Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fiyta: One "Watch Time" Missed

Fresh off Shenzhou 5: Yang Li Wei, China's first taikonaut, wearing his Fiyta Chronograph, China's first watch in space, on his left arm. Speculation about the contents of his big gray lunchbox with hose attachment are beyond the scope of this blog. Well, actually not, so if you have a guess, stick it in the comments.

I commented a few days ago about Watch Time's article on "Watches in Space" (June, 2006), the most comprehensive write-up I've seen so far on the topic. However, they notably missed covering the:

--Fiyta Chronograph

Perhaps the Fiyta is too low-rent for the lofty, Patek-scented atmosphere of Watch Time.

Perhaps the unique and distinctive dial failed to make its functions clear to the editors. I know I'm baffled as to the purpose of all those freaky extra hash marks and colors, other than to remind me of the ceiling of a Swedish smorgabord buffet my family would eat in while traveling on vacation sometime during the foggy 70s.

Fiyta now makes a line of watches that are marketed as having met with some kind of blessing from the Chinese space agency. I've never seen one in person, but the current versions are supposedly halfway decent, on-par with a good Poljot or so. These are what the taikonauts are apparently wearing now. Bottomline: the recent versions aren't completely laughable. Which can't be said of the 2003 version...

It's a real shame that the 2003 version is such a tacky piece of unmitigated
rubbish. After all, the "first" always has more fame, collectibility, and, for the maker, profit-making potential. Every WIS knows what the first watch on the Moon was, but who can name the second?

So by outfitting Yang Li Wei with a cheesy timepiece too nasty to be sold respectably in even the skeeviest flea market, let alone be seen in public wearing, Fiyta has proven they have the business insights of, well, a government-owned factory, when it comes to knowing what it takes to make a long-term watch brand. Bravo, Fiyta. You tossed tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue over the upcoming years into the mulcher.

The Fiyta Chronograph is therefore deemed worthy of inclusion in the Famous Watches list, not just for having been worn during a historic space journey, but for also representing one of the most moronic horological business decisions in a decade.

While I might consider owning or acquiring one of the recent versions, I'll never buy the junky 2003 edition, although apparently you can get them in Limited Edition collector's sets.

Pilotswatch has a good article that dissects the shockingly chintzy innards of the 2003 version.


Hopefully I'll regain my appetite in time for brunch,


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Long Time No See - New Additions

Alexei Leonov wearing his 70's Omega Flightmaster, back when the good ole USSR still existed. Surprisingly well dressed for a tool of the Breshnev-era Bolsheviks.

Okay, okay, I admit it. It's been donkey's years since I've written an entry. Besides being very busy at work, I kept meaning to make an entry for the 6139 I've acquired, but never seemed to get around to it due to not finding the time to take photos.

So I've decided to create a lower effort post, inspired in part by the June, 2006 issue of Watch Time, which featured an article on "Watches in Space." I highly recommend you pick up a copy and keep it for long term reference.

Based upon that article, I think the following warrant inclusion in the Famous Watches list. Some of the information is also based upon my own research that is separate from the "Watches in Space" article.

--Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute

This isn't so much a new addition as a refinement/correction of a September, 2005 entry. Yes, a Navitimer was the first watch worn by an American in space by Scott Carpenter in May 24, 1962. However, it wasn't a "regular" Navitimer, but the Navitimer Cosmonaute version. The Cosmonaute has a 24-hour display, as contrasted with the 12-hour display in the more commonplace Navitimer.

--Omega Flightmaster

A cousin of the Speedmaster, the Flightmaster was worn by Alexei Leonov on the Apollo-Soyuz missions of the 1970s. And, suitable, it has a cool 70's retro look to it.

--Sinn Model 142 S

The first automatic watch in space, worn by Reinhard Furrer. This chronograph uses a Lemania Caliber 5100. Yes, amazingly enough, people weren't so sure automatic watches would work in a weightless environment. Guess they forgot about Newton's First Law. Then again, at first, people weren't so sure rockets would work in a vacuum without air, either.

--Fortis Official Cosmonaut Chronograph

Okay, according to this article, the regular chronograph was certified for cosmonauts first on numerous Russian missions, in collaboration the Rosaviacosmos, the Russian space agency. The B-42 version was certified for the International Space Station missions at a later date.

Interestingly enough, apparently only mechanical watches are rated for EVA ("space walk") activities. I'm guessing because the cold of space causes a quartz to stop working? If anyone knows for sure, definitely let me know.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Lawrence of Arabia's Omega Chronograph

On Monday I wrote to Omega asking if they could tell me more about T.E. Lawrence's (Lawrence of Arabia) Omega chronograph. Obviously, such a watch would be a prime candidate for the Famous Watches list if one could find, these days, a similar watch or one from the same series.

My question was forwarded from Omega Customer Service to the Omega Museum. This is the reply from Jean-Luc Miranda of the Omega Museum:


Dear Mr. Dennis,

Here is the full description of this famous time piece (#2885 in our Museum Inventory). This text is self-explanatory.

Lawrence of Arabia aviator chronograph-wristwatch, 1915: This watch of exceptional historical interest was worn by Thomas Edward Lawrence, British archaeologist, officer and writer, called Lawrence of Arabia (1888-1935). Animating a rebellion against Turkey from 1916 to 1918, he freed the Arabic Middle East countries. Caseback engraved with an "A" (Aviation) and the "Broad Arrow", symbols of the British army in which Lawrence firstly served in 1914, as an interpreter and second lieutenant, and a second time incognito upon his return from Arabia on August 30, 1922 under the name of John Hume Rossas, as a mechanic with the Royal Air Force. He enlisted a third time on February 23, 1923 changing his pseudonym to T. E. Shaw, which is why the guarantee slip dated April 18, 1933 (issued after a revision) included with this chronograph is made out in the name of T.E. Shaw and not in the name of the writer of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Calibre 18''' SO PB CHRO, enamel dial, 1/5-second minute track, hollow Arabic numerals with inner 13-24 in red small seconds at nine o'clock, 15-minute totalizer at 3 o'clock, blued steel Empire hands, lentil-shaped 925 sterling silver case with red gilt mono-pushbutton at 6 o'clock, caseback with hinge, Louis XV crown, curved loops, sewn "two leather straps" bracelet, silver buckle (ref. 568.18)

The serial number 4'428'513 shown on its movement identifies this chronograph wristwatch as ordered on September 23, 1915 by France or one of its colonies, while the serial number 4'789'732 on its caseback refers to a standard 17'''hunting type pocket watch ordered on September 1912 by the agent Joseph Sewill of Liverpool! The caseback interior was enlarged by hand in order to fit the case-middle size of the 18''' chronograph. Its dust-protective double back cover was eliminated to allow this replacement back, flatter than the original one, to snap when closing.

Consequently three corresponding riddles remain unsolved:

1. When, how and why this chronograph wristwatch supplied to France or one of its colonies reached the hands of a British army agent?

2. When, how and why was the original caseback replaced by one of another model?

3. When, how and why was it engraved not with the symbols of the Royal Air Force at that time (Initials AM for Air Ministry with a crown on top) but with those of the Royal Flying Corps established on April 13, 1912 and replaced by the RAF on April 1, 1918?

Thanks for your confidence in our products and best regards.

Jean-Luc Miranda

OMEGA Museum (Vintage Information)


In terms of hunting down related watches, it doesn't give me much more to go on (at least not to my amateurish skills), but it's certainly interesting reading in its own right. If I get my gumption up this weekend (and finish getting packed for London), I'll write Mssr Miranda with some follow-up questions.

Currently wearing a totally non-famous, 2005 Seiko Superior 5 in PVD, model SNZ443K1. Hey, I can't be absolutely fabuluous all the time and it's Friday. And it's a dang cool watch for the money.


Current Mood: contemplative, cold finally fading