Monday, August 26, 2013

Watch Primer: Shopping for Shorter Straps

One continual challenge I've faced as a watch enthusiast is finding straps that accommodate my wrist's 6" circumference.  The most common "short" strap length, usually 75mm by 105mm, inevitably proves to be at least one hole short of the right fit.  I've punched an extra hole (with mixed results), and shopped around for extra-short length straps, only to find that they're something of a rarefied breed these days, with major watch strap suppliers like Hirsch having discontinued "short" lengths altogether for their products.

The two sources I've found for extra-short straps are both German.  My favorite is Nomos, who in addition to being perhaps the best deal on the watch market for those looking for in-house movements also utilize Horween Shell Cordovan in the vast majority of their straps.  Shell Cordovan is made from a particularly pliant and durable section of horse hides, and those who frequent men's sartorial sites and forums will find that many pay a premium to have their shoes crafted from this special class of leather.  Nomos's cordovan straps are unlined, making them suitable for dress watches and all but the beefiest sport watches.  I pair their dark brown strap with my Speedmaster Pro, using the excellent 18mm RDH deployant from  A small tip as to strap widths:  click on the link for the Zuerich model for 20mm lug width straps, and the Tangente model for 18mm lug widths.  Both taper down by 2mm at the buckle end (or 18mm and 16mm widths, respectively).

Another source for extra-short straps is Stowa.  Two of their 20mm straps are offered in "short" lengths that measure 100mm/70mm, which should be just right for around a 6" wrist.

The difficulty with sourcing shorter-length straps is one of the reasons I generally prefer bracelets, which are often designed adjustable enough to accommodate even wrists under 6".  Another option for those hellbent on leather straps would be to have one made to order.

The final solution I've found is the NATO-style straps that Timex has famously paired with its Weekender series of watches.  They are noticeably shorter than genuine NATO straps, and fit my wrist perfectly.  I strongly recommend it to anyone with a smaller wrist who likes the NATO strap style but dislikes how long most of them are.  My picks are the Blue-with-Gray-Stripe and high visibility Red.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Watch Review: Bathys 100 Fathoms Automatic SIlver PVD

I've had an alternating love-hate relationship with Bathys Hawaii for a while now, beginning with when I first laid eyes on their Aquaculture model back in 2009 (sadly, more than a year too late to have purchased one during its original run).  The notion that I would be able to obtain a mechanical watch from a small company headquartered in the islands where I grew up was high on my priority, and only a combination of supply issues and the comparatively exorbitant brick-and-mortar pricing that Bathys had resorted to at the time prevented me from delving in.  (The base 100 Fathoms, like the one reviewed here, was retailing in stores for nearly $1000.)

I managed to get my hands on a preowned Benthic with mother-of-pearl dial in 2011, but the 44mm diameter was simply too much for my 6" wrist.  It's possible that the long-awaited Bathys bracelet would have salvaged it, but I seized the opportunity to flip the watch when it arose, just before Bathys announced its shift from brick-and-mortar stores back to online retail, along with a $300 price drop for most of their watches.  $695 was a stronger value proposition for the 100 Fathoms auto, but at that point I wanted to try out the quartz version with its big date.  Unfortunately, despite indications from Bathys's founder that the 100F quartzes would be eventually restocked, they have yet to surface in the more than two years since I originally make my inquiry.  (Learning a few months later that the specific Rhonda movement used in the quartzes required manual advancing beyond the non-existent 32 through 39 displays also weakened my enthusiasm.)  When the Bathys bracelet finally came out, I knew I would eventually have to try out a 100F with one attached, but the pricing made it so that the total package would have run close to $900.

A couple of things have changed since then that made me finally decide to take the plunge.  First, the manufacturer of the bracelet has decided to discontinue it and sell off his remaining stock at liquidation prices.  This means that the window for acquiring the bracelet will eventually close.  Second, Bathys has decided to up their game by dropping the price of the 100F auto to $595.  Together with the discounted bracelets, that means that you can pick up the total package for just under $650 - less than the 100F auto alone would have cost you six months ago.  That was enough to coax me into taking the plunge.

I went with the ruthenium dial, Silver PVD version because I figured it would go best with bracelet, which I picked up in both silver and black PVD forms.  Installing the bracelet was a bit more challenging that I anticipated, with some small tweaking required on the end pieces to make the pins line up properly, but once installed the bracelet feels very solid and matches the 100F well.

The 41mm diameter coupled with the large dial is about as big as a watch can be on my wrist without looking ridiculous, and the watch head is about as thick as I'd venture to wear.  Surprisingly, I found myself wondering if I'd made a mistake picking the ruthenium dial over the black, as visibility can be adversely affected depending on the lighting angle.  But what disturbed me the most - and led me to finally decide to return the watch - was that there was milling residue on the chapter ring around the 8 o'clock mark, and a piece of lint a little below the 3 o'clock mark.  These could only really be seen up close, but could be seen with an unassisted eye.  This to my mind is inexcusable in a watch costing several hundred dollars, and necessitated the return.

I considered opting for an exchange with a black-dialed version, but ultimately decided to wait until the vaunted 100F quartz is restocked - hopefully in black PVD - to making my next, and perhaps final, Bathys purchase.  Here's hoping that when I do, the next example is free of the quality control issues I've encountered so far.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Watch Review - Ultra-Affordable Analog: How a $20 Casio MTP-1183A Took On a $2000 Grand Seiko SBGX065 - and Won

(It's the one on the right.)

It's been a few weeks since the Casio MTP-1183A arrived at my doorstep, and I've had sufficient occasion to put it through its proper paces.  From the onset, my goal in acquiring it was unfair:  it was to vie against a quartz Grand Seiko, the previous occupant of the "blue dial" slot in my watch box, a watch selling for literally 100 times its price.  Understandably, this was a contest it would not - and could not - win on raw specifications alone.  It gains or loses up to 15 seconds a month; the Grand Seiko, 10 seconds a year.

The dial is nicely legible, and the blue sunburst tone, while not as deep or reflective as the one on the Grand Seiko, is still impressive given the watch's bare-bones price.  Even more impressive is how well the second hand lines up with the indices - a sticking point that other quartz offerings listed at more than 20 times its price have failed to get right.  (In my watch history, the offender was a $500 Hamilton Ventura, though several comparably priced $20-$30 Timex Weekenders also suffered from a similar letdown.)  The simple hands can be a bit harder to read in certain conditions than the larger and more painstakingly finished ones on the GS, but even the GS hands suffer in low-light situations given their lack of lume, which is more of an aesthetic choice than a deficit of design.

At 38mm in diameter, it is marginally bigger than the GS at 37mm, though the smaller dial size makes the MTP-1183A seems comparatively smaller on the wrist (and somewhat better proportioned on mine).  Lug guards protect the shallow crown and contribute to a slightly more sporty profile, though the MTP-1183A classic enough to fill in as a dress watch if paired with a quality 20mm leather strap.  This, in fact, is where the Casio trumps the GS:  its 20mm lug width allows for far more strap options than the GS's painfully hard-to-find 19mm.  If you're a strap fanatic, the Casio offers far more flexibility.

The folded metal bracelet is serviceable, but nothing to write home about, and easily trumped in comfort and finish by virtually any solid end link bracelet on the market.  I've replaced it with a 20mm Oyster bracelet from Tungchoy Watch.

I bought the Casio on a lark to see how it would compare to the top-of-the-line quartz GS.  It ended up doing so well as a value proposition that it has deposed the GS from its place as the quartz backup in my watch box.