Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sinn 157 Part2

Well here it is on the wrist:

Note the AR symbol on the dial (Argon filled) and the little CuSO4 capsule in the body on the LH side to trap and detect moisture in the watch (by turning blue).
Timing: Currently settling down from +2s/day to about +1s/day.
Weight: This is the Ti version that is so much lighter than the stainless steel version. You can set the bracelet so as not to pinch without it slopping down to your hand under its own weight.
Winding: You can clearly hear it autowinding unlike the Sinn EZM-1 I had that never wound itself.
Chrono reset: There was some evidence of the 'chrono reset issue' but as I use the chrono practically everyday it has improved with use. At the extensive gallery of Lemania 5100 (and Omega 1045) movement photographs maintained by Sergio Lorenzon at his very useful WatchScape site, you can see that the chrono seconds reset hammer is actuated less positively than the minute and hour. On the occasions that it doesn't quite reset, you just run the chrono a few seconds and hit reset again. Freeing it up with use and being positive to the bottom of the push of the reset button seems to do the trick.
Legibility: The anti-glare matte black dial and crystal, combined with bright hands the correct lengths for their individual functions and the 5100 layout make for phenomenal legibility.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sinn 157 with a Lemania 5100

Thanks to for the excellent picture.

Arguably one of the best designed and best looking watches in the Sinn range, it also houses the cool Lemania 5100 chronograph movement. Inspired by Chuck Maddox's discussion about it and knowing that it was discontinued, I got one for posterity. Mine's got the optional Argon fill and Copper sulphate dry-capsule. Out of the box it's running +2s/day and doesn't seem to suffer the winding woes that afflicted my previous Sinn EZM-1. But, boy those bracelet screws were tight again, make sure you don't go in there without being armed with a quality 1.2mm slot head screwdriver! And don't forget a dab of Loctite 242 or 243 to finish.....

Check out the funky tachy and pulse DUAL scales. The first 18 s registers a "15 pulse count" scale and the remainder a traditional tachymeter scale, The dial is matte black and coupled with antireflection coating on the inside of the sapphire makes for supreme readability. The red chrono hands distinctly differentiates chrono time from normal time. Of course, the 5100 characteristic chrono minute hand makes for fast chronograph time readings. The implicit and instant readability of this approach leaves you wondering, why aren't all chronos like this? You are so programmed to read the time like that you can't believe what a difference it is to read compared to a normal chrono with a 30 min subdial.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

My visit to Bristol Cars

Ever since I was a boy I remember being intrigued by the 411 in my “Observer’s Book of Automobiles.” My father told me that “it was a Bristol” and “they’re very exclusive.” I often read Setright referring to some feature of a Bristol in his many articles for Car and somehow the big friendly foursome of head lamps and the purposeful haunch appealed to a small boy fascinated by cars. It clearly left an indelible impression as, twenty five years later, my heart jumped as I realised the shape coming into view ahead of my Fireblade on the long, fast, rollercoaster straights of the A303 was a 411. As I passed, I slowed down to exchange waves and when later stopped at the roadside for a break I got another acknowledgement from the grinning owner as he came past almost silently and then disappeared into the distance.

Two years pass and my brother-in-law was looking for a Jaguar XJC and whilst reviewing classic car sources, my mind went back to Bristols and later, I found myself involuntarily surfing and looking at the (now usual) sites and guides on “What Bristol” and decided to follow the man himself’s advice and see what BCL had to offer first. Mr Crook picked up the phone sounding like he was in an aircraft hanger and a pleasurable phone call elicited a speedy response as next morning I had an envelope containing photocopies of roadtests and such of the cars I was interested in along with his own comments and notes (illegible felt-tip scrawl mostly) on spare spaces and in the margins.

And so came the day of the trip to Bristol Cars Ltd showroom. I pushed open the sticking door and was greeted by a pleasant gentleman who informed me that Mr Crook was at lunch. As I had an appointment and had appeared punctually I have to say I was a little disappointed at the tardiness. Several minutes after two o’clock, in shuffled a rather dishevelled gentleman with unkempt hair dyed black but with a good half inch of grey roots, a lot older than any pictures I’d seen of him and reminding me very much of my father in his deliberate, articulate and considered voice. In fact I later discovered that they are as good as the same age. The cars for me to see were brought up from the basement by the pleasant gentleman round to a little double yellow lined lay-by outside and we strolled out. Surrounded by the timeless ambience of London, Routemaster buses and black Hackney carriages, I felt transported back thirty years, but as I got closer, my initial impressions were not good. The paint was flaking off the body in places, the dashboard varnish was cracked, the door bins lining material was peeling and lifting and the speedometer would wave about when driving. On one of the cars the boot wouldn’t shut and on the other the door window gap to the body was a gaping half-inch…. The whole ambience wasn’t characterful so much as just plain “tired daily driver” and certainly not something worth the money being asked. When I questioned the condition, TC’s view was that doing “cosmetic” work like that was “betterment” of the cars. Hmmmm. Here was a car that was being offered in pretty tired cosmetic condition by all accounts. I will say nothing about the mechanical or functional integrity, as I was not afforded the luxury of a mechanical inspection; but let’s just assume that being a BCL supplied car that aspect was tip-top. When questioning the condition versus price from other suppliers, TC was very forthright in emphasising that “a lot of mechanical work” might be required of other cars available from other sources to get them to the functional condition of official BCL cars. Essentially he rubbished well respected Bristol specialists which did not impress me in the slightest and after the drives when I said, “I’d think about it” I was soon mentally discarded and eventually not even seen out.

Photo of a 411 from Bristols Cars website

I have to say, as you can probably determine by the tone, I was extremely disappointed with the whole experience. It would be nice to report to you that it was a charming experience and I fulfilled a boyhood dream of purchasing a Bristol from the showroom, but you can guess I didn’t and based on vehicles like that I won’t, but I continue to look for and ponder over one for the future because driving one (in particular a 6.6 litre 411) was a great and unique experience (and to put this into context let’s just simply say I have driven quite a few different cars…..)

Immediate impressions leaving the showroom lay-by: you can see the corners of the car and navigating it in tight traffic is easy; the oomph from the engine is ‘right there’, but just as soon gone when cruising is required; the ride-handling compromise is deservedly legendary; probably closest to a modern XJ (in touring trim) more Daimler Super V8 than XJR though. I would love to sample a modern Blenheim and would love to hear from anyone out there who has done so to see if this kind of DNA has carried on through to the current cars.

In this world, it would be a shame for BCL to disappear, and TC can be loved for continuing to produce unique cars, but with his attitude maybe it’s just a good job too that he has handed over to Toby Silverton.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Understanding a JLC Master Control Test Report Printout

One of the best bits of the Master Control Test report is the following printout:

Column 1: Position.

VB = Vertical Bas (Crown Down)
VG = Vertical Gauche (Crown Left)
VH = Vertical Haut (Crown Up)
VD = Vertical Droit (Crown Right)
HH = Horizontal Haut (Dial Up)
HB = Horizontal Bas (Dial Down)

An ideal case is where a watch runs at the same rate irrespective of force feeding the escapement i.e. the power in the spring. So the testing in the 6 positions is carried out fully wound (0 h) and after 24 hours (24 h) .

Columns 2 and 3: Daily rate: The corresponding rates for each position you can see in columns 2 (0 h) and 3 (24 h).

Column 4: Difference in daily rate. Simply the difference between columns 2 and 3 (a low number would be good).

Columns 5 and 6: Beat Error. This is the number of milliseconds difference between the length of a tick and a tock. It's just a check of whether the watch is "in beat", i.e. with the balance wheel unfed with power, does it naturally rest in the middle of its swing? Column 5 (0 h) and column 6 (24 h)

Column 7 and 8: Balance Wheel Amplitude. You can clearly see the lower amplitude in the cases after 24 hours running (numbers like 267 deg dropping to 228 deg for example).

Delta: The maximum difference across any of the positions (in this example -1 to +3 gives a delta of 4 at 0h and +4 to -3 gives a delta of 7 at 24 h.

Val. m: is the average accuracy of the watch in every position rounded to one significant figure. It is the sums of column 2 and then column 3 respectively divided by 6.

Isochron max: The maximum difference in rate shown between 0 h and 24 h running in any of the positions.

"Qualit├Ąt N. = 2.5" is a result generated by the machine which is not used by JLC.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Rant

Memovox "Polaris"
Model Ref No. E859 was a diver watch especially designed and produced for the American market between 1965 to 1970. Polaris looks like this:

Calibre 825
18000 vibrations per hour
17 jewels
Shock Protected
Direct Centre Seconds
Black Dial
Tritium Hour-markers
Calypso, Baton and Dauphine option Tritium Hands (but argument rages over the originality of Calypso variant)
Nylon Straps
Case Diameter 42mm
Organic Glass
22mm Strap width
Diving Alarm watch - Self winding Calendar
Stainless Steel Case
W.R. to 650 ft.

There are many more pictures collected by Polaris enthusiast Mike Margolis here.

JLC issued a watch called the AMVOX1:

which draws inspiration from Polaris, but is in no way a proper dive watch (50m W.R. rating and illegible bezel). This picture was the first on the internet and taken by the mighty Jaw at ThePurists. I posted my first hand impressions of it here.

The official press shot looks like this although the released watch had a modified bezel to aid orientation of '0' minutes:

I love Magali Metrailler's visions, but IMHO they need interpreting more by some guiding lights at JLC before production. Products that stand the test of time (and sometimes achieve cult following) are usually devoid of rag and fluff and concentrate on function, useability and have a real purpose. Here is a mock-up of how I think AMVOX1 can be improved functionally even without destroying Magali's design vision of a car intrument:

Sadly it does not look like JLC will re-issue a proper Polaris having seemingly felt the job was done with Compressor Memovox (picture below right). Check out how much closer to the original it could have been in my mock-up (picture below left) even including the new features of compressor keys and crescent shaped alarm time window :

However, what would be nice is a real successor to Polaris. Vadim at ThePurists mocked up the perfect new Polaris to my specification:

Thanks Vadim, great artwork.

Velociphile’s Fantasy Polaris Reissue Specification.

I think there are three ways of approaching this:
1. a no compromise facsimile
2. an update
3. a softly tuned up replica that can satisfy those who want #1 with some appropriate and advantageous updates.

Clearly there is nothing to discuss if we look at #1, the no compromise facsimile; just make Polaris again with everything the same except for the free sprung balance from Autotractor. JLC have already done #2, the Compressor Memovox; a controversial, unsatisfying effort to Polaris cognoscenti. So I think we’re aiming at #3.

I've tried to make my spec as true to Polaris as possible, but I think I’ve taken some good advantage of incorporating new things discretely.

Features as follows:
- Alarm
- Date at 3 o'clock
- Inner timing bezel - one way ratchet for safety
- Centre seconds
- WR to 200m

Velociphile's new features:
- Dual time function.
- Power reserve on back

Personal bias, but I think you could add hands like the DualTime giving a discrete and useful function. Clearly, they’re not seen when not used so don’t detract from the Polaris face. As for power reserve, I find that sooooo useful and such an unfortunate omission on the Compressor Geo. I think we can pop that function on the back so it’s not seen in normal use.

Moving on to the body, it should be replica shape and size - absolutely the same as Polaris. Velociphile's new features: Titanium - Lightweight and more scratch resistant. As for precious metal versions, no thanks!…….. Oh all right then, 50 platinum ones it is.

Dial should be a replica design: absolutely the same as Polaris; in particular the type face and colour. Velociphile's features: No stupid words like 'replica' or 're-issue' or 'ltd edition' on the dial. Anti reflection surface finish.

Hands to be exact replica shape.

The movement is obviously a highly contentious and emotive feature. I’m going to stay away from being prescriptive here knowing that JLC can be trusted to put in an awesome movement. Velociphile's features: Autotractor style features such as ceramic bearings and super strong balance wheel bridge design, free sprung mass adjustable balance. And how about applying a coaxial escapement as Daniels' patent is nearly expired. The aim of these being to give a reliable, durable and low maintenance movement.

The back to be replica design with 're-issue design feature or words' if necessary. Velociphile's features: Flip open solid Ti back to reveal movement under sapphire glass. Power reserve hidden inside.

Crowns. Three on the R/H side to match original. Preferably no keys, but I think JLC would never do this. Personally, I foresee the crowns as being the main stumbling block for JLC. The question is “How can JLC re-issue Polaris with the original R/H 3 crown design without compromising the credibility of the use of their key system in other Compressor series watches?” As I thought more, I realised that we might have to accept the use of keys there, but I’ve tried to consider how they could even package let alone have their (ugly IMHO) visual impact lessened.

Velociphile's new features: Middle screw crown - not too inconvenient for time setting etc. Outer crowns to use new, more discrete key system (maybe a half key design which I suggested before it was released on the chronogrpah) so not to clash with the centre crown but allow quicker setting than a screw crown for alarm and bezel functions. It's not true replica detail, but it might just be acceptable to JLC and fans.

Strap to be modern material version of original strap and buckle. Velociphile's new features: should be supplied with both Ti bracelet and above strap. Micro-adjust version of both. Wet suit adjustment clasp. How about 60s style bracelet - much like unloved Master series.

Crystal to be sapphire with new type of non scratch antireflection coat! That’s it.

And finally,

I'm not hung up on a 'replica' as such, I'm not interested in JLC copying it, but I'm interested in them making Polaris as part of their product line - I mean more like it should have never been stopped.

Take the Speedmaster, give or take some straight lugs and the switch of movement from Cal 321 and some words on the dial and there you have it: the same watch made for nearly 50 years. Awesome. And it doesn't stop Omega from making masses of other things. You can choose a new one or seek out a straight lug vintage one. With Polaris you haven't got the choice.

I remember discussing design of mountain bikes with a high up employee of a very well known brand at an engineering seminar. I asked how they saw the ultimate suspension bike in the future; how they were developing towards it, giving the rider the best performance and so on. Answer: "Nah, we're only interested in new product designs and style to keep ahead of the Taiwanese copies....." Smoke, mirrors, fluff and meddling - not progress towards a better MTB.

I work in R&D and we forever keep finding that we're right first time out of the box with a new system/idea. When we try modifications it usually makes things worse not better. Like a band's first album is very often the best, Polaris was perfect first time and in fact the Compressor Memovox is the copy.....
Imagine a developed, newer Polaris with the new movements and materials of 40 years of progress that's what I'm after.

Let's hope JLC have a change of heart.