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As I was travelling with work and ‘hopping’ time zones, I thought it would be a great opportunity to put a GMT through its paces as an ideal travel companion and as Christopher ward have recently released their new Trident GMT (or more specifically, “C60 Trident GMT 600 Mk 3”) it seemed a great opportunity to spend some time with this watch and see how it measures up.

First impressions are good. The case is well designed and put together, and you can see that ChristopherWard have taken care with the design. It’s available in two case sizes – 38mm and 42mm which will suit both smaller and larger wrist sizes. The top and sides of the case are brushed with a polished bevelled edge separating the two. The case design incorporates integrated crown guards that are slender but sufficient, and the ChristopherWard logo is embossed on the crown itself. Overall, the watch feels solid, well designed and good quality for the price

Turning the watch over reveals the caseback which has a beautifully engraved trident seal. It’s not laser engraved but deeply pressed into the caseback much in the same way that the ‘Hippocampus’ is engraved on the caseback of Omegas Seamaster range. In addition, there are 6 slots that form part of the design but are clearly there for a specialist case back opener.

The dial is polished and features applied markers that hold a healthy amount of Grade X1 GL C1 Super-LumiNova® which is new for ChristopherWard. The hands also show an attention to detail with the counterbalance of the second hand also featuring the signature ‘Trident’ design, and the GMT hand in orange being a smaller iteration of the hour hand. They’re sharp and all contain a healthy application of lume.

In addition, the hybrid rubber+fabric strap has been well thought through. The underside features channels to allow moisture to escape and as a nice touch it also has the ChristopherWard logo moulded into the design. The top of the strap features a cordura layer allowing the watch to have the practicalities of a rubber strap while maintaining the look of a fabric strap. The brushed buckle is signed and the strap includes quick release spring bars – allowing the owner to quickly change straps tool-free (which is great while travelling).

As a watch the trident is a competent timepiece. It’s rated to 600m which is far beyond the demands that any recreational diver will place on it. It has a simple design aesthetic that works well and Its unfussy and well built. So where do things start to come unstuck? Well it feel like the marriage of the two functions has compromised both. Lets start with the bezel.

The action is good and the teeth on the sides allow an easy grip for turning it. The size of the bezel shows a well thought out integration with the size and aesthetic of the watch case, and the ceramic blue insert is vibrant with the 24 hour markers filled with Super-LumiNova make it easy to read by day or night. However, It’s unidirectional which would imply it’s for monitoring dive times but there are no minute markers on the bezel for monitoring dive times as its inscribed with the 24 hour markers for the GMT hand. This means the bezel’s useless for divers and frustrating to use with the GMT hand as it doesn’t rotate in both directions. This was clearly not well thought through.

In truth, many other manufacturers also exhibit one of these two problems. Tudors BlackBay GMT and Omega’s PlanetOcean GMT (amongst many others) also cannot measure dive time as their bezels are populated with 24 hour markers. However they do have bi-directional bezels meaning they can easily allow the wearer to track multiple time zones. So in reality they are first and foremost GMT watches that are built to survive deep water immersion rather than being proper divers watches.

However, in the case of the Trident GMT, the movement is also fundamentally flawed in its operation as a GMT but this is a little more complicated to explain..

In an integrated GMT movement architecture, the movement works a little differently. Firstly the movement drives three hands for the main timekeeping but these are not what you would expect. They are the seconds, minutes, and the 24 hour hand (often referred to as the GMT hand) rather than the normal 12 hour hand. This allows the primary reference time to be constant and is all set with the watch as if adjusting the time as normal (by pulling the crown out two positions causing the watch to ‘hack’ or stop). In addition to this but independently set is an additional 12 hour hand that is also connected to the date wheel. This allows the wearer to quickly adjust the hour hand forwards or backwards an hour at a time, and where it crosses the 12 o’clock position at midnight, it moves the date forward or backwards as required. This is the only way of setting the date on a GMT. Yes that’s right, on a purpose designed GMT movement, you can wind the hour hand backwards and if it crosses the midnight position it will happily wind the date backwards one day.

To a user the whole process of operating it is extremely easy. The watch will run with the reference time set and when crossing time zones simply pull out the crown one position and move the hour hand forward or backwards one hour at a time without stopping the watch ensuring accurate timekeeping is maintained.

Christoper Ward have chosen to use the ETA 2893 modular GMT movement to power the C60 Trident GMT. I can understand why Christopher ward would want to do this – ETA are a massive movement maker that supply a variety of complications to suit watchmakers worldwide with a proven reliability, easy servicing and a brand recognition that allows them to sell a watch with a Swiss movement. However In order to build a modular movement you need to not only operate the primary timekeeping functions of the watch but also provide a connection to deliver power to the additional module. This allows the base movement to be used as a timekeeping movement in its own right (in this case on its own it is the ETA 2892-2 base movement), and for its functionality to be extended depending on which module is fitted on top. This means that the module on top (in this case ETAs GMT module) has to run the 24 hour hand but it also has be able of being independently set. This is done buy pulling out the crown to the first position and instead of winding the crown backwards to advance the date, you have to wind it forward to move the GMT hand forward by an hour at a time. This is the direct opposite of how you expect a GMT to work where the GMT hand maintains a constant (Showing the time at the Greenwich Meridian) and the local time is adjusted independantly.

It means that every time you move to a different time zone you have to…

  1. Pull the crown out two positions stopping the watch, adjust the time of the watch to the new time zone moving all the hands on the watch (NOT back past midnight) and having to use another reference time as now the watch has stopped so it’s no longer accurate.
  2. Next push the crown back in one position and wind the crown forwards to return the GMT hand back to where it should be.
  3. Next wind the crown backwards to advance the date (if necessary) all the way round 30 positions (if retarding the time causes you to pass midnight and hence now showing the previous day).
  4. Lastly press the crown in again to finish setting the time and date and screw the crown down ensuring its water tight once again.

As you can see this is extremely frustrating and you only have to do this a couple of times to realise how flawed this movement architecture is. Frequent travellers will quickly become disillusioned with a GMT like this.

I must point out that this is not a criticism of Christopher ward – they don’t produce movements themselves and have to buy these in from a supplier. The experience here will be exactly the same for other manufacturers who all rely on ETA to supply them with a GMT movement.

With this in mind I feel here that the marriage of both a divers watch and GMT have been fundamentally compromised. You cant measure dive time on it, and you cant easily switch time zones.

As I returned from my trip I was deeply torn. At face value its specified well and the build quality is great. Had this been purely a focused divers watch, with a gratuated dive-time bezel, It would have been hard to fault. However, the main selling point of the watch is as a GMT and in this regard its exasperating to use! There is one thing that the trip has taught me – the value of a properly designed and integrated GMT movement architecture!

Links to items in this article:
ChristopherWard Trident GMT

Founded in 2015, Farer is not your typical watch company. Their founders have a background in design, and since their first watches were released it has been apparent they are intentionally following their own trajectory, rather than following the herd. As part of the British watchmaking revival, we have been watching with keen interest the growth of Farer, who have continued to innovate where others imitate. Farers’ Aqua-compressor (their modern interpretation of a vintage diver) is a case in point, and early this year they kindly sent us a Leven to spend some time with.

The Leven comes in a beautifully lacquered multi-layered black wooden box. On the top layer, the watch comes fitted to the silicone rubber strap, the additional steel bracelet, and a compression spring bar tool. Underneath this layer, is the warranty card, instruction booklet, and cleaning cloth supplied in pocket below.

The case of the Leven is a classic example of Farer’s design roots incorporating brushed and polished elements as well as true technical functionality into a contemporary case with vintage aesthetics. The case (often mistakenly called a super-compressor) incorporates technology originally patented in the 1950’s by Piquerez where the case becomes more watertight the deeper it is taken. Ostensibly, the case is designed so that water pressure on the exterior of the case increases pressure against the gaskets thereby tightening the seal.

Although there are a number of modern watches that resemble the look of traditional compressor cases (usually the inclusion of twin crowns) here the Farer also utilises the original technical design features implemented on a modern watch.

On the side of the case are the twin Farer Crowns. The beautifully detailed bronze crown at two o’clock will patina over time to create a unique aesthetic for that particular watch and once unscrewed, winds the watch and sets the time. The additional crown once unscrewed turns the unidirectional internal bezel. Incidentally, although under normal use the watch is rated to 300m, even with the crowns unscrewed Farer still rate the watch to 100m allowing you to set the internal bezel without fear of water ingress.

With a case height of only 13mm, the Leven is slimmer than many dive watches and with the added benefit of the cushioned case design can easily slip under almost any cuff. Although the case width is 41.5mm wide excluding the crown if feels and wears much more like a 40mm watch in part due to the lug to lug dimensions of just 45mm allowing the watch to be comfortably worn by people with smaller wrist sizes.

The Leven – as with all of Farer’s Aqua Compressors, comes with two straps. Firstly, the watch is shipped on a beautifully soft vulcanised rubber strap. It can certainly be said that this on its own puts many strap manufacturers to shame. The rubber is beautifully soft and supple ensuring it’s immensely comfortable to wear. The supplied buckle is substantial without being clumsy and has been milled rather than pressed. The shoulders of the strap have been beautifully engineered to flow seamlessly into the case as a ‘block integrated’ design rather than looking and feeling like an afterthought.

The additional steel bracelet also puts many others to shame. While not on par with the Tudor Black Bay bracelet, it is a considerable step up from most Seiko bracelets, and certainly anything else that we have seen at this price point. We found it refreshing that brands are starting to realise that people want to be able to wear their watch on a variety of straps thereby varying the suitability of the watch to the occasion. For anyone who has ever struggled to remove a bracelet from a watch with a conventional spring bar tool knows only too well the correct way of doing this is to squeeze the spring bar from both sides simultaneously which is only possible with the right tool. Thankfully Farer provide this with the watch and this makes the whole exercise pretty straight forward.

The dial is beautifully thought through. Radially brushed from the centre to the outward edges, the dial feels a natural extension to the brushed top surface of the case. Where a date window would seem clumsy it has here been intentionally omitted, and raised indexes are filled with lume. It’s clear that the Leven is the product of intentional design creating a simple, elegant and yet positive visual aesthetic in the form of a modern diver.

The movement is the more rare elaboré grade non-date ETA 2824-2 as found in Tudor’s ETA powered Black Bay. This is another example of how the details matter. It would be easy for Farer like many other smaller brands to choose an standard ETA 2824 movement and just remove the date wheel, however this would exhibit a phantom position in the primary crown when it is pulled out to its first position and turned with no effect, requiring the user to pull it out to position two to set the time. The movement is finished with Farer’s custom rotor engraved with ocean waves, inscribed with “Farer submersible” and is displayed for all to see through an exhibition case back.

The elaboré grade ETA 2824-2 non-date

We spent considerable time with the Leven and took every opportunity to put it through its paces. Worn at work, social occasions, swimming with the kids and a plethora of other occasions this is a tough watch for an active lifestyle.

From the moment you first handle the Leven you are left with the impression that this watch punches above its weight. The case feels beautifully designed and carries a sense of both design and finish that are on par with much larger brands and price points. This is a modern contemporary divers watch that delivers swiss build quality with a unique design language and an attention to detail that exceeds expectations.

If you are looking for a watch that doesn’t mimic others but sets itself apart from the crowd, I seriously encourage you to take a look at the Farer Leven.

What’s your favourite dive watch and why? Let us know in the comments below.

Links to items in this article:
Farer Leven

The German Flieger or Pilots watch in the form it exists today is more a modern interpretation of traditional pilots watches produced and worn during world war II where these watches were strapped to the outside of flight suits.  Although the flieger watches available today are much smaller than the 55mm watches produced during wartime, they carry many of the same features and specifications, drawing their identity from their heritage in producing clean, functional and reliable watches. While many brands might be accused of producing year after year the same watch, Stowa have continued to evolve and innovate their take on the traditional pilots watch and have more recently introduced a more contemporary model called the Ikarus. So we reached out to Stowa who were kind enough to send us one to spend some time with.

A little history of Stowa…
In 1927, Walter Storz founded Stowa in Hornberg, Black forest, Germany. In 1935, just 8 years later the company had outgrown its building and moved to Pforzheim. By 1937 Stowa had been producing numerous ‘Bauhaus’ watches inspired by the German school of art, design & architecture of the same name. With near constant growth, in 1938 Stowa moved to their new building which was built for them in Bismarckstraße in Pforzheim. However this growth would show little signs of letting up as the start of World War II brought even more demand…

Although it had long been established that pilots required accurate timekeeping for navigation, flight time and fuel use,  the start of the second world war meant the German airforce – the ‘Luftwaffe’ was going to need watches in bulk. Specifications for official flieger watcher were drawn up and 5 companies commissioned to produce them –  IWC, Laco, Wempe, A.Lang & Sohne and of course Stowa. These specifications were designed to ensure that no matter who produced these watches, they would be physically and functionally the same – these were critical tool watches after all. This specification included the case size (55mm) to aid legibility in poor conditions, crown – so it can be easily operated by pilots wearing gloves, the dial needed to include the (now iconic) triangle with two dots easily denoting the 12oclock position and confirming orientation, the dial, hour, minute, and seconds hands were all coated with radium in order to provide strong luminescence, and of course were accurate and able to be synchronised to a reference time (had a hacking function).  The German Testing Office created an appropriate designation for the specification identifying that the watch was approved for flight (FL), navigation (23), and aeronautics (883) thus creating the official Flieger designation of FL23883 which would be applied to the watches from all 5 manufacturers.

Our first impressions…
Its always reassuring when a manufacturer provides an ‘appropriate’ box for the watch they are selling. Its not a good sign when its obvious that a large proportion of the price you have paid for the watch has gone on the box and presentation. Indeed Omega have often been chastised for some of the more ridiculous packages that are more akin to a suitcase and clearly cost a lot of money but once home will be shelved or put in the loft rarely to see the light of day again and making you feel like you have wasted a proportion of what you spent on the box. Alternatively if you’re spending good money on a good watch, receiving it in a carboard sleeve akin to free gift from a Kelloggs box of cornflakes is also not very reassuring! Its therefore refreshing to see Stowa provide the Ikarus in a modest but sturdy metal box that is sure to protect the watch, is not enormous, and yet is not overly expensive. The box is lined with a simple leather lining and contains the Ikarus and the Stowa guarantee.

The case of the Ikarus has a matte finish. Although it might look like its brushed, upon closer inspection there are no brush marks at all. The case is actually hand ground to a matte finish which starts to show how serious Stowa are about even their more affordable watches. The case measures 40mm without the crown, and is 10.2mm thick from top to bottom. These are a sweet-spot for proportions and allow it to wear comfortably on a variety of wrist sizes where it neither looks too large on a smaller wrist nor out of place on larger wrists, and allowing it to slip easily under the cuff. The flieger designation ‘FL23883’ is laser etched into the side of the case as a visual reminder of this watch’s heritage.

The Dial of the Stowa Ikarus is the most notable element setting it apart from its peers. As Stowa continues to innovate and evolve the presence of the Flieger bringing it into the modern era, they have created a beautiful grey metallic dial that starts to bridge the gap between a tool watch and something a little more dressy. This has been created by rhodium plating the dial and then bead blasting with glass beads. The indices are then painted in C3 Superluminova.

The hands are traditional flieger shaped hands and are thermally blued providing a subtle and authentic element of colour when the light catches them and are also filled with C3 Superluminova. This is well paired and contrasts with the depth of the grey dial behind. There is a date at 6 o’clock which has been thoughtfully executed. It does not ‘cut into’ any other element on the watch face and replaces the number 6 on the dial creating a balanced dial layout. To aid legibility, the date wheel has been implemented in black with white numerals which feels highly appropriate. Unlike a traditional Flieger the Stowa logo is subtly written on the dial under the traditional Triangle at 12.

The Onion crown is well proportioned and easy to wind & manipulate. Its a nice attention to detail harking back to traditional pilots watches. For anyone who has ever had any discomfort from the crown digging into the back of your hand, this crown will help as its predominantly round with no sharp edges.

The caseback is secured with 6 micro screws and has a sapphire porthole to view the movement. The watch is powered by an ETA 2824-2 in its base grade. Customers may if they wish upgrade the movement to a Top Grade ETA 2824-2 movement or alternative the 2804 hand wound derivative. The movement is not highly decorated, however it is supplied with a nice custom Stowa rotor. If customers elect for the top grade 2824 movement, Stowa will supply a traditional Flieger rotor. This is far more functional in design and contains specification text for the watch adding another touch of heritage.

The leather strap was a welcome surprise. Without handling the strap you would be forgiven for thinking its more ‘industrial’ than it actually is. Visually it would appear that with three keepers – one of which being metal it is a rugged strap engineered to be robust above all else, however the strap is made from a soft supple leather that is extremely comfortable to wear. The tang buckle is a solid milled buckle signed Stowa contributing to the “engineered” theme.

However if you left the Ikarus on the strap it comes with, you would be doing the watch an injustice as it pairs well with so many other straps. Throughout the time we had the Stowa, we continually changed the straps allowing the watch to show its versatility. In fact we thought it was such a versatile watch that we used in on a photoshoot for an article on Haveston’s watch straps which you can take a look here.

Casually, Stowa’s own strap dresses the watch down well. It allows the watch to take on a more ‘rugged look and feel while being extremely comfortable to wear. Canvas two piece straps suit the watch well and we spent some considerable time with these on the watch as they complement the slender proportions of the watch also allowing it to slip neatly under the cuff.

While the Ikarus is no dress watch, it definitely passes for a smarter casual watch suitable for most environments. Whether hanging out in coffee shops at the weekends, at work, or anywhere in between, the Stowa Ikarus makes for a compelling all round watch. Able to slip discretely under a cuff with a shirt thanks to its dimensions or brushing off the more formal looks with jeans. Either way the Ikarus is right at home.

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6424D12E-2788-4F13-8773-D035F76984BE
6A13D242-328C-4ED3-9628-AE3D5A0C936F
IMG_4371
P1000354
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IMG_4161
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The Stowa Ikarus presents a great value proposition. Its a modern iteration of a traditional German Flieger by a brand steeped in history and heritage, and yet it breaks away – bringing contemporary style to an otherwise traditional timepiece. The build quality is typically German – well engineered simplicity delivering everything necessary and nothing superfluous. The display case back is nice and at this price point the inclusion of an ETA movement is welcome.

Its hard to find something not to like about the Ikarus. We would have preferred the watch to have had a 100m water resistance allowing the watch to be worn comfortably near and in water. Interestingly Stowa make a larger model of the Ikarus called the Ikarus Sport at 43mm with 200m water resistance. This larger sport variant uses all the same components including the dial from the 40mm Ikarus, placing them in a larger case with a thicker bezel being the only difference.

So if you are considering an ‘all round watch’ I would encourage you to take a look at this fantastic piece at a great price of £600 (€680) which makes a pretty compelling value proposition.

Do you own a Flieger from One of the 5 above – if so what’s your experience of owning one? or are you interested in buying a pilots watch? Let us know in the comments below.

Links to items in this article:
Stowa Classic 40 Ikarus
Haveston M-22 A2 Strap
Haveston M-1918C Canvas Strap
BartonWatchBands Black quick release canvas strap
BartonWatchBands Smoke Grey quick release canvas strap

Have you ever looked down at your watch and either felt a sense of pride or dismay at the movement that it contains? For many buying their first “proper” watch, there may be many things that they consider including size, style, aesthetics, complications, and much more but usually there’s a romance with the mechanical. The feeling that inside your watch an array of tiny springs, cogs & gears engineered to the tiniest of tolerances are capable of displaying the current time with incredible accuracy all powered by the movement of the watch on your wrist.

I find it interesting that the discussion of a watches’ movement brings great opinion and controversy. Movements generally speaking fall in to two camps. Those that have been developed in-house to which a great sense of admiration is expressed and contrastingly those that have been “bought in” with many feeling a sense of disdain as if something is lacking or left wanting. However I feel many are too focused on the movement alone to fully appreciate how this could be a very good thing.

Consider for one moment a parallel from the motoring industry.

Few would consider McLaren an inferior supercar manufacturer – however they don’t make the engines that power their cars. The Legendary McLaren’ F1 for example was powered by a BMW V12 engine and for over a decade held the world record for the worlds fastest road going car before Bugatti eventually released the Veyron. Indeed today McLarens use Mercedes-Benz engines, and still produce some of the most desirable and sought-after supercars in the world. And it doesnt take long to realise why…..

Designing, building & testing engines is extremely expensive, so why not use a proven power plant from a robust & reputable company who can produce them to order and allow you to focus on the rest of the car – after all a supercar is MUCH more than just an engine. McLaren have therefore invested heavily in design & technology to produce ultralight carbon chassis’s, magneto-electric suspension, active airflow and much more and the end result is breath-taking performance coupled with almost everyday usability and reliability (especially when compared to the almost infamous “my Ferrari runs when it wants to” syndrome!)

In the world of Horology, consider ETA who were founded in 1793 by 4 master watchmakers. For over 200 years ETA have been creating and perfecting watch movements, and the results speak for themselves: ETA reliability is renown the world over.

However in response to concerns of a monopoly and to fuel innovation, ETA has been reducing the number of movements it supplies the industry and reciprocally brands have been forced to innovate. The upshot of this is that Tudor for one have generated a series of movements known as the MT5000 series movement (MT standing for “Manufacture Tudor”) and shared this movement with Breitling who reciprocally share their B01 Chronograph movement with Tudor. This reduces both companies dependency on ETA while meeting their own needs for a variety of movement complications.

Interestingly, both Omega and Hamilton used ETA movements as a starting point for creating their own movements. Omega chose the 2892 as a starting point for creating their first co-axial movement – the 2500 calibre, and Hamilton chose the 2824 as the basis of its H-10 movement with an incredible 80 hours of power reserve.

However unlike ETA who have been producing watch movements for over 200 years, these movements have not yet proven the test of time (no pun intended) and likewise Omega have gone through a number of iterations perfecting their co-axial calibre due to reliability issues. However modern ETA movements have been produced for decades and can be serviced by virtually any competent watchmaker. So in my mind, an ETA movement in my watch is a value-proposition – like having a BMW engine in your car without the ownership costs.

Unlike the motoring industry, many watch manufacturers have become the subject of damning criticism – suggesting that the price of the watches they sell is far too high considering it “only has an ETA movement”. In my opinion this reduces the value of a watch to only the movement alone. However the Tudor Black Bay – which when launched, housed an ETA 2824-2 movement has a legendary build quality. The Bezel has an action that is arguably second only to Rolex, the dial, case & finishing are superb as is the bracelet and straps.

Likewise with Bremont – while so many watch manufacturers make watches that are incredibly similar or generic across the industry, there is no such thing as “lazy design” here. Their unique approach to watch manufacturing and engineering, case quality and design have proven themselves – being asked to develop a watch which will survive the rigours of being ejected from an aircraft are a testimony in themselves to their investment. Much like the Omega Speedmaster’s heritage in space, I feel Bremont are carving their own heritage in aviation with their Martin-Baker range and are justifiably living up to their name-sake of “Tested beyond Endurance”. When you consider these two examples its easy to see a watch and its value is far more than the movement it contains.

One last and very interesting point is that for decades, Patek Philipe did not use its own movements but ones supplied by Jaeger LeCoultre. – Arguably the worlds most expensive watch company using someone else’s movement. Interestingly people don’t express the same criticism towards Patek for doing exactly the same. So if its good enough for Patek………

So whats your perspective? I’m interested to hear how you feel about the movement of the watch on your wrist, and what makes a good watch.

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