Thursday, July 31, 2014

WHAT NAVY SEALs REALLY WEAR (hint: they don't wear Luminox)

Avast, me mateys, I have bad news: 

The U.S. Navy SEALs don’t wear Luminox watches. Sure, sure, you’ve read statements to that effect on the internet, before. There have been hints and allegations, but now you have 100% proof (of a very small sized sample) that they don’t wear Luminox.  How do I know what kinds of watches the SEALs wear?
Mind you, it’s all very hush-hush. I can’t tell you too much, but here’s what I can tell you:

Several weeks ago, my boss asked me into his office. He got up, closed the door and told me about a training exercise that we would be participating in with the cops.

And the U.S. Navy.

When he specified “the U.S. Navy” I smiled. Who else’s navy would our local police department go out and play “cops and robbers” with?

So, the scenario was this: the cops would be “the good guys” while “the U.S. Navy” would be “the bad guys”. I smiled a second time. The only navy guys I could think qualified to take part in this type of training would be the SEALs.


Okay, fast forward to two weekends ago. I arrive in the port at 2100 (9:00 p.m. to you civilians). In the spirit of Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Frank Military (a writer on NCIS—his real name), their small, powerful boat is moored in an anonymous part of the harbor—not at the navy base.  A bunch of guys in camo fatigues are standing around. Yes, they were wearing those cool fatigues that they wore in “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Captain Phillips”.

Okay, so here’s the long and the short of it: most of them wore digital watches, while one of them wore some kind of gigantic Swiss watch that his rich dad the lawyer must have bought him.  It was either a Hublot or an Audemar Piguet. It was so big and bling-bling, that at first I was horrified that he was wearing an Invicta (shudder), until I got a better look at it.  Then there was the one SEAL who was my hero:

He was wearing a Citizen Autozilla.

This is Ranger 425's watch, not the one I saw on the fast boat.

I was going to wear my Doxa 600T (My love-hate relationship with that watch continues. I wear it to work several days a week). I was denifitely not going to wear either of my Luminoxes. I wasn’t going to have the SEALs look at my wrist, and refuse to let me board their boat.

And now, for the good news: several of the cops wore Luminoxes. I'm sure that all that tritium was useful when we got off the boat at 0200 (2:00 in the morning, for you civilians), and drove home.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Omega fails, surprisingly, or The Department of Redundancy Department

Okay, here's the deal: I apologize but this post about the new Omega GMT watch is going to look like I am plagiarizing from myself, re-using the same images from the last post.  This is the unfortunate product of the fact that Omega made a serious mistake with its new Planet Ocean (PO) -based GMT watch.  On the last post I ranted that Panerai wanted way the hell too much for their retro 1950s-era GMT, but here my complaint is that the new & modern Omega GMT is stupidly designed, and I will use the same two examples, the Victorinox dive/GMT and Rolex's dedicated GMT watch, the GMT Master I, to prove my point.
When I first heard that Omega was coming out with a new dive watch-based GMT, I was happy and sad at the same time: happy that they were coming out with a large-sized, easy-to-read GMT watch that is water-resistant, and glows in the dark, and sad that I had missed the boat by buying my Seamaster PO before this new watch came out, so now I can't (afford to) buy one.
The previous Omega dive watch/GMT watch was almost perfect.  Not to damn it with faint praise, but the hands, dial, and 24 hour markings were too small, when I tried it on in the store.  Originally, that was the Omega I was going to buy:

On the internet, and on photographs posted by Omega aficionados who use their high-end macro lenses, this watch looks awesome.  In person-in the store-the watch was beautiful, and clearly well-made, but its readability was poor, with my newly presbyopic, middle-aged eyes.
Omega had a large, easy-to-read GMT that was not a dive watch per se, but they had discontinued it right when I wanted a new, Swiss automatic watch.   The one I wanted was nicknamed The Great White:

Now, notice the important difference between the two watches, above: The dive watch has a glow-in-dark phosphorescent dot on the rotating dial, because you will use it as a dive watch; while the dedicated GMT (the Great White) just has a 24 hour marker (the black triangle).
So, why don't I like the new Omega GMT, that is based on the Planet Ocean?
Take a look:
Oh. My. God.  What were they thinking???  Look at where where the 24 hour triangle is: they put a luminescent, glow-in-the-dark spot, as if it was a dive watch!  So...what's wrong with that?  Simple: the rotating dial is not marked with zero to 60 minutes, for a dive function.  This watch is neither a 24 hour i.e. GMT, nor a dive watch.
Okay, so here's the part where I re-use my photos from my last posting:
Here's a watch that is fully functional as both a dive watch and a GMT; my cheapo (compared to Rolex and Omega) Victorinox:
Look at the rotating bezel: you can time how many minutes you have been under the surface.  Look at the 24 hour hand: it is pointed at the light 10, so it is 10:00 a.m., as opposed to the 22, which is 10:00 p.m.
Okay, now look at the Rolex GMT Master I (or the GMT Master II in my previous post about the Doxa 600T, which I finally got back  few days ago, thanks to the sheriffs):
Here, the rotating bezel knows that its one-and-only job is to tell us if it's 10:00 a.m., or 10 p.m., or if I feel like rotating the bezel, because I have flown into a different time zone, that's okay, too.
Any questions, Omega S.A.?
If George Clooney called me up tomorrow morning, and told me that he wanted to buy the movie rights to my novel Roadside Rest, and he paid me an obscene amount of money, I still wouldn't buy the Omega PO GMT watch.  Until they fix it by making a straight 24 hour bezel without a glow-in-the-dark marker, it is one big gigantic FAIL on par with the Hamilton Below Zero chronometer debacle.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brother, can you spare $13,000 ?

Okay, here's the deal:
I love mechanical watches.
I love Swiss watches.
I think that Panerai watches are very cool. 
I would love to own one.
Except for one thing.
I stopped at my local Costco, and saw this on display:
When you buy any high-end Swiss watch, you are carrying out a willful suspension of disbelief.  You are an adult who has chosen to go the same route as a 10 year-old who chooses to continue to believe in Santa Claus, in order to keep those Christmas gifts coming.  The bargain works like this: in order to justify spending several thousand dollars on a watch that is less accurate than a quartz watch from Hong Kong, you explain to yourself-and anyone else who will listen-that this Swiss watch is made of the best materials.  It is made of the highest quality metals.  Its movement is made with precision parts (also made of high quality metals).  It is highly waterproof.  It glows in the dark.
It is functional, and beautiful.
It is awesome.
Here's the thing, boys and girls: You can only carry this illusion so far, before someone in the crowd shouts, "The emperor has no clothes!"
I will now be that person.
Despite my love of quality Swiss watches, I am appalled that the Panerai 1950 GMT is almost $13,000.  It is not worth it.
Okay, I get it: 20 years ago or so, the high end watch companies decided that Swiss watches would no longer be nice watches; they would become items of conspicuous consumption.  Okay, but if you're my doctor, my lawyer, or my real estate agent, and you show up wearing a $13,000 watch made out of stainless steel, I'm gonna get up, and walk right out of your office.
Take a look at this Victornox GMT that costs a couple of hundred dollars:
Now, take a look at this Panerai GMT that I found for sale on the internet: 
So...what's missing from this picture (besides your $13,000)??? Well, how about markers for the 24 hours that this alleged GMT is supposed to help you keep track of?  HELLO??? The Victorinox has the 24 hours marked on the watch dial, which leaves the rotating bezel available for other functions-in this case, you can count down 60 minutes in a dive.  Excellent.  Most GMT watches have the 24 hours marked on the rotating bezel, like on this beauty:
On the Victorinox, we can see that it's 2:00 where we are, and 10:00 a.m. somewhere else (the wearer's second time zone).  On this Rolex we can see that it is 10:00 where the wearer is, and it's 10:00 a.m. where he is, so he just wants to know if it's 10:00 a.m., or 10:00 p.m. i.e. 22 on the rotating bezel.
Very nice.
So, what about the cardiologist wearing his Costco special Panerai GMT?
Beats me!  He just paid $13,000 for a watch with a little white arrowhead for a fourth hand that points at nothing.  No numbers for the 24 hours of the day on either the dial, or on a rotating bezel.
In plain English, Doctor, you paid way the hell too much for that stainless steel watch.
"Yes, but it's a Panerai.  They're very rare.  They don't make very many of them."
In that case, here, buy my Ollech and Wajs 3095.  It's easier to read the time on it, it's water resistant, it glows in the dark, I get compliments on it all the time, and there are less of them out there than there are Panerais.  I should go onto eBay, and offer my 3095 for $26,000.
If rarity is a consideration, why not?   You can't drive to Beverly Hills (or Costco, ha ha ha) and buy an Ollech & Wajs, the way you can buy a Panerai.  You have to buy it directly from Switzerland.
Come to think of it, I want $39,000 for my 3095. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Doxa is missing

I am about to post the following at the Doxa forum with the hope that the guy who has my Doxa 600T Sub Professional, serial number 797, gives it back.  If he quietly gives me back my watch, there will be no further word from me.  If he doesn't give it back, I'm going to have to up my game:

Dear Doxaholics,

I have a big problem: I loaned my Doxa 600T Professional (#797) to another member of this forum last year, and he won't give it back. I don't know what is going on. Here is the problem: as far as I know, he's a good guy. He told me a story several months ago, explaining why he has not sent me back my 600T, but since then, he has fallen out of communication with me. He has been active on watchuseek forums, so I know that he is around, but he has not responded to my watchuseek private messages, or calls to his personal cell phone. If I call his cell phone, he immediately hangs up, and then turns off his cell phone.

I don't want to out him. I have documentation to my statements. I have his statements, when he said that he would borrow my watch, and then send it back to me. I don't want to embarass him, but not only has he not gotten back to me, but neither has Rick Marei at Doxa, nor Ernie Romers, who I have written emails to (I was hoping that they would contac him, and pressure him). Yes, the guy who has my 600T is a big name in the world of dive watches. He is a popular, well-like person. I don't want to ruin his reputation.

Here's the deal: if I hear from him off-line, and get my watch back within 10 days (April 25th, 2013) I will remain silent about his identity. If I don't get my watch back in the next 10 days, I am going to go public. To make sure that I am not shut down by anybody, anywhere, I am going to post that information on my personal watch blog: (Right now, the last post is an old post from a year ago). If necessary, I will PM a whole bunch of owners of Swiss watches, to let them know the details.

I really don't want to do this. If I need to involve the FBI, I will: he is in another state, and our paychecks come from the same entity (part of my job duties is to train local cops, and FBI agents), so I feel no aversion to calling the guys in Westwood, and asking for their help.

Honestly, after I get my watch back, I'm probably going to close my account at Watchuseek.

Here is a good phone number for reaching me in Los Angeles, California, USA: 213.471.6001

Tom Miko

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Doxa 600T Professional vs the Seiko Orange Monster

The purpose of this post is not to compare a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, and then declare the Great Dane to be the winner.  My purpose is to compare 2 orange watches, and give useful information that can help the reader decide if he or she (Hi, Lulu Diver!) wants a Doxa, or a Seiko Orange Monster.  When I refer to Pete Millar and his website, I want to emphasize that I intend no criticism towards him.  I merely desire to complement his website with additional information, and give my point of view.  Doxa S.A., and Doxa collectors everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for the company's return from the dead.
CLARIFICATION : There are lots of watches that look like dive watches, but those that are built to go deep under water typically have the word Professional in their name, or on the dial.  All of Doxa's dive watches are profesional i.e. serious dive watches, but they named their orange-faced (orange-dial) dive watches Professional.  Their blue-faced watches are called Caribbean, their yellow-faced watches are Divingstars, and their black-faced watches are called Sharkhunter.
I recently purchased a limited edition, Clive Cussler series Doxa 600T Professional, and experienced strong emotions as soon as I took it out of the box.

First, some history:  in the mid 1960s Doxa S.A. made the original orange-faced dive watch--that is easier to read under water, and under poor light conditions.  It's their invention, and they do it very well.  Seiko has been in business since 1881, a full 8 years more than Doxa, founded in 1889. 

Actually Seiko is more than 8 years older than Doxa, because Seiko has continuously been in business, while Doxa went bankrupt when low-priced Japanese quartz watches (including Seikos) killed the Swiss watch market.  When I got PADI certified in 1988, and I was shopping for a dive watch, Doxa was out of business, so I had never heard of them.  I saw some orange-faced Japanese dive watches at the time, but nobody explained to me why orange-faced dive watches were the bees knees, and I thought they were garish.  Besides, I wanted a dive watch that I could wear with a suit & tie--hence my Heuer 1000m Professional--so I wasn't going to wear a loud orange watch.

Scroll forward to the late 2000s, when I realized that I regretted selling my Rolex GMT Master for a rip-off price to the watch repair shop, and I wanted a nice mechanical watch.  I don't remember if I bought my Seiko Orange Monster before after I stumbled across Dr. Peter Millar's excellent private website dedicated to Doxa dive watches (the company makes other watches, too).  Pete's website was born of his personal love and nostalgia for the orange-dialed dive watch worn by novelist Clive Cussler's creation, Dirk Pitt.  Either way, I was quite impressed with the Orange Monster.  I also have its twin sister, the Seiko Black Monster, but don't wear it for reasons that I will give in a later, separate post.

Bottom line is that I was in love with the Orange Monster.  Of course, the urge to wear a nice Swiss watch that is easily recognized by people who are not WISs (Watch Idiot Savants) continued to gnaw at me, and last year I finally had the money for an Omega Planet Ocean.  I wanted the large 45.5. millimeter edition of the watch:
When it arrived via UPS, I was stunned by how beautiful it was.  It was big, shiny, and solid.  It weighs a ton.  To my very pleasant surprise, it was every bit as luminescent as the Orange Monster, something that nobody had mentioned.  I would wear the Orange Monster on one wrist, and the Planet Ocean on the other, when I walked the dog in the dark, and the Planet Ocean was the Orange Monster's equal.  This was also true at 02:00 in the morning, when my 45 year old bladder would wake me up.

You would think that the Omega would now be my one & only, and that the Seiko would sleep in the drawer.  Nope: I wear both, every day.  I love my Orange Monster.

So why did I buy a Doxa 2 weeks ago?

Because I am a WIS. 

Despite owning a kick-ass Swiss dive watch, I continued to haunt Pete Millar's website, and the Doxa forum at WatchUSeek.

So, the Doxa arrived via Fedex, and when I opened the box, I was struck by how tiny the watch was.  It was microscopic.  Miniscule.  I will probably do a separate Doxa 600T vs Omega Planet Ocean 45.5 mm review, but it will have a lot of overlap with this review's comparison of the Doxa vs the Seiko.

First, an explanation:  the Doxa line of dive watches vary quite a bit in size.  This review compares the smallest Doxa vs the largest Omega only because that's what I own.  The name i.e. number of each Doxa does not necessarily denote its size: the names denote their depth ratings: the Doxa 600T is water-resistant to 600 meters, as is the Omega Planet Ocean 45.5 mm.  The 600T is the same size as the 42mm version of my Planet Ocean.  The Doxa 750T is resistant to 750 meters, but that has nothing to do with the fact that they made the 750T with a much larger case, and dial.  They did that because Doxa's rabid fan base a.k.a. loyal customers (the Doxaholics) demanded a bigger watch, in keeping with the modern trend towards large-sized watches.

When I saw the 600T Pro for sale on WatchUSeek's sales corner, I assumed that the watch would be a normal-sized watch, and had no idea that my brain had become accustomed to over-sized watches.  The 600T is not actually small: it is normal.  Watches today have gotten so big that normal watches look small, in comparison.  Here is my 600T next to Skarret Smith's Rolex GMT Master II:
The take-away here is that if I tired of my Omega Planet Ocean 45.5 mm, and got a Rolex, I would think that the Rolex is too small.  So why didn't I realize that Doxas are so "small" ?   Because Pete put a Doxa 750T next to a Rolex Submariner Sea-Dweller (same size as the Rolex GMT, above), and from those photos I mistakenly assumed that all Doxas are bigger than Rolexes, closer to the larger Omegas in size.

So, how does the Doxa fare in comparison to the Seiko Orange Monster?  After all, that is the title of this posting.

Surprisingly, the Doxa 600T loses in this department in more than one way. Readers of Pete Millar's review of the 600T on his website already know this, but I want to point out several specifics:

1) The lume on the Doxa 600T wears out much faster i.e. does not last all night long.
2) The midget hour hand is a famous Doxa characteristic that is designed to make sure that the diver does not confuse the hour hand with the minute.  Unfortunately, this also provides little space for lume.
3) The amount of lume on the hour and minute hands is too little.  Proportionately, the Orange Monster has a much higher percentage of the hands' surface area covered in lume.  Note in the photo, above, that on the Orange Monster the hands are basically black frames for holding a lot of glow-in-the-dark paint.  If you look at the hands on the re-issue Doxa 300T, they did it right i.e. they did what Seiko does with the Orange Monster, where the hands are thin black frames (the black sticks out against the orange dial, making it easier to read the time in daylight) holding a lot of lume.
4) I like the second hand on the Doxas, better.  Besides the fact that it's a signature piece of the Doxa design, the large white square of lume on Doxa dive watches' second hands glows more brightly than the hour hand.


Very few watch companies get this right: the lume on the zero minute marker is disproportionately small on both the Doxa and the Seiko.  Those Luminox watches that use a tritium marker get it right, as do all of Ball's dive watches.  Doxa and Seiko need to increase the size of the luminescent markers on their dive watches' rotating bezel.  Bali Hai (unrelated to Ball) is one of the few watch brands that does it right.


I realize that this is sacrilage, but the Seiko has a better shade of orange.   In the hand, the orange on the 600T is a deep, serious orange that has gravitas.  This darker shade of orange adds to the watch's high-quality look.  Unfortunately, the 600T's deep orange also makes it harder to read the watch both in daylight, and at night:
1) In daylight, it is hard to distinguish the black hands from the dark orange dial.
2) At dusk, or at night, the deep orange does not give the dial that odd glow that enhances readability.  For a Doxa, that's pretty ironic.  If you look at the current range of T Professional divers on Doxa's official website, you will see various shades of orange.  On their website, at least, the 1200T looks like it has a better (lighter) shade of orange that might be able to compete with the Seiko for readability.
3) The actual size of the 600T's dial is noticeably smaller than the Orange Monster's

The Seiko's orange--on the other hand--has a faded, cheap, yellowish cast to it.  It makes the watch look cheaper, but it is precisely this yellow-orange color that makes it easier to read the time on the Orange Monster in daylight, and at dusk/night-time.  Probably under water, too.

Both the 600T and the Orange Monster have curved crystals, and this is a good thing.  Numerous blogs, along with posts on WatchUSeek, hate curved crystals.  I think that the curved--as opposed to flat--crystals do a good job of re-directing the kinetic energy of impacts on the watches' fronts, reducing the damage to the crystal, or even the metal parts of the watch.  Despite the fact that the Orange Monster's crystal is not made of (synthetic) sapphire [the crystal of the entire Doxa dive watch range is made of scratch-proof sapphire], the curved shape avoids scratches & gashes by letting the offending object slide off the crystal's surface.  There are complaints that curved crystals reflect light in a weird way that makes it harder to look at the watch and tell the time, but I could make the same complaint about flat watch crystals.

Doxa loses to Seiko on two fronts:
1) Both watches have black numbers on a white field, but the font of the numbers for the date on the 600T consists of very thin letters.  The same-sized numbers on the Seiko are just bolder, hence easier to read.
2) Seiko and Citizen dive watches (along with their dress watches, etc.) have the day of the week, along with the date.  I have been complaining about the fact that Swiss dive watches do not have these feature.  I wish that Doxa, Omega, et al would have the day of the week.  Make it an option.  At least in the past, you could buy your Rolex Submariner with- or without the date.  I only recently realized that in fact, Ball dive watches do have the day of the week.

This is one of those seemingly small details that can be a deal-breaker: the minute markers on the Seiko Orange Mnster are bolder than the thin, hard-to-see ones on the Doxa 600T.  When I glance at my Orange Monster, I instantly know that it's 11:36 a.m.  With the Doxa, I have to study the minute hand's location i.e. which thin little black line i.e. minute marker it's actually pointing at, before I decide that it's 11:36 a.m.


The Seiko Orange monster is a notoriously inaccurate watch.  Mine is 20 seconds slow per day.  It also does not have a hacking, hand-wind movement.  There are high-quality Seikos that cost a helluva lot more money, that have precise, hand-winding, hacking movements, but none of them are orange monsters.  Too bad they don't make a Seiko Marine Master with an orange dial.  There are rumors floating around that Seiko has seen the light, and has come out with a new Orange Monster that has a precise, hand-winding, hacking movement.  I have seen illustrations of it, and can see that they changed the rectangular shape of the luminescent 5 minute  markers into wedges that point at the 5, 10, 20, 25, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 55 minute markers..  This may, in fact, improve the ability to discern if it is 11:34 vs 11:35 vs 11:36 a.m.
The Doxa 600t on my wrist is 10 years old, and it is + 3 seconds a day.  Now, that's a Swiss watch for you!  I have not re-set the time on it since it arrived, 2 week ago.

This is a deal-breaker for me. 

     Imagine wearing the Doxa 600T--or any Doxa dive watch while carrying out some physical activity, and asking yourself, "How many minutes have gone by?"  If your reading glasses are stapled to your face, you might be able to answer that question.  With the Seiko Orange Monster, a blind man can tell how much time has gone by.
     There is a reason why the minutes are so small on the Doxa's rotating bezel: they need space for the second set of numbers--in orange--on the outside of the rotating bezel.  These numbers are the US Navy's no-decompression limit numbers.  This is a very useful function that Doxa invented in the 1960s, but it has its limits: a true no-decompression table is precisely that, a table:

Clearly, the no-decompression limits on the outer ring of Doxa's dive watches are just a guideline.  A cheatsheet, if you will.  When I used to dive in the 1980s, I had to know how to use the whole chart, and had a plastic copy of it tethered to my buoyancy compensator (dive vest).

The Seiko Orange Monster--like the Omega Planet Ocean 45.5 mm--is a heavy watch.  It feels substantial, solid, and confident, but a lot of people won't like wearing a cannon ball on their wrist.  The 600T, on the other hand, feels noticeably lighter, despite the fact that it is well-constructed, and made out of high-quality stainless steel. The links of the bracelet are solid, yet the 600T feels light as a feather on my wrist.  A big plus for the Doxa.
Again, the Doxa 600T looks small, if you have been wearing an Omega Planet Ocean , recently.  If you have never owned an over-sized watch, the 600T will appear to be normal-sized. 

I like the Doxa 600T, but I put it on sale on the WatchUSeek sales corner.  I am very interested in using the money from selling the 600T to buy a large Doxa Professional like the 750T, or the 1500T.  I like the idea of a large, Swiss-precision, orange-dialed (Professional) Doxa, as long as it is easy-to-read.  I would go for the 800Ti--Doxa's only tritium watch, but Doxa chose not to put a glass vial tritium marker on the second hand, because it would have broken format, by not having the large, square lume on the second hand.  Instead, they put a second hand that has an empty square.  They could have put the tritium marker vial sideways, which would have been 90 degrees off from how everybody else puts their tritium glass vial, and it would have resembled the square Doxa second hand.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Seiko Orange Monster is The Perfect Watch

I have been walking around, composing entries for this blog in my head, for months.  The one thing that has kept me from posting is that I need to take the time to set up a photo shoot of various watches' luminosity over time e.g. the course of one evening.  Life is busy, so I keep putting it off.  A lot of weird things have happened in the past 6 months.  I got laid off, but have been able to keep chugging along by working shifts at a local hospital. It's a tenuous existance--one in which you don't know whether or not you will be able to pay next month's mortgage--so worrrying about watches--be they $3,000 luxury watches or $100 eBay purchases--has no place.

The company that laid me off paid for me to go to these sessions with a company that helps you find job openings, write a winning resume, etc; all skills that I already had.  My first day there, I walked into the classroom, and this guy 10 years older than me in a dark Brooks Brothers suit was sitting in the corner, peering at the world over his half-glasses, a stainless steel GMT Master with the red & blue bezel on his left wrist.  I assumed that he was the guy teaching the "how to get a job" class.

Turned out he was one of the students, like me.  Coca Cola laid him off after he worked there for 20 years.  They eliminated his position (Gee, that's what happened to me!).

So, of course, I beat up on myself for getting pissed the last time my GMT died, instead of fixing it.

But, here's the thing: I have this crazy Seiko Orange Monster, and it's better than a Rolex:
(Try to ignore the mosquito bite)
Note that Saturday is in blue lettering.  Sunday is in red. Monday to Friday are in black.  Clever!

1) It's a mechanical watch (like Rolex and countless other watch brands)
2) It has a screw-down crown (like Rolex and countless other brands)
3) Its luminosity (because of the orange dial and copious amounts of phosphorescent paint) outshines anything Rolex or anybody else sells

What about Doxa, "The Inventors of Orange"?

Yes, Doxa is the original.  Esthetically, their watches are unique and beautiful.  Their hacking Swiss ETA movements are more accurate than Seiko movements (this is the one and only argument against the Orange Monster)

But, here's the thing:  If you go online, and cruise the various watch enthusiast forums, you keep discovering something really weird: all these guys out there who own Rolex, Omega, and/or Panerai (there are a bunch of guys out there who perversely own multiple Swiss luxury watches, while I currently can't afford to buy even one), you will discover something really bizarre: THEY ALL OWN A SEIKO ORANGE MONSTER.


So, what this really comes down to is a big case of Swiss snobbery.  I can say that: I'm part Swiss.  My great-great grandfather was a priest who fled Hapsburg-era Hungary, grew tired of celibacy, and married a woman during his Swiss exile.


1) It tells you what day of the week it is

That's it. Period. The other factors that I listed in paragraph 6 are common to other dive watches, GMT watches, or in the case of Omega (and why doesn't Rolex do this?) their GMT Dive Watch model # 2535.80 (that's the serial number, not its price).

None of the major Swiss brands have the day of the week on their dive watches.  Citizen--another Japanese company--also put the day of the week on their dive watches.

Why not the Swiss? 

There is no excuse, whatsoever, for not having the day and date on a "tool watch".

I have been lusting after the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean large sized, with an orange bezel.  Once my employment situation solidifies, and my family life gets back to normal, I may make a long-term project out of saving up the money to buy a Planet Ocean, but something is nagging me:

Let's pretend I buy a lotto ticket, today, and win millions of dollars.  All my bills, mortgage, etc are paid off, and I can travel.  Obviously, I can afford whatever watch I want. 

But...why buy that Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean, when it only has the date, but not the day of the week?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Luminox: Marketing Success & Brand Failure

First, I'm going to explain what the hell a Luminox is, and why you should care. 

LUMINOX is an American brand of watch that has a lot of the parts made and assembled in Switzerland.  Their watches are radioactive, so they glow on their own 24 hours a day.  They are also waterproof.

Luminox's selling point is that they are the watch of the U.S. Navy SEALs.  Doesn't get more manly than that!  The problem with that is (1) Luminox has no history as an official supplier of watches to the U.S. military.  In the blog entry in which I talk about radioactive watches, we can laugh at the bullshit on one web site that gives the history of Luminox.  As a health physicist who works with radiation, I see they don't know what they're talking about.

Okay, I'm gonna stop saying 'waterproof' now, and tell the truth:

There is a concept out there that there is no such thing as a waterproof watch.  In the past, watches that could be submerged while the wearer was swimming (at whatever depth) had the word 'waterproof' engraved on the back, or front.  Due to the passage of various standards and regulations, manufacturers aren't supposed to print that on their watches any more.  Instead, they are supposed to put 'water resistant' preferably with a rating of how deep the watch can go under the surface, without imploding (As you can imagine, water inside a watch will make it stop working, and if you wait a couple of days instead of running straight to the watch repair guy at the mall, the parts will rust.  The guy who bought my Heuer 200 meter dive watch from me swam with the crown unscrewed {I will explain what that means, later}, and gave it back to me, rusted.).  Thanks, Keith.

Okay, back to Luminox.  If you have read my entry about radioactive watches, you will now understand why a watch with radioactive + luminous hands is awsome--in my mind the best choice.  So what makes Luminox watches (okay, the idea of Luminox watches) the greatest thing since sliced bread is that they are waterproof, and brightly glow in the dark 24 hours a day.

Here's the problem:  their watches suck.  Seriously.  They have one watch that I would highly recommend, and it's one that I want--but they should just throw the rest of their products into a ditch.  They have a whole line of watches, and I could shoot them all down one-by-one, by pointing out their shortcomings.  Instead of shooting down their entire on-line catalogue, I will discuss the two Luminoxes that I do own.  The complaints specific to them apply to most--if not all--of their other watches.  When I refer to a part as being radioactive, that means that there is a radioactive Tritium-filled gas tube mixed with glow-in-the dark paint, providing 24 hour self-illumination:
The cheapie black plastic watch (on the left side of the photo, above, of 3 watches) is the one that's supposedly the military issue Luminox, the 3001: 

Good Points:
1) The hour, minute, & second hands are all radioactive, as are the hour markers.
2) The Zero Minute marker on the rotating bezel is radioactive.

Bad Points
1) The crown does not screw down.

2) The caseback does not screw in.

3) The rotating bezel is very hard to turn.  The rotating bezel--which is used to time how long you have been under water--on any dive watch should not be easy to turn (you don't want it to slip, and give you the wrong amount of time), but it should not be this hard to turn.

4) The crown is very hard to pull out, when you want to set the time.  I have to use a pair of needle-nose pliers, and I'm an adult male without arthritis or other medical problems.  This may explain how Luminox rates the watch as 200 meters water resistant; the crown's stem may be so tight as it passes through the case body, that water would have a tough time sneaking by.  There could also be one or two rubber O-rings on the stem.

Points 1 and 2 are absolutely crucial for a watch that is supposed to be a waterproof military watch.  Let me put it this way: I wouldn't go diving with a watch that lacks screw-down parts.

If you're not familiar with the concept of a screw-down crown or case-back, here's what you need to know:  When Rolex sells itself as a waterproof--whoops: water resistant--watch, they refer to their watches as being oysters.  In this case, what this means (and also in the case of other Swiss and Japanese dive watches who don't use the term oyster) is that the body of the watch can be closed off from the outside world, or shut tight.  Imagine having a plastic soda pop bottle.  The only way that water can get in or out of the bottle is if you unscrew the bottle cap.  Now imagine that the other end of the bottle is now a big screw cap that can unscrew, and allow access to that end of the bottle.  The traditional bottle cap end is analagous to the crown, where you wind up the watch, and set the time & date, while the wide, fat end of the bottle is where the watchmaker installs the watch movement in the factory, or where your local watch repair guy opens up the watch to clean and lubricate it. 

Both "ends" (on a watch they're at 90 degrees to each other) of the watch case have rubber O-rings that seal the deal.  Their job is to make sure that even under pressure, no water gets in.

Here's the problem: you need to make sure that the crown is screwed in, properly, when you are wearing the watch.  If the crown isn't screwed, it's an open door, and water will get inside.  It is your responsibility as the watch owner to obsessively check the crown.  The caseback, by default, is closed, because the only people who ever open it are watch makers or repair people.

What about the crystal, where I read the time?  Can't water get in that way?  Yes, it could, so they use a crystal of strong enough material (and shape) to resist the water pressure, and install it using special tools.  It's a locked door into the watch that can only be opened by specialists.

3) Take a close look at the logo and writing on the back of the watch.  It's a cheap sticker, and they didn't even slap it on there neatly.  Ouch.

Getting back to points 1 and 2, especially point #1:  If Luminox had merely called this watch a military watch, I wouldn't say anything, but to imply that it's a Navy SEAL watch--when their job is to scuba dive into places in order to sneak in unseen--that does not have a screw-down crown is unforgiveable.

Okay, now let's look at the stainless steel watch:

This one (see also the middle watch in the photo at the top of this page) is much better built.  Note that the caseback is crew-in.  Unfortunately, they didn't go the last step of also making the crown screw in.  What were they thinking? 

Good Points:
1) Good quality stainless steel.
2) The rotating bezel turns smoothly.
3) Overall, the quality of the hands and dial are very good.  This watch looks well-made.

Bad Points:
1) The second hand is not radioactive.
2) The Zero minute marker on the rotating bezel is not radioactive.
3) The crown does not screw in.
4) Mineral glass crystal.  These crystals get scratched up, big time. I have seen a lot of different Luminoxes on men's arms that had scratched-up crystals.  Unbelieveable.

This watch's Zero minute marker is highly representative of everything wrong with Luminox watches.  It is a half-assed wimpy, watered-down compromise.  They should have gone all the way to one extreme, or the other.  Either the Zero minute marker should have been radioactive, or it should not be luminescent at all (like the second hand).  Huh?  Or, as another watch blogger once said, a big bucket of "WTF?"  Marathon, who really are official suppliers of watches to U.S. and Canadian uniformed services, and NASA, decided not to make their SAR (Search and Rescue) watch with a luminescent Zero minute marker.  They merely put a triangle that lets you know, "This is when I went under water."  Several other high-end watch companies have gone with this solution.  I asked a Marathon distributor why Marathon did that, and he answered, "No military necessity."  It's actually not specified in ISO 6425, but the military folks may actually feel that it truly is unnecessary--perhaps even undesireable.  But then again, maybe they just decided that if the military didn't specify it, then they're only going to make it according to what's in the standard, to avoid pissing off government purchasers. 

So what?

Well, the problem is that Luminox put a cheapo luminous dot on the Zero minute, and it (1) degraded very quickly, after I purchased it, and (2) it does not glow nearly as brightly as the radioactive markers on the rest of the watch.

In other words, it's useless.  It's useless because if you are somewhere dark, and look at the watch on your wrist, the bright radioactive markers will overwhelm your eyes, and keep you from seeing the much dimmer Zero minute marker.

Who cares?  Well, they may be called dive watches, but that rotating bezel is used to time all kinds of events, not just how long you have been under water.

The worst offender in their catalogue is a now-discontinued GMT watch that has a 4th hand--a 24 hour hand, so you can know what time it is in Djibouti--that is painted with wimpy, non-radioactive, low-end luminous paint.  Same goes for the rotating bezel.  On GMT watches the rotating bezel does not have zero to 59 minutes (so that you can keep track of when you spray & washed your laundry), but instead 1 to 24 hours of the day.  Since a GMT watch's purpose is to keep track of world time, why would you (a) put a luminous marker on the 24 hour spot, and (2) use cheap luminous material to mark it???

Needless to say, this watch's second hand is not radioactive. 

Somebody shoot me.

All of Luminox's currently produced watches, along with a good number of other Tritium (radioactive) watches from other companies have quartz movements.  That's okay.  There are lots of reasons why someone (or some organization) may want a quartz movement, including (a) higher accuracy and (b) no need to wear it or hand-wind it to keep it running.  Why ask for a mechanical movement?  Well, you'll never find yourself on vacation in rural Hawaii/hiking Mt  Eyjafjallaj√∂kull in Iceland/under the Arctic Ice Cap on a nuclear submarine and suddenly scream, "My watch battery died!"

The one Luminox that I would want, and may actually buy one day is the 6602 in titanium, with a matching titanium bracelet.  That, or the same exact watch in stainless steel although it looks like--in their infinite wisdom--they discontinued the stainless steel version.  I have worn the stainless steel model on my wrist: it is gigantic, and very heavy.  Lots of watch purists don't like titanium watches, but in the case (no pun intended) of a watch this big, decreasing the weight substantially is worth it.

They have come out with a new watch, the 1501, which has all of the features that I ask for, above, but they still managed to do it wrong:  Yes, it is automatic (self-winding), and the second hand and Zero minute marker are radioactive (as are the hour and minute hands on all of their watches), and it even has an outstanding feature that Luminox has not had before: a helium escape valve.  But they made it in a style that could be described as "sporty".  You can't wear this watch at a business meeting, or a wedding.


Keep trying, Luminox, keep trying.  You'll get it right, one day.

Interestingly, another company got it right: Ball Watch Company.  Apparently, they make radioactive watches with radioactive markers in all the right places, and nice mechanical Swiss movements.  They even have a distinctive style that doesn't scream "Rolex Wannabe" (We'll ignore the fact that the Rolex Submariner, in turn, is a rip-off of the French navy's Blancpain 50 Meters).  Ball's GMT watch has a radioactive 24 hour hand.  Awsome.  Problem is, they cost as much as the other high-end (read: luxury) Swiss watches. Darn.

That's my only "complaint" about Ball watches: I can't afford one.

What do I want from Luminox?  I want them to make one dive watch, and one GMT watch with matching steel bracelets, and  a mechanical movement e.g. Swiss ETA 2824 and 2836 movements or the corresponding Japanese Seiko movement(s).  These 2 watches should be in stainless steel, 200 meters water resistant, with a screw-down crown, and screw-in caseback.  Sapphire, scratch-resistant crystal.  All markers should be radioactive, no combinations with luminous dots.  The dive watch should be $600 retail, and the GMT should be $675.  A verison of the diver with a helium escape valve and deeper rating could go for $950.

If I had a watch that fits the description, above, I would buy it, and it would be my one-and-only watch, that I wear all the time.  What do I do, now?  I wear my Ollech & Wajs 3095 on a leather strap in the office, and I wear the Orange Monster at night, and when I work in the ER on the weekends.  When I go camping, I wear the Luminox 3001.  Oy, vey.