Ed. Note — Welcome to a new segment on Watchuseek! Given the depth and breadth of the watch community at large, we will occasionally be inviting guest enthusiasts to compose hands-on reviews. Starting things off is Richard Wheeler (@trickwheel on Instagram). The Salt Lake City based collector, enthusiast, and aspiring watchmaker got his hands on the budget-friendly Timex Navi XL recently; here are his thoughts on it…
Timex (we all know the slogan, I’m going to try like hell to not use it!) are on a roll these days, without question. Moreover, do I even need to mention their recent collaborative efforts? Didn’t think so—great job Mr Snyder.
Something that is less well-known and worth mentioning, while I’m at it, is the V-Conic. ‘What the V!’, you might ask? Well, it was part of Timex’s in-house movement. Yes, it was the ugliest movement on the planet, though if you are into the Mad Max/Steampunk kind of art, you might find some beauty in it. Long before we all waxed poetic about the Sistem51, Timex came out with an overly simplified watch movement that was dirt cheap to produce, contained no jewels, and could handle being on Mickey Mantle’s bat for over 50 hits. Some say it was made to be dunked in cleaning fluid, re-lubed, and good to go for a damned long time. Not sure if that is true, mostly because I can’t talk my WOSTEP-trained watchmaker buddy to give it a try. What does all this have to do with the recently released Navi XL Automatic “desk diver”? Stick with me and we will get to it.
There is no way to look at this watch at this price point and not instantly start comparing it to the newly released Seiko 5 divers. Throwing in at a pre-owned SKX also wouldn’t be a stretch comparison. Measured with my calipers, the case of the Navi XL comes in at 41mm in diameter (excluding the crown), 51mm from lug to lug, and 13.7mm in thickness. It’s chunky in relative terms, but it is still 1mm thinner than a Tudor Black Bay at 14.7mm (this dimension was the deciding factor that led me to sell my burgundy bezeled beauty).
This watch—for which I paid full retail—has been on my wrist for an uninterrupted week thus far—day and night. Yes, I sleep with a watch on. As I’m sadly not a diver, waking up in the middle of the night is the only real way for me to test lume. I am happy to report that the lume, albeit not Seiko level, lasts the whole night. Its hour hand is also pretty nifty: it has the big loop that encircles the 24-hour markers. At night, since this loop has no lume, it is shorter, making it easy to distinguish from the minutes hand. Speaking of hands, unfortunately, I would have to say this has been the biggest disappointment. Under a loupe, you can see the hands are poorly painted and the lume has several pin holes. That being said, the dial is the polar opposite. The dial’s markers are nicely polished with perfect lume. The minute hashmarks and text printing are crisp and perfectly applied. I can’t even complain about the font, amount of text, 24-hour scale or the date window. Yes, you heard me right, I’m not complaining about the date function. Sure, the bubble magnification is a little more than just a derivative; it is placed well on the crystal, making the amplified date viewable from several different angles.
The Navi XL Automatic, with its stainless-steel case and exhibition case back, is classically shaped: the top and sides are nicely brushed and its case underside is polished. The inside of the lugs is polished, as well. On the case, in between the lugs, is a thoughtfully placed indention allowing thicker straps to fit. Another notable (and very unusual) feature is the case back’s outer rim which is stamped with the lug width “20mm”. A very common size for one to experiment with straps or bracelets you already own. The distressed leather strap it comes with is super comfortable right out of the box, and is aging nicely.
Moving under the hood, indiscreetly marked, it reads “MIYOTA CO. UNADJUSTED, JAPAN”—a thanks Timex for not hiding anything here. The day I received the watch, I went to my watchmaker and put it on his timing machine (because, why not?). I used a Witschi machine and timed it in 6 positions. Final results were a rate of +6.2 seconds with an amplitude of 233 and a delta of +23. Rate and amplitude were quite good, but the delta was a bit big. Dial up and dial down times were nearly the same, meaning the hair spring is performing well. As explained to me, the large delta is probably caused by the balance wheel not being poised very well. One could have it regulated; however, the delta would make it hard to decide what position you would regulate – probably dial up and crown down. Nit picking aside, I say that for an unadjusted movement, on a watch that retails for less than $300 USD, averaging +6.2 seconds per day is pretty damn good.
This brings us back to the V-Conic business of Timex’s in-house movement. What the hell is it? Well, it appears to be the escapement that was used on all manual and auto wind movements. According to capetowncorp.com, the escapement had a v-cone shaped balance staff that rotated in bearings made out of an alloy called, Armolly. This greatly enhanced its shock resistance. As the movements were so robust, Timex started to aggressively campaign their torture tests on the watches. By 1963, nearly half the watches sold in American were from Timex. As a matter of fact, US Time used the model name “Timex” for the first time (excluding a few nurses watches) in 1950. The company officially changed their name to Timex in 1969.
People, justifiably, argue that the price of the Navi XL Automatic is too expensive to really fit into the ethos of what a Timex is. If we look at what a good Timex would cost in the 1960’s, it was about $15 USD. Calculated for inflation, that would be about $124 USD today. A quick look at their website will reveal that they sell gobs of watches at or below that price. Given the technology of what was available in 1960, mechanical, and the technology used today, arguably quartz, Timex is still providing watches well within their always affordable price range. The “new” mechanical watches are not the dominant movement people use; it is an evolution of what the company is becoming. No doubt, the Marlins, the Q, the Auto Waterbury’s, and now this Navi XL, Timex is going after the enthusiast by looking to its past. Mechanical movements are going to cost more, and I’m okay with them providing watches that are a bit more than their quartz counter-parts. I would love nothing more than to see the V-Conic escapement come back in a made-in-the-USA mechanical movement, and for it to fall into the brand’s American Documents Collection.
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