The $15 Ceramic Diver

May 26, 2013

From the unpublished archives. This blog was written in May of 2013

FOR the past few months, watchgeeks have been gushing over Sottomarino watches. This, the house brand of the retailer Precision Time who have both a chain of brick and mortar stores and an Internet retail presence. It seems to be treading in the TV brand space with oversized cases and inflated MSRPs.

Precision Time routinely runs specials on the Sotto brand with deep discount sales sweetened with coupon codes. It was one of these scenarios that was too good to pass up: the Ceramico on a rubber strap for $15. Two things stood out at this price; a ceramic case and a sapphire crystal. I figured it would be something to write a review about and for the price and materials would be a great summer beater. Perfect for shade tree mechanical jobs, yard work and eating sand later in the summer as the surf smashes me into the beach.

It took about five days to reach my mailbox. It shipped in a large, tin case similar to what you see with Fossil but with a hinged lid. as i opened it, I was initially taken back by the high-end look. Nice finishing, a clean aluminum bezel ring with sharp fonts and nice clean dial details. The first thing I noticed when pulling it out was the weight. As this is a ceramic watch I was expecting it to be a lot lighter until I got a good look at the caseback.

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Where to start…

The Case. The face and side of the case looks great. It is a matte finish ceramic that is very pleasing to the touch. But flipping it over reveals that the case construction is actually two pieces – the stainless steel bottom of the watch with the ceramic fitting over it like a shell. The finish between the two case pieces is night and day. The stainless steel base is rough and poorly finished; this in sharp contrast to the well crafted ceramic top. The edges are super sharp and the tolerances are terrible with uneven gaps between the caseback and the surrounding ceramic top. Immediately the spell was broken. This was not much different than those Chinese switchblades at the flea market that seduce from afar and reveal their true hackiness up close.

Matte ceramic also has an odd quality in that when it gets covered in sweat and dries, it looks like the thing is covered in boogers.

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The Bezel. With any dive style watch, a unidirectional bezel is pretty much the standard and the Ceramico is no exception. The clicks were solid with none of the sloppiness one would expect in a cheap watch. That was until I rotated it about a quarter turn and it immediately seized. It was then that the overall flawed bezel design became apparent as it is much too thin to be adequately manipulated with wet or dirty hands. I literally had to work it for several days to get it to reliably move through an entire one hundred degree rotation.

The Crown.

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Here’s one from the spring that i never got around to publishing. I ended up replacing the terrible silicon band with a Panerai style leather band. Even with all of the flaws, this thing has taken a ton of abuse and keeps time. It looks pretty good in the wrist and has become my beater work watch.

As I went to unscrew the crown to set it, something seemed wrong. It felt like it was cross threaded. When I looked closely I found that it wasn’t centered properly into the case and that it was actually rubbing against the lower crown guard. Yet another detail missed.

The Dial. I can put up with a lot of flaws on a watch but an uncalibrated, inaccurate second hand drives me crazy. Couple that with haphazard dial markers and lume that’s worse than Invicta’s proprietary Tritinite and you’ve got a real mess. My biggest peeve is that the minute markers do not seem to be equidistant.

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Interestingly enough, the hands have a great matte silver finish and are three dimensional.

The Strap and Buckle.

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The silicone strap is okay but has proven to be a lint magnet. The buckle is nice and solid in a style reminiscent of Panerai.

The Crystal. This is actually the best feature of this watch. Very solid and thick and it has taken quite a beating. As expected, the optics distort the as it is viewed from the edge.

For $15, I kinda except all of the flaws. The retail of $399 is laughable. Even an Invictard would not put up with all of these issues from a yellow boxed behemoth. I’ve worn this thing to do a lot of manual labor and dirty jobs and knocked the hell out of it. It looks exactly as it did when I got it six weeks ago. Granted, it’s analogous to a really attractive woman with crossed-eye.

DAYS after Watchgeeks went white, Michael Davis finally addresses the issue: via Facebook. In short, he claims WG was hacked and a lot of damage had been done; that the site could be out of commission for a few weeks. But this seems so much balderdash. All hacker attacks these days are about information – passwords, personal information and financial information. Watchgeeks has none of this. And why would someone trash their servers – what’s the point? Server trashing and data destruction are carried out by governments against one another to slow weapons development. I don’t think anyone wants to slow the asshole development that goes on at Geeks – what would we laugh at?

NO, I think that this outage was the end result of Michael Davis’ reckless sticky trying to dissuade people from buying their pre-order Tourbillons from Renato. As is now the case with any Invicta misstep or lie, the party affected was quickly notified and claimed on Facebook to have taken some action. I asked Eyal Lalo via Twitter for a comment regarding this latest outage as well as the Renato situation and he has not responded to either of the inquiries.

Those that follow WGs probably remember similar unannounced outages after the DD Debacle, the Swinese revelation and the Manmade Natural Sandstone dials made their way to other forums and this blog and people broke apart and discussed the stories to reveal a very unflattering and dark picture of the Invicta Watch Company. Following the actual membership numbers revealed a decline following these outages. That seems to indicate that the former owners we’re trying to purge those lurkers who were gathering the evidence and presenting it to the public; as well as archiving it because WGs is notorious for deleting such items.

BUT now with Invicta actually owing the forum and such a long outage, one has to wonder if this is not just a purge of non posters but also a time out. A way to push out those active posters who are critical within the TOS of the site. They can then migrate to Watchlords, Watchfreeks, WUS and make Watchgeeks a place for those easily intimidated by the MODs and Yellow Shirt members.

Let’s check out those numbers when it comes back online; If that’s still possible when it does.

WatchGeek: The Brand

April 7, 2011

IT’S always fun to poke around the corners of the Internet, finding public information and bring it to light. Take Hollywood Florida based Invicta Watch Group. They tried to claim that the ‘brand’ Imperious wasn’t theirs; that they were only financing it. That’s until the Imperious trademark was revealed to be owned by Invicta from a public record source, at which point they tried to change the story and claim that they always claimed to have owned it. Shades of the much discussed Russian Diver.

Well I’ve turned up a few interesting trademark tidbits. Just two days after the original Watchgeek owner group announced the sale of the site to Invicta for undisclosed terms, IWG was busy trademarking “WatchGeeks” as both an “On-line forum for watch collectors” and as a line of “metal key chains; metal key rings”. It’s not a stretch to conclude that a line of t-shirts, sweat shirts and hats will surely follow.

What will this mean for the Ohio creator of the “Watch Geek Parking Only” signs on eBay? Can he expect a cease and desist?

ALSO of note was the application for the trademark “T.S.E.” back in October of 2010 for “Clocks and watches; Parts for watches; Watch bands and straps; Watch movements” and this begs the obvious question – is Invicta going to create a parts sourcing arm to rectify the ongoing customer complaints of poor service, lack of parts availability and turn around times that can stretch to several months for the smallest of repairs? Or will this new trademark bring more murkily sourced bands and accessories to the brand whose trademarked “Technica Swiss Ebauches” watch movements are actually assemble in Korea from Chinese Sea-Gull movements?

WHEN ShopNBC started carrying Ed Hardy watches, I thought the network buyers and brass couldn’t sink any lower with the cheesey, cornball Chinese made shit… they surprise me. They are now carrying Steinhausen! Yes, the originator of fake European provenance for completely Chinese mechanical watches now rubs elbows with the stable of ShopNBC brands like Invicta and Renato. Before Stuhrling Original, Akribos, and Riedenschild made up a European lineage to go with a logo slapped on a mass produced Millionsmart mechanical, Steinhausen pioneered it. Depending on the model, it was either billed as a replica of a watch that was made in in 1925 or 1929. When it’s a multi-function, it always was “the most expensive and rare model in the world at the time” – a total crock of shit. They usually had a full-page ad in National Geographic.

While my knowledge has been questioned by such esteemed experts as Jim “I only sell the watches” Skelton, I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

MillionSmart

> Steinhausen

I urge you, the reader, to check out the MillionSmart product catalog, especially the pages and pages of ‘rare’ tourbillions’. Don’t fall for the lies.

Mink v. Temple?

November 23, 2009

IS it me or is there a noticable tension between Daniel Mink and Tim Temple? Temple keeps heaping praise on the Renato timepieces but Mink keeps making snarky comments and one wonders where Daniel’s comment regarding being nice because you “never know when your paths may cross again” is directed.

Might the two have a history? It’s quite possible that Mink could have approached JTV or even Shop At Home? It is conceivable that Mink approached other networks after Renato “left” ShopNBC? Could it have been Mr. Temple that derailed any deal? I suspect that the JTV team would have been reluctant to work with Renato because of the complaints from consumers of the diamond quality and clarity, as well as the questionable origin of some timepieces presented as Swiss Made.

A pattern that I’ve noticed with callers is that they are clearly Camp Jim or Camp Tim. I also notice that Tim Temple never makes any mention of Jim Skelton; instead referring to the period that Skelton took over as “The Watch Program”. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have yet to hear Jim Skelton say Tim’s name or Temple saying Jim’s name.

And did you hear John from Texas? Renato watches gave him the will to live?!