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My watch collection #8 Vertigo Pilot One

Vertigo Pilot One on blue nato strap.

At the time of writing, the Vertigo Pilot One is the earliest watch still remaining in my collection. I’ve talked about watch collecting before and for me it’s a journey of trial and error, dead ends and exploration. No GPS, just pure fun.

That means a lot of watch flipping. But the Pilot One still remains to be flipped. It is indeed for sale if you’re willing to pay the price. I’ve intentionally overpriced it a bit simply because i don’t really want to let it go, but at the same time it’s given me a good run for the last five years and I could do with downsizing my collection a bit.

The Vertigo Pilot One is gorgeous

I’ve got a massive soft spot for mid-century utilitarian chronographs. Vertigo’s reinterpretation of such a watch bear resemblance with Zenith’s Cronometro, Heuer Bundeswehr etc. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.

It’s 41 x 48.5mm large with 22mm lugs and these dimension makes for a very wearable watch for a lot of wrists. It’s large-ish without being too much. The understated colour-way helps with this. Vertigo is an Italian microbrand, and although I’m not sold on their other designs and personally think they’re struggling a bit with finding their identity I do think they got this one almost perfect.

The Pilot One comes in all black or a reversed panda option. The panda was originally my pick but I changed my order while still in pre-production. I stick with my choice – The black sub-dials are actually matte dark grey and offers just enough contrast against the black dial to make it interesting.

The watch comes on a black leather strap which I’ve never used. It’s fine for a more dressed up look, but that’s not how I wear mine. It looks best on a nato strap, or one of my favourite options is a rattly Seiko SKX jubilee bracelet.

Functionality wise it houses a Seagull ST19, manual wind chronograph movement. Basically the only mechanical chronograph you’ll find under £1000. It’s fine. Runs a bit fast but still within reasonable limits. I use the chronograph a lot in the gym to time the break between sets. It also comes with a uni-directional dive bezel.

Vertigo Pilot One is not flawless

I do have some wishes, should Vertigo ever make a Pilot Two (or Pilot One v2).

  • I’d prefer an aluminium bezel insert instead of ceramic. That’s the utilitarian look I prefer.
  • I’d like a domed sapphire or Hesalite crystal instead of the flat one.
  • The bezel click action is not great. It feels a bit cheap and flimsy.

Part from that this watch is still in my possession for a reason. It is a very nice watch.

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My watch collection #7 Blenheim Navigator Luminous

Blenheim Navigator Luminous on leather nato strap

The Blenheim was a Kickstarter watch that didn’t stay long in my possession. I’m not even sure why I backed the project. The watch was cheap, looked ok and I hadn’t bought a watch in a while, I guess.

The Navigator Luminous is heavily inspired by the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. A dive icon that was invented in the 50’s and still retails, but for a cool 13G (in GBP). I’m not even a particular fan of that watch and today I know better than getting a tired knock-off from a brand without any type of ethos.

See, that’s probably the main issue in this story of watch collecting mishaps. The watch itself was nothing to call home about, but it worked. The materials and finish were ok for the price of £130 (although today you can get better for less on Aliexpress).

The Navi Pro, as the Navigator Luminous was called initially has a Miyota 8215 entry-level automatic movement, a 60-click unidirectional bezel with pretty shoddy rotating action and and materials that feel plastic and cheap.

Blenheim Navigator Luminous on mesh strap

What was so bad about the Blenheim watch?

What really lacked with the watch however was the backstory, the passion, the brand ethos. There is nothing wrong with being a young microbrand. In fact, I’m gravitating more towards these brands for a compelling narrative associated with my watch than a big player brand who mainly lives on heritage and marketing in todays world.

Unfortunately Blenheim lacks brand ethos completely. The campaign was plastered with the all-too-common brand jargon about wanting to fill the gap in the affordable luxury watch market (what an oxymoron, that!) and wanting to pay tribute to the old guard etc etc.

But who are Blenheim? Just another Chinese factory brand with some presence in the UK. I’m importing catalogue watches with Gloriousdays, but I’m not trying to hide it. Instead I build the brand around the message I’d like my products to remind us off.

Watch collecting is a trial and error, learning by doing type hobby. I was almost leaving out the Blenheim from this list as I only had it for a few months. But it was part of my collection nonetheless and I learnt from the process. Don’t be afraid of making mishaps and taking wrong turns as you progress. It’s all part of the journey.

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My watch collection #6 Pancor P02

Pancor P02 dial close-up

Here’s an interesting watch.

Pancor P02 launched as a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 and was delivered in 2018. It’s a unique mechanical watch that work in many settings. Priced around £250, it wasn’t a spontaneous purchase but after a bit of to and fro I thought this would be a piece I could have quite a bit of fun with.

It’s definitely a unique looking watch. To begin with, it’s pistachio green – a colour we don’t see very often on watches. All surfaces on the dial and hands are matte pastel, which contrasts nicely against the case’s chromed and shiny finish. If the body would have been treated with a sandblasted texture, used titanium or even been brushed it would have looked a lot more like a tool watch. Now the Pancor P02 sits somewhere between dressy and tooly.

The face is quite large at 42mm, especially since there is no bezel and the face goes all the way out to the edge of the case. To make this big surface a bit more dynamic and interesting, Marc Schutten the founder of Pancor opted for a Miyota 9132 movement. This adds a 24h subdial at six a clock and a power reserve indicator at 12 a clock.

Without these sub dials the watch undoubtedly would have looked a lot dressier, in which case it would have worked better in a 38 – 40mm size.

Pancor P02 up-front

What is it like to wear the Pancor P02 on the wrist?

As mentioned, the Pancor P02 feels quite tool like. This is much thanks to the pointy yellow second hand and sub dial hands which seem to float in the air thanks to the black center plate. The execution is gorgeous and in combination with the pistachio green gives the watch a feel of a medical instrument that’d belong in a surgical theatre.

This is what caught my attention in the first place. My very first associations wandered to the TV series Lost and the 70’s bunkers of the Dharma Initiative. This watch could’ve been the Dharma Initiative’s officially issued wrist watch.

The watch has 22m lugs and works on a huge variety of straps, from canvas to leather and even mesh. I found that my favourite was on a light beige suede strap for a smart casual look.

All in all the package is unique and fun, but it doesn’t come all without downsides. Although the watch is 10ATM it’s not as utilitarian as I would’ve hoped for. The lume is poor, the date window is small and the yellow hands against green face makes for overall poor legibility.

Desmond from Lost TV show.
Can you imagine the P02 on Desmond’s wrist?

Why did I sell my Pancor P02 watch?

The above mentioned legibility issues could’ve been reason enough to flip a watch, but I think for me what was the killer was the size. With the flat crystal going all the way out to the edges of the case 42mm is simply too large for this type of watch. At least for my wrist. It doesn’t sit bad on the wrist, but it feels large.

At 39 or 40 mill I think the Pancor P02 had been a much more attractive watch that I still would wear with joy (although maybe I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place because I shied away from watches under 41mm in 2017.

After I bought my Venturo Field 2 in 2020 my Pancor became obsolete. They served a similar spot in my collection and I guess you could say it was pushed out by the Venturo.

Nevertheless the P02 still has a spot in my watch loving heart and I remember it dearly. It was also a watch that grew on my partner over time and one of the few watches of mine she approved of.

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My watch collection #5 Aquatico Aqua One

I’m not sure how the Aquatico Aqua One ended up on my radar. At that point, in late 2017 I was already quite into my micro brands and subscribed to a lot of pages on Facebook. I’m guessing Aquatico posted something about their new model and at first sight it mainly just looked like another Submariner copy.

At some point later I noticed an update, in which you could get a blue face with snowflake hands. What more, the hands had that gorgeous floating effect when they’re solid white with black near the center. The effect maybe first widely recognised from the Rolex Explorer 2.

That, shared in some rather decent imagery and with a temptingly low price point sealed the deal. It arrived from China a few weeks later.

Aquatico Aqua One next to my other watches in the display box.

What’s the Aquatico Aqua One like?

This version of the Aqua One steals and borrows shamelessly from Rolex and Tudor and lands in a rather decent combination with a good looking dial as the main attraction. The white snowflake hands with the black center are maybe what I like most about this watch. You could also buy it with mercedes hands and it just looked so boring in my eyes. I’m really not a fan of mercedes hands.

The second feature to highlight is the beautiful blue sunray dial. It’s dark blue and they’ve managed to match it well with the dark blue ceramic bezel. The bezel is 60 clicks uni-directional but feels a bit off the shelf and has a polished surface which doesn’t match the case and bracelet’s brushed finish.

Aquatico Aqua One on blue nato strap.

The 42/50/22 dimensions gives you a fairly large watch but the case is slim and overall it’s a great all-rounder. I’ve worn this on many trips, while kitesurfing, and as a daily beater. It’s got a bit of sentimental value by now and as a bonus it has one of the ugliest caseback artwork known to man – the infamous mermaid on a dolphin. Because the lugs are quite far out from the case the watch does not look good on two-piece straps which leaves a gap close to the body. It does look great on the fitted oyster bracelet though, and I also often wear it on natos.

Why did I sell my Aquatico Aqua One?

I don’t mind my Aqua One, but it just doesn’t stand out in my collection that much nowadays and I’d like to replace it with another blue dial diver such as the Seiko Turtle or something akin to a vintage Tudor Submariner.

In fact it’s been for sale for some time and the day after I wrote this post someone bought it and I purchased a Seiko SRP773. Law of attraction?

Aquatico Aqua One on the wrist.
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My watch collection #4 Deep Blue Nato Diver

Deep Blue Nato Diver

When Deep Blue announced their Nato Diver model in 2016 the watch world raised an eyebrow. Why would a micro brand make a near like-for-like copy of the Seiko SKX007 and sell it for pretty much the same price as the original?

I like the SKX. It’s a classic. But there was one detail that didn’t resonate with me back then – the size. The SKX is not a small watch with its 42.5 diameter, but in 2016 that was too small for me. Deep Blue’s version on the other hand is 44mm and wears like a tank. Well, back then that was how I liked my watches. Tank style.

Deep Blue Nato Diver 44mm wrist shot.
It’s a chunky boy! 44/51mm on a 17cm wrist.

What’s the Deep Blue Nato Diver like?

If big dive watches is your thing you’re probably familiar with brands like Aragon and Deep Blue already. They make good value, robust tanks. The Nato Diver ‘SKX’ homage is no exception. It uses a NHS36 automatic movement with daycare complication and ticks all the boxes of a sturdy tool watch. If you’re into the SKX look but want a larger version I cannot fault it in any way.

Unfortunately it’s sold out on Deep Blue’s website.

https://www.deepbluewatches.com/soldout19.html

Seiko SKX007 and Deep Blue Nato / Military Diver side by side for comparison.
Side by side: Seiko SKX007 and Deep Blue Nato Diver

Why did I sell my Deep Blue Nato Diver?

In 2018 I bought the original Seiko skx007, and with that rendered the Nato Diver superfluous. During the two years it was in my possession my preference had changed in favour of smaller watches. Smaller as in 42mm, i.e not really that small. And now 42mm is borderline too large and the sweet spot is around 40mm. This keeps constantly changing it seems.

Having said that – if you have a watch you love but the size doesn’t feel right, it could be worth hanging on to it. Do’t sell it unless you really have to. One day you might sway back to that watch size and then it will be there waiting for you. I might be speaking from experience.

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My watch collection #3 Gruppo Gamma Divemaster

Gruppo Gamma Divemaster

After browsing dive watches for hours on end I finally came across a pre-order watch from Singapore based microbrand Gruppo Gamma. Gruppo Gamma was mainly known for their Panerai hommages in 2016 but with the Divemaster they created something inspired by vintage divers but yet fully unique.

Gruppo Gamma Divemaster on my wrist.

The Divemaster was a chunky diver spanning 44 x 52mm with 24mm lugs. Not a small watch by any standards. Today I’d struggle with a watch that large, but in 2016 this was my ideal size. I wasn’t much larger, it was simply a preference.

Before the Divemaster I had briefly owned the Orient Ray, but not connected with it. When I received Gruppo Gamma’s latest creation on the other hand I was smitten. It came on a chunky, tan leather strap. It had a beautifully curved domed sapphire glass and could either be had with a sandwich dial or a date window. A few colour variations were also possible. Inside was an NH35 and the bezel was a smooth pleasure to turn. There really wasn’t a lot negative to say about the Divemaster if you were into this type of watch.

Especially with the pre-order price it was quite affordable at £320. Naoki at Gruppo Gamma evolved the model over the years but to me this first version is still the best ever made, and got my eyes not only on a Gruppo Gamma as a great brand, but the microbrand scene as a whole.

Why did I sell my Gruppo Gamma Divemaster?

I kept my Divemaster for many years but eventually it saw less and less time outside the watch box. I think it was a combination of me moving towards smaller watches and the fact that I felt a bit too precious about a watch that was designed to be used as a tool watch. I actually made a small profit selling it and the new owner seemed really stoked about the watch, so I’m glad it’s fully appreciated in its new home, as it deserves.

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My watch collection #2 Orient Ray

Orient Ray

It doesn’t take long for anyone getting into watches to find out about Orient. The brand is usually positioned as Seiko’s arch nemesis with a slightly friendlier price tag. Orient does in fact make very good value watches with in-house mechanical movements.

It’s not strange then that Orient was my first mechanical watch to ever own. Soon after getting the Autodromo Prototipo I was drawn into the sea of dive watches, via hearing about the Seiko SKX009 if I remember correctly.

I remember browsing dive watches online for hours on end. And then finally I decided to get the Orient Ray, not because it was the best watch I could find, but it was sort of a compromise between price, functions and looks.

Orient Ray can be had for a mere £130 but still boasts a solid build, in-house automatic movement, 200m water resistance and pretty decent lume. It’s a proper dive watch on a budget and it looks rather elegant too. I put mine on a blue-white-orange nato because I’m a sucker for the Tudor Montecarlo.

Why did I sell my Orient Ray?

I used the Ray for a few months but never fell in love with it. The bezel was really stiff, the overall design a bit too elegant for a tool watch and the size of 41mm simply felt a bit small at the time, coming from 44+ mm watches. The additional pusher used to change the day was at first an interesting feature but later on felt a bit odd. I guess Orient felt the same as they removed it when they updated the Ray to Ray 2.

My love for divers had kicked in regardless and my hunt for the ideal dive watch was already underway. Eventually I found a watch that truly hit home with me. More on that one (and why I sold it) in another post.

Mystery watch that replaced the Orient Ray.
What are we looking at here?
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My watch collection #1 Autodromo Prototipo

Black PVD Autodromo Prototipo

The Prototipo from UK microbrand Autodromo was my first flirt with watches other than my own bamboo watches since I started Gloriousdays. I’d had my eyes on the Prototipo for a long time before I bought it. It was just one of those designs that speaks to you.

The original Autodromo Prototipo line-up. Image borrowed from Hodinkee.com.

The model is since long sold out and I’ve got no idea why Autodromo isn’t renewing their stock. Originally I fell for the stainless steel case with dark blue dial, but when I finally pulled the trigger on one I went for the black PVD version with yellow accents. To this day that is still the version I like the most, and it arguably has the best contrast and legibility too.

For me to buy a £500 Quartz watch was something totally new, and something I’d today most likely wouldn’t do. Spec-wise it’s overpriced, yes, but value is subjective to the buyer and I guess at that point (when I didn’t now jack shit about watch making) I liked the design enough to treat myself.

What is the Autodromo Prototipo like?

One could argue that it’s worth the money even on the specs side. The finish is great, it uses a Seiko VK64 “meca-quartz” movement which was pretty novel back in 2016. The case with its distinct barrel case has a gorgeous satin finish and the case back is sightly curved to minimise contact with the skin for less irritation. There is certainly eye for detail in the Prototipo, which takes obvious inspiration from racing chronograph of the 1970s – a style of watches I’m a sucker for.

Black PVD Autodromo Prototipo

Niggles

The watch is not without downsides though. The hour and minute hand are too close in length which affects legibility quite a bit. It’s also only a 5ATM water resistance so it’s not a does-it-all, bring-me-on-your-holiday type watch. I would’ve loved 10ATM and a metal bracelet option. On that note, the integrated lugs look great but they are very snug and you could probably fit a Milanese strap but a nato is out of question.

Alternatives to Autodromo Prototipo

Brew Retrograph
MHD MR1

Since the Prototipo is hard to get by nowadays, if you really are on the lookout for one you might include some similar alternatives. Fist that springs to mid is the Brew Retrograph. It shares a lot of design elements with the Prototipo, also utilises a meca-quartz movement and comes in a variety of stylish colours.

The other watch I can think of comes from a brand that fittingly shares Autodromo’s love for cars and racing. I’m thinking about MHD CR1, which unfortunately is sold out at the moment, but MHD is a brand to be aware of nonetheless as they make some very unique and interesting pieces.

Why did I sell my PVD Prototipo?

Although the Autodromo Prototipo is 42mm wide it felt too small for me back in 2016. I was used to my 44mm Bambu watches and epsecially with its 20mm and tapering leather strap, the Prototipo was a bit too small for my liking. Today it would’ve been a perfect fit for my preference, but that alongside the fact that I was too precious about denting and scratching it eventually made me sell it.

But you know, I’m happy I didn’t hold back on buying the PVD Prototipo chronograph back in 2016. Because for some reason it didn’t stop with buying that Prototipo and be done. It became the stepping stone to check out more watches online, view videos on YouTube from the likes of Urban Gentry.

And that was the start of my new hobby of watch collecting. It’s a silly and pointless hobby I admit, but a highly enjoyable way to waste time and income nonetheless. Not too different from playing slot machines, fishing or picking up girls. It’s all about intermittent rewards. But more on that another time maybe.