Seiko Pepsi Turtle

After much deliberation, I have decided to purchase a modest birthday present for myself, in the shape of a second Seiko Turtle – this time the SRP-779 model, with the Pepsi bezel, compared to the SRP-775 which is the gold two-tone version. So the watch is the same apart from cosmetic differences and that the Pepsi comes not with a bracelet but with a Seiko rubber band.

I had my eye on a number of more expensive Seiko divers which, sparing you esoteric model numbers, come with nicknames such as the Sumo and the Shogun. In the watch world, Seiko divers have a strong following and you would be sure to receive an unfavourable response if you said on being shown a diver with a £1,000 price tag; “It’s only a Seiko.” They represent excellent value for money, are frequently  and easily modified to change the official offerings and come with either in-house automatic or quartz movements.

Turtles are equipped with Seiko’s 4R36 movement which is utilitarian and on my 775 working very well indeed, within COSC rates and better than the specified rating of  ±20 seconds per day. Unlike the older 7S26 movements, it hacks and is hand windable.

I’ve ordered from a global reseller who is based in Hong Kong,  after much dithering. My indecision was caused by my initially wanting a J or Made in Japan version, compared to the K or Not Made in Japan version.

There is a certain, snobbish cachet about having Japanese made watches, from a Japanese vendor, rather than the lesser “made somewhere else” version; Seiko has manufacturing plants in Japan, China and possibly elsewhere. However given the price difference between the two, at about £100, and the only real difference apart from a line of text on the dial, is the date wheel shows the days in different languages, meant that I decided upon a bog-standard K. This will likely not make a jot of difference in wearing or using it.

I very nearly bought it from Rob at MonsterWatches  – motto: Gek van horloges – Mad for watches –  in the Netherlands (thereby combining two passions of mine)  who has an increadible range of Seiko models, often hard to find, with many of them in the prefered J class. An added attraction is that Rob is able to offer a J model with a double-domed sapphire crystal in place of the rather pedestrian, standard, hardlex. Sapphire is more scratch resistant, looks shinier and with a double-dome would offer some interesting distortions while looking through it to the dial. Sadly the price of about €380 is just too high, given that I already have this watch, that the J version is the same as the cheaper K and the crystal on my 775 does just fine.

The other reason I bought the Pepsi dialled Turtle, was to see how I get on with a watch which I know is comfortable but with the different aesthetics of the blue and red bezel. While this is not the same as a GMT watch, like the famous Rolex GMT Pepsi, it is close enough in rough looks to see whether I would like to even contemplate possibly purchasing one at some stage. I think I like the look but living with it for some time rather than a quick look on the wrist will help.

Another advantage of duplicating a Turtle in my collection, is that I will be able to fit my Strapcode Super Jubilee bracelet and the steel bracelet which comes with the 775. Reviews of the 779’s rubber strap are mixed, with people stating that it picks up a lot of lint and that the keeper moves around annoyingly.

Before finally deciding to buy the 779, I was swithering on going up-market to either a Sumo or Shogun. These are JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) watches only and come in different configurations. They have attractive cases, shapes and Seiko in-house movements. Compared to Swiss brands they’re fantastic value for money.

However the Sumo, as it’s nickname suggests, is one large watch and I prefer nothing too hefty, being delicate and refined myself. The Shogun, see right, is very much more attractive. I love Titanium and this watch is made exclusively from that metal. It’s sized to fit human rather than Sumo wrists. However it’s £930. The hands come from an entry-level diver called The Monster – they have the unique feature of looking like a rocket when all aligned above each other.  The crystal is still “only” hardlex – paying over £900 I expect a sapphire crystal. The bracelet’s links are retained by collar and pins which again at this price point, is somewhat lacking – I’d expect screwed links which can be dealt with by a small slot-headed screwdriver, not a hammer and specialised pin tools which the Shogun’s links need. Finally the movement is a 6R15, a step up in quality from the 4R36 but it’s still nothing magical. If Seiko could produce the Shogun with a sapphire crystal, include the 8L35 automatic movement and have screwed links (maybe that’s difficult with the steel connecting to titanium?) – I would buy one, even with the Monster’s hands.

So after all that – a very reasonable £190 bought me the Pepsi Turtle which may be with me in time to celebrate my birthday. Even if it’s not, I hope soon to enjoy it and bore everyone I meet, forcing them to look and admire it.

G-Shock frenzy

Every few years a G-Shock frenzy takes me over. Indeed it has just done so.  I’ve recently been enjoying my negative display, square DW-5600MS and decided to splash out on its sister model, the DW-6900MS. G-Shock Aficionados will be aware that the “MS” stands for Military Series and implies that the watches may be usefully configured for those in the military. They are however far more likely to have been configured for those who wish to be in the military, in high speed, low drag tactical operator kind of way. I am too old for that sort of nonsense.

I do however like a nice looking watch and to my eye, the DW-6900MS is attractive. Yet, it features a pedestrian module, offering only basic time, alarm, count-down and stopwatch functions. There is no solar power or syncing with atomic clocks. The “eyes” above the main display, simply acts as visual counters. The accompanying strap is not inflexible plastic, featuring the module number in faux stencilled military block writing. How naff. Many people find the negative LCD display with its pinkish hue, incredibly difficult to read in many lighting conditions. So why did I buy it?

One simple change to the watch makes it a joy to wear. By adding a Casio – combi-bracelet to replace the rather stiff default strap, the comfort level of the watch increases immeasurably . I’ve already done this to a GW-6900 so I know it works. I’ve also fitted one to my DW-5600MS, again to improve the comfort of the rather ordinary plastic strap. I ordered my DW-6900MS from Hong Kong, as they can be difficult to find in the UK at a sensible price. I managed to acquire one for £62 including shipping. Hopefully it will wend its way past customs, surreptitiously.

It may astonish non-watch fans that the combi-bracelet costs the same as the watch. The combi-strap may not look entirely elegant but it is the perfect accompaniment for a G-shock. It’s incredibly easy to add and remove links as these are held in place with nothing more complicated than spring bars, which normally attach a strap to a watch case between the lugs. It’s a brilliantly simple system, that allows you to use any spring-bar tool, or even a small screwdriver, to ensure a perfect fit. This is almost guaranteed by Casio placing four adjustment points on the clasp. If only every bracelet were this convenient and secure.  It also shows, I hope, how much watch fun one can have with very cheap, yet functional, watches and parts. Who needs a Rolex?

Look into the eyes, not around the eyes.

Reserved

I originally wrote that I felt it was unlikely that I would splash the cash on this newly released Limited Edition Omega. I was not in the market for a new watch when the innovative on-line release announcement was made. But given the stir it’s created, as well it’s phenomenally good looks – especially that applied, vintage looking metal Ω on the dial – I currently think I will make the purchase. I may have to sell something else but what the heck. It’ll be great to have one of only 2012 watches in the world and you only live once.

 

Turning Turtle

Well I’ve broken a rule and splashed out before pay day.

So I’m now wearing my new “Turtle”, which is the nickname of the Seiko SRP-775 black and gold version, courtesy of those nice people at Creation Watches. Delivery was fast, free and as other customers have said, it sailed through without any hindrances in regards to customs.

The turtle is a recreation of the legendary Seiko 6309 which commands large prices for unmolested or modded versions from the 60s and 70s. Perhaps the 6309’s most iconic appearance and the one which set the watch up to be seriously desired was in Apocalypse Now on Captain Willard’s wrist – technically that was a 6105 but the models are closely related. Clean originals of either can reach many hundreds of pounds. The demand opened the way for fakers to create the most desired dials in order to bump prices. While honest manufacturers have brought out successful reproductions and re-workings to cater for the need of watch-aholics.

However a little while back, Seiko decided to update and release one of their favourite previous watches themselves. The Seiko SRP range features a number of differently coloured models, featuring a 4R36 movement offering hacking, hand-winding and better accuracy over the 7S26 in the SKX007 range. The watch was priced keenly so buyers could obtain a genuine unmolested Seiko diver with much of the genetics from he past.

I hummed and haa’ed about buying one, and even experienced some buyers remorse before it arrived, probably because I’d broken my financial guidelines and I may have had a drinkie when I ordered it. Oh the shame! But I did in the end buy one the 775 Black and Gold model from Creation Watches in Singapore.

775

First impressions were very good. My watch had none of the problems mentioned on some of the early released models.

In terms of size, it’s not too big or too high on my wrist. It wears better (less tall) than I remember my old SKX007 did years ago. This version comes on the bracelet – some come on a rubber strap – and while that makes it quite a heavy combination, the case width seems to spread the load well. Visually the cushion case also makes it appear not top heavy or high wearing. Coming directly from my other new watch, a G-shock GD-350 which is not a small watch, made my acclimatisation all the faster.

The bracelet is of better quality than I’ve seen on some of my other Seikos. The clasp opens very smoothly, there are 4 micro-adjustment points and a diver’s clasp. The pin and collar link assembly is a bit of a pain but with the right tools and a reminder of how to remove and reattach them, I was able to find a perfect fit within 20 minutes. It would have been quicker but I mistakenly took out two links instead of just one. DOH!

Despite having drilled lugs, reattaching the end links was more of a nuisance than fiddling with pins. The fit is very tight but I managed it a couple of times without scratching anything. I was intending to buy some rubber straps for the 775 but I can’t see myself doing this just yet, as the bracelet is so comfortable and looks good with the head.

Two tone watches are not universally appreciated in the watch world but I’ve long had a secret love for them. This stems way back to seeing two tone Rolex Submariners from the 1970s in National Geographic, right up to the current two tone GMTIIc. I did wonder whether I should have gone for the standard black 777 or perhaps the blue 773?

Some of the reviews made my black and gold version appear rather flat, while others made it look too blingy! Yet, given the price point I thought I should pluck up courage and go for the little splash of colour. After all I have a 16610 and a CWC quartz if I want the standard black diver look. The blue appeals but I’m not sure it’s for me, not long-term anyway. In the flesh, the 777 is at just the right level of difference without being too old mannish.

The lume is of course brilliant and early timing results are very good. So far I’m very pleased to have a Seiko back in the collection.

Getat Watch

The other watch, which I may have recently accidentally bought, is also from the far east. Getat Watches have a sound reputation for making low priced homages of Panerais. They’re popular because they are almost infinitely customisable, look excellent and are hugely inexpensive, especially when compared to real Panerais. You can  buy a customised, Chinese built watch, for about $190 inc. shipping which looks and behaves like a similar watch costing $9,000.

Now clearly there will be quality differences between the two. The movements will be of different quality, being better finished and decorated in the real model, although they will likely be based on the Unitas 6497 movement, in effect a glorified pocket watch. One will be Swiss and the other Chinese, both are capable of being regulated to run well and be accurate. The cases and winding mechanisms will be distinguishable in terms of fit and finish but they will essentially function the same.

If that’s the case, why then spend a lot of money on say a Rolex Submariner rather than a Seiko diver or something costing even less? Realistically the fundamental answer must be that you identify with the brand. Quality is higher than on cheaper items (normally) but is it worth that much more? In a rational world, in many ways the answer should be “no.” Appreciable value also plays a part. So when it comes to real Panerai, I’m never been that much of a fan, certainly not at the inflated prices they sell for. Added to the fact that until recently, Panerai fitted their watches with standard, low cost, movements, admittedly fettled, yet they still charged a hefty premium. In 2011 there was the famous PAM 318 Brooklyn Bridge Controversy, where a movement more likely to be found in my Chinese homage was put into a real Panerai, costing then over £4,000. Panerai were forced to eat a whole humble pie and their reputation for ripping off their many fans was certainly cemented in my mind

Another thing which has previously put me off  them, is the size of their watches. These can reach up to a 47mm diameter and be 17 mm thick. At this sort of size you have to have the wrists of  a body builder to wear them convincingly. However having recently bought my Seiko Tuna, which is a big watch, I thought I would like to try one especially if it’s going to cost me less than £120.

Getat has a less than stellar reputation for providing either good communications or fast delivery but his watches are rated, especially when they eventually arrive. I placed an order a few years back and after waiting 7 weeks even for an acknowledgement, I asked for a cancellation and a refund. To be fair that was provided without question within a couple of days. To attempt to cut down the delivery time, I decided to order one of his more standard watches and only specify basic customisation. Here it is.

getet

This is a 44mm case based on a Panerai Luminor design. Getat has recently upgraded the case to make it water-resistant to 100 meters. I went for the brushed case with a polished bezel, a display caseback so as to be able to see the movement, a black sandwich dial marked with Marina Militare (Italian for Navy and most definitely not a Panerai trademark) and indices filled with aqua blue superluminova. I opted for a sapphire crystal (an amazing thing to have at this price) and chose a dark brown leather strap with buckle. Shipping was a whole $25. The movement is one of those Chinese copies of the Swiss Unitas 6497 hand wound movements. Should it come in with unacceptable accuracy, a quick look over and regulation, should cost £40 or thereabouts.

So I’m looking forward to getting this delivered in, maybe if I’m lucky, a couple of months. It may feel too big for me but I’m going to enjoy trying this on and seeing what they’re like in the flesh. For £100 I can’t go wrong…

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!

dw5600ms

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!

EDIT: Not that the watch really needed it, but I’ve upgraded the watch by fitting a new strap. I bought a spare GW-5000 strap which is far more flexible and therefore more comfortable on the wrist. It’s slightly narrower and doesn’t have the module number stamped on the 6 o’clock piece. Being narrower, the black ion coated buckle from the original strap fits the GW-5000 strap but is too large and moves laterally. Still comfort over stealth is a better option.

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.

Watching the eclipse

expeclipse

Very freaky light during the eclipse today but I thought I would use my Explorer as a backdrop to see it coming in. Here it’s at it’s peak – normally a cloud at that moment would not be looked on favourably but it did enable me to have a good look at it unfiltered.

eclipse