Dick Tracy your watch is ready

The Pebble E-Paper Watch. Programmable e-paper display, apps, and smartphone integration via Bluetooth.

So for instance when the phone rings in your pocket you see the caller ID on your watch. For Android phones the Pebble displays incoming text messages. Working with the phone’s GPS it can do things like show distance run/cycled.

At first I thought the 7 day battery life was a bummer, considering that watch batteries last for years. But that’s thinking of it from the watch side of things. Coming at it from the perspective of the target audience of smartphone users, only having to charge the Pebble every 7 days is pretty good. For everyone who doesn’t wear a watch because they carry a phone, this is a reason to wear a watch again.

Polarization, LCD Watches, and Negative Displays

So I knew that LCDs used polarizers. When I wear polarized sunglasses and have to sign the little debit card readers the LCD looks black. The two polarizers are at 90 degrees to each other, so no light gets through. I have to turn my head slightly to read the LCD.

Most LCD watches have what are called positive displays – black numbers on a gray background. There are also negative displays – gray numbers on a black background.

I didn’t realize that the only difference between the two was the polarizer orientation. I discovered that thanks to Brian Green’s tutorial at Watchuseek.com on how to convert a Casio watch from a positive display to a negative display. Neat.

Casio converted from positive to negative LCD displayc

Lee Segal on Watches

“It is possible to own too much. A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.”
— Lee Segal

In the world of firearms there’s the phenomenon of gun owners who buy so many guns they can’t possibly shoot them all enough to know where they’ll hit. That led Elmer Keith to quip “Beware of the man with one gun. He probably knows how to shoot it.” If Keith had been a city mouse watch nerd instead of a country mouse gun nut he might have said “Beware of the man with one watch. He probably knows what time it is.”

With all this watchblogging I actually bought a watch – a Black Monster

Seiko SKX 779K Black Monster

This one – the Seiko SKX779K AKA the Black Monster.

Automatic movement. ISO dive rated to 200m with a screwdown crown at 4 o’clock. Stainless bracelet with a diver’s extension. 120 click unidirectional bezel. Badass, stupidly overbuilt stainless steel construction with a high polish. Crazy strong glow in the dark lume. Funky chunky design with a thicker bezel and a smaller face that doesn’t owe jack to Rolex or Omega. All at a price that makes the old boys at the yacht club drop their monocles into their champagne glasses.

It should be here this weekend. Review and links after I’ve worn it a while.

FWIW, this generation is being discontinued. The new Monsters are coming out some time between now and Q4 with a new face and a new movement that supports hacking and hand-winding. From the small, fuzzy pics that have been leaked I think I actually like the new face better, but I wanted the watch right now. Besides, Seiko may use the model as an excuse to raise the price and I can always flip this one. Meanwhile I’ve got a whole summer to enjoy this thing.

Or heck, if I like this I can keep it and buy one of the new ones in another color, like an Orange Monster or a Snow Monster or one of the these variations if I can squeeze one out of Southeast Asia.

Before then I’m going to play around with some different bands and straps. This watch looks like a whole bunch of fun.

PreviouslyWhat does the water resistance rating on watches mean?

If you enjoy the combination of gunblogging and watchblogging …

this is good for a laugh.

What does the water resistance rating on watches mean?

Short answer: not at all what you’d think. From the Amazon watch forum FAQ:

Water resistance.

First, bear in mind that the meters/feet of water resistance on a watch have nothing to do with being able to swim with the watch in that depth of water. That would make sense, but that’s not the way it works. Instead, this is my personal rule of thumb. Some people go a bit stricter, or a bit looser, but this works for me.

  • No water resistance: Don’t get it wet. I mean it. It will stop working.
  • Water Resistant (no rating) / 30 meters / 100 feet / 3 ATM: Splash-resistant. Suitable for washing the dishes. Don’t immerse in water.
  • 50 meters / 165 feet / 5 ATM: Immersion-resistant. Okay to stick your hand in the bathtub while bathing your kids. Not suitable for swimming.
  • 100 meters / 330 feet / 10 ATM: Suitable for swimming. Not suitable for equipment-assisted diving.
  • 200 meters / 660 feet / 20 ATM: Generally suitable for diving.

Another take, from Wikipedia:

Water resistance rating Suitability Remarks
Water Resistant or 50 m Suitable for swimming, no snorkeling water related work, and fishing. NOT suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 100 m Suitable for recreational surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sailing and water sports. NOT suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 200 m Suitable for professional marine activity and serious surface water sports. NOT suitable for diving.
Diver’s 100 m Minimum ISO standard (ISO 6425) for scuba diving at depths NOT suitable for saturation diving. Diver’s 100 m and 150 m watches are generally old(er) watches.
Diver’s 200 m or 300 m Suitable for scuba diving at depths NOT suitable for saturation diving. Typical ratings for contemporary diver’s watches.
Diver’s 300+ m for mixed-gas diving Suitable for saturation diving (helium enriched environment). Watches designed for mixed-gas diving will have the DIVER WATCH L M FOR MIXED-GAS DIVING additional marking to point this out.

Note: The depth specified on the watch dial or case represents the results of tests done in the lab, not in the ocean.[25]

Some watches are rated in bars instead of meters. Since 1 bar is the approximately the pressure exerted by 10 m of water, a rating in bars may be multiplied by 10 to be approximately equal to that based on meters. Therefore, a 20 bar watch is equivalent to a 200 meter watch. Some watches are rated in atmospheres (atm), which are about 1% greater than bars. In the United Kingdom, scuba divers and others often use the word atmosphere interchangeably with bar (1 atm = 1.01325 bar, or 101,325 Pa).

Also: How A Pressure Chamber Works To Test For Water Resistance

Previously –  Ask for the Time, Find out How a Watch Works

Ask for the Time, Find out How a Watch Works

I’m researching a watch purchase and I ran across this episode of Timothy Hunkin’s British TV show, The Secret Life of Machines, that details the history of timekeeping culminating in the invention of the quartz movement and LCD.

The Secret Life Of Machines – The Quartz Watch Part-1

Part 2 (if you don’t watch anything else watch the kick-ass demonstration of LCDs starting at 6:10)

Part 3

Quartz vs. Mechanical Movements

One nitpick. In the last video Hunkin says “Today, dial watches are back in fashion, but they’re all quartz-controlled.” It’s true that the vast, vast majority of them are quartz, but some are still mechanical. A few of those even have to be manually wound, but most are automatic AKA self-winding movements. They convert the motion of your arm into energy they can use to wind the mainspring.

The question in my mind as I research watches is, why do people still buy non-quartz watches?

Quartz movements seems to have all the advantages. They’re much simpler mechanically, which ceteris paribus makes them much cheaper, more reliable, and smaller. They’re more resistant to impacts in sports like baseball, golf, and tennis. And they typically keep better time, to boot. For all these reasons Mr. Marketplace has chosen the quartz over the mechanical movement.

What’s interesting is that the most sought-after, expensive watches like the Rolex Submariner and Omega Speedmaster are mechanicals. This even though they tend to be less accurate and require more maintenance than the $100 quartz watches in  the local department store display case. Rolex recommends servicing their watches every five years. The full-on tuneup is about 500 clams at an authorized service center. Even getting a cheaper lubrication and adjustment on a Roley at a local watch shop may cost more than a mid-range Seiko or Citizen quartz.

One advantage of mechanicals is that they never need batteries. So if you’re stranded on a desert island you may want a mechanical as opposed to a quartz whose battery could die. This is somewhat offset by things like the Citizen Eco-Drive and Casio’s Tough Solar that massively extend battery life, possibly to the life of the watch, but it’s still an undeniable advantage for mechanicals.

I recently had an experience that gave me one good reason to avoid battery-powered watches. When I graduated college my mother gave me a gold Seiko. I wore it in my twenties, quit wearing it in my thirties in favor of getting time from a cell phone, and decided to wear it again recently after my mother passed away. When I took it in to get a new battery I discovered that the old battery had leaked, ruining the watch internally. Financially, I’d be better off buying a new watch, but it has sentimental value. I’m sending it to Seiko to see if they can replace the entire mechanism.

A disadvantage of automatics is that if you don’t wear them for a few days the spring will unwind completely and you’ll have to reset the date and time. You can solve that problem by storing the watch in a watch winder that moves the watch, keeping it wound, though it’s still a hassle and expense quartz watches have made unnecessary.

I can’t decide if there’s a good, sensible reason that the most exalted and expensive watches are automatics.

It could be a matter of tradition, the way many gun enthusiasts stuck with Colt 1911s even after Glocks came along, or the way some motorcyclists prefer Harleys to their faster, more reliable Japanese equivalents. Anyone who has a thing for watches and wears a dial watch is at least a little bit of a traditionalist and a lover of mechanical things.

So maybe in some cases it’s the romantic versus classical points of view Robert Persig wrote about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you just want to know what time it is, a quartz watch will more than do the job and do it better. If you appreciate machinery and how things work the mechanical movement reveals its inner workings better.

I also wouldn’t dismiss the snob appeal for a watch enthusiast of having something the masses don’t have and can’t appreciate.

If I was looking for an heirloom watch to pass on, I’d buy an automatic, but for a watch for daily wear I’m having a hard time coming up with a practical reason most people would want to to buy anything but a quartz.