Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Watches I'm Wearing: Omega Seamaster 2253.80 "Electric Blue"

Why "Electric Blue" makes all the difference.

The first watch I'm featuring in the "Watches I'm Wearing" series is also one of the most unlikely.  Despite a passing obsession for the quintessential dive watch, the Rolex Submariner (which eventually lost out to the Rolex Explorer I for a place in my watch box), I generally dislike dive watches.  I'm not a diver, and don't like wearing pretensions of being one on my wrist.  Moreover, I've made it a goal in my watch collection to possess no more than one paradigmatic example of a particular brand's offerings, and in a head-to-head contest, no Seamaster (even the 2253.80) could ever best the classic Speedmaster Professional in epitomizing Omega as a brand.  This version of the Seamaster has been discontinued for two to three years - longer than I've been interested in mechanical watches - and even tracking it down proved a challenge that required resorting to a non-authorized (but excellent) dealer.

So how did it end up in my watch box - and on my wrist even as I type this entry?

Its fate is in part a result of the thriving community of users on the Omega brand subforum on WatchUSeek.  It was there that I first learned of this discontinued model and the "electric blue" dial that it and its full-size brother, the 2255.80, even existed.  The color of the dial changes with the kind and angle of light that strikes it; in broad daylight, I don't know of any dial more vibrant.  It is, for lack of a better description, mesmerizing.

As might be gleaned from my choice in color schemes for this blog, my favorite color is blue, and, in turn, my favorite dial color is also blue.  But the tones that we commonly find in blue-dialed watches are often pale or flat looking.  Even the dial color on my Speedmaster Date, the 3212.80, though nice, seemed to leave something to be desired.  The only time I've seen a blue dial and thought, "Yes, that's the exact hue I'm looking for!" is when I laid eyes on an image of the "Electric Blue" Seamaster in broad daylight.

Despite all horological considerations, the fact remains: at least one spot in my watch box will always hold a blue dialed watch.  This incontrovertible fact meant that I had to find a new occupant shortly after selling off the aforementioned Speedy Date.  I selected a 3510.82 Speedmaster Reduced as that replacement - a limited edition Japan-only model with a sunburst blue dial - but inevitable comparisons with the true Speedy Pro left even it's Japan-only allure lacking.  So after flipping the Reduced, I settled on finding a 2253.80, and resolved on ordering one sight unseen from Essential Watches.  It came in pristine condition, and the moment I laid eyes on the dial, I knew I'd found a keeper.

Underneath the case, the Seamaster is powered by the venerable Omega 1120 movement, which is based on the tried-and-true ETA 2892-A2.  The 1120 was used as the basis for the original co-axial movement, the Omega 2500, and is a proven, robust automatic movement.  The 2253.80 is the mid-size version of the Electric Blue, which means that it measures 36.25mm in diameter, positively diminutive by today's popular standards, especially for a dive watch (which now often finds itself in 44m+ territory).  On most wrists (and for most tastes), the full-size 2255.80 with its 41mm diameter probably offers the ideal proportions.  But for my six-inch wrist and preference for smaller watches, the mid-size stands as a rare diver perfectly proportioned for my wrist and sensibilities, with one of the most gorgeous toned dials of all time, to boot.  Since it entered the watch box, it's never had a chance to wind down.  No other automatic or manual wind can claim that distinction, not even the Explorer or the Speedy Pro.

My only criticism?  It would have been nice to have applied hour markers and screwed-in pins rather than friction pins in the bracelet.  Otherwise, this Seamaster is, for me, as close to a perfect watch as they come.

What do you think about the Seamaster 2253.80, the general lack of midsize men's diver watches these days, or blue dials in general?

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Watch Primer #05: A Few Words on Watch Movements

This installment of the Watch Primer series will take a look at one of the most galvanizing issues among watch enthusiasts: the watch movement.  A movement is the mechanism that powers the watch, and the differences between various types of movements and their specifications often influence how collectors view the watches they inhabit.  One of the biggest distinctions lies between mechanical movements and quartz movements.

Mechanical or Quartz--or Something In-Between?

Mechnical watches are powered entirely by kinetic energy, namely the tension provided by the mainspring.  Watches powered by these sorts of movements need to be wound in order to function, either manually by the crown or through a weighted rotor built into the movement itself that rotates with the daily motions of your watch arm.  In this way, mechanical watches with a rotor system are "automatically" wound while you wear them, which is why they're broadly classified as automatic movements.  These are the gold standard when it comes to most watch collectors, as they epitomize the artistry of the horological arts in physical intricacies.  Many watch enthusiasts prefer mechanical watches because they view them as been more "alive"--a metaphor strengthened by the "beating" heart of a mechanical movement, the balance spring.  The downside is that mechanical watches are less accurate at timekeeping due to their reliance upon kinetic mechanisms, which are subject to outside forces.  Also these kinds of watches require periodic servicing, which could range from reapplication of lubricants to a full overhaul of worn down parts, which, depending on the watch, could entail a considerable investment.  For the least expensive watches, servicing could cost nearly as much as the original purchase price of the watch itself (e.g., $200 for a $500 watch), while costs also increase as the price of the watch in question increases (e.g., $1700 for a $20,000 watch--proportionally a smaller percentage of the watch's cost, but an even larger investment to make every 2-3 years).

Mechanical +: the original type of watch movement; more aesthetically appealing; more prestigious in watch collecting circles; exhibits the panoply of horological prowess.

Mechanical -: tends to be more expensive than quartz; requires periodic servicing, which means perennial costs of upkeep; requires frequent wearing, winding, or the use of a watch box to remain powered.

Quartz watches are powered by batteries and regulated by the vibrations of a quartz crystal, from which their name derives.  They revolutionized the watch industry when the were introduced in the late 60s (I believe in the form of Seiko's Accutron), and while they began as an expensive novelty, economies of scale and the conduciveness of the movement for mass production has made it so that quartz watches can be produced at far lower costs than mechanical ones.  Hence the $20 watches you'd find in a department store are most assuredly quartz watches.  Nevertheless, even the cheapest quartz watch usually provides more accurate timekeeping that the most carefully tuned and expensive mechanical watch, and, when comparing the high end quartz versus the high end mechanical, the difference in accuracy is staggering (as little as -5/+5 seconds a YEAR for quartz, whereas even chronometer-grade mechanicals range -4/+6 seconds a DAY).  Also, quartz watches require only a battery change every 2-3 years as opposed to a full servicing, though when they are due for service, it may be more cost effective to replace the entire movement than to perform maintenance on it, depending on the quality and design of the movement.

Quartz +: Less expensive; more accurate; less maintenance required.

Quartz -: Less horologically distinctive; potentially less aesthetically pleasing, depending on whether you prefer a sweeping or ticking second hand.