February 2009


It seems like everyone and their dog has a Swiss Unitas 6497/6498 based movement watch now. They tend to be popular with Vintage Military style watches like Panerai, Glycine, and even Swiss Army. I’ve taken a small sample of Swiss Unitas 6497/4598 watches that I’ve owned and comparing the pricing and value of each one, they are quite different, and the cost jump is a big one. I just finished typing this article, but my browser crashed, and stupid wordpress did not save any of it, so I am retyping thie whole thing. Unfortunately since I am a bit frustrated and impatient it might not be up to the quality as the original one.

So anyway, These are 5 Swiss Unitas watches that I’ve owned, and I’ll be giving a small description of them.

Ollech & Wajs XXL Unitas – $300
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The Ollech & Wajs represents the entry level into the Swiss Unitas 6497 world, with a very basic movement and case. Case does use 316L Stainless steel, but crystals are both Mineral to save on costs. Though the savings is a minimal one, it does help keep the price down. Movement is not tweaked in anyway, and I even doubt it has been rebuilt from the factory. Probably just drop-in movement straight from the package.. this example actually has some scuffing on the bridges.

Wilson Watch Works Navigator – $460
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As you may have seen the Wilson Watch Works review that I posted not long ago, this is a very good watch for the money. Complete assembled with Care in the USA, with German and Swiss parts only. The Lume is fantastic, and the case is top notch. The movement has been reassembled by Chris and is guaranteed for a year. His work is reliable and the accuracy is very good.

Victorinox Swiss Army Mach IV – $650
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I’ve been very impressed with all the Swiss Army watches that I’ve handled and owned lately, and they are all Swiss made, with sapphire crystals on the front. The one has a basic Unitas movement, but is signed with the Victorinox logo, which is a nice touch. Dual crowns allow the rotating of the inner bezel as well, giving this one a slightly more complicated case. The price might be a bit enthusiastic, as they are available online new usually in the $350-400US range.

Sinn 6100 – $2470
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The Sinn represents a large jump in price from the above models, and was initially a $1750 watch until the price increase shot it up nearly $1000. This one has an in-house modified movement to create a regulator layout named the Caliber SZ04. This one even comes with a loupe to check it out as it has a very beautiful guiloche dial. Sapphire Crystals front and back and accuracy to wihtin COSC specs are just some of the features it boasts.

Panerai 114 – $4800
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Very near the top of the range of Unitas 6497 based watches is the Panerai PAM114 and the other manual wind models from the historic line. This is quite a modified movement from Panerai with completely decorated and redesigned bridges that are unique to Panerai, though some Chinese copycat companies have taken to copying their bridges. This movement is called the PAM OP X.

Summary
There are many other watches that use the Unitas based movement and these are just a few of the ones I have owned recently. Some other companies you might want to check out are Meistersinger, Maurice LaCroix, Kobold, U-Boat, Invicta, and many others. There is such a wide range of models available that it is difficult to name them all.

Just keep in mind that this movement has seen a lot of activity and can be easily modified to have some very interesting complications. Maurice LaCroix in particular has done some interesting things with it. Hope you enjoyed the article.

When we think of affordable Swiss Made automatic chronographs, one name that keeps coming up over and over again is Hamilton. With what seems like dozens of Valjoux 7750 Chronographs to choose from, they have one for everyone’s budget. The Hamilton X-Wind is one of the higher end Chronos that they carry, and of course uses the workhorse ETA Valjoux 7750 movement with a exhibition caseback to view the inner workings of the watch.

Ever since I saw the X-Wind I wanted to buy one, and when I tried one on in the Caribbean I really wanted it. I finally got a chance to get one at a decent price and here it is up for review. Big beefy 44mm peice.

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The watch has two crowns in addition to a bi-directional rotating bezel that allows you to calculate complicated cross winds and things that pilots might need to calculate. Beautiful black dial with silver subdials and guiloche patterning on the subs.

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As you can see, the watch has a left crown and pushers, with the day-date complications on the left side as well. This takes a bit of getting used to initally, but its not that hard to do.

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Exhibition caseback has a uniquely shaped crystal, and a degree chart of some sort also for calculating complex pilot things that us layfolk will never need, but its cool to have! This X-Wind is on a bracelet, which I like, but felt that the rivet strap looked better on my wrist. Possibly due to the watch looking larger. I believe the rear crystal may be Mineral as the marking only states Sapphire Crystal in the singular. Either way, Hamilton’s watches are still a great bang for buck.

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Nice machined press-lock clasp. The links are pinned, not screwed, but the clasp is a nice one. I’ve always liked the way the Hamilton clasps are made, and it just finished off an already very nice watch.

I’ve posted the Breitling Aerospace Avantage video review, sorry its not in high-res, but it’ll have to do. The Aerospace is a pretty cool ultra-light multifunction watch that is great for travel or anything where you don’t want a big honking Super Avenger style watch sitting on your wrist. SuperQuartz accuracy and 42mm diameter make it a very good choice if you are going this route. Enjoy the video!

My search for the ultimate recession-friendly watch fixes once against brings me to a clock! This time, its one of those Russian MiG fighter aircraft clocks that those Russians and Ukranians are always selling. I figured an authentic working Waltham or Wakmann would be a bit pricey for a watch fix at several hundred or more, so I settled on a $68 + Shipping peice, the cheapest I could find that has a Chronograph/Timer. Choosing the model without the heater saves me an additional $5.

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I picked the silver model, because I like the contrast, and think this one will look better in my office. It looks great alongside my Breitling display and Seiko world time clock. Movement is a 5 day manual wind, with a Chronograph that measures up to 60 minutes. The models with the additional hour counter costed about $40-50 more, so I decided against it for my first feeler purchase.

Accuracy is pretty good as far as I can tell, but there is no second hand except for the chronograph function. The Chronograph is monopusher type, with the same button start/stop/reset in that order, and the button for that is one on the right. The left hand button is responsible for setting and winding the clock. Turn it counter clockwise to wind (a bit odd), and pull it out and turn it to set. I had to figure that out since it did not come with instructions.

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The clock measures about 5″ in diameter, which is a decent size but not really big enough to have as a mantel clock. It works well as a desk clock, or a shelf clock like I am using it for. The clock came in like new condition, with a few rubs here and there as it is supposedly NOS and has some shelf wear. It is for the most part pretty clean. There is a switch on the back that I am not sure what it does. Perhaps for adjusting the time? I dont know. It moves in a u-shape pattern and does not do anything explicitly that I can tell.

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Overall I’m really happy with my clock, and it brings me much more joy than a $65 watch would. I’m really glad that I started buying a few sub-$100 clocks here and there.. it keeps the watch bug at bay, and keeps my cash in the bank, where it should be 🙂

Next up in my search for the ultimate sub-$500 watch is a Wilson Watch Works Navi, which I briefly talked about the other day.

The Wilson Watch Works (WWW) stuff is not very known, especially outside of ebay, but very impressive. I stumbled upon Wilson Watch Works when I was browsing through ebay at various watches using the Swiss Unitas 6497/6498 movements. These are hand made peices from the US, made from German crafted cases and dials, with Swiss luminova. Front crystals are all Sapphire, double AR coated, with rear exhibition crystal made from K1 Mineral.

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The model I picked up is the Navigator, or that’s what I call it at least because of the navigator dial, as Chris at WWW does not have model names yet. Dials and cases are totally sterile. This one is 42mm, and bead blasted stainless steel. They are all available with any combination of cases, dials or movements. You can choose to have a seagull movement installed if you prefer, and will save you $150 or so.

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As you can see, the semi-gloss black navigator dial is very nicely crafted, with expertly applied Swiss luminova on the all the outer markers and outer arabics. Hour and minute hands are also both illuimated.

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I put mine on a German Pilot strap with rivets in a dark chocolate brown, and I think it looks fanastic. Chris offers them on either vintage or bund straps, but I am partial to the double rivet pilot strap so I sourced mine elsewhere.

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The crown is very nicely crafted of solid stainless and finely bead blasted as well. The movement is nice and slack-free, unlike those chinese seagull unitas copies. The cases are manufactured by a company in Germany that also manufactures cases for Tourby watches and Lum-Tec, which sell nearly identical watches for almost twice the price, which is probably fair market value. Wilson Watch Works doesn’t have the same exclusive dial and case designs, but the quality is the same, and thus you save money.

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This case uses lug screws, not spring bars, which is kind of nice. The screw threads are very strong and well threaded, and not likely to strip. They are polished, which gives a nice contrast to the blasted case.

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Exhibition caseback showing the swiss made eta unitas 6497 movement, undecorated, but beating strong. Did not really check accuracy, but it was within seconds of my Breitlings that I synched it to over the course of a day. Of course the Unitas doesn’t have a date complication, but most days I can do without it – doesn’t stop me from looking for it though.

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On my wrist, the 42mm case is fanastic. Probably the perfect size, though the spikey diamond crown digs into my wrist sometimes. But I love the watch and love the case. Everything about it screams quality… and at a price of $459, it certainly is worth the price and very close to the perfect $500 watch for me. I’d been eyeing the Tourby peices as well, but at $800+, they would really have to offer me something that WWW doesn’t. And until then, I’ll stick to my WWW Navigator.

Take a look at his ebay store here: http://shop.ebay.ca/merchant/wilsonwatchworks

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