Review: Victorinox Alliance Automatic 241666
Its been a while since I’ve done a tech review, I’ve been missing them since I shut down SimplySimple’s younger sibling SimplyWired, so I’m positively rubbing my hands with glee 🙂 . Its also been a while since I’ve owned a dress watch -about 20 years or so. I gave my gold plated Titan quartz with its lovely calendar comprising small dials for day of week, date and month and moon-phase to my brother as I got tired of it. In addition, I own a Citizen Eco Drive which is my daily driver as my Seiko 5 with the entry level 23 Jewel 7s36C movement runs out of steam over the weekend in which case I’d have to use a watch winder or adjust the Day, date and time every Monday morning -something I don’t like doing…
…so I wrapped my Seiko 5 in a Neoprene sheet and dropped it into my bug out bag. This is how my Citizen Eco drive became my EDC watch as it can stay without charging (it charges from any kind of light) for a claimed 6 months. Personally, I don’t like quartz as there are batteries to change, and even though this watch is solar, it would still have an accumulator, capacitor or whatever else they want to call the rechargeable battery. Any kind of battery has only so many charge-discharge cycles before it needs to be replaced. One fine day, it will run out of spares and all I’ll be left with is the elegant Titanium case and bracelet.
Anything that has electronics is bound to fail sooner or later, this is probably true even of automatic movements which use the main spring to generate electricity or use electro mechanical braking. For me accuracy is not paramount, although I love not having to adjust my Eco drive -except in the case of months having 28 or 30 days. I had initially bought the eco drive as a blackout watch for my bug out bag, but it was too prone to scratches, The titanium bracelet and case soon started losing the black PVD coating. Then its lume was pathetic and useful only if I was walking in bright sunlight and suddenly entered a dark room. In addition, the dial was highly reflective -an undesirable trait in a so called tactical watch wannabe. Of course both my existing watches were totally useless as dress watches. The Seiko would not even fit under a shirt cuff.
Now that you know the score, the following were the criteria for my new dress watch:
- Round dial
- Probably lighter coloured as both my existing watches had black dials.
- Leather strap
- Plain dial without day and date (As I would be using the watch only occasionally and didn’t want to keep adjusting the day/date every time I had to wear it)
- Automatic (Actually wouldn’t have minded a hand wound watch either -Main criteria -It should be completely mechanical)
- Lume for viewing the time in darkness
- Scratch-proof Sapphire crystal
- Skeleton/Display back
I did try to go once more for a Seiko, but the watches were either too gaudy, had similar movements to the Seiko 5, too thick to fit under a shirt cuff or were atrociously priced for their features (The JDM models in particular – I do like them though). This was when I decided to shell out some extra money and splurge on a Swiss watch. I didn’t own any Swiss watches and since this was for occasional use anyway and an automatic, it would be a keeper.
I settled for the Tissot Le Locle with a white dial (T41.1.423.33). I almost placed an order for it but I lost my desire for it even though I loved its beautifully designed exhibition back. Part of the reason for dropping it was researching too much into it and looking at pics and videos of it till it started looking stale and common; however what totally turned me off was that the Roman numerals were printed upside down and four was numbered IIII instead of IV. This seems to be standard even on other watches, but somehow I didn’t like it at all. Once I noticed it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I chose not to go for the Le locle.
My next choice was the Tissot Couturier. It had a beautiful full day of the week display at the 12 O’ clock position and the date displayed at 6 O’clock. It looked quite nice, but I felt that was not what I was looking for. Somewhere amidst all this, I stumbled on the Victorinox 241666. Its simplicity and beauty was breathtaking. I own several Victorinox Swiss knives and other accessories so was sure of the quality. However I had a few misgivings as there were some bad reviews on Amazon (for that matter both for Tissot and Victorinox). The manufacturer claimed that it was defective from the start and wouldn’t honour the warranty as it was bought from Amazon.
I took heart that I was buying from the authorised vendor in Delhi (Ethos Watches) and that it wasn’t a quartz model (being an electronics and IT guy I don’t trust either electronics or computers too much). However reading some reviews on the Amazon.in website, I saw one review claiming they received a dusty watch. I was worried that luxury watches would not sell as frequently as normal watches so would be lying as display pieces and being handled by many customers and there was less chance of getting a sealed/boxed piece. That is exactly what happened as a few listings of the watch suddenly sold out simultaneously on me placing the order. In addition, the import date on the tag showed July 2014 (2 years, 7 months ago), the outer white cover was soiled, the top strap was not straight but twisted to the right and the plastic anti-scratch cover was missing from the skeleton back. The top plastic sheet also was stuck very loosely and fell off when my friend handled the watch.
I felt these were acceptable compromises as I got it for a price of INR 35,500 while the MRP was pinned at INR 41,700. The strap should straighten out with use, but I was a bit disappointed as it was not as thick as it seemed when looking at pictures online. The movement itself was the tried and trusted 25 Jewel ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. There are several grades of this movement, and the 241666 seems to come with the cheapest of these. This model comes with an estimated 40 hour backup, hacking seconds hand (second hand stops on pulling the crown out making it easier to synchronise two watches) and manual winding. The watch has a sapphire crystal back and lens which should keep scratches at bay.
I wish, I could have got it without the date as now I will have to unnecessarily adjust the date every time I decide to use the watch and will also have to figure out whether it is at AM or PM. Most likely I won’t adjust the date at all (-that’s what I do on my Seiko 5), although I’ve done it now as I will be testing the watch for a short while using it daily, so I can get any problem fixed within warranty. The thick manual along with the watch claims a 3 year International warranty, while the authorised vendor claims a 2 year warranty. I don’t know the reason for this discrepancy.
The watch itself feels lighter than my Citizen Eco drive in spite of it having a titanium case and bracelet and feels almost half of the weight of my Seiko 5. The movement of the rotor is never felt, unless it is held in one hand and sharply hit with the other. On the Seiko 5 the vibrations feel as if the rotor is moving on industrial bearings. Maybe the Seiko is the sturdier of the two, but I can’t say. The watch is 40mm in diameter and is only 11mm from the bottom of the case to the top of the lens. The Lume is quite good, It lasted at least from 10pm at night till the morning although the white dial makes it difficult to see without cupping your hands around it if the darkness is not total. (This happens only towards the morning when the lume is very dim and you can see it only with the aid of your natural night vision which the reflective white dial messes up) I don’t know how useful it will be as the watch will often be hidden under shirt cuffs and the lume might never get charged, but it is good to have it. The lume is applied quite discreetly and is razor thin on the hands, and applied as small dots on the bezel. A very well done job!
The seconds hand is red with its counter weight shaped like a closed Swiss knife which keeps in character with the brand name. The text automatic also in red looks beautiful on the dial. There is an identical quartz model available without the words automatic inscribed on the dial. The 24 hour markers are debossed onto the dial and are not visible easily (which I like) but would have loved it more if they were not present at all. When adjusting the time, there is an initial resistance after which the feel is very smooth. Unlike the Seiko 5 in which the day/date changes slowly over a couple of hours, on the Victorinox, the date clicks immediately after 12 am. It appears to be a really well designed movement.
The leather strap is nice and is stitched in a couple of places with red thread which looks really nice. the dial is off white or beige and compared to my Seiko, the balance wheel oscillates faster and it is not able to discern with the eye how many times it moves. The leather strap looks like a normal watch strap but hides a clasp which makes it easy to wear and remove, although it took a bit of time for me to figure out how to assemble and use it.
All in all, it looks like a good investment. Being a mechanical watch, it could have a good selling price a few decades down the line, not that I plan to sell it though.
6th Feb 2017:
Yesterday morning I got the shock of my life. I was walking to work and I checked the time to find it was 10 minutes slow. A chill went down my spine as I thought that I had been sold a dud for a lower price. However the next day on checking, there was no such issue. It keeps time perfectly. I’ve heard this movement drops about 15 seconds daily for which I don’t care.
The watch was shipped from Chandigarh and then worn by me for the full day till 7pm and also handled by all my friends. I don’t understand how it could not have wound completely. (I’m assuming it stopped for 10 minutes). This weekend. I will observe how long the watch works after wearing it for the full day. Then on Monday, since this watch can be manually wound, I will fully wind the watch and then check how long it lasts. I will post the results here and then clean and box the watch and go back to wearing my EDC Eco drive 🙂
8th Feb 2017:
The automatic winding mechanism does have problems. After wearing it for 12 hours at work, it ran only for about 11 more hours. Next I wound it by hand for quite some time, the spring doesn’t seem to get wound but I was worried it might get damaged so I stopped winding. This time when I left it on the table, it ran for a whopping 40 hours and 55 minutes. So what could be the problem? Will it need to be broken in like an automobile engine and the self winding movement wind easier over time? The rotor does seem to move easily, so I’m assuming that the overly light rotor cannot wind the main spring enough. Or is the main spring too stiff? I doubt if any of these should be a problem on a movement of this calibre.
10th Feb 2017:
As an experiment, I’m wearing my Seiko 5 today for 12 hours and with its heavier rotor plan to see how long it runs after I take it off my wrist.
For me the 18 hour run time is still workable, so I might not return the product under warranty as it does give full run time on being hand wound.
15th Feb 2017:
I’m very disappointed 🙁 My Seiko 5 ran for only 16 hrs and 20 minutes after taking it off my wrist. SO there’s nothing wrong with either of the watches. My guess is that these watches can never be wound to their full capacity by wearing them. I got to 40 + hours on the Victorinox Alliance only by hand winding it. So under sedentary work, these watches will give only about 16 to 18 hours of extra run time. All said and done I’m not disappointed by the watch. Hope I can use it carefully without damaging it by crashing my hand into something in my crowded country.
8th Mar 2017:
Thought I’d take a lume shot even though I wasn’t sure it would be possible on my phone. Held it to a very bright LED lamp for about 30 -45 seconds 🙂 It looks really cool when it is half light and half dark with the lume glowing a lovely green against the white dial and chrome hands and markers!
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