Round up (Fossil)

As usual I’ve been checking out some of my favorite watch brands, to see what might interest me and the first brand I looked at was Fossil.  Plenty to choose from perhaps but only one was of any interest, the rest doing nothing for me this time.   My solitary choice is the Fossil Aeroflite 3 hand date watch.

Fossil - my choice from the current crop

Fossil – my choice from the current crop

Still a relatively large case as is the Fossil tendency at 44mm diameter, but as they also often manage, just 12mm in height, so I’ll forgive them, with a decent Water Resistance of 100m.  Crown @4 and a 22mm wide strap.  This is a new model and at a simple price of £105 is good value.  Excellent finish stainless Steel and leather buckle strap give it an everyday watch appearance and I like the crown @4 just to be different and there is a small date window @3.  The Hour and Minute hands are nice and broad, hopefully with some decent luminescence both to the hands and the large green tinted numerals (poor luminescence a failing of some Fossil models I’ve found).  At least on this model the hands are broad with white painted infills so should have good clarity during the day.  There is also a centre seconds hand in white.

One of a number of watch models appearing recently that are moving away from the “let’s make it look complicated” look to a more simplistic expression.  A wysiwyg approach or “what you see is what you get” idea that if managed properly always strikes a chord with those of us who are looking for a watch that has got the basics right.

So a little disappointing to find only one Fossil model of interest to me, though there are obviously folks out there who’ll have different tastes and so on, but I’ll check in to Fossil every couple of months just to see what’s new.  If one comes up that I like I’ll post it here.

Smart time

Thought I’d try and find a Smart watch that at least looked like an actual watch.  Not one of those devices trying to be a full blown tablet on the wrist, because I consider them in their infancy and experimental enough that I’ve no wish to spend my cash just to bolster their development costs.  So for me, less is more so to speak and I am encouraged to find two models along the lines of what smart watch should mean, with the emphasis on “watch”.  These are basically devices that will “pair” to your iPhone or Android device without overreaching their capabilities.  Get these right and we’re on the right track.

First up is the Cogito Original – a smart watch that actually looks like a watch!

Cognito Original Smart Watch.

Cogito Original Smart Watch.

And as they say on their web site –

“COGITO ORIGINAL brings together the power of a connected watch with the sophistication of a precision-crafted timepiece”  and  “When linked with the smartphone or tablet app, COGITO allows users to cut through the digital noise by customizing settings based on their priorities and selecting which notifications will appear.   On the watch face, users can see who is calling or messaging, and decide whether to answer or mute it and  “COGITO frees users from continually checking their phones “.

Perhaps like me you’ve been looking at those odd “smart” wrist gadgets appearing here and there, such as Samsung and Sony, Pebble and a good few others and maybe like me you’ve not been that impressed.  My dislike of these things is initially that they simply look like an oversize slab of square or rectangular glass strapped on top of the wrist, but which have no consideration of wrist shape or size.
Some manage phone applications, others simply link to your phone, assuming you can get a signal of course.  Though why you need to link from your wrist to your pocket (where your phone is stashed) I find perhaps debatable as a must have.

I just don’t see the point when you can simply take out your phone or whatever and use it directly (mind you I only use an old cell phone for emergencies – so maybe I’m in the stone age here).  And personally being a pessimist, maybe I feel it’s technology for technologies sake, rather than practicality, BUT who am I to stand in the way of progress!

Now apart from the size and shape issue, there is the rubbish battery life to consider.  Their problem of course is that we’re all so used to watches, that is wristwatches that don’t require a battery charge ever, mechanical or solar quartz.  Even standard quartz models have a battery life of 2 to 10 years these days and yet this so called Smart technology can only manage 1 day or at best 1 week? before having to charge the battery!   I’d have to say that “smart” is not the word I’d use.
This means you to have a charger of some kind with you if on a trip for example and find a power supply too . . . .?   And if for some reason you’re unable to manage that, maybe lose it for example (easy to do if traveling) then you are literally stuck.  No smart anything and let’s hope no one asks you for the time!

Cognito Original - a proper "smart"watch at last?

Cogito Original – a proper “smart”watch at last?

COGITO ORIGINAL appears to incorporate the power of a “connected” watch and a decent timepiece.  It links to your the smartphone or tablet app and allows you to customize settings based on your priorities and then decide which notifications will appear on the watch face, see who’s calling or texting and decide your response.
It also features a tap-to-act function, which means a faster response plus it uses Bluetooth 4.0 low energy technology, which means no battery charging as the cell will last well over a year without a charge and when necessary can be replaced easily by the user.

It comes with a SR626SW standard button-cell battery plus a CR2032 Battery and a Quick Start Guide + with alternative colour and material choices available, this 100m Water Resistance smart watch, can be as individual as you like and used in most situations, even in the pool.

Well that’s what Cogito says and it certainly sounds very promising and it appears to me, to be much more in keeping with my idea of a useful “smart watch” at this stage in our technology.   It looks like a watch, it tells the time like a watch, it talks to your phone and it’s got a watch battery life . . . .  it sounds good to me!

So far I like what I see and I note it’s going to be available around the end of this month at $179.99 on pre-order – so if you’re into this smart technology stuff – could be well worth a look!

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My second find is the Cookoo Life smart watch, that again is in keeping with a proper wristwatch, rather than an odd box stuck on your wrist, trying to be something more than it is

The Cookoo Life - a smart watch that thinks it's a watch

The Cookoo Life – a smart watch that thinks it’s a watch

The COOKOO Life comes in a whole pile of colors and the core functionality of linking via Bluetooth 4 to your iPhone or Android seems to be excellent.  And it also tells you the time all the time, as it has permanent analogue hour, minute and seconds hands.
Once linked or “paired” to your device it keeps you in control of any alerts and notifications you receive on your phone, either by Icon, Beep or even Vibration.

Cookoo color options are many

Cookoo color options are many

Phone features are notified to you, such as Incoming Calls, Missed Calls, Facebook messages, Calendar reminders, Email and SMS, Low Battery on your iPad warning and Out of range alarm.  You can even take photographs with your device/phone remotely and play music.  I particularly like the “find your phone” feature, just press a button to sound an alert for locating it.

Again this watch has a decent Water Resistance, a CR2032 button-cell battery and a easy change battery hatch on the rear so you can replace it if required sometime after a year.  I also like the fact that both these models can update functionality by using different Apps which are often free downloads to your phone device.

Looks like a wrist watch and acts like a wristwatch, that's smart as well.

The Cookoo Life – looks like a wrist watch, acts like a wristwatch, but smart as well.

OK and let’s be honest here, this is a completely different world for me, being the sort of guy who loves vintage timepieces and traditional watches, but I have to admit to being quite impressed by both these smart watches first and foremost as they both look and act like a proper watch.  Plus the added “new age” functions that for modern people are probably more relevant and useful than the old traditional features and watch complications.  Though Timers and stopwatches can still be managed, these are normal rather than added function sets here.  Perhaps Altimeters and Compasses are better left to individual devices at the moment.

But it looks like Time’s not stopping for anyone and although it might be going that little bit fast for me – I’m hanging on best I can . . . . . . . if I’m “smart” and have the time.  😉

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.

Deployment as replacement

Regular followers of my blog will know that I have thing for comfort regarding watches.  So often watches come with less than perfect straps and bracelets that whilst perhaps, and even this is debatable, are made to “look” good and compliment the model in question, but unfortunately simply do not fit  the wrist properly.  Or more accurately – they don’t fit or suit my or perhaps your wrist!

This is especially true of the “utility” watches I own and I quite often replace the supplied fittings.  Perhaps they are very thick or stiff leather, or heavy wavelike rubber more suited for wearing over neoprene wet suits or sometimes a plastic or textile poor quality affair that either becomes brittle or  unravels.  So I tend to replace these with a silicon rubber deployment strap.  These are fairly low cost, easily available and generally made to a similar standard and once fitted are very easy to use and extremely comfortable.  I tend to prefer a twin button release version with a safety overlap clasp as shown here.

Typical silicon/rubber deployment fold-over strap.

Typical silicon/rubber deployment fold-over strap.

The strap basically is made of silicon rubber and slightly tapers down from the lug ends to the deployment clasp.  There are around 14 slot holes across the strap that accept the spring bar and can be cut to fit the length required.  Note on the ends are supplied new spring bars protruding out from the lug fixing ends as you see above.

Deployment and fold-over safety clasp

Deployment and fold-over safety clasp

Now fitting these is by no means “rocket science” and is quite simple.

Note twin button release

Note twin button release

The straps come with two spring bars, obviously the right length, as you will have first checked the distance between the lugs (the strap width) and ordered for example, a 20mm deployment strap.  They are generally available as 18mm, 20mm, 22mm and 24mm, though it may be possible to get others outside this range, this tends to be the usual.

As you can see the strap fits to the deployment mechanism also with small spring bars and there are usually 3 alternative positions on the deployment fitting which allows you to adjust the strap for a more perfect fit once you’ve cut the strap to the approximate size required.

I usually remove the old strap and fit both the free ends of the new deployment to the watch using either the new spring bars or the old ones, whichever fits best – note sometimes the original watch fittings may be either too thin or too thick, so I prefer myself to use the new ones. Once you’ve fitted the strap it will of course, unless you have Neanderthal wrists, be far too big and loose.  Simply wrap your other hand around it and squeeze it to your wrist to see how it should look.  This will give you an idea how much to cut from both sides and to make sure the positioning of the flat metal work is against the centre of the inside of the wrist.  You then use your scissors and cut down the edge of the slotted holes in one side of the strap (take care not to run too close to the edge of the groove – you may cut into the hole itself).

If this is the first time you’ve attempted this, take less off than you think at first, because you can cut more off as you go along, trying it out on your wrist as you go.

Once you’ve cut one side check the other and cut it to size as required.  I’ll repeat that you should try to make sure that the deployment clasp is positioned more or less against the centre part of your wrist and not off to one side – this would not be comfortable at all.

Where to scissor cut the strap.

Where to scissor cut the strap.

Cut points - select a point to suit you on each side of the watch.

Cut points – select a point to suit you on each side of the watch.

It is important however to get the right end of the strap to the correct lugs on the watch.  Looking at the watch from the front with the 12 at the top, the top lugs should be fitted to the end of the strap which has the deployment swivel and button release mechanism – AS IMAGE ABOVE.

This can be seen in all the watches in the next image.

Look for the 12 o’clock position of each model shown here and note how the deployment swivel end fitting is attached to that lug side (note – these are shown for a left wrist watch wearer).

Examples of deployment fitted watches

Examples of deployment fitted watches

So as said, no rocket science here, but care should still be taken.  Always cut the strap, if this is the first time you’ve done this, a bit at a time.  Once youv’e done both ends, try it – if it’s still too big, decide which side is the one to cut a little more from and try again. You can always shorten a little more as you go – too much and you’ll end up buying another strap!  But if you’ve never tried a silicon rubber deployment strap, why not try it.  They’re available on Ebay for example and don’t break the bank.  Also with so many of what I call “utility” black faced, sports, divers style and military watches around, these suit them very well – but importantly once fitted these will also now be really comfortable to wear.  Note they are available in different colors, though black is the most common.  They also come in various textures, though for me I always seem to end up with the same one – with the parallel lines.

A simple post this time and perhaps a little bit simplistic for many, but you would be surprised at how many watch wearers have sold off watches as not suitable, when it was actually the strap and not the watch.

So if you’re lucky enough to get a new watch for Christmas and you discover that the strap or bracelet just isn’t right – don’t despair – maybe a change of strap might just solve the problem.  Anyway good luck. . . .!

Note – Not all watches can take standard replacement straps – some are special fittings or integral to the particular watch.  Check that a standard spring bar lug and strap fitting is possible before trying the above.

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Jaeger LeCoultre vintage

A great era for watches of distinction for me is the 1945 to 1955 period when some of the most wonderful dress watches appeared.  Moving away from the rectangular ’30’s and ’40’s styles towards the round case watches that are probably still the most common today.  Here is a beauty – a solid 18ct Rose Gold Jaeger leCoultre from around 1949-1952 era in perfect condition.

Jaeger LeCoultre 18ct Rose Gold vintage dress watch

This watch has an oyster colored dial with applied gold markers, with an inner ring showing Arabic numbers at 3, 9 and 12, with gold dagger hands, sub second dial and an acrylic glass.  The case is hallmarked on the lugs as 18ct gold and the watch is 34mm diameter (35mm with crown), so a most sensible size in amongst the oversize stuff that seems to be around these days and very wearable.

The back is unmarked and pristine and the watch is fitted to an alligator leather strap and is in about as perfect condition as any pre-owned vintage watch I’ve seen and a worthy addition to my vintage collection.  I have two vintage collections actually – the first comprises items I may pick up at local auctions or fairs, hopefully at low prices and mostly are simple vintage pieces and where the maker does not influence me greatly, but for whatever reason they take my fancy, though obviously I look for reasonably good examples.  The second collection however is for more collectable pieces and of higher quality basically, and here Jaeger LeCoultre certainly fits this category.

Additional images –

Clean back – no inscriptions

Classic Jaeger LeCoultre dress vintage

The problem with my second vintage collection is of course – the cost!  Invariably it means that I have to sell some of the lesser ones to afford to stock my more upmarket display, but that’s life I suppose and part of the fun of collecting.  You get what you can afford at the time and at other times you build up the modest collection as a bank – to be used later when the “must have” item comes along –  and it keeps the watches moving on and gives others the chance to enjoy them for a while.
I’ll post as and when – I have the time!

Strapped Santos

Recently I acquired via family sources, this nice little Quartz Cartier watch which has been through the wars a bit and I know, I know it should have a bracelet.  However the one fitted had been partly torn off in an accident, badly damaged and beyond repair.  Luckily the lugs of the watch were relatively unscathed with only minor damage and some small marks to the case.

This model is a Santos Steel & Gold W20060D6 quartz version I believe which was re-issued probably as a “homage” to the original 1904 model.  Roman numerals with blue steel sword shaped hands and with a date window @6.  The movement is a Swiss Quartz Calibre 687 and running perfectly once I fitted a new battery.  A nice neat size of watch too with a square face of 29mm x 29mm actually which suits me very well.

So what to do?  Either source a Cartier bracelet which would be very expensive or find an alternative.
The answer was easy for me as I’ve always disliked the Santos bracelet (I actually I don’t like many Cartier bracelets) – and the Santos I’d owned myself some years ago used to hurt my wrist as it was too sharp and after 12 months of  a raw wrist I sold it on.

Now to replace with an alternative bracelet is almost  impossible unless specially made as the bracelet fitting is very tricky.  The fixing pin is hard against the case body, very unusual and fits into a little recess on the very end of the bracelet.

I thought OK – if I’m going to keep the watch it has to have a strap?  Well this initially looked a little difficult owing to the fixing problem – the bracelet securing pin holes in the lugs were far, far too close to the case.  The existing pins were unusable being badly distorted owing to the damage and even if they had been OK they were too thick to use, as even bent it would not have been possible to fit a strap between them and the case body.

I solved the problem quite easily in the end by using a much thinner steel wire (a paper clip actually) than the original pins and cut them at a length to slightly protrude from the lug holes at either side.  I then bent the wire outwards from the case between the lugs enough to allow an open ended strap to slide between the wire and the case.  This bending of the pin effectively shortened the pin by pulling the pin ends inwards slightly, thus making them fit just inside the holes without protruding which was perfect.  My open ended strap then managed to fit with a bit of juggling and this is the result.  The strap is a great high quality camel grain leather one I found at Watchworx.

As said I never like the look of Cartier bracelets generally and personally think the watches look far better with a strap. Which is why I prefer more recent Cartier watches like the Santos 2007 for example as they are proper strap watches, having the strap fixing holes in the correct place.  However I have to admit a sneaking preference for this older model with it’s classic style blued steel sword hands rather than the infill hands of the newer ones.

So all in all I’m pretty pleased and now have a colorful little dress watch, albeit a bit of a “homer” if being critical and one that suits me quite nicely.  A good day all round!

Oh just a point about lugs and bracelets etc.

These days I always check the case construction of any watch I’m interested in to see if it can possibly be fitted with a standard strap.  It is noticeable that many bracelet models have the cases modified in some way and profiled for the particular bracelet or strap and often with oddly shaped lug fixings that make it impossible to change.

Their are literally hundreds of watch styles and models out there that have really quite unique straps or bracelets.  All sorts of strap or bracelet styles, maybe rubber or resin or composites of some kind and whilst they may look great and perhaps compliment the watch – what happens if they wear out or break? (rubber ones used to go brittle and break on me after about a year).  If the model is an older model it can be well nigh impossible to get an original replacement and owing to that odd case/lug arrangement it’s pretty  impossible to get any kind of replacement at all!
Couple this with the fact that many watches in the market place may have little or no after sales support, the watch ends up effectively useless as no OEM bracelet will actually be available anyway.

I don’t have any of the “sport” watches with those sort of  “built-in composite straps” as I find there is simply no way to replace the strap nor get any kind of replacement at all.  To me this is where “fashion” more often than not does away with “function” completely and is a non starter.

So I check the case/lug construction and make sure that the case has what I regard as a standard lug arrangement.  Just sometimes though you do manage to find the odd watch that manages to provide form and function.  There are quite a few around of course which co-incidentally leads me nicely to the fact that my next post  features just such a watch.
This one perhaps unusually has up to 3 different versions and offered with the choice of bracelet, rubber or leather, which seems to me to be the most wonderfully enlightened and sensible idea.

Standard lugs you see – so important.

Lost images

I noted recently that quite a few of my watch pictures had vanished from the site.  Over the next few days I’ll replace those that I can which will make then make sense of some of the reviews and articles again.

Apologies for the mess.