Oh my – its Omate

Seems that “Smart” watches are definitely having a real push and so far this year quite a few have appeared already, some as adjuncts to Smart Phones or even as standalone phones in their own right.

The Omate "Racer - a new Smartwatch  from April 2015

The Omate “Racer – a new Smartwatch from April 2015

However this new Smart watch is the Omate Racer model.  It’s quite a large Casio-like model at 48 mm diameter and 14.5 mm case depth, though I am very pleased to see a standard strap fixing and they actually make a feature out of this fact.  Now that’s what I call “smart”, as it the Sapphire coated “touch” screen which I’ve always though a smart feature. (I love my Tissot Touch).

Omate Racer SmartWatch - Sapphire touch screen

Omate Racer SmartWatch – Sapphire touch screen

This particular watch is a Smart Phone wrist extension, but unlike Apple and some of the much more expensive efforts appearing, this model can connect equally with Android or iOS7. with push notifications of incoming calls, social media updates, reminders and so on.  It also shows the time in rather smart and various formats and screen outlays.

Omate Racer - looks almost conventional, but isn't!

Omate Racer – looks almost conventional, but isn’t!

Specifications are – (it’s easier to let Omate’s own table explain) –

Omate' specifications

Omate’ specifications

So despite my skepticism on all things SmartWatch, things are certainly movin’ on, as they say, and this latest model due in April 2015 looks like a pretty decent effort and it’s PRICE is a fraction of the Apple Smart watch and  I understand it has a battery life of perhaps 7 days, depending on functions.
At the moment though I’m leaning very much towards the Swatch Group’s, “Smart” approach of incorporating or merging chip sets into standard watches such as Omega for example and apparently also due out in the very near future.

But that said, technology has a way of smashing down barriers and who knows where it will all lead and it’s certainly exciting.   BUT the one issue that still in my opinion stumps the so called “smart” watch is Battery life.  Having to charge the thing every day or at best every few days is just not good enough.  Trying to attract a watch wearing world population already comfortable with wristwatches that run unaided for perhaps a life time (mechanical, Solar quartz & others), or 10 year batteries (quartz), is a hurdle that’s as large as it is difficult to beat.

Everything today is about less effort, less buttons, less switches, more speed, on your wrist and not your pocket as it’s closer so again less effort, your PC in your glasses, as it’s too much effort to go to your den and switch on your PC etc etc.

BUT – I’m afraid it’s all for nothing if you still have to charge the Smart item every day, find the charger, find a power supply – I’m sorry but all that effort is just not on!

Anyway here’s the Omate web site – you can read all about it – HERE.

Bruno – German Schönheit

As promised my love affair with German made watches continues into 2015 with two excellent watch models – and both with Schönheit – elegance!

The first is another of my favorite Brunos which is now at long last in my collection.

Bruno Sohnle Sonate for Gents - with replacement Roasroi strap

Bruno Sohnle Sonate for Gents – with my Rosario strap

It’s the elegant Bruno Söhnle Sonate 17-23109-241 which features a Stainless bi-color gold/silver ion-plated case and I confess it was the case that first attracted my interest.  It has quite unique fluted sides which is both remarkably elegant and a feature that’s actually quite rare to find, especially in this price range and I personally find it very attractive.

Bruno Söhnle

Bruno Söhnle – note the 2 x textured dial & triple Date window (original strap)

The dial is silver coloured and finely textured, the inner portion as tint square indents and the outer minute chapter background in very fine circular lines.  It also features a Date Window @6 which is of the “triple view” style, where the day before and after are represented.  This is always useful when one or both main hands cover the Date window, and being longer than normal as you see, means that one of the dates is always visible and you should know the current date.  I note from articles here and there that it’s not just me that has a likeness for this model, as it seems to be one of the most sold out models and often on back order from the Manufactory (such a lovely word the Germans use).  Not being available here in the UK, I purchased this via a Berlin dealer.

Bruno Söhnle

Bruno Söhnle – fluted two-tone Stainless Steel case ensure “elegance”

This model is powered by the excellent Swiss Quartz Ronda 1006 (8 jewels) which as usual with Bruno Söhnle is refined and customised in house.  The watch face whilst furnished with gold hands is fortunately very easy to read and viewed clearly via a Sapphire Crystal, which has an Anti-reflective coating.  The case sides are in gold with wonderful fluting around the circumference, which is continued on the highly polished stainless bezel.  The bi-colour combination used to great effect to lift this model well above the usual style and gives added elegance.

Bruno Söhnle

Bruno Söhnle Bezel polished Stainless Steel

This model is Water Resistant to 3 ATM,  the case lugs are very slim and straight in keeping with a number of their models, 20 mm wide and the strap as always from Bruno, an excellent quality calf leather with crocodile pattern and signed pin buckle.  However despite the obvious quality of the strap I found this particular one just a little too stiff for my liking, so in some images you will see I have fitted a favourite Rosario Leather strap in red, which is much softer and my colour preference for this watch –  it’s certainly more comfortable for me.  I think my days of firm hard composition leather or stiff cored straps is long gone, but that’s just old age I’m afraid.

Wonderful fluted case sides, set this model off perfectly.

Wonderful fluted case sides, set this model off perfectly.

The case dimensions are perfect in my opinion for a dress watch at 38.7 mm diameter and very slim at only 5.8 mm depth, and gives a sleek, quality look on any wrist size and shirt cuffs are no problem whatsoever.

Bruno - on the wrist - great fit.

Bruno – on the wrist – great fit.

I’ve tried to take some images that show off the fluting as I think it such an important part of the overall look of this watch.

Certainly one of my favourite models from their Quartz range, though I’m looking forward to checking out their mechanical models this year and will Post my comments and thoughts on these once completed.

Note – like many of the Brunos, the snap stainless steel back is really close fitting, so ‘care’ is the watchword when changing the Renata 315 battery, otherwise it’s too easy to scratch the back. And better to use a watch press to replace the back.

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Another Quartz Bruno I’ve noted is the excellent Pesaro 111 model 17-13073-121 which again has a modified Swiss Quartz Ronda 7004 movement, with Day and Date.  Yet another model I find I like.  There are a few versions of this, starting with the Pesaro 1, then 11 and now 111, each emphasizing different aspects of the dial.  However for me the latest Pesaro 111 is the one I prefer, basically owing to the elegantly contoured black hour and minute hands (reminiscent of the older Calatravas) that give excellent contrast against the beige dial and it’s particular configuration.  The Pesaro 11 for example has infill hands which although still elegant and I understand luminous, for a dress watch I find the high contrast black steel is my choice.
The Big Date aperture @1 is highly visible as is the curved Day of the week scale at 8 to 12 with it’s precise black pointer.  A good sized seconds sub dial @6 completes the dial works and the overall look for me is both attractive and clear.  In fact a feature of most Bruno Söhnle models is their knack of producing excellent dial clarity even with multiple complications – perhaps others should take note.

This model also features a screw down crown, 100m Water resistance and screwed lugs instead of the usual spring-bars which is very much upmarket, including the excellent Sapphire clear view Crystal.  There is also an exhibition back and the entire watch is fashioned from high quality stainless steel.  The strap is slightly wider at 22mm in high quality calf leather, which scales nicely with the larger case size of 43 mm diameter by 14 mm depth with pin buckle.  As I may have said and it’s worth repeating, I always find BS straps to be some of the most comfortable to wear.
There are other versions of the Pesaro 111, including an alternative deployment bracelet version.

Bruno Sohnle Pesaro 111

Bruno Söhnle Pesaro 111 – solid Stainless case and super clarity dial

I now have a small collection of Bruno Söhnle watches and I wear them frequently, though they are all Quartz, so this year I’m looking to acquire one of their latest mechanical models, some of which look very interesting as they are very highly regarded.  On first looks they promise much when considered against their excellent Quartz range and I look forward to checking these in some depth in the near future.

Ashampoo_Snap_2015.01.06_22h31m14s_002_

The above image shows a model from their range of mechanical automatics, the Lagomat Day-Date model in three versions and once again shows off the design elements that Bruno Söhnle are so good at – elegance and readability without clutter.  Note the Day is indicated in full @12 in addition to the Date and very reminiscent of the Rolex Day-Date, was first produced in 1956 and good ideas are well worth repeating.

Bruno Söhnle Uhrenatelier Glashütte/Sa as a Company was founded in 2000, though first started off back in 1957 as a distributor of Swiss watches.  Their first watch models in-house were sold in Hungary from 2005, and in 2006 they purchased the former Assmannhaus in Dresdner Straße in Glashütte in Saxony, from where all Bruno Söhnle Quartz and mechanical watches are now produced.  In 2008 they produced their first mechanical model to considerable praise within the Watch Industry and since then have been and are, going from strength to strength, their latest models are a delight to peruse in their latest 2014/15 brochure.  The Bruno Söhnle reputation is well founded and they’re receiving awards each year for product excellence.

Certainly the Bruno Söhnle models I have in my collection are in my “keepers” case, as I can’t see me parting with any one of them anytime soon and and I love wearing them – which is surely an accolade in itself!

An Apple a day?

Well it’s here (almost) at last – the Apple Smart Watch, so why am I not jumping for joy.  Probably as for me, not having an iPhone 5 or later, the Smart Phone won’t work.  And if I had and it did, I still can’t access the Apple Pay idea and use touch-less payment, not here in the UK anyway – and don’t hold your breath.
And that’s not all, I also can’t have the touted GPS function, receive phone calls or transmit messages, though sticking my hand (on the end of my wrist – so pretty close) in my pocket, I can do all of these with my present non iPhone, phone.

Apple Smart Watch - in 38 versions!

Apple Smart Watch – in 38 versions!

So not being too impressed with one Apple Smart, how do I feel with, wait for it – 38 versions!  Yes there are . . . .

And as with all so called “Smart” watches, not just Apple, the battery life is still a big disappointment.  They quote supposedly 18 hours with a 2.5 hr charge time, so at best it might manage a day, but utterly depending on how many Apps (there’s going to be dozens of these!) and messages you fritter away your time with – assuming you’re an iPhone 5 or better user.

Apps for everyone - but only if you've also got an iPhone 5 or later!

Apps for everyone – but only if you’ve also got an iPhone 5 or later!

It’s said that if you switch OFF all other functions then the watch will still display the Time for up to 72 hours.  Well Hello!  My old Casio can do that for 10 years without a battery change and my oldest mechanical Automatic can manage it for – ever?  Well as near as damn it.  So the Apple Watch Time for 72 hours seems irrelevant to me.

Also the prices in my opinion are just too high – I mean just think what I can buy, watch wise, with the starting price of the Apple – £479 in the UK or next model at £949 – Wow I can think of a few!

The trouble with this Smart stuff is that whatever the App on your wrist,  just a foot away in your pocket is your phone, which does the same, does it better AND the battery lasts longer.

What’s the difference that I can call up a Uber Taxi from my wrist or from my Phone?  I can’t see any time benefit, physical benefit or cost benefit  – and in the case of the latter, quite the reverse!

So Smart watches, Apple or not are gong to have to be an awful lot better than this to attract an old geezer like me.  And when I visited a nearby college just the other day, most of the young pupils there don’t and have little intention of wearing even a basic watch – it’s not cool! – so they tell me! 😉

Case study

Over the years I’ve been collecting watches, how I display and store them has always been a sort of mix and match conglomeration of mismatching boxes, cabinets and goodness knows what else.  Some are lovely wooden glass topped boxes for 12 or more, others are 2 tier leatherette boxes with acrylic tops, some small wooden cabinets with drawers and no display, except the top drawer and so on.

Neat storage cases for watch collection. Great space savers and can easily be moved around.

Neat storage cases for watch collection. Great space savers and can easily be moved around.

In short my stuff is all over the place and getting more disorganized every day – a bit like my life at the moment!  Perhaps it’s a reflection of my state of mind and a danger sign that I need to cool it, sort things out and get organized in every way.  I would ask my Doctor for his advice, but being a watch collector himself and I’ve been in his house – well it’s like the pot calling the kettle black! (and for those of you puzzling over that old expression – it means – The notion of a criticism a person is making of another could equally well apply to themselves or vice versa).

So what to do?

Well I’ve decided on a strategy – wow, this is new!  I have decided to replace all my boxes, cabinets, wood, leatherette, cardboard, drawers and assorted enclosures, with cases.  Yes cases and with handles – no grabbing boxes by the sides and hugging them to your chest whilst moving them around, but neat sized aluminum cases with handles and clear display tops.  I opted for one standard size – that’s one level of 12 watches capacity with cushions in compartments.

Bookcase style storage is a useful alternative.

Bookcase style storage is a useful alternative.

I bought one to check it out and satisfied I bought a pile of them.  Whilst waiting for them to arrive gave me time to assess and sort out my collection, see what I’ve actually got, decide if to keep any particular model or to move it on, tidy things up, segregate styles or types and so on.  In other words take some control of my watches and by association – my life!

These are the cases I’ve decided on.  Neat, clean and compact, with handles and locks and easily carried, clear topped for both display and any Solar models and so on.  Even the look of them calms me down – this is like therapy!  Wow I’m feeling calmer already and I might even go on a diet – boy this is good!
I’ve got myself some small stick-on silicon buffer feet which attach to the bottom corner of each case, so I can stack them without them falling off or scratching each other.
I also have foam cut outs for the interior and place these on top of the watches if moving them around (we’ve got handles remember) which prevents the watches banging against the clear top.

Most of my watch collection are normal sized and the cases compartments for the bulk of them are just fine.   In fact most of my larger diameter watches are still OK and only two or three out of the hundreds that require more space, so I simply leave a space.  However if I was besotted with collecting the modern and larger Casio G-Shocks (which I’m not) then I’d probably think again and ensure storage wider individual compartments.

And as to the old storage ideas, well some are really nice pieces of furniture and they’ll still be there for those special display occasions, when a few of my collection buddies are over.

Note – I do have a colleague in London who also uses cases, though his are larger than mine.  He stacks them vertically like books in a library (as my little image above) and he has over 60 of them! However as his cases are “leather”, they almost look like rare limited edition books and yes they are in his library (he has one of those) – well where else is he going to keep his collection of at the last count some 6 x Pateks, numerous Vacherons and IWC’s and whatever else he’s got these days.

Ah well I can only aspire . . . . (lovely word – aspire . . . .)   😉

UPDATE
Decided now to stack my cases as I don’t need to use the clear tops for display, unless I need to, though I have the top one at the moment stocked with my Solar models.  In the end a very neat solution to my storage problem and well pleased.
The image shows a section of my watch collection – well you didn’t think that was it did you?  Silly boy!

Vertical stacking - I think I prefer as it takes up little space.

Vertical stacking – I think I prefer as it takes up little space.

 

 

Old Divers never die . . .

There’s something about old digital watches I just love.  Part of it is the fact that so many of these models were in that transitional phase, where manufacturers were experimenting with what was really fast moving new technology.  Digital modules that seemed and promised to do almost anything often produced sometimes great and sometimes odd looking models as a result.

The major Brands, Casio, Seiko and Citizen invested heavily in this new technology and of course led the way, but there were those guys on their coat-tails, using those same modules, but with their own ideas of how to utilize them.  And so it was an amazing time, a free-for-all and resulting in some almost one off models that retro nuts treasure today.

1980's Old digital Diver - 300 meters, been around and still here

1980’s Old digital Diver – 300 meters, been around and still here

Take this well used 300m Diver, Alarm and Chronograph model with the old style dial guard.  It has features and functions similar to both Casio and Seiko modules at the time, but clothed in different garb and  sporting a 10 year Lithium battery no less and we’re talking here of perhaps the mid 1980’s?

Obviously targeted at Snorkeling enthusiasts and/or divers according to the symbol above the display, this particular non-mainstream model looks such a one off today.  It’s a bit like the very old days when pocket watches transitioned to wrist and civilian models aspired to military (with dial guards too).  This model had an odd rubber strap which didn’t fit too well, being too small at the lug ends, soI swapped it out for a deployment silicon one after a bit of cutting.  And it looks OK.

I have to be impressed with the 300 meter claim and if correct, is a testament to the case and back construction, though once I get the back off, I should know considerably more.   But I’ll delay doing that as sometimes with these old digitals, start meddling and sometimes trouble comes along, so perhaps I’ll wait until the battery needs replacing.   The display however is remarkably bright and with good contrast, so it might be a while before the battery does give up the ghost.  Incidentally the case screw back is in Stainless Steel, marked 300 Metre and has a snorkeling man symbol, plus the Brand name Amertime.

300 meter Diver, well used and still good to go.

300 meter Diver, well used and still good to go.

I love the look of this one, as the steel case to dial ratio is well balanced and proportioned and that in your face guard doesn’t obstruct the view of the dial as it’s center window is actually framing the digital display perfectly.

Part of the fun with these obscure models is the investigation of their origins.  This module for example is has an odd display set with three levels of data.  First a data line the top level, a Date & Day line next, then the main Time line below.  However the Day text is small but unusually it’s also positional.  In other words as the Days of the week progress, the Day changes and basically moves along the display, the Days obviously hidden on that text line and highlighted as required.  I have to confess I’ve not seen this before.  More commonly in Week progression the Days are permanently marked on the case or glass and a short digital dash marker would highlight under the appropriate Day.

Functions and display appear in some ways similar to the Seiko 4 button A914-5010 Module, which was around in the mid 1980’s, which would fit with the date estimate for this model.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Seiko module derivative, as more often than not it’s Seiko modules that seem to survive, as opposed to other brands. 

However I’m unable to find out much about Amertime.  The name suggests Amertime (watches and jewelery) which seems to be a resurrected Company name (2000), though as it was reborn perhaps 15 to 20 years after this model appeared, probably of little relevance.

Anyone who has any information regarding the Brand is welcome to drop me an email or comment, should you wish to share.  I’d appreciate it . . . .

International Watch “Detective”

1941 International Watch Co. in 14ct Gold.

Interesting 1941/2 IWC with it’s elegant Calibre 83, 6 bridge-design movement, 14k gold cased Gents watch.  After some investigation it is in a 14kt Gold case, possibly supplied to or produced in Hungary during the war as it shows the Hungarian Assay mark for 14kt Gold (580/1000) – this is a stamped left facing Wolf’s head + the number 4.  This stamp is repeated on the right hand top lug exterior.

The watch is in excellent condition both due to it’s age and considering the time it may have been produced as WW11 raged across Europe.  My detective work will not be fully complete until I can determine the Case Maker/Sponsor mark but it’s certainly intriguing.
The IWC Cal 83 was produced between 1939 and the early 1940’s and regarded as a transitional movement between the pocket watch and the wrist watch.  I also note that this case style has straight sides and straight thin lugs and appears to have precedent as it’s reminiscent of No 58 and some others in IWC’s 1941/2 Blue Catalog.  Within this catalog it is obvious when comparing the available model there were a few “mix & match” combinations of dial layouts and case designs over this period.  This watch case could also be an IWC design imported into Hungary for separate metal assessment and subsequent matching to the movement.  However this is conjecture and more detective work may be needed.

Brushed 14ct Gold sided case with polished bezel and curved snap on back

Note the Hallmarked 14k gold symbol on the top lug and the large “onion” crown.  Gold hands and seconds sub-dial on what may be a very well preserved original dial – as there are a few small spots on the dial background but only noticeable under magnification.  The case diameter is almost 33 mm without the Crown, so larger than many at the time and I’m very pleased that it wears “larger” and looks good on my average wrist.

Lovely Cal. 83 manual wind signed International Watch Co movement, showing little signs of age.

The strap is a high quality water resistant Hirsch leather 18mm to fixed wire fittings between lugs which were common at the time.  No spring bars here and replacements straps must be open ended types to fit.  Note the nicely decorated case back interior which has case number, case makers mark, service marks and the 14k gold mark of Hungary.  The movement looks in great condition and shows virtually no signs of wear which is always a bonus.  Regarding the strap I personally feel the color doesn’t show the watch to best advantage so I’m considering changing this for a black lizard – see last image.

Note In keeping with the servicing tradition of watchmakers throughout the world, there are marks on the inside of the case which would appear to indicate it was serviced in December 1962 and again in November 1976. (there may be an earlier one but it’s too indistinct to read).  Considering manufacturers of mechanical watches tend to recommend servicing every 3 years I suppose it’s not too bad!

1941/2 International Watch Company Cal.83 to 14kt Case

1941/2 International Watch Company Cal.83 in 14kt Case and lizard strap.

Originals (1)

This Post is the first of a series where I introduce Brands that are somewhat off mainstream, which might and often do show real flair and usually an individualism that can be sadly lacking in many of the better known brands.  It might be that they’re relatively new or just one that appeals to a select few and fly just under the radar.  Whatever the reason they are often on the short list by those looking for that elusive style or look that the mainstream can’t seem to provide.

One such maker is MARCH LA.B who produce the AM2.  They are a France-made luxury timepiece brand with headquarters in Los Angeles, California and Biarritz, France and brainchild of ALAIN MARHIC since 2008 and the AM2 model I feature here is a model I that typifies the individual look.

March AM2 in burgandy Automatic.  The individuals watch.

March AM2 in burgundy Automatic. The individuals watch.

And it is different, it’s what I personally call “heavy” retro and this model actually inspired apparently by those seventies Ford Mustangs with their plush seating interiors, aggressive, charismatic and above all – individual.

Certainly a different kind of presentation with the heavy polished 316L Stainless Steel case with that large heavily textured and logo’d crown bulging out from the case @4.  It certainly can’t be missed, that’s for sure.   First looks shows off the plush deep maroon/burgundy finish dial and domed anti-reflective Sapphire crystal.
The case is 38 mm square and the watch is powered by a Swiss ETA 2892-A automatic movement with self -winding ball bearing rotor system, Date corrector, Stop seconds device and ETACHRON regulator system.  It’s a pretty well specified model of that there is no doubt and at 28,800 vibrations/hr and 21 jewels should provide decent decent accuracy.

Customized ETA2892-A Swiss Automatic seen through amazing green crystal viewing post.

Customized ETA2892-A Swiss Automatic seen through that amazing green Sapphire crystal viewing post.

The Hour and Minute hands are treated with luminous material, a sweep seconds hand, silver markers plus a customized Date set @3 against the deep maroon/burgundy color dial background are quite striking.
The watch back is secured by 4 screws and the viewing window in amazing green is a Sapphire crystal, showing the customized movement inside.  Note the Crown is screw down and this model has a Water Resistance of 10 ATM /100 M.

The watch has a really plush sculpted (those Mustang seats!) perforated black “buffle” band with maroon/burgundy highlights and Alcantara lining and is pretty special in it’s own right.

So a true individualist model, the AM2 and I do like it, as it’s not only something different, but it’s both a quality piece and has an in your face retro style I find refreshing.  And bear in mind I’m not American, so inspirational items from the USA don’t usually influence me one way or another, but with the AM2 it’s got something I can identify with, and that’s the Mustang – I mean it’s a Classic and I’ve seen the pictures and indeed the movie . . . etc. and I can see the connection very clearly.

Price wise this is not unrealistic at around £750 perhaps and I’m pretty sure your next door neighbor or the guys at the Golf Club will not have one of these!  You might have to see about a change of vehicle of course and then price might become an issue!

And of course you guessed it – it’s now on my list!  and I’m trying so hard to cut back . . . 😉  and failing miserably!