Something completely different!

And I have to say right from the outset – I actually quite like the whole concept and for some reason I also like the product.

Vintage style Handmade Bracelet watch "KAKU(Blue)" leather steampunk

Vintage style Handmade Bracelet watch “KAKU(Blue)” leather steampunk

This is A STORY, Tokyo, the handmade watch brand of Gothic Laboratory – Designer Kouhei Yanai and Mari Goto (watch creator).  The web site says their works are influenced by modern Japanese culture, which means animation, cartoon, game, J-ROCK and J-Pop music.  Now we’re really into something that’s way beyond me, BUT I do like the punk style look of their watch collection, some of which I feature here.  When I said something different I really did mean it.

Brand:Mari Goto
Material:Brass, Acrylic tempered glass, Bull leather
Body size:Diameter 35mm × Thickness 11mm
Movement:Japan SEIKO Quartz movement
To fit wrist size:17cm ~ 19cm
Width of strap:25mm
Non-waterproof
Guarantee:One year

Vintage style Handmade Bracelet watch "Hole" leather steampunk

Vintage style Handmade Bracelet watch “Hole” leather steam-punk

Brand:Mari Goto
Material:Brass,Acrylic tempered glass, Bull leather
Body size:Diameter 24mm × Thickness 9mm
Movement:Japan SEIKO Quartz movement
To fit wrist size:15.5cm ~ 17cm
Width of strap:10mm
Function:Non-waterproof
Guarantee:One year

Vintage style Handmade watch "macaron" (Mint) L-size leather steampunk

Vintage style Handmade watch “macaron” (Mint) L-size leather steam-punk

Brand:Mari Goto
Material:Brass,Acrylic tempered glass ,Bull leather
Body size:Diameter 40mm × Thickness 10mm
Movement:Japan SEIKO Quartz movement
To suit wrist size:16cm ~ 19cm
Width of belt:18mm
Function:Non-waterproof
Guarantee:One year

Definitely NOT the mainstream, but nevertheless these are such an inspired artistic mix of rock and pop culture, grunge and steam-punk that they smack of “today” and modernist young “in your face” if ever was!
A bit like science fiction, the end of civilization, yet from the bits left over – we start again, we start out time again from zero and on.
Now OK, waxing a bit lyrical there for a moment, but you’ve got to hand it to these two and applaud their efforts.  Thing is, it’s not beyond possibility that I might just order one just for me, maybe as a statement – you know I might be a bit frayed about the edges, but I’m not done yet!

Prices are around £100 – £200 and sent directly from Tokyo.  Give them your wrist size, color of strap and they can provide engraving too (free) to your requirements.  Each model takes about a month to make and around a week to get to you – can’t be bad.  And it certainly makes a change from the high end Independent Makers and maybe brings us all down to earth that little bit.

Maybe it’s time for A Story. HERE.

G-nostalgia.

The G-Shock range from Casio is such an iconic one I’m constantly on the lookout for “the” one that will suit me best.  But unfortunately so far this year here in the UK anyway, I’ve been disappointed.  Invariably the models are too big and too often overloaded with “dial clutter”, with one exception perhaps – the PRW3000 Triple ABC model I featured recently and which would fit the bill, IF I could get hold of one!  It manages to get ABC functions (and most of the alphabet!) into a smaller watch case, which is my “grail” as far as Casio G-Shocks are concerned.

I really wish Casio would re-introduce the GW2500B-1A or any variation of this model, which appeared a good few years ago now (2008-9?) which in my opinion was and still is better than the current “Aviator” series, for the simplest of reasons – it is smaller.  As someone else said in a previous Casio review, why do I need a wall clock on my wrist!  This model is about as small as you can get with these functions, so far.

The GW2500B-1A

The GW2500B-1A

So the first point, as said – it is smaller than the usual G-Shocks – and that is a real plus when it comes to G-Shocks.  Secondly it arguably (definitely, in my opinion) has the best dial configuration of Analogue and Digital data display of any G-Shock.  It’s neater buttons and sleeker case make it a much nicer watch to handle.  I also noted the crystal is recessed in the case so has some protection.  The analogue hands arrangement is super simple and effective – large luminous hands, a 12/24 hour sub-dial with a neat red indicator hand, plus the usual Selector sub-dial which is also neat and clear to read.  Digital displays are again, simple.  Basically one at the top and one at the bottom (like Breitling, Tissot and Victorinox) with pretty good contrast and quite large enough to read.

For me this is one of the best dial set ups Casio have ever managed.

As to the features – well it has a lot of them.  Radio Control and Solar Power are the main ones.  World Time, (you can display your home time and destination time and swap between analogue and digital display of each, which is useful when traveling).  Neo-brite hands and numeral/markers and 200m Depth Rated.  LED dial light, 4 daily alarms plus snooze alarm, 1-60min Countdown Timer plus optional repeat, 1/100 sec Stopwatch, full Auto Calendar to 2099, Power Indicator and dimensions of 46.9mm width x 15.8 height.  Plus the usual Casio resin strap.

Of course there are a few niggles, but not enough to stop me getting my hands on this model IF I could.  The LED dial light is fine but doesn’t back light the digital displays.  Though at night I can’t see me needing to know much other than the time anyway (it’s got lume for that).  The Stopwatch is not 1/1000 sec, but again for me 1/100 sec is fine.  So nothing major to worry about.

But an updated version of this model could be something very special.  I’m told the latest modules are slightly smaller, so potentially an update on this series maybe, just maybe, could produce a watch that’s smaller than it’s predecessor – now wouldn’t that be something!  Well for me anyway!

Anyway I live in hope!

Note The current Aviator models (GW3500-1A2) are once again larger at nearly 50mm diameter – and with increased “dial clutter” – this is NOT good!

The new Casio Aviator - larger and more dial clutter

The new Casio Aviator – larger and more dial clutter

Independent Artists (1)

My first “Independent Artists” Post today is the independent French born Watchmaker Ludovic Ballouard, now based in Geneva Switzerland, having worked previously for 3 years with Frank Muller and 7 years with J.P Journe to name but two.  Now an Independent Watchmaker he produced his “UPSIDE DOWN” in 2009 and followed with his “HALF TIME” in 2012.  With a new creation every two years – what’s in store for 2014?

It’s the “UPSIDE DOWN” that intrigues me.  With 12 upside down numerals, each one changes right way up with a dot marker beside it, after one 60 minute sweep of the single hand.  The position of the single hand denotes the minutes.  The complication viewed from the exhibition back is quite amazing.

The "Upside Down" watch

The “Upside Down” watch

The amazing "works"

The amazing “works”

A few versions are made of this extraordinary watch and of course they are all fabulous, though I do have a favorite, which is the following one – just sublime!

My favorite!

My favorite!

The web site of Ludovic Ballouard can be found HERE.
Check out the first page animation, though remember the hour transition is a bit quicker than normal!

I should also mention that Ludovic Ballouard is also responsible for the 2013 Harry Winston Opus watch, the X111.  Introduced at the 2013 Baselworld watch fair in the haute-de-gamme (high end) Opus collection.

The Harry Winston Opus X111

The Harry Winston Opus X111

This amazing concept watch certainly drew the attention of the world with its 242 functional rubies and it’s revolutionary indication of time by use of tiny, pivoting markers round the dial.   The Opus XIII has 11 triangular hour hands, which jut out from the polished dome in the center of the dial , retracting again at the end of each hour.  For minutes there are 59 minute markers (every 5 minutes tipped in red) and these pivot in towards the center as each new minute starts.  Initially not the easiest watch to read, though that said, once you understand the dial mechanics, it becomes much easier to immediately tell the time.  And seeing it in action, the detail technology is quite incredible.

The incredible Ludovic Ballouard movement of the Harry Winston Opus X111

The incredible Ludovic Ballouard movement of the Harry Winston Opus X111

The Harry Winston Opus XIII – Ludovic Ballouard movement is really something very special – with 660 components, 242 functional rubies, 59 minutes hands and 59 blade springs carved from a single piece of steel, 11 Triangular shaped hours – it is without doubt a masterpiece of watch engineering.

But personally for me – the “Upside Down” model is my choice.  It simply has an elegance and artistry which is Ludovic Ballouard, without influence of projects such as Opus  – and that surely is why he does what he does.

His next concept creation hopefully is in 2015 and I for one – can’t wait!

//

Soft landing?

It’s amazing how popular these rugged “G” shockproof style watches have become over the years, with their “tough” resin case design and macho looks.  When they first appeared I was pretty impressed at this super tough case idea, though at the time wasn’t sure about the digital display.  I found previous digital displays hard to read in sunlight so resisted, sticking to my analogue Seiko automatic, picked up in Singapore for a few dollars, which was my daily beater in those days.  I did however succumb to the lure of the “G” and today I do have a “G” Shock Casio DW-5600-E, which whilst it has the look of the original, it’s digital module updated by nearly 15 years and with an EL back light, so a little more modern.

However I really want to ask the question of these plastic, resin cased “G-Shock” and other Shock style watches  –  Are they really tougher?  Boy’s toys or Fashion?

The original G-Shock, the Casio DW-5000C first appeared in 1983 – designed by Casio Design Head  Kikuo Ibe, with the brief that the new model should meet the “Triple 10 Concept”.  Which was a 10 year battery life, a Water Resistance to 10 bar and finally, able to survive a drop of 10m on to a hard surface.CasioDW5000C
Now it is not as some think, just a resin cased plastic watch.  It can have up to 10 layers of protection, urethane rubber outer, applied over a stainless steel case (yes there is one under there), hardened mineral crystal, a “floating urethane cradle” in which sits the quartz module.  Even flexible cable connections to both the module and the various button controls are used and all to minimize shock.  The original model actually has a screw down stainless steel back, though that changed in later models.

Such was the success of the Casio “G” Shock that over 19 million had been sold by 1998 and it has gone from strength to strength ever since (70 million would you believe).  Now I’m not questioning the fantastic success or the undoubted fact that it was and is a great concept, but maybe I have a sneaking suspicion that like every great marketing idea, the market is often “created” and then placed in the minds of the customer.  Most of the great products have done just that – Coca Cola, Corn Flakes (Kellogs), Beanz meanz Heinz and so on.  It’s all about Brands and making the Consumer want what you have to sell.

CasioDW5600E

I had to have one – so picked the nearest to the original.

Well “G” Shock – is certainly a classic brand – a series of “rugged” and “tough” timepieces, designed specifically for the active man – or so everyone was told.  The tried and tested marketing technique, trigger words (Shock, rugged, tough, active man, etc) in the adverts and photographs and showing you the MUST HAVE  features.  And an awful lot of folk had to have it, then and today.

Now the fact you might not need it at all and dare I say, because you might have a conventional timepiece survivor on your wrist already.   Let’s face it – watches are small, usually steel cased and externally already pretty tough.  If it’s mechanical as long as it’s movement has Incabloc or similar – you have some shock protection.  And if it’s quartz then let’s be honest, with few or no moving parts there’s little to worry about.  Add a half decent Water Resistance, look after your watch as best you can and that’s about it.

So is it a case of Technology for the sake of Technology perhaps?

Well No has to be the answer – because things move on, everything improves, techniques, materials, movements, modules – everything – and that’s progress.

I like this version as it gets away from the angular, but still well protected.

I like this version as it gets away from the angular, but still well protected.

However, taking a step back here and from personal experience – my old standard 1970’s automatic Seiko 5 Day, Date (luminous, 5bar?, screw back) had been with me many years and in quite a few conflicts around the world – “muck and bullets” as we used to say, that is “tough” environments – and would you believe, it survived somewhat better than I did.  A little scratched maybe (again like me) but still keeping good time and with the same strap it came with (the “resin” straps of some “G” shocks can easily break in a year of 24/7 wear).  And I’m not talking of a once in a lifetime “tour”, but maybe over 20 years, where my watch and I jumped from one pile of rubble to another and from jungles to sand and back again.  But that’s another story for another place.

What I’m saying is that it was a fairly common steel Seiko mechanical automatic model with analogue hands and a leather strap and yet somehow it managed over all these years and in situations that would test most things.

How would it fare on the Triple 10 concept?

Well 10 year battery – no problem – being automatic.
Water Resistance only 5bar (maybe)- but it managed and although submerged a few times, it never let in water or indeed condensation.
And as to dropping it on to concrete from 10m?  Well I did a few “drops” myself, but as the watch was attached to me, you could say that I was the “shock” protection!

And I survived . . . . 😉

And so to the future – this is one of the big case models for 2104 – the GA-310

The Casio GA-310 - still G-Shock, but better access to controls.

The Casio GA-310 – still G-Shock, but better access to controls.

Bit of a statement this one, though if I can get past the color, I like the fact the control buttons are not quite so well shrouded and larger, which means that I can probably find them in amongst the protections around the case, without looking at the watch.  Something I still find hard to do with my DW-5600E.

Anyway as to the question – Are they tough?  well the answer is yes absolutely.
But if I’m honest I haven’t had any of my watches so damaged over the years to have stopped working, though one did fall about 100 feet once from a cooling tower, bounced off this guys shoulder, who was on the ground looking up (he was lucky!) and landed on his kit bag.  When I got down, he handed me the watch and said “You was lucky, mate, it’s still going”.  It was an old Timex Atlantis and I think my brother’s still got it!

Quite a “shock” soft landing or not!

Out of reach? I’ll wait.

Once again arguably the best Protrek Casio yet is NOT available here in the UK.  The model PRW3000 series improves on the current range and uses the Ver 3. Triple Sensor (Altimeter/Barometer, Thermometer & Compass), it’s solar powered and Radio Controlled with Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping, with a 100m Water Resistance case.

PRW-3000 series from Casio Pro-Tec

PRW-3000 series from Casio Protrek

Owing to the improved and updated modules the direction sensor is smaller (plus improved power consumption) means that the overall dimensions of this model are at last reduced.  And if familiar with my web site you well know this is an ongoing issue I have with watches today.  At 47mm diameter x 56mm x 12.3 height and only 62g weight, this is at least moving nearer the normal wrist size, without looking like a Marvel comic character.

Accuracy too has been improved with Altitude measured in 1m increments and the display compass readings have 60 seconds of continuous measurement.  Added to that there is a Barometric Pressure Tendency Alarm that alerts the wearer to sudden changes in pressure readings – more like GPS units.

As I understand it – can only be purchased from outlets in the Far East and if you need one, then that’s what you will have to do – and run the gauntlet of customs delays, high customs Duty and VAT charges and perhaps an overpriced model at the end of it all.

Of course some will ask if an ABC model is worth all the hassle at all and perhaps rightly so.  If into trekking or mountaineering, then you are presumably pretty efficient with map and compass already and maybe have a GPS unit, which after all gives the same data (possibly more accurately as it’s not as confined space wise?) plus a positional indication moving map.
And that’s a valid point – most GPS units are very, very good at horizontal positioning, which is arguably the most important aspect for the majority of recreational walkers, as opposed to serious mountaineering.  It actually tells you where you are!  The ABC watch of course doesn’t have that function!

And there are the gadget freaks who simply must have the model as it’s the latest high tech wrist fashion.  How often have I seen a Tube video of someone showing off his ABC and saying – “Well I know I’m at 400ft, though the watch says  320ft – not too bad is it?”  My own thoughts are he’s used the wrong description – not too bad?  I think a better one would be “utterly useless”.  Or being charitable – perhaps he doesn’t yet know how to calibrate the thing.

And that IS a point.  With all ABC watches you have to calibrate them .  The Compass and the Altimeter, Barometric pressure and so on, all have to be calibrated otherwise the unit will NOT be accurate.  And if as in Scotland where the atmospheric pressure changes often by the minute (our weather is unpredictable to say the least) you might as well forget it, as most readings will be worse than useless.
However if using GPS with a barometric/altimeter and pressure is changing due to weather and not elevation change, at least on some units you have the option of selecting “fixed elevation” mode when it then uses the GPS only for elevation data.  But I don’t think you can do this on a wrist watch – yet.

I’ve decided already not to rush to the Far East for one just yet.  I’m thinking why do I need one?  Maybe I’ll wait for a few UK or USA reviews (not the hype) and consider carefully if I really want one at all.
And when you sit and think about it – time is actually on your side.  These units will surely get better and who knows – v4 might just be around the corner – accuracy and calibration factors could improve out of all recognition next week or month!
Imagine Calibration could even be a totally automatic process for Altitude, Pressure and Compass!   Carrying around a 90 page instruction booklet is not my idea of fun!   The ultimate goal has to be – buy it, strap it on and go!

Now OK just supposition on my part of course and don’t let my hangups stop you rushing out and getting one, from wherever.  But personally even with the latest ABC’s, I have to admit to viewing them in the gadget category, albeit a “work in progress”  –  so I’m quite happy to wait.

Update on Best value Diver

On December 17th last year I reported on the Apeks Dive Watch 200M Professional AP0406 – I was so impressed I bought it for my Christmas.  So how is it doing after 1 month?

Apeks Dive Watch 200M Professional AP0406

Apeks Dive Watch 200M Professional AP0406

I have worn this watch every day since from 3pm till 9am the next day, every day.  I alternate with the Seiko orange Monster (as it’s automatic I like to keep it going) and have to report that it is a joy to wear.

For me the size is perfect and the only alteration I’ve made is to cut about half an inch off the length of the strap, which allows the strap end to sit flat (see image).

Timekeeping wise I can’t fault it as against my Radio Controlled clock here it is only 11 seconds slow after 1 month, which is certainly good enough for me.  The watch has and is performing in my opinion as good if not better than any quartz watch I have – considering the price this has to represent extreme value for money.  There is simply nothing I don’t like about this model and usually there is always something that perhaps you find after owning for a while, is not quite as you would like.

Strap end cut short to sit flush before the rubber "waves"

Strap end cut short to sit flush before the rubber “waves”

From a technical or practical point of view, if being really picky, I might question the luminous dot on the bezel.  It sits slightly proud of the bezel and maybe should have been recessed, but OK a very picky point indeed.

But it’s almost impossible to find anything anything negative to say about my favorite Divers watch, which has exceeded all expectations.  It also makes me wonder at the prices of other Divers watches – I mean some are really quite expensive and looking at the current alternative 200m models, I simply don’t see anything out there that are any better – or even dare I say – as good.

The Apeks Diver range also includes 500m and 1000m depth rated models, though for me, unless you really need that depth rating, this Apeks Dive Watch 200M Professional AP0406 is the best buy.  Not that they’re much more expensive – we’re only talking a few £’s, so they also represent great value, but the overall design of this model in my opinion is better and if 200m is sufficient, is very difficult if not impossible to beat.

Note – On the luminous quality of this watch.  In use it is better than the Citizen BN0000-04H (December 12th 2013 review) both in terms of brightness longevity (how long it stays visible in the dark) and in the better definition of the hands/markers ratio.

Apeks low light capability is excellent.

Apeks low light capability is excellent.  Note the Luminous arrow second hand.

So there we have it.  One month with the Apeks Dive Watch 200M Professional AP0406 and definitely one of my best ever purchases.

I think I’ll have this watch for a long, long time . . . . .

Which Reverso?

Have been toying with the idea of adding to my collection and the Jaeger leCoultre reverso is perhaps the model I wish to purchase.  I already have a few Jaeger LeCoultre watches but they are all round case models and mostly vintage.  If I manage to find a Reverso it can be either pre-owned and/or vintage as long as it is in good condition and at the right price.

I thought it would simply be a case of picking a good condition model and that would be it – BUT – what I hadn’t bargained for was the sheer variety of Reverso models that there are.  Couple that with my personal preferences feature wise and you will quickly see my dilemma.  There are literally dozens of versions available currently and each year something different appears, so including vintage models, the choices are pretty daunting.

Advert for the original Reverso

Advert for the original Reverso (www.timeandwatches.com/p/jaeger-lecoultre-reverso-history.html)

Now I’m not about to do a piece on the history of the Reverso, firstly as there are a few versions (a bit like their watch) of the story and there are dedicated sites for that subject.  Suffice to say that back in 1930/1 in India at a polo match, watched by Watch Collector César de Trey, a player broke his watch glass and wondered if there was watch that would withstand a polo match.  That conversation soon got to the ear of Jacques-David LeCoultre and following on from that – Jaeger SA made the case in conjunction with French designer René-Alfred Chauvot and the slide and flip mechanism was born.  And they’ve been making this watch ever since.

One of my favorites

One of my favorites

There are what I call the basic ones, where the watch dial is only on the front, the back being reserved for engraving etc.  Then there are dial faces front and back which I suppose rather defeats the whole point of the watch, which was to protect the glass dial, but as most of us don’t play Polo, who cares!  Some folks like to have a day watch and a night watch, or dial at the front and skeleton back or/and goodness knows what else – suffice to say – there are lots of different ones!Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h10m38s_001_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h11m24s_002_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h12m18s_004_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h13m00s_005_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h13m28s_006_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h14m14s_007_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h14m53s_008_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h16m39s_010_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h17m04s_011_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h18m28s_012_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h18m45s_013_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h19m56s_014_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h21m31s_015_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h21m54s_016_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h22m29s_017_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h22m48s_018_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h23m17s_019_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h24m16s_020_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h25m00s_021_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h25m58s_022_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h26m21s_023_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h26m54s_024_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h28m05s_026_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h29m19s_027_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h29m46s_028_ Ashampoo_Snap_2014.01.19_12h30m30s_029_

Another favorite

Another favorite – a Triple Date Calendar

Now when you consider that the original model in 1931 just had an hour and a minute hand, and the back was plain stainless steel for engraving or such like.  It flipped over and protected the dial – as required.  In 1934 a small seconds counter was introduced @6.  Since then it seems to me that almost anything was and is possible.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list of dials and versions, as apart from all those I’ve missed, there are of course anniversary limited editions, Tourbillons and ultra complication models (with matching price tags), then there are the Ultra Thin models, Repetition Minute models, Grand Complications and so it goes on. . . .

So after all that, what am I going to do?  Difficult I know, though common sense and my wallet will dictate at the end of the day.  I’m favoring the Triple Date or Triple Date and Calendar style, as these give me the data I want when reading a watch.  Do I want 2 x dials? – well maybe I do – it would be handy to have one with luminous hands for night use – simply by flipping it over.  I mean how neat is that!

And I know that Jaeger LeCoultre have a bespoke service . . . . .

Wow!

On reflection I think I’ll see what’s available on the pre-owned front and hopefully find one that suits me, within reason. . . . of course. . .

Maybe a gold one –

A Triple Date in Gold - this I like!

A Day and Date in Gold – mmmmm – nice!

César de Trey
César de Trey
César de Trey