My First Swiss Watch. Yes, you read that correctly, and you’re still at the right musingsofawatchaddict blog.
I have always been a Seiko devotee for as long as I can recall. From my first Seiko Monster when I started work to my Credor GMT watch as I walked down the aisle with my wife-to-be, Seiko had always been the go-to choice for me.
The Swiss and German with their fine watch finishing and ever increasingly complicated watches have no hold on me, neither does the cheap prices of cloned, throw away mechanical watches coming from China. Seiko, on the other hand, have always attracted watch consumers with their indiscriminate range of watches, all the way from the terrific basement bargain prices of the Seiko 5s to the unaffordable Credor/Grand Seiko watches, while delivering ludicrous value at the low to middle price brackets by providing superbly reliable in-house movements with complications like chronographs, power reserves, retrograde complications across all 5 families of movements, including quartz, mechanical, kinetic, solar and spring drive.
Until recently, when Seiko decided to start pushing up the price points of its latest offerings, the Swiss had nothing to offer that can compete with Seiko at the low to mid range of offerings. However, probably due to the fortunate intermingling of economic forces that are forcing Swiss watchmakers to offer more affordable watches while Seiko is itself moving up the value chain, I have gradually found Swiss-made timepieces that are surprisingly at the same price as Seiko’s offerings while offering a better case finishing and movement.
As many readers would have known by now, Glycine was bought over by Invicta some time ago. Although Glycine remains a separately managed subsidiary, many watch collectors have expressed disdain at the news, fearing that the quality and style of Glycine watches would slowly lose focus and deteriorate over time. Either despite or because of Invicta’s takeover of Glycine, post merger Glycine’s watches can now be found a fraction of their original retail price pre-takeover. Thus, it is also a Glycine Incursore that had the honour to be the very first Swiss made timepiece that came into this Seiko fanatic’s possession.
To put the prices in perspective, I paid less for this Glycine with full box, papers and manufacturer’s warranty than I would have to fork out for a grey market 2017 Seiko Samurai!
This particular model that I bought was post-takeover, which explains the addition of the wings on the classic Glycine “castle” logo. However, it must be noted that the change to the design was already planned even before the takeover, and hence not a result of the takeover.
The dial attracted me partially in part due to its stark white dial coupled with blacked out hands and hour markers, which aids clarity in normal conditions. The mixed-use of Arabic and Roman numerals for the dial (commonly known as the California dial style) also had a hand in nudging me towards this particular model. For the uninitiated, the Arabic numerals are used for 4,5,7 and 8 while Roman numerals are used for 1,2,10 and 11 markers.
The hour markers are completed with an upside-down arrow for 12 o’clock and single bars for the remaining compass points. The dial is then completed with the new Glycine logo and “Glycine” text at the twelve o’clock position, while the model name “Incursore” and “Automatic” is printed at the 6 o’clock position. The words “Swiss Made” is proudly printed at the six o’clock marker.
All items, except for the Glycine logo is black on white, while the logo is silver. Interestingly, being a military-inspired design, all the hour markers and the hands (except for the seconds hand) are actually filled with black luminous paint.
The lume work is very good and indiscernible on casual examination.
It is a given that the lume on the Incursore is nowhere near that of the Seiko divers, either in terms of brightness or the length of visible time, given that black Super-LumiNova paint was used. However as mentioned earlier, the high contrast of the black hands and markers against a barren white dial is extremely legible except in the most extreme of conditions, which is where the lume then takes over to aid visibility.
The Incursore comes with a date located at the 4 o’clock position. It comes with matching white numerals on a black background and it is as un-intrusive as possible, being fairly small in proportion to the overall size of the dial (46mm). The fact that the date window is so far from the edge of the dial already gives a clue to the fact that the case size is housing a much smaller movement, which we can see later in the case back shot.
Protecting all those dial and hands is a sapphire crystal (a copy of which is also protecting the see-through case back and the movement within). There are 3 (yes this is clearly stated in the technical document!) layers of anti-reflective coatings on the underneath of the crystal and the crystal ends up being just a hair taller than the bezel.
The Incursore is brushed all around, but what a brushing it is! It is circular and emits outwards in ever larger circles from the middle. This circular brushing is continued on the front of the lugs to match the brushing on the bezel.
The brushing on the sides of the cases are top – to – bottom with a sharp demarcation between the crossover from the circular brushing at the top to the vertical brushing on the sides.
A bonus point for Glycine is that they even took care to finish off the area between the lugs as shown in the picture above, which is almost never ever seen in watches at this price point. This is the true mark of a company that pays attention to the smallest of details.
The ridged crown is signed with a mirror-polished surface with the Glycine logo stamped on it. Given the size of the crown (0.8cm across), one might be forgiven for thinking that this is a manual winding watch. It is not, but the size of the crown does look proportional to the rest of the watch. Despite the 46mm diameter, the watch is below 11mm in thickness.
The back of the watch is circular brushed to match the top, with a sapphire crystal covering not just the movement itself, but extends to cover the engravings on the circumference as well. The screwed down case back helps to maintain its 100m water resistance rating, while the sapphire crystal ensures a scratch-free view of the undecorated movement. Many other companies would have chosen to use a mineral crystal for the case back, however, Glycine has chosen to use sapphire which is far more scratch resistant.
The Incursore is powered by the ETA 2824 elabore grade movement, with its shock system upgraded to Incabloc (that is usually only found on the Top and Chronometer grades).
At this price point, watch consumers are more likely to find their watches powered by the Seiko NH35 movement or perhaps the Miyota 9015 movement. Paying more might get you the Sellita SW200 (an ETA 2824 clone) or perhaps the STP1-11 (another ETA 2824 clone), but this is the first time I have seen a watch at this price point offering the ETA 2824 with an upgraded shock system!
Compare this to the Seiko NH35/4R36 or at best the 6R15 (which you are unlikely to find brand new at this price point in Seiko’s own recent offerings) and one is hard-pressed to see how Seiko can beat Glycine at this price point, movement wise.
The ETA 2824 has been around for decades and is a proven go-to workhorse. It runs at 28,800 bph with 25 jewels and 38 hours of power reserve.
The strap in my pictures above is my own as I quickly replaced the strap on the Glycine when I first got it. However, given the quality of the strap provided, I decided that I should write about it.
The Incursore came with a weathered brown genuine leather strap, with one fixed holder (stamped with the Glycine name) and one floating holder. The buckle is stainless steel and signed, but the finishing is not as impressive as that of the watch head. The edges of the buckle are soft and not as sharp as that found on the case. However, the quality of the leather is on par with the case, being soft and not too stiff. Not much breaking in will be required to make it wearable. The white stitching on the straps compliments the barren white dial nicely, while the sides are also painted, rather than left unfinished. The lug size of the Incursore is 22mm, while the strap tapers to 20mm at the buckle.
At this price point, Glycine beats Seiko hands down in terms of the movement and case finishing. In fact, for its price, we would likely need to look at the now-defunct Ananta and mechanical Brightz (which is JDM only) range of models before we can find a comparable product to Glycine. Even then, many collectors will probably go with Glycine given its Swiss pedigree.
However, it must be noted that this Incursore was purchased at a price far below its recommended retail price and that at its retail price it is unlikely to provide such a good value to price ratio. However, for starting watch collectors, Glycine provides very good value to price ratio when you can purchase their products at below its recommended retail price and are a good alternative to Seiko timepieces, long regarded to be value leaders in this price segment.
Why do I keep going back to Seikos
The above concludes my review of my very first Swiss watch which I believe provides an excellent price to performance ratio even when compared to Seiko. The problem I find with Seikos nowadays is that they are moving upmarket way too quickly, alienating consumers much like myself.
For example, the new 2017 Cocktail time SRPB43 is now using the 4R movement, which replaces the original Cocktail time SARB065, which is using the 6R movement.
Now when the original cocktail time was introduced in 2010, it sold for 55,000 JPY. The new cocktail time was introduced this year 2017 and costs 46,440 JPY. That’s a difference of around 10,000 JPY (~USD 90 cheaper).
So perhaps you might ask isn’t that better since the newer model is cheaper than the old ones by 20%? The answer is yes if everything remained the same or was upgraded. However, the new models are a DOWNGRADE from the original models.
Yes, you heard me right, the newer models are a downgrade. Except for a few minor modifications, the aesthetics of the new models are the same as the original, BUT the movement has been severely downgraded.
Historically, the Grand Seikos and MarineMasters of the Seiko universe are powered by the 9S and 8L (essentially undecorated and unfinished versions of the 9S destined for sports models or mechanical Credors). These are the top dogs of the Seiko Universe.
Moving down from there, we have the utilitarian 6R movements. These are used to power the mid-range beasts of the Seiko Universe. They are generally cheaper but also offer a lower level of time-keeping performance compared to the 9S/8L family.
The lower echelons of the Seiko Universe are populated with the 7S/4R movements. These are cheap mechanical movements, developed for the sole purpose of being cheap to manufacture, lengthy service intervals, and easy to repair. Many new collectors imagine the 4R movements to be new movements, but these are nothing more than 7S movements with handwinding and hacking capabilities. There have been recent developments to add power reserve function and a 24 hour indicator to the 4R family. However, they are not developed from the ground up to be “fine” movements, for example, even after extensive adjustment (do not confuse this with regulation), they are not likely to remain so for any lengthy period of time. In addition, their amplitude is nowhere near 300 degrees and timekeeping suffers as the power reserve runs down.
When I first started on this hobby, there were very clear lines drawn between the watches powered by the 7S and 6R movements. The 6R watches will easily sell for double that of the 7S watches, which were normally found in Seiko 5s and certain Superior lines. However, in my Cocktail example above, these distinction is getting blurred and I feel that Seiko is now focused on increasing its profit margin because there is no longer a family that is focused on the lowest end of the market. 4R movements now powering both the low and middle range of the Seiko Universe, sharing the middle range with 6R movements.
I am actually quite disappointed with the direction that Seiko has taken with this business plan of theirs. However, Seiko is a profit-making entity and has to answer to its shareholders.
So why do I keep sticking with Seikos? The answer lies in the resale market of Seikos. With the ever increasing prices of the new models that Seiko is introducing, the older models powered by the better 6R/8L/4S models are surprisingly proving to be better and better buys at current prices. Perhaps, when Seiko collectors finally catch up to the fact that the 4R movement is the “worst” that Seiko has to offer, they’ll be willing to pay more for the “better” movements that Seiko used to sell for much cheaper in past years.
Editor’s note @ 11 Nov 17: I clearly forgot to link this back to my Glycine review above. Now other than the potential benefit that one can get from trading older, cheaper but better Seikos. I would also like to bring up the point that my Glycine above provides tremendous value to price ratio that Seiko is nowhere near to touching at the moment. However, I need to re-emphaise the point that the price that I obtain this Glycine is ridiculously low and is unlikely to be repeated for the vast majority of the other Swiss brands. Hence, on the whole, Seiko will still provide more bang for the buck generally, compared to almost any other Swiss watch manufacturer worth considering. In addition, other than the current trend of Seiko revisiting its own history and drawing design cues from there, I do find that Seiko is usually more daring in its new watch designs as compared to most of the stuffy, old-fashioned Swiss watches, whose idea of new models, is a simple change in colour, or case material. The slew of new designs plus the generally low cost of entry of Seiko watches makes them much more agreeable to me, and I’m sure the vast majority of other watch collectors who have to work for a living.