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SAK Watches, Part II

Well consider this show and tell or part 2 of My Wrist EDC. What do I really love about SAK watches over everything else?  Some designs are incredibly easy to read.

After reading Defender’s interesting article about his SAK watches, I thought I’d share my unresearched thoughts and modest group.  It seems that both Vic and Wenger outsource their line of watches, Wenger seemingly being more consistent, Vic with its blitz North American branding of everything seems to have shifted sources somewhere between a Swatch like maker in the early 90’s to much higher end things recently, including, mechanical watches, and a $19K limited edition titanium version of its high end mechanical chronograph.  Clearly Swiss Army is attempting to enter the prestige arena.

All of these watches, be they Wenger (Swiss Military) or Victorinox (Swiss Army, Swiss Air Force), cheap or expensive, are simply excellent, simple, robust, reliable quartz time pieces.  All are fairly thick, some are very thick. None are thin, but some may seem more so due to the way the case, back and bezel are stacked and or beveled.

My dates are guesstimates, based on when I purchased them and any other info I may have.  I buy my watches on a whim and almost always on close out, so these may be several years old by the time they are on close out.  I can be rough on watches.  It is amazing what you can find for a low price if you take the time.

I share with you my SAK watches in varying states of wear.   Some higher end watches have mineral crystals which are harder and resist scratches better.  Some of these are also anti reflective, which is a nice feature.  Some are plain glass and scratch more easily scratched work just as well and can be easily replaced as needed.

You will note my seeming obsession with night readability.  No reason. I like stuff that glows in the dark, always have.  Also as I age, it seems middle of the night comes a bit more frequently, and I like to be able to tell just how much more time there is ‘till dawn.

Since my SAKs are fun and not my dress watches, I tend to be more like a kid where they are concerned.  Thus I share an odd mix of gizmos, timers, aesthetics, and faces.  They can be had for a small price in some cases.

Over the years I have come to understand that an expensive watch seems to break, be away for costly repairs for a very long time, and seems to vanish at the gym.  These on the other hand last seemingly forever, and seem to never be stolen or lost.

The simple truth is that these quartz watches keep better time than watches costing more than a Mercedes!  My point is they are in ample supply and cheap.

 I also tend to prefer rubber bands, as I am constantly submersing my watches be it washing my hands, the cars, the dogs, or cleaning my pond or working in the garden, or something where a leather band would quickly be ruined and a metal one quickly scarred.  I am amazed at the high quality of the present materials.  A far cry from real India rubber bands of the seventies and before.  

I have seen that many SAKS of both Vic and Wenger but more the latter, seem to mimic or copy some pretty high end designs. I recently saw a Wenger version of a Panneri, the coveted 1940’s Italian Navy divers watch (with the protector arm over the crown)-once a WWII Italian military secret!



Lets start with my favorite, a real boat anchor of a watch, the Hunter Mach 3.  I believe this was THE top of the SAK line in 2001 or so.  Identifiable by its sculpted metal link band, the Hunter came in 3 versions, with 3 different bands.  Mach 1 a simple analog watch-similar face-rubber band, Mach 2, a fly back chrono, metal and rubber band, and the Mach 3 with digital functions, including two time zones, 2 count down timers, date, day month, 12/24 display options, alarm, and ELECTRO LUMINESCENT backlighting. This full function watch is nothing special in terms of a $35.00 digital Timex or Casio as far as its functions, but –the styling and lighting are unique.  Similar to the newer Omega X-33 moon watch (and I’d bet made by the same supplier of the digital works).  The digital display, as well as the single date numeral appearing at 3 o’clock can be turned off entirely, leaving a plain uncluttered and simple analog face.  It is modeled after the Hunter Fighter plane’s cockpit dials, a plane used by the Swiss Air Force-thus it’s Swiss Air Force designation.



The backlighting is great as it not only lights the back of the face, leaving a silhouette of the hands which is readable, but is a very soft light.  The digital displays, if in the display mode are also clearly lit.  All hands are also luminous.  Screw back with Swiss Air Force.



Next is a Wenger diver, the exact model name escapes me, circa 1998, from Costco,  $89.00.  A remarkably similar style to a Tag Kirium.  Light, glows really well, and a contoured rubber divers band.  This is one of my favorites for its design as well as the unusual checkerboard relief pattern on its face. Note the Wenger back, with an engraved version of the Wenger knife.  This appears on all of my Wengers, and all are screw-in backs. Normal no screw down crown.





Next is a plastic housing oversized Victorinox watch, and it actually says Victorinox.  Originally this watch had a yellow crystal (now stored), which is quite eye catching, and a HUGE black and yellow Velcro band, designed to be worn on the outside of a parka or ski jacket.  When I first got the watch I thought it was a mis manufactured band as it was large enough for my calf!  Note the large crown, and the button at 8 o clock, which brilliantly back lights the numbers, rendering the otherwise visible luminescent hands virtually invisible when lit due to the drastic difference in brightness.  It seems that several low end, trendy, ‘fun’ SAK watches of about the 1995 or so era had this lighting feature.  Clearly not reflective of the typically well thought out designs by the real Victorinox knife folks.  Personally I happen to love the design of this face.  It reminds me of some kind of science fiction gauge.  You can barely make this watch out to the far left of one of the night lighted pics.  The hands glow well but the face markers fade rapidly-but remain dimly visible.



Wenger Commando Chronograph-2000. about $110 at Costco.  Similar face to the Renegade, easy to read, thick, glows well, chrono buttons a bit stiff but work well.





The there is the Swiss Army Night Vision –first version-circa 2004- a new version has arrived in 2006.  This really excited me when I first read about it, it originally was advertised as having a UV LED to light the luminescent face and hands-i.e. like having its own miniature backlight-never happened.  It was released with a bright blue LED located at 12 which bathes the face in blue light for visibility at night.  This watch also glows quite well without the added illumination.  The watch has a ‘locator’ red LED located at 6 o clock on the face which blinks every ten seconds-to help you find it in the dark (provided the face is directed towards yours)-looks intriguing in the store.  Finally, the bezel has what appears to be a tiny jet engine like molding above the 12 o’clock position, which houses a tiny and reasonably bright white LED. Press the button (at 8 o’clock) once and it lights the face blue, twice and the led lights until pressed again to turn it off, press it three times and it Las mer →Betsson ar ett kant varumarke for oss svenskar och de tillhandahaller flertalet tjanster inom casino spel och gambling online. blinks.  This is actually a very useful watch, as you have a useable flashlight at all times –and it is bright enough to see by –about a 15-20 ft throw.  





The large bathysphere like watch with six count em’! buttons, is the Startek 3000, out of production but replaced by the internally identical Startek 4000.  Circa 1999? This watch does every thing, almost.  I read reviews that it drinks batteries and this is not the case.  My son and I own two.  The case is cast aluminum.  The face magnifies the numbers and digital window.  It has tow batteries one for the analog face clock and one for the digital functions.  One will work without the other.  The digital clock has stop watch chronometer that can time 20 different laps or runners/splits, alarm, barometer, altimeter, thermometer (which works so long as not on your wrist), date, 12/24 read out.  It has a rounded countered back and while stupidly large, it is comfortable and easy to read.  It does not glow for a long time nor well, nor is there any provision for lighting its digital display-a major oversight IMHO.  These 3000s were about $350.00 retail,  the new version( –same guts nicer, more traditional and less bulbous case)- retails at about $400.00-mine on close out were….$69.00.  This is my new favorite for hiking and climbing.  





Next, with its bright yellow face is my Swiss Army Dive Master 300, circa 2005. Surprisingly thin and lightweight, its one of the upper end ‘professional’ series offered in the past few years by SAK, now replaced by the massive Dive Master 500-which I had and returned as it was too large, but did have an orange face, which I liked, and a gas escape valve for really deep dives.  Note the luminescent shield and the magnifier over the date box. The bezel also has a GID (Glow in the Dark) dot at 12 o’clock and the bezel has click stops for timing.  Hands glow well, face fades rapidly.  This probably is indicative of tritium hands and some cheaper GID material for the face.  Nice finish and quality. Screw down crown. Retail $350, close out $159.00. The present version, New bigger (actually downright massive)  and better case Dive Masters are about $500.00.





Next is my first SAK watch, the lowly Renegade, 1995? a plastic housing snap backed version of the original SAK standard watch. Basically the poor mans version of the original SAK.  Remarkably, this watch has held up incredibly well, having climbed over 70 14ers here in Colorado, seen Nepal, Europe, Alaska, Florida and the Caribbean, Central America, and my garden.  Easy to read face, glows well at night, and the band is seemingly indestructible.  At the time SAKs were, to my knowledge, never on sale.  This thing cost about $75.00 at the time, which compared to present items on close out, was a lot.  Yet I’ve gotten more than my moneys worth.



The Striker is a Renegade with a fluorescent green click stop bezel.  The bezel is not luminous and could not be used in the dark.  Same face as the Renegade.  Bought several of these for stocking stuffers that year, on close out at TJ Maxx about seven years ago for $15.00 each.





Another Swiss Air Force model, the Sea Plane Chronograph, 2004?-quartz, part of the professional line again, note absence of case arms to which a strap would normally attach.  This watch has a locking plate which traps a ring on its unique watch bands, one of leather and one of rubber, thus the Sea Plane designation.  I first saw the non chrono version in a store and was smitten with the simplicity and unique design of the face and hands-reminiscent of old aircraft instruments.  While not a pilot, I still appreciate the aesthetics. Note the plain Vic shield at 12 o’clock.  Only the minute and hour hands glow, and they glow slightly different colors of green /green blue.  Go figure. Screw down crown.



Wenger Alpine diver-2003.  Simple, GID dot at 12 o’clock, ratched bezel, easy to read face with second hand with GID dot, ‘modern’ luminescent material (reflects white/purple in natural or UV light respectively, glows green), scre down crown.  Great watch on close out-…$26.00!



Wenger Alpine chronograph. Similar to the Wenger blue chrono, but a different movement based on the feel of the button play.  Decent watch, glows well, bracelet is a bit sloppy.  Another Costco find.





Finally my latest acquisition, inspired by Defenders Vic with its full GID face.  My Wenger Aquagraph night force-presently on close out some places-circa 2006.  It too has a face which glows, and allows the wearer to read the silhouette of then hands.  There is a very similar version which does not do this.  Note the solid blue numbers on this version.  The non GID face has numbers which are not solid but have an outline.  I like this watch a lot, even with its bright blue rubber band.  Ratched bezel, GID dot at 12 o’clock, and the face glows all night, and is easy to read in the dark-dim but clearly visible and easy on the eyes.  It might not be so good say in a place with other lighting or glare, say a theatre, or in front of the TV.

I seem to reflect the current trend of men with watches to fit the mood, or the occasion. I’m not really a fashion type, more of a toy type, like those of use with more than one SAK for our pockets ‘just because’. And watches are pretty inexpensive these days if you shop.
 
I’d be hard pressed to chose one brand over the other in terms or features or overall quality.  I do lean toward Swiss Army (Vic) in terms of design and seemingly a bit higher quality in some of the feel of their movements and chrono buttons.

So look for those after Xmas sales and spring sales if you like these SAK’s.