Novelty watches

With the increasing use of smartphones, a watch doesn’t seem to be an item the young have much time for (excuse the pun) – everything they need or seem to need is on the phone.  In fact when I was visiting a sports centre recently I doubt if I saw a proper watch on a wrist of any of the kids there – but they were instead virtually surgically attached to their smartphones and I wondered if they were unlucky enough to have an injured thumb – well I don’t know how they’d survive the day.  I mean if they’re not texting, like, they gotta be dead right?

Emoticon watch

Now I did see a few wrist accessories of some kind, but very few were watches as such, most being simple bracelets and wrist decoration of some kind.  Actually quite a few were strings, leather straps and thin ropes – quite ethnic really.

However on closer inspection I did find out that a few, a very few had watches after all.  Not that timekeeping was the core function of wearing them, because they were the simplest of quartz watches, costing perhaps at most a £10 note maybe.  These were basically for novelty value or perhaps promotional items and most with printed pictures on the dial.

Simple round cases and as said, a printed dial usually with hour, minute and seconds hand (I was surprised they had seconds ).  Usually the printed image or sign was something catchy – in other words what I call ‘novelty

Cat watch in red (also blue and a few other colors)

wrist wear’, that co-incidentally told the time, though I did find one that was made of wood with fixed painted hands – so time was not of the essence there!

Now this is not the preserve of the young and I too have a novelty watch, I wear sometimes just for fun.

Mine is a Wallace & Gromit watch, from the short animated films fame. Why? well I just love the films and I’ve even got a bow tie to match!  Silly I know but at my age, at the other end of the spectrum, I can get away with it.

So here’s a couple of these novelty watches I like the look of – purely as decorative items, but these ones do tell the time.

I particularly like the Mergic “Cat” watch, basically as it’s such a clear dial and with the high color straps really looks pretty cool – I understand that’s what the young set want – to look cool I mean.

As the norm mostly all these types of watch are produced in huge quantities in China, but what’s new – even the mainstream watches if not made completely in China tend to dominate the supply of quartz movements today, whatever the Brand of watch.

My Wallace & Gromit watch even comes in it’s own bespoke aluminium hinged box, made by WESCO of China for the BBC who license it and this model (there are several) is commemorating the animated film called “A Close Shave”.  It features a leather strap with the Wallace & Gromit text embossed on it, so this is original – I particularly like the blue stitching – hey this is a class act!  😉

Hours, minutes and seconds – what more is needed?

The cost? well around £10-£12, though I’ve seen one or two at auction for silly prices upwards of £40!  And no they are NOT worth that kind of money at all – not for simple novelty – but they are fun to wear if you like them.

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Edgemere by Martenero

Sometimes once in a while you come across a watch model that says something new.  Not often I know and increasingly difficult to find today in my experience, but the Martenero brand of New York has managed this feat nicely.

Available in 4 colour combinations this is a nice bright’ clean looking watch.  Inspired they say from the Nautical theme of a marine chronometer (and who am I to say otherwise) it certainly has a look that I like.

Alternative colorway in Blue/White with red tipped minute hand.

The watch case is made from good quality 316L Stainless Steel and overall has such clean lines it looks great on the wrist. The case is also Water Resistant to 50M and features a decent Screw Down crown of the right proportions.

A sub seconds dial between 4 and 5 adds a nice balance to the layout and is very clear to read.

Power wise this is driven by a Miyota mechanical Automatic Calibre 8245 with 21,600 Beats/Hr, a 40 hour Power reserve and internally fitted with 21 jewels.  This is a really good quality modern Auto and a perfect match for the watch style.

The side profile is neat with Screw Down crown.

I also like the fact it is a sensible sized watch at 40 mm diameter, just 11.8 mm thick, with a 20 mm strap, which is really nice to see.

The Sapphire crystal covers a rather stylish dial layout with a raised hour ring and the textured interior gives good clarity and depth to the overall layout.

The hands give great contrast and the different colored hand tips is quite novel.

Clean stainless back with compass layout – super simple.

Cost is around the $500 mark and interestingly they ship this watch Post Free (don’t forget that destination customs will apply, but that’s the buyer’s concern).  I quite like this approach – it’s simple and you know exactly where you are with it.

Another alternative color – gives you lots of buying choice – and they all look good.

So as I say, at last a neat, new clean looking model from the USA that manages to catch my eye at last.  So many models today seem to be blah, blah – more of the same.  The Martenero I’m pleased to say is not one of them – it is fresh and rather exciting.  From a Brand that appeared as recently as 2014 I think they have a winner in the Edgemere AND it has a 2 year Warranty.

They have a few other styles/models and you can see these on their web site at – https://martenero.com/collections, though for me the Edgemere has the edge (sorry!) and is a model that I might well decide to get myself.

I like it a lot – what more can I say . . . . . .

MeisterSinger Neo Q

After my European travels a month or so ago, I have got myself another one of those wonderful ONE Handed watches for which I seem to have a love/hate relationship. I say this as I had a similar model to this some years ago, but got rid of it for the same reason I bought it – that One handed design.  So what’s changed?

This is the MeisterSinger model Neo Q,

MeisterSinger Neo Q One Handed model

which again is One handed but this one is quartz powered, so low maintenance (stick it on the wrist and forget). However the main difference from my old mechanical Perigraph model is that it is NOT Perigraph.
And because of this fact the dial is much simplified and for me that is the whole point of single hand.  It IS easier to read.  And to assist in this aspect it has new typography too with much clearer lettering and now sports a round Date window @6 which suits the overall look.

Note the undercut case – allows perfect strap fitting.

Neat, stainless steel, undercut case, suede leather strap.

This model is stainless steel cased and is a neat 36 mm diameter, which being honest is a perfect size for the average wrist.  It is beautifully finished, sleek and smooth with a suede leather buckle strap. My model here is the black dial with white hands and numerals – it was a toss up between the normal white with black notifications, but I chose this version.

It IS however a delight to read.  It is very easy to so do and very clear.  Each hour is divided into quarter, half and three quarters and in between these into 5 minute segments – and it is surprisingly accurate to read.  Not having a second hand means that unlike most quartz models there is no jerky ticking of the second hand – instead the Hour hand (no minute hand either) very slowly and majestically sweeps around the hours with a rather stylish grace that I find very agreeable.

Note on the image the case top is a larger diameter than the underside.  This is because the case profile is undercut, allowing perfect fitting of the straight cut strap.  Also the strap features a quick release fitting spring-bar.

This model is not luminous which is an omission in my opinion, but basically this is a dress watch, hence the lowly 3 Bar water resistance, but certainly adequate for the intended purpose.

Overall a very nice watch to own – I like it.

On the wrist – just about perfect.

Ladies Sorna Jump watch

Here’s a neat Ladies Sorna model from the 1970’s – the Sorna Jump.  Another Watch Company long gone and not too much known of them.  Swiss of course and originally from Grenchen, they used to manufacture watches under the brand names of Sorna, Sorina, Sornana and a few others with similar sounding names.  From what I can find out they disappeared in 1994, though a new Sorna in Germany today also make Trias watches.  Whether they bought the name I could not say.

Sorna ladies “Jump” watch – described as “digital” though not as we know it today.

Suffice to say, this particular model was born at the same time as the Hudsons as an attempt to stem the flow of cheaper Quartz watches from the East.  By using mechanical movements as before they hoped to tempt the buyer with a digital look but using conventional components.  Once again using Ebauche movements with hour and minute disc as opposed to hands, the hour either “jumped” into view at the last minute of the hour ended or slowly slid into view, depending on the mechanism employed.  Thus providing a “digital” watch, though not as we would know it today.

Note the high contrast numerals – easy to see on a small watch.

I like this particular model as it has the Hour highlighted in white against black.  This makes it stand out better than most especially as it is a smaller sized watch.  Note this is a reasonable manual wind movement too with 17 jewels.  Many other “jump” style watches often featured simple 1 jewel movements – so this is quite a decent watch.

Neat Sorna signed Swiss 17 jewel movement in perfect as new condition.

I have another high gloss, high colour leather strap for this watch and as my Wife is as fickle as I am regarding straps and bracelets, I won’t know until I change this bracelet to see which one will get her approval.  I can see her choosing the alternative matching blue conventional leather buckle strap – but it would be dangerous to second guess her!

Well I was right NOT to second guess, so I’ll not even show the strap –  suffice to say she picked the bracelet!

The Hudson Instalite (by Itraco)

A few of these NOS (new old stock) models are appearing today and for a collector like me are almost a certain buy.  Watches like this from the 1970’s are slap bang in the middle of the worst period for Swiss watches as the cheap, accurate Quartz revolution from Asia hit them hard.  Often the smaller Company or suppliers could move and adapt to not only compete with this new threat but importantly still manage to utilize their existing mechanical movements.

The Hudson Instalite (by Itraco) – 17 jewel pin lever “Jump” watch.

Hence the birth of the mechanical “digital”, Digit Wheel or “Jump” watch, which managed the appearance of a Quartz digital watch, but with a more or less conventional mechanical movement.

Some were true “Jump” designs where the Hour digit only moved or “jumped” forward at the last second of the Minute Counter digit.  Others sort of gradually slid into position as the changing of the Hour approached, though these often caused a little confusion when not fully changed, being sort of stuck in no-man’s land between hours. This model falls into this category – at the hour and 55 seconds, it’s sometimes tricky to tell which hour it actually is!

Quite a few different Brands appeared at this time such as Gigandet, Damas, Lanco, Lasser and others.

The Hudson Instalite “Jump” hour – actually minimalist in construction, but very 1970’s.

The model featured here was sold for retail by Hudson for the US market, though the Brand was actually manufactured by Itraco of Zurich (Itraco, Samba & Hudson) and features the Ebauches Bettlach EB8461 17 jewel pin lever mechanical wheel digit movement with a pretty decent 40hr reserve .

The Hudson Watch Co. was registered by Antoine Castelberg of Chaux-de-Fonds and New York in 1884.  Other names were marketed via Hudson in the early 1970’s, such as Adelphi, Carlton, Gisa, Globe, J Godat Geneve and others.  In fact the list of “lost” names and Brands is extensive and to be certain of who made what, or who sold what and under what name and where and at that time is a near impossible task.

Suffice to say, this model is the Hudson logo’d Instalite model, which I consider one of the better ones.  I have also seen the same watch with “Fashion-Time” and “Secory” and apart from slight cosmetic changes are obviously the same model.  I understand that one of those variations did alter the movement to give that true “jump” hour and I have a feeling the movement was also an EB movement but calibre 8481 series.

The battery access for the “Instalite” accessed via this left sliding hatch. Access to the movement requires the back removed. The “slots” are simply grips to assist in sliding.

The term “Instalite” is in reference to the battery powered dial light which illuminates the dial digits rather well in this case and operated via the push button @1 above the central crown.  The battery is easily accessible via the dark colored plastic sliding rear cover, which is separate from the movement, which itself can be seen only with the entire 2 piece metal “snap” back removed.
Various movements from Ebauches Bettlach were used in this model depending on the year, but all are similar in operation.  It’s fair to say Bettlach E after amalgamating many of the independent Swiss makers as a defence against the Quartz revolution, were focused more on the lower end.  Historically Ebauches Bettlach SA was formed in 1926 and ended in 1980 as it finally merged into the Swatch Group under ETA, which aligned pretty much with Bettlach’s core aim from it’s inception. ( for details see under – https://www.watch-wiki.net/index.php?title=Ebauches_SA ).

Fits the wrist pretty well and very readable too. I have fitted a complimentary leather strap.

I have a few of these “jump” models, as for me they represent an important yet too easily forgotten milestone in the Swiss watch history – and many are rather unique and cleverly innovative for the time.  They really provided a stopgap rescue for much of the Industry at a time where the Swiss Watch industry as a whole was under serious threat.

I hope the images show to best advantage, these intriguing watches which by the way are a delight to wear.  The size is ideal and they sit well on the wrist, even an average one such as mine (6.5″).
This watch came with an after market steel mesh bracelet, but if you read this site regularly you will know I just love changing straps and bracelets to see the effect.  It can sometimes make or break the wear-ability and often is surprising, which is half the fun!  As shown I have fitted a brown leather strap which softens the look and for me is more comfortable.

The Tressa Lux Crystal Auto

Another 1970’s variation from Switzerland is the Tressa watch.  This is a nice NOS model which as you would expect is in absolutely pristine condition, never having been worn in it’s entire life.
Powered by an AS 5206 (A Schild) Automatic mechanical movement with Day and Date, this is perfectly at home today as a day or dress watch.
Nicely finished in highly polished stainless steel case with a gold plated bezel surrounding a mineral crystal.  Lovely electric blue geometric dial decoration with quick set date via a push pin @4 and a clear Day/Date window @3.

Tressa 1970’s Lux Crystal 21J Automatic

As with many of th 1970’s watches, the watch actually came with a Tressa stainless steel bracelet, but I’ve changed it.  You may ask why and the answer is that so often mid range Brands from that period seemed to struggle sourcing decent straps and bands.  The original one whilst also NOS and infinitely adjustable, is simply NOT comfortable as it catches my wrist hairs!  So I paired it with a complimentary color leather buckle strap, as shown.

I would note that rough bracelets are not confined just to cheaper Brands, as I have a Cartier model that is just as bad (worse actually) so it’s in good company!

Stunning electric blue geometric dial decoration, makes this version noticed.

AS movements have been around an awful long time and in fact were the largest movement maker in Switzerland by 1920, though in the 1970’s after the Asian onslaught, they merged into ETA in 1979.  They were and still are very well regarded as a reliable movement with Brand customers almost from A to Z and derivatives are still used today.
Tressa on the other hand have been around for a shorter period, coming to reasonable prominence from their base in Bienne Switzerland in the mid 1960’s and over the next 20 years till 1987 sold mostly to the Eastern market.  During that time they almost exclusively used AS movements.

Bankrupt in 1987, I understand Rado took over their remaining assets though some years later (vague details only exist) under the umbrella of Zeon Watch of Basel between 2000 and 2005 old stocks of AS520x movements and watches were finally cleared from their inventory.  The main competition in their heyday prior to then was from the likes of Sicura and Orient who served the same market with similar styles (I understand the CEO of Sicura was involved in the early days of Tressa).

In my Tressa the crown/hand adjustment is a quite stiff and whilst could be a characteristic it’s more likely a lack of lubrication after some 40+ years in a box!  but it operates just fine.  The Date is changed with a pin under the crown @4 and the dial design is rather smart (reminds me of the first solar powered, but of course isn’t).  The broad Hour and Minute hands are easily seen and the sweep seconds Hand has a red marker tip.

Looks good on the wrist and already has drawn comments.
It fits my 6.5″ wrist perfectly.

I also think it has some presence and it looks good on the wrist and features a great color combination that works very well.
The Tressa Lux Crystal is quite a neat size at just 42 mm lug to lug, 36 mm across (x crown) and only 12.9 mm depth, also comes with a few different dial colours and designs and in today’s world works very well as a fashion piece.  Depending on the color you choose it can be, as they say, mixed and matched, with shirts and ties in most colours, which is a plus.  I’ve seen one in a superb green dial center which I particularly like – and seeing I’m in my 1970’s thing at the moment, I’m sorely tempted.  These are still available NOS, which is amazing after all this time and at reasonable prices too.

So it might well be worth it to seek them out as they have an individuality that’s sadly lacking with modern watches.  Of course that’s the 1970’s for you – it was a time of not only technical revolution, but also real social invention and this Tressa model was born out of that time.

The wonder of Citizen

There’s something about the classic “slide rule” and “Hawk” style Citizen watch that brings out the pilot (hangar) in me.  The Navihawk was first produced nearly 25 years ago and publicly available since 1993 and is still going today with many different variants.

The inclusion of the slide-rule element around the dial was a touch of genius, even if only used by a tiny fraction of buyers.  It was rather the “look” of this model that gained such a popularity then and now, that has managed to keep it looking as good today as the day it first appeared.

The Citizen Red Arrow AT World timer.

This example is the red Arrows AT World Timer, where the slide-rule has been replaced with the possibly more relevant World Time indication within the dial.

This is in keeping with the new models, where the data displayed now is located IN the dial and not around the bezel, as the originals. Basically this model is a Chronograph with analog date (no digital windows here), Eco Drive Solar movement.

This model is positioned at an affordable price point (£200 ish) for most folks and is a great “wearing” watch – in other words – it looks brilliant on the wrist.

However certain versions can reach much higher prices, such as the Limited Edition Skyhawk A-T model shown here – at around £1200.  Note this model includes digital displays, which here are used for the World Time feature with and the inner dial bezels for the rotating slide-rule data.

Citizen Limited Edition Skyhawk A-T

The overall Hawk series look is self evident and as such can be recognized the world over as a Citizen.

There are as I say, many variations of these (I have 2 myself) and they always impress when worn and whilst they are dial “heavy”, Citizen have somehow managed to allow maximum clarity without much clutter, which is a trick few Brands can match.  It’s fair to say they’ve managed to create a “cult” following, a market if you will where there may well not have been before – indeed a marketing triumph.

And when it comes to the slide rule data.  I wonder how many customers actually have a clue as to how it works, let alone use it?  Maybe we’re all “hangar” pilots at heart, Biggles or Dan Dares (that’s showing my age!) – but who cares if all you manage is to tell the time.

Don’t they look just great!