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William McCleary

William McCleary

First Published: December 09, 2018
Following a lengthy stint as an Entertainment Reporter in Hollywood, William focuses on writing for the travel and lifestyle sectors. His clients include Google, Hotels.com, and AccorHotels, specializing in website content, SEO-friendly blog posts and product-marketing copy. He also pens a wide range of feature articles, microcopy and a slew of social media content.
  1. Articles by William McCleary
  2. 6 Affordable Pilot Watches

    When considering affordable watches, pilot watches often aren’t the first timepieces that might come to mind. Pilot watches came to fame in the Jet Set Age. A golden era of air travel when a small but glamorous subset of the population enjoyed globetrotting in luxurious style. The first pilot watches were precise tools used by aviators for navigation, with price tags to match their much-needed precision. But things have changed since the first glory days of accessible air travel. The prices of many pilot watches have dropped to put them within reach of the average consumer. Let’s look at some of the top affordable options. Deals for Less Than $200 Orient Flight Orient goes for a classic look with its Flight, keeping the dial straightforward yet still sleek feeling with large Arabic numerals contrasting slim minute markers on the outer perimeter of the face. The contrast continues with a black-and-white color scheme for easy visibility, aided by luminescent hands and markers. Probably not the watch you want to wear to the office, the Flight is more suited to your dressed-down times. Stührling Original Aviator Developed by the German Air Force, Flieger style is instantly recognizable, with large steel cases, oversized crowns, sword-shaped hands, and a signature triangle at the 12-o’clock position. The Stührling Original Aviator stays true to that classic design. This traditional watch feels elegant enough for dressier times when fitted with a fine leather strap, yet it can also skew quite casual. That’s in part because at 41mm in diameter it’s smaller than many Flieger (which means “airman” in German) watches that go as high as 55mm in case diameters. Seiko Flightmaster Quite the opposite of Stührling’s strict adherence to traditional pilot-watch design, Seiko heaps its dial and bezel with a massive helping of information to create an analog “flight computer.” Whether it’s visually impressive or a frenetic eyesore depends on the beholder. But none can deny the Flightmaster’s functionality, a sheer marvel for anyone who wants to geek out with calculations. The bezel recreates a conventional slide rule, capable of an almost incalculable number of computations, in conjunction with three chronograph subdials. And all of that is packed into a 42mm watch, which makes it wear smaller than the first-glance overload might lead you to believe. Pilot Picks Under $500 Hamilton Khaki King Pilot Hamilton doesn’t diverge much from the Flieger formula, and again we see the classic round case, large crown, black-and-white scheme, sword-shaped hands, and even the 12 o’clock triangle. But, as Hamilton is known to do, there are features that take things up a few pegs. The day-date window on the dial is a nice subtle touch. A sapphire crystal is anti-reflective and scratch-resistant, while the watch is water-resistant up to 200 meters. Its crisp, clean design gives it almost a regal air, especially when paired with a black leather strap. Laco 42mm Pilot Watch While Laco may not be a household name, the brand is well known among watch lovers, especially those with penchants for pilots. That’s because Laco was actually involved in creating watches for the German Air Force in the 1940s. Rhose that serve as the design inspiration for pilot watches to this day. So it’s not surprising we find all of the hallmarks of a Flieger watch here — case, hands, and indices all according to time-honored tradition. But Laco throws in some nice new touches. Such as a riveted leather band, sapphire crystal, and numbers coated with Superluminova C3. Simple in the best possible sense of the word, the Laco pilot is about as classic as you can get. Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph We think of pilot watches as made for the folks who fly aircraft, but Bulova reminds us that they’ve made watches for pilots of spacecraft as well. A Bulova chronograph was used to make critical calculations on the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. It was one of the dozens of NASA launches that the watchmakers have joined. So, as you might expect, we see something of a departure from terrestrial style with the Lunar Pilot. It features a silver-toned tonneau-shaped case instead of round and polished stainless steel and a floating second hand. Dress this one up on a textured black leather strap, or down on a black nylon band. So what are you waiting for? If you can afford $100 (or even less!) you can pick up a really nice pilot watch. And if you’re willing to go a little higher, then slipping a fine aviation timepiece that performs well beyond its price tag is well within your reach.

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  3. 6 Top Affordable Field Watches

    More than most other timepieces, field watches are often affordable watches because they are basically designed to do one thing: tell time. They’re also built to withstand the blows of battlefields and steeped in over a century of military history. They’re fabulous when you’re looking to wear a little vintage flair. If you want all that at an affordable price, here are some of your best options. Bargains for Under $100 Bucks Timex Expedition Scout The Timex Expedition Collection is a great place to start if you’re on the hunt for an affordable field watch, as the choices range from $50 to $100. The brand has proven itself over more than a century. Timex’s famed slogan of “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” certainly applies to their field watches. The Expedition Ranger and Expedition Pioneer lines have solid offerings. The Scout 40 distinguishes itself with a no-nonsense design that embodies the true essence of a military watch, without trying to do anything else. On a leather strap, it could easily be your go-to watch to pair with everyday attire. Seiko 5 Automatic Field Watch Timex and Seiko have been battling each other for dominance in the entry-level market for over a century. The competition has yielded some amazing watches at surprisingly low prices. So it’s no wonder that the Seiko 5 field watch is a strong competitor with the Timex Scout. And the Japanese offering just might edge out its American counterpart if you prefer automatic movement over quartz. While the Seiko 5 takes the same no-frills approach to military design, it does so with a little more subtlety. Doing so notably with the SNK809 model that measures 37mm in diameter, offering a low profile with the same casual coolness. Field Watches for Less than $200 The range of field watches you can pick up for that price difference widens considerably. It also opens you up to more automatic options. Getting an automatic movement for less than $200 is a great deal with any type of timepiece. Citizen BM8180 True, automatic purists may still not approve, but the quartz movement on this Citizen field watch is solar powered! Beyond the classic military design with the black-and-white scheme and round stainless steel case, the BM8180 adds extra toughness with 100 meters of water resistance. It’ll never be a “dress watch,” but it’s understated enough to dress up somewhat on a leather strap. However, this rough-and-ready timepiece really belongs on a thick woven-canvas band in military green. Orient Defender Orient has long been the brand that many look to for low-cost dress watches, and the Orient Bambino is legendary for its affordable sophistication. The same holds true for the Defender, an automatic field watch that almost defies definition. It is firmly rooted in military-style, with black-and-white or olive-green motifs in a round stainless steel case. But the Defender takes a big swerve away from field style with asymmetric subdials on its face. It gives this watch plenty of unique personality. Much more than other field watches, the Defender wears as well on a link bracelet as it does on a canvas band. Top Picks for Under $500 By their very nature, field watches are not meant to be luxury timepieces. They are watches made for soldiers in action. But that hasn’t stopped upscale brands from infusing field watches with some subtle refinement. Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic There’s no surprise this one makes the list. Ask any aficionado about a field watch and almost inevitably they’ll point you to the Hamilton Khaki Field, either their Old School mechanical version or the precision-crafted automatic. The Hamilton Khaki Field sticks to the military script, with an olive green or black face, white numerals and indices (or the reverse), and a stainless steel case. But it does so with a cosmopolitan vibe that makes it feel exquisitely modern. Plus, there’s 25-jewel Swiss automatic movement with 80 hours of reserve power, a sapphire crystal on the front, and an exhibition case on the back. Luminox Atacama Field Day 1925 Luminox brings out a big bold statement with its Atacama 1925 field watch, full of swagger at 45mm across. Yet it doesn’t wear with brash arrogance, largely thanks to its traditional style that takes its cues from military watches of the 1920s. Like others in the Atacama Field Collection, such as the 1927, the 1925 takes a departure from the usual field watch style, going with a gunmetal PVD case instead of the traditional polished stainless steel. A vintage-inspired black dial features big brown hour markers and numerals that feel lifted right out of the trench warfare of old. The throwback vibe continues with a brown leather strap and its ivory contrast stitching. Maybe you’re on the hunt for a military-inspired bargain. Or you might be willing to spend a little extra for a field watch with unique style and fine craftsmanship. However you lean, there’s surely an affordable field watch out there for you.

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  4. 3 Most Common Watch Styles

    Among the broad range of watch styles to choose from, a few types of popular watches always grab our attention: dress, field, and dive watches. Let’s look at why we love these pervasive and prized timepieces. Watch Styles’ Elegance of Dress Watches If you’ve been given a watch as a gift for a life event, say graduation or a big new job, chances are pretty good that it was a dress watch. Because dress watches are about so much more than dressing up. A dress watch embraces the expectation of a promising future in which a display of refinement on your wrist is only fitting. Many feel a dress ensemble simply isn’t truly complete until you’ve slipped on an elegant dress watch. What Makes a Good Dress Watch? There’s no simple answer. Watch styles like dress watches have some of the loosest definitions when compared to others like chronographs and field watches, which tend to stay more in their own lanes with regard to how you can wear them. We see lots of other watches filling in for dress watches. For example, you can easily fit a dive watch with an alligator strap to go dressy with a fine suit. James Bond rarely even bothered to swap out his Oyster bracelet when going black tie with his divers. But if you want to keep things classic and traditional, which is what fine dress watches do, there are a few aspects to look for. They’re simple. Dress watches don’t overload with complications, multiple subdials, extra windows, or pronounced indices. Things that cry out for attention, which we absolutely love on other timepieces, are best left off of a dress watch. Examples of this classic approach to understated elegance are too many to list but think of iconic favorites like the Patek Philippe Calatrava, Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control, and the A Lange & Sohne Saxonia. They’re on the small side. When the Calatrava was introduced back in the 1930s, it was just 31mm in diameter. Sure, most watches were smaller back then, but the diminutive size set a precedent. Today’s Calatrava’s are in the 35mm to 40mm range, the latter being the unofficial ceiling for dress-watch size. Anything over 40mm and you’re inviting attention, the exact opposite of what a good dress watch intends. They’re made from precious metals. Usually, anyway, most often in yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold. While you can find lots of exceptions in stainless steel, from lower-end Grand Seiko’s to higher-end Omegas, gold is really the way to go with a dress watch. And keep in mind that dress watches aren’t just for dress occasions. Not at all! Pretty much any dress watch also works wonderfully with jeans and a t-shirt. Shop Watch Styles   Field Watches: Military Style Goes Metro Field watches are also called military watches, originally created for use on battlefields over a century ago. But today’s field watches, while they still embody that rugged heritage, are much more at home at upscale bistros, modern offices, and on relaxed weekends spent strolling farmers’ markets. A few key features of field watches include: They’re built tough. While some more modern incarnations go with titanium, carbon fiber, or PVD coating, a traditional field watch has a stainless steel case. They’re made tough enough to take any knocks one might encounter in the heat of battle, even though your combat might only be a fight against rush hour traffic. More than twice as hard as white gold and platinum, stainless steel is highly resistant to scratches, dings, and dents. Field watches pair well with leather for a dressier look but generally feel more at home on a canvas strap. They’re easy to read. Most field watches feature black dials with white numerals and markings. Olive drab, also known as military green, is also widely used as the dial color. The high-contrast design is for easy visibility at a glance, as is the generous lume and glare-proof crystals we usually see on field watches. You’re spoiled for choices when it comes to field watches, with nice offerings in every price range. Some iconic favorites include the Hamilton Khaki Field, a well-crafted classic that truly embodies the original military spirit. The Timex Expedition Scout is a great low-budget option, while the Tudor Heritage Ranger is a popular choice on the higher end. Watch Styles: Diving into Divers   Dive watches have been around for nearly a century, starting with the water-resistant Rolex Oyster we met in 1927. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that divers went mainstream when the Rolex Submariner, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and Zodiac Sea Wolf all competing for the emerging scuba-diving market. They’re made for underwater use. So, obviously, they’re water-resistant, usually up to at least 100 meters. Dive watches have rotating bezels, originally used to gauge oxygen tanks, though computers do those calculations today. They have corrosion-resistant cases of stainless steel or titanium, and plenty of lume for visibility underwater. Most also have screw-down crowns to keep the water out. They’re style statements. Most people who wear dive watches aren’t going gonzo with plunges into the ocean depths. So dive style is adaptable to a number of occasions on land. Most dive watches are medium-sized and lend themselves to a wide span of attires, from super casual, to business casual, and up to business dress. But don’t take it too far. Unless you’re James Bond, never pair a dive watch with a tuxedo. With close to 100 years of dive watches to choose from, your options are almost innumerable. There are some serious classics in this category, such as the Omega Seamaster, Tudor Black Bay, and Rolex Deepsea. Splurge on gorgeous pieces like the Hublot Oceanographic or a Patek Philippe Nautilus. You can also do well with affordable options like the Orient Mako II or something reliable from Seiko’s line of dive watches. Shop Dive Watches Conclusion of Watch Styles So which will you choose? A dress watch for more formal times? A field watch to go casual cool or a dive watch for something sporty? Why not just go with all three!

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  5. Zelos Watches: Top 3 Collections

    Some great affordable watch brands have had humble beginnings, and that’s certainly the case with Zelos Watches. A 2014 Kickstarter campaign took the Singapore-based brand’s assets from near zero to around $80,000. This allowed founder Elshan Tang to break into the microbrand market. In the years since Zelos watches shown serious staying power with stunning designs and solid workmanship at reasonable prices. Most models featuring sapphire crystals, automatic movements, and high-grade materials such as 316L stainless steel. Zelos watches prove that high quality can come at a low cost. At least low when compared to more upscale brands such as Rolex and Omega, as the Zelos prices run the gamut from about $300 to $1,300. So what do we have in this price range that’s well within the reach of most watch lovers? Let’s take a look at three of their top collections. Relish Retro Style with the Hammerhead Drawing inspiration from cherished cushion-shaped dive watches from the 1960s and 1970s, the Hammerhead combines a vintage design with the technology of today. Hammerhead sharks are stealthy and strong. They’re often found stalking prey along the pressure-heavy ocean floor and using their namesake heads as weapons when they come across a quarry. So too the Zelos Hammerhead is one tough timepiece, with cases of either 316L steel or marine-grade bronze. For maximum protection, a double-domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal tops the dial, while the display caseback is similarly made of sapphire. The Hammerhead’s bezel continues the commitment to toughness with the option of zirconium-oxide ceramic. It is incredibly resistant to scratches, abrasions, and corrosion. The material is gauged several times more durable than stainless steel. It measures at an impressive 1,500 HV on the Vickers hardness test. Water-resistant up to 1,000 meters with a screw-down crown, the Hammerhead was literally built for swimming with sharks. For something truly unique, go with the meteorite version with a dial and bezel made from a meteorite. A meteorite, meteorite? Yup, a big old rock that was formed billions of years ago, hurtled through space for millennium on end, plummeted to earth in a fiery fall and then got sourced for a watch. Meteorite models are one of a kind as the patterns of no two space rocks are the same. Chroma for Minimalist Charm While the Hammerhead offers a big dose of bravado, the Chroma Collection comes in with subtle and understated warmth. With 42mm diameters, you might think that Chromas wear large, but the lack of lugs makes them come off considerably smaller than their actual size would suggest. Chroma watches do share some of the Hammerhead’s attributes in terms of toughness, such as sapphire crystals front and back, 316L stainless steel, bronze, or carbon fiber cases, along with water resistance up to 50 meters. But they also have finer sides, with versions that mix satin-brushed and polished stainless steel finishes with rose gold plating. Adding an elegant touch, 20mm straps are crafted from waxed crazy horse leather, coveted for the antique look they acquire as they age gracefully. The most affordable timepieces Zelos offers, nearly all of the watches in the Chroma line are priced between $269 and $299, with a few exceptions. One such outlier that’s priced at $499 is a limited edition made of Damascus steel, an alloy often used in making high-end knives that finishes with an eye-catching wood grain pattern. And these are all especially nice given the price, as they’re not quartz but actually automatics with Miyota 821A movements. Skyraider Takes Aviation to a New Era Zelos looked back to World War Two for inspiration in its latest aviation watch, named after the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. The famous fighter plane was revered for its resilience, serving as the last propeller-driven aircraft to fly missions for the United States Air Force. And while the design of the Skyraider Collection takes cues from classic pilot watches, we also get a modern take with meteorite and skeletonized dials among its contemporary notes. Cases go on the larger side with 42.5mm width and lug-to-lug spans of 50mm. And we go seriously Old School with a classic manual-wind movement. An ETA 6498 caliber with 44 hours of reserve power that originally got its start in pocket watches. The large crown is not screw-down and has no crown guards. That means it gives the watch a truly vintage look of pilot watches from a time gone by. Dials are eye-catching, each unique in their own distinct ways. The titanium and bronze case models offer dial options. Options including skeletonized, meteorite, and “atmosphere blue” with a turbine pattern and a gradient that goes from blue to black. A Muonionalusta meteorite that plummeted to what we today call Sweden about a million years ago offers a one-of-a-kind pattern. The skeletonized version shows us the inner workings, topped by hands with a generous amount to C3-Super-LumiNova. That guards against legibility issues we sometimes see with skeletonized watches. Zelos Watches Conclusion Following that first fateful Kickstarter campaign, Elshan Tang did more. Elshan went on to create a series of successful crowd-sourced initiatives. He raised more than a million dollars for his watchmaking enterprises. Most days you can find him hunched over a workbench at his Singapore studio. As he is busy working on the next great Zelos watches.

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  6. 5 Reasons Why Mk II Watches Are Good Watches

    You may wonder if Mk II watches are indeed good watches. It’s a fair question as the microbrand has flown somewhat under the radar and occupies an odd space in the watchmaking world. They do homages, contemporary takes on classic designs that could be disastrous in the wrong hands. But Mk II watches do this arguably better than anyone else. Here are a few reasons why. 1: The Spirit of Bill Yao Founder Bill Yao is about as hands-on as a company head can get. Literally. He’s often found at his workbench agonizing over every little detail on whatever watch he’s currently fixated on. A graduate of the elite Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Yao turned away from the world of high finance and a lucrative career on Wall Street. Instead, he followed his love of tinkering with timepieces and started making aftermarket parts for Seiko watches. That passion project would eventually lead to his launching Mk II Watches in 2002, based in the suburbs of Philadelphia where Yao was born and raised. And while Mk II has a range of ready-made offerings, they’re equally known for their customizations that are done by Bill himself. That kind of personalized attention requires patience from his loyal fans, who can wait months or even years until their one-of-a-kind creation is complete. 2: The Turbulent Tale of the Kingston If you’ve heard nearly nothing about Mk II, which is the case for many a non-watch-geek, the little you have heard probably involves the Kingston. It’s the watch that put the fledgling company on the map and nearly caused its downfall. It started with a simple idea. Yao wanted to create a watch that payed tribute the Rolex Submariner Reference 6538 worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond flick Dr. No. Sounds straightforward enough. He wanted to build it to match Rolex quality and offer that high-end craftsmanship at a price of just over $1,000. Okay, ambitious, but plausible given Yao’s skills. Soon enough, 100 trusting customers made pre-orders. But the financial crisis that was rippling across the world in 2009 had its say. From vendors to assembly and quality control, you name a stage of the watchmaking process and there was a problem facing Yao. Delays led to more delays, with months turning into years. Some customers even accused Yao of fraud. But, after five harrowing years, the last of the initial orders was delivered, though with little profit to show for the years of pain. Then fortune took a turn. The Kingston was so well received that nobody even talked about the disastrous rollout. Reviews were glowing. Some people started reselling the watches for two and three times the price they just paid. Many felt the homage actually outdid the original Rolex! Yao was suddenly famed for homage watches, renowned for creating affordable masterworks that were well worth the wait. Mk II had arrived. 3: They Transcend Homages Say the word “homage” and you can almost feel the collective eye roll of serious watch aficionados. But for Mk II watches, “homage” is a guiding principle, with a very specific meaning. That’s why the company is named Mark 2, as in the second version, common in military speak. Mark 2 is the new chapter in a watch’s story. So for Mk II, this second evolution of a timepiece means capturing the original style of watches from the past and making them more accessible with today’s technology. Mk II has some strict rules about how they handle homages. First, in order for a watch design to get the homage treatment, it must be at least 15 years old, and preferably much older. You can’t pay homage to a contemporary timepiece, that’s not how homages work. Second, the functionality of the homage must be equal to, or better than, the watch that they’re honoring. They don’t do cheap knock-offs. Third, the homage should bring value to a watch’s story. Changes and modern interpretations on original designs take the initial intent into account and attempt to honor that intention rather than simply go for similarity. 4: Modern Military Style Among the list of things that Mk II watches does well in, and that’s a solid list, perhaps none is better than making military-inspired watches. The Mk II Paradive goes in a different direction with its homage to military watches, notably with the Gen 3 model that mirrors the Benrus Type I divers watch that was issued to US soldiers during the Vietnam War. While looking decidedly modern, the Gen 3 echoes the style of the Benrus on its dial, bezel, and case without ever slipping into tactless imitation. Drawing inspiration from Rolex and Tudor’s MilSub, the Fulcrum is what Mk II likes to call its “American MilSub.” The Fulcrum is unique in the Mk II line as it doesn’t pay homage to any specific model, but rather the genre of vintage military watches as a whole. Instead of a diver-style rotating bezel, an American MilSub has a prominent twelve-hour unidirectional bezel. A bead-blasted steel case wears on the large side at 42mm in diameter, with anti-magnetism and a sapphire crystal adding durability. It’s ready for action on a sturdy rubber strap. 5: A Nice Price From the beginning, affordability was at the heart of Bill Yao’s plan. The goal was to make luxury watches accessible through imitation. And the reasonable price tags of their ready-to-wear timepieces prove that Mk II watches have succeeded. Offerings in their Cruxible line are available online for about $650, while their Hawkinge models cost even less at under $600. Their Paradive watches come in at just under $900. And for true bargains, they’re accepting pre-orders for their Stingray II and Tornek-Rayville watches at $450 each. None of this is to say that a Rolex isn’t worth the cost. Or that an homage to an Omega is better than the real thing. But if you broaden your thinking a bit, and understand the motivation behind an homage watch, a creation from Bill Yao’s MKII workshop just might be the next timepiece you put on your wrist.

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  7. An Introduction to Monta Watches

    Given the surge of boutique watch brands in recent years, Monta Watches may not have hit your radar screen. But maybe they should have. While headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, the microbrand makes all of its watches in Switzerland. They have a passion to preserve the centuries-old tradition of fine Swiss watchmaking. In less than five years Monta has earned the respect of watch aficionados. They’ve offered some serious competition to established brands. Let’s take a closer look at this American-born Swiss-made success story. It Started with the Oceanking In 2016, Monta watches debuted its first-ever offering. The Monta Oceanking may have been new but it owed much of its makeup to the greatest dive watches in the history of horology. Specifically, those from the 1950s, as the Oceanking is an unashamed homage to classics like the Rolex Sea-Dweller, Omega Seamaster, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and others that captured the imagination of adventurous watch lovers decades ago. The connection to Rolex is even deeper (pardon the pun) as the founders of Monta watches hail from Everest Horology, which produces rubber straps for Rolex sports watches. In design, the Oceanking checks all of the boxes that all great dive watches should. A 40mm stainless steel case has a large nearly-onion-shaped crown for easy underwater gripping. Its bearing-mounted bezel is equally grip-friendly. Plus there’s water resistance up to 1,000 meters. An anti-reflective domed crystal tops a non-nonsense matte dial with easy legibility that serves well in undersea situations and presents subdued sophistication on land. And while the case has notes that echo a contemporary Rolex Submariner, its beveled edges and polished flanks give it a truly unique feel. Comparisons to other luxury dive watches get even better when you consider the Oceanking’s price point of around two grand. Then Came the Triumph In strictly branding terms, one might have thought the Triumph Field should have been Monta’s debut timepiece. The name Monta, derived from “mountain,” is an ode to the company’s connection to Everest. It stands to reason that a watch designed for mountainous terrain would have come first. But we didn’t meet the Triumph Field until Baselworld 2017. It has some design elements that echo the Oceanking. One could call the Triumph Field a military spin-off of Monta’s first-ever watch. It has a case diameter of 38.5mm and 9.6mm thickness. The Triumph is slightly smaller than the Oceanking, but wears just about as big given the heft of its broad lugs. The stainless steel case mixes finish with polished (chamfers, for example) and brushed (planes) surfaces. That continues the unique mix on the bezel, bracelet, and clasp. The dial follows the Oceanking’s no-frills approach. Flip it over to find a display case back that lets you get a look at the Swiss-made Sellita SW-300 automatic movement. And while the Triumph Field falls squarely into the tool-watch bucket, it wears well in dressy situations, equally at ease on a link bracelet or a sturdy rubber strap as it is on fine leather for more formal occasions. Things Soar with the Skyquest GMT Another Monta watch we met at Baselworld 2017, the Skyquest GMT again serves as an homage to the great tool watches of the 1950s. This time we harken back to the revered Rolex GMT Master Ref. 6542, first made for Pan Am pilots in 1954 and today beloved by collectors for its once-groundbreaking ability to track dual time zones with a glance to the wrist. We owe some of Skyquest’s design to the Oceanking. This could also be considered a spin-off, a GMT version of Monta’s firstborn. Just as Rolex did when they rolled out the Submariner and its GMT-Master cousin together back in 1954 at the Swiss Watch Show that would become Baselworld. Even the names of Monta’s “Oceanking” and “Skyquest” sound like they could be part of the Rolex family. More on Skyquest But the Skyquest departs from Rolex’s influence in a number of intriguing ways. Skyquest’s ramp-up GMT hand is more reminiscent of classic Seiko models than Rolex. The coin-edge bi-directional bezel features a target-shaped and lumed pip at the 12’clock position. Available in two finishes, black and gilt, the Skyquest dials don’t spare the lume and are super bright with an intensity that rivals pro dive watches. Rhodium-plated sword hands and red accents offer a vintage feel without going old-timey. The Skyquest’s stainless steel case also mixes brushed and polished finishes. While its Sellita SW330 automatic GMT movement has 25 jewels and a power reserve of 42 hours. Priced in the $1,600 to $1,900 range, this is not the cheapest GMT out there, as the market today is flooded with automatic GMTs you can pick up for under a grand. But the quality and craftsmanship of the Skyquest is comparable to that of luxury watches found at much higher prices. Monta Watches Conclusion If you’re in the market for a fine tool watch, you can, as many do, look to the established brands like Rolex, Hublot, and Tudor, to name a few. Or turn your eyes to emerging brands who have looked back to watchmaking heritage to stake out new paths ahead. Monta watches will likely one day spawn its own new generation of watchmakers intent on continuing the tradition.

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  8. A Closer Look at Orion Watches

    In the recent avalanche of affordable watch brands, Orion Watches has managed to poke its head above the pack and grab attention. That’s no easy feat. Let’s look at how this upstart microbrand has earned so much respect in just a few short years. A Family Heirloom Launches a Dream It began with one simple act of gift-giving. While a teenager, Orion watches founder Nick Harris received a 1955 Omega Constellation that had been passed down in the family for generations, starting with his great grandfather. Nick saw that the watch needed repair and started studying up on horology. And a passion for watches was ignited. Nick began modifying watches as a hobby, and soon started selling them online. People readily purchased his creations and the demand for his modding grew. After some training at Seattle’s SAWTA watch-making school, Nick decided it was time to go pro by launching his own brand. Orion watches was born with a plan to hit the market in 2016. Orion Watches Debut of the Orion 1 The Orion 1 was the first watch to bow under the Orion banner, starting with a limited 300-piece run. Nick created his premiere piece for watch wearers like himself, those with slim wrists and a love of vintage flair. And for watch lovers who like things a bit out of the norm, with a 9mmdiameter that should in no way work on a 38mm case. Yet it does, with some help from hefty crown guards, a generous bezel, and oversized lugs that combine to make these large individual components not seem so big as a whole. Keen observers will note that the matte dial is a nod to classic Omega Seamaster’s, giving the watch that dressy-but-sporty vibe that we first saw with luxury tool watches in the 1950s. Calamity Stakes a Claim Among Dive Watches The Orion Calamity is one of their most popular offerings. And it’s not one that was destined to succeed. Today’s market is inundated with dive watches, from both established brands and a slew of recent microbrands. Plunging into those waters and making waves (how many puns can we get?) probably isn’t the best business plan. Yet Orion went for it with their Calamity. The results? A great modern dive watch that pleases the masses. Keeping things simple, the Calamity is only offered in stainless steel with black, blue, or green matte dials. Measurements also stay conservative at 40mm across with 11.3mm thickness. In what appears to be a nod to the Orion 1 (and thus Nick’s signature feature) it comes with a massive knurled screw-down crown that’s bracketed by sloped crown guards, helping to downplay its considerable size. The dial is no-nonsense, feeling sporty with a pop of orange on the second hand. And while most microbrands go with more affordable components on the inside, the Calamity features Swiss ETA 2892 automatic movement, costing more as it’s thinner than the more common 2824. With water resistance up to 666 feet, the Calamity is ready for underwater action but perhaps feels more suited for dress-casual occasions. Going Classic and Contemporary with the Hellcat The name “Hellcat” may have stirred up a notion about airplanes in your brain. Yes, the Hellcat was a famous World War Two fighter plane and the US Navy’s go-to aircraft for missions in the Pacific theater. And so Orion aptly named its pilot watch after this aviation legend. A follow-up to the Calamity, the Orion Hellcat isn’t quite as vintage-inspired as its name might suggest. Yes, it does have elements of throwback flair. Such as the lack of crown guards that reminds of watches from a previous era. But overall it feels more modern. It has a thin bezel on a streamlined stainless steel case that mixes polished and bead-blasted surfaces. Large Arabic numerals give a contemporary feel to the dial. It’s available in black and an eye-catching glossy red. The latter is a rarity with pilot watches, as black, white, and blue are the norms. That makes the Hellcat an iconoclastic entry in the pantheon of aviation horology. Suave Military Style of the Field Standard The Field Standard was created in reaction to the poorly made military watches. More so from that lesser microbrands who have churned out of the past few years. With their flimsy crowns and crystals that feel on the verge of cracking. Instead, Orion’s field watch features a domed sapphire crystal with AR coating and a case made out of 316L stainless steel that’s highly resistant to corrosion. And the Field Standard is water-resistant up to 100 meters. But this isn’t really a watch that wants to get tested out in the wilds. Unless your idea of wild is a buttered rum latte at an upscale bistro. The dial goes for classic cool with large Arabic numerals, topped by pronounced cathedral hands. On a black or brown croc-patterned strap, the Field Standard oozes business-casual charm. But as field watches tend to do, it’s just as happy to dress down with jeans and a t-shirt. Nick’s come a long way since that fateful day when he first held the family heirloom that would guide his life into the watchmaking world. And now we imagine that the cherished timepiece he passes on to future generations will be an Orion.

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  9. Best Affordable Quartz Watches for Men

    At the risk of offending horology snobs (you know who you are), let’s just accept that some of the best watches for men are quartz watches. Yes, purists will always argue in favor of mechanical watches. But for accuracy, longevity, and, maybe most importantly, affordability, it’s hard to top quartz watches. So let’s look at some quartz watches for men that are priced within the reach of almost everyone. Timex Weekender Chronograph Simplicity is at the heart of the Timex Weekender. The no-nonsense watch serves as a call to take things easy on the weekend. Exuding the sense that slipping on this minimalist charmer invites you to relax in classic style. With a round steel case, large Arabic numerals, and a few chronograph subdials. On a basic leather strap, it’s aptly named for a break from the workweek and offers the quality of Timex craftsmanship for under $100! Shop Quartz Movement Watches Fossil Grant Chronograph Another great chronograph at another great price, the Fossil Grant Chronograph also comes in at under 100 bucks but wears like a watch with a heftier price tag. True elegance is found in the Roman numerals on its face, gracefully accented by skeleton hour and minute hands. At 44mm in diameter, the case is big and bold but kept classic with rounded stainless steel. Japanese quartz movement powers this dressy (if not entirely a “dress”) timepiece that goes impeccably with smart-casual ensembles. Skagen Hagen Steel-Mesh Rounding out the top offerings for under $100, the Skagen Hagen might seem to wear on the larger side with a 40mm diameter. But its bare-bones minimalist style seriously tones things down, with a sandblasted dial adding to the understated balance. Sleek, contemporary, and looking pitch-perfect on a Milanese mesh strap, this stainless steel quartz watch is right at home in the modern workplace and adds a dressy touch to your dressed-down times. Braun Gents Classic Chronograph There’s nothing wrong with stating exactly what this watch is: a classic chronograph for gents. Modern gents, specifically. Gents who like minimalist design, a utilitarian vibe, and a Bauhaus-inspired feel to their contemporary timepieces. You can call it cold, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s what makes the clean aesthetics and raw functionality of the Braun Gents BN0035 so appealing. And it’s versatile, working as easily with jeans and a t-shirt as it does slip under a jacket on dress-casual outings. And all for under $300? Yeah, lots of gents like that too. Citizen Promaster Nighthawk The Citizen Nighthawk has gotten a lot of attention over the years. And deservedly so. It’s one of the world’s most-popular mass-produced quartz watches for lots of good reasons, probably the first being that it just looks really cool. Add in features like a slide-rule bezel, a GMT hand, various complications, solid water resistance, solar power, and more. And most models cost under $250! So yeah, we know why it’s popular. The Promaster Nighthawk is a particularly fine entry in the line. With a perpetual calendar and the ability to track 26 time zones across the globe with a glance at the dial. With this watch on a sturdy leather strap, you’ll look like you’re ready to fly off and visit every one of those far-flung lands! Hamilton Khaki Field Men’s Quartz At the opposite end of the spectrum from the Nighthawk, Hamilton probably isn’t the first name you think of when on the hunt for an affordable quartz watch. But maybe it should be. While Hamilton excels at mechanical watches, they have also carved out a nice spot in the quartz world. Notably with the quartz versions of the classic Khaki Fields. The same traditional military style that’s on display with the automatic Khakis is found on the PVD-coated Field Quartz. This one goes into full stealth mode with the black-and-grey design scheme of its 40mm stainless steel case. It’s also topped with a high-quality sapphire crystal. But you don’t need to be Billionaire Bruce Wayne to afford this one, as it costs less than $350. Shop Hamilton Khaki Field Watches The world of watch lovers isn’t exactly divided into two camps: mechanical and quartz. Most collectors have both types of timepieces and recognize each for their strengths and weaknesses. So don’t turn your back on mechanical watches just yet. Know that if you want to pick up a fine affordable timepiece, there are lots of quartz watches out there waiting.

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  10. Top Tudor Watches for Men

    Most talk about Tudor watches begins with their association to Rolex, as Tudor has always had to live somewhat in the shadows of the legendary brand from which it was born nearly a century ago. And Tudor’s ties to Rolex are notable, even to this day, perhaps most visible in the Black Bay GMT owing its heritage to the Rolex GMT Master. But Tudor has also staked out its own ground when it comes to luxury watches, and here we delve into a few of their finer offerings for men. Tudor Black Bay Bronze Following blue-dial and brown-dial versions of the Black Bay Bronze, the third incarnation is the charm with the slate grey fumé dial we met in 2019. And what a dial it is, with lume-filled bronze indices on a design that echoes those of classic Rolex Explorers and Submariners. And, adding a traditional touch, the Black Bay Bronze has Tudor’s signature snowflake hour hand. It comes with either a striped nylon strap or black leather with contrast stitching; the latter giving the formidable timepiece a more formal look. Chronometer certified with water resistance up to 200 meters and a power reserve of about 70 hours, it’s built as tough as it looks.   Tudor Pelagos 25600 TB We had to include the Pelagos on this top Tudor watches list. Bold blue. Brilliant blue. Eye-catching and vibrant. These are just a few of the ways the Pelagos Ref. M25600TB-0001 is inevitably described. The blue-and-white design is stunning, it’s guaranteed to grab attention. Though its anti-reflective sapphire crystal tones things down a tad.   While other Tudor dive watches are made plenty tough, this is the most rugged with a titanium case. It has a depth rating of 500 meters, and a helium escape system protecting its in-house self-winding mechanical movement. It also comes with a striking titanium bracelet. Although this tough timepiece just loves getting fitted with its sturdy rubber strap in matching blue. Tudor North Flag Ref. M91210N-0002 The Black Bay may be the first watch that comes to mind when you think of Tudor watches. And the Pelagos gets understandable attention for its toughness. But the lesser-known North Flag collection deserves more recognition than it gets. We met the first North Flag at Baselworld 2015, but its design roots go much deeper. It is modeled (and thus named) after the Tudor Oyster Prince that went on the rugged British North Greenland Expedition in 1952. Though today’s North Flags have vintage-inspired designs that are more reminiscent of watches from the 1970s, notably the Tudor Ranger II. At 40mm in diameter, the North Flag Ref. 91210N-0002 is smaller than other luxury sports watches. And quite sporty it is with a black, white, and yellow color scheme that’s bold and basic in the best possible sense. While it doesn’t grab attention like Tudor’s flagship models, wearers of this retro watch come to love its unique charm.   Tudor Glamour Double Date Ref. M57103-0021 The “Double Date” part refers to a two-window date complication at the 12 o’clock position. Here, Tudor turns away from the sports watch styles that have gained it so much fame for dressier timepieces in the Glamour line. There are a lot of options among the Double Date model, such as dials in silver, black, and opaline white, all either with or without diamonds. The champagne dial of the 57103 reference is particularly appealing. While all measure 42mm in diameter, you can select stainless steel or steel with yellow gold and complementing steel bracelets or leather straps. As this is a watch that loves to dress up, a fine black leather strap is hard to top with a Double Date.   Tudor Fastrider Black Shield Ref. M42000CN-0018 When we first encountered the Black Shield Fastrider in 2013 most of the hype was about its ceramic case. And the buzz was understandable, as the black monobloc ceramic case is an impressive engineering feat. The Fastrider’s association with Italian motorcycle legend Ducati is also no small thing. The watch’s tachometer scale and chronograph complications brazenly pronouncing that this watch is steeped in the world of racing. With high contrast in its black-and-white design scheme, the watch presents itself boldly. Perhaps more boldly than anything else Tudor produces. And while its look does have odes of vintage flair and notes that recall great racing watches of the past, this one feels altogether contemporary. Tudor 1926 Ref. M91651-0003 Tudor’s 1926 collection goes seriously retro, harkening back to the Roaring 1920s and an Art Deco world. Influenced by flappers who ruled jazz clubs and when fine suits were essential to any well-dressed man’s wardrobe. Through this prism, we get classic dress watches that embrace the elegance of traditional style. The most notable aspect of this throwback style is the lack of a crown guard. That gives the case the formal look of watches from days gone by. There are a lot of options to choose from in this line of Tudor watches. There are choices in silver, black and opaline to sizes that include 28, 36, 39, and 41mm.   The M91651-0003 is particularly striking, as its black dial embraces the collection’s sense of sophistication arguably better than any other. Rose gold presents the perfect complement, on arrow-shaped indices, slim hour hands, and the bezel on the classic round case. Slip this stylish watch on with a tuxedo and you’re ready to sip martinis with the Great Gatsby. Whether you’re looking for sporty style, vintage charm, or something more contemporary and cosmopolitan, look to Tudor watches.

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  11. Closer Look at the Chopard Mille Miglia

    For more than three decades, the Chopard Mille Miglia has kept the spirit of vintage road racing alive with a steady flow of limited-edition timepieces. Let’s delve into what makes this watch so special. Mille Miglia. “1,000 Miles” in Italian. It stands for the distance and the thusly titled open-road race that once roared through the Italian countryside. While the last of the endurance racers competed in the grueling heat more than half a century ago, today Chopard captures their essence in the watch that’s named in their honor. They Rolled Out of the 80s While the final drivers crossed the last finish line of the Mille Miglia in 1957, it wasn’t until over three decades later that the Swiss watchmakers Chopard paid homage to their neighbors to the south. In 1988, Chopard debuted what would be the first of a series of limited edition Mille Miglia watches, starting with their Chopard Mille Miglia Chronograph. It was designed to capture the spirit of road racing with a prominent bezel, pronounced tachymeter scale, and a design inspired by the look of a classic race car’s dashboard. Drivers and Watches Today, the famed race is honored by the annual Mille Miglia Storica.  A parade of pre-1957 classic cars and a massive road-rally event for serious auto enthusiasts. The event features a rotating roster of A-list celebrity drivers. These drivers have a serious incentive to participate. Each is presented with that year’s limited edition Mille Miglia just for taking part. A Few of Our Favorite Chopard Mille Miglia Watches With a new offering each year since 1988, there are lots to choose from in the line. But let’s take a look at some standouts that have become favorites through the years. Mille Miglia 8331 To mark the 10th anniversary of the watch, Chopard created the much-loved 8331. This one doesn’t try to overwhelm with size, with a relatively small 39mm diameter round case. Like all in the line, it honors racing heritage, here with a tachymeter on the dial and three chronograph functions. And, sure, maybe they are overdoing it a bit on the racing theme with the rubber strap featuring a tire-tread pattern. But hey, it works. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. And for all of those gearheads who like to poke around under the hood of a car, flip this one over to view the inner workings of the movement through a display case back. Mille Miglia GTS We first met the Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Power Control at Baselworld in 2015. A bezel with a black aluminum insert gives the GTS a super sporty look. It’s complemented by a black dial that pays tribute to dashboards of yore. The dial is dominated by large Arabic 6 and 12 numerals. Those numerals are matched only in their prominence by the trademark Chopard red-arrow logo that crosses the date window. The power reserve indicator is styled to look like a gas gauge on a car from the 1950s. It is available in stainless steel and 18-karat rose gold. The GTS can go on a stainless steel bracelet but the sporty watch feels just as at home on a sturdy rubber strap. Chopard Mille Miglia GMT 8992 This is one of the most iconic timepieces in the line. The GMT 8992 is an all-stainless-steel chronograph that jumps feet first into racing style. It has the trademark tachymeter on the dial and a 24-hour bezel that frames its 42mm face. Three chronograph dials continue the racing functionality, as does the signature Mille Miglia red-arrow race logo. While it comes with a fine leather strap, this sporty offering might feel a bit more fitting on a thick rubber strap. Chopard Mille Miglia Racing Colors These are arguably the most popular watches in the line. We need to leap forward 30 years from its debut to the anniversary editions we saw in 2018. The watches stayed true to the racing roots. The five colors on the 30th-anniversary rollout represent the colors of the countries that competed in the original race. France raced blue Bugatti’s, Italy drove red Alfa Romeos, the British brought green Bentleys, Silver Arrow Mercedes came from Germany, and Belgium competed with yellow race cars. Each watch in the group sports these different dial colors. In common they have 42mm wide stainless steel cases with 12.67mm thickness, screw-down crowns, and pushers to operate chronograph functions in true vintage racing style. Does the Name Sound Familiar? No, you’re not crazy. Well, at least not for any strange sense of familiarity you may have felt with the name Mille Miglia. That’s also the name of Italian airline Alitalia’s frequent flyer program. Classic Corvettes are painted with Mille Miglia Red. And the Mille Miglia is also a type of jacket, featuring goggles in the hood, that’s popular with British soccer fans. But the name Mille Miglia will forever be associated with the iconic watches from Chopard. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few who are invited to take the wheel of a classic roadster. More realistically, just keep an eye out online and perhaps one of these coveted watches will find their way from the race routes of Italy to your wrist.

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