Thursday, May 29, 2008

Watch Band Combos Revisited

I've been experimenting with different watch band combinations lately. It is interesting to me how the look of a watch can be completely changed with little more than a new band. The pictures above show the same three watches in various different guises. I picked these Debaufre/Steinhart models for three reasons. They are well built and affordable. Any one of them would be a perfect choice for someone who only wants one watch. (horrors!) Lastly, their looks really change quite a bit with the different bands.

The simplest and least expensive of these combinations is a nylon band. There are loads of online vendors for these styles. (I got the ones pictured here . These folks have a great selection too.) On watches like those pictured, a nylon band really creates a good military look. If you look through old watch catalogs, you will see a lot of sport and military watches with leather bands. It's not the most common of looks today but I think it merits consideration. A good leather band can give a diver or chrono a nice vintage style. Lastly, a stainless steel bracelet produces that modern sporty look and feel to say nothing of being very durable.

The best part of playing this game is the economy of it. While new watches can be pricey, watch bands are generally affordable. Get a nice watch for yourself and a few different bands to dress it up or down for whatever mood strikes you. Not a bad way for a watch collector to ride out hard economic times.

As an aside, my favorite source for watch bands is no more. Randy Nilsen, who's ebay shop I have mentioned many times in previous reviews has passed away. He was one of the good guys and will be missed indeed.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Debaufre Aircraft 8 Review

On a 26mm rubber diver's band for hot weather

A month or so ago, I was given a fake Bell & Ross Instrument watch. (Ed climbs up on soapbox) I will not wear a fake, (Defined by me as an item with a brand name that was not built by its real maker). I personally think that wearing fakes is really cheesy. So, off to my brother-in-law it went. (Yeah, I should have just trashed it but he liked it. So sue me.) Period. Hmmm....well, that being said, as absurd as I felt when I put the thing on, I have to admit that it looked really good. (As an aside, this fake was really amazing. All the markings, including those on the case back, were correct. Scary.) What to do? Enter the Debaufre Aircraft 8.

The Aircraft 8 is Debaufre's homage to aircraft instrument clocks. (An homage, again defined by me, is an ode to another design. It is art based on art without the rip-off. An homage is sold under its own name and, like the Aircraft 8, goes its own way with its detail execution.) The basic idea behind this watch is that it looks like the clocks found in an airplane cockpit, just smaller. As such, it fits in well with Debaufre's military and sport themed collection.

On to the Aircraft 8 itself. The watch is quite large, measuring 44mm on each side and 52mm from lug to lug. This might be an issue if your wrist is much below 6 3/4". (On the other hand, that size gives it it's striking looks.) It is 10mm thick and uses a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. As watch crystals go, this is about as good as they get, both in regards to scratch resistance and visibility. The leather band that ships with the Aircraft 8 merits special praise. It is a thick slab of leather that really compliments this watch perfectly. Measuring 26mm in width at the lugs, it is really very well done. The superluminova lume on the Aircraft 8 is pretty good. The hands glow very nicely for several hours in darkness. The numerals on the face are also lumed, but are not as bright as the hands. The Aircraft 8 has a large knurled crown with the Debaufre star etched into it that is very easy to grip for winding and setting. Lastly, the case is rated at 3atm water resistance, which is fine as this isn't a diver's watch.

Internally, ETA’s tried and true 2824 25 jewel automatic movement powers the Aircraft 8. (The 2824 is an ETA workhorse. It is rugged and accurate and any jeweler worth his salt should have no difficulty servicing it should the need arise in the future.) My example is running at +7 seconds so far which is perfectly acceptable. The watch can be hacked and hand wound, if those features matter to you.

Given its shape, you might be tempted to think that the Aircraft 8 wears like a stainless steel brick on the wrist. Fortunately, as the pictures above hopefully convey, the designers of this watch had the sense to build in a curve to the case back. The effect is similar to that of watches having curved lugs. It makes the watch sit more firmly and comfortably on the wrist than a flat case back model would.

In summary, if you like the cockpit instrument look but can't drop 3 grand for one, check out the Aircraft 8. The build quality is excellent, the movement is a proven winner and it looks terrific. Additionally, Debaufre sells several other versions of this watch, an all black PVD model and two models with luminous dials.

As an aside, photos of this watch really don't do justice to it. This is purely subjective on my part but I really think that the Aircraft 8 looks substantially better in person.

Addendum-One reader asked if it is possible to wear the Aircraft 8 with a dress shirt. A good question really as most large watches simply cannot fit under a shirt cuff. I didn't realize it but I answered this question for myself when I wore the Aircraft 8 to work while wearing such a shirt. The watch fit without the usual contortions involved in wearing a big watch. That's one of the advantages of a watch that is 10mm in thickness. To help illustrate this, I have attached below a side by side shot of the Aircraft 8 with a Seiko Monster. I hope it illustrates the point fairly well.

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