Friday, April 30, 2010

Impressions of the new "Omega-type" heavy mesh diver bracelet.

Ever since my interest for vintage dive watches started, I have yearned for an Omega mesh. We all know them, but not many of us pluck up the courage to take 300 dollars out of the housekeeping jar to be the proud owner of one. One of the great mysteries of WISdom for me (ranking up there with missing bracelet pin collars and that one screw left over from my last repair) is why no aftermarket mesh with open mesh end links has ever been offered! Webpage after webpage of cyberdrool every time someone posts a diver on an Omega mesh must surely speak volumes about the potential market!

Well, wait no more, they're here - and wjean ( and stella (tungchoywatches) have them! I just got one in the post, and I quote: "And it came to pass I beheld them, and they were good":

After fitting the mesh to the Tuna, I thought I would give it a try on the Nighthawk. Now, it was amazing on the Tuna, however the effect of the mesh on the Nighthawk is nothing short of stunning! Somehow the mesh transports the Nighthawk to a watch which you could wear at work, on the beach and still be suitable for formal evening wear. The mesh is amazingly versatile, and seems ideally suited to a large, sporty watch.


Out of the box the bracelet is lighter than I had expected. The mesh is thick and yet very flexible, and the clasp feels sufficiently solid. I have often been disappointed by clasps on after-market bracelets, but the clasps here are appropriate. Fitting is very easy, and the effect of the pin through the links is visually appealing. Note that these bracelets will not accept fat spring bars for divers, but wjean does offer special regular width bars with thicker pins for divers.

The finish on the strap I received is brushed. Each row of links appears to be a spiral or coil of wire, so there is a "free" end at each end of each coil. These free ends have  been filed (for want of a better word) and pushed in to make a flush ending - I wondered if they would catch on clothing or hair but I have had no problem in this respect. The links have also been filed or brushed on top to make a flat surface which is very pleasing - a nice detail. There is a good amount of space between the links, and I have noticed that my arm is dry under the bracelet, even though it is humid, while the Monster on my other arm is sticking to a thin layer of sweat. The mesh is definitely a cooler bracelet and will be a sure winner this summer!

Just after I fitted the bracelet to my Nighthawk, a friend of mine (who also has a Nighthawk) dropped by and immediately noticed the new configuration. His eyes widened and he said "That I HAVE to have, would you order me one!". I absolutely recommend these mesh bracelets - get one, you wont be disappointed. I expect these bracelets will be a major posting topic on watch forums this summer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Omega Speedmaster in Paris...

Not quite a Seiko, but I thought I would share a few Speedmaster momements in Paris ...

Disneyland Entrance. The Speedy came in useful to time the wait for rides: typically 1-1½ hours.

Somebody left this standing after the World Fair over a hundred years ago and never bothered to remove it. Two hour wait to get to the second floor. If we had wanted to get to the top the 12h chrono on the Speedy would have been useful.

View of the city from Sacre Couer. Strap change in honour of the solemnity of the situation.

Champs Elysees, after breakfast at MacDonalds (what can I say, my kids are 14, 10 and 9). Out of the corner of my eye, my mouth stuffed with Bacon MacMuffin, I espied the Omega sign...

Omega, Paris. Moonwatch exhibition (right), Constellations (left) and youths wondering who JFK was . Friendly staff (hidden, center) had seen me dribble at the Moonwatch exhibition, and noticeing my Speedy, had unlocked the security doors to give me some Moonwatch "stuff" and invite me inside. I sensibely declined 

Notice the cigarette nonchalantly poised behind my ear. I am a great believer of blending in with the locals, and grew my moustache at the age of 12 in anticipation of this trip 

My son, wondering what we would be having for lunch.

Moonwatch exhibition, with my first sighting of the brown dial Speedy Pro. It was fun to see - I wonder if the astronauts ever really stood on top of the landing module, though? I had a brief vision of Buzz Aldrin standing on the roof to take a leak, but immediately banished that thought as entirely inappropriate...

The 40th Anniversary - pictured during the 40th Anniversary  Expensive.

The limited-to-69-pieces platinum 40th Anniversary. The number at the bottom left is 
not the telephone number.

Say no more. A striking contrast to the watch I had seen the previous day in the museum at Coulommiers:

 No platinum here - the movement is made of....wood!

After all that excitement, an espresso was in order...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Seiko Tuna 300m 7549-7010 disaster, diagnosis and repair

Happiness is a 7049-7010, Sharm-el-Sheikh, January 2010. Little did we know...

It was a dark and stormy night - I lent my son my Tuna to time a five minute foot bath (his foot), and he unintentionally dropped it on a particularly hard floor. Subsequently it ran intermittently, stopping for a while only to run again an hour later. This carried on for a few days, so I opened her up, checked the battery was seated ok, and it was.

Battery seated, as per spec....the plot thickens

At this stage my immediate reaction was to install a spare 7548 movement I have been saving for a project and send the 7549 module for a service. However, 7549 hands will not fit a 7548 movement, as the 7548 movment was developed on the basis of the 6309 mainplate, canon pinion and hour wheel. I wonder if Seiko originally planned to use the 6309 auto caliber in the Tuna, and switched to quartz during its development? Anyway, I was in a quandry as to whether I should install the 7548 caliber with 6309 hands, or whether I should retain the original caliber, dial and hands.

At that precise moment I received a mail from Ken Setser, who encouraged me to take on the diagnosis of the faulty movement, and provided me with a step by step diagnosis strategy. Ken wrote:Harry,The first thing you want to do is to determine if you have a mechanical or electronic problem. 1. Check the battery2. Check to make sure screws are tight and battery insulator is in place. 3. If everything above checks out then you want to get a small compass and set it on the coil(copper colored). The coil should pulse every second and the hand of the compass should deflect whenever it pulses. If the compass hand moves then the problem is mechanical. If it doesn't then the problem is electronic. 4. You want to determine if the problem is in the coil or the electronic module. If you have a ohm meter you can check for continuity in the coil. My guess that the coil would be the problem if it is an electrical problem. If you can, do step 1-3 and let me know what you find. Ken

Under the microscope I was able to confirm that all connections appeared to be intact, and that the jewels and wheel where sitting correctly.

Jewels and small things seated as they should be.

More of the same. I like microscopes.

The next step was to test the coil. A quick trip to the local tourist store netted a small compass, which I placed directly on the movement.

The compass was placed directly on the movement.

For a particularly fascinating video, please see: (Remember popcorn). Say, does anyone know how to embed a video?

OK, so YouTube it is:

Hear the tock-tock in the background? Thats our grandfather clock!

So I proudly answered Ken:

Hi Ken I can confirm that when the watch stops, the compass stops moving (as opposed to the 1-sec pulses of the needle clearly obvious when the watch is running), suggesting that the problem is electronic. The movement tends to restart when I wear the watch, but leaving the watch on a hard surface overnight will leave it in a stable state, ie running overnight if left when running, dead overnight if left when dead. I have tried gently prodding the movement to induce running, without luck. The movement will often start running when I loosen the caseback, but not always - I'm sure this is an important piece of information... Am I correct in assuming that the next phase is to localize the source of the sporadic elctronic breakdown, between and including the battery (tried two new batteries) and the coil, on the circuit block itself? Incidentally, I have a spare 7548 movment - would it help troubleshooting to try to replace the 7549 circuit plate and coil with the entire working 7548 circuit plate and coil block, then with the 7549 plate / 7548 coil and vise versa? Of course, if the 7548 plate and coil are a straight switch (wishfulthinking) the problem would be solved, but I would really like to identify the source of the problem just for the challenge of it... The quest continues - I feel like I am playing a sort of WIS chess here! RegardsHarry

Almost immediately Ken replied:

Harry Great troubleshooting techniques. Here is what I think and what I would do. Since the problem is intermittent, I suspect a loose connedtion somewhere. Could be the battery to circuit; circuit to coil; or internal coil problem. I have attached some tech sheets for the movement so you will have some reference. 1. Check the - battery contact to make sure it is firmly attached to the circuit board. Also make sure it is raised enough to make firm connection to the battery 2. Make sure + battery strap is firmly attached to both sides of the circuit. 3. If you look at the circuit just to the left of the word "Japan" you will see a small cutout. Look in the cutout and you will see two gold colored fingers. These are the connections from the circuit to the coil. Make sure they are touching the coil underneath. The best way to do this is to remove the circuit and turn it over. the tech manual has the steps. 4. After you remove the circuit you can check the resisance of the coil. The resistance doesn't matter so much in your situation, only if it is open. 5. If, after doing steps 1-4 everything is ok then clean all the contact points with a pencil eraser, making sure you remove all bits of eraser when done. Reassemble the watch then try it. 6. Let me know what you find. Ken

So, at this stage I was sitting looking at a 7549 movment with an electronic fault, and beside it I had the 7548 movement I had originally planned to insert as a donor movement.

Left: faulty 7549 movement, right: 7548 movement. The mind boggles.

I then remembered that the 7549 was built around a 6309 mainplate, and it began to dawn on me that the 7548 and 7549 movments had different canon pinions and hour wheels (and thereore different minute and hour hand hole sizes), but the two movments I had before me seemed to have identical circuit blocks and coils! I quickly dug out a spare 7546 caliber movement, and again the circuit block and coil appeared identical!

Left: 7549 circuit block, right: 7548 circuit block. Background: artfully placed technical manual sheet.

Left: 7549 circuit block, right: 7548 circuit block.

Throwing caution to the wind, I replaced the circuit block with a circuit block from a 7546 spares movement.

The FrankenTuna, with culprit coil, and now-spare-7549 circuit block and magnetic shield.

While doing this I noticed the antimagnetic shield plate was missing (!) from the original 7549 movement, so I also scavenged the ditto part from the 7546. This failed to solve the problem, but I remembered that the 7546 movement was dead when I got it (these things happen when you get to my age) so the next step was to transfer the coil block from the 7548 movement and - hey presto - it lives!

The lesson learnt thus far is that 7546, 7548 and 7549 coils, circuit blocks and antimagnetic shield plates are freely and easily interchangeable. Considering that it is relatively easy to source 7546 and 7548 parts movements, this could certainly be useful information for some!

I fitted the now strongly-running movement into the case, snugged down the caseback and now have a caliber 7549 Tuna running a caliber 7548 coil in a caliber 7546 circuit block! This is the beauty of the 6309/6 and the 75xx series - they are so closely related and follow Seikos "Lego block" approach!

This amazing thing in this story, however, is that a professional watch restorer like Ken Setser would take the trouble to contact me, and the time to walk me through an extended diagnosis and repair process. And therein, children, lies the essence of the spirit of our WIS community. Thanks, Ken.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Omega Speedmaster on NATO straps

Not quite a Seiko - but the Speedmaster is one the the 10 ultimate tool watches. A tool watch can be defined in many ways, of which mine is "a watch that looks good on a NATO-G10" (as issued to the British MOD, NATO stock number Army/Navy (6645-99-124-2986) & RAF (6645-99-527-7059)).

If anyone is considering NATOs I hope this will help you decide one way or another, but for daily wearing the standard issue 20mm admiralty grey NATO is sure hard to beat...

Standard issue 20mm admiralty grey




GasGasBones NASA-issue "Flight Qualified":

Travellers set - a NATO for all occasions!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SEIKO PROFESSIONAL 300M Diver, unveiling & review

Arrival and impressions

Finally, the great day arrived, as did my 300m Tuna! Thanks to Jau Yuan in Taiwan for a great transaction and a wonderful timepiece! We had just arrived home from an extended weekend in Holland, so I had ample time to change the wave vent rubber strap to a black NATO, and the bezel insert to a 6309 insert (which clicks right in, in case you where wondering) while the missus and kids emptied the car. The "mod" took all of ten minutes locked in the bathroom "Yes, dear, coooming!!" and the old insert is winging its way to its new home in the US. Let me show you some comparative pictures of the "Mod":

First, my two standards, 7T92 chronograph and 6309-7049 150m diver.

Size comparison of 7T92 on NATO with 300m diver

Strange how the NATO strap fits so perfectly to the “Tuna”, but just doesn’t work (for me) on the 6309. Incidentally, removing the spring bars was an absolute cinch due to the fact that the lugs are drilled through – brilliant! A quick look at the back cover and the documentation revealed that this watch was produced June 2007 and purchased in November 2007! Wow – another five years to the next battery change! First impressions after wearing the “modded” Tuna for an hour are that it is easily as wearable and comfortable as the 6309. The domed crystal is very reflective, and distorts the view of the dial and hands significantly when viewed from the size, fittingly reminiscent of the domed portholes of a bathysphere.

Size comparison of 150m vintage diver with 300m diver

Size comparison of 150m vintage diver with 300m diver

Size comparison of 150m vintage diver with 300m diver

Dial layout and especially hands are comfortingly similar to my 6309 – the hands, descencant from the 6309 divers are simply superb, and this series of hands are in my opinion the best dive hands ever developed! I noticed the lume is slightly creamy and very neatly applied! The crown screws in and out smoothly and competently, while the rough edging makes it easy to grip. The bezel on the other hand is a little difficult to grip and turn due to the shroud, but ratchets nicely once turning. I was also a little surprised to see the taper on the shroud, from base to top – I thought the Tunas where called so because of their non-tapering, grey shrouds?

The SBBN007is part of the Prospex series designed for professional and saturation divers. Ikuo Tokunaga was the chief designer of the original Professional Divers, and has contributed in no small way to forums such as the SCWF – a real privilege for Seiko fans and an honour quite exceptional in the watch world. The SBBN007 makes no compromise to fashion, and encompasses all that I look for in a tool watch: function, legibility and robustness. A little detail I wondered about was the presence of the day/date on a pro-dive watch, until I read about how long saturation divers spend under water…

The SBBN007 is a direct descendant (introduced in 1986) of the vintage Seiko 7549-7010, introduced in 1978: “The first professional quartz diver's watch model of 300m saturation diving specification in Japan. The movement is [7549] caliber which has 5years battery life. There are 17 new technologies, such as L shaped glass gasket structure, glass screw ring fixing structure, twin side shield crown structure, special elastic strap made from polyurethane rubber same as 600m professional diver's watch [*from Tokunaga-san’s watch museum website*]. Compared to the original 7549 300m quartz diver, I prefer the black bezel, fine-knurled crown and slightly sleeker shroud of the original. However, I prefer the dial of the SBBN007 and as stated above my first mod was to exchange the steel bezel insert for a black insert from a 6309 diver allowing me to enjoy the best of both worlds!

So, enough with the emotional stuff - lets move on to some hard facts:

300M water resistance with a screw-down crown and screw-down back, saturation-qualified

The “He-GAS DIVERS 300m” on the caseback has relevance for saturation diving, where deep divers work at depths greatly exceeding the normal dive depth of about 130 feet. These divers work and live under extreme pressure for weeks at a time, under conditions where helium (a small-moleculed gas) in the air can seep past the seals of a watch. If this excess pressure is not released under decompression, the crystal can blow out. Omega and Rolex address this problem using release valves; Seiko solves the problem using its innovative L-shaped crystal gasket.

Dimensions: 43mm (without the crown) Thickness: 14.3mm Weight: 116g

Strap: Rubber Wave Vent Daloaz Z-22 (lug width: 22mm)

The Original Seiko Wave Vent Daloaz Z-22 strap is apparently specially made for the Prospex divers, and is made from polyurethane rubber. The vents allow the strap to “give” while diving, retaining tension on the arm under pressure and eliminating the risk for the watch to become loose on the arm and move out of the line of sight. Aesthetically I prefer the simpler straight vent Z-22 of the 6309-divers, but have seen pictures of the SBBN007 on a black Nato which looked particularly good.

Wrist shot on 19 centimeters = 7.5 inches wrist

Crystal: Dual curved Hardlex

The Hardlex crystal is a Seiko innovation: harder than regular mineral glass, more shatter resistant than sapphire. Apparently, there are at least two grades of standard Hardlex as well as a high-quality HARDLEX "used for the PROSPEX watches and ordinary sports watches" (Tokunaga-san, SCWF, 2002). The extremely domed crystal can give rise to excessive reflections, but under water viewability is excellent.

Lumibrite luminous paint at hands and marks

The lume used in the SBBN007 (and my IWW’d 6309-7049) is Seiko’s own Lumibrite, generally acknowledged to be the best non-radioactive lume on the market – as evidenced by the fact that it is used by Swiss manufacturers such as Omega, under the name Superluminova. According to the manual, if exposed to a light of more than 500 lux (average room luminance), for approximately 10 minutes, LumiBrite can emit light for 5 to 8 hours. While I find the luminescence lasts all night, I particularly appreciate it under the low light conditions we have in northern Europe at this time of year, which saves me a lot of squinting to read the time

But…its just a Quartz!

Ah yes, but WHAT a quartz, WHAT a pedigree! Movement: Quartz 7C46. 5-year long life battery (SEIKO SR43SW) Frequency of crystal oscillator: 32,768 Hz (Hz = Hertz … Cycles per second … my 6309-7059 runs at 5Hz ) Accuracy: +- 15sec/month.

The in-house, 7-jewelled 7C46 movement is a high-end, adjustable, high torque quartz movement used in this the 300m diver as well as the 600M Quartz Prof. Diver (7C46-6009) and the 7c46-7009 Professional Diver's 1000m. The pedigree here speaks volumes about the movements quality. Cheaper quartz movements may have a single (or no) jewels and no possibility of regulation. Irrespective of the WIS attitude to the “soul” (or not) of quartz watches, they are more accurate and stable than mechanical watches. The 32,768 Hz oscillation of a quartz watch is considerably more regular than oscillations of the balance wheel of a mechanical watch, and their accuracy is not determined by the wind state of a mainspring. Furthermore, their accuracy is not as affected by shocks, or by the position of the watch, or to mechanical failures (due to their paucity of moving parts – all factors making them ideally suited as tool watches. However, quartz movements are inherently sensitive to moisture, an argument which has been used to promote mechanical movements in dive watches. Whatever, I have quartz and mechanical movements in my collection, each of which gives me the opportunity to tell about their virtues, their specifications and their developement.

In summary...

All in all the 300m diver lives up to my expectations. With the bezel mod I feel I have brought my watch a step closer to its historic legacy. I appreciate the quartz accuracy and the fact that it is ready to go as soon as I pick it up. It is a big watch, but not uncomfortably so. It makes a statement but is easily wearable. The dial and hands are easily readable under all conditions. All in all, a great addition to my tool/dive watch collection and a watch which will be competing actively with my 6309-7049 as my daily wearer. It will be interesting to see if I can differentiate between wearing the 6309 and the Tuna...

Oh, one more (important) thing, she-who-sees-all hasn't realised I have bought another diver - to her they look the same! Actually, this is the most expensive watch i ever bought (my IWW'd 6309-7049 is in the same league, but was picked up as the result of a trade). But it is a nice feeling buying something this nice, being able to collect so much knowledge about it and sharing the experience with others who have the same passion