Monday, December 3, 2007

Skyhawk AT Update

Quick update on the Skyhawk AT.

1) The watch had difficulty adjusting to the daylight savings time change. It took another 24hrs after the change for the watch to automatically update the SMT setting.
2) I managed to put a minor scratch on the mineral glass crystal right on top of 9PM. Barely visible, but I am still wondering why Chase-Durer can put a sapphire crystal on a similarly priced watch and Citizen can't.
3) Watch fits fine on my 7 inch wrist. No issues.
4) I was sorely tempted by a Breitling Emergency for sale at an online dealer this week.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another Skyhawk Review

Another nice review posted about the Skyhawk here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Citizen Skyhawk AT Review: The Ultimate Pilot Watch or is it THE ULTIMATE WATCH?

After selling my Omega X-33 Gen 2, I immediately started missing it. The following monologue is my story of how I found, in my opinion of course, the ultimate pilot/traveller's watch.

As every methodical watch collector does, I first started putting together a list of functions that I needed to have on my new timepiece:

  1. Chronograph: This comes in handy for lots of functions including time traveled, or who can hold their breath under water the longest. I own three mechanical chronographs including a Speedmaster Professional Moon to Mars edition, but frankly, I prefer reading a digital readout for precise measurements.
  2. Countdown Timer: Countdown timer is one of the most useful functions in a watch. You can precisely time how long the marshmallows have over the campfire before they are roasted beyond recognition, or alternately, the time that you have before you should look for more fuel.
  3. Quartz Movement: I can almost hear people cringe over this one (although if you read my X-33 report before, you are probably not surprised). As much as I love the fine art of watchmaking, and own more mechanical watches than I can count, for an every day, tool watch, I don't think anything can beat quartz. No watch winder necessary, no resetting the date (if you have a perpetual calendar) and no fuss.
  4. High Accuracy: Again, in an everyday watch, it is very nice to be able to set it once and forget it. Even better is an atomic receiver.
  5. Large Dial with Large Luminous Hands: I like being able to read time quickly and even in the dark. The dial has to be a dark color and the hands have to be a light color for better contrast.
  6. Backlight: Backlight is crucial especially when the luminous hands are not charged enough to glow through the night.
  7. Solar-Powered: My apologies to Seiko. If I wanted a inertia-wound movement, I would be wearing my Explorer II. For a quartz watch, the best self-powered option is solar.
  8. E6B Slide Rule: A slide rule bezel always comes handy when trying to figure currency conversion or figuring out how much to tip the waiter at the local restaurant.

After putting together this list, there was really only watch that fit the bill. I considered the Breitling B-1 and would have probably bought one if I were not happy with my Skyhawk AT.

After deciding on the watch I wanted to buy, I went to the Princeton Watches website to checkout the models for the Skyhawk AT. I am a previous happy customer, so I did not think about looking elsewhere to get a better price. Not being a huge fan of rubber straps, I ended up ordering Citizen Skyhawk model JY0000-53E.

The order was placed on a Saturday afternoon. On Monday morning (8:40AM), they called me to confirm that I really wanted the order shipped to an address different from my billing address, my package was on its way. UPS delivered the watch to my work on Wednesday morning. As any WIS would attest to, it was very hard to not even open the package and wait until I got home that evening.

The watch was shipped in the following box:

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The box from citizen was presentable (but not as good for example as a box from Tissot for a similarly priced watch):

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Opening the box reveals the nice but not impressive inner package:

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I was impressed with the manual and the CD that Citizen included with the watch:

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And finally, I opened the box and came face to face with my Skyhawk AT:

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This was very very good. It looked much better in person than what I have been able to find on the web. Specifically, I was worried about the orange accents on the dial, but they do not distract at all from the look of the watch. On the contrary, they complement the cockpit instrument look of the dial.

Taking the watch out of the case, I was impressed with the quality of the bracelet and glad to see that Citizen includes two half-links as well as lots of full length links as well. My guess is that this watch would easily fit an 8 inch wrist.

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Finally, this is what the back of the case looks like:

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Now that we covered the basics, let's get to my impressions of this watch.

  1. Weight: The watch feels heavy but well balanced on my roughly 7 inch wrist. Due to inclusion of the half links in the bracelet, it is easy to get the watch to sit level on the wrist and not wobble around. Overall, I can feel the weight of the watch, but not in any uncomfortable way.
  2. Bracelet: No complaints at all with the bracelet. I think I still prefer the bracelet on my Omega Speedmaster Pro, but overall very good for a watch in this price range.
  3. Dial: This was the biggest surprise to me. In the pictures, the dial looks so busy, but in person, unless one is looking for one of the subdials, the attention is directed automatically to main watch hands. I find it easy to read the UTC clock in the center and the 24H display right next to it.
  4. Crown: Crown is nicely textured. This makes it very easy to pull out even when the watch is on the wrist. As one turns the crown to change the function, for each function, there is a nice solid click as it is selected. This is much better than the Breitling Aerospace where the speed at which the crown is turned decides whether the correct function is selected.
  5. Backlight: It is nicely done in orange to go with the flight theme and does not ruin my night vision.
  6. Hands: The main watch hands are large, and coated with a generous amount of Superluminova. They glow through the night without a problem. The seconds hand lines up perfectly with the hash marks on the dial.
  7. Functionality: Two alarms that include the timezone as part of the alarm setting. Chronograph, Countdown timer and an atomic clock receiver complete the watch. The E6B slide rule bezel is very legible and has a nice feel when turning it. The metallic knobs on the bezel make it easy to grab and turn the bezel.

Overall, this watch is much better than I expected and is a worthy replacement for my X-33. I have a few gripes: the crystal should be sapphire and not mineral glass, the bracelet and case should be coated with duratec coating like the Campanola line and finally, I think the second (smaller) digital display could be used for more functions than just to display the name of the home city.

Update. I got several queries on how to obtain the Japan only version of this watch. There are few vendors that specialize in this:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 Prices on the rise

Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 is an enigmatic Omega. There are several very good articles on this watch on the web:

In a nutshell, the X-33 was designed as an addition to the venerable Omega Speedmaster Professional line with help and feedback from pilots and NASA astronauts. I knew about the X-33, but never paid any particular attention to it until this year. I was a mechanical watch man through and through and really could not care less about the quartz watches. This all changed when I got to play with a Breitling Aerospace at the Tourneau store in Santana Row.

While I was researching a Breitling Aerospace purchase, a post on Timezone caught my eye and after a couple web searches, I decided that the watch to have was not a Breitling Aerospace but an X-33. A couple days later, I bought a new old stock watch from a used watch dealer in Boston and it was delivered the next day.

Here you can see a few pictures of my X-33.

So far, I love this watch. The functionality is great, the fit and finish is above any quartz watch that I have ever owned. The backlight is like a torch and the alarm is loud, although, I don't think mine generates the 80 dB alarm listed on the owner's manual.

As you probably guessed by now, this week's post is about the X-33 prices. Omega stopped selling the X-33 to the public about a year ago. The dealer stock,based on my informal checks to most of the dealers in the Bay Area and a few across the US, is all sold out. The factory stock also seems to be depleted. While, there are no published figures on the sales of the X-33, it is easy to make an educated guess based on the list price (over $2900 at launch) and the limited water resistance of this tool watch that this watch never sold in large numbers. This all indicates a very scarce supply of these watches in the used market.

There are two versions of the Omega X-33 even though it had a very short time span. The first generation watches (commonly referrred to as X-33 Gen 1) are identified by a shiny bezel, a regular crown and polished pushers for the additional functions. A first generation X-33 is pictured below:

(This image is provided by Thank you for allowing us to use it)

My X-33 is a second generation, with the improved crown (much easier to pull), satin-finished bezel and pushers.

The market seems to prefer the Gen 2 X-33, but due to the scarcity of the supply, I could not detect a more than $100-200 difference in the price of the two generations on the used market. The scarcity is such that as I write this article, there is only one X-33 on ebay listed for sale and it is from Germany. Taking a look at the completed auctions reveals that average selling price of the X-33 was approximately $1325 over the last three weeks. One of these was at $931 and it was a watch that I bought and returned to the seller. It was a heavily used example that needed significant cosmetic work but it was in good working condition. Taking the outliers out of the average, you end up with a less biased number of $1400.00. This number includes watches with the Kevlar strap (which was the preferred option for astronauts) and titanium bracelet.

Searching the listings at the watch forums, I find that you can find a new old stock watch from the far east listed at $1700 but with no boxes. At the time of this writing, there are no used watches listed on my favorite forums which is a clear indication of scarcity.

Here is my 30-second summary on the X-33 pricing as of July 22, 2007.

For a Gen 2 X-33 with a titanium bracelet in excellent condition, with full documentation and boxes etc, expect to pay between $1500-1900 whether it is new old stock or is a gently used example. I expect a Gen 1 X-33 with a titanium bracelet in a similar condition with all of its accessories to fetch between $1300 - 1700.

For a Gen 1 X-33 with a titanium bracelet in good condition (minor scratches that can be easily buffed out, no dings on the crystal and AR coating intact), with full documentation and accessories, expect to pay between $1000-$1300. A Gen 2 X-33 in a similar condition should fetch about $200 more.

Finally, for a Gen1 X-33 with a titanium bracelet that is in "heavily used" condition with deep scratches on the case and the bracelet, possible dings to the crystal and AR coating in less than perfect condition, expect to pay between $650 and $950. Due to the scarcity and the relative newness of the Gen 2 X-33 (introduced in 03, widely available in 04) , I don't expect to see a beat-up Gen 2 X-33 until 2009 at the very least, but of course, I take care of my watches religiously.

For all the prices above, at the high end, deduct a $300, for a watch without the titanium bracelet. The titanium bracelet is available at a price of $895 from several sources on-line. At the bottom end for heavily used watches, expect a $50-75 discount if they only come with a kevlar strap.

As of this writing, the X-33 is only available to NASA and military as a special order item with an insignia in the back. Omega dictates that watches acquired through this program must not be resold for a period of 5 years.

In conclusion, the Omega Speedmaster Professional X-33 in either of its incarnations is an excellent tool watch. With its scarcity and its status as a NASA mission-qualified watch, I expect the prices to go up moderately. If you have one, enjoy it carefully. If you don't own one but want one, I recommend going for a Gen 2 X-33 with the titanium bracelet.

See you next month.

(c) Copyright July 22, 2007. All rights except linking to the article are reserved.


"Begin - to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished. "

Marcus Aurelius

I don't know what the right word is for those that share my affliction. I am a watchaholic. Hmm, that doesn't sound quite a right. I think the favorite term for people that have a serious watch collecting addiction is WIS for short. "Watch Idiot Savant" is the long form. We live, breathe and dream watches.

Every watch purchase can be justified. Camping is a perfect excuse for a new watch. What if, just what if, you were lost in the woods. A compass watch like the Casio Pathfinder SPW-1000 comes to our rescue. For those with higher aspirations, a Breitling Emergency may be the perfect answer.

Camping of course is not the only perfect excuse. If you are refereeing a soccer game for your kids' soccer league, a perfect complement is made by Sinn: Sinn 303 World Cup. Not only is it appropriate for soccer, but as it's a limited edition, it has investment value as well. Never mind the fact that there are probably as many limited edition watches today as there are stars in the sky.

A vacation on the beach, surely requires a watch that is water resistant. How about a Rolex Explorer II or a Rolex Submariner? Or an Omega Planet Ocean? After all, if it is good enough for James Bond, who am I to argue.

Like most WIS, I spend a lot of time reading the watch related forums. Timezone, Watch-U-Seek and ChronoCentric are my favorite forums. The trading forums where I can see what people are selling and buying are a very good resource for someone that is always contemplating a new watch purchase.

Which brings us to the reason for this website. My goal is to put the time I spend on these watch forums to good use and provide a useful service by writing a weekly series on the pulse of the used watch market.

Well, let's get on with it then ... Enjoy. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

(c) Copyright July 22, 2007. All rights except linking to the article are reserved.