Hamilton Khaki Field Auto / Garmin Vivosmart 5 / iOS 16

The Hamilton Khaki Automatic is, to me, the quintessential watch. I owned one when I first got into watch for approximately 1 hour. A purchase from eBay, but alas the one I bought was way out and lost over 10 minutes a day. The seller was nice, but he had no other stock and so I left the watch alone, presuming they were all like that.

Of course they are not all bad and the movement inside is actually very impressive for the price, a modified ETA 2824-2 with 80 hours of power reserve and a 6 beats per minute second hand. This means that you can actually see the second hand judder from time to time as the human eye can see ticks below 8 per second, but in a way this adds to the feel of the watch. Mine is currently 2 seconds slow a day which is brilliant.

As a watch, the finishing and design are just about perfect to me- not flashy in any way, kind of a tool vibe and a design that looks good on any strap, and in any situation.

This was the first ‘proper’ watch I bought and it’s the latest. I would love to say it’s the last, but I like watches so we know that won’t happen.

Whenever the Vivosmart is photographed some of the text disappears…

The Vivosmart 5 is Garmin’s latest update to the only adult wrist tracker it makes. A variety of fitness watches come out from Garmin, but the Vivosmart has long fell behind the rest and was in dire need of an update.

And so Garmin releases the Vivosmart 5 which on most accounts is also way behind the competition and was in dire need of an update as soon as it arrived. The styling, or lack of, and monochrome screen look like a 2016 creation and there is nothing about it that creates any positive emotion.

I have worn it for a few weeks while I put the Epix away and wore the Hamilton. It has proved to be much easier to use than the Vivosmart 4, the screen is visible in all conditions and the single button on the front makes a huge difference. It is bigger than I expected and close to impossible to wear in bed for sleep tracking, but alas Garmin sleep tracking is never great anyway no matter what device you use.

Overall I would rate it as a competent fitness tracker and it works well alongside the Garmin Connect software, but the phantom step issue remains. I painted an old desk over a period of 30 minutes and got 4,500 steps for my efforts. 4,500! Driving also adds steps which is annoying to a similar level to what the Epix does and I remain perplexed by the fact that the Apple Watch does not do this.

If you want fitness tracking it is hard to know what to choose, but I am coming around to the fact that Apple seems to do it better in almost every metric apart from battery life- that should change later this year.

iOS 16 has been an interesting beta(1) this year. Totally stable for me, a bit of a drain on battery performance, but otherwise it feels fairly complete.

The new Lock Screen feature is a nod to customisation, but it falls well short of being anything other than a different Lock Screen. I prefer the notifications at the bottom and aside from that it doesn’t seem to do much at this time. Hopefully it is the start of something that will grow, but until that time it feels somewhat experimental.

Of all the new features, most of which will not gain many headlines, the ability to unread a message is huge for me. Being able to edit a message, pull back emails is useful, but leaving the notification live for a message I need to go to later feels like the ticking of a final box.

Nothing about iOS 16 wows me in any way and I don’t think that’s possible anymore, but there is no way I am moving at this point. It’s there, I am here and I guess that’s enough which sounds like a sad state of affairs when I consider the cost of these devices. The problem is that it does so much for me and so my inclination, and energy, to move is simply not there.

Code41 Mecascape

With its unique design and size, the Mecascape is unlike any other watchmaking project. With a length of 106mm and a width of 69.3mm, it is around 4 times bigger than a standard watch case! An unprecedented technical challenge, the Mecascape has required a complete rethink of the way of positioning the components, all while ensuring that the project can stand the test of reality… More here.

I’m not sure what to think of this. It has no real use apart from looking nice, but the idea of a phone-sized product that tells the time this way is somewhat alluring.

Tissot Seastar 2000 review. The big, bold, beautiful beast

This watch is insane if you look at the specs alone. It is 16.3mm thick, 46mm wide and 52mm lug to lug, and comes in at 206 grams with the metal bracelet. That is a BIG watch and for most people it would never be a consideration, myself included, because it is just too big to enjoy wearing every day.

The insanity continues with an 80 hour power reserve, a Nivachron balance spring (not affected by magnetic fields generated by our electronic objects (mobile phone, computer, radio, magnetic closure, etc.)), full ISO 6425 diving certification, a sapphire crystal, a ceramic bezel, helium valve and 60 bar (600 m / 2000 ft) of water resistance which is massive for any watch.

16.3mm thick!

For £895 the above specifications are extremely impressive and while I recognise that this is a silly amount of money for a watch, in the context of the watch market it is high up there for value.

My intention was to purchase a Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 (£560) when I walked into the store to wear when the Garmin Epix didn’t suit, but it just felt too small thanks to the physiological trick the Epix has pulled off. If you wear two watches they will need to be similar in size to feel relatively comfortable when swapped over.

My wife, Joanne, spotted the Seastar 2000 first and was taken with the dial and I made the mistake of trying it on before the PRX. The gap between the two was so great in my mind that the PRX was never going to win and so I asked for 20% off the Seastar. They didn’t even haggle (it’s not easy for watches under £1,000 currently) and so it was mine for £716. This is one of those situations where a retail store can get you a better price than online because they are struggling to get people through the door, and I am more than happy to use that because even I believe that £100’s for any watch is not logically a sane thing to consider.

When I consider the technology included in this watch (Nivachron balance spring, 600m water resistance, helium valve etc) and the specs for the price, it is hard to look outside of the Seastar 2000 at this price point. The fact that it is made by such a well-known brand is another advantage and one which would normally lift the price higher, but it does not do that here. Tissot is an unusual brand in that it makes some brilliant watches at lower price points and it has a very long history, but for some reason it does not garner the same level of respect as brands like Hamilton which play in the same arena.

Tissot has proven to be more than capable of creating watches that get come to being tacky fashion models which may answer why they do not get so much respect, but it is also clear that the brand is on the up with the PRX models in particular gaining a lot of attention. After a few days with the Seastar 2000 I could argue that this could be the best Tissot available regardless of price point.

It’s still smaller than the Garmin Epix, but much heavier.

Currently mine is getting with 2 seconds per day which is better than expected and I must say that the crown is a joy to use once it has been unscrewed. It is a very large crown and is flanked by guards, but this design somehow makes the case look a little smaller. There is a ‘tool’ feeling to the way the crown works and how the bezel clicks into place following a sharp sounding rotation. The bezel is ceramic which is another bonus because it should prove almost impossible to scratch and the anti-reflective sapphire crystal ends what is a set of materials designed to take whatever is thrown at them.

The robust feeling is present throughout and it feels even better built than my long-departed Tudor Black Bay. The 600m water resistance is evidence of that because such a rating will indicate just how tight the tolerances are in this watch and how hardy it needs to be. Almost no-one goes 600 metres below the surface of the sea, but the fact that it can means that you can wear this for as long as you want and it will cope in almost every situation.

I am surprised that the case back is open because such a high water resistance would almost certainly always have a full sealed case back. I do wonder if the water resistance could be even higher without being able to see the movement, but as I said before the Seastar offers more than enough.

It is a heavy watch and noticeable on the wrist and even more noticeable to others, but in a positive way. It does not shout ‘look at me’. It simply says ‘I look good and even better when you catch me at a glance’. And it is the glancing moments that make this watch stand out. The dial is sublime and takes on a different hue at every angle. It’s so well done and under macro the finishing is excellent. You have to see the dial in reality to appreciate what it brings and it does make me view standard one-colour dials in a different way. When you think of how many times you will look at your watch, it kind of makes sense to have something nice to look at. Even better, something that is not too showy and which only you get to fully appreciate.

The hands, markers and every other part under macro are way above what I have seen elsewhere at this price and so I am left scratching my head at what is wrong with this watch.

The bracelet is wrong. It is not bad in terms of quality and it does suit the watch, but those awful polished mid-links make the entire watch look too shiny. This is without doubt a tool watch and I am not convinced that dressing it up this way makes sense. It’s a bit like the precious metal Rolex divers which also make no sense. The clasp is very good quality and is more than secure enough with the quick release mechanism another bonus if you want to attach a less shiny 22mm strap. A diver’s extension is hidden in the clasp to allow for a wet suit and this does not form part of the security of the bracelet when it is closed. This is a good thing because the quality of the metal in the extension is just terrible. I kind of expect this because it has to fold into such a small space, but even so it is a potential weak point if you are diving with this watch.

So, this watch is well built, a bit shiny if worn on the bracelet and it is big and heavy. But, and it is a big but, it grows on you after a few days on the wrist. I have my doubts about what I still consider to be a noticeable watch, I tend to prefer less obvious pieces, but for the money it is near the top of the pile and it may well be around for some time to come. When you wear a watch with a dial like this it can be hard to drop back to a more ‘normal’ look, and at the moment I don’t want to. Well done Tissot. Seriously, bravo.

OMEGA X SWATCH mania

I wrote about the OMEGA X SWATCH earlier in the week and expressed my confusion at this move by the Swatch Group, and in particular the idea of making a plastic watch which bear the luxury Omega name.

It felt like a very strange move and one which I struggled to understand in terms of the marketing. And then this happened-

https://youtube.com/shorts/j1480jcJv6U?feature=share

A huge number of people trying to get one of the watch in London and this was replicated around the world as police had to get involved to deal with the huge crowds.

I am fairly certain that this is driven in large part by flippers who want to make some quick money. The lack of unboxing content is evidence of this and there are countless listings with genuine bids way above the retail price.

These watches are not limited and they will be available online in the future so what is going on? I get that this allows people to buy a watch that looks very much like a real Speedmaster for a fraction of the price, but it’s still plastic (sorry- Bioceramic) and it has a cheap movement inside. It is a copy of the real thing and while this is kind of appealing in many ways, I would actually like to own one, this feels like a case of people either trying to make a quick buck or simply getting swept up in the mania of owning something first.

Apple and Nike kicked all of this off and it seems to be a growing phenomenon, and one which is painful to watch when so many more important things are happening in the world. Unobtanium truly is the most valuable commodity in 2022.

Swatch X Omega (confusing all round)

Swatch and Omega come together for an innovative take on the legendary Speedmaster Moonwatch.

Outer space inspires a new collection of eleven BIOCERAMIC watches named after planetary bodies that will have you reaching for the stars.

The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is legendary and a must-have for collectors. BIOCERAMIC Moon-Swatch collection makes the iconic design accessible to fans everywhere… More here.

This is so confusing. £207 for a watch that bears the Omega brand and which looks like a Speedmaster is insane. If you can get one you will treble your money in a day, at a minimum, and if you pick up the whole set you would make a HUGE profit.

Problem is that these are only available in select locations on Saturday and it is likely that a decent percentage will already be allocated to ‘preferred’ customers so your chances are limited before you even start. Add to this that Omega is collectable in limited runs and that Swatch is also collected by serious watch people.

And perhaps most confusing of all, why on earth would Omega co-brand with Swatch? Surely this cheapens the brand.

The Tissot PRX Chronograph (watch of the year 2022)

It both feels and looks solid in its 42mm steel case. The €1,495 PRX Chronograph offers you the sought-after retro looks of yesteryear, modern construction and finishing, and an automatic ETA A05.H31 caliber based on the Valjoux 7753. This movement has a very healthy power reserve of 60 hours, tracking elapsed time with a classic 3-6-9 chronograph sub-dial layout… More here.

In the watch world this is cheap, in the real world it is expensive, but it will be one of the watches of the year. I have no doubt this will sell out and be hard to get for some time.

The YEMA LED reinvented by KAVINSKY

In the 1970’s YEMA launched its first LED display watch, which became iconic in France. Fifty years later the YEMA LED is reinvented by KAVINSKY by perfectly capturing the 1970’s steampunk style, bringing this emblematic model back to the future. This exclusive timepiece will be a unique limited edition in two case colors (SILVER and BLACK) that will turn heads wherever you go… More here.

It is unusual to see an established brand use Kickstarter for a launch. Not sure it improves the reputation of a brand.

Space 2081

Giving spaceships back their spotlight, Dalakishvili set out to design a watch that encapsulates the futuristic aesthetics and fine-tuned, technical details of spaceships. Space 2081 takes on subtle detailing to hone in on the watch’s futurist look and incorporates an analog display in ode to the mechanical precision of spaceships… More here.

This may be viewed as silly, but it highlights just how stagnant and traditional design is in the watch industry. There is huge scope for modernisation.

He Shrinks Things

There’s a collecting community out there for figurines that rivals even the watch world. Great detail is paid to the sculpting and creation of figures based on characters from pop culture, but Jones noticed a massive void in this community of small things. For all of the craftsmanship in the likenesses and wardrobes at one-sixth scale, nobody was making character-appropriate watches with any sort of detail. So a few years back, he set out to change that… More here.

Amazing works. Robbie’s Instagram is here.

The Lorier HYDRA Series II

Maximum functionality and sporty details give the Hydra its edge. An internal rotating bezel with military-style markings allows for easily tracking minutes or hours, while a keystone date window complements the diver’s aggressive lines… More here.

This is exceptional for $499. The movement is debatable, but every other aspect of the watch is way above for the price.