Tuesday, July 25, 2006

RLT "Tag Heuer" Divers Watch - RLT29

There’s a bit of a story behind the watch I’ll write about today. This is the RLT -29 “Tag Heuer” Dive Watch from RLT watches. Many will not know of RLT watches as they are a smaller company which sells and assembles watches out of the U.K. RLT is basically a fine gentlemen named Roy Taylor, known in watch lover’s circles as his web site, http://www.rltwatches.com/index.html is becoming more popular and has its own active forum.

I saw a post on WUS (link) mentioning this watch and listing the web site’s address. I followed the link, gave the watch a cursory once over, thought it was cool but decided I might visit it again and perhaps order one if the urge grabbed me. I completely forgot about the watch until about a week later. When I returned to order, I found that though the watches were not listed as sold out, there was no link to purchase. By this time I was now stoked for the watch as I had gone through the order process which allowed to pick from many color dials, as well as various sets of hands. In short, this would be a custom, albeit a quartzer with a quirky case design. Of course, orange would be my color choice.

I emailed Roy who responded the next morning and told me he wasn’t making anymore up until he had finished the orders her had. Although he never said, I had heard they were sold out.

Turns out Roy was true to his word, contacted me about 2 weeks later, and asked it I still would like one of the watches. O yes I did. I quickly made my choices and placed the order.

Let’s just get the specs out of the way:

· RLT "Tag Heuer" Divers Watch - RLT29
· Quartz Swiss movement
· 200 Meter water resistant
· 42mm all steel Tag Heuer prototype case with ratchet bezel and screw on back
· Signed screw down crown
· Luminous Hands
· Sapphire crystal
· Rubber strap
· Custom Orange RLT Dial-Black Markers

This seemed a perfectly adequate quartz custom diver with a twist. I have since educated my self a touch on the origins and back-story behind the piece. Apparently, the case was a prototype design for Tag Heuer in the early 80’s or 90’s. It seems only a small number ever were produced and Tag shelved the concept. You’ll see a picture taken from German eBay, which shows the Tag version.

Apparently, Roy came across a small number (less than 100) of these prototype cases and decided to produce this neat watch. I am glad to say mine arrive about 10 days after I ordered it. What a truly unique watch.

First off, we need to examine the case. You either love it or hate it. I must say it appeared a bit severe to me at first look, but the lines washed over me, and I began to see a bold design, which would have a certain appeal. The case is a large chunk of steel about 42mm in diameter and is cut with square edges at the lugs. It is a bit of a cushion case with rounded elements in the case sides from one to 4 o’clock and from 10 to 8 o’clock. The rounded element serves as a crown protector, which envelops a gnarled Tag signed screw down crown. The caseback is a screw down with Tag markings and the bezel is an oddity while being rotated. Uniquely strange stuff indeed.

The dial came in 16 combinations all of which are very basic and contain no lume. I chose the black on orange combo and then selected one set of hour and minute hand from the eight choices available. I then picked a second hand from the six choices. I welcome you opinions on my selections and will tell you I wish I hand gone for chunkier hands more in line with the case design. The watch would have benefited greatly from lime of applied markers, but these would only have driven up the super low price of 49.95 GBP. The dial does work for me, as it is orange.

The markings are a mil-sub style, which appeals to me as well. Additionally, a great value at this price was to be found in the sapphire crystal.

All this is served up on a basic tire tread rubber strap, which will be hard to replace without filing something to fit as the lugs are approximately 17.5 mm. The bare bone strap with tang buckle adds to the overall tool feel of the watch and is best cherished on a hot summer’s day.

Shortly after the “out of stock” banner appeared and it was done. I’ve seen them here and there for sale since then. I will never sell mine unless this somehow can guarantee perpetual financial stability for me and progeny… not gonna happen!! The watch is a pleasure to wear and had kept excellent time. I wear it mainly as a beater and don’t think twice about poking my hand into a fire pit or jumping into the pool with this baby on. I am helping along a nice patina on the case back!! Whenever I wear this watch, someone will ask me about it or ask to try it on. Definitely a conversation piece.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tissot PRS516

I broke out my Tissot PRS 516 today and was delighted by it. This watch often times goes forgotten in the watch box which is really too bad as it is a joy to wear.

The PRS 516 was one of the first "real" watches I purchased for myself. Though a novice, I knew the Tissot name meant quality and value and the PRS 516's specs bear
that out:

Water Resistance: 50 METERS
Hour indicators: INDEX
Movement Caliber: 2836-2 MECHANICAL AUTOMATIC
Function(s): DAY/DATE
Power reserve: 42 hours.

So it really is all there and can be hand for under $300. My only regret is that I did not purchase the model on a bracelet. The bracelet is very cool and retro with holes running through the stainless steel. May be someday I'll get it together and order one from Tissot.

This is a quality watch with a lot of style and deserves to be treated better...

The dial is a real work of art with raised indices which the Tissot T shaped second hand passes underneath. The indices are coated in sufficient lume as are the characteristic boxy hands. The dial is a deep black with the chapter index alternating between red and white indexes. Naturally it is branded, and I find the font of choice most pleasing in a modern sporty style. There is ample room for both the day and date function which accompany the ETA 2836-2.

The sapphire crystal is lovely, but it is somewhat tricky to photograph. The bezel appears to be ceramic with white hour numbers painted on it. I've heard the bezels can wear and chip though I haven't had any problem with mine. The case is a 40mm chunk of 316L, brushed on front and high polished on the sides. In this day and age of ginormous watches, 40 mm can seem small when viewed as a spec, but I maintain it to be a most excellent size for a man's watch. The exhibition caseback displays the lightly adorned ETA, and the exhibition window is finished so that it appears to be an old school steering wheel complete with the punched holes in the spokes for hanging a stop watch. This is a nice touch which I fear will become the provence of NASCAR as Tissot is a sponsor and has begun producing NASCAR specific models. The crown is, of course, signed with the Tissot T.

The supple brown leather strap features holes of diminishing circumference and contrasting white stitching. It is secured with a signed deployment clasp. The strap is striking, but there are numerous after market suppliers which make a similar "Rally" strap so it isn't any too special as the bracelet would be. The strap enhances the retro feel of the watch as the is a recreation of a sport minded model which Tissot produced in the 1960s and 1970s. All in all, this watch brings a modern update to a retro classic and is a big winner in my book.

The watch's operation is flawless with a firm crown which feels well connected to the very dependable movement. I haven't done in any measured timings but will do so and post the deviation over 24 hours. (Testing shows this piece to be +4 over 24 hours). I believe it will be minimal. Stylish and functional, this is a purposeful watch which is most at home strapped to the wrist of a spirited driver. I always feel a bit racy while wearing the PRS 516 but think the watch is classy enough to serve many purposes.

One of my most cherished pieces as it came to me early in my quest, and as I stated earlier, a piece that slips through the cracks. I highly recommend this watch to anyone wanting to get into Swiss timepieces without breaking the bank.