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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Victorinox Swiss Army — Lancer Series



This thread is dedicated to Victorinox Swiss Army (VSA) Lancers, particularly the Lancer 100 models. Why now, more than 30 years after their releases, will you ask me ? Well, to put it simply :
  • They're damn good watches.
  • They started it all for Victorinox's activities in that domain.
  • They are becoming more and more popular among collectors, at the point that despite being listed regularly on Ebay, some models can get bought in a matter of hours. And thus deserved a resources gathering thread even nowadays.


I - LANCER 100 - REVIEW


a - History



Victorinox is a renowned Swiss brand, founded in 1884 by Karl Elsener. The brand, which is still managed by the Elsener family, is known for its Swiss knives, which they first provided to the Swiss army in 1891, to the point they became their official provider in that regard. The name Victorinox came later, by the fusion of the INOX (french for stainless steel, which is the cornerstone of their manufacture) with Victoria (the first name of Karl Elsener's mother).

Yet , it's only in 1989 that they started creating watches, with an independent subdivision of the motherhouse, Swiss Army Brands. Inc. The Swiss Army brand was later reintegrated to Victorinox, but even nowadays, they are still faithful to the style that popularized them. Which began in the US, with the affordable Lancer series.



b - The Lancer 100




Sold as « built for land, sea and air » the Lancers are tool watches, made to withstand multiple environments and mistreatment without faltering. Though designed with a divers aesthetic in mind, and a military inspired style, they are in fact more akin to all-terrain field watches than actual divers (the Lancer 200 being an exception to that).

They were first distributed in the 90', with a number of variants created though their commercialization (till the mid 2000). This implies that most of the Lancers currently available are between 30 and 15 years old, granting them the rank of vintage. This also means that most of them are more or less bruised, so if you thought one scratch was bad on your new watch, or if seeing those makes your blood pressure higher, I suggest you take a good seat ; because « Attack of the Scratches » could be another name for this thread. ^^

The actual model we're going to review here is the L100-LG-Green, LG standing for large, opposed to other models' midsize dimensions.

Here are the base specs :

Reference : L100-LG-GREEN
  • Case size : 39 mm.
  • Case thickness : 10 mm.
  • Case back: solid, stainless steel. Snap back.
  • Lug width : 21 mm.
  • Lug to lug : 40 mm.
  • Total weight : 125g (case + bracelet).
  • Water resistance : 330 ft - 100m.
  • Pricing : $295 original price, then $325 in 1996. Between $40 and 150$ pre-owned nowadays, depending on condition and gender.


c - The dial


Though the bezel suggests a diver, the dial is a field watch's one, with clear, legible Arabic numbers all around, and even the 24H military time with smaller digits. The relatively dark background dominant green also feature a good contrast with the chapters markers, and the numbers, enforcing the readability. The iconic Victorinox shield was already there, smartly replacing the 12th figure.

Double sword hands do complement quite well the ease and precision of the read ; while the second hands distinctive colors pleasantly differentiates itself from the other two.

The chosen lume was tritium (as hinted by the double T around the Swiss Made inscription), whose luminosity was independent from sunlight, while its radioactivity could be easily dampened by the watch's case and crystal. It was spread around the hours markers and on the minutes and hours hands.

By the way, the brown color of the hands' tritium you see there isn't the original one, as it would normally be the exact same than the one you can see near the chapter. It is in fact what happens when the hands are rusted (I wasn't aware of how a watch was supposed to be serviced some years ago, I'm afraid XD).

The crystal is mineral hardened, which makes it partially but not completely scratch resistant (as proven by this example XD). It's not as good as a sapphire crystal in that regard, but would leave some (limited) room for polishing, and is less prone to reflections, which makes the read quite comfortable once again.


d - The bezel



Made from lacquered stainless steel (roughly, resin poured into a steel bezel mold), the bezel is rotatable in an unidirectional fashion, which allows it to be used just like in a real diver, as some form of underwater chronometer. The amount of pressure required to do so is just right, while the feeling in the process seems solid and precise.


e - The crown & water resistance


Heavily knurled with diamond shaped patterns to be easier to grasp (just like the outer bezel), it requires just enough pressure to be pulled in and out for the result to feel secure. Has two positions in order to adjust the time (seconds stopped), or for a quick date correction.

It is NOT screw down on the Lancer 100, but rather push-pull, which is one of the reasons why the Lancer 100 should not be considered as a real diving watch. It still features an honorable 330 ft/100 m water resistance, but while this is enough to swim safely, it's also lesser than the minimal 660 ft/200 m that would be required for real diving.


f - Caseback


Snap-on back, which somewhat also limits the water resistance ; it's still duly engraved (though VSA didn't feature serial numbers at that time). With its 10 mm thick, the case is quite thin and feels quite pleasant on the wrist. You will also notice the solid endlinks for the bracelet, and most particularly the spring bars connecting it to the case's lugs : those are one of the weak points of the watch as a vintage craft, as the bar tends to get stuck inside the link, while the effort to take them out and back in tends to deform the connecting pins. The result is added space between the bracelet and the case, with the endlink rotating instead of remaining solidly pressed against the case.


g - Movement


Contrary to what you may read here and there, the movement is an ISA 1198. ISA is a Swiss movement manufactured, and though some of it's production has been relocated to China (« Far East »), this one is a fully Swiss version. Technically, it's a workhorse movement, without any extraordinary complication, yet it does it right, and does so for a long time. Despite being only 1 jewel, it is indeed incredibly sturdy (mine worked within specs while unmaintained for 18 years...), no matter the shocks, and while keeping the seconds hands aligned with the markers. It's so reliable there's been a variety of versions created with the years, the closest ones being the 1198/32 (3H) which is the equivalent of the 1198/103.

Technically it features :
  • 3 hands, centered seconds.
  • 3 o' clock date window complication.
  • 11,5" caliber - 25.6 outer diameter (26.3 mm max), 3,70 mm height.
  • Rotary stepping motor with deadbeats seconds (1 step/s).
  • 3 positions crown, including a hacking function and fast date correction.
  • -15/+15s per month.
  • 38 months ≈ 3+ years battery life (SR920 = 399/395 battery).

Noteworthy attention, the date wheel has been customized, in order for it to match the color of the dial.


h - Bracelet


Only one option regarding all the Lancers, and that is their stainless steel bracelet. Yet while steel is prone to scratching, this one was well engineered ; and goes from 21 mm at the lugs, to a slimmer 18 mm near the opening. This one is an engraved deployant clasp, which locks a first time by the pressure, and then by a secondary buckle. Despite that last element being somewhat hard to open, this secures the bracelet, and ensures it'll never get unvoluntarily open.

Since there's only one bracelet, it's the same than the Lancer 200's, and so inherits from it's divers' extension, which allows for quick enlargement in order to wear it over a suit. Contrary to the lugs, it's extremely easy to adjust the length of the bracelet, with a number of removable links. It even features inbuilt micro-adjustments, making it quite complete in terms of functionalities.

The other detail it inherits, is that Made in China inscription. You'll ask me how this is possible, since the watch is labeled as Swiss Made ? Well, it's a matter of proportions : as long as ≥ 50% of the parts are Swiss, and as the assembly is made in Swiss, the product can boast it is Swiss Made. If less than 50% of the parts are, of the assembly is performed elsewhere, then only a lesser Swiss Parts label can be claimed. And so it's probable most Lancers' bracelets were made in China, while the most parts of the watch and final assembly are indeed Swiss.

While not particularly fragile, no bracelet is invincible, and the thin bars connecting the deployant mechanism to the closing clasp are unusually slim. Good watchmakers can get around this if needed though, as with the years, for some owners, the Lancer as a whole became associated with its bracelet.


i - Overall

This is an excellent watch. As it was made at a times where VSA's name wasn't associated to watches, they made sure they would start with quality, and packed more than the 290$ price would have suggested, with a solid rotatable ceramic+steel bezel, decent water resistance, a rock solid yet honorably precise movement, and a metal bracelet. Even the 39 mm size makes it a good fit on most wrists.

The only letdowns I can see are the tritium paintings, which stop glowing after 12-15 years, and the relative rarity of the watch outside of the US. It is also relatively prone to scratches though.

Great everyday watch in all other regards.


ProsCons
  • Diver' aesthetics
  • Tritium lume
  • Field legibility
  • Steel = scratches
  • True bezel
  • No sapphire crystal
  • Quite affordable
  • Good fit for most wrists
  • Steel bracelet's conception
  • Relatively shock resistant
  • Decent water resistance
  • ISA 1198 movement




 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
II - THE OTHER LANCERS



Originally, the line only differed with the midsize models (aimed for women), and the Lancer 200 (the diver). The gentz Lancer 100 itself was already available in black, blue, green and red. With the years arose a number of variants, most particularly for the Lancer 100 large, the most popular model.


The product range was then diversified with two tones models (regarding all large size, mid size, and even Lancer 200).


a - Lancer 100 midsize

Smaller, 32 mm case versions of the Lancer. While the aim is obviously predominantly the ladies, some brands chose not to categorize their watches by gender, and to let women with larger wrists and men with smaller ones decide if a watch was for them or not.


(courtesy of BearSales2013)

Aside from the smaller dimensions (32 mm case, 17mm lug width, with a bracelet ending at 14 mm at its thinnest point), the only notable difference is the bezel's proportions, which has a thinner aesthetic, with more noticeable inner and outer limits. Hence, be careful upon purchasing a Lancer 100 with unusual bezel's proportions, it might be the women's model.

Exists in two tones versions as well.


b - Lancer 100 large two tones


Identical to the Lancer 100 Large, but flashing glints of gold on the bezel, the crown, part of the links and the hands. Significantly more expensive for that reason, but more colored, with a slightly more luxurious feel.


(courtesy of Jeremy Green)

It's less popular than the "basic" pure steel version of the Lancer 100, and since most people seem to be seeking this one (to acquire or parts for repair), currently they're a majority of those who aren't quickly sold on the bay.


c - Lancer 100 large red hands

A more recent variant of the Lancers, that came around around the years 2000. Identical to the previous ones, except for the seconds hands, which made a step closer to Victorinox's current aesthetics, by becoming red.


(Courtesy of WatchCharts)

The black version of those seem to be the most popular model, as they are the bulk of the Lancers for men that can currently be bargained.


d - Lancer 100 modified/counterfeits (do not buy !)

Where there is people to buy, there are people to deceive. At this game, you'll have to examine very closely some models in order to avoid suspiciously modified/different ones. And it's like back at school, the game of the seven errors :


— It's completely obvious the hands aren't original here, but sometimes there are only more subtle details.
— There are some models where only the diamond knurling is missing on the crown (which doesn't necessarily implies a replica, but only that it was changed, and possibly part of the movement as well) ; but also some where its missing from the bezel (which is bad, to be avoided XD). The replacing crown is also often smaller than the original, and so leaves an obvious gap on the case. While having the crown replaced can happen, be wary if you spot more differences elsewere.
— The white date window, while usual on most watches, isn't standard for the Lancers. Spotting a white one implies the movement either isn't original, or has been replaced. And a Lancer without a Ronda 715 isn't a Lancer anymore.
— Sometimes there are details off on the bracelet. Here the links finish and positioning seems odd to me. Maybe it has been sanded without respecting the grain and the holder gives it it's unusual position, but it's strange.

What I would suggest to future collectors is not to be too scared by just a crown being replaced, but start being defiant if there is more than just the crown.

Also, be careful about the Swiss Army emblem :


Their shield logo was already use on their knives, so I don't see why they would've changed it all of a sudden. This very example is presented as a rare European model, which is strange as well since the Lancers were mainly sold in the States. Anyway, the oval logo hasn't been confirmed by Victorinox as being theirs so I'd advise caution. And if you see a logo that looks more like a semi-circle, avoid it, it's 100% counterfeit.


e - Lancer 200

The real diver version of the line. Features a larger screw dow crown, a screw-down case-back, a thicker bezel and a 660 ft/200 m water resistance, which makes it suited for proper diving. It's still the same bracelet though, so the lugs width is still 21 mm, and the case 39.


(courtesy of Fossil_watch-n-more)

Those were more expensive than the Lancers 100, significantly (though not dramatically) thicker with 12 mm (vs 10), and also aesthetically less polyvalent ; so unsold preowned models can be found with more ease.

They exist in two tones versions as well, with the gold going on the bezel's figures in particular.



III - CONCLUSION


The Lancers were great watches, and without a doubt contributed to give Victorinox Swiss Army its current position in the industry. To me, that particular green model embodies more than that, as it was gifted by my British grandfather (who thought it was a fake XD), and thus constituted my introduction to the world of analog watches. And this ticking little thing was so good it quenched my whole watches need for 18 years long, becoming an unmatched GADA for my (at that time) uneducated wrists.

It's in fact because it wasn't duly serviced that I had to go towards other watches, which would then awaken the watch addict slumbering inside me. Yet, even now, I'm still seeking for suitable replacement parts on Ebay, in order to restore to the hands and bracelet of mine to their former glory.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the read. Feel free to share your mind about the Lancers, your reviews, or even simple wrist-on pics in this thread.
Cheers ! 😃



A few more links for those wanting to learn even more about the Lancers :
— Watch hunter's excellent sites' database.
— Watch hunter's review.
— A fellow Watchseeker's review.
— A Watchuseek wrist-on.


Thread v1.2 - 2021-03-21
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quality post! Thanks for sharing something a bit different.
Thanks, RightOne ! Well, this is a watch I'm attached to for sentimental reasons, but as it's also its quality that made it reach that state, I wished the dedicated thread to live up to it. 🤠

As for being different, not sure if you're referring to the watch itself or the format of the thread. The thing is the large regular modles currently sell like hotcakes on the bay, so it has a peculiar aura for a vintage watch. And I wanted to clear up a bit possible confusions between the different variants there, as even some sellers don't seem to know those very well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Thread 1.2 update !

  • Correction of the bezel's materials (confirming my doubts, it wasn't matte ceramic...).
  • More surprisingly, correction of the information about the movement.

Believe it or not, there are some people who decided it was a Ronda 715, and wrote it around the web. Others (such as me) then saw the information repeated enough to consider it likely and reproduced it without checking. And so this'll be one of the rare reviews where it's been double checked... and it wasn't a Ronda 715 at all 😆.


The movement was in fact an ISA (another notorious Swiss movement manufacturer, though not as known as Ronda I think) 1198. But the other funny part, is that there are half a dozen of ISA 1198 calibers (ISA 1198/32 1198/101, 1198/103, 1198/105, 1198/105SW). And between those, even the 1198/32 comes with two versions (with the 1198/32-6, with a date at 6H). To add to the confusion, SEMAG is also the name Swiss movement manufacturer, and the version number wasn't precised on the Lancer's one (because it was the very first 1198 I think). Anyway, I'm confident my current information is reasonably more accurate than the previous one, but heck, it wasn't easy to sort out. o_O

Incidentally, I've finally managed to acquire parts suitable to replace those who suffered from the lack of maintenance in mine. So this summer, I should be able to ask my watchmaker to perform some transplants, and restore my Lancer 100 to its former glory. :cool:
 

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Best watch ever, but please stop spreading the word so I can get another on the cheap.

Bought in 96 for $325 just as you said. My first good watch. Wore everyday for a decade. Gave to my son when he was 5, he wore it for a decade as well. It was his intro into reading a watch and being a WIS.

Still ticking.

Time for a well earned spa day.


Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Best watch ever, but please stop spreading the word so I can get another on the cheap.

Bought in 96 for $325 just as you said. My first good watch. Wore everyday for a decade. Gave to my son when he was 5, he wore it for a decade as well. It was his intro into reading a watch and being a WIS.

Still ticking.
Same here; got it from my grandpa at the end of the 90', and it was so good it slowly, passively infused in myself the love of well made watches. Yet, it accessing the rank of vintage made me realize it had become more fragile ; and so it's in fact searching for a watch to assist it that the WIS virus was released. 😇

And honestly, I'm wondering if their ISA 1198 isn't in fact superior to the Rondas of the current lines. :)
Still ticking.

Time for a well earned spa day.
:love:

For a 25 years old unit, it's in mint state ! Even the hands, crown, and bracelet links, which are those who usually suffer the most. I am impressed ! And you can confirm it's one of the first decade to the yellow seconds hand. The black ones (L100-LG-BLACK) also seem to be the most popular.

However, about the « spa » thing, is the condensation on the crystal over or under it ? Because if it's under, you should get it cleaned and checked by an independent watchmaker, as it's precisely that (in conjunction with a too long wait) that led the hands' lume (and circuit bwt) to rust on mine. 🔎
 

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Same here; got it from my grandpa at the end of the 90', and it was so good it slowly, passively infused in myself the love of well made watches. Yet, it accessing the rank of vintage made me realize it had become more fragile ; and so it's in fact searching for a watch to assist it that the WIS virus was released. 😇

And honestly, I'm wondering if their ISA 1198 isn't in fact superior to the Rondas of the current lines. :)

:love:

For a 25 years old unit, it's in mint state ! Even the hands, crown, and bracelet links, which are those who usually suffer the most. I am impressed ! And you can confirm it's one of the first decade to the yellow seconds hand. The black ones (L100-LG-BLACK) also seem to be the most popular.

However, about the « spa » thing, is the condensation on the crystal over or under it ? Because if it's under, you should get it cleaned and checked by an independent watchmaker, as it's precisely that (in conjunction with a too long wait) that led the hands' lume (and circuit bwt) to rust on mine. 🔎
it actually isn’t condensation, at least I don’t think so. I think it is the mineral crystal having microscopic abrasions making it look cloudy. I am thinking of having it switched to a sapphire during the spa treatment. I will report back with what it is and what I end up doing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
it actually isn’t condensation, at least I don’t think so. I think it is the mineral crystal having microscopic abrasions making it look cloudy. I am thinking of having it switched to a sapphire during the spa treatment. I will report back with what it is and what I end up doing.
Please do. However, I've experienced that aspect twice now, and the cloudy pattern or the white blur, with soft, not well defined borders, with small anchors reaching towards the center seems typical of condensation residues to me. I don't see how abrasions could be spread in such a smooth and peculiar way ; not to mention your watch's crystal isn't as submitted to friction than a car's lights, and is supposed to be mineral hardened to begin with.

Take a look at this other example, you'll see there are similarities :

As I've acquired it to get spare parts for mine, I didn't want the lume to rust beforehand, so I've had it cleansed too by a watchmaker who's good at this. And there's no comparison, not only the cloudy irregular aspect is completely gone, but the whitening also is, so the dial looks of a much deeper blue right now. And that without any polishing whatsoever.

Now, it's not always a water penetration issue as there might be condensation residues of the air already inside the watch (which is 40-60% humidity) having gathered that way because of exposure to cold/big temperature differences. But if you don't know in which case you are, and didn't have the water resistance checked in a while, I'd still have it serviced ASAP if I were you. 🛠
 

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I just picked one of these up in new condition recently from the bay. Actually, the box still had the plastic wrap on it and had never been opened. The bracelet still had the blue sticker on the clasp. The inside of the crystal was also quite cloudy (as seen in the last pic). So I took it all apart, cleaned the case and crystal with soap and water, dried it really well with a hair dryer, installed a new battery, and reassembled everything. Looks and runs great now. Not sure what caused this cloudiness, but time and humidity changes are my guess.

15883743


15883744


15883746


Wearing it today

15883776
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I just picked one of these up in new condition recently from the bay. Actually, the box still had the plastic wrap on it and had never been opened. The bracelet still had the blue sticker on the clasp.


View attachment 15883743

View attachment 15883744
But how do you guys manage to get Lancers in such a perfect state ? Papers, box, and near new condition... This is a thing of beauty ! :love:

It's one of the second generation Lancers in fact, made around the years 2000. But if it really isn't preowned, it's a rare occasion to admire the brushed finish as it was supposed to be originally. Good to know about the protective blue plastic layer around the clasp, I've already seen some of those and wondered about it.



The inside of the crystal was also quite cloudy (as seen in the last pic). So I took it all apart, cleaned the case and crystal with soap and water, dried it really well with a hair dryer, installed a new battery, and reassembled everything. Looks and runs great now. Not sure what caused this cloudiness, but time and humidity changes are my guess.
What I think is that there is always some humidity (at least 40%) in the air of the brand's factory. So, even if there's very little, there is still minute quantities of water trapped with it inside your watch. When the exterior temperature gets cold, those small amounts of water go from a vapor/gaseous state to a liquid one, and as glass is a horrible isolator, the crystal is the area where it should logically happen the most, just like on the windshield of a car.

  • And so what you see here is the dry residue left by the water once the temperature went back to normal. That's doomed to happen sooner or later, and so that's quite common on vintage watches even if the water resistance is still fine. If you take a close look, you'll see the color isn't homogeneous even on the model of WatchHunter : it's something usual on old watches.
  • Sometimes though, you'd also see slight mobile fog underneath, which indicates a higher humidity degree. And that's when it's mandatory to have the watch opened, the humidity removed, and the water resistance checked, IMO. :) 🔎
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
By the way, Automaniak, I noticed that on one of your shots, the manual mentions an end of life indicator (EOL), while I'm not sure the ISA1198 features that. Since your model is from the second generation of Lancers, if you ever have the opportunity to open the case, it would be interesting if you could take a picture of the movement. I'm wondering if it's still the ISA1198, or if they swapped it for a Ronda 715 when they adjusted the hands in fact ; and that may explain the ongoing confusion about the movements. :unsure:

Anyway, have a nice day.
 

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Trias, Here is a picture with the back removed that I just took this evening. Not the clearest picture, but it confirms the movement.

15888332
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Trias, Here is a picture with the back removed that I just took this evening. Not the clearest picture, but it confirms the movement.

View attachment 15888332
Great ! So this confirms it's a Swiss made ISA 1198 ; but in a different revision :
  • The circuit board reference is 2169/6K (instead of 2169/5U)
  • And there is no arm/holder for the battery anymore.

So that may explain why it's supposed to feature an EOL indicator, as it's a different revision of the same movement. And also confirms the Ronda 715 rumor as false information for the Lancers, whether they're of second generation or not. 🔎

Thanks for the quick picture/response, Automaniak ! (y)
 

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Great ! So this confirms it's a Swiss made ISA 1198 ; but in a different revision :
  • The circuit board reference is 2169/6K (instead of 2169/5U)
  • And there is no arm/holder for the battery anymore.

So that may explain why it's supposed to feature an EOL indicator, as it's a different revision of the same movement. And also confirms the Ronda 715 rumor as false information for the Lancers, whether they're of second generation or not. 🔎

Thanks for the quick picture/response, Automaniak ! (y)
Thanks for the information.
 
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