On an aftermarket Maratac band

The 224 is another of Adi’s watches that is marketed to the Israeli Defense Forces. It is in many ways a combination of the best features of the two previous Adi military models that I have reviewed here. The 224 has the Miyota T201 movement of the Ana-Digi Diver housed in the shrouded case of the Model 221. The result is a best of both worlds combination between the feature rich analog/digital movement and a case design that will accept pretty much any 22mm band.

The watch measures 42 mm in width (not including the crown and pushers) 13 mm in height, 43 mm lug to lug and uses a 22mm band. Like the previously reviewed model 221, the 224 wears smaller than it’s dimensions would suggest thanks to the short lug length. That makes it quite comfortable on the wrist.

In all other respects, the 224 is identical to the previously reviewed Ana-digi diver. It boasts the same 200 meter water resistance (again accomplished without a screw down crown) and it’s movement has the same feature set as the other model too. The lume is superluminova that is quite visible in darkness and the digital display pane has a small backlight. The alarm function works well enough to remind you of an appointment or the like but is not loud enough to use as an alarm clock.

I think that this is my favorite of Adi’s military watches so far. I particularly appreciate that I can change watchbands easily. The stock rubber diver’s band is just fine but I think a Nato or Zulu would work well with this watch too. I feel pretty comfortable recommending the 224 as a good beater. I gave the model 221 to my 13 yr old son about a year ago and he has ‘t managed to destroy it yet. That suggests that the 224 with it’s similar case design should hold up well too.

The 224 isn’t the easiest of Adi’s watches to track down. The one retailer that I found who had it was israel-shop.net. Their price was reasonable but their shipping time at three weeks could have been better. Still, it arrived with no problems so I can’t really complain. All told, the 224 is a fine field watch that should give good service. I think it’s a keeper.


On a Hirsch Trapper for a change of pace

On a Nilsen Bund

Here’s a question for you. When is a Vostok not a Vostok. The answer-when it’s an Ostwok. For those of you who are now scratching your heads, I’m quite serious. It seems that back in the mid 1990s a Swiss company was formed for the purpose of selling rebranded Vostok models to western customers. (See this thread on Watchuseek for more discussion). The company was named Ostwok and was in business from 1995 until roughly 2000. Their products were otherwise ordinary Vostok Komandirskie and Generalskie models except that the logo on the watch face was changed (See images above. That’s not a Vostok logo). Otherwise, the Ostwok is a Vostok in all other respects. This particular model uses a Vostok 2414A stemwinder movement. It shipped with a typical Vostok leather band (which is to say a terrible watchband that I swapped for this leather bund strap). The packaging was a little nicer than a typical Vostok’s and included a small catalog of the company’s available selection (see above). All in all, the Ostwok is an interesting footnote in Russian watchmaking history. FYI, I got this one on ebay. Examples turn up there from time to time.

The Recession Bracelet

September 5, 2009

Update-I found a bracelet on ebay that really looks quite similar to the original. It is not a solid link design but for a whopping $16 shipped, I wasn’t going to argue 🙂 Tag should really be ashamed at the price they try to get for these bracelets. There is really no justification for it in my opinion.

After five years of fairly regular wear and abuse, the stock bracelet on my Tag Formula One was looking a bit pooped. It had gotten loose and some of the links appeared to have been stretched and laterally twisted a bit. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have just sprung for a new factory bracelet and let that be that. However, at well over $200 for an OEM bracelet, the economy and the wreckage of my portfolio ruled that option out.

My poor man’s solution to this problem was to very carefully Dremel down the end links on an old Hadley Roma bracelet that I got a few years earlier. It is a well made Breitling style solid link bracelet whose heft nicely balances the beefy Formula One.

I’m quite happy with the results of this project. For no out of pocket cost, I was able to put an old favorite back into the rotation.

On a Modena rubber diver’s band

On a Maratac Nato “Bond”

I was very pleased to find this edition of the Ministry Amphibia. Mechanically, this watch is the same as the previously reviewed version. The design on the face of this model though is, in my humble opinion, the best looking version of this line of watches. The raised markers are unique to modern Vostok divers. They somehow give the watch a more sophisticated look to my eye. Despite appearances though, the raised markers are not luminous. (The lume is standard Vostok btw-terrible, that is) The band in the photos above is an aftermarket Nato Bond. I think it works well with this one. I got it here. The stock bracelet was better than most Vostok bracelets but nothing to write home about. Still, for a staggering $64/shipped (Ebay seller-Zenitar), its hard to argue with this big 200m automatic diver. Like most Vostoks, it is solid, well made and easily affordable.

More Interesting Russians

April 12, 2009

Another pair of old Vostoks. The upper one is very unusual. It is a Komandirskie with a chrome plated brass case and a 31 jewel automatic movement. It is in NOS condition and arrived in its original box with the stock strap (which I swapped out for the nylon band you see). What makes it so unusual is the dial graphic. It commemorates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Given the historic tension that existed between Israel and the Soviet client states of the Middle-East, the existence of this model strikes me as remarkable.

The watch on the bottom is a Soviet built Amphibia with a stainless steel case. Unlike most of these diver watches, this one was equipped with a 17 jewel Vostok 2409 hand-wound movement and an iron anti-magnetic shield inside the case over the movement. It too is in NOS condition and is pictured on a period Soviet made stainless steel bracelet.

A diamond in the rough

March 28, 2009

One of the things that I love about this hobby is how it is possible to have fun with it without spending a fortune. While it is always a pleasure to acquire a really nice watch, the fact is that in these times a good deal counts for a lot. The watch you see above, an early to mid 1990’s Vostok Komandirskie, perfectly illustrates the enjoy the hobby without breaking the bank theory.

(As an aside, if you want a full review of a Vostok Komandirskie, check out this review I did of another example. Pretty much everything I said then is still true).

While on my way home from work a few days back, I stopped in a local jeweler/junk shop. In a box at the back of the jewelers case, I spied this Vostok. The crystal was scratched and the case had some gunk on it but it fired right up when wound. After hemming and hawing with the proprietor for a few minutes, he agreed to let it go for the princely sum of $10. That seemed too good to pass up.

I probably should have taken a before picture of this one to illustrate its condition better. To make it simple, the crystal needed a good hour of polishing with Crystal Clear (which I highly recommend for removing scratches from acrylic crystals by the way) and the case needed a thorough going over with a damp toothbrush. The movement, however, looked perfect. There was no evidence of dirt or water damage at all.

I expected that this old watch would need at least some regulation but, as it turns out, it’s nearly as accurate as most of the other mechanical watches I own (Seems to be gaining about 20 seconds a day. I can live with that). That pleasant surprise was the icing on the cake for me. The bottom line is that there are some good deals out there for us collectors if we are prepared to use our imagination and a little elbow grease. Not a bad way to keep a hobby going, even in rough times like these.

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.