Category Archives: Watches

Everything about watches and horology in general

Allergic to watches

Hehe, no, I’m not talking about literally being allergic to watches as devices. I’m talking about allergic reactions to stainless steel. More specifically nickel that is used to make stainless steel alloys.

So, you want to wear a watch, but you’re allergic to nickel component in stainless steel. Well, here are few options that can help you out.

Selection becomes quite limited, but there are options…

Titanium watches

First and most obvious choice are titanium watches. Titanium is incredibly light, pretty much as strong as stainless steel and is also very resistant to corrosion and is non-allergenic. Which makes it perfect choice for people allergic to nickel in stainless steel. It is more expensive, but since absence of nickel isn’t the only good quality of it, it is easier to justify higher cost. There are plenty to chose from, starting at prices of around 250€ up to few thousand €. So, anyone can pick something, even if you’re not rich.

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One of the more iconic full titanium watches, the Casio Oceanus Manta Ray

Plastic watches

Second most obvious choice are plastic watches. However, here is a small catch. There are plenty of good quality watches made of high quality plastics (resin material) like G-Shock. However, unlike 100% titanium watches, these often come with stainless steel back. Which is great in general, just not to people allergic to nickel. It is in direct contact with the skin and when you start sweating it will just get even worse. So, make sure you inspect the watch before purchasing it. Make sure it has no stainless steel parts that will be in direct contact with your skin.

Most obvious choice here would be Swatch brand. They have tons of 100% plastic constructed watches and they also have latest quite interesting series named “Sistem51”. I don’t like it because it’s entirely plastic, but for situations like this, it’s absolutely perfect.

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Swatch Sistem51

400 series grade stainless steel watches

It is rather rare in watchmaking industry, but I’m quite sure there are watches made of 400 series grade stainless steel. Most watches are made of 316L grade stainless steel which is cheap, durable, highly corrosion resistant and non-magnetic, but contains nickel. 440 stainless steel on the other hand contains no nickel, just chromium and is magnetic. To retain hardness, they infuse it with more carbon during manufacturing. If watchmaker mentions the use of 440 grade stainless steel, it means you can wear such watch without risking nickel allergic reaction.

Golden watches

The trend of golden Rolex watches has kinda died out these days since they are just too flashy and they just look vulgar because they look like the kind of watches pimps wear. But some people still buy them. And they are non-allergic if they are made of 16 karat gold and up that doesn’t contain nickel. They are a lot more expensive and prone to dents since gold is a lot softer than stainless steel, but it is an option. You may want to avoid white gold versions because they may contain nickel.

Coated stainless steel

Next option are coated metals. There are two options within this group really. Gold platted watches or DLC coated watches. Gold is non allergic material and despite it being pricey, a thin layer of it over stainless steel hardly raises the price. And DLC or Diamond-like Coating. It’s basically a very strong coating that imitates diamond structure. It is black in most cases (at least I haven’t seen any other), meaning the watch can be more restrained and not as flashy as gold platted ones. The coating separates your skin from the stainless steel, however, over time both will wear out in certain spots that have constant friction and you may get in contact with stainless steel again. Take that into consideration.

Also, not all DLC coated (or gold coated) watches also have DLC coated case back. Steinhart below does, but some have an untreated “silver” stainless steel for case back.

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Steinhart Ocean Black DLC

Ceramic watches

Ceramics are the high tech stuff that’s just becoming more accessible to casual consumers. There are famous older brands that specialize in ceramic watches like Rado, but you can also find more affordable options from watchmakers like Citizen. You may again want to check the watch case back if it’s also ceramic or stainless steel…

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Rado Jubilé Ceramic

Cheating with NATO and aviator straps

Maybe it’s not the perfect solution or if you only have mild reaction to stainless steel, you could get away by using NATO straps or leather aviator straps. Because of their design, the strap itself separates watch case from the wrist, meaning even if it’s a 316L stainless steel with nickel, it may have very little or even no contact with your skin.

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NATO nylon strap
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Aviator leather strap

Cheating with clear case back sticker

Another way to kinda cheat and be able to wear any standard stainless steel watch is to cover case back with round, transparent, water resistant sticker. It may not be the most comfortable or nice option and may sometimes come in contact with your skin, but is an option to isolate the watch stainless steel case from your wrist skin.

Surgical stainless steel

I’ve wanted to include this category into the guide, however, watch sellers have watered down this term so much it somewhat lost its original meaning. They just stick “Surgical grade stainless steel” on everything just because it sounds cool. I mean, if it’s surgical, then it has to be good right? Not quite, because majority calls regular 316L as “surgical”.

Only stainless steel that actually deserves to be called “surgical stainless steel” is actually the above mentioned 440 grade stainless steel. It is often used for blades and razors because they are in direct contact with skin and they must not cause allergic reactions. High chrome and carbon content, but no nickel.

 

I hope this guide will be helpful for new or even old watch enthusiasts. Happy watch collecting and wearing 🙂

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Cordura watch straps

Are you tired of regular metal watch bracelets, classic leather straps and you don’t really like NATO/ZULU straps? Well, here is an interesting middle option. Cordura straps. Cordura is a very high strength nylon like material developed by Dupont and now owned by Invista.

Cordura strap feels similar to leather strap due to leather like Lorica padding on the inner side (also developed by Dupont, a synthetic breathable micro-fiber), on the outside it looks like NATO/ZULU, but has the double or even triple the thickness of ZULU. And unlike NATO and ZULU which come in a continuous band, Cordura comes in traditional two piece set with a classic buckle. End result is a less formal, somewhat sporty looking strap that can still be used for more serious applications than strictly casual or sporty wearing as you can see on the Bulova Accutron II example below. Original leather strap simply looked way too formal, but with black Cordura, it still feels very similar, but more casual.

Probably the most widely available Cordura straps are made by American Hadley-Roma and Italian Morellato. If you get one of these you can be assured of high quality, but there are many other makers who probably also offer high quality straps made using Cordura/Lorica material.

Looks pretty good doesn’t it? And you can get them in pretty much any color you like. Black (the one on Bulova), Desert Khaki (the one on Sea-Gull), Military Olive green, red, blue, orange, grey, white, pink, anything you can imagine pretty much. They might cost a bit more, but they are totally worth it.

Don’t ever say anything over Rolex on WUS

Oh wow what I’ve experienced today on WUS (What U Seek) forums. It’s a horology forum where you can talk about all sorts of time keeping devices. Just make sure you don’t comment anything negative over Rolex. A lesson I learned few hours ago and I was just absolutely shocked at how moronic some people are. Clearly the ignorant ostrich way of ignoring reality. Stick a head in the sand and pretend it’s all brilliant and flawless.

It was a thread about some guy getting hands on a new Rolex Sea-Dweller watch. We do that all the time, you buy a watch, make few wrist shots and post it with your opinions and experience. Other people join in the thread and you form a conversation. Nothing we haven’t done like billion times before for other brands like Bulova, Seiko, Orient, Casio, Sea-Gull etc. But those threads weren’t about Rolex. I’ve stated about stuff I don’t like on other watches before and it was just that. An opinion like any other and users accepted it normally. No one complained, no outrages, nothing. Neither did I when someone commented something they disliked about my watches. But not here…

I just commented the insane amount of text that Rolex puts on a dial. See a photo and judge for yourself why I said that…

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This photo is property of Leicashot who is also the owner of this Rolex Sea-Dweller.

It has crown logo, “Rolex”, “Oyster Perpetual Date”, “Sea-Dweller”, “4000ft/1220m”, Superlative Chronometer” and “Officially Certified” on a dial. Oh and a SWISS MADE on the bottom. If I’d wanted a book, I’d buy one. So, apparently I’m not allowed to have an opinion that they use way too much text on the dial. Nope, not for Rolex.

Wouldn’t it look like billion times better if it only had crown logo and ROLEX on top and below just “SEA-DWELLER, 4000ft/1220m and Chronometer”. Just that and nothing else (i let them have the Swiss Made below as well because I’m nice). That was my opinion. And apparently 0% of population agreed. Yet I’ve seen countless times other users also complained over this very exact same thing. Apparently they were all banned from the WUS forum or something after that…

I just don’t see why they have to mention oysters and date on a watch dial where 90% of people don’t even know what oyster is supposed to mean on a watch and we can already see it has a date window there. So why double confirm what we already see with our healthy pair of eyes? And don’t get me started with the “Superlative” word there. That’s like designing a V12 turbo charged Ferrari and then write “Ferrari Superlative Fast F12” on a back. It’s a fucking Ferrari, we already know it’s super fast either way. Why do you have to write that there and point out the obvious!? And what’s worse are people refusing to accept your comment about it and they flip out like I committed some sort of crime against humanity by commenting that. And among few it was also a moderator that did that. A person which is supposed to be neutral as Switzerland. I was like what the fuck dude, when he started basically threatening me to stop doing that through personal messages.

Apparently the forum is supposed to consist of only praises and positive things. Like there are only sunny days and grasslands filled with colorful butterflies and pretty colorful flowers. Did I mention the rainbow above it? Oh yes, it has to be there. Lets all live in a perfect world. There were already 6 pages of “Oh wow that’s a pretty Rolex this and that” and when I faced them with what it now seems like a really harsh reality (in a perfectly civilized manner mind you!), I was instantly flagged as Mr Negative bashing their beloved Rolex brand and then bunch of some lame ass accusations dropped in that I’m a Rolex hater and that they know it for sure (yet again I was like what the fuck). Seriously idiots, get a fucking life. I’ve never ever seen anyone flip out so badly about any other brand and I’ve commented things I don’t like about others in similar threads as well.

Do I happen to write Chinese or I sometimes just don’t understand some people who behave like they landed here from Jupiter… must be both.

Bulova Accutron II 96B213

Here is one of the most amazing quartz watches I’ve seen in my life. In general I’m all for mechanical watches, because they are just the good old school machines, but here and there there are companies that surprise me with modern tech that blends perfectly to their heritage. Bulova has released watches with such movements in their Precisionist models range few years ago, but they were really big and dials were just too busy for my taste with so much stuff going on, it was just too much. But few weeks ago, Bulova introduced the new Accutron II range of watches, a true tribute to their original Accutron from the 1960’s that had a metal tuning fork instead of quartz crystal that we use these days.

What is so special about it? First thing you will notice on the above video is the fact that second hand doesn’t tick like it does on 99,99% of quartz watches. It’s gliding across the dial and that alone gives it such special feel. It will attract the looks with this alone for sure. And while most other watches would drain battery in no time, Bulova quartz watches with Precisionist movement will last for roughly 2-3 years on a single battery. Second thing about it is the fact that it’s incredibly accurate. Some a lot more expensive HAQ (High Accuracy Quartz) watches achieve this with built-in thermal compensation system that adjusts the quartz oscillation relative to the environment temperature, making them incredibly accurate. They are often accurate from +-5 to 10 seconds a year. Most casual consumer quartz watches are accurate within +-15 to 30 seconds a month. Bulova Accutron II models are accurate to +-15 to 20 seconds a year. And they achieve this not by thermal compensation, but with three prong quartz crystal oscillator (regular watches have only two prong quartz crystal) and much higher oscillation frequency. End result? Very accurate watch with a less than one fourth of the HAQ price. HAQ watches are usually around 1500 € where Accutron II models like the 96B213 that I own cost below 350 €.

Bulova 96B213 comes in a really nicely carved and polished stainless steel case. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such shapes on any other watch and I must say it looks really nice. On top of it is the domed mineral crystal. While I’d prefer a sapphire, especially on a watch that costs more than 300 €, but still, I forgive them a bit because it looks so nice.

Dial has a mild sunburst effect that changes slightly when you move the watch under the light. It’s nto as strong as the Bulova’s marketing photo suggests, but it still looks really nice. It comes in off white color dial paired with markers without any lume, but they are very legible in anything but absolute darkness. Watch hands are also very nicely made, super legible and they do have lume applied. The downside is that lume isn’t particularly bright which was a bit of a disappointment. Blue second hand doesn’t have the lume, but has a tiny tuning fork on the opposite end which I think it’s a nice touch. Date window and the date numbers are very big, so anyone can see them nicely and they also change rather quickly at the end of the day.

It comes with genuine black leather strap which looks a bit cheap and plasticky on Bulova’s marketing photos (which is strange), but is actually very high quality strap that comes pre-curved in a box so it fits the wrist perfectly straight away. Buckle is a traditional one, made of really chunky piece of stainless steel and again has the Bulova’s tuning fork logo. Nice touch, though it’s not carved into the stainless steel, but rather welded to the buckle. It’s nothing wrong with that, though I’ve noticed threads and my dog’s hair is getting stuck underneath it. Which is a bit annoying.

It’s a beautiful watch with really special quartz movement. It is a bit expensive to most people who aren’t into watches, but considering there are watches that cost 1500 € with nearly the same functionality, I’d say it’s a great value. And we haven’t even plowed into the Rolex territory with prices beyond 10.000 € or the likes of Patek Philippe that can cost even over 6 digit price figures. In Euros 🙂 So yeah, like I said, great value.

Some more info and specifications:

Brand: Bulova
Model: 96B213
Movement: Accutron Precisionist
Accuracy: +- 15-20 seconds/year (estimated)
Dial color: off white with sunburst effect
Crystal type: Edge domed mineral crystal
Case material: stainless steel
Strap: non textured genuine black leather
Water resistance: 3 bar (30m or nearly 100 ft)
Power source: battery (1x 3V CR2016)

Smart watches obsession

Like me, you have most probably noticed obsession with smart watches from all major hardware vendors. Samsung is desperately trying to sell us their smart watch(es), people are speculating Apple is designing their iWatch for ages, there are bunch of kickstarters with smart bracelets, hell even Razer and Nike made one. The question here is, do we even want or better, need one?

I love technology as I’m surrounded with it on all ends. One PC, a laptop, Windows tablet, Android smart phone and I’m also surrounded by watches that I also totally love to use. So, naturally I should be the first one to love these gizmos. But I really don’t. Not yet in their current form.

Why? Let me guide you through a couple of reasons…

What exactly are smart watches? Because currently, they are neither. Smart or watch. What makes them “smart”? The fact that they display you a notification of a received SMS on a phone that you have in your pocket? Or an e-mail? People always back this feature up with excuse that you can’t always take a smart phone out of your pocket during a meeting or some other business activity where it’s not polite to play with your phone. Great. You get a notification for an SMS or e-mail. But, aren’t SMS messages and e-mails, by their core design, well, designed to remain on your phone even if you don’t notice them at first, so you can basically read them AFTER the meeting? What good is it to know that you’ve received an e-mail if you can’t bloody read it because the phone is in your pocket and you’re not suppose to take it out? And yes, I know some “smart watches” display first few lines of SMS or e-mail, but still, you are on a meeting where you most likely can’t leave anyway. So, knowing something during a meeting or knowing the same info after the meeting makes absolutely no difference to the end result. If you’re expecting something important, like your girlfriend/wife giving birth to a baby, you won’t even bother silencing your phone in the first place (I know I wouldn’t). So there goes that “smart” part of these watches out of the window. Besides, looking at your watch (they don’t know it’s “smart” one) too regularly during meeting or other similar activity would give impression to others that you’re bored to death and you’re just counting down the minutes till you can leave. Might be even worse than poking your phone around…

The other part is being a watch. For example, quartz watches from Citizen using solar power from Eco-Drive are superior time keeping devices. Or solar powered Casio G-Shocks. They display time, day and date with absolute precision, especially those atomic models. And because they are solar, they require zero maintenance and last forever. Can smart watches do that? Nope.

Next thing wrong about them is that you can’t possibly use them for voice communication. Talking into a watch for voice commands might look cool for a closed group of friends who might joke around that you’re 007 (James Bond), but for other 99% of people, you’ll just end up looking like a dork who’s talking to his watch. And actually using them as a phone would make you look even more dorky.

And what’s up with all the biometrics collection. Body temperature, heart rate, fingerprints, what’s next, our rectum temperature probe and retina scanner? Exhaled CO2 emissions? Seriously? How would any of it be useful for anything other than strictly medical use only when necessarily required by the patient? It’s not that far away from stamping our credit card PIN on our forehead and hand over all our private data to the insurance companies. It’s not that bad here in Slovenia, but I know life insurance is absolutely mad in the US of A even now, without all these gadgets being massively used, imagine what would it be if they could gather all this data. And they’d love to get their hands on all your health biometrics, trust me on that. It’s hell awaiting to erupt and people aren’t even aware of it. No, I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists, but I still find this a bit concerning in general.

For now I’ll stick with good old “dumb” watches that only tell the time, day and date. Or just the first one. And keep my smartphone dedicated for the rest of the tasks. If you want something different, sort of smart watch looking but without the crappy actual smart watch part, throw an eye at Phosphor World Time or Touch Time watches. They are curved and use e-ink to display time. They look pretty cool. Or the mad CST-01 from  Central Standard Timing (CST) e-ink bracelets. Thinnest ever watches ever to be made in the whole world that use super thin rechargeable battery that lasts for a whole month after a 20 minute charge. Sure, it only displays time, but it’s really good at doing that. And keep the rest of the tasks to your existing smart phone.

Adjusting time and date on watches

As much as it sounds like an easy task, it actually isn’t. Well, it is, but you have to be careful about few things or just follow the tips in order to get it done right.

Getting accurate time reference.

Best way to do it, is to use an atomic clock (like http://www.time.is ) or a watch that has atomic time synchronization feature (Radio Controlled watches like Citizen AT, Casio WaveCeptor/Multiband 6, Seiko Astron GPS etc) as reference. Just make sure such watch has been synchronized properly (for example Casio Multiband 6 G-Shocks show “RCVD” text on the screen if the time has been synchronized correctly in the last ~24 hours). This way you get the most possibly accurate time.

How to sync watch with atomic clock?

Most watches hack. Hacking doesn’t mean you can hack computers with it, but it just means that when you pull out the watch crown (adjustment knob), second hand stops ticking. It stays still. So, keep it moving till it gets to 12 o’clock (aka “00” seconds) and then pull out the crown to stop it. Move the minute hand exactly 1 minute ahead of atomic time and then just wait for both, your watch and atomic time get to the same point. Make sure to have your finger under slight pressure on the crown so you can firmly push it in when you need to. Best way to set the most accurate time to the second is to push the crown in very same moment the time on atomic clock changes to a full minute (seconds change to “00”). It helps if you can mentally prepare yourself to do it a nano fraction before seconds change to the actual “00”, because you have to take finger motion into account.

Why would you even want to complicate about it so much!?

To be frank, there is no need to. Especially not with mechanical watches that are so inaccurate they will drift away from atomic time in few hours time. But it sort of makes sense on quartz watches, especially if they are HAQ grade, meaning they only lose or gain only 10 seconds a year. In that case, it makes sense, because they will keep virtually perfect time for incredibly long time.

Yay! I’ve set my time, but the minute hand is not aligned properly…

While I know most watch users won’t even notice this, but it does bother some of us (I guess it’s a mild form of OCD if you want). You might be wondering what I’m on about. Let me explain…

If you just set the time, it might happen that minute hand won’t be aligned to a minute marker perfectly when the second hand hits 12 o’clock. For example, second hand is just at 12 o’clock, but the minute hand is not centered to the minute marker, but is somewhere near it or between two minutes markers.

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Properly aligned minute and second hand.

How can you achieve this? It’s really a rather simple trick. Most users just move the minute hand forward till it reaches the desired minute marker. And that’s why this problem even happens. You have to move minute hand past the time you want to adjust for lets say 5-10 minutes and then move the minute hand BACKWARDS to the desired time. This will make the minute and second hand align properly like on my photo above when the watch displays a full minute exactly. And it will be right in between two minute markers when second hand is at 6 o’clock.

I’ve observed such behavior on all my analog watches, be it mechanical or quartz. But then again, all my watches are somewhere in the sub 500 € class. HAQ quartz watches for 1500+ € might behave differently with no need to go ahead and move the minute hand backwards. I guess it’s all a matter of how accurate is the mechanism and crown connection and how much give or “air” it has when you start moving it in one or another direction.

Adjusting day and date precautions

This one requires a bit more attention, otherwise you can potentially break the watch. It’s not necessary, but it might happen.

All full analog watches use some sort of mechanism to rotate the day or/and date discs on the watch dial. If you try to change the day or date while this mechanism is in the middle of doing its job, it might break, get misaligned or get stuck. That’s why it’s important that you don’t change the time before and after the midnight. Watch manufacturers generally recommend not changing the day and date from 21:00 till 03:00 (9:00 PM till 3:00 AM), but I think you can be safe by not changing it between 23:00 and 03:00 (11:00 PM and 3:00 AM). Assuming the watch only has day and date display and no other features.

The reason for this is that watches usually require around 1 hour to perform the change for every action.

  • 23:00-00:00 – Date change
  • 00:00-01:00 – Day change (first language)
  • 01:00-02:00 – Day change (second language)

Watches often have dual language day display, for example in English and German or in English and Spanish. Depending on which one you pick, it always skips the one you didn’t pick. That’s why it requires 2 hours to perform the change, because it requires 1 hour to always skip the language you don’t use and then 1 hour to change to language you do use.

Adjusting day and date

Best way to avoid above complications is to pull out the crown for time adjustment and set the time to 06:00 (or 18:00). This way you can’t do anything wrong. Now change the day and date and set both to 1 day early as it actually is (and pay attention to select the correct language for the day!). For example if it’s Sunday, 5th day in the month, set your watch to Saturday, 4th. Now switch back to time adjustment mode and move the minute hands forward for so long till you see the day and date start changing. When this happens, it means you reached midnight. Now keep on moving the minute hand till you set the desired (actual) time. This way, day and date will change properly during midnight and not during midday. Which is very important, otherwise day and date will be all wrong all the time.

Date changing at the end of the month

Most watches with date require you to manually adjust the date depending if the month has 30 or 31 days (or 28/29 for February). Only watches that don’t require this are “perpetual calendar” or “perpetual date” watches, these already have pre-programmed dates, usually for 99 years ahead. You just have to adjust the watch properly once and it will keep perfect date forever (as specified by manufacturer, some only have for 50 years or even only 30 years). For the rest of watches that aren’t perpetual date models, you have to do it on your own. And since every other month has 31 days you effectively only have to correct the date every other month which is not too annoying really.

Easiest way to check how many days every month has without looking at the calendar is to use your hand knuckles. It’s a neat trick that we learned in school as a kid and I’ve been using it ever since.

Create a fist, look at the back of your hand and start counting months on the left hand (from left to right side). Every bump means 31 days, every dip between knuckles means 30 days. Just go from left to right. You’ll also see that when you’re in transition between both hands, you’ll end with 31 on left hand and continue with 31 on your right hand. Just like it is on a calendar for July and August! When you reach December, you just start again on the left hand if you have to repeat it. Only month that requires calendar is February because of its changing date every 4 years. And I usually have no clue when to set it to what date for that month. Pretty neat trick isn’t it? 🙂

You don’t have to ever change days because they ALWAYS follow each other in a rotating order.

Best time to change the day/date

Best time to perform day and date changes/corrections is before midday (before 12:00 AM, assuming the watch has already been set correctly for midday/midnight before!). If you do so, you don’t even have to set the day and date one day back and do a lengthy rotating of minute hand to set the midnight correctly, because the watch will already take that into account that you’re adjusting it before midday.

This also means the best time to change date for non perpetual date watches at the end of the 30 day month is in the morning when you wake up on the 1st. This way you don’t have to re-adjust it for midnight. You just flip the date one step ahead (from 31st to 1st) in the morning on the 1st day of the month if the last month had 30 days. If you do it after midday, you’ll most likely have to re-adjust it for midnight which is again a lengthy process…

But I don’t want to bother with date changing!

Well, if you really don’t like adjusting date and time at all for daylight time changes or end of the months, get yourself a perpetual calendar watch. Pretty much all digital and analog/digital combo watches use perpetual calendars. These require one time date adjustment and they will keep correct date after that forever. You will still have to manually change the time for daylight saving (DST) changes though.

But I don’t want to bother with any of this!

If you really don’t want to bother with any of this and you just want to wear the watch that always shows correct time and date without any further tweaking, get yourself a GPS or radio controlled watch. They usually cost quite more, but they are zero maintenance watches. These, once adjusted to your time zone will keep atomic perfect time assuming there is radio or GPS signal available.

Most common and good options are for example Citizen AT models, Casio WaveCeptor/Multiband 6 or amazing Casio Oceanus watches. There are also amazing Seiko Astron GPS models that use GPS instead of radio wave signal. For these you don’t even have to set the time zone, because the watch detects your location within time zones using GPS signal from satellites. And since it’s also solar powered, you basically just strap it to your wrist and never ever again worry about anything. Pretty amazing isn’t it? 🙂

Watch crystal types

The second very important part of every watch is the crystal that is protecting watch dial. And they vary based on durability and practicality. I will start with weakest and finish with strongest…

I’ve added rough estimated hardness values based on Vickers scale for each crystal type per user request.

Acrylic crystal (>20 Vickers)

Acrylic crystal is basically a fancy name for clear plastic glass (plexiglass if you want). It is by far the cheapest and lightest and nearly impossible to shatter. But is very weak against scratches. Every metal object will leave a mark on it, so be very careful with such types of crystals. Acrylic crystals are very common on dive watches because you can’t shatter them and potentially destroy the whole watch if the water comes in. If you damage it, it’s cheaper to replace the crystal than to buy a new watch because the last one drowned…

On the other hand, acrylic crystal has one unique capability. It can be polished to remove tiny scratches. It can only be done few times, but is an option you can take with acrylic crystals.

Mineral crystal (>350 Vickers)

Mineral crystal is again a fancy name for ordinary glass. Quite scratch and shatter resistant, but will sooner or later get few tiny scratches. However you have to hit it against something really hard to leave a bigger scratch or to shatter it. Unfortunately there is no way to polish the mineral glass like you can acrylic glass, so every scratch on it is a permanent one.

Hardlex crystal (>650 Vickers)

Hardlex is a special proprietary crystal designed by Seiko to fill the gap between mineral glass and sapphire glass. It’s a special hardened glass that is much more scratch resistant than mineral glass and a lot more shatter resistant than sapphire crystal. Hardlex can be found on pretty much every single Seiko watch that is not using acrylic or sapphire crystal. Like mineral crystal, every scratch on it, is a permanent one.

Sapphlex crystal (~2000 Vickers)

While not being used anymore, it was an interesting concept developed and used by Seiko watches in the 90’s. It’s a laminated mineral/sapphire crystal glass that had mineral crystal underneath, covered by a layer of sapphire crystal. In theory, it should be very scratch and shatter resistant at the same time. However, the main problem with certain watches was with delamination, a process where mineral and sapphire crystal layers separated and that’s not cool. Those fortunate enough to have a Sapphlex on their watch that didn’t delaminate are however very happy because it was truly as scratch resistant as 100% sapphire crystal.

FlameFusion crystal (~2000 Vickers)

This is a special type of crystal used by Invicta watches. It is very similar to Sapphlex, but is not a laminated glass, it is in fact a fused mineral and sapphire crystal into a single material that cannot delaminate like Sapphlex did in some cases. That’s why they call it FlameFusion because it’s a process where materials are fused together at very high temperatures. FlameFusion crystal is very scratch resistant and also very shatter resistant. Still not as scratch resistant as pure sapphire, but very close.

Krysterna crystal (~2000 Vickers)

Krysterna crystal is a proprietary synthetic crystal used by top range eye wear like high end sunglasses, but also adopted by Stührling Original for their watches. It is advertised to be as scratch resistant as sapphire, but with higher impact resistance, making it less prone to shattering on impact. Technology in creating such crystals is very similar to FlameFusion (Verneuil process).

Sapphire crystal (>2000 Vickers)

Sapphire crystal, the holy grail of crystals. The most scratch resistant material used for watch faces. It’s a synthetic sapphire, a lot cheaper than natural one, but with pretty much exactly the same physical properties. And can be mass produced. If you see that watch has “sapphire crystal” listed under specifications, you’re looking at a very good crystal that is nearly impossible to scratch where mineral glass or Hardlex would already scratch. Some say sapphire crystal is brittle and can be shattered rather easily, I have yet to see a shattered watch crystal. However I’ve seen plenty of scratched crystals, so for me, scratch resistance is far more important than shatter resistance.

Carbon Crystal/Diamond (>10.000 Vickers)

Actually I lied. Sapphire crystal is not the strongest material used for watches. As we know it, diamond is the strongest crystal material (if we exclude hyper diamonds). Carbon Crystal is a brand used by Cartier and basically means synthetic diamond. Cartier used it to manufacture lubrication and adjustment free escapement mechanism that basically cannot wear out like metal escapements always will. However, I’m not aware of them actually using Carbon Crystal to manufacture synthetic crystal to protect the dial of the watch. In fact, I’ve never heard of any watch to use synthetic diamond. If there is one, it is either very rare watch or just a concept that never went into general production. Because pretty much all highest end watches still use sapphire crystal, even those that cost so much, you’d expect a synthetic diamond to be used for its crystal.

Summary

Unless there are any specific reasons not to use sapphire crystal, I recommend everyone to decide for the sapphire crystal. It’s superior in scratch resistance and you have to be really really clumsy to shatter it. Watches with sapphire crystal do cost more, but they are well worth it, trust me. Because it’s nothing worse than knowing you have a scratch on your watch glass and you can’t do anything to get rid of it (except replacing the whole crystal which is quite costly). No such problems with sapphire. So, think about it before you decide not to buy a watch with sapphire crystal just because it costs a bit more. Though, I do know that not all watches come with sapphire, so if you like the design of the watch, but only comes with mineral crystal, well, that is a tradeoff that you have to take in such cases. I’ve bought a Casio with acrylic crystal some time ago because I really liked the looks of it. But I pick sapphire whenever it is possible in all other cases.