New Arrival – Pulsar Solar (Seiko V145 caliber) – Review

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 28th, 2008
2008
Nov 28

Acquiring one quartz (non-mechanical) watch the other month (my Orvitax) was unusual enough for me, but now I’ve just done it again!

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I first saw this line from Pulsar mentioned on Watchuseek and SCWF a few years ago, especially the orange version, and really liked it. At the time it was hard to find one, of these they sold for $250 up and were low production quantity.

I had not seen this particular variation with a white dial before, only the orange and blue, and the price was good ($80 for this used one, good condition with some light crystal scuffs only), so I picked it up. For comparison, here’s pics of the orange (Pulsar PUA059) and blue (Pulsar PUA057) versions compliments of posts on the above mentioned forums.

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Why do I like this line-up, even though they are quartz? First, they are a nice-looking diver’s watch. :-) Second, Pulsar despite being a Seiko sub-brand have separate lower-end movements for most of their watches, but similar to my Pulsar PL4005, this actually has a Seiko standard movement. Seiko has been known to release more “sporty” versions of some of their calibers under their Pulsar line-up, this is one of those examples.

This watch uses the Seiko V145 solar movement. That’s known as being a quite accurate quartz caliber (for a non-WIS watch at least), and is the same movement that Seiko put into the solar models of their higher-end Prospex line.

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Definitely a better caliber better than run of the mill quartz watches, and a different and collectible watch compared to the ubiquitous (and in my opinion lower-end) Eco-Drive system from Pulsar – you can find those in any store, but I’d challenge you to find one of these easily.

Similar to current Seiko Kinetic watches, this caliber will store up to 6 months charge. When the charge is low the second hand moves in 2-second increments. I can attest to that, since it was doing that when I received it in the mail. Also similar to Kinetic watches however, it’s promise of “never replace a battery” is somewhat excessive – it’s basically a rechargeable battery, and sooner or later those do need replacing, even it it’s 5-10 years instead of 1-2.

My thoughts after having and wearing this for a while? Definitely better on rubber than stainless. Although I have to admit the “wind velocity” conversion table (m/sec to knots) on the strap it came with does nothing for me – I can understand ND (no decompression) limits, but this chart is not useful, I’d prefer a plan black rubber dive strap.

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With the titanium case, rubber strap, and being non-mechanical, it’s very light. The unidirectional ratcheting bezel is a joy to use, very easy to move while staying in place, large “gear cog” like shape making it easy to use even in gloves – usage-wise one of the best diver’s bezels I have. It’s definitely more accurate the the average quartz watch, similar to the Orvitax – after a week they were less than half a second apart.

The dial is actually a grayish-white. It goes very well with the white chapter ring, black bezel, and titanium case.

I like! :-)

(I think diver watches are coming dangerously close to becoming my focus, but I’m sure vintage Seikos will still stick in there also.)

New web sites for Nedlaw

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 25th, 2008
2008
Nov 25

Although this is a smaller web project I’ve been managing recently, I’m writing a bit about it as it’s kind of neat, in that includes company name changes, re-branding, and new corporate identities and logos. So more of a completely new look than I typically get involved with.

Nedlaw Roofing are a regional roofing contractor, specializing in industrial roofing. Not the sexiest industry, but within it they’ve been fairly good at staying in the lead with new technology, more eco-friendly solutions, etc. Recently they’ve acquired two companies in related fields – Air Quality Solutions who manufacture and install plant wall air purification systems, and Roof Greening Systems who design and install green roofs.

First thing we gave the client, is new names – Nedlaw Roofs, Nedlaw Living Walls, and Nedlaw Living Roofs. A lot more powerful and effective. Roofs is a result not a service, and sounds much better than roofing. And the word “living” in the other two companies really expresses their key benefits very well, and differentiate them from competition. We also gave them new logos, with a family look.

Now we’re giving them new web sites. Here are the before and after pictures (click for larger images).

Roofs…

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Living Walls…

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Living Roofs…

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All the basics are there – catch initial attention, good creative, some interactive media without overdoing it or killing SEO, look professional, communicate the core brand message, generate curiosity in the initial page, and invite further browsing. And there are some things not there any longer, like overwhelming home page detailed copy. :-)

New Arrival – Alba Orvitax 15501 – Review

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 19th, 2008
2008
Nov 19

I collect mechanical watches. So why did I just buy a quartz Alba? :-)

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This is one I’ve been wanting for quite some time, just because of the design. It’s a fairly unique, post-modern industrial look, that just resonated with me from the first time I saw one.

Alba is a Seiko sub-brand, which is what got me interested in them in the first place, and they have a number of interesting diver watches that I’ve considered getting. This model took first place however! My issue until now has always been the bracelet – these were Asian only releases, and the stainless bracelets fit 6 1/2 inches max only (the watch is only 36 mm wide, so it’s not a large wear).

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So I was really glad to be able to pick one up a short while ago on the Seiko-Citizen Watch Forum with an original rubber bracelet. You can see in the top picture, it’s an “outie” not an “innie” bracelet attachment :-) and is not a typical Seiko diver strap … waffle pattern underneath (the skin side) with rectangular “columns” that are what give the strap it’s flex. The design means you can’t cinch it up too tight, and it actually took me a while to get used to it, but it was comfortable after that.

Here’s another pic if the stainless bracelet from another happy SCWF owner of this watch – I actually really like the clean lines of this, it goes well with the watch design. If only it was longer!

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Design wise there are quite a few interesting little details. First is the cylindrical shape with a mini shroud, looking almost like a small Tuna diver. Second is the truncated rectangular hands. There’s  the model number stamped on the external bezel.

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Also there are the small symbols on the bezels for the operation of the crowns – the single arrow points to the one you pull to set the time, and the bidirectional arrow points to the one you rotate to move the inner internal bezel.   Yes there is a second internal bezel … not the wording that’s the fixed first internal bezel, but rather the small white marker that’s floating above the 12:00 marker in these pictures.

So it’s actually a diver’s elapsed time rotating internal bezel reduced to it’s core component – one hash mark only! Not too useful in real life, it’s a freely rotating crown and moves bidirectionally, so it’s easy to nudge it off setting, but design wise it’s great.

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These models were only manufactured for a short time period, and not many were made, so I was happy to pick one up. You’ll notice the version I have, despite being the same model number, is slightly different than the model on stainless in that the hands are edged in black – a nice little touch! The only problem with this, I found after wearing it, is that the second and becomes so dominant I keep thinking it’s the minute hand, I would have preferred a skinnier seconds hand so that it did not fight for dominance.

There is also a white faced version, but I’ve only seen that online, not in real life. Here is a picture I found on the web, where it seems that a new 15501 cost about 21,000 Yen (about $250 Canadian). Another small design change, the accent color is orange, lightly used only including the rotating bezel pip!

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The 15501 uses a V701-2K10 hacking quartz movement, so it’s a reasonable quality watch, accuracy so far has been pretty good.

The person selling the watch I purchased was also selling a 15502 – the chronograph version of this watch. These seem to run about 28,000 Yen ($350 Canadian) new. I chose not to buy this one also, but I’m including this picture from the forum because it shows the case the watch came in, which is always interesting to see for collectors.

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I’ve seen 3 design variations of the chrono version on the forum from time to time  – all with black dials, but with either  stainless case, or PVD coated case, or most interestingly stainless with a red shroud.

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If one of these red shroud version ones comes up for sale on the forum again, I think I’ll be temped into another Orvitax purchase! :-) I’m really happy with my 15501 and I’ve already determined it’s going to be a regular wearer.

Toronto SCWF / WIS get-together

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 16th, 2008
2008
Nov 16

Thanks to Jeff Calvert who hosted a get-together yesterday afternoon in Toronto for posters and related friends of the Seiko Citizen Watch Forum. It was my first such event (Canada is I’m sorry to say, a bit of a back-water for these sort of things).

25 people (23 men, 1 lady, and 1 child :-) ) showed up to show off their watches, share stories, look at each other’s watches, see some mod work being done in real life, and just chat.

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A highlight was Jakub Bourdeau from Ottawa who modded a 6309 while we watched – in this case a crystal and bezel swap, and installing a custom dial and hand – which was later won by one of the lucky attendees as a door prize.

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Actually, EVERYONE got a door prize, thanks to donations from people like Noah Fuller and Harold Ng. There were some bracelets, as well as plenty of mod kits – dial and hands – to go around.

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And the “best” prize was a plastic toy watch given to the wearer of the nicest item .. Peter, thanks to his nice Spring Drive .. the only catch is he’s supposed to wear this fine miracle of modern plastic manufacturing instead for a full day now. :-) Here he is showing off his prize (and the SD). I could pretend to blame the lack of a head in this pic on not wanting to shame him, but it’s really my fault for bringing nothing but a point-n-click camera along.

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As you can see, there were lots of great watches there, especially divers. Some people have great collections, and I saw a lot of nice stuff here.

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My favorite watch of the event was actually not a Seiko, but rather a Sinn U1. I’ve not seen this before, and was very impressed with the dimensions and shape of the case, the amazing clear crystal and how it showed off the dial, and the overall look. Unfortunately that means I now have another grail watch!

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One surprise was seeing a number of Russian watches. Inexpensive, easy to collect, and interesting, they made a nice side note to the Seiko watches being shown.

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Jeff hosted the event at the Center For Social Innovation in downtown Toronto, which is a nice open space in the historic Robertson Building. Neat old industrial space, plus they have a biowall installed by one of my customers (Nedlaw Living Roofs, formerly Air Quality Solutions) – it’s actually part of the ventilation system and uses living plants to help filter the air being delivered to building tenants. Nice place for the event.

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Thanks again Jeff!

Seiko SBDD001 – MarineMaster Kinetic Direct Drive

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 14th, 2008
2008
Nov 14

Seiko’s model numbers and names are not the clearest way to figure out what particular watch you are looking at. A few days ago I wrote about a number of recent Grand Seiko models – 2 GMT Spring Drive models (the SBGW001 and  SBGM001), a Spring Drive chrono (SBGC003), and a manual wind GS (SBGF001). Then my most recent post was on the Spring Drive MarineMaster (SDBD001). Today I’m talking about the SBDD001 – still a MarineMaster, but with a Kinetic Direct Drive. Very confusing!

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Well the picture above should make it clearer.

Not! :-)

Most of Seiko’s “core” diver watches share a very similar look. You can look at a 6105 from the late 1960s that a Vietnam vet brought back to these shores, a more common work-horse 6309 from the hey-day of Seiko divers in the 1970s, a 7002 from the 1990s, or a current SXK007. Each of them has that solid “workman’s diving watch” look associated with this type of Seiko. Sure Seiko has divers with other looks, from the Monster line, to a number of gussied-up desk divers (I have some of those myself), but these are the core. 6309 divers especially which still form a key aspect of the “mod” work done with Seiko watches.

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For a more complete story on this history and various models of Seiko diver’s, I highly recommend Kevin Chan’s site, which is where the above pictures come from, plus the more detailed resources he lists. Some of the stories are great, especially about the 6309 series…

I’ve come out of lurking mode to present my version of an extreme torture test on the 6309-7049 150mm diver… this watch spent over 1100 hours underwater…I was a contract diver who worn the Seiko as a good luck piece….not a part of my working system….I had made a 4″ rubber band cover out of a leg tourniquet to fit over the watch…pipelay barge or dredge or jet barge divers and Non Destructive Testing divers don’t wear watches….strange?…Not really..the limited visibility conditions where my type of diving takes place were river bottoms and mid harbors(the Seiko was there)in 76 Boston Harbor USA had 12′ of overburden above harbor floor(the 6309 was there)…biopsy (coring sampling) a bridge spanning the Mississippi.. easy current.. no visibility (the Seiko was there) torque valve on the hydraulic machine slammed my wrist into a piling…(the Seiko was there) I add that I did wear a 50cm depth gauge at all times..the incident broke a bone in my wrist it moved the bezel to one side..new bezel and crystal… the watch was find… destroyed my GG..the Seiko had 5 years of this real time torture test… I also played in my Seiko..this was a 24hr watch…the watch has been restored now by IWW… Jack related not a spec of rust on the movement… it is still my everyday watch though its diving days are over…so when a watch is nominated as one of the most robust and enduring divers… with a strong record to prove by….I believe my unintentional real life torture test on my 6309 speaks well of the watch.


(The MarineMaster watches share this look. As they should, initially being the professional end of the Seiko working diver lines. If you can’t afford the Spring Drive, but either don’t like an automatic or like technical semi-quartz/semi-mechanical watches, then this Kinetic Direct Drive with a 5D22 caliber and sapphire crystal might be for you.

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Although this particular watch just came out in May this year, the Kinetic concept, first called AGS (Automatic Generating System) by Seiko prior to this moniker, has a lot of history with Seiko. Kinetic is a type of technology that is not unique to Seiko … basically a quartz watch with a mechanical rotor keeping the battery charged. Early AGS/Kinetic watches used a capacitor, and were marketed as “no battery to ever replace”, but ongoing leakage problems (normal for capacitors in load circuits over time) resulted in these being replaced by what are fundamentally rechargeable batteries. They’re still not called that in Seiko marketing literature (I assume to save face), but that’s what they are. Despite the longevity pitch, like any other power source rechargeable batteries actually have a finite life still, and so Kinetic watches are still outlived in the long run by pure mechanical watches.

The Kinetic Direct Drive adds a manual winding component. One of the issues in the last decade in selling Kinetics, was that their full charge (1 months is the top position on the power reserve meter), which a lot of people like because it meant you could leave it for some time and come back to a still running watch, required a LOT of automatic winding, to the point specialty winding machines were created, and sold. By adding manual winding, owners can speed up the process. Seiko added what I consider a smart marketing feature – as you wind, the indicator shows the energy added, almost like you are revving up an engine – turning what could have been a boring and undesirable job into something more interesting.

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At 46mm it’s a large watch, although the titanium case will keep down the weight. It is also available on rubber as the SBDD003. MSRP is about $2,400, you can find them at many online vendors in the $1,700 range. Seiya Japan has them listed for $1658, however I’ve seen then new on eBay for under $1,400. You’ll have to search as it’s a Japan release, not sold through Seiko in North America.

My one big problem with this watch is the depth resistance – 200m. I find it hard to call this a “professional” diver’s watch, and consider it somewhat of a technology poseur in the MarineMaster lineup. If that doesn’t bother you, and you want the vaunted MarineMaster quality and accuracy, and don’t like automatics but can’t afford it’s more expensive Spring Drive brother, then this may be the watch for you.

Seiko SDBD001 – MarineMaster Professional Spring Drive

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 12th, 2008
2008
Nov 12

After posting about Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches the other day, I decided I should write about this watch, even though it’s a few years old now.

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If you really like the Spring Drive, but either can’t quite afford a GS, or want something that is more of a “real” diver’s watch, then a Spring Drive MM might just be the Seiko for you. When Seiko came out with this Spring Drive version of the MM (over 3 years ago now) it generated a lot of comments. It’s still a good-looking watch, and a definite alternative for someone in this area of the market.

The MarineMaster watches from Seiko have always been fairly rare, and one of those “if you like it, you like it a lot” watches (with compliments and apologies to Alexander Keith’s IPA). I still really like this quote from Velocophile that Paul at Fnord posted at the time about buying this watch himself.

Just buy that Lange (or Patek, or Rolex, or Vacheron, or whatever your personal Grand Ultimate Fetish Object is) first, and save yourself some agony and expense. Once you’ve gotten The Best, you may be able to resist a lot of impulse purchases, and avoid cluttering up your house with watchwinders, cases, and so on.


They are expensive, highly-engineered, not flashy, very good diver’s watches that definitely have somewhat of a cult following. Although not cheap, they hold their value very well over the years (okay, nothing like a vintage Rolex, but that’s an overpriced bubble waiting to burst in many people’s minds).

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On this watch you’ll notice a few features not normally seen on a diver’s … power reserve (common on all Spring Drive models) and a GMT hand. The 24 hour markings are on the internal chapter ring, leaving the bezel free for a typical diver’s elapsed time markings. You’ll get 600m water resistance, 72 hour reserve, titanium case (although still not a light watch at 172 g), and sapphire crystal.

Stated accuracy is =/- 15 seconds per month, but many have reported +/- 1 second per month actual results – a real testament to the quality of this watch.

When released this watch cost about $2850 US. A few years later, a new one now lists at Seiya for $3700 US, although you can certainly pick one up elsewhere for around 3K.

Next post, I’ll write about the Seiko SBDD001 MarineMaster, just to confuse you with similar sounding model numbers! :-)

Grand Seiko – notes from the summer Blogosphere

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 9th, 2008
2008
Nov 9

My “grail watch” most likely to ever be purchased and worn by me, is a Grand Seiko.

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times before, you can consider GS a more subdued Rolex alternative. Although very respected in Japan, this line still does not sell well here in North America, where the Seiko name brings down it’s perceived level in the market, despite having as good or better specifications as the high-end Swiss competition.

So it’s nice to see more blog entries coming out from people who have purchased a GS and love it. Here’s a few to share that I kept track of that either have good comments to hear, nice pictures, or both.

First up is the Spring Drive GMT. Or more specifically, the Grand Seiko GMT Spring Drive SBGE001.

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Not my favorite, too derivative a look, without the design cues of vintage GS watches, but still a nice watch, and good comments about whether you;d pay $5300 for a non-Swiss watch even if it was better crafted. This uses the 9R66 spring drive movement, with 3 days power reserve and independent GMT hand. At 177 grams, it’s not a light watch! Thanks to Fratello Watches for the post this summer, and Dave Bruno for sharing his pics and thoughts.

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Still with Spring Drive GS models, another post from wonderful photographer Harry Tan, of a Grand Seiko Spring Drive Choronograph SBGC003 that he was invited to photograph. With this model we’ve moved up to a chrono, with a slightly higher price at $6700. Also not a favorite, as I tend to not like more technical looking watches, but certainly a great chrono. Here is the picture from Harry’s site:

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Still with Harry Tan’s blog, let’s switch over to one of his own watches that he has been kind enough to highlight for our reading pleasure, the Grand Seiko SBGM001 GMT. With this watch we get an automatic mechanical movement instead of Spring Drive, but we also get a very different look. To me the style is reminiscent of the first automatic Navigator GMT watches from Seiko – I really like it, and this treatment with a black leather strap makes it look even better. Pic again on Harry’s site, along with his comments about the superlative fit and finish on these watches:

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Last but certainly not least (at least not to me! :-) ) is this forum posting on TimeZone (thanks to a couple of articles on Amateur Economist, which I recommend for general reading even more than the semi-regular watch posts on it, for pointing out this page), on the Grand Seiko SBGW001.

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This is the sort of GS I like best … three hands, manual wind, small production, amazing attention to detail of quality, wonderful fit and finish. It uses Seiko’s 9S54 caliber running at 28,800 bph with +5 / -3 Seconds per day stated accuracy, At $3000 not cheap but certainly less than the above models, and a rarer issue for sure.

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This watch will not dazzle most Rolex or Omega or “insert your big brand name here” wearers. And at 36mm width without crown, and 62g weight, it doesn’t shout out. The majority of your friends will take a while to give it a second glance, and even when they notice the quality most will not realize what an amazing watch you are wearing – depending on your personality, that will be either a good thing or a bad thing – this is true WIS beauty. I highly recommend clicking to the above links and to the posts they mention, to see more.

Google Translation

Posted by Harry Bishop on Nov 8th, 2008
2008
Nov 8

I’ve added a new feature to the blog – if you look in the header above you’ll notice a few other languages. I’ve simply used the Google translate feature.

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Although it was easier to put in somewhere on one of the side panels with a WordPress widget, I wasn’t happy with that, and instead updated my WordPress header php file to put in the space in the title line. After making sure I saved the original file of course! :-)

Let me know if you find this useful or not, or if there is a language you’d like added.

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