill” the second hand does hit the markers but on the “uphill” journey it’s off. I experienced the same drift in a Precista PRS-10 which also contains the Ronda 715Li.
This “phasing” has been the subject of much discussion on the watch fora, with suggested explanations ranging from the effects of gravity, the dial being misprinted or inserted askew (given the renowned attention to detail and quality control from Time Factors this is very unlikely,) backlash on the second hand or slack in the motor gears. On the link above, no consensus was reached despite extensive discussion and no single cause could be specifically identified. Perhaps it’s safest to say that this just happens with this movement. It will annoy some and for others it will not be an issue. The phenomenon been noted in quartz movements across price and quality ranges, from many manufacturers including well regarded Swiss and Japanese brands.
The watch is supplied on a Time Factors NATO strap of choice. The watch works well with many different styles and types of straps, including NATO, mesh, rubber and leather.
There are many threads on-line showing the endless variety of straps owners have employed. The lug spacing of 20mm ensures a large range of straps can be used, with the drilled lugs making changes quick and easy. I would recommend taping up the underside of the lugs when changing straps, as the bead-blasted finish can scratch if one is not careful – rubbing metal against metal is never a good idea. My favourite strap on the PRS-18Q is a black Hirsch pure Caoutchouc rubber strap. I’ve not yet tried it on a leather strap but a simple light tan strap looks like an excellent companion.
The PRS-18 in its different guises has been one of Time Factors most popular watches and it’s not difficult to see why.
For me the PRS-18Q is an excellent “tool” watch, faithful to the original but updated at the key points which make it a flexible daily wearer. I enjoy the asymmetric case, as it’s comfortable, functional and these days rather unusual. I appreciate the inherent tension yet balance between the asymmetry of the case and the perfect roundness of the bezel and the crystal.
Some may consider it too small, particularly for a diver’s watch but I find it a perfect size, which has plenty of wrist presence and character. While many will buy a PRS-18Q as a “beater” – a role it can fulfil easily due to its build quality, robust construction and quartz accuracy, to think of it solely as such would be to diminish unfairly a fine watch. Finally to be able to purchase the entire package at the price Time Factors sell it for, is astonishing value for money. There are a number of other manufacturers who sell very similar automatics at over four times the cost.
The PRS-18Q is a joy to wear!
Availability and Cost:
At the time of writing, the PRS-18Q is currently in stock available at a price of £185.00. The automatic PRS-18A is also available at £245.00. Both prices include VAT and a 24 month guarantee but excluding delivery.
I’m most grateful to the copyright owners of the images included in this review who have already granted permission to reproduce their shots. Special thanks are due to Duarte for permission to use shots of his Precista 93, as well as allowing me to include additional comparative shots with his PRS-18Q which I’ll upload shortly. Thanks also to Konrad for generously agreeing to share his photographs. Thanks to Ewan Wilson for setting the benchmark – too high of course, but one must try.
Finally I’m especially grateful to Eddie Platts for his permission to use his images and of course for producing and making available such an excellent watch.
NATO Stock Number provided to the PRECISTA 93-PRS-18 QUARTZ.
600 INPUT SUBMISSION SUCCESSFUL. DATA AS REQUESTED
Print FULL TIR DATA Page – 1 16 MAY 2007
DEFENCE CODIFICATION AGENCY NSN 6645-99-891-0585
ACTY CODE: SUBM NO:
CONVERSION CONTROL CHARACTER…. 0
RECORD DATE………………… 16/05/2007
CSC CODIFICATION STATUS CODE…….. M
TII TYPE OF ITEM IDENTIFICATION….. M
HAZ HAZARDOUS STORES INDICATOR…… N
HZZ HAZARD CODE………………… NONE
DATE NIIN ALLOCATED…………. 16/05/2007
SMD SMD INDICATOR………………. NONE
FNU FOREIGN NATION USERS………… NONE
CSU CIVIL/SERVICE USERS…………. P
IPT INTEGRATED PROJECT TEAM……… NONE
INC ITEM NAME CODE……………… 17174
ITEM NAME………………….. WATCH,WRIST
NAME NAME………………………. WATCH,WRIST
REF CODIFICATION REFERENCE SET…… 6991 U9124 072FL-002
REF CODIFICATION REFERENCE SET…… 3241 KD1H6 PRS-18-Q
CRN NSN RELATIONSHIP……………. NONE
CAI CUSTODIAN ACTIVITY IDENTIFIER… X
CSD CONTROLLING SUBMISSION DETAILS.. XA072FL0002
IIG UK IIG NUMBER AND SUFFIX…….. T270-B
FIIG US FIIG NUMBER……………… T270-B
MRC DATA DATE………………. 16/05/2007
RPD REFERENCE OR PARTIAL
DESCRIPTIVE METHOD REASON CODE.. 5
AQFY BACKGROUND COLOR……………. BLACK, LUSTERLESS
AEWG DIAL OUTSIDE DIAMETER……….. 43.5 MILLIMETERS
APSJ SCALE QUANTITY……………… 2
AQFZ SCALE NAME…………………. 12 HOUR AND HOUR
APSQ DIAL SCALE MARKING LUMINOSITY… LUMINOUS
AQPW LUMINOUS NUMERAL……………. INCLUDED
AQQB ILLUMINATIVE METHOD…………. FLUORESCENT-LUMINESCENT
AQQX HAND QUANTITY………………. 3
AQRB LUMINOUS HAND………………. INCLUDED
AQRC JEWEL QUANTITY……………… 5
AQRD MOVEMENT SIZE DESIGNATION……. 11-1/2
AQJZ NONMAGNETIC CHARACTERISTIC…… INCLUDED
AQTC CIVIL DATE INDICATOR………… NOT INCLUDED
AQTE STOPWATCH FEATURE…………… NOT INCLUDED
ADTV CASE MATERIAL………………. STEEL, STAINLESS
ADTY CASE SURFACE TREATMENT………. BEAD BLASTED
AQTN CRYSTAL TYPE……………….. SAPPHIRE
AQKS BEZEL TYPE…………………. SCREW
AKSS WATERPROOF FEATURE………….. INCLUDED
AHZV SUBMERSIBILITY……………… SUBMERSIBLE
ADAV OVERALL DIAMETER……………. 43.5 MILLIMETERS NOMINAL
ADUM OVERALL THICKNESS…………… 12.5 MILLIMETERS NOMINAL
FEAT SPECIAL FEATURES……………. WATER RESISTANCE 300 METRES;
LUMINOUS HANDS, HOUR MARKERS
AND BEZEL TRIANGLE
(SUPERLUMINOVA C3); MOVEMENT
RONDA 715LI QUARTZ, 5 JEWELS
WITH 10 YEAR BATTERY LIFE;
BATTERY CR2016 LITHIUM; ANTI
MAGNETIC 4800 A/M: CHRYSTAL,
3MM THICK SAPPHIRE, ANTI-
REFLECTIVE COATING UNDERSIDE.
PRPY PROPRIETARY CHARACTERISTICS….. PACS
CLQL COLLOQUIAL NAME…………….. PRECISTA 93-PRS-18 QUARTZ.
9000 DATE OF PRECEDING RECORD…….. 07136
600 INPUT SUBMISSION SUCCESSFUL. DATA AS REQUESTED