Chalk and Cheese?

A watch nut acquaintance of mine arrived back from holiday the other day, waltzed into my place and bragged about his new watch.  He only gave me a fleeting glimpse of it as he waved his arm around, saying this was the absolute best watch he’d ever owned.
Intrigued of course I asked to see it and even though I just had the slightest peek, I said it looked like he’d got himself an Aviator classic.  “Oh, he said, you don’t have one too, do you?”

Well I’ve got this one here I replied and dug out my old AstroAvia Classic Aviator Alarm watch that I’ve had for a number of years.  Now I wouldn’t say it’s the very best watch I’ve ever owned, but it is in practical terms, a pretty decent watch and one that I intend to keep for a long time yet.

Anyway the watch on his wrist was marked on the dial as Ernst Benz, which to me, being a bit cynical in my old age, sounds like one of those made up Swiss German classic marques, that more often than not turn out to be (in my experience) a vastly expensive product with little actual pedigree, or indeed watch specification detail (or any), but lots of dialogue about how good it is.  Looking up Herr Ernst Benz I confess to being unsure as to the tie up with a watch brand, but hey why not!  I do have a watch in my display cabinet with my own name on the dial too!

Benz and AstroAvia

Benz and AstroAvia

Now my friend oddly enough after seeing my old Astro suddenly went all coy on how much his Benz cost!  Of course if I’m honest, just because the brand was and is pretty much unknown to me, doesn’t make my cynicism justified – I could be quite wrong and it could indeed be a super quality classic.
However looking closely at it – I’ve got to say it doesn’t appear anything special – it’s a fairly common mechanical automatic chrono, probably a 7750 series or 2824/36 movement or similar (I have many of these), the case and dial design is in ubiquitous “Aviator” style and hardly special, the numerals, printing, hands, dial and case quality and finish are comparable and when we put both watches together, they look pretty similar.

Of course in reality they are not the same and there are differences for sure – mechanical automatic v quartz, Sapphire v Hardened Mineral crystal and “maybe” quality differences and so on, but we’re not talking gold or platinum here, or super complications, but a stainless cased working chronograph.  The cost differential may well be taken up in part by the mechanical v quartz, though other than that aspect, I don’t see much else.  However that said it is fact that mechanical 7750 and 2824 movements models can be anywhere from £600 to £thousands, depending on who they are, marketing hype and fashion.  Factually though it’s OK, but personally I’d be looking elsewhere money wise.

My old AstroAvia has a Japanese Quartz (OS2 or YM62 usually) has never let me down, the hands mechanics and complications work fine and is just what I need from a practical daily beater, which why I bought it in the first place.  I do recall I favored Quartz over mechanical as more often than not, chronograph complications in everyday wear, considering knocks and so on usually fare better.  (See my post of March 2010). It also came with a bracelet and a quality leather strap!

However as the image, they do have a certain similarity – that aviator style and whilst I am very happy with my AstroAvia purchase, I’m not too sure if my old friend is quite so happy after I mentioned it’s £180 price tag.

He never did tell me how much he paid, but checking up on a few of the Benz model prices and which after seeing them, I’d consider this more orientated towards fashion than anything else.

And as to my title “Chalk and Cheese?”,  well it certainly makes this old pessimist wonder.

Astro revisited

I’ve revisited this watch and posted it here today again as I decided this morning to wear it for a while as my “daily beater”.  And not for the first time as I put it on, I realized this is a darned good watch, especially in these darker days here in the UK.  I can also confirm that I’ve had it for a few years now and it has been utterly faultless in every respect.

AstroAvia R705L Alarm

No fancy studio shot here, but a quick (today) snapshot of it on my wrist, indoors on a very dull day and it certainly shows that it’s a pretty clear watch to read.  The slight blurry look is me and my camera by the way, not the watch!).  The Superluminova coated hands already starting to glow in the low light conditions.  Now whilst this watch came with a bracelet and a leather strap, which has to be great value, I’ve since put on a Silicon deployment strap, simply because I find them so easy to put on and take off and they are very comfortable.

I must have used the chronograph functions last time it had an outing and this morning the small seconds/1/20th counter sub-dial hand @6 was not zeroed.  Nor was it ticking off the seconds, though the watch was keeping perfect time.  Of course I had forgotten how comprehensive the OS80 Miyota Quartz movement is – and it IS an excellent movement by any standards.  It’s quite an interesting one and the first thing I remembered was that the sub-dial in question has a double function – firstly as a seconds hand and also when the chronograph is used, as a 1/20sec counter.

So I reset the hand to zero by pulling the crown out to position 2, pressed button A (@2) to ensure the large center second chrono hand was at 12, then pressed button B (@4) to reset the little seconds hand to top position – so everything looked good.  I then returned the crown to the normal position.

So now the watch was functioning or indicating correctly, but with no seconds hand visibly ticking away it’s always slightly disconcerting at first glance, as to whether the watch is going or not.  With the OS80 movement however, simply pressing button B (@4) again starts the small seconds hand ticking away just fine.  So now we have the watch functioning just as I like it.  Use the chronograph function however and the small seconds hand instantly reverts to the 1/20sec counter which really races round the small dial.

Now I have no connection to AstroAvia whatsoever, but I really have to hand it to them.  They produce really good looking watches that are practical and of very good quality – what I would call “honest” watches – or what you see is what you get watches – good value and very reliable.

In fact I’m so pleased with it now that I’m wearing this one again – it’s prompted me to check out their new range, and who knows I might, just might get myself another one!

AstroAvia R7 (R70SL) updated 27th Feb 2011

Seems to me that looking over my watch collection “black dials box” I appear to have quite a few pilot and military style watches – and here is another one that’s due some wrist time.

AstroAvia Alarm Chronograph

This model comes from the value for money German manufacturer “AstroAvia” – the R70SL – there are quite a few models which are similar in general appearance though this is one of their alarm models.

Good solidly built watch with a reasonable quality and a well made case in satin finish stainless 316L steel.  Dimensions wise it is 40mm diameter and 11mm height.  Lug to lug is approx’ 47mm.  The case back is a plain solid screw fit with an internal rubber seal and water resistant to 30m.  The crystal is hardened mineral glass.
Interestingly it is supplied with both a stainless steel bracelet AND a padded leather strap which is a useful idea.  And this is quite well thought out as the lug strap fixing pins have alternate positions on the lugs to accommodate the two different systems and you certainly don’t see that very often!  However being particular about straps and so on I replaced the strap with a Birkenstock Alligator pattern Calf leather and white stitching – as the image above.

Supplied with stainless bracelet AND a leather strap!

This model is  Quartz and is powered by the very reliable Japanese Miyota cal OS8O chronograph movement and features 1/20sec timing – an alarm – and  an analogue date window @3.  Really quite comprehensive for a watch of this price.

The chronograph function displays a 12 hr dial, a 59 min sub-dial and a 59 sec counter and a 1/20 sec sub-dial indicator each sporting a red colored hand.
The dial face is matt black with white markers and numerals and the luminosity is handled by green “Superluminova” coatings.  I have to suppose that this “lube paint” is probably the best there is around and it should compliment this clear dial design – though for proper night use “Tritium” would have been my choice, but that’s just a personal thing.

The Alarm feature is simply set unlike some watches firstly by setting the alarm pointer – by pulling out the crown to the first position and turning clockwise to move the pointer to the desired time, then push the crown back in.  Next using the small crown control on the opposite side of the watch – pull it out to set the alarm ON – pretty simple.  Note there is a small alarm pointer indicator on the dial face to confirm the alarm status.  I had a concern the alarm crown control might get pushed back in with movement of the wrist – though I have to confess its never happened yet, so no worries after all. The Alarm indicator hand is red colored with luminous infill at the pointer end which is very clear.
The alarm sounds for 15 seconds, stops for 2 min 45 secs then sounds again for 15 secs etc. which it does several times after that.

Good clear dial considering the functions available.

The date adjusts like most watches as indeed do the hands setting and so on, so pretty conventional.
The battery is a SR927W or equivalent Renata 399 and there’s also another feature of the Miyota movement where if after a battery replacement or if the hands for any reason get out of synch with each other, there is a chronograph reset function which resets and zeros the hands.

So all in all a pretty good and reliable watch at a very affordable price – around 180 Euros or so and you can see them by using Google search and typing in AstroAvia for the latest data.  In fact the whole range of AstroAvia watches represent good value and certainly worth having a look at the range available.

So any down sides?

Well not really – you get a great watch for the money – a good alarm that’s easy to set – a working 1/20 sec chronograph, a watch that keeps pretty good time and with a very reliable Miyota movement.   A spare strap and a bracelet included it’s hard to beat.