Tuesday, February 03, 2009

UZI Ballistic Tritium Watch Review

On an aftermarket Maratac Zulu.

On the stock rubber strap

The lume

Update- I just got back from a whitewater rafting trip on the Kennebec River in Maine. I wore the Ballistic for four days of serious "roughing it". I'm happy to say that the watch came through in far better shape than its owner. The water didn't bother the Ballistic at all. Additionally, a long game of beach volleyball, with a bunch of kids less than half my age-duh!, did no damage either despite repeated collisions with the ground so to speak. (To the watch that is. My back and knees are another story). I'm quite comfortable saying that the Ballistic is a very tough customer indeed.

I love getting a new watch as if you folks didn't already know that. From unboxing it to reading about its features to admiring it's looks to smashing it with a hammer, it's always great fun. (!!!...What! ... What did he say! A hammer?!) You read that last part right, I actually took a hammer to the crystal of this watch. More accurately, I put a 3/4" wide wooden dowel in a towel and then used it like a chisel on the crystal with a small jewelers mallet. As to why I would do something like this to a watch that I don't hate at all, read on.

Uzi is part of Campco, a company that specializes in products for law enforcement, camping and generally roughing it. The Uzi brand of watches is notable for its very affordable line of tritium tube watches. (See this review of the Uzi Protector) The model you see here, the Ballistic sits at the top of that line. (They also have an impressive line of stun guns, pepper spray, batons and handcuffs should the need arise.)

The Ballistic is a very impressive looking watch. My example uses what appears to be a IPB coated stainless steel case and a rubber diver's style band. The watch measures 44mm in width (not including the screw-down crown, 48mm with it), 15mm in thickness, 50mm lug to lug and has a 22mm band lug width. Water resistance is rated at 50 meters which is fine as this isn't a diver's watch (I have since learned from Uzi that all of the Ballistic models are actually rated at 200 meters water resistance. It seems that some of the early ones were labeled 50 meters incorrectly. Either number is deeper than I'll ever go.) The Ballistic's bezel rotates counter clockwise with a solid action. It would have been nice if there was a luminous marker set in the bezel but you can't have everything I guess. Internally, the Ballistic is powered by a Ronda Powertech quartz movement that can be hacked if that feature matters to you. Accuracy, as is to be expected with a quartz watch, is excellent. It is my understanding that Uzi has also put some work into reinforcing the hands and the movement to provide for superior shock resistance. That's definately appreciated given the abuse this one is meant to withstand.

So far, so good. The two features that really set the Ballistic apart from most watches though are the lume and the crystal. For night time visibility, the Ballistic is equipped with fourteen small glass vials containing luminous tritium. The vials are mounted at the twelve hour markers on the watch face and on the hour and minute hands. The second hand appears to use conventional superluminova. (Uzi now uses the MB Microtec brand of tritium tubes for its watches, the same system used by Luminox and Traser for their watches) . This system is in my opinion the very best for low light visibility and it doesn't disappoint. Visibility in the dark is truly superb. When your eyes adjust to the darkness, the Ballistic actually throws enough light to read by, at least up close.

(As an aside, radiation is not a concern with this technology. The tritium is sealed in glass tubes that are set behind the crystal. As tritium is not a strong radiation emitter to begin with, this level of protection effectively blocks any possible radiation from escaping. For what its worth, the US Government strictly regulates sources of radiation. The technology used by Uzi and others on watches is considered legal and safe.)

The other interesting feature of the Ballistic concerns that bit about the hammer earlier on. Most watches use either mineral glass, acrylic or synthetic sapphire for their crystal. These materials all have their advantages. That being said, they do share the same weakness, impact resistance. As some of us have found out the hard way, when you bang a watch crystal, it breaks. The folks at Uzi, however, have hit on an interesting solution to this problem. The Ballistic, you see, uses what is technically known as a polycarbonate crystal. That's bullet proof glass to the rest of us. Now I'm not suggesting that this watch can be used as body armor but there are some videos on the Uzi website of the ballistic getting hammered on and being used as a hockey puck without apparent damage. That's why I decided to give my example the hammer test. I did not put steel on glass like the folks in the video did. I don't have that much nerve I'm afraid. However, I'm pretty sure that the blow that I gave it would have broken most watch crystals. The Uzi suffered no apparent damage at all.

To sum this up, if you want a good looking watch with superb low light visibility that can honestly take a hammering, this is your watch. It is well worth its list price of $260 in my opinion. Like everything else though, it never hurts to shop around.

Note-I believe that Uzi also sells Maratac bands. This watch is a natural for one.
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