Monday, June 19, 2017

PODCAST REVIEW: The Worn & Wound Podcast

It's no secret that today's media is as fractured as it comes. There are literally hundreds of ways to fill the hours with entertainment tailored exactly to your interests and attention span. Gone are the days when the whole world tuned into one television show like the finale of M*A*S*H in 1983.

Nowadays, the name of the game is personalized content. This means that you don't have to watch a show or listen to a program because it is the only thing on right now. In fact, most media today seems to be available on-demand allowing you to enjoy it whenever and wherever you want.

As a new series on the Watch Hunter blog, I am going to review some of best watch-related content on the internet. Even if you were able to stay up 24 hours a day and watch YouTube, read blogs and listen to podcasts, you would never ever be able to do it all... believe me, I have tried (and lost hours of sleep). This means that you have to be selective.

Image: Worn & Wound web site
My first review is about the relatively new podcast series by some of the best watch reviewers on the planet. The fine fellows at Worn & Wound have been reviewing affordable watches since 2011... and they arguably do it better than anyone else. Why is this? If I had to narrow it down, I would say that they have the attention to detail that many other reviewers lack, and they have the discipline to tell you only what you need to know. More on this later...

First things first. If you do not know what a podcast is, then let me enlighten you. A podcasts is audio content that can be published by anyone with a recording device. The subject matter can be anything from politics to hobbies. Usually the format allows greater in-depth discussion because they are not limited in time.

Podcasts can be played on devices from computers to smartphones and listeners can subscribe to be alerted about the latest episodes. You can also listen to older content, which can be helpful if you missed an episode. You can subscribe at Apple iTunes, GooglePlay and Stitcher and the content is absolutely free for the taking.

Podcasts are ideal for our busy modern lifestyle where everyone seems to be doing 3 things at once. If you take public transportation or have a long commute to work, a podcast can be a welcome distraction from the daily bad news on the airwaves.

It is hard to believe, but the Worn & Wound podcasts are a relatively new offering with the first episode appearing as Basel World coverage in March of 2017. I'm mentioning this because new listeners have roughly 738 minutes within 15 episodes of watch talk at their fingertips as of today (with more added weekly). While this may seem overwhelming if you are just digging in, it shouldn't be. Every episode is clearly described so you can cherry pick the episodes that interest you.

The growing list of podcasts available on Apple iTunes.
Remember my comment about Worn & Wound's attention to detail and discipline? This pays huge dividends for the listeners who tune in because Zach, Ilya, Blake, Mark and their guests do not waste your time. These guys stay on topic and explore it until it is fully baked, but not overcooked.

By contrast, there is nothing worse than suffering through a horological podcast that rambles with seemingly no purpose or respect for the audience's time. I tried a few other unnamed watch-related podcasts and could not get past the reviewer's verbal diarrhea and senseless banter. To these offenders I say "Dear windbags! Please edit your stream-of-consciousness muttering to actual relevant material. We do not care about what you did over the weekend or want to hear about some restaurant you tried.  It is a waste of our time." Like all the superhero movies say "With great power comes great responsibility." ha ha

You can see the content of the podcast if you want to listen to select episodes
Speaking of time, most of the Worn & Wound podcasts come in at just under one hour. The Worn & Wound team picks a topic of their choosing and analyzes it from all angles. What distinguishes these discussions is the laser sharp focus on the details concerning watch design, micro-brands, manufacturing, and what constitutes good value in the segment of "affordable watches" under $2,000. The W&W podcasts offer a lot a breadth of subject matter so I am only mentioning a few of the things that have been covered so far.

However, you never know what will be on upcoming shows. I suspect that it must be a bit of a monumental task to line up interesting guests or tape an hour long show each week. Listeners can be part of the show too by sending in their questions. I was lucky enough to have two of mine answered on one show. It was great to get an on-air response and it made me feel like I was part of the show. If you have a question that you want answered, just sent it to them.

I think of these Worn & Wound podcasts as the equivalent to being a "fly on the wall" listening to highly knowledgeable experts discuss our shared watch collecting obsession with passion, wit and accurate knowledge. You will never hear them say something as stupid as "Grand Seikos are garbage," which is an actual paraphrased quote from another person's podcast I listened to once. The worst you might hear is them making fun of Depeche Mode's brand ambassadorship with Hublot... but hey, nobody is perfect (including that watch). ha ha.

The Worn & Wound podcast series does not repeat content that is seen in the Worn & Wound YouTube channel or on their best-of-class watch reviews. Think of their podcasts as extended content that you might get with a BluRay of your favorite Hollywood movie. In a sense, it is like talking watches while sipping a single malt whiskey with the same trusted watch reviewers who you have read for years. These writers have shared their knowledge and shaped our opinions on what it is to be a watch collector. I can think of at least 2 watches that I own because of a Watch & Worn review... and I guarantee that I am not alone in that demographic. I am thankful that Worn & Wound is branching out  into the medium of podcasts and doing it with the same professionalism seen in their other content.

I can honestly say that listening to a Worn & Wound podcast is like eating a giant perfectly grilled homemade hamburger. You know, the ones with all the fixings that don't fit into the bun unlike the skimpy burgers they sell at Mickey D's. Worn & Wound's content has more beef and less filler than the competitive podcasts (If you are vegan, then just substitute the beef analogy for a delicious portobello mushroom). Regardless, if you start listening to the Worn & Wound podcasts now, you might catch up faster than you think... especially if you binge listen! Give them a listen. You won't regret it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

MEET THE WATCH: Victorinox Swiss Army Recon Watch with the Giant Arrow Hand

Behold, one of the most funky watches that Victorinox Swiss Army ever made... This one is going to take some explanation...

Victorinox Swiss Army Recon
The watch in question is known as the Swiss Army Recon, and it does not really look like many other Swiss Army watches. I would be lying if I did not admit that at first I thought that it was a crudely made fake from Asia. However, this is an authentic Victorinox model number 24533.

This watch is not shy. The Swiss Army Recon has a bold personality that eventually grew on me.
At first glance you can tell this watch was designed for maximum visual impact without breaking the bank. In other words, this watch was most likely for budget-conscious consumers. I would suspect that the Recon had to fit within the affordable side of the watch pool. Inside beats a reliable Swiss Ronda 515 quartz movement.

This snap on back requires a bladed case tool to remove. Mine was tight!
Fittingly, it has a polymer (a.k.a. plastic) case and a press-on watch back. The designers built a clever feature into the molding. Notice how the case is asymmetrical and the side closest to the crown is wider? This added bulk acts as a crown guard to protect the crown from getting knocked off... kinda like what you might see on a Hamilton Khaki field watch.

The hour hand has maximum visual weight with a giant arrowhead pointer
Swiss Army decided to go large and bold with the dial details including thick printed numerals at 3, 6 and 9. The font reminds me of blocky numbers on American football uniforms... or maybe the numbers you see painted on the side of an aircraft carrier. The remaining hour positions are represented by thick dashes.

Aircraft carrier numbers are similar to the Recon's numerals. Photo: Wikipedia
The most unusual feature on the dial is the logo proportions. On many vintage Swiss Army watches, the words are stacked under the shield emblem. I don't recall seeing another instance of this bulky, single-line text treatment.... and certainly never this large. The words almost touch the indices!

The Swiss Army Recon is great for experimenting with strap changes.
The date is tastefully minimized with a white-on-black date wheel at the 4:00 spot. It is barely noticeable in the photo above, which is the way it should be. The sloping chapter ring at the perimeter of the dial is printed with thinner minute and seconds markers. Cream colored lume dots above the dash indices mark every 5 minutes, plus the lumed hands make the watch usable in the dark.

Want to customize the personality of your Swiss Army Recon? Just add your favorite 20-22mm strap.
Seeing how the hour hand is tipped with a disproportionately large arrowhead, it is safe to say that the designers decided to use size and shape to help differentiate the hour and minute hand. This is unusual because the hour hand is traditionally the smaller of the two. The relationship between the hands and the indices are further linked with similar widths. This creates and interesting effect when the minute hand lines up with the dash markers.

The original silicon watch band is easily swapped, making the Recon look better than stock.
These seemingly simplified hands are BOLD, but they work incredibly well. I could routinely see the time many feet away from the watch. I actually quite like this because some of my watches have very small features and my eyes are not what they used to be. The seconds hand is indicated with a lollipop ball ending, which is seldom seen on a Swiss Army watch.

The Swiss Army Recon also had a compass module that slipped onto the watch band
The Swiss Army Recon is very light on the wrist (under 2 oz.) and ready to accompany you on your outdoor activities like hiking. It has a standard water resistance rating of 100 meters so you cannot go crazy submerging it, but it would likely survive sensible interactions with shallow water. Swiss Army also added a small compass to the wristband so that you would not get lost in the woods. My advice to non-Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts... keep your GPS app open on your phone.

The Swiss Army Recon takes on a upgraded personality with an OD green NATO strap
This watch comes with a comfortable silicon watchband that seems to be a lint magnet, but it could easily be worn with a variety of NATO straps. You can pick these NATO straps up for $5-$10. If you are looking for a fun watch with a big personality without stretching your budget then you could consider the visually unusual but ultimately pleasing Swiss Army Recon.

No, that is not Sasquatch wearing the Swiss Army Recon. It's MY hairy arm!

Monday, June 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Wristwatch Handbook by Ryan Schmidt

Last Christmas, I got an incredible present. Someone very special to me (literally me) sent it with a bow and a note reading "I hope that you enjoy this!" Man, that guy (me) sure knows how to buy great presents. It's like he could read my mind. ha ha.

Merry Christmas to me!!! I bought "The Wristwatch Handbook"
As I opened the gift box, I was happy to see that it was just what I always wanted... an amazing coffee table book about my favorite obsession... wristwatches. The name of the book is "The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches" by Ryan Schmidt. The title is a mouthful, but is highly descriptive of what you can expect. It is published by ACC Art Books and available on the web site here: and Amazon. It is available in English and French.

Thick, heavy paper and hardcovers add to the perceived value of this wonderful book
Coming in at 5 pounds, 6 ounces, and measuring 10" x 11.5", this hefty work of art exudes quality. There is nothing like sheer weight and size to make an impression. The hardbound book has a full color glossy dust cover and a matching glossy hard cover underneath. The inner pages of the covers show full color macro photos of mechanical watch gears setting the tone for the rest of the book. It's as if these pastedowns say "buckle up... we are about to embark on a quest for horological knowledge."

You will find yourself jumping from one set of photos and captions to the others
There are many books on the subject of horology so you could easily spend thousands of dollars creating a reference library of your favorite brands. If the watches you collect are expensive, then having the right knowledge can save you from buying a fake or spending more than you should have (I'm looking at you "Moonwatch Only" by Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié, the pricey reference book for Omega Speedmaster collectors).

Large full page images can appear next to page layouts of smaller images, photos and captions
However, "The Wristwatch Handbook" is not about any single watch. In fact, it is not even about a single brand of watch or time period of watchmaking history. Instead, it is a beautiful primer to introduce the world of mechanical watches to a wide range of people. This means that a complete newbie could start at the beginning and work his way through all the chapters or a seasoned watch collector could jump to different parts of the book for quick reference or a refresher on a key concept.

Over 90 watch brands are included in the book and it tries very hard to be brand agnostic
But it gets better than that. Even if you could not read a single word, I believe that the world class photography and illustrations would keep you flipping the pages. The references shown in the book are likely high-end product photos provided by various manufacturers who want their creations to be shown in the best light, pun intended. As such, each photo is rich in depth, clarity, color and detail. While some watches appear silhouetted on white pages, others emerge from inky black backgrounds for maximum drama.

Professionally photographed images of some of the world's prestigious brands and models.

Many of the photos are virtually framable... they are gorgeous!
A coffee table book is designed to completely immerse you into a subject matter, without committing you to long complex chapters. The beauty and power of this book is that the information that you need is usually printed right next to the picture that it describes. This means that nuggets of information appear on each page as photo captions along with longer form text.

While it can be helpful to read the book in the page order that it was printed, it is not necessary to understand or enjoy the content. I have found myself jumping from one stunning image to the next in a meandering non-methodical kind of way.

A watch nerd's daydream starts with diagrams like these.
"The Wristwatch Handbook" covers a full range of subject matter. Just take a look at the contents shown below. The first chapters are dedicated to how a mechanical watch movement works and the anatomy of a watch. I consider this essential information that every serious watch owner should understand. The later chapters deal the the many types of complications that can be added to a base watch movement. These complications can be ubiquitous as a date window or technically complex chiming minute repeaters, automatons or perpetual calendars.

The book's Table of Contents
I will keep my opinion light because there are several fantastic reviews by huge names in the watch industry who have reviewed "The Wristwatch Handbook" favorably. You can see what they had to say on the book's web site. However, my favorite review comes from Amazon and it rings true...

A funny review title
I often read the reviews on Amazon to the the average Joe's opinion on anything that I plan to purchase. This book is universally loved with 100% 5-star ratings. I am not sure that I have ever seen that before.

A 5-star rating on Amazon so far.
I can easily recommend this book as the perfect present for the watch lover in your life (even if that is yourself). I would bet the cost of the book ($83) that they will love it. The quality, execution and value cannot be understated. Books like this might soon be a thing of the past in future decades.

Holding a book of this quality is completely different than reading about watches on the internet. Imagine the reaction if you handed someone a card reading " I looked up this website address for you". Now imagine that same scenario with you handing the recipient this artistic and informative book with some serious thought and weight behind it... Case closed.