Interesting watches (Part 1 – Buyer take care)

Every so often as a watch collector of the eclectic variety you get fed up with the same names and more accurately, “styles” of watches that are around. You find yourself looking for something new, something different. Something that when you see it, you say “Oh, I like that. I really like that!”.

Interesting brands

Interesting brands

Now I don’t mean silly like some of the so called new or “unusual” or indeed interesting watches that can be found. You know the sort of thing – a totally way out odd looking lump on your wrist that for the life of you, you simply can’t figure out how to actually read the time on the darned thing! Instead of hands, it maybe has dots, or bars or flashing lights or any other mad interpretation of time they think of to be different. Mostly in my opinion they manage “silly” at best and “unusually” silly at that.

Forget all that stuff – what I mean are stylish classic looking watches with that “something” about their design, an individuality perhaps that also looks good. But not the same old “that’s obviously a Rolex” or an Omega or a Breitling or Longines etc. because you can tell them a mile away and they are just……too familiar……. and dare I say….boring.
(note I don’t include the Pateks or Vache’s or Breguet’s as they are simply in a class of their own and are always interesting).

Anyway I started searching around for such watches and found myself looking at the smaller manufacturers. Ones that may have limited production runs specialising in a select range of classic looking or stylish watches for the discerning……“sounds like an advert! Ha Ha!”

BUT – there are pitfalls of which to be wary when considering some of these lesser known brands.  What is their quality, are they what they say they are and if the dial says Swiss Made or Made in Germany for example – are they?
Now because my search has highlighted a number of different aspects re’ what I call the lesser or Private Brand/Name market, I’ve split the blog into a number of parts.

Part 1 – Buyer take care.

This was the very first name I spotted that wasn’t familiar to me and this is one of the models that first caught my attention.  A Bossart multi-function stainless steel automatic mechanical date watch.  At 40mm diameter and 13mm depth it is a solid and good looking piece.  3ATM Water Resistant and a mineral crystal with a see-throught back and the large crown protector adds a certain individuality to this watch.

Bossart London BW-0701-SW

This particular Bossart model I found on a retailer’s site though I note that currently is not listed on the Bossart web site.  It’s called the “London” and has Bossart on the dial and whilst there’s no “Made in Germany” on the dial, it does say on their web site that the watch brand Bossart is a German registered name. Quoting from their site it says –

“In the heart of Europe in the steeped in tradition watchmaking country Germany in one of the oldest and at the same time most beautiful cities – Monschau, was created the watch brand Bossart®”.

I hope you will forgive me for assuming that the German registered brand name Bossart, might actually be a German manufactured watch. But appearances can be deceiving and in my opinion with that advertising blurb is very misleading.

Interesting multi-function

Million Smart Model:MS1041A006WH

However the blank watch shown here is a model manufactured in China and is obtainable from Million Smart Enterprises of Kowloon. And why am I showing this?

How about – Does it look familiar?

Million Smart are a highly successful Company with a huge output of Chinese made watches from Standard to multi-function to Chronometers to Tourbillons. In fact from their 18000sqm Kowloon factory they churn out around 600,000 watches a MONTH.  Now that’s what I call mass-production!

Many private watch brands use them and it’s quite easy. You simply check out their web site, choose the model/s you would like, check the minimum order quantity, agree the price, send a jpg of your logo and wait for the order coming in.
And that’s it basically – no overheads, no Quality Control, no after sales – no worries……….If a watch supplied to a customer is DOA you simply send another – problem solved. The profit margin should be enough to keep you well on the right side and any guarantee issues simply get the same treatment.

My concern here is not that a Company sets up to sell it’s own range of watches – that’s absolutely fine. Nor do I have anything against what may be a reasonable watch at an apparent bargain price of around €160.
My real concern is that you may well be completely and utterly mistaken in your assumption that you’re buying a German watch, with it’s associated traditions of quality watchmaking (remember all that hyped and frankly misleading web site blurb about German watchmaking tradition etc)……… and you’re NOT!

Instead you have got yourself a rather smart and “interesting” looking, but low quality mass produced Chinese watch with no vestige of European pedigree or tradition and which may be worth €50 at best.

So when looking for “interesting watches” – buyer take care!

Note – Part 2 – is called  “Buyer beware”  and for good reason – I hope to blog this soon – So look out for it.

Radio Times

Question –  What do these watches have in common?

Radio Control 1991-2009

Radio Control watches from 1991-2009

Answer – Radio Control and split second accuracy!

Although it’s been around since the mid ’80’s, Radio Control on clocks and watches is still very much in the minority.

There are plenty out there of course, but rather like 4 wheel drive cars – you know – safer, better traction in poor road conditions and reasonably priced, they haven’t taken the world by storm.

And it’s the same for the Radio controlled watch. It too has many advantages, all good, but not universally accepted.

It does beg the question – why? and what ARE the advantages of Radio Control.

Note – top left is the Junghans Mega 1, the first RC watch, others are Casio, Oceanus, Citizen, Dugena, Regent, Skagen, Kienzle and others.

Well first off – your watch always shows the right time. The watch receives the correct time from atomic clocks – so you have the  most precise watch in the world.  No setting, no resetting and always on time….which is arguably the most important requirement for any watch, surely.
Then the  watch movement doesn’t have to be  expensive high-end quartz – I mean around + or – 15secs a month should do it.  So it can be low to mid priced and affordable.
What else?
Well it makes World Timers for once a really practical proposition – no worries about moving the time forward or back and being slightly out – because it’s never “out”. Just set your zone and it automatically moves to the “correct” time, every time.  And DST or Daylight Saving Time……forget it – that’s done automatically for you every time, so no missing that appointment!

So where are these Atomic Clocks, how accurate are they and how do they control your watch?

Well it’s all pretty simple as far as we are concerned. Various countries across the world have these marvelous caesium clocks (Atomic Clocks).  The ones that are accurate to a second in 20 million years sort of clock.
These in turn send their time signal to a transmitter and it is received by your watch……There – I said it was easy!

Where are the clocks –

In Germany, the official time is established in the Physkalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Braunschweig the national
meteorology institute.
In Great Britain, the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington near London is in charge of their clock.
In the USA, the responsibility falls to the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) at Fort Collins in Colorado.
In Japan, it’s the responsibility of the Communications Research Laboratory (CRL) in Tokyo.

How –

The time calculated by these atomic clocks is first sent to radio towers.
In Germany the transmitter is in Mainflingen near Frankfurt.
In the UK there is one in Anthorn in Cumbria, England.
In the USA it’s located in Fort Collins in Colorado.
In Japan it’s in the Otakadoya mountains in the North East and Hagane in the South West.
The German radio tower in Mainflingen for example has a range of up to 1,500 km & covers most of mainland Europe.

Atomic Radio tranmission ranges UK, USA, Germany, Japan.

Atomic Radio transmission ranges UK, USA, Germany, Japan. (image ©Casio)

Today the Atomic clock transmitting stations have a quite incredible range.

Here in the UK we’re also spoilt for choice.  Depending on the watch model we can pick up the transmitter in Cumbria  (it moved from Rugby in 2002)  or from Frankfurt in Germany, which is over 700 miles away (I live in Scotland).

In the USA their transmissions are even more powerful at a 1500 miles radius or more.

The graphic on the right here shows their respective ranges and rough locations….

Today there are watch models that have pretty much world cover. In some models they have as many as 5  tiny built-in receivers.  Those models will pick up the Atomic signals from all the locations shown on the map here –  the USA, UK, Europe and Japan – and incredibly these watches are still  relatively inexpensive!

Just as an example the Casio watch shown here in the first small image is a 5 receiver model and quite  inexpensive at around £30.00

Casio Atomic 5 receiver watch

Casio Atomic 5 receiver watch

They can also be highly sophisticated – here is another Casio – an Oceanus Manta 5 receiver model. Somewhat more expensive perhaps but with Solar Power in addition to RC, Chronograph and Timer functions and a very high quality build, it shows the wide variation in styles available today –

Casio Oceanus Manta RC

Casio Oceanus Manta RC

Like some of the more expensive Oceanus and Citizen Attesa models, these tend to be marketed and sold in Japan only, though with the internet of course, now available to all.
The Oceanus shown here is an all analogue Radio Controlled watch and like others of this type, attempts to synchronise (get a signal) at night, say at 1am.  If successful OK, if not it tries again at 2am then 3am and normally takes around 2 minutes.
This model is also a World Timer and has a Titanium case and bracelet and for an RC watch is very neat at only 8mm thickness.

Of course Radio Controlled watches are not the sole preserve these days of the Japanese, there are many others, such as Junghans of course as the originator of the first Mega 1 – this is their latest version – the Mega 1000 –

Junghans Mega1000 RC watch

Junghans Mega1000 RC watch

With this watch they hark back to the days of the first Mega 1, with it’s digital presentation, but with superb clarity and the very latest in radio reception movements. Junghans have a wide range of more traditional Radio Controlled watches and again for this technology are not expensive.

And let’s not forget dress watches – they too can be Radio Controlled –
This one is a Dugena, a rather stylish German designed and manufactured watch complete with Radio Control, with a digital calendar display, auto DST and a signal call on demand feature. So there are plenty designs and styles to choose from.

Dugena Radio Controlled Watch

Dugena 4381661 Bicolor Gents Radio Watch

So back to the question.

Why is it that this fabulous watch technology isn’t more widely accepted?
I mean not only do you get Radio Control now but it is often accompanied by so many other upmarket features.
Solar Power (no battery changing), World Timer (with RC this really comes into it’s own) plus chronographs & timers features, alarms, Titanium, Water Resistance, anti-reflective coatings, scratch resistant this and that……the list goes on.
There are lots of styles available now such as divers, aviators, minimalist or dress and surely are becoming the ultimate watch… what’s the problem?

Well I suppose it’s us again…..people….and our likes and dislikes and of course that peculiar place that a watch has in our affections.
It’s really very personal…..

I mean – clockwork people are not in the least interested – those of us who love the mechanics of a watch, the quality of miniature wheels and cogs all working in harmony to create a measure of – time.  A work of art even.
They don’t care a jot if it’s a few seconds out in a day or a week! – it’s close enough – we’re not computers anyway!

And there are  many others.  I mean and I’ve heard it said – do we NEED to be so accurate?

Do we really need 4 wheel drive when it only snows for maybe a week each year and when do we ever go off-road?

Well maybe not often I suppose, but it’s nice to have the choice and maybe that’s what it’s all about. Yes we have innovation, new technology and so on and good that we have it otherwise we’d stagnate. But we also have tradition and elegance and craftsmanship and beauty.

Watches may be about time, but in a way are somehow timeless – so as long as the price is right, why not have both!

Deutsche Uhremacher-Genossenschaft Alpina

A nice new aquisition to my collection – the Dugena Calendar Moonphase.  For those unfamiliar with the name “Dugena” it was established in 1917 in Eisenach as a branch of the Swiss brand Alpina.  The name is an acronym of “Deutsche Uhrenmacher-Genossenschaft Alpina“ (German watchmaker association Alpina) and soon became a brand in it’s own right.  A somewhat fragmented ownership over the years in 2009 it became part of the the newly founded “Nova Tempora Uhren und Schmuck GmbH” and is becoming a collectible brand worldwide.

Dugena Calendar Watch

Dugena Calendar Watch

40mm x 9mm so nice and slim, elegant too with its beautifully formed gold plated stainless steel case. With a silver dial and separate Month and Day windows, a Day pointer in blue. The hour, minute and centre seconds hands are polished gold and the moonphase a colourful sight which matches the deep blue cabochon inset to the gold knurled crown.

This is what they call a quartz analogue – with mechanical month and day wheels plus the moon-phase.  The quartz movement used is the Miyota 6P80 and I have found it to be accurate and very reliable.  It has a recessed pusher to adjust the month and the crown has two pull-out positions for setting the time, day and moon indicator.
Don’t confuse the moon-phase with a day and night indicator.  It works on a 29.5 day cycle and is normally set either at new or full moon.  Setting the watch is quite tricky as the different parameters have to be set within certain times.  The Month and Date are neatly synchronised too, which makes it quite a careful process.

Polished gold back

Polished gold back

On the wrist

On the wrist

The solid case back is polished gold and engraved with the serial number and water resist info – the watch is 5 bar resistant, so not for swimming. The crystal is sapphire so pretty scratch resistant.

It comes with a nice soft matte reptile strap of 19.5mm length and 20mm ( at the lug) tapering to 16mm at the polished Dugena gold engraved buckle.

All in all a rather elegant watch with a beautiful case design reminiscent of Jaquet Droz and it makes for an excellent addition to my collection.

The style of this particular Dugena model is very pleasing though perhaps sadly may not be available now and I don’t see it in todays line-up, which will be a real shame in my opinion.  But as the company will once again soon be fully German owned and driven, they are certainly worth a look.

Slimline Botta Argos

The Botta International Award winning design – the Argos Quartz Titanium watch is one of my favorites. A German Manufactured Klaus Botta design with a gold plated Swiss Ronda movement.

Botta Argos Titanium

Botta Argos Titanium

With a slightly darker than usual ultra light weight slim Titanium case and matching bracelet, allied to the RONDA Slimtech 1005 Swiss movement, this is a seriously smart high end Quartz model.

It’s a good 39mm in diameter but with a height of only 5.9mm is one very neat watch. It weighs just 55g and must be one of the lightest bracelet watches around. The strapped version only weighs an amazing 28g! – you simply don’t realize you’re wearing it!
Clean black & white contrasting features of the modern slightly minimalist dial face makes it outstandingly easy to read. The crystal is Sapphire and pretty much scratch resistant and also being a flat plane is virtually reflection free.
The black center seconds hand is sized carefully to suit the numerals and minute graduations, thus making it not only easy to see, but a very precise read.
The same principle is used on their Single Hand “Uno” and “Solus” models to very good effect.

Dial detail

Dial detail

The case and bracelet fit very neatly together, the bracelet being easily adjustable with the usual pin set up and has a push button closure.
Water Resistance is 30m or 3 ATM.

So are there any negatives regarding this super little watch?

Well yes, I have three issues – firstly the crown. It is very small and crucially – it’s smooth! It is not knurled or figured in any way and as a result is extremely difficult to operate – Maybe acceptable if the watch did not have a date change, but this one does!
I’ve found the only way is to wear a pair of surgical gloves and even then it’s difficult.
I now keep a pair handy in my watch box and must admit that they’re actually quite a useful item to have. They give that little bit extra grip which is so useful when dealing with small screws or bracelet pin spring collars etc. And secondly the bracelet whilst smooth and comfortable does not have a micro adjustment (usually on the clasp) so in other words it is dependent on link removal only for fit – an omission in my opinion. And thirdly the hands and dial markers are not luminous, so for night outside use, forget it. (I note by the way that the more modern Botta models do have lume now – pity they missed out in these early days)

But all things being equal the Botta is one of those true “design” watches that simply shouts quality and is equally at home during the day or as a sophisticated dress watch for evening wear. Incidentally with this ultra slim configuration it suits ladies or gents equally.

On the wrist

On the wrist

I’ve had this watch for over a year now and it still looks as it did that first day I opened the box. Like many a watch collection, watch models are on display in glass topped watch boxes and cabinets. Every so often it’s “wear time”, when you select a watch for that day or evening and I have to say it gets quite a bit of wrist time!

And almost every time I do it’s fair to say that it’s a watch that often draws comment wherever I go.

I’m quietly rather pleased at that. So Barman? – I’ll have another Gin to go with my slimline, if you please!!

Attesa – the ultimate watch?

The Citizen Attesa ATV53-2833

Perfex Multi 3000, Solar powered Eco-drive (with 2.5yrs power save),Radio Controlled (US, Japan, Europe), Titanium (Druratec Ti), Double coated AR.

The ultimate watch?

I took possession of this just the other week and it has NOT been off my wrist since – What a watch!
My biggest surprise was when I opened the box –

Whilst listed as around 42mm diameter (ex crown), this has none of the elegance of my previous Oceanus Manta – It is one very SOLID piece of kit!  Maybe the lug to lug measurement could be an issue for small wrists? – We’ll see.
However this model is incredibly clear to read despite a quite busy dial, the big broad luminous hands so easy to see against the black dial.

With double AR and not much on the dial that’s actually reflective anyway, it is very, very impressive.
Unlike my Navihawk this model has a centre seconds hand which I personally have always preferred. It doubles as a Radio signal pointer to indicate signal strength and receive confirmation.
A Charge level display @10 shows the secondary battery state and I note it points to the centre of each level, so level 3 is fully charged, which is around 130 to 180 days. Also at the same location on the dial is an indicator which shows which transmitter the watch is using – this is location dependent on the setting youv’e keyed in as your Home etc.
UTC displays permanently @12 and the mode selector is @6 and is operated by pulling out the crown 1 click and rotating left or right.

World time – Simply set your home town, which will show in the  display @9, press a button and the hands immediately move to your own time. The previous hands time then jumps to the digital display. It has 43 cities built in to the programme and you can also manually set odd Time Zones or a new city.

Dial detail

Dial detail – packed but superb broad analog hands stand out clear

The case is really solid and does away with the ever larger slide rule bezels that virtually no-one uses – the watch is much cleaner as a result. The plain bezel is actually coloured a dark brown, but as the image here shows, it’s really quite subtle. The two pushers either side of the crown are also brown.
The crystal is outstanding with probably the best double AR I’ve seen. It is very clear under any lighting situation and the dial information is clearly laid out.
There is also a rather cool LED orange glow light feature available to illuminate the digital displays if needed. And the hands and numerals have an improved lume – certainly much improved from my old Navihawk.
This model also has a full auto Calendar (with Daylight savings times), 24hr 1/100sec Chronograph, 99 minute Timer and two individual Alarms that can be set in world time or Home time.

It also has a nice broad bracelet – starting at 24mm and tapering to around 20mm at the clasp, which features a slider adjustment for when you’ve had too large a dinner!

Fits even a small 6.7" wrist

Fits even a small 6.7″ wrist – just . . .

Whilst it looks neat even on my smallish wrist at 6.7″ – it is deceptive being nearly 54mm lug to lug (and this might be a problem as the main case extends past the normal line of the lugs and almost into the strap profile) and is about as big I as would want to take (42mm diameter and 12.6mm height) – but it sits neatly enough, just, and the fact it’s Titanium means that after a minute you don’t even know it’s there!

Finally – the Radio Control – This watch due to my UK location, picks up the DCF  77.5kHz signal from Mainflingen, near Frankfurt/Main in Germany and I live 700 miles from the transmitter. It picks up the signal every time, usually at high strength (H) and synchs in around 2 minutes. I don’t even take the watch off and I’m one restless sleeper….! (Note the watch has 5 receivers (US, Europe, China and Japan).

So one of the most practical watches around for my money – Solar powered, absolute RC accuracy, World Time easily set, Chrono, Timers, scratch proof Titanium with the Duratec coating and the clearest crystal I’ve seen………

So…What’s the downside, the faults and the points I maybe don’t like?

That’s easy to answer – NONE

Quite simply for me this could be the Ultimate

I love it!

Note 1 – Movement – Cal.No.U60
Note 2 – Perfex 3000 system features –
1 – JIS Type-1 anti-magnetic
2 – Impact detection system
3 – Hand correction function

Update February 2015  – However after some years I found I was not wearing this model – why?   The answer to that was I suppose the fact that after wearing and owning it for some time I realized the lug to lug dimension was in practice just too big for my smallish wrist.  It over overhung the wrist and couldn’t wrap around the wrist and to change the bracelet for a strap wasn’t really an option.   The case shape and the non standard bracelet fixing didn’t lend itself to change.  So as my mantra at that time was – if I don’t wear them – they go . . .  simple as that.    Hey Ho!  😉