Monday, September 30, 2013

Watch Radar: Marathon TSAR (Tritium Search and Rescue) Diver

Following my abortively brief ownership of a Bathys 100F Auto, I decided that the watch that will eventually fill the "dive watch" role in my watch box should ideally have a quartz movement.  Aside from being more accurate across the board and slightly more shock resistant, a quartz movement would also require less unscrewing of the inevitable screw-down crown.  I'd hoped to acquire one of Bathys's next batch of 100F Quartzes, but a quick exchange with John Patterson revealed that the current ETA is well into 2014, if not later.  A year-or-two-away ETA has been the standard line from Bathys as to the quartz 100F for several years now (I think I've been asking since 2010), I finally decided to set aside my longstanding goal of adding a "Hawaii" brand to my watch box, in favor of the tool watch of choice for North American governmental agencies:  Marathon's TSAR.  Sensibly sized (at roughly 41-42mm wide) and as solid as 316L steel gets, the watch itself and its bracelet are currently en route in separate packages.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Watch Review: The Affordable (Under $30) Casio MTP-1239D-2A

Shortly after acquiring the Casio MTP-1183A-2A, I discovered its day-date variant, the MTP-1239D-2A.  I initially dismissed it as I presumed it would be largely the same as the 1183A, but a picture of its bracelet revealed a push-button clasp as opposed to the friction clasp on the 1183A.  The idea that I might be able to swap out the 1183A's friction clasp for a push button made me decide to take the plunge and pick up the 1239D.

When it arrived, the first thing I noticed was the blue of the dial.  While the 1183A's dial is a muted, almost violet shade, the 1239D's is closer to the vibrant blue I've seen in Seiko's SARB series and approaches the "electric" blue of the reference 2253.80 Omega Seamaster I used to own.   Looking at the image above, you might also notice that the positioning of the 12 o'clock indices is slightly more spaced on the 1239D's dial than the 1183A's.  I think it provides stronger proportionality to the entire layout.

The bracelet also yielded interesting differences upon closer inspection.  While virtually identical at first glance to the 1183A bracelet, its links are incompatible.  Moreover, the bracelet's finishing is more of a matte, frosted finish than the brushed finish on the 1183A.  Most surprising however was that the curve of the push-button clasp was less curved than the 1183A's clasp, making the fit much more angular and less appealing on my 6" wrist.  That, coupled with what seems to my eye to be a better, more aesthetically pleasing finish on the 1183A's bracelet, led me to end up choosing the exact opposite combination I intended to when I first acquired the 1239D:  The 1239D's head combined with the 1183A's bracelet.

Because of my watch box rule, the 1183A has been displaced by the 1239D, albeit in a hybridized form.  The assembled package of 1183A bracelet and 1239D watch head costs about $45, which still clocks in at less than the vast majority of watches out there.  And either the date-only 1183A or the day-date 1239D would make a fine single purchase, with the considerations raised above, at $20 and $25, respectively.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Watch Accessory Review: Wolf Designs 4583029 5 Piece Watch Storage Box

Watch boxes occupy an interesting spot in the realm of watch accessories.  At some point (usually after collecting more than 2-3 watches), they become something of a necessity for those looking to keep their collection in some semblance of order.  But many such boxes tend to either occupy stratospheric price points (when the box costs more than most of the watches it houses, something is amiss), or pair reasonable pricing with dubious construction or materials (in particular, an anonymous model I picked up from eBay for about $40 had lining and watch pillows that started to disintegrate the moment I touched them).  The sweet spot that couples reasonable price with reasonable quality can be elusive.

After paring down my watch collection from well over the ten slots allocated in my previous watch box (a now-discontinued Fossil model), and confirming that Fossil's current watch box offerings 1) cost over $100 each (straying into costing-more-than-the-watches territory where Fossil is concerned) and 2) featuring no less than eight slots, I decided to venture onto Amazon and see if I could find another brand that would hit the reasonable-price, reasonable-quality sweet spot.

I'd heard of Wolf Designs before, but their "retail" price point positions them squarely outside reasonable price territory.  Fortunately, most retailers that carry them offer the boxes at substantial discounts, Amazon included, making them a stronger value proposition and worth looking into.  With a slim collection in mind, I chose their 5-watch offering, available on Amazon for roughly $50.  (Not cheap, but not quite exorbitant, either.)

The quality of materials is more than adequate, on par if not slightly better than those used in the now-discontinued Fossil box.  The slots feature a slight incline that allows the watches to rest naturally at an attractive angle when nestled within.  The display window is glass rather than plastic, giving it a more solid feel.  I prefer watch boxes with transparent lids as they allow solar-powered watches (such as the Citizen Eco-Drive line and many higher-end Casios) to take on light even while the box is closed.

The locking mechanism is simple and functional, but ultimately of limited protective value; any determined thief need only shatter the glass lid to gain access to the watches within, or simply take the entire box.  I tend to leave mine unlocked by default.

All in all, this is about as nice a watch box as can be had at around the $50 price point - which is hardly a steal, but an acceptable value given the watch box market.  For those looking to maintain a smaller (by WIS standards) collection, the Wolf Designs 4583029 5 Piece Watch Storage Box is probably the box to get.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top 5: Best Affordable Watches Under $50 for 2013

The Best Watches for Less Than $50 

In a world with a built-in clock in every cellphone and computer, the wristwatch is, as far as pure timekeeping purposes go, obsolete.  But extinction is not the only result of obsolescence.  There are situations where a wristwatch serves better as a timekeeper than a phone, just as there are situations (albeit ratified) where a pocket watch is preferred over wristwatch.  Wristwatches represent one of the few accessories a man can comfortably wear in nearly any context.  Here's five watches that epitomize the finest attributes of the 21st century wristwatch - and won't overtax your wallet while doing it.  As an additional challenge from last year's Top 5 list, the price limit for this list is $50!

5. Invicta 8932

One of the most visible Rolex Submariner homages out there (so much so that its most recent interations have been tweaked just enough to keep them firmly away from replica territory), the Invicta 8932 has a cult following of its own, and a solid reputation as a bang-for-your-buck watch.  While its bracelet lacks the diver's extension that would make it a quintessential diver's watch, the 8932 offers the same water resistance (200 meters) as more expensive professional divers, and a sleek, tool watch design that demonstrates how a watch meant for the deep ocean has just as easily found its way into boardrooms and night clubs.

The 8932 is less than $50 on

4. Casio A168W-1

Casio's regular line of digital watches have served reliably since the early days of the quartz revolution, and the A168W-1 strikes a fine balance of reliability, geek-chic style, and utterly affordability.  Its metal bracelet makes it a more comfortable match with your suit, and its sub-$20 price makes it the best bang-for-your-buck watch on this list.

Find the A168W-1 for under $20 at

3. Timex Weekender T2N651KW

Timex is the source of the slogan "takes a licking and keeps on ticking" for a reason.  Known for sturdy, dependable yet inexpensive analog watches, Timex's origins are derived from the same source as wristwatches themselves: World War II, and the need for mass produceable and reliable timepieces.  Timex weathered the post-war drop in military orders and the subsequent quartz crisis in the 1970s that nearly tore the Swiss watch industry asunder, all the while continuing to build upon its reputation for dependability and economy.

The Weekender series of watches represents one of Timex's most recent offerings that blends reliability with classic styling and affordability.  The plain, military-style dial also recalls the readability and familiarity of classroom wall clocks, and the Indiglo backlighting gives it excellent visability in the dark.  The Weekender is designed to complement the ubiquitious NATO-style nylon straps that often give vintage watches with worn out bracelets a new lease on life, but it looks just as good on a leather strap or steel bracelet--and, so outfitted, competes with all but the blingiest of dress watches with subtlety and panache.

The Weekender as pictured above (T2N651KW) is available for less than $30 with NATO-style strap or under $40 with metal bracelet (T2N656KW).  Click here for the full Weekender selection on

2. G-Shock DW5600E-1V

The quitessential G-Shock, the 5600 series can take all the punishment an active lifestyle can dish out and still perform with precision and reliability.  Its no-frills yet tough-as-nails design makes it perhaps the ultimate sports watch, wherever your sport of choice may take you.  Its only weakness is its rubber strap, which--if my experience is any indication--will probably be the first thing on this watch to fail after many years of hard service, and the primary attribute that will make many sartorialists frown at seeing one peak out from beneath the cuff of your suit.  But if you're as tough as the watch you wear, you can probably brush those haughty looks aside.

The DW5600E-1V is just over $40 at

1. Casio MTP-1183A-2A

My top pick under $50 for this year should come as no surprise to those familiar with the current state of my watch box.  I bought the Casio MTP-1183A-2A on a whim to see how a $20 watch would compare to a Grand Seiko high-accuracy quartz priced nearly 100 times that.  The answer:  quite well.  Classical styling, solid finishes, in the wild it can easily be mistaken for a watch costing hundreds of dollars.  There's no mistaking which is the pricier option when compared side-by-side with a GS, but feature for feature, the MTP-1183A-2A provides just as much value as the thousand-dollar watch at a fraction of the cost.

The MTP-1183A-2A pictured above can be had for just under $55 on

Monday, September 2, 2013

Watch Radar: Timex Weekender Timex Unisex T2P1439J Weekender Green Blue Stripe Slip Thru Nylon Strap Watch

It seems that Timex has introduced several new color variations since I first reviewed their Weekender series of watches.  My pick of the new offerings for the summer is the T2P1439J, which has a bright Green Blue Stripe strap and a blue second hand.  If a blue second hand model had been available among the initial model offerings, it would have been my first pick.