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  1. Annapolis Aug 8, 2020

    The lengthy preamble:

    My tiny collection has undergone some major changes recently, consolidating to make room for a Rolex Submariner. That purchase was what I'd consider my first "mature" one, made after having spent quite a bit of time (and not insubstantial money) getting a sense of what it is I actually like. (I thought I hated watches with rotating bezels; I thought I wanted something under 38mm; I now feel differently on both counts.) I'm thinking it's a good sign that, since getting that watch, my interest in browsing listings has gone way way down.

    In all the shuffle, I realized that the one other thing I needed was a really functional piece that I'd feel comfortable exposing to the "thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." Some would call this a "tool" watch or a "beater": I don't dispute such terms, but I'd also say (just for myself) that if that's all I wanted, I'd go to CVS and pick up a $10 digital whatsit and be done. I also want something I like the looks of, and that has something special about it.

    To preempt the obvious criticism that some would make: yes, I understand that the marquee item in my collection now is the ultimate "tool watch." But my Submariner is 27 years old, has almost no life left in its tritium lume, is probably waterproof (it was pressure tested), but that isn't a confidence I'd want to end up regretting---and, suffice it to say---it cost me more than all the other watches I've ever purchased combined. I plan to wear it daily, but I'm taking it off as soon as the going gets rough.

    I put quite a bit of thought into what, exactly, my needs and wants were here. Something well under a grand---that was essential. My main (watch-oriented) hobbies are biking, camping, swimming, kayaking, and fishing. I needed something fairly shock proof (for biking and camping, where bumps do happen), scratch proof, and waterproof. Since much of my fishing happens in total darkness (once a week or so I'm out before 4am, targeting catfish), I also wanted something easily legible in the dark. Also, something attractive that I wouldn't tire of and my wife wouldn't complain about. Finally, I wanted a good timing bezel, as that's a feature I use sometimes when swimming and always when biking.

    Having owned a Ball Watch, I knew that I liked tritium gas tube dials: it's nice, when I'm out fishing in the dark, not to have to worry about charging the lume. My Ball Fireman Racer was a spectacular watch, but it was a bit more pretty than functional (no bezel), and a little pricier than what I wanted for this purpose.

    I also made the decision---that some will scoff at, I'm sure---to go with a quartz movement both for the shock-proof element, and because I wanted something super-accurate that I wouldn't have to feed and care for so much. I don't have a fancy winder, and I wanted something I wouldn't have to fuss over if I didn't end up wearing it for a couple days.

    So the list of criteria came together: Timing bezel, quartz, water-oriented, rugged/scratch-resistant, tritium gas tubes, well under $1000 USD.

    This was a helpfully narrowing list. Only a few options popped up in my days of searching, and I very quickly homed in on (yes, it's homed, not "honed," people!) the Nite Watch Co in the UK. I had heard of them before, but knew little about them or their product lines. In the end, it was the Alpha line that I preferred, as it met all of my needs and looked crackin' to boot. I've had it for a moment now, and below are my first impressions.

    The review:

    For US buyers this is a $700 watch that will arrive in your hands fairly quickly: in my case, on the US east coast, I ordered it on a Tuesday, it shipped the following day, and was in my hands late Friday. (This via DHL and a local courier service.) Packaging (not pictured) is nothing too fancy, but sleek. The folks at Nite (who are in the UK, remember) set the watch to my local time, which was a classy touch.

    SIZE/MASS: On my wrist, which I'd call medium-sized, the watch is big: it's a 42mm case and is 14.6mm thick with 22mm lugs, so overall it's just a beefy thing, even next to the Sub, which I already consider a big watch. That could be a negative, but of course I knew all that data before purchasing, so it's not like I was surprised by it. This isn't a watch that will escape notice. That said, because I opted for the rubber strap, it's not terribly heavy---indeed, one quickly forgets about its presence when wearing it, as it wears light in spite of its size. This will be good for kayaking especially. If I have one gripe about proportions, it's with the strap, which is quite huge: it fills the 22mm lug space, of course, but then spreads to meet their outer reaches (see pics) before beginning a very modest taper. The entire effect is "wow, that's a lot of strap." More on the strap below.

    WATERPROOFING: 300m/984ft is a little deeper than my local pool, so I should be good to go there. Again, I did the rubber strap, which is also good for water resistance. The screw-down crown feels very snug and secure.

    RUGGEDNESS: This watch has just about everything you'd want in this dept. The crystal is sapphire, so as good as you're likely to do, and the bezel is ceramic. The rubber strap is quite brilliant in its security: not only does it have double tangs in the buckle (which I suppose adds some element of security, though I can't imagine a scenario in which that'd prove necessary), but its one keeper is a slider that notches perfectly into the tag end of the pass-thru strap---the pictures will help to explain this. It keeps the strap nice and close exactly where it needs to be for your wrist. If there's a downside to this (very clever) feature, it's that I imagine regular insertion/removal will take a toll on the strap keeper itself from regular pulling/stretching, but Nite sells spares for $7.50.

    FUNCTIONALITY: The Swiss-made RONDA 715Li quartz movement is... well, it's a quartz movement. It ticks rather than sweeps, and it keeps impeccable seconds-per-month kind of accuracy, with an alleged 10-year battery life. Setting is easy and intuitive. The unidirectional timing bezel has a robust feel to it and a satisfying tactile click. There's a little tiny bit of backplay with each click: you advance it, then it pops back into its proper position. It’s no Submariner, but, then, it doesn't need to be at this price, and the main point is that it works well and that it lines up perfectly. Once the bezel is set, there is no backplay or wobble at all: it's only in the process of moving it.

    AESTHETICS AND COMFORT: I like blue and orange together, and this watch reminds me why: the blue sunburst dial is great with the orange accents popping against it. The bezel and the overall look clearly echo the Omega Planet Ocean, and I like that the tritium tubes during the day don't call out as tubes: they just look like normal dial indices. (The same is less true of Ball.) The fit and finish feels refined and expensive but also rugged---the notches on the bezel are rough and sharp, which is a good thing, I think. The caseback is sort of bland, but so what. And there are some little details that are thoughtful, such as the orange stripe on the side of the crown. Ball probably wins over Nite for such little accents (such as the gloriously refined second hand on the Fireman Racer), but again my main emphasis here was on function over form. On the whole, it's a bulky but attractive watch. I sort of wish there was an echo of orange on the strap, but of course straps can be changed. And my final comment on the strap: for all of its massiveness, it's extremely comfortable! Supple rubber material (very bendy), very pleasantly snug and easy to forget about. I wish the watch were about 2mm thinner---it sits pretty high on the wrist---but I imagine I'll get used to that. I could also do without the date feature, which looks a little out-of-place to me, wedged in between 4 and 5, an echo of some other brands, but I know others will like that.

    ILLUMINATION: Saving this for last, since it's what makes Nite Nite. There were two options for the main gas tube color, green and blue. Although green supposedly looks brighter (it's actually not; it's just how the human eye perceives color), I opted for blue to coordinate with the color scheme of the watch---felt like a no-brainer. 12-oclock is orange, as is the tiny tube in the pip of the bezel (a nice touch); the rest of the indices are blue. My Ball was T-25 power tritium gas tube, and it was plenty bright; Nite uses T-100, and holy hell is it powerful! (Don't let my crappy iPhone pic dissuade you of this.) Even 12 years from now, when half of its power is depleted and it could be time to consider having the tubes replaced, it'll still be plenty bright. I knew I was going to like the dial brightness when it was getting near dusk---still fairly light out---and I could already see the indices starting to glow. In a totally dark room with your eyes dark-adapted, you can actually read by the light of the watch (I tested this): it's like having a very low-power flashlight on your wrist. (Don't get me wrong: you're not going to read a book with 10- or 12-point font, but you can make out larger bold lettering, like headlines or the cover of a manual.) It's impressive.

    Thumbs up from me!
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    Edited May 25, 2022
  2. Annapolis Aug 12, 2020

    Just tacking on to my own thread: the "too much strap" issue was easy enough to resolve with this (cheap) NATO, which also brings out the colors I like in the dial/bezel. If I end up liking this look (I'm always torn about NATOs), I'll consider upgrading to something a little more durable. I suspect this one will fade and get brittle from UV exposure rather quickly.

    I've now put this watch through the whole battery of life-tests, night-fishing with it (I keep notes on catches vis-a-vis time/tides, and I don't like handling my phone with fishy hands, so having a readable wristwatch in the dark really is helpful), and kayaking, biking and swimming with it. Waterproofness seems to be holding up just fine, and despite a few bumps loading bikes/kayaks, it's free of any visible scratches or dings. My only new criticism is that it'd be nice if the minute hand popped a little more to make it easier to use the timing bezel at a quick glance when on a bike ride or run. Just a tip of orange, maybe?

    One slightly bizarre/cool thing, the case is so deep that when swimming and looking at the submerged dial from above the water's surface, it looks like the ring/rehaut is about three inches tall: like the face of the watch is at the bottom of a well!
    IDXM and Stewart A like this.
  3. yande Aug 25, 2020

    Nice write up mate. Nothing much better than a well homed watch, horologically speaking that is...