Affordable Retro: Tissot Heritage Seastar PR 516 GL

PR516GLWith the holidays looming, the potential for Christmas bonuses or just the need to add another watch to the stable, one recent find fills a lot of checkboxes on the “What to Buy” list…the Tissot Seastar PR 516 GL. Let’s take a look at that list, in a nutshell. It’s made in Switzerland by none other than the Swatch Group. On the price scale, it falls into the “affordable” range for most watch lovers, well under $1000.00 USD. It offers a lot of value for the money too, both in the features that come standard on it and the quality of construction. It also has history, being a reissue of a model Tissot produced for a number of years. Finally, it has a retro-cool look that harkens back to one of the more interesting periods in our history. This review will cover each of these facets in more detail.

In the current watch stable of the monolithic Swatch Group, Tissot falls in at the top of their middle range according to the hierarchy listed in their annual report. Tissot does produce a few high end models, usually in limited editions to commemorate any number of special anniversaries in their history but overall, the majority of Tissot watches can be had in the $500.00 to $999.00 USD range. The PR 516 GL falls within this price range depending on where you find one and which model you select. When you can find a well-crafted, value-packed Swiss automatic wristwatch from a reputable brand in this price range, you’ve had a good day.

It’s important to keep in mind the name of this particular watch when looking because “PR516” can also denote other watches made by Tissot that look nothing like the one this article covers. The “GL” makes the difference in the name, and frankly, this watch has a lot of name in the game. The dial alone has six lines of text, including “Tissot” “Visodate” “Automatic” “Seastar” “PR516” and “GL”, yet it seems to work out well, even if it does give the watch a bit of an identity crisis. To help break this down into bite sized morsels, this basically means:

  • Tissot (Brand)
  • Visodate (Feature, i.e. the Day and Date windows)
  • Automatic (Movement type)
  • Seastar (Line)
  • PR 516 (Model)
  • GL (Submodel)

Fortunately, it lives up to all this dial hype and does so with style and capability. The original, introduced in the late 1960’s is a product of the design ethos of the time. Designers were pushing the boundaries a bit and leaving behind some of the plain, simple but elegant designs of the early 60’s in favor of watches that made more of a visual statement. The word “Cool” was entering the lexicon of daily language and could now be appropriately applied to many of the watch designs coming into the market. The Seastar PR516 GL could be counted among them. The reimagined modern version remains remarkably true to the original. It’s a bit larger, as befits the modern trend toward larger watches but not oversized by any measure. At 40mm wide, it manages to hit the “just right” spot with most watch wearers.

TissotBlackPR516The dial, in my case black and silver, closely mirrors the appearance of the original and is very 1960’s in appearance. It has a silver chapter ring with large, blocky indexes affixed which floats just above the black dial. This part has a faint sun ray pattern that can be seen in bright light, giving the dial more character. The effect is much more apparent in models with the silver or blue dial. The dial also features a vintage Tissot logo, a raised silver block with the letter “T” in the middle. This is a nice touch of class on the watch. The hands, which mirror the indexes in size and shape, are easy to align with the indexes when setting the watch. The hands of the watch contain luminous material that glows brightly after being exposed to light. The indexes also feature luminous material that appears in normal light to be a black line but which actually glows a pale green in the dark. The hands are significantly brighter in the dark than the indexes.

One of the features of this watch is a day and date display, located at the 3 position. These change simultaneously right at midnight with a noticeable click. With the day display, you can choose between a normal day abbreviation or one that has the number of the day of the week in red alongside the day (i.e. 1MON, 2Tue and so forth).

The case is made of 316L grade stainless steel, an industry standard for steel watches. It is polished on the sides and brushed on the top with a large crown that is easy to grasp, yet doesn’t protrude significantly from the case. Pulling the crown to the first position sets the day (counter-clockwise rotation) and the date (clockwise rotation). Pulling the crown to the second position stops the second-hand and allows for setting the time precisely.

Powering the watch is a basic ETA 2824 movement. Aside from the rotor, which carries a modest degree of finishing, the movement is unremarkable and unadorned. On the plus side, it is known for its robust character and dependability, performing its task with typical Swiss precision. It features 25 jewels and can be viewed through the transparent case back. One interesting characteristic is the representation of a steering wheel, which is placed over the movement and underneath the transparent case back, an homage to the racing spirit of the original model.

One of the welcome features on a watch of this price range is the slightly domed and beveled sapphire crystal. The dial is easily viewed through the crystal, which lacks any type of anti-reflective coating. The crystal rises about a millimeter above the case and has a beveled edge all the way around which actually seems to channel light onto the silver chapter ring, making it stand out nicely. I’m very pleased with the crystal, which as I said is a nice touch at this price point.

There are a variety of dials available with this particular model. The one I chose is a basic stainless steel model with a black dial and silver chapter ring. The watch also is available with a blue dial or a silver dial and also in a yellow gold PVD plated case with a white dial. The models with the white/silver dial have the effect of combining with the chapter ring to make the face look larger, although this is an illusion as they are all the same size. The models with the blue dial and silver dial come with an interesting retro bracelet in steel while the black dial model and the gold model have leather straps with deployant claps. Both the bracelets and the straps feature large holes in the racing strap style.

photo copy 16My experience wearing the watch with the leather strap included was very comfortable. The soft, supple leather strap feels good on the arm and does not add weight to the watch. It is easy to size by moving the deployant device. I have not tried on the one with the stainless bracelet but understand from others that, while fashionable, it is not as comfortable to wear as most bracelets. I outfitted mine with a mesh bracelet that is both very comfortable and which actually compliments the retro look and feel of the watch. It is exactly the kind of bracelet that works well on a watch of this period look.

Accuracy, while not in the chronometer range, is acceptable. The watch gains about 20 seconds a day on the arm but this is acceptable for a watch in this range. I generally just stop it now and then and wait for the seconds to catch up.

Overall, the Heritage PR516 GL is a great watch with a vintage look but without the drawbacks of  a vintage watch. The price point nets you a day and date display, a viewable automatic movement with hack feature, a deployant clasp strap and a sapphire crystal, all for about $600.00 depending on where you find them. Multiple sales outlets carry these on the internet and the likelihood of fakes are low in this price range. One should always be cautioned to purchase from a reliable seller.

Tissot has a solid reputation for quality, reliability, style and affordability. These combined traits make for a nice watch that you will be proud to own.


Tudor Watch Returns to USA

Rolex has confirmed that it will be launching its sister brand, Tudor, in the United States in the late summer. It has set up a new company, Tudor Watch USA LLC, in New York City.

The company has tapped Russell Kelly, most recently a sales executive at Vacheron Constantin, as brand manager for Tudor in the United States. An executive at Rolex USA said the stores that will carry Tudor have been chosen but declined to say how many there will be or to give any other details about the introduction.

There will be a major national and regional advertising campaign, the executive said. The company will officially announce the Tudor launch at a press conference at the Baselworld fair in April.

The Tudor brand has not been available in this country for nearly a decade: Rolex stopped selling it here in 2004.

Review: Accutron Astronaut Limited Edition

When I was 3 and a half years old, my parents made me watch the 1969 landing on the moon live on television. It is the earliest memory I can recall and I have been fascinated with space ever since. In my adult years, my love of watches naturally led to an appreciation of space watches and timepieces. My most recent addition to my collection is a watch I wanted when it came out five years ago but have only just recently purchased-the Accutron Astronaut Limited Edition. High initial price was the main reason I didn’t get one then but I never forgot about it and I was lucky enough to procure a new one a few weeks ago at a much better price than the original issue.

Issued by Bulova in 2007, the Astronaut LE pays homage to the original Accutron Astronaut that was a product of Bulova for most of the 1960’s. The original Astro, like all Accutrons of that time, contained the revolutionary electronic tuning fork drive movement that was the father of the modern quartz watch (Hamilton’s Electric was the grandfather). The movement combined the jeweled gear train of the mechanical watch and the battery power source of the electric watch with solid state transistors and a small tuning fork which split a second into 360 equal pulses, which at the time allowed for unheard of “accuracy through electronics”-hence the name Accutron was born. The watch also was unique in that it didn’t tick like a mechanical watch….it hummed with the steady and pleasant F-sharp tone of the tuning fork. The original Astro was a bit larger and beefier than the dress Accutron watches and it featured an additional 24 hour GMT hand and a GMT scale deeply engraved in the rotational bezel. This watch quickly caught on with test pilots, many of whom became the first astronauts and their choice of this particular model earned it the permanent name of Astronaut in the Accutron lexicon. Accutron tried diligently to be named as the official wristwatch used by NASA in the Apollo program but this honor went to Omega-still, Accutron got its share of the publicity because it went with them-the on-board space capsule timers and chronometers were all Accutron units and several Accutron timing devices were set up and left in place on the moon to record various things.

By the mid 1970’s, the Accutron (with the tuning fork movement) was consigned to history, replaced by the cheaper and even more accurate quartz watch. Since then, original Accutron watches have become collector’s items and those who had original ones lovingly preserved them. Untold thousands of them are still humming today and keeping very accurate time, a testament to their build quality and simplicity to repair (so long as parts are available). Probably the most collectible Accutron is an original Astronaut, which was available in steel and in yellow gold. Prices for an original Astro can range from $500.00 for a running example to $2500.00 for a pristine condition and fully serviced one.

The Astro LE is a modern interpretation of that famous watch that is very faithful to the original. Crafted in solid stainless steel with accurate dial markings and fittings very similar to the original, it is a standout watch in a sea of lookalikes. Below is my review of each aspect of this unique watch.

A classic ETA 2893-2 GMT caliber movement, automatic with 21 jewels, modified and decorated by Accutron (Bulova). This movement is keeping very accurate time and running well. Of particular note is the rotor-obviously, most watches that use ETA movements don’t decorate much more than the rotor itself but Accutron outdid itself with this one. The rotor uses three Accutron logos as a bridge between the central turning portion and the outer swinging weight. You can see the movement through the logos, all of which are a tuning fork logo, the mark of the Accutron (and now it seems, Bulova’ s main line of watches as well). Because of the superb running rate of this movement and the extra care that went into the rotor, I am rating this higher.

Solid Stainless steel case and back. The case is finely finished with polished sides and unique lugs that were indigenous to the original Astronaut and a couple of the Spaceview models. The lugs hug the case and are conical, tapering outwards and upwards towards the 4, 8, 10 and 2 positions. The back of the watch features a half-moon sapphire aperture for viewing the movement on the lower half and a matte finished upper half with various hallmarks engraved. A polished surface bisects the upper and lower halves and connects to a polished circle that spans the circumference of the back. Engraved on the circumference are the words “Bulova, Swiss Made, Stainless Steel, 100M Water Resistant, Sapphire Crystal, A7” and the serial number of the watch. The center bisecting bar further reads “Limited Edition 0161/1000” which indicates number 161 of a limited production run of 1000 watches. Finally, the upper half of the back features the Accutron tuning fork in bas-relief and the engraved signature of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step foot on the moon and the first man to wear a watch on the moon surface (an Omega true, but Aldrin has testified to the use of Accutron timers and their dependability in other aspects of the moon mission and he is currently a spokesperson for Bulova). The finish on this watch is flawless and the entire watch just says quality.

The crystal is sapphire and it rises about a millimeter above the bezel and then domes gently, giving it a similar look to the old Submariner crystals from the 70’s. There is no AR coat on this crystal which is fine with me as the bend of the crystal plays well with the light and looks very retro vintage. Clarity is sharp and the crystal slightly magnifies the dial. I cannot fault it or think of a way to make it better.

The bezel of this watch is a puzzle because it doesn’t turn-it’s fixed in the stationary position. It is a GMT bezel with what appears to be an aluminum bezel ring showing the 24 hours of the day around its circumference. The upper half is black with silver numbers, indicating night (1800 hours to 0600 hours) and the lower half is silver with black numbers indicating day (0600 hours to 1800 hours). The font used is straightforward and looks like 1960’s typeface, very modernist in its look. The outer bezel features fine saw tooth teeth which would normally be used to grasp and turn the bezel but as I stated above, it doesn’t turn. That aside, the bezel LOOKS great and it sets the watch off and it makes it look like the classic Astro. I can live without the rotation but having that feature would have allowed it to be used for up to three different time zones rather than two.

The crown is easy to pull, wind and set and is polished with the Accutron logo laser etched into it. The crown is recessed into the case and is barely noticeable when viewing the watch face forwards. This pays homage to the original Astro which had no crown on the outside of the case at all-they were set via a special crown located in the back of the case so the watch had perfect symmetry on the arm. The new Astro LE has the standard crown but its importance is downplayed considerably.

Dial and Hands:
The shiny black Astronaut dial is very close to the original in look although a little more luxury has been added to the dial in the form of chrome surrounding each luminous hour marker. Additionally, each hour of the 24 hour scale is represented by a dot of luminous material. When combined with the luminous hour and minute hand, this watch dial really lights up at night with 26 individual luminous lights. The hour and minute hand are Dauphine style with lume and the minute hand is a straight pointer with an Accutron tuning fork logo at the counterpoint. The GMT hand is chrome with red paint to highlight itself and gives a splash of color to the otherwise monochrome watch. The dial features the turning fork logo under the 12 position with the word Accutron underneath it in classy letters. Above the 6 position is the word “Astronaut” in the same place and the same 1960’s font as the original. At the 9 position are the words “Automatic, 21 Jewels” and the calendar aperture is at the 3 position. Overall, the dial is readable, functional and aesthetically beautiful to look at.

A feature of the original was a bracelet that came to be known as the “bullet bracelet”. Made for Bulova by J.B. Champion, the “bullet” was a perfect compliment for the conical lugs of the Astro. Virtually identical on this new model, it is a bit wider and flatter but still features polished sides that bevel inward like the original had. The surface is brushed finish with two small bands of polished to give it a more striking look. It is almost a clone of the Omega Speedmaster bracelet but has the unique beveled sides to make it stand out more. The bracelet is attached to the case lugs by spring bars and the connectors fit flush to the case. Vintage Accutrons were known for their quality bracelets and this new one is no exception-the bracelet is extremely well made and it feels rich on your wrist. It has a dual butterfly deployant clasp with two buttons to release the clasp. This bracelet is a perfect companion to the watch it comes with.

Gain of about five seconds per day.

Very comfortable to wear but might be weighty on someone with a small wrist. Size wise, it is really no bigger than a Rolex GMT or Submariner but it feels every bit as substantial. The bracelet drapes around the wrist with a precision feel and the clasp sits well.

The Accutron comes in a beautiful wooden inner box with the Accutron logo and a small NASA lapel pin. The other cardboard box clearly states that this is a Limited Edition Astronaut. All are made with quality.

When I first saw this watch, I could not fathom paying $1695.00 for a Bulova watch in this day and age when there were Swiss companies out there producing good products that had more brand panache for the same money. By waiting a couple of years, I got it for a good bit less money but after getting the watch, I realized I was being unfair in my assessment of its worth. This watch is attractive, superbly crafted, makes use of the highest quality materials and is not a mass-market product with only a limited production run of 1000. With proper care and service, this watch would last me for a lifetime and is not a disposable timepiece by any stretch. Those characteristics were also ascribed to another watch brand 50 years ago….the original Accutron. When it came out, it was considered one of the finest watches money could buy. An Accutron tuning fork logo was something the owner of that watch could be very proud of. Consider this too…in 1960, an Astronaut in solid stainless steel sold for $175.00…..this is the equivalent of $1259.00 in today’s dollars. At the same time, a Timex watch could be had for $10.00, with a mechanical movement. People bought Accutrons with the thought that this would probably be their last watch and that it would last for decades….and they did! Watches were bought or given with pride and worn with pride for a long time.

I am very happy with this particular watch and am glad that Bulova released it in lots to stretch out the time it could be had-this allowed me to still be able to get one two years after it came out. I would strongly counsel that if you want one, you had better be hunting one down now as there are fewer and fewer available. I intend to take very good care of mine because it will be hard to replace it if it is lost or damaged.

On a personal note, being an avid mechanical fan, I love that this watch has a mechanical movement. To me, a quartz watch has no “soul”, no life in it…but it sure would have been cool if Bulova had dropped a tuning fork movement in this watch. Having two of the original Accutrons, I love hearing them sing their note and watching how the second-hand glides as smoothly as a “satellite in orbit” without the slightest hint of a jerking motion. This is something that even the best mechanical watch cannot duplicate unless you want to pay out for a Seiko Spring Drive and it costs a fortune. I think if they ever started building tuning fork watches again, there would be a market for people who value the accuracy it provides (still better than the best mechanical watch) and fact that it has moving gears and levers like a mechanical. The Accutron delivered the world’s first “hybrid” before that word was popular in environmental circles. There is a challenge for Bulova….or someone….to think about!

Note: This review was written and published in 2009. While I have updated a few statements, it is presented for the most part in its original form.

Doxa Sharkhunter 1000T

Two years ago, I reviewed the Doxa Sub 750T Sharkhunter and was very pleased with my watch. Unfortunately, as so often happens, another watch came along that I really wanted and something had to go to generate the needed funds (I’m sure nobody in this forum knows what I am talking about, right?). I ended up sacrificing my 750T (which sold for within a $100.00 of what I paid for it new, a testimony to Doxa’ s policy of selling limited runs of each series and strictly controlling sales-as a result, there is no gray market out there and most every Doxa that shows up on E-Bay is used to some degree). Another thing different about the Doxa was, unlike many I have disposed of, I started to miss it, then really wondered what I was thinking for having gotten rid of it and finally, obsessing over it. I made the decision to get another one but by the time I got around to it, the 750T in the Sharkhunter black dial was consigned to Doxa watch history. The orange was still available but I couldn’t bring myself to getting an orange dial watch.

Fortunately, Doxa had released the newer Sub 1000T in nearly all color configurations and, other than the orange minute hand, it looked to be virtually the same. I ordered one and a week later, it arrived for my inspection. Here is my review of the watch and I will contrast some of the changes to comments made in my previous review.

The Sub 1000T is Doxa’s latest effort to recreate the original Sub of the late 1960’s and Doxa took special pains to improve upon the previous generation 750T by coming as close as possible to the original. This meant a slightly smaller case to match the exact proportions of the original, resulting in a watch with a 42mm diameter rather than a 44.7mm diameter used in the 750T series. You might not think that just a few millimeters would make any difference but it does just slightly. The watch visually appears more “right” in its dimensions and does not look as ungainly as did the 750T. Still, it took a bit of getting used to because the dial is a bit more compact and the hands cover less dial real estate than on the 750T. Another change is the lack of the orange minute hand, which is replaced by a matching white hand (oversized, as on all Sub series watches).

The Doxa Sharkhunter Sub1000T is a watch frozen in time (no pun intended), replicating nearly perfectly its original look from the latter half of the 1960’s. Watches that looked dated just a few years ago are suddenly back in vogue again and many companies are beginning to pick up on that era’s designs and combine them with modern technology. The Doxa case is classic 60’s/70’s style with its oval shaped case overwhelming what would otherwise be a pretty wide steel bracelet. Diving features such as a screw-down crown, water resistancy to an increased 1000 meters and diving bezel all make this the Diver’s Dive Watch. The ratings and comments are as follows, along with some contrasts to the 750T:

The classic ETA 2824-2 movement, automatic with 25 jewels, modified and decorated by Doxa. This movement is running a little bit faster than it should, gaining about a minute per day, which means it has to be re-synchronized frequently. I had hoped it would settled down into a more normal routine but it is still running about the same rate as when I got it over a month ago. The previous Sub 750T was very accurate, running within chronometer ratings. Where there was a deviation, it gained only about 2 seconds per day. Judging from its history, this movement should be low maintenance and have a long life though. If it doesn’t settled down soon however, I may have to send it back for regulating.

Solid Stainless steel case and back. The case is finely finished with polished sides and brushed top and back. The back and crown are polished mirror chrome finished and the crown has excellent “grip”. The back of the watch has lots of engraving on it and includes an updated center disk featuring the Jenny Family (owner of Doxa) fish logo, now with engraved waves behind the fish. There are six square dimples for a watch case opener around the periphery of the back, indicating a screw-down back. It appears to be a tad thicker than the 750T, probably due to its increased water resistancy. Finish is flawless with brushed and polished surfaces and it is very heavy, although maybe not quite as heavy as the slightly larger 750T.

The crystal is mineral sapphire and on the 1000T, it has been slightly domed to recreate the look of the original 1960’s plastic crystal. Whether it really does I can’t say but I do like it better than the perfectly flat crystal of the 750T. It too has an anti-reflective coat on the inside and this makes the black dial look blue in certain lights but it is a pleasing effect. The rise of the dome is barely above the rim of the rotating dive bezel and I doubt it will draw more blows than the flat one did because it is so slight it is barely perceptible.

A staple of a Doxa Sub watch is its patented no-decompression dive bezel that allows divers to know how long they can stay at certain depths without endangering themselves from the effects of helium buildup in their bodies. These rates are depicted in feet, like the originals instead of meters and are engraved into the flat, polished bezel face. They are filled with what appears to be orange enamel, which goes well with the black face. An inner bezel of brushed metal depicts minutes 0-60 in black. The side of the bezel features a saw blade design and it sits high on the case. It turns with an authoritative click, 120 clicks per revolution and is of a very solid design.

Polished crown, screw-down type with the Jenny Fish in raised relief. The crown, which unscrews from the case very smoothly after many rotations, has two distinct clicks, one for the date and the outer stop for the time. No changes here.

Dial and Hands
The 750T featured a glossy black dial; the 1000T has changed this to a more period-accurate matte black, which increases visibility and brings it closer to the look of the 60’s version. It has large, luminous square markers at 6, 9 and 12 and smaller ones at the other numeral positions. The date is at the 3 position and is white. The date window matches the 6, 9, and 12 markers in size which gives the dial excellent balance. Overall the dial has a perfect symmetry to it. Unlike traditional dials, this one seems divided into four equal quadrants with “DOXA automatic” in the upper left quadrant and “SUB 1000T Sharkhunter” in the lower right quadrant-all very balanced. The smaller hour hand is dominated by the wider and longer minute hand, now in white as well, (this hand is the most important to a diver, hence its size) and the second hand is white with a square near the tip filled with Super Luminova. The hands are classic “stick” hands. The Super Luminova indices and hands are extremely bright at night. Speaking of the luminova, it too has been updated (or, depending on how you look at it, retrodated). To make it even more reminiscent of the original and to give it a more aged look, the luminova has been tinted green so even in normal light when it is not glowing, the luminova stands apart from the white color of the hands and indices, giving the impression that it has aged. It also is raised slightly on the indices like the old tritium used to be. It is a nice touch that probably only a Doxa purist would notice. Another new feature is that sub-second indices have been added between each second mark which forms an outer circle of the dial.

A classic 60’s look, the Doxa bracelet features outer bars and an inner “rice bead” look like its original design. Today, the rice bead sections are actually solid links made to look like many intricate beads strung together-much more durable. It has a flip lock with the word “DOXA” in relief on the lock and the Jenny Fish on the buckle part. It appears to be a little bit more beefed up from the 750T and of course, this is a tried and true design and should hold up well. The links use screws instead of pins so a jeweler’s screwdriver is necessary to adjust links. Be very careful when doing this because the screws are difficult to turn on a new watch and it is easy to chip the screwdriver head. The best way is to apply gentle pressure when turning, then go back a bit, back and forth, allowing the tension to ease up. The screw should then turn normally. The bracelet is attached to the case lugs by spring bars and the connectors fit flush to the case. The bracelet is supposedly 1mm less in width than the 750T but since I don’t have the 750, I cannot compare. This makes sense though as the slightly smaller case would merit a slightly reduced bracelet size.

Gain of about one minute per day regardless of position. This is really too fast, even for an automatic watch.

Very comfortable to wear but might be weighty on someone with a small wrist, although the 1000T will probably fit smaller wrists better than did the 750T. The design curves to the wrist and stays in place.

Doxa still ignores the mainstream trend of presentation boxes and instead opts for an aluminum tube made of diver bottle material instead of a box. The tube has a form fitted seal top and the words “DOXA SUB Professional Series” painted in black against the silver aluminum. Inside is a hard foam insert, black and molded to fit perfectly inside the tube. The foam comes open with a fitted slot for the watch, warranty card and a jeweler’s screwdriver. A DVD is included with full operating instructions and graphics/animations. I have to give this one a high score for quality and originality.

Overall Impression:
When I rated the 750T two years ago, I stated that it was “An interesting, accurate, nostalgic and rare watch, worth the $1349.00 price tag”. Two years later, I still feel the same except for one major change-the price of the watch. Doxa is no longer an unknown watch to the masses and the price reflects that, having climbed to the loft price of $2390.00. This represents a price increase of 77.17% or about 38.5% per year, which is more than even Rolex increases its price each year. Still, you are getting a lot of watch for the money and maybe they were a bit underpriced in the beginning. Whether this one will hold its value like the 750T did remains to be seen and someone else will have to tell me because I have no intention of finding this out. Clive Cussler has probably made this watch as famous as James Bond’s Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster among thriller novel fans. The fact that you A) Don’t see them on E-bay everyday for $100.00s less than retail and B) Limited Production and controlled sales makes them rare and C) not enough presence for the Hong Kong counterfeit market makes the Sharkhunter a watch that is a good investment and one with some history. Of all the features that have been improved, none are really functionally better than the 750T with the exception of one that I haven’t really highlighted-its increased water resistancy from 750 meters to 1000 meters. Both are a good bit deeper than a standard Rolex Submariner will go. An interesting historical footnote too-Doxa and Rolex once collaborated and jointly patented the helium release valve currently found on the Rolex Sea Dweller and on the new Doxa Sub 5000T that is the newest release from Doxa.

Recommendation: Buy one. This may be your last chance to get an original looking Sub as the newer 5000T has been modernized a bit and doesn’t quite look as vintage. Doxa is only making 5000 of them and the watch will have a unique number “XXX of 5000” engraved on the back. If you are a serious diver or just a pool skimmer, this watch is great in the water and you won’t see them all over the place, although it is easy to identify one when you do occasionally see one. Like people who drive certain types of unique cars, a Doxa wearer who spots a complete stranger wearing one can strike up a conversation about their watches. You don’t see Rolex owners doing that very often.

Raymond Weil Maestro Automatic: Moving on Up

Raymond Weil Maestro Automatic

Raymond Weil as a watchmaker has never been more than a blip on my radar, coming into range occasionally but then mostly forgotten about. When the Parsifal first arrived, I thought it was a beautiful watch and very much in style with the times but I thought it was a bit high priced for a name brand that was relatively new and a quartz-driven watch at that. Like most people, I assumed the high price was for the smattering of real gold that it featured but there were just too many other, better watches in that price range to choose from.

In recent years, RW began to make more of an impression as they begin to take their product line further upmarket, with an increase in quality sufficient to justify their higher prices. Automatic movements, intricate dial details and better materials became the norm and not the exception. When the high quality RW Nabucco and Freelancer lines were introduced to the family, the newly improved family was looking pretty good by then. Recently, RW introduced a new line of watches, the Maestro collection, which seems to tie into their Tradition collection but can almost be viewed as a standalone group. The Maestro collection is very traditional in its overall design, complimented by time-tested styling cues such as the dial and hands. Currently they are all round, all stainless steel and all 39.5 mm in case diameter. When I say traditional, think of the basic models offered by Patek and Vacheron and then subtract about 85% off the price of one. As a competitor to one of these watches, there is no competition in total substance but the elegant simplicity of the Maestro pays homage to those vaunted brands.

I was looking for a new dressy watch that had some physical substance but was not overly large and pleasing to the eye and I wanted something under $1500 USD. While shopping at my favorite Atlanta watch store that carries just about every luxury brand made, I discovered this one and was captivated by how good it looked. The price fit the budget and pretty soon I was walking out of the store with it. Its appeal was that it had all the elements I like in that style of watch-and no real compromises. This included the size, the dial, an automatic movement and a subdial seconds register, a design element I have always liked in the older, traditional watches.

The case is executed in solid stainless steel and is polished on all surfaces. The plain lugs curve gently downward and protrude only minimally from the case, spaced to hold a 20mm strap very closely to the case. The spring bars have a slight curve to them to allow the strap to touch the case at the center but still allows complete flexibility of the strap swivel freely. The case appears to have a bezel slightly smaller than the case and raised about 1.5mm above the main body of the case but this is an illusion as it is part of the case sculpture. The surface of the crystal is flush with this pseudo bezel. The case back is a stainless steel ring that holds a transparent viewing crystal so that the movement is easily observed. The ring around this crystal is engraved with an elegant but traditional font stating “Swiss Made – WR 50m/165ft – Stainless Steel – Model/Serial number – Sapphire Crystal”. The back snaps to the case. It weighs enough to fell substantial but not so much that it feels cumbersome. It doesn’t tend to “roll” on my wrist like some heavier watches do. At this price point, I feel the case is solid and well-made, if not exceptional. Traditionalists will love the round, simple design of the case.

The dial is the most beautiful part of this watch and it appears RW took extra pains to ensure that the dial did not in any way look like corners had been cut. The dial is silver in color, in a muted, matte finish that catches just enough light to play with it but not get in your face. In direct light, it exhibits a nice glow and its iconic black Roman numerals stand out in stark relief against this silver. From a readability standpoint, this elegant dial is very easy to quickly get the time with a minimum of fuss. The minute track on the outside of the dial is plain silver with one minute indexes in black. A hobnail pattern surrounds the minute track along the case. The hour track features the Roman numerals against grooves that mimic the grooves of a record album. The inner dial features a “clou de Paris” relief that combines with the hour and minute track, provides a nice palate of textures, each different but all in the same matte silver. The seconds subdial sits just above the number VI and features a background similar to the hour track, grooved like a record album. The only drawbacks to the dial in my opinion is the word “Automatic” being situated on a smooth surface rectangle inside the second subdial and the date window straddling the line where the hour track meets the inner dial but neither of these detract from the beauty enough for me to worry about it. The upper half of the inner dial displays “Raymond Weil” in a readable, simple font and “Geneve” under the name, both on a slightly raised, flat surface. The watch features blued steel Breguet style hands that work perfectly with the silver dial.

The crown is large and easy to grasp as it has no protectors. Much like a gear, it has widely spaced “teeth” and the modern Raymond Weil “brand” is featured on the crown and is deeply set. The crystal is sapphire and has a subtle antireflective coating on both sides to minimize light reflections and allow the beautiful dial to stand out. Winding the watch is easy and it is easy to set the time accurately as the watch does hack when pulling the crown to the second position. The date is easily changed in the first position. The crown does not screw down but it feels well seated and of good quality construction.

The movement is a RW4250 movement, which is based on the Selita SW200 movement. I suppose as the supply of ETA blanks slowly dries up, Raymond Weil has positioned themselves to buy future movements from Selita. The movement itself is visible through the exhibition back but is very plain and functional. A few blued screws and a nicely decorated rotor are the only distinguishing marks on it. The rotor features the Geneva Stripes on the surface and is engraved in blue letters denoting Raymond Weil and indicating a 31 jeweled movement. So far it is very accurate, gaining only a couple of seconds per day and I may decide I can live without an ETA movement.

According to Raymond Weil’s material about this watch, this new collection “demonstrates once again its profound attachment to its roots and its desire to offer a piece of history. The various models soberly explore the one thousand and one ways of interpreting a certain idea of harmony and discretion”.

If that means it’s supposed to be a traditional watch in every sense of the world, they have succeeded. For the price, it is a very beautiful watch, accurate and possessing styling cues that have stood the test of time. I think Raymond Weil is definitely heading in the right direction in taking their models further up the stream and I could recommend this watch to anyone.