Octagon from Russia

Featured this watch on “What’s on the wrist, this week” but thought I’d post it here as an update as it’s just that little bit unusual.

My Octagonal Russian Raketa

My Octagonal Russian Raketa

An unusual and stylized Raketa, made in USSR probably in the 1980s from the Petrodvorets Watch Factory in St. Petersburg.  This manufacturer started to produce their own movements and this brand name Raketa from around 1961/2, though the Company is in fact much older, starting life in 1721 under Peter the Great as the Peterhof Lapidary Works.  Such was the popularity of Raketa, they actually manufactured over 4.5 million watches a year even in the 1980’s and exported all over the world.

Unusual textured face and octagonal case, Day and Date watch.

Unusual textured face and octagonal case, Day and Date watch.

Now I’ve always liked Russian watches basically as they are really quite different from the Swiss mainstream, are often of unusual design and have that Russian lettering on the face – and not everyone has that!  And whilst they may at first glance appear a bit rough, in fact rough and ready some would say, certainly the vintage ones, they are often remarkably well made internally (certainly those from the better makers) and all the models I have keep remarkably good time.  They also represent extremely good value in comparison to many, especially when you consider these are mostly mechanical, not quartz.  In fact to buy a Swiss watch of the same mechanical quality it will cost you considerably more. A friend of mine used to say that most of his Russian watches looked like a pair of Levis – they were made to look “worn”.  His new Russian watches looked like his old Swiss ones after being in the cutlery drawer for a year or two!

But seriously, they may often look a little rough around the edges, but don’t be fooled – you want a good solid mechanical watch?  You could do a lot worse I assure you!

Why can't they all have this niche to get the back off?

Why can’t they all have this niche to get the back off?

This model features the  mechanical hand wound Raketa 19 jewel 2628.H movement, which keeps really excellent time.  In fact this is a feature common to many Russian models I’ve found over the years and watches from the old Soviet block were and are very much underrated.  The modern collections are somewhat better cosmetically I suppose, better access to quality metals and machine technology and so on, but the vintage mechanical ones for me are something special.

Raketa 19j 2628.H movement

Raketa 19j 2628.H movement

This model has a window @3 for the day and date, the latter adjusted by pulling out the spring loaded crown – each pull changes the date by one.  The day is set by moving the hands.  It also has a shock proof balance and dust protection case.

About one of the only negatives I’ve found with the older Russian watches are the straps and bracelets used.  I often, though not always, find them quite poor and so it was with this one,  the original bracelet was an inflexible steel strap affair that was very difficult to put on, being so stiff, and the clamp length adjuster virtually impossible to manage.  It was also one of the most uncomfortable straps I’ve ever worn.

The Raketa Octagonal (my name for it) - unusual, different - I wear it!

The Raketa Octagonal (my name for it) – unusual, different – I wear it!

So I fitted a simple black quality leather strap, which compliments the watch style nicely, matching the black colored top casing surface.  The case by the way is steel and the upper and lower lug areas have polished black inserts added to the top surface, as shown in the above image, which protect partly what looks like maybe a perspex glass box like octagonal shaped crystal.
The dial is composed of two different textures, one horizontal, the other vertical with applied gold colored square minute markers plus printed application numerals at 12 and 6, with a Day and Date window @3.  The hands are straight silver toned and the seconds sweep hand colored black.  It all works rather well funnily enough and the watch face is easy and very clear to read.

The watch back is a snap fit steel with a opening “niche” to make it easier to remove and a feature I wish others would emulate.

So all in all an excellent USSR made Raketa and one which I’m very pleased to have in my “Russian” box.  But it is also a watch I find myself wearing remarkably often as it does what it’s supposed to do very well.  It keeps VERY good time, it winds easily and firmly, it has a surprisingly good power reserve and it’s never let me down in all the years I’ve had it.

What more can I say?   Well it won’t be the last USSR watch I get – of that I am very sure!

Aktiv Skagen

This is the Titanium Aktiv Skagen Mesh SKW6007 Gents model.

The question has to be – Will it suit my purpose and is the quality good enough not to give me problems (or someone else if you “flip” it) over the next 5 years or so?  However when you consider that the average guy might change or buy a new watch anywhere from weekly to maybe a current “grail” one in 10 years, the issue of longevity is somewhat irrelevant.  OK if you spend thousands or indeed many thousands then the issue, question and answer will take care of itself!

Anyway this is about finding a modern thin dress watch at low/mid price, so choice wise almost inevitably quartz ( there are vintage mechanical ones around of course ).  So I looked and surprise, surprise, I did find a Skagen model that I like the look of and I feature it here.

Skagen Aktiv Titanium Day/Date Watch SKW6007

Skagen Aktiv Titanium Day/Date Watch SKW6007

I’ve seen them advertised of course and there are a few stockists around which is not too surprising as they’ve been about since 1989, marketing thin quartz watches in their “Denmark” style design, though in the past I’ve never taken to this rather thin minimalist look.  I tended to find the dials were rather bland and often too reflective for my personal taste, but if thin is what you want, then certainly they’re worth checking out.  Mid price models and the quality is average/good I’d say, though whilst I have no information on the Quartz movement in this model, I understand they feature within the range some Swiss movements and assemble them in the US.  However misinformation abounds, as I’ve also heard they use Asian movements and Far East assembly, so in short I really don’t know.  Interesting to me is the fact that Fossil have taken over Skagen Designs and already owning two Fossil watches myself, which I like and where the quality is just fine – this is encouraging.

Neat 2 screw fit bracelet. Note the small smooth crown.

Neat 2 screw per lug fit bracelet. Note the small and unfortunately smooth crown.

Nice size at 40mm diameter and only 7mm depth, so is certainly thin and sits flat on the wrist.  The case as described is Titanium, though when you fist pick it up you realize the mesh bracelet is Stainless Steel and a substantial one at that.  It is fully and easily adjustable and appears good quality.  The case design is rather neat with a faceted top bezel in alternate shiny and mat finish, the full width lugs are mat finish and the bracelet/band fits via two countersunk screws on each lug.  The watch is described as 50m Water Resistant and comes with hardened Mineral Glass.

Fits flat to the wrist

Fits flat to the wrist

The dial is a slightly brown grey color and reasonably mat and the outer minute index baton markers are applied luminous material with black outlines, including the numerals 12 and 6  – these are on a raised ring within the dial.  The inner part of the dial features another index ring as a narrow 1mm band in Orange background with black numbers as 05, 10, 15 and so on minute markers.  It’s actually quite a neat and clear feature.  The hour and minute hands are of thin straight chrome with luminous indents on each.  The center seconds hand is also chrome but with a 2mm long Orange tip and there is a Day and Date window @3 with black lettering against white.  The watch setting crown is also @3 inset into the watch case.  It is quite small I note and has no knurling so can be a little fiddly to turn, but manageable.  This model sets like most of this type – pull out to the first click and depending on which way you turn , moves the Day or the Date.  Pull out to the second position to set the hands.  So Instructions are hardly necessary.  However in saying that, Skagen have included an Instruction booklet, International Guarantee card with a Lifetime (limited) Warranty, Service Center location booklet and nice box and watch display pillow, so is rather better catered for than Fossil, who take a minimalist approach to information, rather than product!   I mention Fossil as they own Skagen Designs now.  Fossil take note.

Full compliment of booklets, Warranty Card and box

Full compliment of booklets, Warranty Card and box

I took a few images of this model which highlight the fact that build quality appears reasonable, though whether I’ll personally adapt to a mesh strap is unknown – The last mesh I had was not a success comfort wise, so time will tell with this one.  Further on the “Lifetime Warranty” – I note this does not cover the glass or the bracelet, nor the battery.

Neat dress watch at 40mm x 8mm

Neat dress watch at 40mm x 8mm

Any downsides?

I suppose the fact the bracelet is NOT Titanium is a pity as I expected the whole thing to be Ti and lightweight. (my Breitling Aerospace has a Titanium case and bracelet and for for 15 years the bracelet’s become smoother over time and is simply the most comfortable one I have).

Mesh Stainless Steel bracelet and easy adjust clasp with fold-over lock.

Mesh Stainless Steel bracelet and easy adjust clasp with fold-over lock.

Good quality locking clasp - full adjustable.

Good quality locking clasp – full adjustable.

Of course time will tell if this is a good purchase, but it seems to look the part and has not disappointed in the flesh as it were.  I did spot another model that might be of interest, but thinking on it further, for me anyway – I just have this feeling that maybe one Skagen is enough.  Don’t get me wrong, I like it but this minimalist Danish inspired design still doesn’t really do it for me and maybe this is a fault of their success – the models are all very “similar” and have this unmistakable family look – and well I’m not so sure.  Maybe variety is needed somewhere along the way – but that’s such a personal thing, it’s probably just me.

But for me, one Skagen in the stable – this is fine and I’m sure I’ll be pleased with it, as a dress watch – on occasion.

UPDATE – 1st May 2013

Been wearing the watch for a few weeks now and have to say I am surprisingly delighted with it.  It IS comfortable to wear and it does look good.  Perhaps the dial also has something to say about that.  It is a little unusual I suppose when compared with other Skagen models in that it has a neat and clear color scheme, is not reflective and to my surprise the luminous hands can be seen at night.  Many of these models with very thin hands and commensurately narrow luminous paint, fall down in this respect.  So I’m very happy with my eventual choice.

I just might consider another Skagen, but I’ll take the same care over selection as I did on this one as it’s all too easy to get a thin handed, reflective dialed, low contrast model with very poor legibility – but avoid those negatives and you could be very surprised and pleased.    I know I am . . . .

Aerospace favourite

Thought I’d re-post this after 20 years of ownership (first Posted in 2013, bought in 2000) in reference my Breitling Aerospace as a reminder of how good this old watch was and still is.

Just realised the other day that I’ve never actually posted about my favourite daily beater I’ve worn for the last 15 years.  My 1999 Breitling Aerospace Titanium that I bought when on business in Glasgow.  After some lunch I happened to be strolling past a jewellers and there it was and I simply loved it – went in with no hesitation and bought it.  And I still think it was and still is the best and most practical watch purchase I ever made.

1999 Aerospace - a classic

1999 Aerospace – a single crown chronograph classic

Now some folks think Breitling watches are big, flashy and cumbersome, but with this model nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s titanium, it’s very light and unlike many of today’s current crop, it’s very slim at just 9mm in depth and a case diameter of only 40mm.  With the matching titanium solid link bracelet it’s quite a combination.   It slips unobtrusively under a shirt for dress occasions but also is the business when it comes to everyday wear – AND it’s probably a statement too.  This particular version has a quite subtle dial green colour with high contrast numerals and markers.

On the wrist - perfect. After 15 years it needs a clean!!

Taken today – On the wrist – perfect.  After 15 years it needs a clean!!

Dial wise – Clarity is all with this watch – the date is the clearest to read of any watch I know with an excellent anti-reflection coated flat sapphire crystal – and slim hands with the so very clever extension of the minute hand over the centre pivot, which makes it so clear when reading the time – plus a nigh on perfect and understated luminous capability at night – it’s about as good as any watch can get in my opinion.  The top bezel is click set in two directions and is Titanium as the rest of the watch ensemble. ( Yikes! – these darned close ups – just noticed how dirty it is after 15 years of almost continuous wear ).

Titanium at it's best case and solid link (diver extendable) bracelet.

Titanium at it’s best case and solid link (diver extendable) bracelet.

The twin digital display is perhaps one of the clearest I’ve ever seen.  It is bright in all light conditions and has a built in fluorescence that makes the numerals stand out perfectly.  The lower display shows everything you need – either set as shown with Day and Date, Date and Seconds, or Seconds, Alarm time, Chronograph, Current or Dual Time and Timer – the upper display shows which feature is set.  I usually have it set as shown with Day and Date and rarely use the other features, though the Dual Time can be useful on holiday as can the Alarm though these days I prefer a vibration alarm however – the old hearing is going!

And this particular version is also what’s called a “minute repeater” – this provides a sonic indication of the hours and minutes simply by pressing on the crown, when the watch display is either showing the neutral (blank digitals) or the local time display, the seconds-date display or the day-date position.  Great when I bought it, but these days I don’t hear too well, so not such a great thing.  😦
Another aspect of this watch is the fact that even with all these functions, it only has a single crown, the operation of which has always been perfect.  The usual chronograph style pushers and buttons are quite superfluous and is the feature I prefer most over all other chronograph models.

I said that clarity was terrific on this watch and this is it shown against some of my other models as a comparison –

The clearest of them all!

I think the Breitling (left) – is the clearest of them all!

The Breitling on the left shows just how good the anti-reflection coating is and how clever the hands/display clarity actually is and note how the digits stand out – it always impresses me!  The Citizen Attesa in the centre another favourite  is also pretty good but none can compare when doing the quick glance and reading the date.

Another good point about this Aerospace – it’s actually gone up in value – so a good buy and a good investment.  Not that I’ll realise any profit of course ‘cos it ain’t for sale!  The profit for me is the sheer pleasure of wearing what has to be my favourite watch.

However, as with everything, there’s always something I find annoying.  With this watch, if it needs a battery change  (shown by the digits flashing), which on this model is well over 5 years I’ve found, Breitling recommend sending it to them.  But this is expensive, though in fairness I did this the first time it needed a battery and they changed the face and whatever else, cleaned it and so on, so perhaps was worth it.
But today (yesterday actually 10/05/2020) I simply snapped off the back, changed out the 977 battery, ensured the back was replaced with the correct positioning of the round depression inside the back plate above the battery, snapped the back on again, then reset the date, month, day, time etc.

And that is my annoyance.  The fact that the single crown is a b*****d to operate.  Months adjust with a fast spin of the crown as do some other adjustments, others are with a slow turn and frankly the fast spin is very, very difficult to manage. This is down with the crown out, but it come out very little, so not much to grip – it is just a fiddly thing to do – and I hate it!

Fortunately I shouldn’t have to do it again for at least 5 years, so that’s the good part. Leap years have to be accounted for, but OK I can live with that.

But overall, this is still the best watch I’ve ever had, it’s time keeping is excellent, it reads so easily and it has more features on it than I’ll ever need, that are so well hidden within it, it is a wonderful design and Breitling have in my opinion not bettered it – not even close!


Day/Date affordables

When looking for affordable everyday analogue watches I always try and find features that make life easier.  OK you get a model that tells you the time, but so useful on an everyday basis to be able to see the Day and the Date.  Probably nothing else is near as important as these useful features.  Here I’ve posted 3 models that caught my eye as fulfilling that day/date function and at an affordable cost.

First up – is the Swatch Black Rebel – a true “designer” watch no less and under £50.00.

Swatch Black "Rebel" designer Day Date.

Swatch Black “Rebel” designer Day Date.

A neat sized gents model at 41mm diameter and 12mm depth, rubber strap and a resin case.  Day and Date window @3 orange highlighted and the bonus of luminous hour and minute hands and a center seconds.  Swiss Quartz movement.

A Casio Collection Quartz model at a very low price follows – also Day and Date window @3, outer bezel with minuted markings, large dot markers and infill hands plus center seconds.  Means a nice clear watch to read in most light.  Also a god size at 42mm diameter and 12mm depth plus a real bonus of 100m Water Resistance.  Price wise I’ve seen this for around £16.00 which is amazing.

Casio Collection Gents Day date

Casio Collection Gents Day date

Not to be outdone Timex also have this model Quartz analogue Day and date window @3, black hands against white, good contrast and very legible, red center seconds hand.  Water Resistance at 30m pretty decent too and at around £30.00 is again really good value.

Timex Quartz Analogue T20041

Timex Quartz Analogue T20041

So it really is possible to get yourself pretty decent quality watches with the added features of Day and Date at very reasonable cost, without going to the extremes of unknown or obscure makes with perhaps less than confident service issues.  The main players have it well in hand and can provide a decent priced alternative to the cheap digitals on the market.  It’s sometime nice to see a simple clock face and hands, a day and a date – all without pressing buttons – plus these can be seen more easily that most when propped up on the bedside cabinet.  And there are quite a few others around if you check them out.  The trouble with these guys is that for everyday use it’s difficult to see past them – and for a watch collector that’s bad news!!!  Great watches for holidays or indeed for life . . . . . .

Note the Swatch is splash resistant only.

The Decker

This is my second Fossil watch and have to say I’m really quite pleased with this one as well.  This model is from the “Decker” range, the AM4384 Black silicon Strap Date watch.

Fossil "Decker" silicon strap watch AM4384

Fossil “Decker” silicon strap watch AM4384

This is an Analogue/Quartz model and it certainly has good presence on the wrist.  A good solid build in Stainless Steel, polished sides with mat lug upper surfaces plus a neat black fixed bezel top with white minute markings.  The dial is black and the hands broad white luminous painted with a black center seconds hand topped with a white dot marker.  The minutes are noted by use of white luminous batons and the date window is @3 with black background and white date numbers.  Whilst the flat crystal is not specified as anti-reflective, it IS remarkably clear and scores VERY highly in the clarity stakes.
I also note the center seconds and and white dot pretty well match up with the markers on the dial – something that many more expensive watches should, but often don’t manage, which is nice to see.  I like that.

Solid Stainless Steel build + flexible silicon strap

Solid Stainless Steel build + flexible silicon strap

Checking the dimensions of this model it’s 43mm diameter (ex crown), 13mm depth, weighs 92gms with strap and interestingly it’s one of those models that looks “neat” on the wrist – a really good trick if it can be achieved – as here!  Well done Fossil.

All in all an excellent dial design for optimum clarity, reminiscent of my Laco and a very practical style that’s increasingly finding its way into my watch collection.

The back as usual with Fossil is a flat polished mirror like stainless steel finish and because it’s flat it doesn’t travel on the wrist.

The usual Fossil clean stainless screw back. Note the quick release strap.

The usual Fossil clean stainless screw back.  Note the quick release strap.

The lovely flexible silicon strap with brushed stainless buckle is a delight to wear – a feature I noted on the “Machine Ana Digital” model I already own.  The watch is marked on the dial (and the back) as 10ATM (100ft) Water Resistant and the back also sports the Model Number and Serial code.

Brushed stainless steel buckle with Fossil logo.

Brushed stainless steel buckle with Fossil logo.

Time setting – To alter the date pull out the large crown to position 2 and move in either direction to set the date to the day PRIOR to the one you wish to set.  Then pull the crown out to position 3 and turn anti-clockwise to move the date to the correct date and then continue to the correct time.  I note the crown does not “click” into any position, but simply moves, which is a little disconcerting – but it seems to function OK.

Flat back comfort comfortable and a perfect size.

Flat back comfort comfortable and a perfect size.

In conclusion I would comment this is a very fine watch and indeed it puts others to shame with it’s overall finish, build quality and design.  I would further comment and say I’m very impressed with quite a number of Fossil watches over the past couple of years as they’re making a habit of producing models that are very attractive, a slightly butch look but without being ostentatious or silly.  Not only a fashion watch as some might say and to me Fossil are pretty serious watch maker now.

To sum up this watch in one word I’d have to say  “quality”.  It is a seriously good watch, especially for the money.