I haven’t reviewed a new watch for a while so I though I would review an old one. A watch that is 45 years old in fact.
It was spotted in a vintage watch shop I know and I spent some time just staring at it because certain features caught my eye immediately. The quake case with the rounded square dial, the integrated and highly tapered bracelet and the consistency of the form grabbed me instantly, but not enough to consider the £500 asking price.
I left it over Christmas and then found it on eBay from the same seller. It was slightly cheaper and my interest was stirred again so I made a silly offer. When he came back with £330 I decided to take the plunge and it was mine.
A few days later it arrived and I was all set, or so I thought.
Resizing the bracelet was easy enough and it felt just so good on my wrist, but the 2 minutes slowness per day was a problem. As someone who does not mess around with the insides of watches too often this was a challenge, but as ever the forums came to my aid and with some trial and error I have managed to get it to within 20 seconds per day.
At some point it will be going for a service to a watchmaker I know, the calibre 1012 is a bit of a challenge I believe, but I have been struggling to let it go for even a few days. It just sits so perfectly on my 7.25” wrist which is a surprise when you consider the relatively small size.
The 36mm width sounds small, but when paired with the 46mm lug to lug length and the square shape it just works on my wrist. It is also slim which adds to the vintage feel which is cemented by the wonderful integrated bracelet.
The bracelet is one of the highlights without doubt with a serious taper that ensures the way it drops from the watch unit makes it feel completely like one flexible unit. Seriously, it is just so lovely to wear and to look at from any angle.
The crystal is far from sapphire of course and so is prone to easy scratches as the crystal is slightly raised, but it fits with the subtle dial that is silver throughout with the hands just visible enough to make it perfectly readable. I initially thought that this watch may be difficult to read, but it has proven to be practical enough to allow quick time checking, and the date window is also big enough to present the day without any major issues, another area that many manufacturers fail at.
I don’t have too much to say about this watch apart from the fact that it has captured me in a way that I did not expect. For the relatively low price you get a unique design, a high-end brand, vintage quality and practicality in almost every area. What’s not to like?
I purchased the Khaki version of this strap because I wanted to put it on my Khaki King so there was very basic logic at play. For just £11.99 I wasn’t expecting much, but I have been more than impressed by the product itself.
It was soft from the start, is extremely thin and the quick release pin bars are pretty sturdy. With subtle stitching running up the edges and small perforations at the top it all works aesthetically. Throw in rectangular strap holds and a perfectly proportioned buckle, and you have a winner in terms of value.
The only change I would like to see is a wider range of more vibrant colours because that would offer much better variety which can be swapped around as needed every day of the week.
A NATO strap is a NATO strap right? That is what I thought and I was very impressed by the Bark & Jack offering that I reviewed recently. It offers decent value for money and I could find few downsides apart from the thickness of the strap and the fact that it was difficult to tuck under the keeper. This has proved to be a bit of a problem over time and does make it difficult to wear, but if you wear your NATO in a specific way it still definitely has merit.
After some discussions with WatchObsession, which came from my selling a watch to them, they sent me two of their NATO straps to try out (for free). Now, I am more than happy to review anything and this includes offering a negative opinion if it is merited. I don’t particularly like the method that most watch reviewers use where they state that they prefer not to review a product if it is poor because that does not benefit anyone. Well, they are wrong because if a product is crap it would benefit the viewer/reader by helping them to avoid the product. To me, it sounds more like ‘keep sending me free stuff and I will be as nice to as many people as I can to get more free stuff!’
Anyway, back to these NATO straps which are both priced at £20 and upon first inspection I could see that they were of decent quality and pretty well constructed, but these words could apply to many NATO straps that are available at similar prices.
In a world where you can buy cheap Chinese NATOs for £5 it can be a difficult sell to ask someone to pay four times the price for what appears at first glance to do the same thing and for many people to ‘be’ the same thing. Just like watches, however, no two products are the same and as many watch people are likened to do with anything watch related, I shall now dig deep into the design and materials used in this particular NATO strap.
My first impressions were, as I said, positive and once I played with them for a few minutes a few parts of the design jumped out. On the grey NATO, that would be a good name for a podcast…, there is a slight shine to the appearance, but not one that is too obvious or which would ever overshadow the watch it is carrying. It somehow manages to reflect the light in certain situations and this creates a pleasing and warm effect which I have rarely seen before. It adds depth to the appearance and thus to the entire strap and perhaps the watch that it is attached to.
The stitching on the edges is particularly clever in that it is looks as though the NATO has been cut, which is the most natural look, but in actual fact it is pretty firm and should ensure that fraying will not occur. Of course I can only confirm this over time, but there is a sense of longevity in these straps which is absent in the majority of the competition.
Aesthetically the stitching is superb; it is consistent throughout, level and symmetrical at all points. Again, this is a common point of failure in many NATO straps and it is pleasing to see so much effort having been put in to the design to ensure that the aesthetics actually have a practical use.
The buckle and the keepers are brushed feel consistent with the NATO material. Crucially, the keepers are able to hold a folder NATO strap with a perfect height to ensure that they are not too night and yet they will stay in place. The buckle has a small ‘W’ to the left which manages to designate the maker while not dominating in any way at all. Would be nice to see such subtlety used on many other products.
I should mention that the strap felt supple straight out of the packaging and it would appear that there needs to be almost no ‘wearing in’ time. This adds to what is already a host of positive features that many would not even consider when building something as simple as a NATO strap.
I am a watch person and I of course can this get excited by the kind of minor details that most others do not. In the case of these NATOs, however, I find myself appreciating the small touches as I have done historically in a well made luxury watch or even in a product like the iPhone. When a product is designed to a point that it fulfils its task without any long term issues, when it is pleasing to the eye and when the minor touches lift it above what you would expect, the end result is extremely satisfying.
It is normal for me to always find a negative in any product, that’s what a good reviewer does, but I simply couldn’t here. And it reached the point where I felt the need to not accept them for free so I just sent a payment to pay for the straps because they really are exceptional.
This is a watch that I have pondered for some time now and I’m not sure why. The Orient brand is well known in the watch collector community and to some it represents the absolute best value of all automatic brands.
The fact that Orient sits with Seiko is good and bad because it can cause people to expect much more from a brand that is so heavily affiliated with one of the biggest brands in the world. On the other hand, it can lead those of us that know more than most about watches to immediately see the aspects that come from cost cutting, those parts that are usually found on the cheapest of Seiko offerings.
So, on that subject I will list my initial good and bad thoughts on the Orient Ray II.
The dial is lovely! The way the light plays with the blue is impressive and, but at no point do the subtle lighting movements get in the way.
The date window, and in particular the surround, is one of the most impressive I have seen in any watch. It takes a lot to not overdo surrounds and to still make the day and date legible, but Orient has done a superb job here.
Love the lume. It is not overpowering, but it lasts through the whole night and I would say that it is actually better than my Tudor Black Bay in this regard- even the bezel lume marker keeps shining which is unusual. To contrast, the Black Bay can get fuzzy after a few hours whereas the Orient does not.
It is running at approx -5 seconds per day which is decent at this price point.
And I have to mention the £128 price that I paid for it from Amazon. You get a lot for your money here.
It is a highly wearable watch which sits on my 7.25” wrist very well. The height is not too high at all, but it does look a little fat on occasions, however.
The finishing is decent and arguably better than could be expected in this price range.
Everything feels consistent. From the bezel to the hands to the hour markers, it is not original by any means, but it is well thought out.
The crown is too small and sits too close to the crown guards. Even if you rarely need to mess with the time and date it can be fiddly to use to say the least.
The rotor is a little noisy. For this particular watch it isn’t too bad, maybe my hearing is not so good these days, but it does appear to be a common complaint among Orient owners.
The bracelet is not good at all and I removed it within 2 minutes. This is where the Seiko knowledge kicks in because it really does look and feel like a hollow end-linked budget offering from Orient’s big brother.
And one final minor niggle, the red on the day window (for Sundays only) is very light and a bit too vibrant when contrasted to the red of the second hand. It leads to an inconsistency on that day alone which is no big deal, but you know what us watch people are like.
This is a really nice watch, it really is. Initially I felt that it had the potential to look very cheap, almost Lorus like, but as time has passed I am starting to appreciate it. For the money it is harder to find a better looking or more interesting watch, and it makes for the perfect beater for when you don’t want to worry about knocks or unexpected damage.
My Tudor Black Bay has been feeling more than a little top heavy recently and I am starting to notice the bulk more and more. This is especially true if I choose to wear the metal bracelet, or a jubilee bracelet, a little loose which is my preference. The end result is a heavy watch that bounces around and which is noticeable far too much of the time.
I love the watch, I really do, for so many different reasons from the symmetry to the accuracy to the overall aesthetic which is stunning from above. The problem is that it is very slabby from the side and far too deep for many people, and I am starting to become one of those people.
It is hard to believe that spending £10.99 could resolve a lot of the above problems, but it kind of has. This is not a case of simply purchasing a strap and finding the change to work because I own many straps and have tried natos, leather variants and rubber straps to no positive effect. They all do the job, but not in a way that minimises the bulk of the Black Bay.
And the the Beauty7 arrived with little expectation until it was installed. The quick release pins are of decent quality and of course made the installation simple, but it was the accuracy of the 22mm measurement that struck me first. No gaps at all and a perfect fit for my Black Bay, a good start.
On the wrist it felt just right which could be slightly fortunate because the holes fell to my exact wrist measurement meaning that the watch was held in place with no movement at all and in a way which offered no overt tightness.
The buckle is stylish in a non-dramatic way and again the quality of the metal and finishing offered extra reassurance to make me feel that it will hold my, what is still an expensive, watch in place securely. The holding loop is also well measured and does not slip, but it would be nice to see a raised part that would fully secure it in one of the holes. Finally the shape at the end of the strap is rather unique and adds a nice touch to what would otherwise look like a standard brown leather watch strap.
It could be the thickness of the strap which appears to match the Black Bay perfectly in terms of sideways looks or it could simply be the sheer quality of the leather, but this truly is a real surprise and one of the best watch straps I have bought to date. Available here.
Although the GBD800 is an insanely tough watch first, it contains plenty of fitness tracker capabilities to push it well past being your typical G-SHOCK offering. It fits nicely on your wrist thanks to a smooth design and ultralight feel, allowing you to move freely and naturally during any type of workout routine or sport. And its multi-segment display of exercise data, along with its Connected app, makes for an exceptional digital training companion. All of this comes in an insanely tough watch that won’t let you down. Only time will tell whether or not this watch will be a hit, but from our experience, it’s another game-winner for G-SHOCK… More here.
I used to love G-Shocks, but over time came to realise that the design never really changes. However, I do see a future where they are capable of completely replacing a fitness tracker and potentially a smartwatch. Casio has some huge potential here.
Thermatron has little likelihood of coming back as it was originally intended, as a watch powered by changes in temperature. Some of the product’s most pressing technical challenges were never really overcome. I do, however, think the design of the cases and bracelets could easily be revisited by Bulova for today’s nostalgia and design-hungry watch enthusiasts. The life of the Thermatron began in the 1970s, as Bulova tried to imagine what its next big hit would be. In the early 1960s, Bulova had great commercial success with the Accutron collection of turning fork-based electronic watches for about a decade until quartz movement technology emerged in the late 1960s. By the mid 1970s, Bulova, with its then-Asian ownership, was looking for ways it could best compete with the flood of quartz-based watch movements coming to market, as well as the very strong rivals in Japan who were responsible for many of them… More here.
I didn’t even know this watch existed. Fascinating.
I recently started watching the Bark & Jack videos on YouTube and found myself warming to the content and the professionalism of the presentation. Adrian does a good job of marrying what at times can be quite nerdy topics with a personal approach and the balance appears to be more refined than you see on many other channels. You have Watchfinder for highly professional dives into specifics watches and brands, you have Hodinkee for high level, and sometimes quite patronising, watch discussion, The Urban Gentry for (to be decided what the motives of this man really are) watch thoughts and ArchieLuxury for… well, just stay away from his channel because he is spiralling in a way which is painful to watch.
The Bark & Jack channel seems to be doing its job because I found my way to the website and took at look at the NATO straps on offer. There are only eight options, each at 20 and 22mm, with six seatbelt nylon and two tubular nylon in black, grey, blue and tan. The only other choices are floating or fixed keepers and that’s your lot. It is a very simple layout with minimal thought processing required to choose a strap for your watch, but just maybe it is too professional and a little reserved in terms of colour choices for those who like to really dress up their wrist. Personally, I have learnt that brightly coloured and striped NATOs often cheapen a watch and almost always make you look like you are trying too hard so I suspect that Bark & Jack are on the right side of the fence here.
So, I chose the Grey Seatbelt Nylon in 22mm with floating keepers for my beloved Black Bay Red and waited for it to arrive. The order confirmation was simple, but reassuring and the entire process was as simple as the website itself. And so it duly arrived two days after my purchase.
The wax seal on the envelope is a nice touch, as is the handwritten thank you from Adrian on the tag, and overall it is probably the most professionally and personally packaged strap I have purchased to date, with a monogramed cloth bag topping off what is a decent collection of objects to make the £20.00 feel like a reasonable price.
The NATO itself immediately impressed, possibly because it is the first ‘seatbelt’ one I have purchased to date. I own countless tubular NATOs and so may not have been so impressed out of the box, but this one offered something immediate that I grew to like more once on the wrist.
It is a strange mixture of obviously hard wearing material and comfortability which is exactly how you would want it to be. The softness of the material is immediately apparent as is the visual softness which seems to take in light and absorb it in a way that produces a soft and warm look to the eye. It never dominates the look of the watch on the wrist and appears to compliment whatever style of watch it is attached to. I have tried it on a few watches so far and not once does it dominate at all, and in particular the grey works perfectly with the red of my Black Bay.
This particular NATO is a little different in terms of the furniture and I found the main keepers to be closer to the watch itself than on my other NATO straps I own. Initially I expected this to be a problem because the look felt unusual, but I soon realised that it does a much better job of keeping the Black Bay in place than the other straps. The Black Bay is a deep watch which can jump off the wrist visually, but the Bark & Jack NATO seems to drag it back down to earth and keep everything in a secure environment, which is of course what you want for any expensive watch.
The buckle is superb and perfectly suited to the strap itself. Many manufacturers make the mistake of either adding a buckle that is far too industrial or far too dressy for a NATO, but this one sits in the middle somewhere. I would go as far as to say that this is possibly the best NATO buckle I have ever seen and the square holes ensure that the sense of sturdiness offered by the close keepers is maintained on the underside of the wrist.
Any downsides? Well yes there is one, but it may resolve itself over time. There are different ways in which you can wear a NATO and the traditional way of tucking the strap into the keeper above the watch face is the norm for most people. This looks great on this strap, as seen in the photos, but it is tricky to pull off at first due to the thickness of the material and the depth of the keepers. I suspect, however, that over time the material may soften a little and make this process much easier than when the strap is fresh out of the box. If you want to wear your NATO a different way and put all of the furniture under your wrist (see this Instagram post for how to do this) you may struggle here because of the position of the buckle and keepers. It may be me, but I will persevere and see if I can manage it.
This is the best NATO strap I own and this was largely apparent straight out of the waxed sealed envelope. For all of the nice packaging, which just like a watch box ends up doing little, it is ultimately down to how a product makes you feel and in this case how it works with the watch it is attached to. The Bark & Jack seatbelt NATO is an assured product with no pretensions that suggest it is trying to be something it is not. It is of extremely high quality and offers a huge amount of reassurance on the wrist which you really do not get with the vast majority of NATOs at this price point, and often when priced significantly higher.
I didn’t expect to be so impressed with a NATO strap or to feel about it the way I do, but this is seriously good. It really isand it’s available here.
Full disclosure: I bought this NATO strap from Bark & Jack for the full retail price of £20.00 with no mention that a review would be written about the product upon receipt. I do this for all products I review and will never review a product that is given to me for free or for a discount. The watch world is a strange place and one that is built upon marketing, getting the word out and generally things that do not bear any relation to the actual products themselves. My job is to look at a product and give it a fair assessment, no matter if people get upset about the end result.