MINUS4PLUS6

Cool Watch Stuff

Below are some watch items that I have come across while working with watches with some notes on the experiences I had with each.

Click on any image for a larger image in a new window.


Rubber B Swiss Army Everest ToxicNATOs Tudor Cloth Strap
WristClean Chronos Bluetooth Disc   Smarty End Links

Rubber B Watch Straps

In June 2011, I came across Rubber B watch straps on buddy Jake's Rolex Watch Magazine These straps are specifically designed as a Rolex strap replacement that utilizes the existing Rolex clasp. Like many of the other replacement straps, the cheezy buckle did not match both the watch and Rolex's quality level.

I have posted a full review and installation guide here (click here).

Rubber B Strap for Rolex Installed
 

Veraet WristClean

I am always looking for the best method for cleaning my watches. Keeping the bracelet clean is important as it helps keep the bracelet from wearing and stretching. I saw an ad for Veraet WristClean Spray in International Watch Magazine, and discussed on various Internet watch forums so I decided to take a chance. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the watch spray worked well, was safe (unlike Scrubbing Bubbles) that I used before. The watch spray does not smell, has a soapy texture to it that rinses off well, yet cleans the watch similar to when I put my Rolex band into an ultrasonic.

If used weekly, one bottle of WristClean should last at 4-6 months.

Veraet Watch Spray

Veraet Cloth Kit

Veraet's President, Don Rothrauff, explained that the WristClean is safe because it is water-based, contains no abrasives, no glycerin (the gunk that causes film buildup), no ammonia or acid that could potentially cause rubber seals to deterioriate. Veraet also produces a series of cloths that are either sold separately, or bundled with the WristClean product. Veraet's microsuede cloths are used for wiping down the watch after cleaning with Watch Spray, microsilk cloths for cleaning gunk off without Watch Spray, and a larger and thicker microsilk cloth used for cleaning gold. Don explained that collectors prefer having cleaning cloths of different types and thicknesses.

Before using the Veraet WristClean cloths, I used a Googalie cloth that worked well, but does not soak up water like the blue suede cloth does. The blue suede cloth is perhaps my favorite cleaning cloth. The black microsilk cloth I keep around to wipe down my watches after daily use.

This is the Veraet WristClean cloth collection along with a display pad. The pad is good to have for leaving your watch at night.

 

 

 

Below are some before and after images utilizing WristClean.

BEFORE

GMT-C after weedwacking GMT-C Smudgy
This is my GMT-C after weed whacking Smudgy caseback after a week of desk flying and an afternoon of cycling
. More smudges Smudgy Face
After a typical week of desk flying and an afternoon ride, both the bracelet and the watch case are a smudgy mess
Smudgy 7750

Dirty pushers

Dirty Face

This is my 7750 weekend watch after a couple of bike rides and an afternoon of weed whacking(separate weekend). The chrono pushers are a mess as well.

 

AFTER

Blue Suede Clean GMT-C
A clean GMT-C including the bezel serrations and the serrations in the crown.
Using the blue WristClean suede cloth and finish with the black microsilk cloth.  
There is no embedded dirt in the brush finish. Clean Grain
7750 Pushers

7750 Back

The areas around the pushers and the brushed grain are exquisite. Even the brushed grain on back of the lugs looks like a factory finish.

After learning about Veraet WristClean Spray, this is hands-down the best cleaner. It is sold in the National Association of Watch and Clock Collector's museum store, as well as been advertised on Antiquorum's Timezone.com. Although Watch Spray is not a replacement for dropping your watch bracelet into an ultrasonic every few months to prevent bracelet stretch, it is a fantastic cleaner for weekly cleanup to keep your watch looking like new.


Veraet's WristClean for Leather & Rubber Straps

Veraet's WristClean released a strap cleaner for both leather and rubber straps. According to the Veraet website, "Body salts and oils often damage straps when not cared for properly. " I have never experienced a failed rubber strap, but I do certainly notice when the strap does get dirty and dull.

I have used other rubber strap cleaners from both Cartier and, well, Armor All, and the WristClean's Rubber Strap Care & Leather Strap Care works well for restoring the "new" look without the mess that Armor All brings to the strap.

Wrist Clean Rubber
I use a Rubber B strap on my Rolex GMT-C . Rubber B makes the only Rolex specific strap for Rolex models. A review of Rubber B is posted here. When cycling, both the watch and the strap get fairly inundated with sweat and road gunk. Rubber B and Riding
This is my GMT-C after a two hour ride. The watch is laying on one of Veraet's WristClean microfiber suede cleaning cloths. Dirty Rubber B Rolex GMT - C

The trick with the Rubber & Leather Care is to apply it onto the strap, then let it sit for about 5 minutes. After allowing the cleaner to soak in, wipe the band dry with WristClean's microfiber suede cleaning cloth.

Additionally, use some standard WristClean Spray for the watch head and the buckle.

Veraet Cleaner
With Veraet's WristClean, both the watch and Rubber B's strap looks as good as the first day I owned them. Veraet Done

   

Click on any image for a larger image in a new window.

Wenger Swiss Army - Bergeon Watch Maker's Knife

Swiss Army knives have always been the ubiquitous tool in anyone’s tool or camping kit because there are few items that pack so many handy features. Conceptualizing a watchmaker’s knife must have been a challenge for Wenger as the watchmaking world is known for having a plethora of specialized tools for making simple adjustments.  Wenger comes through by partnering with Swiss watchmaking tool icon Bergeon that combines both the staples of a Swiss Army knife and a watchmaker’s tool bench .  The Wenger Minathor Expert 50 packs 14 different tools that are essential for any watch enthusiast.    Swiss Army Watchmaker's Knife
The Wenger Minathor 50 is one of the larger Swiss Army knives, but it holds plenty of requisite watch tools.
Swiss Army Tools Opening the Minathor 50 is a pretty standard Swiss Army affair. The tools are held closed by the spring loaded hinge.

Opening the knife shows three uncharacteristic Swiss Army knife tools. Shown here is a 4x magnifying class adorned by a three-centementer scale with a leather band springbar tool, and a watchmaker's caseback knife. Also shown is the tool bit handle just adjacent from the magnifying loupe.

The screwdriver blade also locks in place to prevent inadvertent fold-ups.

Three watchmaker's tools shown here.

 

The caseback knife is an industry standard that can be purchased separately. The caseback knife is a staple on any watchmaker's tool bench.

Caseback Knife

Corkscrew

 

Like all Swiss Army knives, this one has the awl and the corkscrew, as well as the toothpick and tweezers located inside the handle. The tweezers also play double duty to assist with removing the tool bits from the holder shown below.

Tool Holder 1 Tool Holder 2
What makes this Swiss Army knife stand out is the Bergeon tool bit holder, and thetool bit handle located in the center of the knife. Both sides of the tool holder hold up to 11 different tool bits. The knife did not arrive complete with all the tool bits, but extra tool bits can be ordered through any Bergeon tool dealer.

Tool Bits 1

Long Tools

 

 

The tool handle, reamer, and round needle file.

 

Tool bits include the following:

  • 2.0mm, 1.4mm, 1.2mm & .8mm screwdriver bits
  • Fine fork springbar tool
  • 1.5mm Phillips screwdriver
  • 1.2mm & .8mm pin punches
Removing Bits Numbered Holders
The tool bits fit snugly in the holder. Use the tweezers held in the knife handle to pop-out the bits. The bit holder has numbered slots to help with fitting the bits back into the correct slot.
Each bit slides snugly into the slotted handle. Bit in Handle
Manual 1 Manual 2
The manual is written in English, French, German, and Spanish. The manual lists the available tool bits available for the knife as well as some of the uses for the not-so-obvious tool bits.

This is a great tool for any watch nut to have when out watch scavenging at pawn shops and collector’s fairs as all the basic watch tinkering functions are contained in this Swiss Army knife.  The Wenger Minathor 50 is an example of Swiss precision and quality that is expected in Swiss watches as well as in Swiss tools. Similar to how camera companies partner with lens manufacturers to form a perfect camera, Wenger and Bergeon have partnered to make tool that any watch aficionado should have in their pocket.

 


Everest on A Blog to Watch

Everest Watch Bands produces a replacement Rolex watch strap made of thermoplastic rubber that is much more durable than silicon replacements and designed to work with Rolex sport watches exclusively.

I have used various pre-production renditions of the Everest EH-1S strap on my Rolex GMT-C and reviewed the strap on Ariel Adam's A Blog to Watch back in September, 2012. The review on A Blog to Watch is posted here. A .pdf of the review is posted here.

ABlogtoWatch Everest and Rolex

The Thermoplastic Everest Strap

A quality rubber watch strap designed for Rolex sport watches is much better than other replacement straps such as NATO straps. The problems with other Rolex replacement straps are chronicled on the RubberB review page.

Everest moved from silicon rubber to thermoplastic rubber on the EH-1S because it is much more durable, has more elasticity, and is not prone to weathering. The EH-1S strap will keep its color and elasticity much longer than silicon.

Everest Rolex Strap

Read the rest of the review here.  

ToxicNATOs - Straps with Attitude

ToxicNATOs - Rolex

For years, I was not much the NATO strap fan. NATO straps seemed either too thin and flimsy, or too thick and fit tight between the lugs and the springbar. The buckle and hardware were traditionally chromed steel and susceptible to rust. I also am not a fan of springbars possibly getting bent. 

I came across ToxicNATOs from the wristwatch podcast, coincidentally titled The Gray Nato. ToxicNATOs according to company owner Terry Williams, are “straps with attitude.”  The straps are medium weight with all stainless steel hardware. I purchased a few of them for my Explorer II 216570 and my SeaDweller 4000. 

I selected the ToxicStripe, a medium weight strap that is available in complimentary colors.

The 20mm strap fit the SeaDweller 4000 without any issues, and the 22mm strap fit between the 21mm lugs of the Explorer II 216570 snugly but without any issues as well.

ToxicNATOS - ROLEX
ToxicNATOs - ROLEX ToxicNATOs - ROLEX

Strap hardware arrived polished, which I removed using a simple 3M pad such that the metal finish matched the brushed finish on the watch lugs. With stainless steel bits, there is no worrying about rust.

I chose the full NATO style with the extra strap and hardware ring that prevents the strap from sliding along the springbars. I also prefer the springbars covered and not exposed. ToxicNATOs - ROLEX

The end of the strap is tucked back into the last hardware ring to prevent it from flapping around.

ToxicNATOs - ROLEX

All ToxicNATOs are shipped in a specimen bag, complete with "Bad Ass" checked at the bottom.

I see myself using these straps for some time perhaps installing the original Rolex bacelet during the winter months. These NATO straps are great during cycling and are easy to clean after a long, hard, sweaty ride.

ToxicNATOs are priced very reasonably and are less expensive than a replacement pair of Rolex springbars. Consider using ToxicNATOs on your next adventure.

ToxicNATOs - ROLEX

**These ToxicNATO photos are captured with Hydra for iOS, the focus-stacking and HDR camera app for iPhone. The focus-stacked images have a blurred second hand as the shot was composed of 53 consecutive shots stacked together into one image. Click each image for a higher res photo.


Tudor Cloth (not nylon) NATO strap

After experimenting with traditional NATO straps such as the ToxicNATO, and seeing this image, I called my pals at Fourtané in Carmel and ordered a Tudor cloth strap for my Explorer II ref 216570.

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

Tudor took the concept of a cloth strap and raised it to a new level.  Most NATO straps are leather or nylon but the Tudor NATO strap is truly a cloth strap.  I was skeptical that a cloth strap would have the same robustness as the Explorer II, but after reading this about the Tudor cloth strap and realized that this is not an ordinary NATO strap.

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

Tudor employed a traditional French passementerie company (a manufacturer that makes tassels, braids, and fringes used on furniture or uniforms), one of the remaining few that utilizes the “Jacquard” weaving technique that allows for complex designs and dense weaves utilizing a high thread count creating a soft yet strong watch strap.  View this YouTube video to get an idea.

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

The strap comprises of three separate pieces, not one piece with all the bits sewn into the strap. Coming out of the package, it’s readily apparent that this strap is not an ordinary NATO strap. Rather than the buckle and keepers being sewn into the strap, the only sewn item is one keeper at the end of the strap. 

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

Threading the strap into the buckle is a bit of a puzzle, but hopefully this image shows how it’s done. 

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

What is also readily apparent is that this NATO strap does not have an extra strap that prevents the strap from sliding through the springbars when the watch is worn, especially when the strap is worn loosely.  Keeping the watch is place are what Tudor refers to as “tunnels” sewn into the strap to hold the springbars in place. 

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

Although this strap was designed for a Tudor with thinner springbars, the Rolex Explorer II springbars fit just fine.  The Explorer II utilizes the second thickest springbars behind the DeepSea SeaDweller and the same springbars as the modern SeaDweller 4000.   There are no problems getting the Explorer II springbars to slide through the tunnels.  I did find that getting the strap wet prior to sliding the springbars through does make it easier. 

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

The tunnels hold the springbars are at the correct distance such that the springbars seat easily into the watch lugs; no stretching needed as the strap fits the Explorer II like it was intended to fit that watch.

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

The only sign that this particular strap was not intended for the Explorer II is in the strap width.  The strap is 22mm wide on 21mm lugs. There is a little bunching between the lugs but it is hardly noticeable.

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

The buckle and the keeper are works of art unto themselves.  The buckle is designed like one for a leather strap whereby the strap is replaced as it wears/ages, but the buckle and keeper are kept with the watch.  The buckle pin is a robust as the buckle, no cheap stamped thing on this strap. 

Tudor cloth NATO strap

Another tell-tale sign that this is no ordinary strap is that the buckle placement is adjustable.  The buckle’s loop system allows for buckle placement on the underside of the wrist similar to removing or adding links on an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet.  Slide the sewn keeper along the strap to move the buckle; any changes in strap length can be accounted/adjusted utilizing the buckle holes on the opposite end of the strap.   

Tudor Cloth NATO Strap

Also, the keeper is dual sided; a brushed flat side that faces upward and a rounded underside.  

Tudor cloth NATO strap

After a month of wearing this strap, there are no signs of wear.  Unlike the nylon NATOs that I have worn, there are no frayed threads that have to be melted off, no scratchiness, no elongated/scratchy buckle holes, no stiffness, and no signs of wear other than an occasional wash in the bathroom sink. 

Without question, this strap is going to be attached to my Explorer II for some time to come.

Tudor NATO
Rolex Tudor Cloth Strap
A page from the Tudor Heritage Chronograph manual shows how the Tudor cloth strap feeds through the buckle.
Rolex Tudor Cloth Strap
Now this schematic makes sense. Another reason why the Tudor cloth strap is the only way to go because of the thought injected into the simple things like an adjustment such that the buckle is centered on the wearers wrist. What an absolute great design.

Tudor Strap & Smarty Links

 

I knew of Smarty End Links but never tried them until I used the Tudor NATO strap.  Here is the Explorer II 216570 with the Tudor strap.

The end links complete the watch and make the strap appear an integral component of the watch. 

Smarty Links are made of 316L stainless steel and compliment the watch very well.

Smarty End Link on Rolex

 

I did notice a slight gap between the end link and the case, but it is very minimal.  The end link fits well and does not move around.  The end link seems made for the Tudor strap. Neither the strap or the end link are impleaded by the thickness of the Tudor strap and installation was a breeze.

Smarty Links on Rolex

Chronos Bluetooth Disc

 

Back in November 2015 I read about the Chronos disc and was intrigued with the possibility of bringing smart watch/fitness band functionality to my mechanical Rolex.  After ordering there was a long wait because of the usual reasons that stall any good idea from going to production (eg. design, unforeseen design challenges, sourcing materials and manufacturing, software development, etc). 

One year after ordering, I received a Chronos disc and promptly installed on my Explorer II (ref 216570) and downloaded the iOS software.

Chronos & Rolex

Chronos is a rather clever concept. Rather than going down the rabbit hole that many watch manufacturers take by incorporating Bluetooth connectivity and battery charging technology into their existing watches (eg. Tag, Breitling, Frederique Constant), Chronos is a simple add-on that adheres to an existing analog wristwatch. 

The disc allows for notifications from an iOS phone (Android soon), step counter, and remote control for the camera and ringer functions on the iPhone.
Chronos & Rolex

The disc is constructed as a sandwich with 316L stainless steel outer covers with a clear polycarbonate center that allows for LED lights to illuminate out the sides.   

The disc is splashproof and for the time I have been using it, sweatproof.  The phone communicates with the disc via Bluetooth 4.0 low power technology allowing for notification to reach the disc as well as the disc to send step counts and remote controls commands back to the phone within a 50 ft. range. 

Rolex & Chronos
Chronos & Rolex Rolex & Chronos

Although Wear Chronos advertises the disc as holding two days of battery power, I found that the disc has one good operational day before the battery requries charging at night.  The Chronos device includes a USB charging stand designed to charge disc with the watch attached (but the watch is not required for the disc to charge.)   

The Chronos disc adheres to the watch using a microsuction pad.  Microsuction allows for adhering and removing the disc as needed.  Microsuction pads gain their suction when the pad is clean which can be done with a simple rinse under a faucet.  

The disc is 33m in diameter, which as shown on the right, does hang over the raised portion of the Explorer II caseback but is still completely covered by the watch case. I found no difficulty with the 1mm or so of overhang extending beyond the Exporer II caseback.

Chronos & Rolex

I discovered that the microsuction pad is not necessarily bullet-proof.  After a dose of scrubbing bubbles used when cleaning the bathroom sink (and my watch) obliterated the microsuction pad.  I ordered new microsuction material from Airstick (size .5mm) and re-adhered Airstick to the Chronos disc.  I found that the Airstick material was much more powerful than the factory installed microsuction pad.

Rolex & Chronos Rolex & Chronos
Rolex & Chronos Rolex & Chronos

One of the tougher components to design is not necessarily the device itself, but rather the software/firmware resident on the disc, and the iOS and Android software to communicate with the disc.  I found the iOS software easy to understand and use.  There were a few hiccups with Bluetooth 4.0 connecting with the disc, but there were rectified quickly after restrting the phone.  I find that after an overnight charge, that the opening the iOS software and have it activate the LEDs on the disc helps insure that the phone and the disc are communicating. 

After a couple weeks wearing the Chronos disc, I appreciate being able to control my phone with little distraction.
I keep my phone on silent 99% of the time and I monitor messages, texts, email, missed calls when a spare moment becomes available. Having remote phone/iOS notifications is a great convenience as I don't have to pull out the phone during meetings, watching TV, or any other conspicuous time to monitor incoming messages.

Like with anything that vibrates, the disc should be tight on the skin to feel it. I know I missed some alerts because the vibration motor is not very powerful. The LEDs are visible at night, but shouldn't catch anyone's attention during the day.

Rolex & Chronos

The LED's have been helpful at a movie theater or when driving at night that a text or calendar reminder activated.

When I misplace my phone, I can tap the watch face three times and the phone will ring which is very handy feature, especially when I am downstairs and my phone is upstairs; this feature helps from having to scurry around looking for the thing. The remote feature also works through office walls; I can leave my phone on my desk, yet I know there are incoming messages/calls while I am in the adjacent office.

The disc adds an extra 3mm to the watch thickness and 10g to the watch weight, but no more than if I were to switch to my 15mm and 10g heavier Rolex SeaDweller. I appreciate the extra thickness on my Explorer II and the disc is not a noticeably visible distraction. Only watch geeks who know where to look would notice the extra disc residing under the watch.

I hope that in future versions, the disk could be made a little thinner, yet have a more powerful vibration engine which I realize would be an engineering feat. Either way, I found the Chronos a great addition to my daily-wearer Explorer II and have come to appreciate the extra Bluetooth functionality without having to deal with the complexity of a smart watch.