Sunday, March 6, 2016

STRAP SWAP SERIES: Victorinox Swiss Army Limited Edition Titanium Chronograph

Strap Swap Series on Watch HunterThe Strap Swap Series showcases how easily a watch's appearance can be altered by modifying or swapping the watchband. It includes before and after photos or digital mockups of iconic and everyday watches.

One of the most affordable things a person can do to customize a watch is to replace the wristband that came with it. There are many strap options available to modify the character of the watch. One can let a little bit of his or her personal taste show, which may not be in the original watchband (that everyone else has).

I have come to realize that I am rarely satisfied with the OEM watchbands that a manufacturer picks when selling a watch. Even if the band is nice, it does not always align with my personal taste. If you think about it, manufacturers have to pick a band that is the least offensive to the most potential buyers... or the most appealing depending on your outlook.

The Swiss Army Titanium Airboss is a looker. Mine has a freckle in the date wheel near the 6.
The watch to be customized this time is a Limited Edition Swiss Army Airboss Titanium Chronograph 241599. Only 300 exist in the world, and I am lucky enough to own one. The titanium used in the case and dial of this model was bead blasted to a satin finish, and has low reflectivity making it appear dark in many photographs. The matte leather also can appear dark in normal daily wear. I was wearing the watch less than I should because of this.

The brushed leather and satin finished titanium seem to be a match made in heaven, but I find that they blend together too much for my tastes. I used a lot of light to show off the details that appear much more subtle on the wrist. Here the chronograph is seen with its 3 handed brother.

Limited edition titanium Airboss siblings by Victorox Swiss Army. Model number 241599 & 241600
The slightly warm gray color flows from the case to the bezel to the dial seamlessly. Where many watch designs use contrasting materials or finishes to let the elements stand apart, Swiss Army decided to create the illusion that the watch was CNC’d from a solid chunk of titanium, which, might actually be the case.

The Swiss Army Airboss Titanium Chronograph 241599... an amazing limited edition pilot watch
To me, the fun starts when I customize a watch to see how much I can improve it. My wife said that my playing with watch band combinations is similar to her Barbie doll collection when she was young. How emasculating, but I do see her point. I have been known to obsess for countless hours (weeks) looking for the perfect visual combo taking into account color, texture, cut, stitching and buckle style.

Swiss Army Titanium Airboss shown on digital leather NATO straps and a natural leather bund strap

Pre-visualizing a watch strap before I spend a dime has saved me money and disappointment, but it is not foolproof. The digital fabrications are only as good as my source images that are often “borrowed” from the seller's web site. The sellers do not always take color accurate photographs of their products so it is a guessing game to see what I get in the mail after you order.

The other difficulty in using photoshop to add digital watchbands to digital watches is that the angle, contrast and other things that make up a photograph are rarely similar. This can yield some admittedly fake looking rough drafts as seen below, but still helps me decide whether to proceed with a strap purchase.

Some failures can be seen below after I received the strap and took blurry iPhone photos to share with my watch buddies for opinions (Thanks Scott). With the vintage red band, I was hoping to pick up the red hour ring printed on the crystal, but it was too thick, and the buckle too large. What looked fine in the digital comp above did not work in person.

A gray NATO bought for another watch was too similarly colored to the titanium. Plus the buckle is huge and too bright... Not bad, but I knew I could do better.

This limited edition buffalo watchband from a 2009 Swiss Army Limited edition watch is rare and looked okay, but better saved for something else. I wanted to bring out the light numerals on the dial.

To test the theory that a light tan band would look the best, I tried it on a leather NATO band that I already owned. I liked the contrast but still wanted to go lighter.

A tan NATO band was used to test a lighter color band against the gray titanium
After checking out many different watch bands from many sellers, I decided to seriously look at the offerings from Crown & Buckle. I found their refined tastes in watch bands plus their affordable pricing a winning proposition. You cannot go wrong with anything they sell. They are passionate enthusiasts who love what they do... and it shows.

Crown & Buckle's excellent product photography made it easy for me to drop a photo of my watch head onto their strap for review. I liked what I was seeing here with the lighter tan of the Lotus watch band elevating the lighter numerals and hands.

Digital Swiss Army Titanium Airboss on Lotus strap by Crown & Buckle
I also liked the slightly green tan of the Sheffield watchband (below) that seemed to exactly match the watch details. In real life, this band is a bit of a chameleon and not exactly as green as my numerals, but it is a gorgeous strap.

Digital Swiss Army Titanium Airboss on Sheffield strap by Crown & Buckle
The Premium NATO strap had great possibilities as well as shown in the digital mockup.

Digital Swiss Army Titanium Airboss on Premium NATO straps by Crown & Buckle
Ultimately, I ordered 2 bands from Crown & Buckle which are the ones on the right side.

Here is what the actual Sheffield looks like on my watch. It is interesting to compare it to the digital fake above. The color turns browner the as the exposure gets darker. It looks just as good as I hoped it would. The texture of the leather is rich and the color is as described.

The Sheffield leather does indeed have a greenish hue to it though tan mostly shines through
I added the optional PVD buckle to the strap to replace the stainless steel.
And, the winner was... a sand colored Premium NATO strap. This seemed to strike the right chord for me since it is an aviation inspired watch. I could imagine myself as a red-hot fighter jock like Maverick or Iceman wearing this combination.

The winning combination of sand Premium NATO Strap and Swiss Army Titanium Airboss Chronograph
The only thing that might make it better would be having titanium hardware, but good luck finding that. Hmm... maybe someone out there will make it.

Many thanks to Crown & Buckle whose 3 images I altered for this blog. I give this company a 10/10 for customer service, communication, product quality and value. Make sure to visit them for excellent watch band deals.

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