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August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

Citizen BL5250-02L

Throughout the watch collecting world, one often hears of the “grail watch.” These are generally watches that an enthusiast has been lusting after for some time and plans to one-day own, but due to cost, rarity, or both, immediate ownership is not possible. Most watch collectors have not only a grail watch, but a list of grails. For me, these include such pieces as the Ernst Benz Great Circle Chronoscope, any titanium Panerai Luminor, Fortis Marine Master Chrono, Breitling SuperOcean Chrono, etc. It’s a long list.

Occasionally, I come across a watch that is not in the normal grail price range, but has many of the features or styling that draws me to some of my grail watches. A good example of this is the Citizen BL5250-02L: a handsome titanium chronograph with military and aviation styling not generally found in its price range. I have been interested in a BL5250 (the 02L designates a leather strap, where as the 53L is the titanium bracelet) for a couple of years, but only recently found myself ready to give one a try. I will admit — I had very high hopes for this watch, and it has not let me down. Here are the specs:
42.5 x 13mm all titanium case.
Mineral crystal.
Lug width of 20mm.
Blue dial.
Solar Eco-Drive movement.
270 day power reserve.
1/20 second chronograph (max 60 minute).
Perpetual calendar.
Dive style countdown bezel.
24 hr register.
Alarm.
200m water resistant.
Although in general I was very happy with the BL5250, there are some issues to point out.

The watch can be cycled through features by turning the crown when it’s in the “0” position (setting the time and date use the traditional “1” and “2” pull-out positions). By turning the crown, one can click through the “time,” “CHR,” “L-TM,” and “ALM” settings (the 6 o’clock register points to the active function). So, to activate the chronograph, one must advance the crown clockwise one click, then push the 2 o’clock pusher to start the chronograph. The 2 o’clock register will show the elapsed minutes, and the large second hand reflects the chronograph seconds. I found this somewhat inconvenient as the chronograph should activate when the 2 o’clock pusher is pressed; switching to the chronograph feature should be automatic as the pushers won’t commonly be used for anything else. Having to go through two steps forced me to leave the BL5250 in the “CHR” mode all the time, forfeiting normal seconds.

The next issue involves the “L-TM” and “ALM” modes. Both require the watch to move the hour and minute hands to set points. The L-TM mode will show a second time zone (theoretically handy for travelers) and the ALM mode shows the current time setting for the alarm. The BL5250 takes a very long time to change from the current time to either of these values since the hands move slowly, cannot jump between AM and PM, and will only advance in a counter-clockwise fashion. When testing this, I simply removed the watch from my wrist and went to get something to drink. This is more then just a minor annoyance; it has deterred me from using the ALM and L-TM features for anything except testing.

The alarm on the BL5250 is not especially loud. I didn’t expect something that could wake me up or that I could hear at a concert, but it is not loud enough to be all that useful. The volume was very similar to the beeps from a Timex Ironman as the features are changed.

Lastly, the BL5250-02L comes in a standard circular Citizen zippered box and is fitted to a medium brown faux leather strap with contrasting Breitling-style stitching. This strap is thin and rigid, and wearing it encouraged me to switch to a black Hirsch Liberty strap. If you have the option, spend the money on the 53L version of this watch that comes with the titanium bracelet.

All of these deficiencies considered, there is still a lot to like about this watch. The case is fantastic, very light, rides low, and has a nice medium mirror polish that compliments the high polish of the unidirectional bezel. The pushers are soft and have just enough resistance to let you know they’ve activated. The style of the watch is highly legible and displays its aviation heritage with pride. The blue luminous paint glows brightly and has good life — not as long as a dive watch, but enough for a movie or long night drive. The dial is very unique with its blue printed matrix or “waffle” pattern that generally comes across as black except in more direct and harsh light. When the true color of the dial is visible, it tends to look like the subtle coloring of the anti-reflective coating applied to watch crystals on many sports watches. I have been wearing the watch on a black leather strap for some time, and can say that for all intents and purposes, the dial of this watch might as well be black.
The registers are a glossy purple-black with an inlaid circular pattern radiating from the centers. The mirror-like dive bezel is unidirectional and has a “perl” at the 60 point for luminosity. The chapter ring features a tachymeter for measuring speed over a known distance using the timing of the chronograph.

The design and build of this watch are typical Citizen quality and leave little to be desired. The BL5250-02L is very comfortable due to a nicely shaped case and the light titanium fabrication. I wore the watch daily for over a months and never grew bored of it as the chronograph was always ready (as long as the watch is left in CHR mode), and the Eco-Drive movement keeps very accurate time, needs no winding or battery changes, and features a very nice perpetual calendar. It would be nice to see an atomic version of this watch that forgoes the alarm and the bizarre second time zone feature for a traditional chronograph and GMT hand.

If you’re specifically looking for a watch with an alarm or GMT feature, the BL5250 will likely let you down. On the other hand, if you are hunting for a well-made, relatively cheap aviation style chronograph, look no further. The BL5250 can be found for between $240 and $269 (leather or bracelet, respectively), and for that money it represents great value in a reliable, handsome, and well made watch

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August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

The Rolex Yachtmaster II: The Regatta Chronograph

Rolex announced a new sports watch for yachtsmen: the Rolex Yacht-Master II at Basel World 2007. Rolex made some significant changes to the GMT Master movement between the original GMT Master, and the GMT Master II, the latter allowing the hour hand and the 24-hour hand to be set independently. Likewise, the Explorer II changed dramatically from the original Explorer, adopting the same movement as the GMT Master II which added a 24-hour hand and date.

The Oyster Perpetual Yachtmaster II Regatta Chronograph is the first match to have a programmable countdown feature with a mechanical memory allowing easy synchronization to a subsequent signal. The Yachtmaster II features a new movement called “4160 calibre” that consists on 360 components, produced and designed by Rolex.

According to its bezel, it features a Ring Command one designed and developed by Rolex. It is rotative 90 degrees that make it possible to access to the programming function of the countdown and the locking system of the program.

No stainless steel versions are available for the New Yachtmaster watches. It is only available is yellow and white gold.

Operation of Yacht-Master II is little complicated. You can check out theYacht-Master II home page on Rolex’s site, and the operational tutorial

August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

The New Rolex Milgauss

Christian already told you about the new Rolex Yacht-Master II and the new
GMT Master II.
The other Rolex announcement at Basel of interest is the new Rolex Milgauss, so named for its ability to resist a magnetic field of 1,000 Gauss.

Why should you care?

If you take a mechanical watch into a strong magnetic field, some of
the parts in the movement become magnetized which causes problems;
typically the watch will start to run quite fast and require
demagnetization. The hairspring, made of an alloy called Nivarox,
is particularly susceptible. A watch is normally
considered “antimagnetic” (DIN 8309) if it can ignore 4,800 A/m.
This works out to about 60 gauss, or 6% of what the new
Rolex is rated for. Rolex achieved the superior rating of the Milgauss by encasing the movement
in soft iron, which is known as a Faraday cage. They
also introduced a new hairspring material, Parachrom-Blu,
which is unaffected by magnetism. Quite an achievement!

The Milgauss model has an interesting history. It was introduced in
1954 for people who worked in environments with strong magnetic fields:
power plants, research labs, etc. As you might
suspect, that’s a pretty small market, further crowded by the IWC Ingenieur,
the Patek Philippe Amagnetic, and the Omega Railmaster, all of which had similar magnetic
resistance. The Milgauss was the slowest seller in the Rolex lineup,
and was sold for about 20 years before being removed from their catalog.

The Milgauss comes in the new, slightly larger case size of 40mm,
with the 3131 movement. There are white and black dial versions available,
both with a nifty and surprisingly modern lightning shaped second hand
and ‘ROLEXROLEXROLEX’ around the face on the chapter ring.
(As Christian noted, for better or worse, the new models
are more heavily branded than their predecessors.)
One difference between the two versions is that the black dial has a
sapphire crystal that is slightly green at an angle, as you can see from the
image gallery on their site. List price on both is rumored to be $5,900.

One word of caution: for the new model, Rolex also lists “medical
imaging” as a target market, but a bit of math reveals this to be disingenuous.
Current MRI systems start at 0.3T and go
up to 5T. Even the smallest of those is 3 times the rating of the Milgauss,
so don’t take your new watch into the MRI!

I used to work in a couple of physics labs, so I like seeing
reintroduction like this. Nowadays, the IWC Ingenieur and
Ball Engineer are the only competition for mechanical watches designed to function in
strong magnetic fields. Compared to the competition, the Milgauss adds an elegant face, first-class movement,
the unique second hand, and the green sapphire crystal.
I’ve never considered a Rolex before, but if I do, it’ll be the black-faced Milgauss.

August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

New Rolex Explorer II (ref. 216570)

Rolex is the popular kid back in school, everyone waiting to see what cool thing they will do next. Enter the long awaited and once delayed Rolex Explorer II (ref. 216570) unveiled officially at Basel 2011. There has been big changes to this model when compared to the previous generation (ref. 16570) from size, movement, to aesthetics.

Probably the biggest visual change is Rolex continued move to larger cases. The Explorer II is now 42mm compared to the previous version at 40mm. W&R thinks this is better fit because the watch wears smaller in general do to the lower profile bezel. The new case will beef it up, without being obnoxious. Rolex went back to the vintage Explorer look with the new orange GMT hand. This gives the Explorer the extra little touch it needed to help further separate it from the GMT Master II. The dial now has larger, more pronounced hands. The bracelet has also moved forward with positive change, now featuring Rolex’s patented EasyLink system. This allows the wearer to change the bracelet length by about 5mm, weather and physical activities can all effect wrist size. The EasyLink system is truly a fantastic feature. Rolex has put a brand new GMT chronometer movement in the 216570, called Caliber 3187. The Caliber 3187 features a blue Parachrom hairspring and the new Paraflex shock absorbers. The new chapter ring that we all knew was inevitable has the repeating “Rolex”. There seems to be no stopping this evolution, if you want modern Rolex’s you better get use to liking this change. The watch is offered in white or black, will be nice to see these out in the real world.
Overall, the new Explorer II looks to have done almost everything right, especially the old 1970’s orange GMT hand.

August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

Rolex GMT 16750

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

WOW! What else can I say. This particular watch had been freshly serviced by a Rolex Service Center (RSC) before I received it. It came complete with the original box, tag, GMT manual/booklet, and of course the 1yr Rolex warranty/service receipt. While at the RSC the watch received a new dial, hands, bezel insert, crown, oyster band, acrylic, and a good polish job to the original case. I felt as though I just received a brand new watch even though it’s over 20 years old (circa approx 1984).

THE DIAL

The black Luminova dial is beautiful and easy to read. Each hour marker is outlined with 18k white gold, which is highly reflective and adds depth to the dial by giving the markers a raised appearance. The dial also reads ‘Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified’. This identifies that the watch was tested and approved as a certified chronometer by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC). This assures the buyer that the watch is accurate to -4/+6 seconds/day. My GMT has been extremely accurate. I’ve owned this watch for 29 days and according to http://www.time.gov it’s only gained 13 seconds! This is less than 1/2 second/day. I’m extremely pleased with this outcome. The four hands (hour, minutes, seconds, 24hr) are also outlined in 18k white gold and are easily seen against the black dial. The hands as well as the hour markers have a decent lume (glow) making time reading in the dark an easy task.

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THE DATE

As with many Rolex watches the GMT-Master has a date feature, therefore the dial reads ‘Oyster Perpetual Date’ just beneath the Rolex logo. Having the date on the dial is an invaluable tool for me, as I never seem to know what day it is. The date is magnified by the acrylic cyclopse by 21/2X. The 16750 also has the quick-set feature, which enables you to set the date without having to adjust the minutes and hour hands.

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THE CRYSTAL

The GMT-Master 16750 was outfitted with an acrylic crystal. Compared to sapphire, acrylic scratches much easier. I use a polishing cloth to regularly clean the acrylic of smudges and fingerprints – this has worked quite well. I wouldn’t recommend using any other materials to clean the acrylic (eg: t-shirt, papertowel, washcloth, etc.) as these will leave fine scratches behind. I also love the raised/thick appearance of the vintage acrylic… they don’t come like this anymore!

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THE 24 HOUR BEZEL

You’re probably already aware that the GMT is capable of displaying two different time zones. The 24hr bezel is easy to read and understand. It rotates both in the CW and CCW direction. One feature I really enjoy about the GMT bezel is the ability to ‘swap’ bezel inserts. Within 15 minutes you can go from a black GMT to a Pepsi (red/blue) GMT!

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THE CROWN

As stated in many other GMT reviews, the crown is simply too small. Unless you have small hands unscrewing the crown is a bit inconvenient. Also, the surrounding crown-guards don’t make the task any easier. It’s certianly not a deal breaker, but it is worth mentioning.

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THE BAND

My GMT 16750 came with the stainless steel (SS) Oyster band, which is my personal favorite. It’s flexible, comfortable, and very attractive. The clasp is easy to operate and feels solid/strong. It’s nice not having to worry about my ‘baby’ falling off of my wrist. The original Rolex band can be easily removed (yes, there are advantages to having open lugs) and swaped with other bands or straps.

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WATER RESISTANCE

The GMT 16750 is capable of diving to 100 meters/330 feet. Since I live on the Florida coast, it’s a must to have a water proof watch. My GMT frequents swimming pools, lakes, and will be used occasionally for snorkeling and other ocean related play. There’s not many places I’m not willing to take this watch

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FINAL COMMENTS

Go buy this watch righ now! Seriously, this is a great timepiece – a Rolex classic. I’ve been very pleased with this watch over the past month and I plan on wearing this watch for many years to come. I never thought owning a watch could be so rewarding – IT CAN!

August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

The Rolex Yacht-Master. SS/18K Black MOP Dial

MOVEMENT: 10/10 What guts! Here we have a superb work of beauty that has the intestines of a field ox. The venerable Calibre 3135 movement, which has to be one or Rolexes finest moments in movements. No complications here. No intricate hand engravings. No gold wash. Just a splendid engine that will keep time as well as any other on the market. Mine keeps within 1 second on the + side in any 24 hour period. Many times I have prepared to set it with the atomic clock only to let it be.

CASE: 10/10 Is a graceful, highly polished 914L SS work of art exceedingly worthy of caressing that Calibre 3135. The case has been given more poised lines than many of the other Rolex sport watches. Some have said that it appears almost identical to the Daytona’s case, but I can see subtle differences. I really like the fact that Rolex polished this case in its entirety. No brushing at all except on the case back. Everything visible is mirror finished and when mated to the brushed outer links of the bracelet, it makes for a very pleasing contrast.

CROWN: 09/10 The case was given the triple lock crown. The same as the Submariner, however the depth rating of this timepiece is only 100 meters / 300 feet. It is not a diver’s timepiece, but has more than enough disposition to handle those times when you flip your 3 million dollar yacht over in high seas! You can be assured that when you climb back aboard and settle yourself on deck that your timepiece will have suffered no water damage to its innards!

BEZEL: 10/10 This is what sets this Yacht-Master apart from all other Rolex sport models, at least to my eye. That gorgeous frosted gold bezel with the highly polished indices…. just splendid in every way! Something about frosted gold has always drawn my affections.

Some of the ancient gold coins and doubloons that I have collected over the years have this affect. It comes from being in contact with sea sand over years and is certainly lovely to behold. Put it on a fine timepiece and make it functional as a timer, and you have purposeful beauty. The bezel is omni directional which means that it will turn both ways. Making it quick to set the bezel, but not good for diving as it could possible be knocked off its setting when timing a dive.

BRACELET:10/10 The bracelet is the perfect mix of brushed SS and polished 18K gold. The polished gold center links are the perfect compliment to the bezel and ties the watch all together! And again the brushed outer links contrast well with the polished case. As far as the clasp goes, I have read many unfavorable comments about it, but the clasp is designed to almost disappear in the bracelet. When you turn your wrist over you can see that it blends in to the bracelet in a unique way and fits flat against the wrist making it both aesthetically pleasing and extremely comfortable!

DIAL: 10+/10 Black Mother of Pearl!

More of a rich deep, dark, milk chocolate! Fitted with cream indices each surrounded with 18K gold bezels and underneath rides the 18K YG date wheel peeking at you through the cyclops. Floating on the top is the lettering “Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date” “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” “Yacht-Master” (in Red of course).

Now here is what will set this timepiece apart and make it the grail of some watch aficionados. The effect!

Someone said it is like looking into “Deep Space”. If you have seen some of the Hubble telescope photographs you will know what they mean. In different light and angles the watch becomes a different watch. From deep violet and lilac to subtle flashes of bottomless greens, royal blues, and rich reds! And then when looked at again from a different angle, it all blends into one field of unstirred melted chocolate. Mix that with the frosted gold bezel and you have the luscious blending that makes this timepiece what it is.

As I said before, I have had this wrist watch long enough that I can speak of it on realistic terms. I will candidly say that this Rolex chronometer is one of those things that when you purchase it, go outside of Bucherer’s, and sit on their marble benches to admire it for the fist time on your wrist, you are thrilled with your decision! And as times goes, it only gets better. It makes you glad that you spent that kind of money on something as absurd as a timepiece.

August 21, 2011 / kevinhoa

Rolex Sea Dweller 16600

Weight and Wrist Feel + Presence
Let’s get this out of the way first. I had been wearing only a 1680 Red Sub, mostly on NATO straps, so the 16600 was perhaps a 2x increase in weight if I want to exaggerate a little bit. When I first got it sized and on my wrist, I was like, “oh wow, feels like I just strapped a 1 lb weight to my wrist, get it off now!”

I was patient and gave it some time to break in on my wrist. It is indeed a heavier watch than what I’ve been wearing recently, but it turns out to be quite comfortable. It does have a beefy, thick case that is certainly taller than the Sub Dates I’d owned in the past. Yet it has a slightly smaller dimension that makes it float on the wrist and the caseback height pushes the crown up just far enough that it really can’t dig into my wrist like other Subs have done in the past.

Rolex Sea Dweller 16600

After wearing it for two days, I’ve forgotten all about the extra weight. It actually feels quite comfortable and pleasing to have the increased heft in a very manageable size. The big difference for me between this and the PO is that the SD has a smooth caseback that does not dig into my wrist at al. I look down upon this watch and I see a 14060M with a more muscular presence. It’s very cool!

After owning a number of Rolex watches with lug holes and collecting a nice set of straps, I’m a little bummed about the extra effort to evacuate the bracelet without lug holes. Not the end of the world.

Bezel & Dial
This is interesting as the 16600 has a slightly smaller diameter and it is very subtle. It looks like a 14060M, but there’s a date! I think the bezel may actually be a tiny bit wider than the 14060M, but not much different. The surround with teeth is much more substantial and taller than the no-date Sub. Quite handsome. The classic black insert is timeless and sharp with fat fonts intact like it is paying homage to its vintage ancesters.

The dial is that glossy black, like a pool of shiny oil. Very nice looking and picks up reflections from the smooth sweeping seconds hand. The markers are not maxi, but really all that is needed on this watch. I have owned vintage and modern Subs with larger plots…I think the matte style non-surround maxi plots are the best, but when you look at this watch vs. a 16610LV or 116610LN, this has a more stealth appearance without those ginormous WG plots. I like it.

The date wheel minus cyclops is intriguing. It has such a reduced size without the cyclops. The little date is almost comically tiny!!! It takes awhile to get used to this. I really wonder why Rolex switched to white date wheels and did away with the open 6 and 9 numerals. Bummer.

I’ve grown to strongly dislike engraved rehaut on any Rolex and I’m glad this one does not have it. Nice and clean!

Crystal
Nice thick sapphire crystal that stands noticeably proud of the bezel. Not nearly as tall as a 1680 top hat, but a marked difference from the 16610 Sub Date. Very cool with no cyclops as I have had a polarizing relationship with the cyclops. My eyes love the way a 1680 silver date wheel is magnified with a cyclops, but seeing the clean thick crystal completely unobstructed is indeed a thing of beauty.

Bracelet and Clasp
Standard issue pre-ceramic flip lock here with the SELs. I like it very much for its lightness and beauty, but really wish they had put one more removable link on the 6:00 side. My wrist is small and 5 links on this side is almost too much. I know many people have removed a perm link, but this is invasive and I’m not quite ready to do it. The clasp is really not centered at all and the head leans towards the 12:00 side, but in all honesty, it is not much different than what I’ve experienced with the 93150 bracelets. I can live with it. In a perfect world, I’d have a Sub-C glidelock clasp on this watch and all would be well with the world.

Wish List
Lug holes
One more removable link on the 6:00 side
Glidelock clasp
Silver date wheel
Open numeral 6 and 9 on the date wheel

That pretty much sums it up for the 16600 SD based on 48 hours of observation. The movement seems pretty stable at about +2-3 sec per day, but I have not been micro-managing this aspect of the watch.

As a previous Sub-C owner, I must say that the SD is a little bit more stealth on the wrist given its classic lugs and slightly smaller diameter. I’ve often wanted the 14060 to be my one and only Sub, but I am so dependent on the date that I can’t really do the 14060 every day (good weekend watch).

I hope this is helpful. Here’s a quick photo I snapped in the driveway today while waiting for my family to join me for a trip to the pool.