Awww geeze, not another blog!

Welcome to A Fine Blade!

This blog will focus one of my lifelong passions and one of man's most basic tools - the knife!

As time and events permit we'll tiptoe into other territory where we can use the knife as a metaphor in discussions about current events and have a little politically incorrect fun.

Because you see, knives rank just below guns as the most politically incorrect subject on the web today.

Guns & Knives = Bad. Gay Marriage & Recreational Drug Use = Good

We'll see if we can't have some fun with that.

So stay tuned, and welcome aboard!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Watch Review

When I'm not collecting knives, backpacks, fly rods or (lately) canoes I can often be seen haunting the wristwatch offerings on Amazon.  I have always been fascinated by watches and time pieces.  Down through the years I've owned dozens of watches and I've got about nine or more in my current collection.  Some watches are a reflection of my fascination with precision and accuracy.  These tend to be things like Casio digital models that automatically sync with the atomic time signals out of Fort Collins.  Others tend to reflect my love of mechanical watches, mainly Seiko diver models.  I'm not yet rich enough to afford a Rolex or Omega, and probably never will be, so I satisfy me urge for watches that go 'tick-tick' with good quality but lower end mechanical pieces.

My first love has always been the traditional watch - one with moving hands.  However, it has always been hard to find a watch that fit my three main criteria - accurate to within a few seconds each day, rugged and waterproof enough to swim with and cheap enough (sub-$200) for me to afford.  Finding watches that fit any two of these criteria was easy enough, but finding watches that fit all three was tough.  Seiko diver watches are rugged, waterproof and inexpensive, but to be kind their accuracy isn't all that great.  Mine gain or lose up to a minute a day.  I wanted something accurate enough for celestial navigation.

About 18 months ago I stumbled on the Luminox line of watches.  These watches gained fame as the 'offical Navy SEAL watch', though I think that claim was more marketing hype than anything else.  It seems any company that gets a purchase order from the Naval Special Warfare Command claims it's product is 'Offical Navy SEAL' whether it's ball point pens or attack helicopters.  Marketing hype aside, these watches got very good reviews; users found them accurate, rugged and lightweight.  The watches use battery powered Swiss movements and are rated waterproof to a depth of 200 meters.  The only thing thing that irked the traditionalist in me is that the cases are made of a polycarbonate composite.  I kinda' like my wrist watches made of metal.  But still, for a shade under $200 (street price) I was willing to take a chance.

Luninox made it's reputation (and based it's name) on the fact that it uses tritium gas illumination vials in all of it's watches.  These tiny vials, placed on the watch hands and hour indicators, supposedly make the watches very easy to use at night.  The vials don't light up the whole watch face, they just provide clear points of light for visual reference.

So early last year I ordered up one of the Luminox 3000-series watches.  This is the 'original' Navy SEAL model and one of the least expensive in the Luminox line, it's base model so to speak.  It sports an easy to read black face with roman numerals, a date indicator and a rotating bezel.   Two things immediately struck me - it is a small watch by dive watch standards.  Compared to a Seiko dive watch the Luminox is diminutive.  It is also light, very light.  Again, compared to a Seiko diver with it's huge self-winding mechanical movement this watch is feather light.

A few other things that quickly struck me about this watch.  It is attractive in a no-nonsense utilitarian sense - everything you need to tell time quickly and accurately is right there in front of you; no button pushing like on a Casio or other digital watch.  The rotating bezel is well laid out and has strong, positive click stops.  The movement is a 'hacking' movement, which means that when you pull out the winding stem to set the time the second hand stops.  This makes this watch very easy to sync with other watches, and I routinely set it against my atomic clocks, to the second, using this feature.  And last, the tritium illumination makes this the best nighttime use watch I've ever owned, period.  The tritium gas vials are placed on the watch hands (even the second hand) and at all the hour indicators.  Since tritium gas is self-illuminating there is no requirement to expose the watch to light to get the thing to glow.  The tritium illumination is constant, never dimming through the night as the phosphorescent paint used on most other watches does.  A quick glance at the watch face under any lighting conditions - full noonday sun or a pitch black room - and you know immediately what time it is.

The only drawback to the watch is the band.  It is a fairly cheap rubbery strap.  I figured this watch deserved better so I ordered up a one-piece nylon Zulu band from Countycomm.  I also thought the watch would look good accompanied by a wrist compass, so I ordered up a small watch band compass from Brigade Quartermasters.  I've been using these small wrist compasses for 20 years and consider them to be the best quality watch band compass available.  They are made in Japan and are very high quality.  Of course they do take a beating sitting on your wrist next to the watch, but for less than $10.00 they are cheap to replace when they develop a bubble or the face gets too scratched up to view clearly.

Here's the whole package.

Neat, compact and extremely useful.

Over the course of the year this watch has lived up to it's reputation.  It's been dunked innumerable times on fishing and boating trips, been exposed to freezing cold and the baking, humid heat of Georgia summers.  It's been banged into car doors, dropped on floors and at one point thrown at a dog that wouldn't stop barking at the cat.  Over time the polycarbonate casing has received some scars but the mineral crystal face has, surprisingly, remained scratch free.

Most impressive, however, is that this watch remains consistently accurate to within 3 seconds per day as measured against my atomic clock.  Three seconds per day.  Now, for a mechanical watch movement to receive a 'chronometer' certification from the Swiss testing authorities it only needs to be accurate to within 15 seconds per day.  I'm not implying that this watch is the same quality as a Rolex or Omega, but a sub-$200 watch holding that level of accuracy is extremely impressive.

So consider this a long term review.  The Luminox 3000-series watches are impressive.  Hmmm, I see Amazon has the orange face model on sale now....

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